Saturday, 10.12.2013 - 7:28 pm.
I woke up this morning at 2 am to catch a plane back home. I spent the whole week in Arica, chasing after professors and students. Most of them weren't as helpful as expected, even though my boss and myself had contacted them weeks ago. Tourist-wise though, it was much more than I expected.
The one professor that did come through with the things we asked for regarding the project (getting students to answer a survey) also happenned to take me all over the city and beyond. I thought she was a friend of my boss's and she was being nice to me since I was her representative in town, but I discovered they'd never met. She was just that nice.
She gave me rides to my hotel, took me to see the valleys of Azapa and Lluta that look like oases amid the desert, and to eat typical and fine food. She invited me to her house for lunch one day and we went for coffee a couple of times. She took very seriously the fact that I'd never been to Arica and I wasn't even from Chile, and even got her partner, a retired doctor in oceanography (!), to take me to see other features of the region. He took me to beaches, Morro de Arica, the farmer's market (where he bought me Bolivian peanuts), the Chinchorro mummies museum and to buy edible souvenirs at a pretty shop. I got him and the professor homemade mango jam, as a little thank-you. They were amazing to me.
Even though it's a desert, it wasn't hot. It's called the city of eternal spring and it rarely rains. It's humid and cloudy though. It was windy and I kept my jacket and sunglasses on most of the time. The valleys are full of fields to harvest tomato, corn, olives and other stuff to export. From the airport you could see the Peruvian border, and from the city, Peruvian territory. And also nearby, of course, there was Bolivia.
It was a great trip in that sense, I saw a lot of things I never even dreamed of seeing and I learned a lot. As for the job I was sent to do, I did all I could but it wasn't a complete success, for reasons that were out of my reach. It brought me down a few times, it frustrated me, but also I felt comforted just by getting back to the hotel. It was a very comfortable place and they had a sushi restaurant open every night. I ate sushi four out of five nights there, the remaining one I spent it with the professor and her partner downtown. I ate lunch at the university cafeteria, which was varied and nutritious as well as cheap. I saved a good portion of the travel allowance I was given.
At the sushi restaurant, there was a very beautiful waiter. Ridiculously good-looking. I could barely look at him and I felt embarrassed whenever he talked to me. But that's not that why I ate there every night, I did it because the one disadvantage this hotel had for me was that it was located far from downtown and all commercial areas. It was in a residential area, which works for tourists because the beach is crossing the street and five blocks away. Me, I'd have to take a cab and know places and while I was told this was a very safe city, I didn't feel like going out at night on my own.
All in all, an amazing trip. I'm saddened I didn't get to say goodbye and thanks to the professor because she was out of office the whole day, my last day there. I went to the university everyday to try and contact professors or to apply surveys. By friday afternoon, I was done with both working and sightseeing, so I spent the rest of my stay catching up on Breaking Bad.
The entire week I tried to live in the moment, because looking forward to today would have made me miserable. I broke down my day into small tasks: get a cab; find this person; eat lunch. It was a long week indeed but I managed not to think about how I missed Andrew, the cats and my home in general. I guess I was being mindful by staying in the present, and yes, there were many moments to be enjoyed. By friday, however, I did allow myself to think of what I was missing and I barely felt like getting up that morning. But I'm home now, grateful for a fantastic trip to a new place.