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thinking things through (lunes, 25 octubre)

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


Today I woke up around 9am in order to shower and get my things packed into my backpack before checking out of La Ruca. The lady working there was really friendly today and let me store my backpack in the staff room so I wouldn't have to lug it around all day.

Outside I was greeted by the typical, glaringly warm sun as I walked down Toconao towards Caracoles, where I ran into Laura who was in my tour group to El Tatio yesterday. Like myself, she was also travelling alone, so we walked to a place called Café Esquina where we ordered delicious fresh fruit juice. The café was an interesting place with tabletops made of slabs of tree trunks and other nature-y decor. We talked about travelling, living abroad (she is Chilean but lives in Australia), and what foods are typical in different countries. After finishing our juice she had to meet a friend at the bus station, and I was hungry so I went back to Tierra for another amazing vegetable empanada.

After an early lunch I started looking for a place where I could either rent a bike or try sandboarding or sand-skiing. Having hot had a chance to go running all week, I had all this excess energy I needed to release. Unfortunately, all of the sandboarding/skiing tours didn't start until 4pm and wouldn't return to San Pedro until 9pm, and my bus wsa going to depart at 6pm. The guys at the agency were really nice and said I could rent a bike. They gave me a map and suggested some places I could ride. The first bike they got out for me they had to put the seat all the way down and it was still too big...when I tried to get on the bike, I tripped and fell on the ground. We were all laughing and the guy went to find a smaller bike for me.

I rode down the lonely San Pedro streets, through the plaza, and the dusty outskirts of town. I hadn't ridden a bike in ages, so it felt really great to ride again. I was heading down the dirt-and-rock road towards Pukara de Quitor when I saw Marcelo, who I'd met the previous night.

The ride to Pukara de Quitor was only three kilometers, but I instantly regretted not applying sunscreen. The sun was intense, and I was thankful for my hat, sunglasses, and water I'd brought with. The landscape was beautiful--mostly red rocks, sand, red hills, mountains, and volcanoes framing the horizon, and occasional splashes of green from a few hardy trees and sparse grasses.

At Pukara de Quitor I had to carry my bike up a bunch of stairs. I climbed up the rocky surfaces of the hill by the ruins, enjoying the views over the San Pedro Valley. I learned that the ruins were from an Atacameño culture that pre-dated the Incan empire, possibly as early as 1500 BCE. The ruins had rooms used for pretty much everything--bedrooms, food storage, pens for animals, a place to prepare food, community (ayllu) gatherings, etc. The Atacameños were hunter-gatherer types of people. Here the women planted all the crops because working the land (pachamama) was a female aspect of the different gender roles. The earth/land was regarded as a representation of the female divine energy. Also in this culture, men and women were regarded as equally important but each with different gender roles. Before community (ayllu) meetings, the husband and wife w ould discuss their opinions on an issue and decide together, but at the meetings, the men were the ones who were the household spokesperson.

I biked back to San Pedro and ran into Daniel, who I'd met at the horseback riding place. He invited me to a party in the desert that night, but unfortunately I would be returning to Calama before then. I returned my bike and met up with Mario, Marcelo, and Cristian for a while. Cristian, Mario, and I took a walk out to the countryside/ desert. It turns out Cristian will be in Santiago the same week as my marathon, so we exchanged contact information. Then Cristian had to return to town, so Mario and I kept walking and talking about different things. He told me about his life in Uruguay and what it's like there. He showed me the place where he and Cristian work, and where I will probably end up working since there is a huge need for people who can speak English. The pay by US standards isn't much--maybe the equivalent of 600 US dollars per month. However, I was quick to realize I'm not in the States anymore, and living on 600 a month is do-able. The cost of living here is different, and I can definitely support myself on that kind of salary. Here In San Pedro I can rent a flat/pensión for around 80 luca (160 dollars) per month. I won't need a car or any of the expenses that go along with driving--insurance, maintenance, repairs, etc. I won't even need to pay to use a micro or colectivo (there aren't any in San pedro) I'll just need the one- time investment of a bike, which won't be that expensive if I get a used bike. The town is so small that having a bike will be perfect. I can also go biking out in the desert, or go for long walks and enjoy the solitude. I will be able to pay back my student loans and still have plenty of money left for food and travel, and normal living expenses. I can save some money, or spend it on things I'd enjoy--horseback riding, trying sandboarding, etc.

More importantly, I can work in a different field, gain new experiences, and learn more things. I'd actually be using my business degree and would continue to practice Spanish every day. Yes, I will miss working with the at-risk kids back home, but I can look for places to volunteer. I can use my free time to practice the quena or guitar, learn more music, draw, write, and go running. I like the idea that I won't need much. I like the idea of a different kind of independence, of freedom to live the kind of life I want. I'm not scared to step out on a branch and stand close to the edge. I can make it out here on my own.



permalink written by  Sara Florecita on November 30, 2010 from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
from the travel blog: año de dos inviernos (Chile 2010)
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Sara Florecita Sara Florecita
1 Trip
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-I am participating in the Inglés Abre Puertas program run by the Chilean Ministry of Education.
-Hobbies include travelling, writing, reading, learning Spanish and Italian, long-distance running, music, and art.
-I am a college graduate who is trying to find her place in this world.
-I...

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