Estamos aqui! (We are here)

24 August 2005
3:27 PM

Emily, Caitlin, Roy, and I arrived in the Santiago airport at 4:36am today. Our flights through Miami and Bogota were uneventful, and all our bags arrived here! It took us about an hour to get through immigration and customs. When we finally exited customs to the arrivals area, five of the current associates and Pedro, the site facilitator, were waiting for us. It was really nice to have people here to greet us after a long trip.

We drove back to the house in Santiago and ate some breakfast. We met Jack, the cute three-legged dog who lives in the Santiago house. The associates also gave us Spanish lesson number 1: you can say “permiso,” (“excuse me”) and then do pretty much anything you want—reach across the table, ride the bus without paying if you don’t have any money, take a bite of someone’s food, etc. Then, we broke out our sleeping bags and crashed until about 1:00pm.

When we woke up, Meg, one of the associates in the city house, took us with her to a comedor (like a soup kitchen) where we helped serve lunch. The comedor is part of a house run by Holy Cross here. Today there were about 25 people who came to eat lunch. It is great to jump in like this and start to see the kind of things we will be doing in the coming years. People are very friendly and we have almost learned the greeting ritual. Men kiss women on the cheek at hello and goodbye. After you have met someone, you say “mucho gusto,” which I think means it’s a pleasure to meet you or something like that.

It’s very exciting to be here. By the end of orientation, we all just wanted to get our trip started. As you would expect, the signs and everything else are written in Spanish so we can practice just about anywhere we look. In Santiago, you can see the Andes running along the eastern edge of the city. It’s a little like being at home in Utah, where the mountains also run along the eastern edge of the valley. I am already learning new words and phrases, though I can only understand about one word in five when I am listening. Being here gives us a real incentive to study hard when we start language school next week in Bolivia.