Pizzas, hotdogs, and pasta…in Chile?!

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A local women selling herbs and beans and vegetables.
I’d like to make a blog about FOOD. I don’t just love food, I’m IN love with food. Being in Chile for 2 weeks though, I realized that I didn’t crave that much american food. Sure, there’s norefrigeratedmilk, but on the whole, I was pretty satisfied with the food I had in Chile.
During the two weeks that we were there, I was hoping to try out authentic Chilean food. Surprisingly, it was actually quite hard. Empanadas (stuffed bread more or less) were everywhere, and every other meal consisted of an empanada for the last two weeks, but we were only able to eat good authentic Chilean food a handful of times. One dish in particular that I really enjoyed was “Pastel de Choclo” which consists of ground meats topped with a crust of sweet corn and cornmeal. If you look it up on Google, pictures do not do it justice. The sweetness of the caramelized corn dough compliments the savoriness of the ground meats hidden at the bottom. It’s a perfect blend of sweet and savory that made mytaste budsjump for joy.It reminded me of a Spanish Shepard’s Pie since the dish was in layers.
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I didn’t really crave american food since a lot of the foods that you’d see in America were also in Chile. Hotdogs, pizzas, KFC, McDonalds, and many other fast food places were abundant even in the most rural areas. Thecondimentson a hotdog were not just mustard and ketchup, it consisted of a thick layer of guacamole and a giant helping ofmayonnaise. A lot of burger joints were seen in the malls and along the streets as well. Again, these burgers were topped with a heavyheapingofmayonnaise, bacon, and guacamole. Every food item had a side of fries as a meal. I couldn’t escape fried foods. The amount of trans fats and calories made me worry that I’d gain a ton of weight during these two weeks (luckily I didn’t).
With all of these fast foods that could be bought at a cheap price, it raised my concerns of obesity in Chile. Surveying the street, I’d safely assume that most Chileans looked fit. A lot of people were biking and walking around. No one seemed overweight, but with all of these fast and fried foods, I’m sure that the rate of obesity will slowly increase as the years progress. With the increase of obesity comes complications such as heart problems, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. After doing some research, I noticed that Forbes voted Chile to be the 23rd most obese country in 2007. We did see some actions done by the government that promoted healthy living. On our way to a beach in Constitucion, there was a public gym that had anellipticaland various exercising machines that was out in the open.
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I wanted to try out more Chilean food, but with the copious amounts of fast foods, and difficulty of finding a nice chilean restaurant, we resorted to eating pizzas and emapanadas. Every restaurant that we’ve been to also has a large selection of italian pastas! All in all, it my stomach was pretty satisfied. I still craved my biweekly helping of sushi, and there were a lot of sushi shops around, but I didn’t want to risk getting an upset stomach while on the trip!
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Friendly dogs and coke paste

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This is Katerina Kafkas… writing from Henson’s account.
The trip thus far has been amazing. Everything here is just different, including the water. A large portion of the bottled water here is “con gasificada” or “with gas” which is basically a seltzer water but is not appealing when it’s warm or when you are parched. Stray dogs are everywhere on sidewalks and even beaches. We try to keep a safe distance, but every now and then a friendly stray joins us for one of our walks. The people here are very welcoming and kind. We are greeted with a hug and a kiss on the cheek from everyone including the psych patients. It’s been a great opportunity to travel around Talca and see just about every aspect of its psychiatric system.
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One of the facilities we were able to observe in Talca was an outpatient drug and alcohol clinic. We were greeted outside by stray dogs and inside by a security guard. The waiting room is crowded with patients waiting to be seen. We were educated by a tech and psychologist on what kind of patients they saw and their therapies. The illicit drug they primarily saw in the region was cocaine. They have various forms of it including a “coke paste” which is a concoction of cocaine and other drugs, like rat poison. This paste is available for the same price of a pack cigarettes, 500 Chilean pesos or about $1.
This facility, also works with children since there has been incidences of children as young as 10 using inhalants, like computer spray. All patients get therapies from a team consisting of a tech, psychologists, social worker and psychiatrist. No nurses were involved in this program due to funding, but it was relayed that they wanted nurses. The therapy they provided to patients was very comprehensive and individualized to the patient.
Unfortunately the building itself wasn’t the greatest due to the earthquake. Multiple patients receive counseling in the same room and the only thing separating these therapies is a divider that resembles the wall of a cubicle. This eliminates the confidentiality. This would make it difficult for an individual to come forward with a drinking or drug abuse problem. In addition, the facility did not include AC since its a “temporary” location after the earthquake, which was about 3 years ago now. This may seem like a minor issue, but when we went to visit the facility it was 97 degrees outside and felt even hotter inside. I find it difficult to have a therapeutic environment for a patient at a temperature so oppressive.
Much more to blog about in Talca. We have had poor connection in the hotel and will try to keep everyone posted. Stay tuned.

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A round of applause for Chilean Nurses

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Henson Phan plays with Luna who is the “pet therapist” at Hospital de Dia.

After spending the day in Talca and visiting a psych hospital; I have much respect for these psychiatric nurses who are taking care of these people.

Our first visit involved an inpatient psych facility that housed A LOT of patients. We were supposed to arrive at the location at 9 a.m., but ended up being there at 8:30 a.m. I learned that it was rude in Chilean culture to arrive early, but the staff welcomed us with open arms. A security guard welcomed us by opening the gate that led to the facility. After coming inside the gate, we were welcomed by 3 or 4 patients who were getting some fresh air. All of these patients were most likely above the age of 60, but they all shook our hands and gave us kisses on the cheek. The first thought was “I am in a psych facility. You aren’t supposed to touch the patients; we were told not to in America,” but these patients were so kind that I didn’t feel an ounce of danger. Besides, kissing on the cheek is a way of greeting here so its not like they’re intending to invade personal space.

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Earthquake damage at a historic church in Talca, Chile.

After, we met with more patients, younger patients who have been in the (temporary) inpatient hospital for more than 30 days. The earthquake destroyed the main hospital so this inpatient hospital is actually temporary. Many of these younger patients’ ages ranged from 20-50 and they suffered from depression. Regardless, everyone was interested in talking to us and asking us about the American culture such as music (they all thought that Lady Gaga was “loco”) and movies. The patients seemed to have a good relationship with the nurses. The patients sat in this large recreational room/dining room on these black couches with the nurses sitting directly next to them as if they were friends. This bond that I saw between the patients and nurses did not match what I saw back in the U.S. during my psych clinical rotation. From my experience in the U.S., it seemed like the nurses and psych patients always kept their distances. The depressed patients were always quiet, and I would always struggle to get a word out of them. Finding out that these Chilean patients were admitted for depression surprised me since many were smiling and talking up a storm.
Later we went to a different part of the building where they held many of the geriatric patients. Most of these patients did not have family who visited them, but according to the staff,Chileannursing students and others wouldvoluntarily come visit the patients on their free time. All of the geriatric patients were very kind and I probably shook about a million hands within a period of 15 minutes. All the patients came up to us holding our hands, putting their arms around our shoulders. Every one of the patients had the biggest smiles plastered on their faces. “Momma” Val even made a new friend when one of the patients followed her around for an hour holding her hand and calling her “mami.” The most amazing thing about this is the fact that there is only ONE nurse taking care of these 80-something patients. ONE. How? I don’t even know. Maybe the Pisco Sours here in Chile gave this nurse super multitasking powers, but I would never be able to handle over 80 patients every day at work. Somehow, the nurse working in this facility makes it happen, and for that, I applaud him.
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A history lesson in Chile


I’m not going to lie, even though its only been a few days, I do miss my American burgers. We went to a small ice cream shop that reminded me of Friendly’s. They also had “normal food,” but their focus was ice cream. I had a cheeseburger with bacon. I know I can’t really expect for the burger to taste the same as an American burger, but it still tasted alright. I still want to try authentic Chilean food, but many of the places that we know of so far cater to tourists, so it’s not surprising to see hamburgers, pizza, hot dogs (garnished with avocados) and other foods that you would expect in the U.S.

After eating, we decided to go on a free tour that was in the middle of a plaza. This tour lasted 4 hours, but our tour guide was amazingly entertaining. He was a chain smoker and probably smoked about 5 cigarettes within a span of 30 minutes, but he was extremely kind and personable. He spoke with a mix of an Irish/Spanish accent about the history and certain key areas of the city. We saw Plaza de Armas, which is Santiago’s main square. They had people painting, dancing, singingand selling various knickknacks.
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We saw Municipalidad, which is Santiago’s city hall. We also saw the old congress buildings and many other beautifularchitecture. I noticed many cracks and chipped paint on the building due to the aftermath of the earthquake fromFebruary 2010. The earthquake happened on a Friday night at 3 a.m. in the middle of the morning. It was a 7.9 on theRichterscale in Santiago and an 8.8 overall in Chile. We finished the tour in the Barrio Lastarria at a cafe.
After the tour, we went to the flea market to buysouvenirs. Ihaven’tfound anything I like yet, but hopefully we’ll see some things in Talca!

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We’re chilly in Chile thanks to our sunburns


One word. Stair-master. Had we known that we would walk so much, we would have brought more shoes.

Our airport experience was less than satisfactory. Leaving Boston, we were stuck on the runway for half an hour due to heavy traffic in New York. Because of the weather, there was a lot of turbulence, but we arrived in sunny Miami at night. This flight lasted 3 hours and 40 minutes, but our next flight from Miami to Chile lasted 8 and a half hours. Most of us had trouble sleeping due to the cramped quarters, but at least the food was decent. We were given a choice of either pasta or chicken. The people who had the pasta said it was decent, but those with chicken said that it was pretty good. We arrived in Chile at 7 a.m., and our global health experience began.
We hiked up a mountain called Cerro Santa Lucia and got a great view of Santiago. Smoking was verypredominant, but the folkof Santiago love to clean. We saw people mopping sidewalks, washing windows, and providing excellent lawn care. Everyone here is super friendly, even though we have a language barrier. It’s a good thing we have Javi and Sarah to talk for us. 🙂 We explored the city on foot and metro.

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The view from Chile of the snow covered Andes Mountains.

We then went to the zoo (TONS OF STAIRS) and saw everything from elephants to penguins to a poor sick cheetah and sleeping kangaroos. By that point we were exhausted, hot and dehydrated, so we headed back to the hotel for a shower and a nap. For dinner we had a traditional Chilean meal with delicious food and service.

Day two! We had quite anadventure on the metro andbuseson our journey to Valparaiso. The beaches were beautiful as were the people. Street performers joined us on the city bus and treated us with to some beautiful guitar and drum music. Being future prudent nurses, we all used sunscreen and applied it often. However our pale winter skin lost the battle and we all got burnt… Ouch! Tonight is recovery and relaxation to rest up for tomorrow’s adventures 🙂
Bye Mariah Sara Henson and Javier

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