As I sit here and reflect on this past week I am surprised we made it. The week started very roughly when we arrived here in Santiago, Chile on Sunday, June 30th. Getting off the plane, we found ourselves groggy and exhausted, not getting much sleep on the flight down. We were ready to get our luggage, go to the apartment and settle in. Unfortunately after getting through customs, we discovered that our luggage had been left in Miami, Florida. We spoke to the representative for the airline and quickly got the situation sorted out with our luggage to arrive the next day. With nothing but the clothes on our back and carry-ons, we left the airport and headed for our apartment.
We arrived at the apartment a little before noon. Entering the apartment, I felt some relief seeing how nice the place was where we were staying for the next four weeks. Not long after arriving, we heard from Vicente, who would be overseeing us during our stay here. We told him about our luggage situation and that it would arrive tomorrow. He said not to worry that everything would be okay and to not worry about coming to the office tomorrow, to just get adjusted.
We decided to go out and get a feel for the area around our apartment. Going outside, we found a park right across the street. We walked over to the park, which had all kinds of statues and sculptures. After walking through for a little while, we walked into the city streets to explore some more. We walked for a while and found a grocery store, not far from our apartment. Going inside, we found that their grocery store layouts were very similar to ours. We decided to pick up a few things to have at the apartment to cook or snack on. The sun was starting to go down so we felt it was best to head back to the apartment.
After getting back to the apartment, we felt tired and thought it was getting late. But then, we looked at the clock and realized it was only about four or five. We figured out that since it was their winter here, just like our winter days there is less sunlight in the day. To go from our long sunny days to the short darker days here was quite an adjustment, which I coined as Season Shock. It actually made us feel slightly depressed, but that could have been the lack of sleep talking too.
At about seven, we were feeling hungry and neither of us wanted to cook anything so we decided to find a place to eat. In our travels earlier that day we had come across this place called Lomit’s. Not knowing any other place we decided to go there. Going in we found the place to have a diner like feel to it, with a bar to sit at or a dining room. Behind the bar were two flat top grills. Here a man cooked the sandwiches right in front of you and man did he do it fast. He moved at lightning speed tossing meat on, toasting buns, and compiling sandwiches. All while using a spatula in one hand and a chef’s knife in the other. Sitting down at the bar a waiter came up to us and began to speak to us very quickly in Spanish. Not knowing any Spanish, I sat there dazed and confused. Luckily, Jen knows Spanish and was able to get us not just menus but menus in English, so I was able to read it. Looking at the menu, we found Lomit’s to be mainly a sandwich shop with some entree options. After deciding what to get , Jen and I sat and talked for a while about what we would do tomorrow. As we sat there we began to watch the man at the grill work. It was amazing to see him work with such precision and skill, pumping out sandwich after sandwich. Our food finally arrived and I could not believe the size of my sandwich. I had to cut it in half to just be able to handle it. But it was so good, sliced roasted pork with tomatoes, avocado and mayo. Every bite was better than the last!
After finishing, we paid the bill and headed back to the apartment. Once back, I hopped on my computer and called my family on Skype. We talked for a while and I told them about the day and everything. I was feeling very tired so I headed to bed and was asleep in no time.
The next morning I got up around nine thirty and with nothing much to do until our luggage arrived we just relaxed around the apartment. At about eleven thirty there was a knock on our door and it was our luggage! We unpacked our stuff and I took a much needed shower. After the shower, with fresh clothes on, I felt refreshed and much better. With a better perspective, we headed out to explore some more.
We decided to walk to the park with sculptures in it again and spend some more time there. While there I took many pictures of the works of art throughout the park. When finished we walked around more of the city that we had not discovered the day before. At around five we returned to the apartment. Feeling hungry we decided to cook a little something for ourselves there at the apartment. After eating both feeling tired we decided to pack it in for the night.
On Tuesday morning, we were picked up from our apartment and headed for the Sodexo Headquarters. Arriving there we finally met Vicente face to face and he explained more in depth what kind of plans they had for us for the next three weeks. Afterwards, he introduced us to the Director of Education, who took us to one of the biggest schools here in Santiago.
The school was located up in the hills of the mountains surrounding Santiago. With three separate buildings each twice as big as the Hibbard Center at Keystone, the school educated a little over five thousand students. The Director of Education introduced us to the general manager and chef of the kitchen. They showed us the basic operations of the food services of the school and treated us to lunch. At about four, we headed back to the headquarters where we met with Vicente who told us that tomorrow we would start the day by heading to one of the clinics Sodexo is contracted at and to ask for Jacqui. Afterwards, we hopped into a taxi and head back to the apartment.
Once back to the apartment, we decided that neither of us felt like cooking so we went out to find a place to eat. We walked around for a while until we came to this Italian place that looked nice. Inside it looked like almost any typical Italian restaurant you would imagine. Receiving the menus we found that almost every item had a picture of itself. Looking for a bit, I found a dish that looked good. Once we ordered, Jen and I talked about our trip to the school that day and what else was to come, shortly after the food arrived. My dish was sautéed beef with mushrooms and greens with a spicy marsala sauce. But once again the portion was huge so I ended up taking about half of it back to the apartment.
Back at the apartment I spoke to my family for about an hour, telling them about what I had done that day and what I would be doing tomorrow. It was great to talk them and see them. I had really been missing them that day. After saying goodnight to them I headed to bed myself.
Wednesday morning, we were picked up and headed to the clinic. There we met with Jacqui who was the Sales Manager there at the clinic. He gave us a tour of the kitchen and cafeteria of the building which served over twenty-five hundred patients, staff, and family of patients everyday. Afterwards, Jacqui took us to the other building of the clinic.
In this other building, we met Patricio and Valther who run the kitchen operations for the building. As we walked through kitchen they told us about their daily operations here. They told us that unlike the other building they cooked for only the patients which was around eighty to one hundred per day. After the tour we met with Jacqui and had lunch in the cafe in the clinic. When lunch was finished we headed back to the headquarters.
Back at headquarters we met with Julio Fernandez, the General Explorations Manager, who told us about Sodexo’s work in justice buildings here in Chile, specifically the prisons. He talked about what he had planned for me as a project. I, by myself, was to fly tomorrow morning to La Serena to observe Huachalalume Prison. When he told me this I got very nervous and worried, not because I was flying but because I would be all by myself in a brand new place. After I received all my information on my trip the next day Jen and I left work and head back to the apartment.
When we arrived back at the apartment, we decided to eat in to use up some of the food we had there. After eating I called my parents and told them about what I would be doing tomorrow. They reassured me and said everything would be ok. I said thank you and that I loved them and head to bed to get some rest for my journey the next day.
Thursday, a car picked me up from the apartment and took me to the airport. Since I was only staying over one night, I only brought a carry-on and my backpack to make sure I would have my stuff when I arrived in La Serena. The plane ride was very short at most forty minutes. In La Serena there was a driver waiting for me to take me to the prison to meet with the manager there.
Arriving at the prison I met Miguel, the general manager of operations of the prison. Miguel gave me a brief presentation on basic information of the prison. When finished we went and had lunch. After lunch he showed me the external kitchen that cooked for office staff and the prison guards. He also showed me the facility warehouses, such as food, maintenance, and launders. After the tour I worked on my report of the trip until it was time to go to the hotel I would be staying at for the night.
After settling into my hotel room, I decide to do some exploring around the area. The street right outside of my hotel had a long plaza filled with sculptures of Grecian fashion. After taking pictures of all the statues I walked up a couple of blocks to where the center of town was. Here was where many of the old colonial building were. It was starting to get dark so I was unable to get good pictures of the buildings. With it getting dark I decided I should find a place to eat. After walking up a street of shops, I found this little place called The Colonial Cafe. I got a seat and looked at the menu, happy to find that it was also in English. With many choices I finally decided on a Colonial burger, a burger with cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, fried onions, and a fried egg. Just like the last sandwich I had gotten here in Chile this thing was huge! Finishing the burger, I paid the bill and head back to the hotel to call me parents.
At the hotel I went over some the information for my flight back to Santiago the next day and called by parents. After talking to my parents for a while I wished them good night and headed to bed.
Friday I headed back up to the prison to tour the inside of it. Miguel showed me the hospital for the prison, which I found to have decently good equipment for a prison hospital. After that we headed to the prison’s school. I was very impressed with what they were teaching, some of it to be stuff that you possibly would not even receive at a regular school. Miguel then showed me the two workshops where inmates could work for money, making aluminum and PVC windows. After that I was shown the prison’s gymnasium, which looked just like any other gym I have seen in schools.
Finally Miguel showed me the central kitchen for the prison where all the food was made for the over two thousand inmates. I walked around the kitchen observing and taking mental notes of what I liked and what I did not like. As well as what I thought could be done to improve the operations.
When the tour was over, we went for lunch and I went to my office and worked on the rest of my report for my visit there to the prison. I was taken to the airport to head back to Santiago around five. The flight left at about six thirty and I arrived back in Santiago a little after seven.
Back at the apartment, I met back up with Jen and we were both feeling exhausted. We both did not want to go out but did not want to cook. So we finally decided to go out and get something. One of the ladies in the office had told Jen about all these great places that were just a couple of blocks from our apartment. We walked for a little, finding this place called Liguria, and we decided to give it a try.
Walking in the first thing I noticed was the music playing, classic rock! Guns N’ Roses, Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, I was in absolute heaven. We got a table and the waiter gave us menus, again I was unable to read anything it said. Jen was able to translate some of it, pointing out a dish with shrimp in it. I did not know what else was in it but I ordered it anyway. While we waited for our food, Jen and I talked about what we did the last two days and what we thought the next two weeks would bring us at Sodexo. Soon after this our food arrived and my dish was great. It was sautéed shrimp in a herb lemon butter sauce. When we finished, we headed back to the apartment and turned in for the night.