We drove one hour north to a resort called Rancho El Anil for our orientation. It was nestled in the foothills of the Andes, with large wooden cabins and a pool and tennis court. We spent the majority of our time getting tips from past students, learning how to enroll in classes, and becoming more and more frightened of the complex La Chile bureaucracy. However, it was a great bonding experience for myself and the other students on the program even if 26 loud Americans annoyed the Chilean vacationeers who were staying there (apparently we are the smallest group to come in years, so it will be an intimate semester).
I met the girl who lived in my homestay last semester. She told me all about “Cece” and how lucky I was to have received such a great host family.
The best part was trekking in the Andes. About nine of us went on a two hour hike uphill to the worlds most beautiful view. We could see an entire valley of bright green trees and a golden colored river. On all sides we were surrounded by mountains, and in between giant boulders and desert plants there were huge branching cactuses (when I got back I found that a cactus spike was sticking diagonally out of the bottom of my Toms. Somehow their thin sole saved my foot; God save the magical Toms!) The pictures and my description can’t do justice to the sublime effect of being up there.
This cactus looked like there was a giant tarantula sitting in it, something that ensured me that I would have pleasant dreams:
This is a view from the trail:
At night we could see the stars and the lights of Santiago off in the distance. Someone brought a ukulele and we sat in a circle and sang oldies tunes. It was the perfect start to a grand adventure.