This past weekend I went along with my host father to the mountains. We went hiking and exploring on a two-day, overnight trip. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but there’s no way I could have predicted exactly what the next two days would hold. It was an adventure to remember! We headed out of town on the dirt road that led into the wilderness. It was just about wide enough for two cars, but we drove in the middle whenever possible to avoid the slant of the road. I quickly found out that the drive was the beginning of our adventure…
Have you ever been on the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland? This was kind of like that. Except, instead of being fixed on a track, we were on an open road, almost fishtailing on numerous occasions. Instead of lasting three minutes, the drive took an hour. And instead of going 15 kilometers per hour we flew a solid 85 (Mom, if you’re reading this, don’t worry, I’m alive)!
Anyhow, we arrived and parked the van. We walked up into the hills looking for a trail, but there wasn’t one, so naturally we made one. I have the scars to prove it. We climbed for a while, randomly stopping to take pictures, but when we reached the peak, it was breathtaking. The sky was such a pure blue, the trees so incredibly dense, and the view was stunning. It was definitely worth the hike.
My host father, whom I have now dubbed Araucanía Jones, is an animal. He’s 60 something years old but you wouldn’t know it by watching him scale mountains. He mows down trees like nothing. He doesn’t even look at the ground to see where he’s stepping. He doesn’t need maps either; he just remembers which way he needs to go, and heads in that general direction. He told me he’s traveled up and down all of Chile, and he doesn’t like going anywhere twice. That’s why we set out to climb this peak that he had never summited before. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a way to get to the top, but I’m not sure that it’d be possible without climbing (and lumberjack) gear. After all, we were in a national park, and most of the mountains were marked on the map, but this one wasn’t. Probably a reason for that! Nonetheless, we saw some outstanding landscapes.
I also discovered some new flora and fauna that I was previously unfamiliar with. Two of these, I swear, are straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: the Araucaria tree and the Chucao bird. The Araucaria tree is covered with green spikes right when it sprouts out of the ground. It then grows incredibly tall and its wiry, squiggly branches unfold at the top. The trunk is then adorned with a green, spider-like silk that I believe is a natural product of the tree. It’s a super interesting specimen. The Chucao I never actually saw, but I heard it plenty of times. I literally almost laughed every time it sang out. It sounded so cool!
We camped over night and made some steaks, which naturally we ate with our bare hands (I mean, we are men). We then slept, both of us, on a single twin-sized mattress, in the back of the van. I didn’t sleep much… But morning came and we did some more exploring. He led me to a beautiful lake, a gorgeous waterfall, and a small lagoon that was a slice of paradise. The colors in the pond were out of a fantasy movie, so vibrant and vivid. It was such a beautiful place. I’m excited to explore some more of Chile, especially with my own personal guide, Araucanía Jones.
Tonight I embark on the next chapter of my journey. I’m taking an overnight bus from Santiago to Victoria, the city where I’ll spend the next eight months of my life. The past ten days have been spent here at the country’s capital and epicenter. Although I’ve only come to know small pieces of this vast metropolis, I’ve experienced its hustle and its bustle. I’ve endured the weeklong orientation/training, which was pretty arduous but also helpful. It was fun (albeit interesting) living in a rather unpredictable hostel. It was also really cool to meet the other volunteers. Everyone is from somewhere different, and at a different place in life, but we’re all united by this common adventurous spirit. It’s been awesome getting to know some of them, so it will be sad saying goodbye. But, as much as I’ve enjoyed it all, I’m glad to be moving on to a place that’s smaller and quieter.
Thankfully, I’ve been able to find little niches of stillness, both to settle and restore my soul. Whether it’s meant closing my eyes, plugging into music, or sitting outside beneath the trees, I’ve found opportunities to do one of my favorite things: to write. Without a doubt, it’s become therapeutic for me. It allows me to quiet myself, block out the noise, and process all that’s been swirling around in my head and my heart. It’s also the place where I’m reminded how good the Lord has been to me. It’s in those still moments that He speaks to me through the Spirit, refreshing and restoring me. In doing so He reminds me to look and listen for Him elsewhere, and that’s what I love so much about these peaceful moments. They’re not just temporary moments but rather they permeate the rest of my life. I’m sincerely lifted in spirit.
The town I’m headed to, Victoria, is known as the gateway to Andean paradise, which sounds pretty promising, but I’m not sure how much faith I’m willing to stake in Wikipedia. Nonetheless, I’m excited to leave the busy city and head for the countryside. It’s bittersweet that I won’t be able to look out the window on the drive, but at least I can try to sleep, and when I wake up, I’ll be arriving in my new hometown!
My host family is an elderly couple with no kids left in the home, though I imagine there are probably children and grandchildren coming and going. They live five blocks from the school at which I’ll be working. I believe it’s a middle and high school, but I’m not positive. The town has a population of roughly 33,000, which seems like a decent size to me; not too big, not too small. I’m very much looking forward to seeing and exploring the town. I’m also incredibly anxious to meet my host family, my teacher, and my students. Although it’s technically the second chapter in my journey, it’s really the beginning of it all. It’s the reason I came down here, so bring the adventures on!