Thursday, April 3, 2014

Monday, March 10

Today we had to wake up at 4 in the morning to be ready and on the small buses that would take us at 4:30. We had to put on a lot of warm clothes because we were going to the Geiseres de Tatio. The geysers only shoot off before dawn, and that’s why we had to go so early. It was a little scary because the guide told us that we would be climbing to a very high altitude, and that if we didn’t rest while we were driving up, we would run the risk of becoming sick when we got to the geysers. I sat next to Fritz on the way up, and after talking to him for a while, I went to sleep and didn’t wake up until we arrived. We got out of the bus and it was absolutely freezing outside but I didn’t even mind because we were in the middle of a huge field of geysers spilling out vapor into the morning sky. We huddled together around one of the geysers while our guide explained the science and geology behind the geysers’ existence.

Then we were given 30 minutes to walk around to the rest of the geysers to take pictures. We were warned to walk slowly and never run unless we wanted to get altitude sickness. We walked around admiring all the holes in the ground and putting our hands in the hot smoke with the weird smell. By the time we walked back to the busses, my hands were so frozen I actually couldn’t feel them anymore, and so the hot tea that was waiting for us there was much appreciated.

Then we got back on the buses and made the drive back down the mountain. I slept the whole time, only waking up when the guide told us we were passing the mountain village of Machuca, which is apparently very famous in association with the Geiseres de Tatio. When we got back to the hotel, we all met at the pool (everyone except Felix) to set up the food for Felix’s surprise birthday party (the youngest of all of us, he turned 16 today). He arrived and we sang Happy Birthday in Spanish, English, German, and French, and then served cake.
Around 12, we had to leave to go to Laguna Chaxa, which is a wildlife and flamingo preserve. I sat with Louis on the bus, and he showed me a bunch of pictures of his house and city in New Zealand. It was really cool to see how his life was there, and I feel like I know him better after he told me a bunch of things about himself. I love how close I feel to the exchange students now, like they’ll forever be my family and not just some random people from a bunch of foreign countries.
We got to the lagoon and after watching a video on the wildlife of the area, we were turned loose to walk along the path and admire the lagoon and the flamingos standing in it.
We had to be very quiet so as not to disturb the wildlife.
After we got back from the lagoon, we went right to a nice restaurant in the town to eat lunch of salmon and salad. It was the best lunch we’d had up to that point. Then we went back to the hotel and changed clothes to go sand boarding. It’s just like snowboarding, except it’s done on sand dunes instead of in the snow. We took 3 little busses out to the huge dune, and then they gave each of us a snowboard and told us to climb up the dune and at the top someone would explain to us how to sand board. The climb up looked easy and short from the bottom, but walking up the steep hill in the dry sand and scorching heat was tiring and we all reached the top with our hearts beating almost out of our chests.
We sat up there for a while as the instructor moved from person to person explaining to us how it was done. We were all first timers and all a little nervous, but more excited than anything. When the instructor came to me, he gave me basic lessons on how to slow down and how to keep my balance, and then I just went for it. I fell like 3 times on the way down, but they weren’t bad falls and it was really only because I had no idea how to slow down so when I felt myself going too fast, I just braked with my butt. I climbed up that horrible hill 9 more times and each time I went down was fun.
Climbing up, I had to carry the board in my hands, and then when I got to the top, I would be putting my shoes (I just wore my vans) in the straps and Louis would come up to me and push me down the hill. I fell every single time, but I never had a horrible wipe out like a lot of people did. After about 2 hours of sand boarding a lot of people were sitting down tired from the difficult hikes of the hill, and we were ready to go.
We got back to the hotel around 7, and we had time to chill and swim in the pool until 9 when we had dinner. After dinner, all of us were still awake and with energy. We didn’t really have anything to do, so we decided to help a few people complete their dares. I painted Vincent’s toenails, Madison gave Constantin a bra to wear, and Cassidy kissed Pierre. Then we all just stood around talking, laughing, telling stories, and listening to German music. I really like talking to all these people from different countries and learning about the differences between us. Our different backgrounds make every conversation more interesting. We play funny games where we try to find English words that Canadians, Americans, New Zealanders, and Australians all say differently. Apparently in New Zealand a band-aid is a plaster, swim trunks are stubbies, and flip flops are jandles. In Canada, soda is pop and sorry is pardon. The Germans are just another story. They all arrived in Chile with really good English, but now that they have been speaking Spanish so much, their English has suffered. Fritz was reading something that I wrote about Maxi being a know-it-all, and he asked me to explain it. I just said “Maxi is a dick” and he looked at me with this confused expression and asked “why did you name someone’s dick Maxi?!” Another time, Fritz wanted to say clothes (ropa in Spanish) and he accidently said “rope”. Listening to him speak Spanish basically made my life.

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