I awoke on Friday morning with mixed feelings, knowing it was my last day of work and wondering how to properly say goodbye to Javier, who I’ve come to know fairly well during my time here. I got ready as usual and walked the 15 blocks or so the institute. Both Javier and I acted as if it was another day until he asked me to follow him in to a room where others were waiting to surprise me with a small celebration with some cake, grapes and light orange juice. They then gave me a certificate, so I definitely felt special. Afterward Javier told me to take care during our travels and thanked me for my help. I replied by saying I hope his baby is healthy when it’s born in 6 months and said I enjoyed my time and thanked him for his patience.
About the time I finished Rachel was beginning her last day of school. On Wednesday her conversation class of 5 women took her out to coffee as a going away gesture. They were very happy with the class and their only complaint was that it needed to be more classes. On Friday she said goodbye to Nicole who promised to keep in touch via facebook and her students from the night class finished their final test and said goodbye and good luck. Rachel said the students were very grateful and it was a sad goodbye, but she did exchange info with a few of them. The other staff of teachers and secretaries surprised Rachel as they took turns giving her hugs goodbye they gave her a gift. It was a book in Spanish written by a famous Chilean author. It was a very nice gift as books are very expensive in Chile. Marcelo who has given Rachel a ride home every night dropped her off and she waved goodbye to Maria Elena, Jessica, and Marcelo.
That night the institute had a going away party at a local club for all the departing students. Just about everyone was there, including many people who hadn’t seen since our Spanish classes ended. We chatted and drank pisco-colas and decided to move on to another bar. Rachel and I went with Diego and Mara to drink beer while the others went elsewhere and had tequila shots. By the time we met up again Peter was a tank and his full concentration was centered on walking down the street as the others also staggered along. We tried to go to another club, but the line was too long and the cover was too much so we ended up at friend’s house playing cards without cards. During the game both Jon and I felt a tremor and jumped up from the table saying “did you feel that” to the others. Everyone stopped moving as the light fixture mounted over the table began to sway. We all jumped up and claimed we could feel it and were thrilled! Our second tremor within a month’s time! Peter brought his camera out and began filming the light. As he did everything went pitch black and the earth beneath us became violently ill. It felt as if someone had picked up the entire house and then let it drop back to the ground. We could hear glass shattering all around us and our excitement quickly turned to fear. I grabbed Rachel, covered her head with my arms and took cover in an entry way. The others fled outside. Realizing we were alone, I pulled Rachel along despite her wanting to stay inside. Outside things were calmer, the main blow had been dealt, but the earth continued to move and heave. We asked each other if everyone was all alright. In fact, we were elated, our first earthquake! What an experience! But this effect would soon wear off as we came to realize the damage it had caused. Walking home that night underneath the moonlight we could see shattered glass all around, the streets that were empty 15 minutes earlier were filled with motorists fleeing the city. Many feared a tsunami would follow shortly and we debated whether to go home or not since our house was located only a few blocks from the shore. After talking to some locals we decided it was safe. There, with no electricity, we pulled out our perishable goods from the refrigerator that had moved significantly along with all other objects in the kitchen and had a feast, largely consisting of ice-cream.
The next day we checked our house finding many cracks in the walls, broken mirrors, appliances moved toward the center of the room, dust everywhere, no water or electricity and tremors still happening on a regular basis. Outside in the city there were many broken windows, cracks traveling up the sides of buildings, traffic lights working in one block and not the other. A friend of ours was able to sporadically get a connection on his cell phone and allowed Rachel to call home quickly and let them know we were okay. We walked all through the city and to our host family’s house. They weren’t at home, but their house looked okay from the outside.
The next day we ventured out and found wireless internet at McDonalds, which allowed us to call home and talk with our families. Hopefully, we were able to convince them that we were alright and that it wasn’t too bad where we were and that it was much worse in cities south of us. We walked to the bus station since were supposed to leave that day and confirmed all routes were suspended until Monday. While at the bus station we felt a large tremor that cleared out the crowded terminal in an instance. Many people reacted with screams and then tears. Everyone was still on edge and uneasy including us. The bustling, lively city that we had come to know was silent and felt vacant. I don’t know if people left or simply didn’t want to leave the comfort of their home. On Sunday I was out with Dan and Rachel was at the house with Peter. While there, Anna knocked on the window and told them to “Get out, get out, we have to leave!” They dropped everything and left, fleeing with others to higher ground as a Tsunami alert had been dispatched. I came home to an open door and found Morgan and Mara inside who had just arrived. They told me a false alarm had been sent out and that Rachel and Peter probably left not knowing. We were about to set out to find them, but thankfully they came in the door shortly after telling us their ordeal. After that no one wanted to stay in the house thinking a tsunami would hit while we were sleeping, so we had to split up. Rachel, Mara and I went to Diego’s house and the others went to Peter and Dan’s.
On Monday we all met for a meeting at the institute to make sure everyone was okay and to see if they wanted to continue on with the program, go home or what. After that we went and changed our bus tickets since the South Pan- American highway was cut in several places, bridges were down and therefore the road was largely impassable. We changed our plans and decided to head to Mendoza, Argentina. We had one last night with our friends at the house, said our goodbyes and left the next morning.
We hope to return to Chile later this month and see parts of the South. We will also return to Vina before we fly home from Santiago.