After reflecting on what we have experienced at the prison this week, we had the opportunity to take the weekend to explore nearby sights: Valparaiso and the Andes Mountains. Upon arriving in Valparaiso, we explored the city as a group, taking in all of the beautiful views of the ocean and the hills. Valparaiso is a port town with beautifully colored homes built into the hills located about two hours from Santiago. The lower and flatter portion of the city is connected with the upper hill part of the city through a system of elevator like trams, with amazing views. There are over 40 hills throughout the city; we were able to see a few of them. It was interesting to see an abundance of graffiti covering many of the homes and businesses, which demonstrated a mixture of both beautifully artistic and rebellious tones. The architecture is also unique in that many of the homes are constructed to resemble ships. Valparaiso is also known for being one of the locations that Pablo Neruda, one of Chile’s most well known poets, constructed one of his homes. This home, which has been said to have sparked the inspiration for much of his work, is now a museum positioned on one of the highest hills in the city. For dinner, we were invited into the home of Cocinas Indigeans, a social enterprise dedicated to spreading the knowledge and natural sensations of local indigenous foods. This group works to ensure that the food they present is all natural, absent of any animal products, locally grown from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, and harvested from farmers at a living wage. They were so passionate about the cause and welcomed us into their home with open arms, while teaching us about the potatoes, quinoa, soup, vegetables, and dessert that we were about to eat. It was a unique experience to witness their dedication in maintaining local healthy and natural food and sharing a specially prepared meal as a group.
Although we were sad to leave the beautiful town of Valparaiso, we were able to spend a full day in the Andes Mountains. We took a two hour long bus ride into the mountains and hiked up a hill to see a beautiful lagoon. The snow tipped mountains we have seen from the Santiago skyline all week long surrounded us as we drove and hiked up. We saw many Chilean families, sledding, having a cookout, and enjoying each other’s company in the snow. After the hike, we arrived back at the bus to a picnic created for us by our tour guides, mirroring many of the Chilean families around us. We ate while taking in the beautiful scenery and then drove to another beautiful lodge in the mountains to have lunch. Our last stop was at a microbrewery where we learned about the production of beer that is locally distributed in the Andes.
Although the weekend took us away from our work in Santiago, we were able to experience local Chilean culture and explore new parts of the country we are learning so much about. Our work will continue tomorrow with an ideation day, where we will reflect and brainstorm about the prison and develop some solutions as a team.
Written by Elyse Casey