On the Monday before we left Chile, we spent the day in Valparaiso, a coastal city about 2.5 hours from Santiago. The city is made up of many steep hills and valleys, much like San Francisco. Even here, there was definite evidence between the rich and the poor. Some homes had eccentric architecture, built on top of the hills overlooking the water. Others were more noticeably poor, with rusty tin roofs and walls made from mismatched wood. Graffiti was everywhere, though much of it was actually quite beautiful.
Professor King had downloaded a book on her kindle that gave a step by step (no pun intended) tour of ‘Valpo,’ complete with anecdotes about the historical buildings and landmarks. We walked around the city, admiring the landscape, architecture, and view of the ocean. One of the unique hallmarks of Valpo is the sight of funiculars going up and down the side of the steep hills. Funiculars are railways on which rides a small wooden boxcar that can fit around 10 people. This wooden car moves along the railway, up and down the hills, giving peoples’ legs a break but still allowing them to reach their destination. The funicular we went on was at about a 60 degree angle and very old looking (yikes!), but gave us a beautiful view of the city as it went up the side of the hill.
As we walked around the city, Professor King told us a brief history of Valpo. In the 1500’s and 1600’s, Valparaiso (meaning Paradise Valley) was the site of the Chilean navy. Later, still before the Panama Canal was built, Valparaiso was an essential stop for food and water for large boats rounding Cape Horn. Currently, it functions both as an important seaport and tourist destination.
Valparaiso definitely rivals the other places we saw in Chile in terms of beauty and charm. My only complaint? That we did not have enough time to see everything the city has to offer!
The past few days have been a whirl wind and it has been hard to find time to blog. That being said, this entry is about our events on Thursday morning.
Thursday morning was our chance to see the last treatment stop psychiatric patients make on their way to recovery. The facility we went to was a lovely house, which was built after the earthquake demolished their old building. The workers here (which included psychologists and social workers) helped to give the patients independence by teaching them a skill that they could then use to get a job. Examples included baking, knitting, and gardening. In fact, the breakfast they served us included bread and berry pastries that the patients had made themselves. They were delicious!
Earthquake damaged home in Constitucion, Chile.
Both the workers and patients were so kind there. One of the patients spoke a little English and she sat and talked with me in English for a while. I was so impressed that she put in the effort to speak with me! We all fully realize now how exhausting it can be to try to talk to someone in another language!
We can all safely agree that whatever Chileans lack in medicinal psychiatric care, they make up for in compassion. Every place we have gone, the workers have been a team who do everything they can to get the patients back on their feet and out in the community again. However cliche is sounds, it really is such an inspiration the way these people dedicate their lives to help people who are less fortunate.
Welcome to Talca! And clinical! A lot in 24 hours, right? We arrived yesterday a little after 5 p.m. and headed straight to our hotel, which looks like something out of a 50’s Humphrey Bogart movie. It was hit hard by the earthquake a few years ago and is still recovering. We are one of the only people here!
After we got settled, we walked to a famous local restaurant for dinner. Well, after walking the diameter of Talca, getting lost several times and being followed the entire way by a stray dog, we finally arrived at our destination. The food was delicious and cheap too!
Today, we went to the psychiatric hospital for the first time. The facility looked surprisingly similar to psych hospitals in the U.S. We sat and talked with several of the patients and then sat in with a doctor doing his walking rounds. Later in the day, we went to the geriatric psych section and got a tour from the charge nurse. We were allvery impressed with the care of the geriatric patients at the hospital. Out of 81 patients, only one of them had a pressure ulcer!
Today was exhausting (between walking around the psych facility and attempting to translate Spanish), but it was definitely one of the most interesting days we’ve had so far. It was so cool to be able to see how other countries handle mental illness and patient care. We cannot wait to go back tomorrow!
P.S. This blog was supposed to be posted on Monday, but the wifi at the hotel stopped working…