Only 48 hours into Chile, I already feel at home and have been exposed to so much culture! After two days of traveling, I finally made it to Valdivia, a small city of 130,000 people located about 900 km south of Santiago. Elena and Guillermo welcomed me at the airport and my introduction to Chile began.
We drove through the regions of Valdivia and the combination of construction, from the obviously needed widening of the road, and the rain made for one huge mess. Not even twenty minutes from the airport, I already could see dogs freely roaming the streets. Scavenging through the mud and garbage in search of food. The streets were flooding from the rain and over-packed buses plowed through the puddles.
We dropped by the VWB/VSF office – a 3 room apartment style building with a surgical supplies room, kitchen and office with two large desks and windows against the northern wall, overlooking the street.
Elena, Guillermo and I walked to a local restaurant, Agridulce, for some typical Chilean food. A roaring fire welcomed us as we walked through the doors and the smell of pastry filled the room. We ordered Empanadas with carne and queso (meat and cheese), which were similar to samosas – but less spice and a softer pastry. A perfect end to my exhausting journey, and a wonderful introduction to Chile!
The next day, Elena and Guillermo gave me a tour of Valdivia. A river flows through the city and sea lions crawl right up onto the dock at the wharf. As we stood at the edge of the walkway watching the large animals sunbathe and waddle back and forth, I couldn’t help but notice the dogs wandering around throughout the community. A man walked down the stairs through the square, carrying bags of groceries and was followed by at least five dogs – begging for food.
We continued on to a community centre, where a national dance competition was being held. Cueca is a typical dance in Chile and I watched pairs of kids and adults flutter around the floor with huge smiles and a romantic flare to their step. I even ran into a girl I had met on a previous flight – who happily agreed to have her picture taken with me and her dance partner!
Saturday night, the three of us ventured into the city square to see a live Cueca band which was another great way to be exposed to Chilean culture! We danced the night away and I was so warmly welcomed into their group of friends. As the night turned into morning we enjoyed Piscos typical Latin American drink and danced to the Cueca band followed by Cumbia.
I’ve only been here for just over 48 hours and I’ve already had tasty Chilean food, danced to Cumbia, watched sea lions relax in the harbour and have witnessed some beautiful South American rain storms – as it is currently winter here.
Tomorrow, I am heading to the office to meet with the other veterinarians I will be working with who are from Chile. Having already directly seen the issue with free-roaming dogs here, I’m very motivated to begin implementing the next phase of our project in Puerto Natales, and will provide ongoing updates! Until then, hasta luego!!