PFP Chile ends – the journey continues

It’s hard to believe that the initial PFP Global Perspectives: Chile has come to an end.

On Friday morning, we said our good-byes and thank-yous to our wonderful hosts at the University of Austral – Chile (UACh) and boarded the plane to Santiago.  With the Andes on the right and the Pacific coastline on the left, we winged our way to Santiago for a final visit to Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.  A very informative visit to the Faculty of Engineering finalized the itinerary late Friday afternoon.

We departed for the U.S. on Friday night (January 13, 2012).  Two different airlines (LAN/American, Delta), three arrival cities (Charlotte, NC; Roanoke, VA; Milwaukee, WI), and one transfer in Lima, Peru.  By now, we have all reached our respective destinations and soon we will be back in Blacksburg and VT.

Much has been learned and more will be explored. IInitial observations have shared with more reflections to come.  Our experiences will be described through photos and other visual representations of our individual and collective journey.  Although the experience ended in Chile yesterday, the journey continues.  Stay tuned, there’s more to come.

Small world

We were standing in line waiting for the Funicular to carry us (and many others) up the hill to see the Virgin Mary.  We had enjoyed our first lunch together and traveled by foot and metro to the base of the mountain.  It was a sunny and hot day and we anticipated that the view would be wonderful.  It was.

I was watching those who had returned from their journey to the top.  A familiar face appeared among them.  No, it couldn’t be.  How would it be possible that we would run into someone I knew from VT let along one who had attended the PFP Global in Switzerland a few years ago.  Why would she be in Santiago?  I called her name.  She heard her name but reacted as if it couldn’t be possible that someone she knew would be calling her name.  Linsey I called and yes, Linsey Barker and her husband Eric (Erik or Erich – I didn’t catch the spelling) had been visiting Santiago while on their honeymoon.  We chatted for a while and learned that they were returning to the U.S. last evening on the same day we had arrived.  It is definitely a small world.  Safe travels, Global Perspectives participants.

Seat 28A

It was dark through most of the hours after departure from Atlanta at 10:45pm on Saturday, January 7, 2012.  Many on the plane slept as the screens offered movies, TV shows and flight status updates throughout the night.  And then light appeared through the windows announcing the pending arrival into Santiago.  John Dooley and I were on this flight and the rest of the group had arrived earlier in the morning.

The Andes were spectacular – looming large and majestic.  The tallest mountain peak in the western hemisphere appeared as we flew silently through the air space and slowly descended into Santiago.  Andes on the left and shorter mountains below that appeared slightly below the plane.  The lines of the vineyards cut neatly along the mountain sides.  And the valleys – several as we continued our descent.  And finally Santiago appeared below.

We had arrived at our destination and once through customs, we transitioned to the Santiago Park Plaza Hotel.  At noon-ish, the group of eight gathered and the PFP Global Perspectives: Chile came to life.




Bags are packed

The unpacking and re-packing are finished.  I am finishing up the last minute details to get ready to leave tomorrow.  I am really excited to be on my way.  I checked the weather and it will be in the 80s in Santiago and 60s in Valdivia.  I packed a coat and umbrella.  After arriving home last night with five checked bags and two checked carseats, it seems almost surreal to pack only one suitcase and a backpack.  My days of traveling this light have been in the past.  I will miss my boys like crazy, but I am thrilled to have this opportunity.  I am even looking forward to the drive, the flights and the airports.  What an adventure this will be!

On the eve of departure

It is a little over a week before our departure to Chile for the Preparing the Future Professoriate Global Perspectives program in Chile and in the quiet moments of winter break, I take this opportunity to reflect about the country we will visit soon.

The New York Times refers to Chile as “The Thin Country”.  “Thin” obviously refers to the shape of the country and certainly not to its contributions to and growing influences upon Latin America and the world.  With its unusual shape, Chile spans 4300 km (2700 miles) in length and an average of 175km (109 miles) wide.  Chile contains the driest desert in the world (Atacama) in the north, the “cosmopolitan capital” of Santiago in the middle and rain forests in the south.  Chile is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on one side and the spectacular snow-capped rugged Andes Mountains on the other. The geography is quite varied and diverse – impressive for sure.

In my exploration of Chile the country, I learned that Chile has struggled to overcome its image as a militaristic country and has recently embraced economic and social change.  Since the late 20th century, Chile has experienced rapid economic growth and is now one of the strongest economies in Latin America.  The current Chilean President Sebastian Pinera has focused on innovation and entrepreneurship to prevent “brain drain”.  President Pinera earned the MA and PhD in Economics from Harvard and served as a Professor of Economics in Chile prior to his election as President in 2010.  He was defeated by Michelle Bachelet in 2006 who became the first female President of Chile after serving 4 years as the first female Health Minister and Defense Minister.  She currently serves as Head of UN Women.

Chile is present in world news today  Recently, we have read stories about the mine collapse, the “trapped” miners and their lives a year later.  The Puyehue volcano erupted earlier this year making news around the world and impacting VT travels to Chile.  Chilean wines continue to make news – the Chilean wines appear in Blacksburg stores and Carmenere finds a home at the Inn at Virginia Tech.  The student protests in Chile this Fall were newsworthy for months and we will be able to gain first hand knowledge of these efforts while in Chile.

Virginia Tech has a special relationship with Chile.  VT has identified a location for our collaborations and have established partnerships with Chilean universities especially Austral University.  The PFP Global Perspective group will have the opportunity to benefit from the relationships and learn about this intriguing country.  I look forward to the visit.  See you in Santiago on January 8th.