Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Accident in San Pedro

So I'm urging everyone to not freak out about this, but we were in a serious car accident this past weekend while driving through the desert on our way to see the Geysers in San Pedro. I'll try and so the best to give everyone the details of what happened and how everyone is fairing, but everything is still a bit fuzzy...

Anyways, so what happened was, we all went to a town to the north for the weekend. It's called San Sedro and it is located in the middle of the Atacama Desert. Sena, Jamie, Levi, Me and our friend from Chile, Juan, were all the people that were in the car for the expedition. On Sunday morning we decided to go see the geysers in the mountain and Jaun new the way to get there... its a very popular destination and they have tours that leave every morning at 4 a.m. to get to the geysers by 7 a.m. (its around a 3 hour drive through shotty dirt trails that weave through the desert, apparently this is one of the most dangerous routes in chile... we didn't know.) Sena, Levi and I were in the back seat, Jamie in the front and Juan was driving. We started to follow one of the tour buses but lost them two hours into the drive, luckily we saw there head lights up ahead and sped up only a little to try and catch up to them. Juan lost control of the car and it started to swirve uncontrolably ( driving on these dirt road is similar to driving on a paved road that is covered with water... it's easy to hydroplane, or whatever the equivilant to that would be on dirt, there is no traction.) then we proceded to fly off the road at about 80 km an hour and the car flipped 3 times. Sena flew out of the car and the rest of us were stuck inside, thank God we are all alive because a similar accident happened about a year ago and two of the passengers died. Since we were so far away from the town center we had to lay in the desert in -16 degree weather for about two hours, with some pretty serious injuries, before any medical personell arrived. They finally got to where we were and carried us off in ambulances to the clinic in San Pedro. This is such a small twon that they don't have a hospital, so without knowing what was wrong with us - we had no x-rays or real medical attention besides painkillers so we didn't have to fell our broken bones - we were shipped off to a hospital about an hour to the south which is where we stayed for almost a day... there the doctors discovered that Sena had two fractured vertebrates in her lower back - don't worry though she is not paralysed and can move her lower body perfectly -although they do have to perform a surgery and put a few pins in her back so that the vertebrates heal faster. She will probably be in recovery for the next couple of weeks but they say in about three weeks she should be able to walk and do whatever she needs. Jamie has a compound fracture in her ankle and is also undergoing surgery, her foot was caught under the car during the accident so it crushed her bone in her ankle and fractured a few of her other bones in her right leg. After her surgery she will be in bed for a bit but will recieve crutches and she will be able to hobble around. Levi split open his head and had to have around 20 stitches... he had slight amnesia for a day, and suffered a a bad concusion, but is now completely recovered from the amnesia, is all bandaged up and is walking around like new. I only suffered a slight concusion a few fractured toes and a sprained ankle which is keeping me in my bed and will continue to keep me there for the next couple of days, but i'm supposed to get a new cast soon and a pair of crutches so that i can walk around and continue working. Juan lucked out the best out of us all and only has a case of whip lash... so no deadly or permanante injuries on anyones account!

I just want to ask everyone to keep us in your prayers, especially Sena and Jamie! Sorry that I could not respond to each of you personally, but I have recieved quite a few e-mails concerning the accident and I decided that this was the best way to get back to you all in the most timely manner. W are in very good hands down here! All of the English Opens Doors Volunteers and Directors have been more than helpful and have been in the hospital with the girls every waking moment. They are taking care of our health insurance issues and helping us with communication issues. Thank you all so much for your support, everyone down here is so thankful to have people in the states that are thinking about us and praying for us. We love you all and can't wait to hear from you.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Land of Dirt and Dogs

So today is my two and a half week mark in Antofagasta! My spanish has been improving rapidly and now I can manage to communicate with my host parents, the collectivos drivers, street vendors, and if I'm having a good day I can manage to make small talk with the students at my school. This is quite an accomplishment for me considering when I first arrived in this city all I could make out was mumbled spanishesque grunts when people attempted to talk to me.

I have officially started teaching at a small school that is a few blocks up the hill from my house. The neighborhood is covered in dirt, stray dogs, corner vendors, trash and graffiti... strangly enough, I find it quite charming. The kids in the school are all great, they are so shocked to see a gringa (white-girl) at their school! they are constantly walking up to me asking me questions about American celebrities, they are obsessed with Michael Jackson and one of my younger students memorized his song, 'We are the World,' and sang it for me in front of his whole class. Even though he didn't know what the words meant, he pronounced everything perfectly. I almost cried.

I am teaching 1st to 8th grade at two different schools, the one I mentioned above and another military school that is 30 minutes north of where I live. The carpool to work every morning is absolutely hillarious. I ride with 3 to 4 Chilean women who speak rapid fire, chilean español. They are really nice and I think they might be funny women because they're always making each other crack up. Sometimes I think they're laughing at my horrible attempts at communicating with them, I accidently told one of them that I wanted her when I was trying to say I liked the mountains... This has happend to me on a few occasions, but I shrug it off and keep telling myself that the frustration and embarasment is just part of the learning process.
One of my favorite parts of this city are my drives to the center with the collectivo drivers. I know 2 of them by name at this point and they think that I am absolutely insane. One, for wanting to come to Antofagsta, andTwo, because I never know where I want to go so I end up driving around aimlessly and spontaneouly yell at them to stop when I see a place that looks interesting enough to get out at. I think that I, along with the other 8 volunteers in this city, stick out like a sore thumb.

Yesterday, me and some volunteers took a break from the city and went exploring the outskirts of Antofagasta. We took drove an hour south of the city, went off roading in a toyota prius, and finally after about 4 wrong turns, found El Mano de Desierto. A huge sculpture in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it is supposed to be dereted but when we arrived, a whold bunch of people were there reconstructing the hand! it was really weird.

After we went to see the hand, we decided to drive two hours north to a ghost town. The place used to be a mining town back in the day when nitrate compounds were being mined out of the desert here, but now since they are no longer mining the compounds, the city was deserted.

We locked the keys in the car, and luckily enough there was a man at the ghost town (weird) that had the perfect tools in his car to unlock our door.
We still hadn't had enough adventuring so we went to one of Antofagasta's most prominent natural monuments 'La Portada'
The Crew! Paul, Rachel, Jamie and Katy. Paul, Rachel, Jamie and I are all teaching in Antofagasta, and Katy is from the WAY south of Chile, she came up to Antofagasta for a teaching debate that was held this past weekend.