Stories from South America: Arrival

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I arrived to Santiago about 4 days after the rest of the group, since I had been photographing the medical mission in Nicaragua. So for the fourth flight of the year, I migrated through the airports alone to find my connections. I met doctors from Managua and photographers from Chile, and after 36 hours of zero sleep, mountain climbing, flying and editing pictures, I landed in Santiago.

It was an early morning, and to my surprise the air was cool as the sun rose higher. I met the site director and his wife at the airport, and they drove me to the apartments to sleep… but naturally I was ready for adventure. I walked into our 4-bed apartment (designed to be 2 or 3 bed), tucked away my suitcase, made myself look presentable, and met the group in the lobby for a day at La Vega, the crazy massive fruit and seafood market. I made an attempt to get cash from an atm, which promptly ate my card, as a nice welcome into the country. So I began the tab of who loaned me money for food and metro.

The ride was rather long to La Vega, and I had no idea where we were, but the tired had swiftly begun to set in. I followed the group as we made our way through the aisles of fruit and vegetables and chatty Chileans, trying to make sense of the colored papers in my hand and the numbers next to the fruits I recognized but couldn’t pronounce in this language. Somehow we made it out alive, and took the metro back to our apartments, where at once I decided to break from the group and make myself dinner: which failed. Usually after mission trips people might experience frustration at how much they have and how much they learned, but in this delirious state of sleep deprivation and exhaustion, I was overwhelmed by how tight everything was, how little food I had at my disposal, and my sudden immersion into a 3rd country in 5 days. It was a little bit more than I expected, to say the least. I learned that I really didn’t know how to fend for myself, especially on zero sleep, so after treating myself to gelato down the street, my first day in Santiago came to a close.

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