October 22, 2012

Santiago, Valaparaiso and Valle Nevado, Chile

For family and friends, here are a few reflections and photos on my 21 days in Chile serving as the Deputy Team Leader for the inspection of Embassy Santiago.

This has been my first visit to Chile, and I found Santiago very prosperous and clean.  Because the city sits in a bowl with the Andes just to the east, the air inversion is a problem - one that is likely to worsen as the level of development rises.  Chile already has the hightest GCP/capita ($19000) and is the most internet connected  country in South America.  It has a very open market approach and you can find anything here that you can in the U.S.

I was able to get away for a two day/one night weekend in Valparaiso.  Unfortunately, several of the photos I took at first, including one with a statue of Pablo Neruda and me did not come out well.

This is the outside the human rights museum in the center of Santiago.  The museum's focus is on the events of September 11, 1973, which occured shortly after I started studies at U. Maine. It provides no context to the situation in the country at the time of the coup, and nothing about any foreign role in the coup that overthrew President Salvador Allende.  It was build in 2007 and is very factual.  Chile had a truth and reconciliation commission, but since the first one the authorities (center-left and center-right) have several times increased the estimates of those who were murdered, or "disappeared," and now totals more than 28,000 persons.

These two photos are of the presidencial palace, where Salvador Allenda took his own life after the air force had bombed it and he had sent his staff to surrender; the statue is of Salvador Allende and stands in the square outside the presidential palace.  He gave a moving speechbroadcast by a radio station the military had not taken over, in which he said he would never surrender and that he knew Chile would return one day to democracy.  
Another view of the square inside the human rights museum in Santiago.  The photos on the wall record events from the military dictatorship (1973-89).
Here are some photos from my trip to Valle Nevado, about 90 mins from Santiago.  The elevation is 9-10,000 ft.  While we were there, snow started to fall. It is supposedly the largest ski area in South America and has 29 lifts. The ski season ended more than one month ago, but it was right at freezing while we were there.  Above is another member of our inspection team, Robin.
Robin and our guide, as we wait for some members of our team to return to the bus.

I walked about 1/2 a km up the slopes.  At times there were 50 mph winds and in some spots it was dead quiet and there was no wind or sound.  The ski area is above the tree line, as much from the winds and dry weather as altitude. The melting snow in the spring (Southern Hemisphere) creates odds shapes. 

The dog above is a large version of Kenneth III's dog Lia, very friendly and liked to jump up on me.  She got a several pieces of my baguette. 

On the other side of this sign, the slope drops straight off about 500 fit.-- no ropes and no fence! 

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