Running Ocean Tour–trail running in Tome

Sep 16
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Race Reports

Well, I’ll be honest with you. Today I would have sold Bill for an hour at a Starbucks. I was feeling a little homesick sitting at our apartment, wishing I had a coffee haunt to hang out in and loiter unmolested with my computer open for a little while. And then I went up to the university to see Bill and I bumped into Pablo, one of my favorite teachers in the English department. I suddenly felt sad that we are half-way through our Fulbright time here in Concepcion. Can you belong to two places? I’m starting to feel that I could.

This last weekend Bill and I went with another Fulbright family to Punta de Parra to run a trail race. Every year at this time, we participate in the Fairhaven Waterfront 15 K in Bellingham, and this year we were sad to miss the event. So Bill found a 14 K by the water out near Tome (with an accent on the “e” but I don’t know how to do that on my keyboard) to fill our need to run in the sun along the coast. Scott (who is doing his Fulbright at U de C in geology) and his wife Tania and children (Dominick, 7, and Elena, 4) joined us so Tania could participate in the race too.

My foot is still bothering me (people, why??), so I only signed up for the 7 K trail run. We had a super gorgeous day.

Scott and Elena, Bill, Tania, and Dominick

Scott and Elena, Bill, Tania, and Dominick

 

Here we are before the race!

Here we are before the race!

 

I’m glad, to tell you the truth, that I only signed up for the 7 K because the course was a double lollipop with a monster one-mile long hill right in the middle. Those of you who know me know that I’ve never met a hill I loved, so once is always enough. The course started right on the sandy beach and then went along a trail for almost a mile before we hit a tunnel that required a headlamp to navigate. Then up the hill we went. For a mile. And then down the next hill—for a mile—and through some pretty serious mud. Here’s my video from the beginning of the race:

 

Bill and Tania finished their 14K.

Tania coming back across the sand--being met by her biggest fans

Tania coming back across the sand–being met by her biggest fans

 

Bill, racing till the end

Bill, racing till the end

 

Right after the grown-ups completed their races, there was a kids’ race that Dominick had signed up for—a 2.5K. I volunteered to run with him because Tania had just crossed the finish line and had hardly had five minutes to recover. The children’s race was **supposed to** turn around at the tunnel, but no one told us that (well, to be fair, they may have mentioned it, but since I don’t speak Spanish…). Dominick and I picked our way through the dark tunnel along with about 5 other adults and ten children and then kept running on the other side, all the while looking for a volunteer or a sign about where we should turn around. It wasn’t until we all reached the giant hill that we realized there was no way we were still on the children’s course and turned back en masse to braille our way through the tunnel again. Meanwhile, back at the starting line, everyone started to get concerned about what happened to the children.

There was a group of young police-in-training at the race (they are called Carabineros, but I call them Habaneros) who naturally volunteered to trek back out on the trail and save the children. Tania watched them sail by in their matching green shorts and tank tops at about the same time I received a text… “Are you lost?”

“We WERE lost, but we’re on our way now,” I wrote.

By this time, Dominick was convinced that he was in first place because we were in front of the group of kids behind us. I assured him that we were definitely in first place in our wave.

I’m pretty sure we ran closer to 5K, but we embraced a sense of adventure, and I shared my motto with Dominick: Every wrong turn is just a good story waiting to be told. We spent the rest of the race talking about the adventure stories we could tell when we crossed the finish line.

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After the race, the Habaneros stopped in their bus to pick us up as we were on our way to catch the public bus back to Concepcion and gave us a ride all the way home. Saved the day again!!

 

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Once we got home and showered off the mud, Bill and I went up to the university to hang out at an event they were throwing in honor of Fiestas Patrias (Independence).

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Quite a lot of fun. Now we are off to some more local adventures this week to take advantage of the holiday.

Independence Celebration and Beer Festival

Sep 7
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Current Events, Travel log

Bill received an email on Thursday announcing that his Friday classes would be cancelled, as would all afternoon classes at Universidad de Concepcion, because the student union had decided to have its big annual “ramada” party to celebrate Chile’s independence day. Faculty members told us that university officials were concerned about safety and wanted all staff out of their buildings and off the campus by 12:30. Naturally, Bill and I wanted to see what kind of party could close down a big campus like U de C and require all adults to get out of Dodge, so we decided to walk up to campus and have a look around.

Since my Spanish instructor had told me that activities would commence at about 2pm and go on until around 9 or 10 in the evening, we thought that 3:00 would be a good time to wander through the party (after things got started but before complete debauchery ensued).

By the time we got up to the campus, students were still pouring in in droves. Apparently, though U de C hosts the event, people come from all of the other campuses in town. They set up tents to sell beer and a drink they call “teremoto” or “earthquake.” Bill bought a light beer from one of the stalls to start with… you know, to support the students…

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but we got curious about what the teremoto was and felt we simply had to try one—as a cultural experience.  The recipe calls for sweet white wine, Pisco (Chile’s special liquor), pineapple ice-cream, and sugar. Then it is served in a one liter glass.

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I tried to help with it, but it was SOOO, SOOO sweet, and I’m afraid Bill had to manage most of it on his own.

Students simply piled onto the campus until every inch of this area was filled.

And as you can hear in the video, they had a good quality sound system set up so that we could hear the music quite easily from inside of our house a few blocks away.

Before heading home to listen to the party from a distance, Bill and I went out to get pizza at The Deli House, one of my favorite restaurants close to the campus (because they have decent coffee and English on the menu). When the waiter brought the bill, Bill said, “I assume you have money to pay for this?” I felt my face flush red with panic, because… well… no, I didn’t have any cash. Bill ALWAYS has cash. ALWAYS.

Bill always has cash except when he’s been warned about pickpockets being plentiful at an event we weren’t really advised to go to in the first place. He’d left his wallet at home so it could’t get ripped off while we were walking amidst the crowds and sipping on a teremoto among the ramada tents. And he had spent what he had brought along on the teremoto.

He quickly explained to the restaurant staff that he was leaving me as collateral while he ran home (10 minutes away) to get some money. Geez! Good thing we both had a sense of humor about it, which is more than I can say about our waiter—who was punching out and clearly wanted to collect his tip and get to the par-tay. But anyway, Bill was back in about 20 minutes and we avoided having to pull a shameful “perro muerto” (literally: dead dog, or to stiff someone on what you owe them) only to slink back the next day to pay and explain what happened.

Yesterday:

We went to a beer tasting festival. I’m always astounded that my husband, who sometimes confuses the escape button on the keyboard with the power button, thus turning off his computer in the middle of whatever he’s doing, can find ANY event on the internet that involves running or beer. Today it was beer.

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While I’m not typically a huge fan of beer (I know… I can hear the boos), I always go with Bill to beer festivals because I can’t stand the idea that fun is being had without me. So I tagged along. And I’m so glad I did. I found a good stout (which I do like) and sat and sipped while Bill circulated and tasted everything there was to taste. He ended up buying a beer from the same fellow who sold me my stout, and then we settled in to watch the band and the dancing. Chile’s national dance is La Cueca. Check it out.

 

 

There was also bull-riding for the children and plenty of Antichocos (Chilean shish kabobs) for sale. We stayed for about three hours and left smelling of BBQ.

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We ended the day by attending the Sinfonica at the Teatro Universidad de Concepcion. Smelling of charcoal and beer, we sat in a full house of Chileans as they enjoyed their national classical music. The concert (called Grande Chilenos Sinfonica) featured 18 pieces by Chilean composers. The symphony was accompanied by vocalists Claudia Melgarejo, Miguel Angel Pellao, Ramiro Vera, and the Coro Universidad de Concepcion—all conducted by Carlos Traverso.

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I don’t know much about music in general. Those who are familiar with my tastes would call me a throwback to the disco age. But I thoroughly and completely enjoyed the concert as few others I’ve ever attended. Both Bill and I were awed. The music was surprising. Just when you felt like you were moving with it, the direction changed and the mood shifted. I wish I had the words to describe it, but I feel like I did when I first started tasting wine and didn’t know to describe a pinot noir as “earthy” or “full-bodied.” And I wish I could have a recording of the whole thing! My favorite piece was a long one called Fantasia Sinfonica that made us feel like we were watching a war. One side is winning, and then the opponent gains ground so our side restrategizes and gathers strength. They grow tired though, and need to take a rest. During furlough, a love affair breaks out between the general and a woman he met at a party one night, which gives him new inspiration. So he goes back into the fighting with renewed vigor and moves his troops to the right and then to the left and the right again. And finally, victory is gained and the whole country celebrates with a wedding.

Anyway… that’s what it felt like.

We came home and fell into bed with the sense that we had really experienced Chile.

Santiago and Talcahuano

Aug 31
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014, Race Reports

Have a seat and grab a cup of joe. I have SO many updates. But I’ll post pics to keep you interested.

Last Thursday Bill and I flew up to Santiago for a Fulbright function. He needed to make a presentation about his project in front of the Fulbright staff and six other Fulbright grantees.

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And then the Fulbright staff wined and dined us all for a couple of days. Needless to day, Bill did a fabulous job and made special mention of Lilian Gomez, Maria Edith Larenas, and Marcela Cabrera, the three women who have been the backbone of his/our experience. One thing we learned from sitting in on other presentations is that in Chile, someone based at the local university really must champion the presence of a Fulbright scholar in order for the commission to approve him or her. We are so grateful to those who championed Bill’s application!

After Bill’s presentation, he and I walked to the Parque Metropolitano and took the funicular up to see the Virgen Cumbre (the Virgin’s Summit). The view was… what can I say? Mind-boggling! A city of over 6 million people must be big, of course, but down inside any given barrio, a person can never get a sense of the breadth such a number must mean to an area. Look at this city! If it weren’t for the Andes Mountains, it would spread out in every direction.

The day after the presentations, Fulbright took us all out to lunch and on a tour of the Palacio de Moneda where the president of Chile has her office (notice I said “her?” Did you know that Chile, Argentina, and Brazil all have female presidents? Let’s get with the program USA). The Palacio de Moneda was once Chile’s mint, and is also the place from which Salvador Allende was ousted on September 11, 1973. The Chileans feel that September 11th is a truly worrisome day, so most years the Palacio closes down on the date.

We flew home in a happy exhaustion, rested yesterday, and then got up early today to make our way by bus to a nearby town called Talcahuano for a race. Bill had tried for two weeks to get us registered for the 10K in Talcahuano, but the website seemingly wouldn’t accept foreign credit cards so each attempt failed. Finally, out of sheer defeat, he signed us up for the free 3K so we could at least have the experience of being at the race. When we went to the mall to pick up our numbers, we were told that the free race didn’t have any numbers; it was just a fun run. BUT, we could sign up for the 10K in person and pay cash for our numbers if we wanted to. So we did.

Talcahuano was leveled by the tsunami (they’re called “maremotos” here) after the 2010 earthquake, and much of the town is still in the process of being rebuilt.

The pier where the race started was new–fresh bricks on the ground and new buildings along the edge of the water–but across the street the buildings are still crumbling and some of the roads are broken to pieces.

You can see from my video that Talcahuano is a fishing town. Colorful houses and boats flank the shoreline. It is also the site of one of Chile’s major naval bases.

…where dogs and sea lions co-exist, if not co-mingle.

The race itself didn’t have a remarkably interesting course. An out-and-back entirely on the road, this was a pretty straightforward, flat 10K, but what WAS very cool was the energy of the event. Runners warmed up with 20 minutes of Zumba (which I love).

And then they cooled us down with more Zumba after the race.

Bill won first place in his division…

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…and I won THIRD place in my division (there might have only been three 47ish females in the race, but what the heck). You can see in the picture below that one of the military leaders (on the right) was present to present medals and the mayor (the man in the blue coat on the left) congratulated runners as well. What an honor!

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Some other random pics of our race day:

 

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Such fun….

How to Travel Economically inside the United States

Aug 26
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Advice, Chile 2014, Travel log

In Bill’s presentation at the University of Concepcion on US history and culture, one of his audience members asked him about some economical ways to travel in the United States. He puzzled over the answer because the US is such a big, spread-out, car-dependent country. Most students who travel abroad won’t have access to a car. But when Bill got home, we started brainstorming answers to this question. Bill and I have traveled all over the world and through much of our own country after all and, aside from airfare, we’ve often managed to travel “on a shoestring.” I told him, I’d write a blog post to more fully answer the question of how to travel cheaply through the States.

I know some of you who wander over to my blog sometimes (particularly those of you who are Marathon Maniacs on a budget) may be able to add even more insight. Do comment below to add websites, ideas, and suggestions!

 

So… here are our thoughts.

 

Travel with Others

The very best way to cut costs when traveling is to go with other people. A hotel room or a rental car will cost the same in most cases no matter how many people sleep or ride in it. Traveling with friends also creates a buffer for safety. To travel cheaply, you’ll have to depend at times on strangers for tips or help getting around. There is always safety in numbers, especially in unfamiliar places!

 

imageChoose One Region to Visit

Since the United States is so very vast, most of its own citizens never see the whole thing. When Bill and I travel, we do it region by region. For example, last year we did a “Southwest” trip to Southern California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah. It’s true that we had a car to travel between the national parks we wanted to see, but we were able to see some of America’s most beautiful Southwest sites in about three weeks. We visited Disneyland, Bryce Canyon, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and still had time to attend a few of Major League Baseball’s spring training games in Peoria.

 

Travel in the Off-Season

The busy travel times in the US are between June 1 and September 1. As soon as school starts for most children (the first of September), airfares drop, hotel prices go down, and common tourist sites clear out. September and October are still warm in most places around the Continental Unites States. April and May are also good times to travel if you want to get outdoors. January, February, and March are great times to travel in the far southern regions where it stays warm year-round. Be sure to check weather reports before you make travel plans.

 

Join Couchsurfing.com

Do you know about couch surfing? Couch surfing is when you sleep in someone’s house for a few nights and then move on to sleep in another person’s house. There is a whole community of people who offer their couches or spare rooms for other people who need a place to stay. You have to be a member of the couchsurfing.com website community to participate. Sign up and check it out. The nice thing about this site is that people can post reviews of the places they have stayed so you can see if someone’s house is clean and safe. You have to be a good guest once you arrive. Couchsurfing.com is a relationship-oriented way to find lodging. But it’s usually free!

Contact Old friends

Informal couch surfing is another way to find free lodging. Have you ever met anyone who said, “Hey, when you come to my city, look me up?” Maybe it was 10 years ago. Don’t worry. Look that person up! Tell them you will be traveling to their town, and when they offer to let you stay at their house, say yes!! The best thing about travel is spending time with local people, right?!!

 

Utilize Youth Hostels

Bill and I often stay at hostels. Hostels are not hotels. They have no services; you usually share a bathroom with other people; and they are not always as new and tidy as you might wish. But, they are usually (not always) pretty cheap. When you know where you will be traveling, google “hostels in Seattle” for example, and read the reviews. We’ve stayed at some terrific hostels, but we’ve also found a few I would never recommend to others. Hosteling International will have suggestions for you, but always do your research and read reviews.

About reviews: We are not extremely picky about where we sleep. I have only two important criteria: cleanliness and safety. I don’t mind if a review says, “The staff was not responsive,” because I don’t need people to take care of me. I do mind if reviews say, “There were insects in my bed,” or “A guy with a tattoo on his face knocked on my door and asked to borrow a cigarette.” Decide what you need in a hostel or hotel and look for that in the reviews.

 

Try Camping

In most cities you can find someplace that rents out camping equipment. You can still camp in mid-September or early October. There are many kinds of campsites: KOAs have showers, flushing toilets, and even wifi sometimes. State Parks or National Parks vary in terms of what kind of amenities they offer. All camping sites will cost you something—usually between about $8 and $30USD depending on how popular they are. The local visitor center can tell you where to camp.

 

Contact the Visitor Center

Speaking of Visitor Centers, this is the first stop Bill and I make no matter where we go around the world (we’ve been to the one here in Concepcion several times already). They are sometimes called Tourist Information Centers or Welcome Centers and they usually have a big “i” on the outside of the building. In most places around the United States, these centers are staffed by local volunteers who know the area very well.

 

Create a Ridebuzz.org Account

Like with couchsurfing.com, ridebuzz.org requires that you have an account to participate. Ridebuzz is a network of people who are offering or looking for rides—across town or across the country. As a rider, you agree to help pay for gas in return for a spot in someone’s car. Common wisdom in the United States is NOT to ever ride in a stranger’s car. Ridebuzz.org is working to create a safe way to share transportation. As with everything I’ve talked about here, always look at reviews and comments of other people on the site AND travel with a friend if you share a ride in someone’s car.

 

Discount Airlines

There are a few airlines which do not list their fares on kayak.com or priceline.com (these are both travel sites that let you compare airplaneprices for airfare or hotels). Discount airlines may have cheap fares inside the US, but you have to go directly to their own sites to find them. Below is a list of some discount airlines we have used. NOTHING on these airlines is free. You will pay extra for water to drink, to check baggage, or even to reserve a seat next to your friend. In order to save money on discount airlines, you have to travel light, bring your own food on board, and be willing to sit anywhere on the airplane.

Allegiant Air

Southwest Air

West Jet

Jetblue Airways

 

Greyhound and Amtrak

In many places around the world, busses are more comfortable than trains. In the United States, Greyhound busses can be a good, inexpensive way to travel short distances (say 200 kilometers), but they are not always comfortable or safe for long distances. If you want long-distance ground travel, the Amtrak train will be more comfortable. And train travel can be quite fun. The problem is that Amtrak is not always cheaper than flying. If you want to travel across the country (from Los Angeles to New York, for example), trains and planes may be comparable in price, but the train will give you a better chance to see the countryside.

 

We hope this gets our students thinking about how they might come visit us someday. Anyone else have tips for US travel on a tight budget? Chime in!!

 

 

On Finding What You Need

Aug 21
Posted by Cami Ostman Filed in Chile 2014

When you move to a new town, for even a short while, everything you need must be re-established. I need a few things to really thrive in this world day by day. Love, time to think, deep friendships, and fresh air all go without saying. I also need dogs, decent wine, good coffee, cultural experiences, interesting running routes, and favorite haunts.

I don’t expect to create a perfect life here in Concepcion, but I do hope to embrace this place and find favorites–special moments that stand out. In the past week here is what I’ve explored…

This past weekend, Bill and I decided to finally brave the busses. First, we hoped on the bus in the direction of San Remo because we understood there was a lake there–Laguna Grande–that had some trails surrounding it. We hoped we might find a place to do a nice long run….

 

Laguna Grande, it turns out, is indeed a beautiful lake with some trails and pathways along the shore, but there isn’t a path encircling the whole lake. We went as far as we could in the direction I was walking in the above video, and then turned around to find the trail that traces the water’s edge out to the peninsula.

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While it looks dry and fairly clearly marked in the above photos, the trail turned muddy not far in–which of course didn’t stop us. We ran/mucked our way through about five miles of forest beside the shore before catching the bus back to Concepcion.

A quick turn around (you know, spit shower, change of clothes, and a little deodorant) saw us walking out the door to catch another bus to a coastal town north of us called Dichato. Apparently Dichato was completely wiped out by the 2010 earthquake/tsunami tragedy, so everything we encountered is a new version of what used to be there. We’d heard that Dichato was a good place to get some excellent seafood. This turned out to be true. OMG, we ate until we were completely stuffed.

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And then took a lovely walk on the beach, partly along the newly constructed seaside walkway.

 

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Little by little, we’re finding what we love and making memories in our temporary home.