Into the Atacama Desert

See all the pics from San Pedro de Atacama here…

Valparaiso, in the days post-earthquake. Even with the current situation, I could tell the Pata Pata hostel owners were getting a little tired of me ringing the bell, using their kitchen and being a wifi parasite – all under the pretense that I was visiting Alessandro, my friend who was staying there. After only sleeping at Pata Pata for one night, I’d moved to another place around the corner where I had my own room and avoided their screaming child, all for only a couple of dollars more. So in a cunning move, after a couple of days of ‘hanging out’ in their cozy lounge, I bought them gifts of chocolate and wine; this offering was well received and prevented the imminent and awkward ‘what are you still doing here’ conversation.

The TV news coverage of the earthquake became increasingly more dramatic as the situation in Concepcion spiraled into what resembled civil war. People were looting and burning stores, the military were enforcing a curfew by firing shots into the air and numerous buildings were in a state of collapse, all while the death toll continued to rise. I looked into options of heading south to offer my help but was told that the addition of my non-fluent and hungry mouth might not be the best help in this situation. However, my Chilean friend Matias suggested I share link a for people to donate and I promised to post various options here… Even if you can spare only $5, that would be a huge help!

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Valparaiso and the Earthquake

I still have to write the update from Isla Chiloe to the Las Campanas Observatory but wanted to post my earthquake experience ASAP. See all the photos here…

It had been a wild couple of weeks while I raced to La Serena, in order to catch Stella Kafka, the most lovely observational astronomer that I know, on her last night of observation at the Las Campanas observatory. I blazed through Santiago and only spent about 8 hours in Valparaiso – the most colorful and expressive town I’d ever visited. I was sad to have to rush, but the invitation was too fantastic and in the end it was absolutely worth the race – the observatory felt more like a moon base and the stars were unparalleled in their clarity. I was Stella’s assistant for her final night and kept her awake while she searched for distant suns with orbiting planets that might, or might not, be appropriately stable enough to allow for a ‘habitable zone’. (I will write this story next – very cool stuff  – thanks Stella!)

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Willard, Witchcraft & Isla Mechuque

For this episode of Adult Storytime I decided to dig up an old tale that I wrote while in South America in 2010. It’s a semi-fictional mix of adventure, mythology and the questionable detective skills of the main protagonist, Willard. What parts are true? What aren’t? I’ll let you decide. 

Willard was aggravated. A stout local in a Chilean cowboy hat had just strutted down the pier and announced that the ferry had been delayed until later that afternoon. Apparently a distant storm was preventing the boat from approaching, further delaying Willard from reaching the Chilean island of Chiloe. He’d planned to get there yesterday and here he was, still wet and still waiting, in this godforsaken town of Chaiten.

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