When I first got through customs at the Santiago airport, I went to look for the Universidad Vina del Mar shuttle that would be transporting me the hour and a half west to the city where I would be living for the next four months.
First of all, side note: make sure that you pay attention to the signs around you. I had gotten a message from the study abroad coordinator to look for him at Gate 5, so I was fixated on going to exactly that sign and going with no one else. I had a little bit of tunnel vision and entirely too much luggage. It got to the point where I got to the damn sign, couldn’t see the guy, was lugging my god-knows-how-heavy-it-was luggage around from one side of the hall to the other to follow different “leads”, and then I ended up sitting down underneath the sign on one side of the hall. I took a deep breath, looked up, and then saw the sign for Universidad Vina del Mar with about 8 other exchange students sitting right under it with their luggage. Directly across from me. So pay attention to your surroundings.
But back to the transfer. This was the first that I saw of Chile. I was in that state of awkward exhaustion when you’re so tired because you didn’t sleep a lick on the plane but you’re in a new country and so you’re so excited to see everything. And right off the bat I noticed something: there were SO MANY MOUNTAINS. And everything was this rather interesting greenish brownish color. I had never really seen mountains before, so that was a new one for me. I also noticed so many cacti along the mountain sides, like the stereotypical three pronged, green cacti that you’ll see always in like kids’ books about deserts.
In addition to just noticing the countryside, I also made random notes in my phone about things that caught my attention. The notes were random and disjointed and sometimes repetitive (for example, I started off making notes about the mountains, then halfway down the note page I wrote out “SO MANY MOUNTAINS. I’m tempted to go hiking”. Don’t worry, that uncharacteristic urge passed quickly.)
Some of the other notes remarked upon the large number of advertisements for wine and vineyards – as well as the large amount of vineyards that we passed. One note also read: “For some reason, it’s so weird to me to see a red, octagonal sign and instead of it saying STOP, it says PARE”. If I’m being honest, it still kind of gets me, and I’ve been here for 2 months. There was also a billboard that read (in Spanish, but I’m a dummy and didn’t write down the Spanish translation): Just Say No to Drugs. It’s kind of interesting how many things you find similar to your country in other countries. Some things that you think are solely found and are unique to only your country – red stop signs and that slogan – can actually be found elsewhere in the world.