Valparaiso, in the days post-earthquake. Even with the current situation,I could tell the Pata Pata hostel owners were getting a little tired of me ringing the bell, using their kitchen and being a wifi parasite – all under the pretense that I was visiting Alessandro, my friend who was staying there. After only sleeping at Pata Pata for one night, I’d moved to another place around the corner where I had my own room and avoided their screaming child, all for only a couple of dollars more. So in a cunning move, after a couple of days of ‘hanging out’ in their cozy lounge, I bought them gifts of chocolate and wine; this offering was well received and prevented the imminent and awkward ‘what are you still doing here’ conversation.
The TV news coverage of the earthquake became increasingly more dramatic as the situation in Concepcion spiraled into what resembled civil war. People were looting and burning stores, the military were enforcing a curfew by firing shots into the air and numerous buildings were in a state of collapse, all while the death toll continued to rise. I looked into options of heading south to offer my help but was told that the addition of my non-fluent and hungry mouth might not be the best help in this situation. However, my Chilean friend Matias suggested I share link a for people to donate and I promised to post various options here…Even if you can spare only $5, that would be a huge help!
I still have to write the update from Isla Chiloe to the Las Campanas Observatory but wanted to post my earthquake experience ASAP. See all the photos here…
It had been a wild couple of weeks while I raced to La Serena, in order to catch Stella Kafka, the most lovely observational astronomer that I know, on her last night of observation at the Las Campanas observatory. I blazed through Santiago and only spent about 8 hours in Valparaiso – the most colorful and expressive town I’d ever visited. I was sad to have to rush, but the invitation was too fantastic and in the end it was absolutely worth the race – the observatory felt more like a moon base and the stars were unparalleled in their clarity. I was Stella’s assistant for her final night and kept her awake while she searched for distant suns with orbiting planets that might, or might not, be appropriately stable enough to allow for a ‘habitable zone’. (I will write this story next – very cool stuff – thanks Stella!)
Willard was aggravated. A comical fellow in a Chilean cow boy hat had just strutted down the pier and announced that the ferry had been delayed by 9 hours. Apparently, a distant storm was preventing the boat from approaching and thus preventing him from reaching the Chilean island of Chiloe. He’d planned to arrive yesterday and here he was, still wet and still waiting, in this godforsaken town of Chaiten.
I have some pretty heavy video footage of Chaiten and an interview with Senora Hostencia, an inn keeper and one of the handful of the 6000 inhabitants that have returned. My netbook is both very slow to edit the HD video and I don’t have a sufficient editor to cut the footage, but hopefully will get access to one soon. For now you can see all the pics and read notes below to give some context to the pictures.
The Chinese maid knocked and entered my Hong Kong apartment in one fluid movement. And byapartment, I really mean a single room so compact that that if you stood in the kitchen you could reach the door, bed, shower or desk in one step. She looked at me and then her eyes drifted to the two glowing monitors, mess of cables and electronic devices spewing onto my desk. From there, her gaze traveled to my bed where a giant map was spread out and covered in red circles and writing. Then, with a look of surprise probably due to the fact that the tiny apartment resembled the den of somegweilospy, she backed out without saying a word. It was 2005 and it was on my firstTechnomadjourney.
Somewhere after the second kilometer and third mangled desert hare I began to wonder if my minimally researched, impromptu hike into Chile was a good idea. I was in the No Man’s Land between the Argentine and Chilean border checkpoints, however this wasn’t the first No Man’s Land that I’ve had to trek across. In truth, it’s not even close to being the most intense either. Hands down, that prize goes to the five mile wasteland between the Kashgar and Kyrgyzstan checkpoints, traveled only by truckers and thoughtfully sandwiched on each side by border urchins waiting to con you in a myriad of deceptive ways. And I was in a tuxedo at the time.