Day 69

A taste of home

Nick and I knew we wanted to do the Fischer Fellowship – we’ve been talking about it for years. The opportunity to volunteer abroad for 6 months is incredible (and we may have possibly recruited to WMP some other Americans we’ve met along the way that we told about the fellowship, haha). And we were both very lucky to have families that 100% supported us.

But six months away from your family can be hard to swallow at first (with a sister who lives less than a mile away and parents you see every couple of months and talk to almost every day). We’re going to miss some birthdays and holidays, which is hard. Luckily, when we told them about our acceptance into the program, one of the first things they asked is, “Can we come visit you?!” It definitely made saying goodbye at Christmastime a little bit easier.

The timing of their visit also worked out pretty well for the foundation. The internet has been terrible, so working remotely was definitely the better option for everyone. And it allowed us to spend time showing them some of our favorite spots around the around the southern lakes region! Here are some highlights!

Valdivia

When my family arrived in Temuco from Santiago Friday, we drove straight south about 2 hours to Valdivia. Valdivia is actually the city that experienced the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. You wouldn’t guess it though—it’s a fun little town situated on a river with lots of restaurants and cervecerías artesanales (or craft breweries). It interestingly, along with a lot of southern Chile, has a big German influence, so the German-style breweries make sense.

Once we arrived, we headed to Niebla and gave them their first taste of market food. It was perfect because all of the stands specialized in a type of food (empanadas, sopaipillas, etc) – so they were able to try a lot of different Chilean staples. We explored a nearby fort then checked out one of the biggest breweries in Chile: Cerveceria Kuntsmann.

The next day, we tested everyone’s endurance by hiking in the Valdivian rainforest. It was really beautiful with some stellar views. We had a great lunch at a cafe near the national park (and everyone got to try our favorite drink, jugo natural). We attempted to attend Noche Valdiviana later that night, which is a boat parade with lots of lights, but we struck out a bit with our location to view it. We were all pretty beat from the hike, so we just headed to bed.

Puerto Varas

The next morning, we woke up and headed to Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas is a beautiful town along Lake Llanquihue and the Osorno Volcano. It’s quite the argument among many, but Puerto Varas is considered the gateway to Patagonia. It was about a 2.5 hour drive from Valdivia, so not too bad. Funny story, we heard about this brewery called Chester Beer (and my sister’s boyfriend’s name is Chester) so we made it a mission to surprise him with a few bottles and try to visit the brewery. Our first day was pretty low key, we checked into our Airbnb and made dinner at home.

The second day was really awesome. We took an all-day boat tour across Lake Todos Los Santos to the town of Peulla (which is 20-ish kilometers from Bariloche/Argentina) and it was absolutely adorable. We did a ziplining tour (which my mom loved) and an eco-tour, where we were able to feed some animals and take in some great mountain views. After heading back to the port, we stopped by a pizza place that our guide had recommended.

Pucón

Ahhh, Pucón. This gem is a quick 1.5 hours from where we live in Temuco. However, from Puerto Varas, it took about 4 hours. We walked around town once we arrived and picked some activities to do. We netted out on a boat tour and a visit to hot springs.

The weather was absolutely wonderful, we couldn’t have asked for better weather during their visit. And I think it was a nice break for them from the brutal Chicago winter. The sunset sail was definitely a highlight for all, with the Villarica Volcano in the background (which is still active!).

People equate Pucón to Aspen, with cute little shops, restaurants, and bars in a downtown area with mountains in the background. Walking around town was a great way to take in the town.

My dad unfortunately was struck with a stomach bug the day we were headed to Temuco, which was a bummer. We’re not sure what it was from. So he was down a couple of days, but luckily the drive wasn’t too long from Pucón to our next destination – Temuco!

Temuco

We wanted to show everyone our apartment and where we worked, and also show them the museum store (because they definitely wanted some gifts to take back home). It was nice because my family has seen some of the videos and photos I’ve been posting, and they wanted socks from Margarita, or a table runner from Isabel, so that was really cool. I hope that the QR codes for the new product labels will be a little taste of that for people that are in the store or after they buy a piece.

No one was at the foundation Thursday or Friday because of the internet issues, so we stayed in town for the most part. We took them to dinner at our favorite burger place. But with my dad feeling under the weather (and I got hit with a lesser version of it) we layed low until our flight to Santiago at 10pm.

Santiago Region

My family was flying in and out of Santiago from Chicago, so we flew back a few days early to explore some areas around Santiago. Santiago is a nice city; Nick and I spent our first five days there. But Santiago is a global city, and in some ways, global cities can start to become similar. So we encouraged everyone to explore some areas outside of Santiago that are distinctly Chilean and use Santiago as a home base.

My sister had an interest in checking out Valparaiso and my family enjoys a glass (or three) of wine :), so we ventured on a day trip to Valpo Saturday (the buses from Santiago are super convenient) and booked a wine tour to the Aconcagua Valley.

Unfortunately, my dad still wasn’t feeling well, so he didn’t join us on the wine tour. Some of the places we visited were just stunning. We stopped at three different wineries (differing in size) and a liqueur-making facility, which was really interesting. In Valpo, we did the same Grafreeti tour that we did in January because we liked it so much! And the cherry on top was ending the trip at Restaurante 040. The food is just fantastic, but my favorite surprise is the rooftop bar and their creative drinks.

Everyone’s flights were a little before noon on Sunday, so they departed pretty early from the Airbnb. Nick and I decided to spend the day in the Santiago region before we flew home and explored Cajon de Maipo and Embalse el Yeso. It was really stunning; it’s a canyon of the Andes Mountains and a natural pool of glacier water, where Santiago gets most of its water. It was a nice little end to our time exploring with my family.

I miss them already, but I know the next three and half months are going to fly by!

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