A couple of Fridays ago, I found myself crying in my host parents’ room. This was the result of multiple things: first, I was up to here with work. Second, I was starting to realize how little time I have left in Chile. And third, it was really hitting me that it’s been four whole months since I’d seen my real family. I guess a fourth cause could be that I hadn’t been sleeping well, as a result of the other three causes. Which just compounded everything and ended in tears. I’m very bad at hiding my crying. Host mom saw and pretty much sat me down on her bed to talk.

I’ll spare you more details, but the result of that much-needed heart-to-heart with my host parents was these realizations: I need to care a little less about some things. I need to say yes more. I need to stop dwelling on how much time I have until I get back on a plane to the States (1 month minus 4 days. Not that I’m really aware.). And if I can’t do anything about something right away, then I need to stop worrying about it until I can make it better. And if I can make it better, I should, as soon as possible!

Aprovechar means “to take advantage of.” “Hay que aprovechar” whatever good thing/free day/nice weather, etc. You have to take advantage of this. So that has become my motto for the rest of this semester. I have to take advantage of everything I can. Because who knows when I’ll be back again?

I started to aprovechar the very next day after that conversation. My host mom and I went up to the Cajón de Maipo, a region outside of Santiago that lies in the cordillera (the mountains). We spent the day there with friends picnicking, driving, and hiking around. It was needed. The friends were colleagues of my mom’s from work, many of whom attended my university in the States and with whom I have a lot in common. We got to talk about how they ended up in Santiago after graduation, what their experiences have been like, what it’s like to start growing up, and so on. Besides getting some good life advice/time with grown-ups (I like time with grown-ups. I always have.), it was more or less therapeutic to get out into the fresh air, into nature, four hours and yet so much farther away from the big city, from my homework, from my computer, from everything that had been nagging me lately.

Take a look at the pictures and maybe you can see how being out in the Andes for a day (you know, casual) would help me clear my mind:

The road and the mountains.

We got up to Baños Morales, 1850 meters high.

85 degrees and we were that close to snow!

Monumento Natural El Morado. It’s a trail up to the natural monument, but we got there too late to do the hike.

The colors in the mountains are unreal sometimes.

This was a good day. I needed that day.

Beautiful. I know this is something religious to say, but seriously, I can’t go out to all of these incredible places and not be constantly reminded of God’s works in the world. Look at how stunning it all is! And perfect! Someone who loves us had to have a hand in it, right?

The next week was very busy, but I went into it feeling refreshed and with a much clearer mind than before. And then I got to end that week by going horseback riding in the Andes. Note: school-sponsored field trips have never been so awesome.

We took a bus about 45 minutes outside of Santiago (seriously, we’re that close to the mountains) to a place called La Ermita. There we met up with arrieros (spanishdict.com tells me that means muleteer. How about horsehand? Is that a word?) who matched us up with horses and led us around the cordillera for the day.

There were two moments where I thought my horse and I were going to fall over- in one case, I thought we were going to fall off of a cliff. This is why you travel with arrieros, so you have someone who can pull your horse back on the path, away from the cliff, and almost literally save you. But besides those two moments, and the fact that everything from my shoulder blades to my calves was sore for two days afterwards, it was probably my favorite paseo this semester.

My pictures really don’t do justice to how gorgeous of a day it was. Full sun until the very end of the day. And there are actually pictures I don’t have, because I was a little preoccupied with going down a mountain on a horse. But imagine those pictures: just a huge landscape of mountains and valleys. One of my friends said it was like Lord of the Rings. I felt like a medieval queen surveying her territory, or looking upon her troops from afar before a battle. (Just in case you thought I was cool or something…no. Not at all.)

I took this while on top of a horse, one-handed, with the other hand on the reins. No, this is not how we almost fell off a cliff.

Here is my horse drinking water as we ford a stream. It was like Little House on the Prairie, or the Oregon Trail, where everyone had to take their horses and covered wagons through the river. (Just in case you doubted me when I said I’m not cool.)

The same stream, but from above.

A cactus! In Spanish: cactus. Plural in Spanish: catci OR cactuses. Because you know you were wondering if they have weird rules about plurals in Spanish too.

After 3-4 hours on the horses, we stopped for a long lunch, which consisted of anticuchos, or kabobs, and chorizo.

And that is what horseback riding in the Andes looks like.

Let’s be thankful for a minute. Agradezco mucho (I really appreciate/am thankful for):

The mountains. Clean sheets. Essay extensions. Visiting moms (thank you for bringing my birthday gifts, M.!). The air conditioned train. Washed feet. Agua de hierbas. Catching sweet moments out and about, like an elderly couple having fun on the playground in the park where I run, or when people get up right away on the train to give their seats to someone who really needs it. A really delicious birthday cake. People I can be myself with. Friends who come by for just ten minutes, even if they don’t live nearby. Longer days. Brighter mornings.

That’s life in Santiago right now! Lots more coming soon as we barrel on towards December.

Much love,



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3 responses to “Aprovechar

  1. Que fotos muy bonitas!
    If you like photography, we’d like to invite you to participate in our next Travel Photography Competition. Here are the details:
    Happy travels!

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