Saturday, January 05, 2019

Update #10 - Chile Vacation

January 4, 2019

Happy Holidays to all who celebrate.....i am currently wrapping up a trip to the states to hang with my family and friends to celebrate christmas and new year....it has been relaxing and rejuvenating and it has been great to connect with family and friends.....but alas....it is almost time to head back to panama and school.....so i figured i would get out one more update before i get on the plane back down south, where my year so far has been fast & furious......and remember...i have signed on for another year....so you have until june 2020 to get to panama and have a free place to sleep :) come on down!!!!

this update will focus on my november break trip to chile - i went with my friend emma and was surprised along the way by my friend carla and stopped in for a quick visit and stay over at my friend bonnie's place, who lives and works there.....overall, i loved this country....the people were friendly, the wine was plentiful & tasty and the landscape was lovely....maybe someday i will return.....all-in-all it was a wonderful trip and i highly recommend you head south to this country if you can....if i do make it back, i would love to see the patagonia area and make it out to easter island...but on this trip, it was just not doable......on with the pictures......


one thing you should know about chile, as with colombia, is that they have amazing graffiti....it is literally everywhere....this piece was just around the corner from our airbnb in the city....i loved the colors and it really reminded me of one of my favorites from colombia....don't know if it is the same artist...but i loved it.....


as you probably know, the capital of chile is santiago and it has the andes mountains to the east of the capital....splitting argentina from chile.....as you can see in the shot above, the mountains are very visible...with snow...at the start of the summer season....it was cool to see them.....also, chile, even the part not in the andes, is very hilly....as you will see in some of the pictures below......hills in chile are called cerros....


this is the cerro of santa lucia....this is where the city was officially founded in 1541, by the spaniard pedro de valdivia....this hill is 629 m (2060 ft) tall...and when you get to the top there is a castle turret to look out over the whole city.....there was also a man and his dog and his guitar, just to add to the ambiance.....we did this hill, but not the bigger one of san cristobal....we just did not have time.... 


while in santiago we also went to the main cemetery...called the cemeterio general de santiago....we were there just a few days after all souls day, so there were many candles and flowers at the main corners.....there are an estimated 2 million burials in this cemetery, and they still have space for folks to buy a plot or two....and the mausoleums are amazing and very ornate....and just like in argentina, many of the family names are italian....


this was one of my favorite monuments.....this is a memorial to gladys del carmen marin millie....she was a political activist, who campaigned against pinochet's (chile's past US-supported dictator) human rights abuses.... many people "disappeared" or were put in interment camps during his rule....plus, as we learned later in the trip, he affected the progress of chile, in comparison to argentina.....many folks we met, did not speak english, as all english learning in schools was banned during his rule....this definitely makes chile a bit more difficult to travel in if you do not speak spanish....but it is definitely worth the work....


another one of my favorite pieces of graffiti we saw in chile is in santiago....you can see it above....i love that the little girl is painting the sunflowers with colors....this is located in the barrio known as bellavista....a fun, hip part of town, with some excellent restaurants, bars and graffiti....


from santiago we headed out to the coast.....this is the view from our balcony.....it looks sunny and warm, but the water, both in the pool and in the ocean, was freezing!!!! as you can see, we are pretty high up on the hills....we were at renaca beach....which was mostly deserted....still was a lovely view and a wonderful place to relax.....


when we arrived at our airbnb, we were told we needed to take the funicular up to where we were staying.....this is a view from the bottom and the other car of the funicular is up on the top right of the picture....the white looking box thing...this whole thing surprised both emma and i, we had no idea chile was so hilly, or that we were staying at the top of one of those hills.....we felt like celebrities and you could not beat the view!!!


the evening we arrived here, we grabbed some dinner and watched the sunset from the ocean's edge....the lovely shot from our table is above....


during one of our days on the coast we took the metro into valparaiso....a seaside port known for its 47 hills, funiculars to get up and down them and the graffiti throughout....this shot is of one of the funiculars we rode in the town....this one is the reina victoria funicular....it climbs concepcion hill, approximately 225 feet at a 57 degree incline....one of the steepest that was built....but they have been operating successfully for over 130 years....so no need to worry....


up on cerro concepcion you will find colorful houses, amazing artisans, tasty places to eat and of course, incredible graffiti....i loved the 3-D aspect of the piece above, because it was done on the corner of a building....


i also loved the saying on the stairs we found in this area...."we are not hippies...we are happies"...this was done as a tribute to all who survived the rule of pinochet and some say it is the mantra of valparaiso.....i loved it....


and i was soooooo excited when i found this piece on the wall next to a cafe of the little prince....no idea why the artist chose to paint this, but i wonder if the artist is the little boy reading the book in the upper left of the piece....maybe he loves that story as much as i do....


the shot above is of the famous beethoven piano stairs, located on beethoven street in valparaiso....i am not sure why they were created, but they are a stop everyone makes while walking around this area of valparaiso....


the area we stayed in, renaca beach, was a bit deserted, but you always had an amazing view of the water, both while walking down along it and from high above it....i went on a long walk one day....just to see what i could see.....


one of the weirdest things i saw was this combination of rock types.....the black rock, i assume, is volcanic from some time ago...i guess chile has many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.....who knew??? we did not experience any while there....although i have been been in some earthquakes while i have been in panama...there were 47 in the last year in panama...but nothing too serious or large in the city...


from valparaiso, we headed to one of the chilean wine valley regions - the colchagua province....it is known for a grape i had not heard of before....the carmenere....a red wine grape....it also is one of the only places in chile you can find malbec....we did a great wine tour of four different vineyards....the first we visited was montes vineyard (vina montes).....their logo is of an angel, plus, the vineyard was designed keeping feng shui in mind....this was the room where their most famous and expensive wines rested...while gregorian chants were played to them.....it was an incredible room....the big cask on the left in the back is their secret wine....no one but mr. montes actually knows what is in that cask....it is called the taita, but no one is really sure if it will be made or not.....the last taita that was created by this winery was in 2012....but our guide said 2018 was an extremely good harvest year, so the winery is hoping for this cask to hold the very special taita.....it was interesting that the guide did not have any idea what was in the cask.....we'll just have to check back again to see if there is a 2018 taita from montes.....


this was the view from the montes winery as you walked out the front door.....as you can see, it was a beautiful day for a wine tour....


the second winery we visited was clos apalta....and this place was awesome....the science used in making their wine made me smile....from the lab, that we could observe from the lobby.....to the use of gravity to move the wine, so it did not get jostled in the fermentation process more than needed.... 


this was the roof of the winery...where our tour started....they were growing endemic plants on the roof and had a large sundial up there too....i am not really sure what all of the bars were, but i know overlook of the valley, was stunning....


the building itself was six stories....three above ground and three below ground....they used gravity to move the wine between floors through the aging process....this is a look down through the building...if you click on the picture and look all the way to the bottom, you will see they have a foucault's pendulum in the center of this stairway.....these pendulums are used to demonstrate the rotation of the earth....i loved all of the science ties in this winery....just made me smile.....they also let us taste a $300 bottle of wine.....nice folks :)


 the last vineyard was vina ventisquero....and what a view it had....we definitely needed a 4 wheel drive to get up to this one....we tasted three of their wines, while looking over this valley....it was a terrific day, filled with wines, science, food and beautiful views.....


and then we headed back to santiago for a last night....but we stayed in a different place...my friend bonnie's place....this was our walk along the river to get dinner....again more super cool graffiti along the way...loved the eyes.....


and then...on this, last night of our trip...our friend carla surprised me.....she just "stopped by" in santiago, on her way to buenos aires....her and emma had kept this a secret and boy was it a surprise....here are the three of us at a tasty pizza place....we literally hung out for 6 hours....that was it....and then we headed back to panama and carla continued onto argentina.....crazy woman, which is why we are friends!!!!


chile was a lovely country....and i highly recommend a visit to anyone that can get there....we only saw a very small part, of a very long country....i am hoping that some day i head back to the far south to see the gateway to antarctica.....we'll see if that happens....of course this is my last shot...me saying cheers ("salud" in spanish) to you from the coast of chile - renaca beach....

hope every one had a great holiday season and a wonderful start to 2019....if you have any questions, send them my way and remember, you have until june 2020 to come on by panama...until the next update.....peace out.....
dani

Monday, November 26, 2018

Update #9 - Panama Adventures

November 25, 2018

hey there folks....and happy start to the holiday season for many...i hope those who celebrate US thanksgiving had a lovely day...i actually had two thanks/friendsgivings...tasty food, a fun time with colleagues and friends & a way to remember all i am thankful for....i cannot believe it is coming to the end of november....this semester has been fast and furious and really exhausting....we started a new schedule this year, which i was hoping i would adapt to...but it is proving to be difficult and draining...i can only hope it changes next year and that seems to be written in the cards....

since my last update installment, i have made the decision to stay in panama for another year....this year has been challenging on many levels, and because of this and some other positive things, i cannot imagine leading a job search...one of the biggest factors for staying is the ease to get back to pennsylvania and my parents....it is sooooo nice being in the same time zone...plus, i have put in a lot of time and effort for the current curriculum with my teaching partner, so i am hopeful next year will not be as much initial work and more fine tuning....this being said....the third year will be my last here, so if you are planning a trip....get in touch....there is a spare bedroom and bathroom with your name on it....

panama city is in full "pope" fever....he is coming to this city in the last full week in january....and things are crazy....everything is getting an overhaul...which means the city is in a state of chaos....we are actually required by law to close while he is here...so i am taking the time to go to an island in the carribean and dive for a week...i am really excited.....also...at the beginning of this month, i spent a glorious week in chile...more on that in my next update.....but i do feel like i have not really been sharing my panamanian adventures....so this update will focus on those....on with the experiences here in panama....



so panama, like every where in the world, has been putting up signs letting you know where you are in the country....this was taken at 6am on the dock before heading out on a whale watching trip....the pacific, off the coast of panama, is a terrific place to see migrating humpbacks...and we were super lucky on this trip as you will see from some pictures friends of mine took....their camera was better than mine...but i was with them for this amazing adventure.....


on our way back to the city, after a lovely time on the pearl island of contadora, we came across two young males trying to win over a pod of females and their babies....they kept spinning and slapping their pectoral fins on the water....it was super loud and i had never seen this before....so the whale would slap the dark fin, keep spinning in that direction and slap his whiter fin....it was wild....


as you can see, they also breached quite high out of the water....they did this for about 20 minutes non-stop....so it was incredible to watch...this was the second set of whales we had seen and at one point we had about 30 of them on all sides of the boat...we also ran into a pod  of dolphins - about 150 strong....the nature guide was freaking out, saying this was one of the best days he had ever seen....lucky us!!!!


this may seem like a random picture, but this is einstein...whose head has been covered and in the middle of a huge construction site for almost a year...this was the first day i actually saw him...it is literally two blocks away from me...how perfect is that! even if it is weird that his head is coming directly out of the ground...it would probably be better with a neck...but hey, its panama.....why einstein, you may ask???? at this point, i still have no idea....


i finally made it to an open air fruit and veggie market here in panama....it is really hidden and you have to go with a Panamanian, or speak solid spanish, if you want to be successful....i went with one of my colleagues and was soooooo happy to see chinese eggplant and fruits and veggies for good prices....the vendors got  kick out of my goofy spanish and i made most of them laugh...one was even wearing a montreal canadians shirt....i asked him if he knew who they were...nope, no idea...love that!


this is a different beach i made it to when the fishermen were bringing in their daily catch....the amount of pelicans alone was incredible....they bring in sea bass and red snapper and a couple of other fish....it was fun to watch them bring it all in...as you can see...during the rainy season...not much sun to be had....


i finally made it to taboga...an island a half an hour away from the city...easy to get to by catamaran ferry and very cute...loved this sculpture they had along the walk to the beach....very small, but great for an overnight away from the city...and we had good weather on top of it!!!


this is taboga's port...and what you see is majority of the town...very few cars here...mostly golf carts....there really isn't room for most sized cars....it was a great night away....


i also headed back up to el valle for a women's weekend, which included my first ever birding adventure...el valle is known for its many species and in five hours we saw 50 different species...granted our birding guide was amazing and is known world wide for his panama knowledge....how lucky he is right in my backyard so to speak....i hope to do this again....as it was a lot of fun looking for and spotting all the different bird types....


this is a shot from the top of the hill we climbed...it looks over a cloud forest, so it was a perfect spot to see eagles....just amazing and what a lovely day it turned into...rain happened later, but not while we were out birding....


one of my favorites was this blue-headed parrot....he and his friend, were just hanging out in this tree eating berries...i did not take this picture through the scope, my friend tracy did...he was spotted by megan...and all of us were happy she saw him....i love that he is just looking at us....just like we were looking at him!


we spent a lovely night at the casa di pietra....yes, you read that right...i was there last year as well...love the name ;P...in the picture above you can see the wonderful group of people i was with, including luis, the owner of this fantastic place...can't wait to go back and hang out in his bar again....


in october i was given a very special opportunity.....i was given permission to go through the panama canal on a ship...i was given this rare opportunity because i know someone on board, and i am from the states & an educator....so of course i jumped at it!!!! this is view of the city through the windows of the bridge....


this is me as we are just starting or trip through the three locks, going from the pacific to the atlantic...as you can see, it is a night crossing...it is cheaper to do this and less crowded....none-the-less, still amazing!!!!


one of my favorite things about the locks are the mules.....they help pull the ships through and maintain balance and help them stay in the middle of the lock so they do not hit the side....they are these cute little metal train-like cars...one person drives them and we had four helping the ship....two attached to the front and two attached to the back....they hook on at the beginning and once you are through each lock system, they unhook and let you pass through the open water until the next lock system...i just loved watching and listening to them with their lights and bells.....


this was taken as we were locked into the first system...so you are looking backwards....the black horizontal part, with the yellow handrails is the lock itself...behind it you can see the water of the previous lock...we are going down....plus, you can see the mule in the back....


as we were going through the second lock system...this ship was on the other side of the lock, going the other way....it was fun to watch the words "wisdom line" go down as the ship descended in its system...you can also tell from this shot just how much bigger that ship was from the one i was on....and the ship i was on was in no way small.....it is amazing how they can accommodate these ships...and this is small lock system...not the super huge ones for the super tankers....it is just mind-blowing to watch the whole thing in action while on a ship.....


i love this shot, as you can see just how far down the ship has gone....do you see the guy standing on the top of the lock...he is at ground level....we have moved down....simply crazy!!!!


and this is what i had to jump onto to get back to colon and port...its a pilot ship...it pulls alongside the vessel you are on...you climb down this ladder and jump onto its deck and then speed off...i had to do this or i would have been on the ship until charleston, south carolina...as that was the next stop....it made me feel like jane bond....to jump off a ship, while it was moving....talk about an adrenaline rush!!!


this is a view of the ship as i am pulling away and heading back to shore...on they went to their home port of charleston....it was an amazing adventure and i feel soooooooo lucky to have been able to do it....i do hope to go through the canal at some point in the daytime...but a night crossing was incredible and i loved every minute of it!!!!!


sting and shaggy came to panama for their world tour....i went with a friend to see them...i am shocked that at 67 sting can still hit and maintain the high notes...his voice is strong as ever...but i do have to say he is not the best singer for reggae music, which is shaggy's style....i have no idea how they decided to make an album....but i can say their concert was a lot of fun...and sting did many of his old hits from the police.....roxxxxxxxxxanne.....loved it!!!!


some weekends i have been visiting my favorite beaches....and on this particular day at santa clara we were treated to a rainbow....it has been the rainy season since i have arrived (nine months of the year)...but if you leave early enough...you usually have good weather at the beaches until the early afternoon....this as just before the rain started moving in....we are heading into the summer months (dec, jan, feb)...so more and more folks head to the beaches on the weekends...i have to say, i like it better when there are fewer people....but you may not have a sunny sky all day long....


i have been exploring aspects of the city more and more....and every day on my way to work i pass a ba'hai temple up on a hill...one sunday we decided to go find it, take a hike in the jungle and visit the miraflores visitor center for the panama canal....above you can see the temple...open air and really interesting....plus, they have a lovely garden....they always do...this one was not as spectacular as the one i visited in israel...but it was a peaceful oasis on a hill overlooking the city....


at the top of our hike there was an abandoned bird sanctuary....it is slowly being taken over by the jungle....pretty creepy, but a great place to shoot a horror movie....


this is when i love looking at the locks...on one side the water is high and on the other the water is low....soooooo cool....the left is low because the ships were heading to the pacific side from where i was at the miraflores locks....i actually finally visited the visitor center....cool history and incredible engineering to get this thing built!!!! simply amazing!!!!


i had to include a picture of one of my favorite signs here in panama...pedestrian walking...in one part of the city - ciudad del saber - the city of knowledge...where the military base of the USA used to be, they have these pedestrian signs....i have never seen them anywhere else....love the butt of the walker...but i wonder if this was because people from the states lived here????? no idea...but they make me chuckle every time i am over there.....



and of course what would an update be without a shot of dani and a beer....this was taken at a funky bar after the sting & shaggy concert....everyone headed here because there was no way we were leaving straight from the venue due to the crazy traffic here....traffic is insane in this country....so we hunkered down and had some craft brew...yummy!!!!

and there you have it....my panama adventure so far....i have had a few more things happened this semester, but these are definitely the highlights.....i also had a quick long weekend in costa rica and a week long adventure to chile...they will be my next focus....not sure they will get written about before winter break....but if not, expect the next update around the xmas holiday....

i hope all of you are well and happy and have a happy start to the holiday season whatever you celebrate....drop a line if you have any questions or want to head this way...talk with ya soon....
peace out....
dani