Chile 200 Años

This month Chile celebrates 200 years of independence . Chileans are rallying all over the country and celebrating this historic occasion. As Chile celebrates, it has much to be thankful for. 2010 has been a year of troubles, excitement, and unity for Chile.

The earthquake of February 27 took hundreds of lives away, destoryed homes and infrasture, and disrupted the lives of many Chileans. It was astonishing to arrive to Chile after one of the most powerful earthquakes in the world and see the country taking rapid action to recover. I arrived and the airport was heavily damaged, today the airport is in its original condition. I arrived and thousands of volunteers had already taken action, I joined their efforts and built temporary homes. I arrived and Santiago had already recovered: life was normal and continued as normal even with the continuing tremors. Even as the change of power occurred a tremor momentarily disturbed the program, but the change of power continued and the first conservative President, Sebastian Pinera, since the end of the Pinochet regime.

The FIFA world cup rose spirits for Chileans their national soccer team competed to be world champions. Chileans celebrated, cheered, cried, and made their passion for soccer well known to this foreigner. What a difference a soccer game can make in the mood of the people, it was noticeable in so many Chileans (even as some continued to cope with the traumatizing earthquake in February). Although they were finally eliminated from the games, by Brazil, Chileans exclaimed their pride for having played so well in the 2010 world cup.

More recently, the trapped miners in Copiapó. The story has spread throughout the world:33 miners trapped. So many Chileans had thought that they had all passed away. Such a horrendous accident, yet the miners managed to survive. When news was made public about the 33 miners, Chileans across the country celebrated. I walked into to my apartment building and the receptionsit yelled “Estan vivos los 33, gracias a Dios!” (the 33 are alive, thank God). At first, I had no idea of what she was talking about. I was just shocked that she was yelling this out loud to me. Then, I understood that she was talking about the miners. Immediately, after the news was released Chile began to celebrate. Cars drove up and down Almeda (the main street in Santiago) honking their horns. People pulled out their Chilean flags and took to the streets. It was a feeling of compassion, of pride, of unity. It was beautiful.

At la Moneda, the “White House” for Chile, Chileans are demonstrating their enginuity and ability to entertain. They are show casting a fantastic light show that moved me and astonished me. It was a wonderful ending to a great day of companionship with friends.

A Commercial for the event:

The end of the light show:

As Chile celebrates its 200 years of independence, the people of Chile have much to be thankful for in what is sure to be a year full of significant events. Chileans are attending Fondas (festivals), cultural events, spending time with family, and having asados (BBQs). Chile has much to look forward to: a brighter future, prosperity, but what is most important is that they keep their sense of community and help one another move forward.

Winter in Santiago

Its winter in Chile and its cold! It dips in the 30s and gets up to the 50s. But on some days it will be freezing cold in the morning and get really hot during the day and dip back down at night. Layering has proven to be the best method to be prepared for any drastic weather change.

I had a great vacation in Puerto Rico and Houston. I am so grateful to have seen my family and friends, I missed them so much and I can’t wait to be with them again. Time fly’s by quickly, so I need to make the most of it!

When I got back to Chile I was not so pleasantly surprised to find my apartment in the midst of renovation. For two weeks we had no shower, toilet or kitchen (things I cannot live without). So I stayed with my roommates family. They were very kind, but the area where they live is not t he safest. His father was kind enough to meet me at the train station and walk with me home when I arrived late. Many times drug addicts asked for money and followed us to their home. But now, I am back at the apartment. Still no kitchen, but at least there is  a bathroom. Everyday I have to sweep because of all the dust from the work being done, it’s so messy.

I’ve started school again and was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of work required for every class. I’ve asked to reduce my classes to three, I think it will be a possibility. I hope they can work it out, so that maybe I can have a life outside of my studies and the five minutes I get to breath and enjoy the country!

I am hoping to make a trip to Argentina soon and I am looking to plan when I can head to Peru. I am also looking forward to visiting my friend Crispulo in Vina del Mar to make a presentation to his university students. I hope to convey a message of hope and faith that hard work and dedication make all the difference in life (a lesson that I need to keep conscious in my mind too!)

In September Chile will be celebrating its bicentennial. I am definitely looking forward to all the events and celebrations (and eating some Chilean empanadas!).

Here are some photos for y’all to enjoy. . .

View from Universidad Catolica campus at San Joaquin

In Chile they don’t have Kit Kat, they have In Kat

A wonderful free symphony concert in Ñuñoa

I finally got a picture with my diploma! First in my family!

A picture with the Rotaract club of Vicuna Mackenna – a club I am helping form

Chao!

PS: I am starting my job search for when I return to the United States. If you have any contacts or leads, let me know!!!

Meeting RI President John Kenny and New Rotarians, and Showing my Texas Pride!

On May 8th, 2010, I attend the District Assembly of District 4340. The event was eagerly awaited by many Rotarians in the district as RI President John Kenny and his wife June were to make an appearance. The Assembly had over 400 attendees for the special occasion, as well as to participate in the many sessions to prepare for the next Rotary Year.

Just like the Rotarians, I was also excited. I was looking forward to seeing the RI President for a second time, but even more importantly I was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to speak with and meet some of the Rotarians of the district. As such, I made it my mission to meet as many of the attendees as possible and make them aware that there are 7 ambassadorial scholars in District 4340 at the moment and that I am one of them. At the very end of the assembly another scholar and I caught a big break. After an entire day’s worth of work to get the chance to speak to all the Rotarians, we got the opportunity. It proved to be well worth it. We were welcomed warmly with much applause and were then approached by many Rotarians immediately after. We exchanged so many business cards that I had run out. This was the opportunity I was looking for. Getting in contact with the Chilean Rotarians has been one of my biggest challenges. I knew this assembly would be the chance to gain some attention and the necessary connections that I need to be more active in the District. Because of my “two minutes of fame,” I have been invited to attend various Rotary clubs to make presentations, attend ceremonies, and have been asked to meet up for lunch or visit the homes and families of some of the individuals.  I even met a Rotarian by the name of Alfredo Garcia, who traveled a few years back with the GSE Team that went to Houston. He told me he knew many Rotarians there (Sunny Sharma, D’Lisa Simmons, and others) and that he considers Houston to be his second home! I plan on holding tight to these connections and make the most of them.

Taking advantage of presence of John Kenny, I requested that he and his wife take a photo with all the present ambassadorial scholars in the district. Luckily, they were able to make the arrangement. We were told to wait by the entrance at 2:30 and that we would get our opportunity then. Well all I can say is that John Kenny is a super star. All the Rotarians were going crazy trying to take photos with him as he was exiting. The poor man could barely move! Well after a few minutes we got our turn to be photographed with the President and his wife and were blinded by the many flashing lights of the cameras. During our photo shoot I could hear many of the Rotarians yelling at others that were behind us “Ambassadorial Scholars Only!”. It was an exciting experience and definitely a very rushed one.

I am glad to have participated in the district assembly. For this district it was the first to have a visit from an RI President. For this assembly it was a first to ever have a youth programs session. And for me it was a great experience in a different Rotary culture. I hope to begin a stronger exchange between our two societies and I am looking forward to the results. Further below you can find out how you as a Rotarian can help in the reconstruction efforts in Chile and a project for which I am pledging my support.

Lifting up Los Coipos

Lifting up Los Coipos is a project in which many Ambassadorial Scholars in Santiago have taken an active role in. Today, I have organized a meeting with all the ambassadorial scholars in district 4340 and the district governor. This project will be one of the items we will speak about and see if there is a potential for Rotary to continue to assist in.

Rotary Chilean Recovery Fund

Dear Friends,

I write to inform you of the fund organized by Rotary to collect funds for the recovery of the February 27 earthquake.

“The contributions will go toward long-term recovery in the country through Rotary Foundation Matching Grants. Rotary clubs in affected areas will identify the hardest-hit communities and how best to use funds to help families and businesses recover.”

This fund will help Chileans recover and rebuild what they have lost.

For more information please visit the following link: Foundation Establishes Chile Earthquake Fund

Contributions designated to the Rotary Chile Recovery Fund may be made in the same fashion you normally contribute to the Rotary Foundation. Checks should be made payable to the Rotary Foundation (note on your check that the contribution should be used for the Rotary Chile Recovery Fund, #G10001).

This fund has been set up to limit issues and protect Rotarian’s donations for the Recovery of Chile by allowing the selection and approval of projects by the Foundation (a process that is like the Matching Grant process).

The Recovery Fund will only be open until June 30, 2010 to receive contributions. The money will then be distributed from July 1, 2010 until the funds are completely used.

My first week in Santiago

I want to start off by giving my thanks to all those who have showed great support for me during this transition. Your support has given me great comfort and has provided me with the assurance that everything will turn out fine.

The night before my flight to Chile I thought about my departure and I felt uneasy, unprepared, and most of all freighted of what would happen over the next year. On the following morning, February 27, I was supposed to depart to Santiago, Chile. However, an earthquake of the magnitude of 8.8 changed those plans and put me in to rush mode.  I had to quickly contact and respond to messages of many friends and loved ones that sought to know if I was okay. I also had to check on the status of my flight, and see the possible options I had regarding rescheduling. Within four hours of endless phone calls and emails, I was exhausted of the efforts and the stress. No one could have expected this tragedy to occur in Chile. I was absolutely shocked that the earthquake happened, especially on the day that I was supposed to depart for Chile (a blessing for me). After a few days of contemplation and taking in the news of what was taking place in Santiago, I decided that I would move forward and continue my journey as District 5890’s Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar outbound to District 4340, Santiago, Chile.

On the night of my arrival I was greeted warmly by District Governor Carlos Fernandez and the President Rotary Club of Vicuna Mackenna, Eliseo Salazar Varela. The District Governor gave me a broad overview of Chile; we went over currency, housing, and the general location of important places.

I have found many unexpected experiences in Chile to be exciting and also freighting. On my first full day I went to my university to orient myself. While in at the university I experienced my first earthquake! At first it felt strange, I thought I was getting sick or getting vertigo, but then I noticed that everything was moving and that it was the real thing. I was lucky that I was speaking with a staff member of the university which told me what exactly to do. That was one of the major aftershocks with a magnitude of 6.9. Throughout the day there were many aftershocks that continued. I was astonished by the actions of the Chileans during and after the quakes. They continued as if nothing had happened, but at the same time I saw many government works had taken to the streets immediately to insure the safety of all public locations. The fact that they did demonstrated that they are used to this type of activity and that they are well prepared for the challenges caused by them.

To follow that first time experiences of earthquakes, a few days later a massive blackout occurred throughout Santiago. Luckily, I was at home when it took place, but it was absolutely amazing to look outside and see a city in complete darkness (it reminded me of Houston after Hurricane Ike). Unfortunately, during the blackout I also deleted all the photos I had taken up to that point! Follow that, just days ago I had an encounter with el araña de rincón a deadly spider. Well luckily for me it was already dead, but these spiders have been known to cause people serious lifelong problems and even death. On top of all of this, I have experienced some unfriendly sentiments towards the US, however they have been very brief and I have been able to turn their frowns upside down (hopefully making an impact on what they think of Americans).

I have also experienced many wonderful things here in Chile. On my second day here, I also attended my host Rotary club’s meeting and was welcomed warmly by all the members. I expressed to them my intent on helping where I can and my interest in Microfinance and education. One young Rotarian offered to show me around Chile during the weekend, and I took them up on their offer. The president of the Rotary club also expressed his strong interest in starting a Rotaract club and asked me to assist in their efforts. In addition to this, I also had the opportunity to meet with my friend Crispulo. He showed me around and gave me some good advice about locations in where to live.

So far this first week has been difficult and tiresome, however I have gotten to meet many kind people and I hope to develop good friendly relationships with all of them. I really believe that this experience will allow me to do just what I am meant to do: grow as an individual, learn about the world, build bridges across divisions, and represent my Rotary district as well as my country.

Yours in Rotary,

Jessie

You never know . . .

A concept that has been reinforced during my transition:

One never know what is going to happen, when it is going to happen, or why it is going to happen. One will question all of these things, but if it is meant to take place, then it will force itself upon you regardless of how much one denies it, does not believe they are capable of completing it, or are in denial of it. Every experience is a learning experience and an opportunity to grow.

My rushed move to D.C. has proven to be a great opportunity. I enjoy my internship, I’m experiencing a part of the U.S. that I have never experienced before, and now I’m going to experience Rotaract in D.C.!

Here are a few updates on some of my happenings:

Ambassadorial Scholar Year Track:
- In the next few days will begin filling out my application to apply to the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile in the program of International Relations for my year abroad.
- I have also been in contact with another ambassadorial scholar who will be studying at the same institution, in the same program, during the same time. We have been helping each other out by keeping each other posted and letting the other know about our findings during our preparations.

Rotaract:
- I’ve been in contact with the Rotaract Club of Washington DC and I plan on attending their next meeting! I’m very excited.
- I hope to attend the Rotary Day at the United Nations in November! I think it will be a wonderful opportunity to experience the history and role of Rotary at the UN.

MicroLending:
- I have sent various emails informing Rotarians and other contacts about the University of St. Thomas MicroCredit Program Fundraiser, which will be held on Thursday, October 8 at 7pm at the University of St. Thomas. To learn more about this program please visit: http://www.stthom.edu/microcredit.

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