Today is our last full day in Santiago. Many of the students are tired and I am sure would like to sleep in. I have decided to go to Valparaiso and have invited anyone who would like to come with me. I am pleasantly surprised that instead of hanging around the pool today they are willing to go to a historical site.
I have done some reading on this city that used to be a bustling stop for cruise ships and other shipping prior to opening of the Panama Canal, as the ships would have to pass by here before rounding Cape Horn. For the last century there has been some decline in this port city and it has only been recently that it was declared a UNESCO site and there has been much attention given to it.
Many areas are being renovated while preserving the artistic and architectural elements. There are old buildings and 1940's era electric cable cars juxtaposed with sleek buildings and gas-powered city buses that crowd the streets. It is like San Francisco in some respects and can best be visited by foot (and we certainly did a lot of walking yesterday).
After visiting other cities affected by the earthquake, we wonder how this city fared in 2010. The precarious buildings and location of homes on the steep hills would seem to be a recipe for disaster.
Many photos are taken (see our gallery for some great pictures) and after 3 hours of climbing roads of cobblestone and riding up one of the 15 funiculars (ascensores) that are scattered throughout the city, we are ready to find our way back to the bus terminal.
We have become a well trained travel pack as we make our way through crowded streets and city buses. Despite the crowded conditions, the people of Chile are not rude and pushy. I am impressed with how many people use the city buses and actually respect and follow the rules of crosswalk signs. We know that this would not be the case in many urban cities in the USA.
Our time is short so we do not have time for a real meal before we take the bus back to Santiago. We have become pros at visiting the local Lider (food market) and find some food. It must be a subsidiary of Walmart because we see these stores all over Chile and they carry the same Walmart private label "Equate" and other familiar products from USA. I guess Walmart has moved into every city even beyond the borders of America.
The energy level of the students is obviously waning as they think about home and the approaching start of school. The seniors are anxious about pending placements for their Precepted Practicums and the upcoming HESI exams. The juniors have new clinical rotations starting and a big drug calculation exam in the first few weeks of the semester. Our one Sophomore has learned a lot about what to expect in the next two years and is very excited about finally taking some nursing courses. She (Sarah) is very fluent in Spanish and has been so valuable during our trip. The people of Chile are drawn to her as she often stops to chat with taxi drivers, hotel staff and others.
Many of us are very hindered by our lack of Spanish fluency. We are all trying very hard to work on our vocabulary, but it is frustrating when sightseeing and also when trying to communicate with patients. We are developing a keen awareness of how it must feel for our patients at home who are not fluent in English. On this trip we struggle to determine if we are ordering shrimp (camarones) or by mistake we are getting clams (prawns). It makes a big difference if you hate clams but love shrimp (believe me...I made this mistake). I can now imagine how frustrating it is for patients to try to communicate with their nurses to tell them about their symptoms or other information that is vital to their recovery.
So although we have left Talca, which was our "academic week" we continue to learn about factors in the health care system and how we can take that knowledge with us to make us better nurses. A few of us took a final walk around our hotel at 11:30 last night and realized how "familiar" this part of the city has become for us. We know exactly how to get to the metro and are finally figuring out which direction to take the subway. We have seen some familiar faces at the food market, metro and hotel complex. Although it makes our day a bit easier having this familiarity, we long to see our families. Tomorrow we only have a partial day here in Santiago and then off to the airport.
It has been a good trip and we have learned so much. I continue to be impressed by the students' description of their experiences and I urge you to read their blog entries. I have told them to continue to write a few entries upon their return back to Massachusetts.
Thanks so much to our families and friends and also the people at UMass Lowell who have helped and supported us in our journey to Chile. There are so many people to name, but I need to particularly thank Fern MacKinnon and her staff at the Study Abroad office, Michael Pueschel and the web/communications staff, the faculty, Dean and staff of NURSING and S.H.E., Manuel Cifuentes for being our "point person" during this whole adventure, and who was my first conspirator in developing this trip, and lastly to the Manning family for their support and vision in recognizing that global health experiences can truly enrich a nurse's education and make him/her a better nurse.
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