Well, I made it to Santiago!
After more than 48 hours of traveling, I am finally settled into my homestay in Chile and getting to know the city. My friend and I left Reno on a flight to Salt Lake City on May 23rd and made it safely and on time. We found our gate in Salt Lake and boarded the plane. We ended up sitting on the plane for about an hour and a half without moving. There was a maintenance issue with the plane and by the time it was fixed, the flight crew had “expired” and it was illegal to fly. We all got off the plane and they told us the flight would be delayed by two hours. At this point, we knew we were going to miss our connection in Atlanta to Santiago. My friend and I met two other USAC students on the plane in Salt Lake so we came up with a game plan to see what other flights we could get. We were calling Delta employees and looking for help desks in a panic because we weren’t sure if we would have to spend the night in Salt Lake and how to go about that. Finally, one of the Delta employees said we should just take the delayed flight to Atlanta and stay the night there. He said once we get off the plane, they would offer us a voucher for a hotel.
We made it to Atlanta around 11pm that night (missing our flight to Santiago by an hour and a half) and immediately went to find a help desk. The lines were unbelievably long because we were not the only ones who missed connecting flights. I headed to baggage service because in Salt Lake they made me check my carry-on bag. At that point, I had no luggage and all of my medication and important documents were in my carry-on. I requested for my carry-on to be brought up to baggage claim, but they said it would take up to four hours. In the meantime, we waited in line to get a hotel voucher and figure out how to get to the hotel. We ended up staying at a Motel 6 nearby and didn’t get there until 3am. Luckily, they gave us all a small toiletry pouch to last the night, since none of us had baggage or a change of clean clothes.
We had to check out of the hotel at 11am, so we weren’t able to get as much sleep as we wanted. We got woken up by the sound of a lady banging on our door saying “Housekeeping!!” Not the most pleasant thing in the world. After we checked out, we got breakfast at a place called Waffle House which I guess is a typical fast food chain in Atlanta. We then got an Uber to Walmart so we could buy some clean underwear. Yes, this is a true story. After, we hung out at a bar until we had to head to the airport. That morning, I had received a call from Delta saying my luggage was in the baggage service office and ready to be picked up. We got to the airport at 3pm and when I went to the office to claim my carry-on, they had already sent it back out. I was livid. Every Delta employee I talked to did not seem to care that I had medication in that bag that I needed to take. The service I received was absolutely horrible. This was already a stressful situation for me and having my carry-on with me on my flight to Santiago would have relieved some of that stress.
We ate dinner at the airport because the lady who gave us the hotel the previous night also gave each of us $15 meal vouchers. Our flight wasn’t until 10:30pm so we had time to kill. Our flight to Santiago finally left around 11pm on May 24th and we arrived in Santiago at 8am on May 25th, about a nine hour flight. Once we landed, we all headed to baggage claim to get our luggage. Luckily, all of our bags showed up and none went missing! I was so happy to be reunited with my bags and I didn’t want to let them go. Ever. We somehow managed to get a van to take all 5 of us USAC students to the school in Santiago. We arrived in the middle of orientation with all of our luggage and it was slightly embarrassing, but I was glad we didn’t miss much.
After orientation, we did a walking tour of the city. We stopped at Plaza de Armas where the government building, La Moneda, is located. There was a parade going on for Día de Patrimonio which celebrates national heritages in the country. We also visited Cerro Santa Lucía which is a hill in the middle of the city that you can climb and get beautiful panoramas of Chile’s tall buildings. The USAC group ate lunch at Bar Cuento Corto and we attended a welcome BBQ put on by Chilean students who help international students get acquainted to life in Chile. I got to practice my Spanish with the local chileanos and made a few friends too!
After being in the same clothes for three days, without a proper shower and toothbrush, I am very excited to finally be settled into my life here in Chile and I look forward to what it will bring me. My host family is already very kind and are adamant on making any accommodations necessary for me. I have already seen an improvement in my Spanish and I hope to learn more about Chilean culture while I am here. I only have four weeks here, which now seems so short. The flight to get here seemed like it would never end, but now that I am here time is flying by. I feel as though I will not have enough time to do everything I want, but that just means I need to savor every moment. I know how this goes. I’ll get back home to Reno and immediately want to come back to Chile. Tomorrow is my first day of class. I am taking Advanced Spanish and also a Latin American dance class on Wednesday nights. Wish me luck! In my next post, I’ll go over some of the cultural differences I’ve noticed here so far and how they compare to Spain. Ciao!