May 14 2008 San Diego Ross' Graduation:

Making New Friends and Keeping Old

On April 8th we took a hiatus and went to San Diego, California to
take part in Ross's graduation from the Marine Corp Boot Camp. The
trip from Santiago, Chile to San Diego took about 36 hours of
combined travel time. At 3:15am we left the Walker's home in
Santiago by taxi for a 6:30am flight to Lima, Peru. Flight #2 took
us to San Salvador, El Salvador and finally... flight #3 landed us
into Los Angelos at 9:30pm. We spent the night sleeping on the
floor of the LAX airport as we awaited a city bus to get us to Union
Station, Los Angelos at 7:00am the next morning. Next we took the
Amtrak train to Irvine and then a motor coach to San Diego (the
train was suppose to go straight to San Diego but the track was
being repaired). Once in San Diego it was by trolley and finally
another city bus to reach our destination of the "Chula Vista
Hostel" also known as Uncle Maury's. Whew! We finally made it!
Keep in mind that the travel back to Santiago, Chile meant
everything in reverse (buses, trains, trolleys, sleeping on airport
floors, taxis).

While in San Diego we spent time with my Uncle Maury and Aunt Maria
doing little projects around their home. We also enjoyed time with
other family members that made the trip to see the graduation:
Uncle Larry and Aunt Chrissy, John and Molly (son and daughter-in-
law), Clark (brother), Laura and Nyro (sister), Aaron (brother),
Brianna (niece). Our fun not only included the graduation but also
a 23 inning Padres Baseball Game and finding seashells at Coronado
Beach. We are very proud of Ross for his completion of Boot Camp
and as our key chains say "My Sons are US Marines" . (Thanks John
and Molly for these gifts.)

We were also able to spend some "dirty time" with our GRABAAWR
friends the "Brain Dead" - Bob and Jeanne Larson and their daughter
Shanna from Brainerd, MN. Now clean up your thoughts! A local
church in San Diego puts on an annual 5 and 10 km "Mud Run". Yes, I
mean a shoe sucking mud run that even though you duct tape your
shoes on your feet you can still lose them in the mud. Have you
ever run with 5 pounds of mud caked onto your shoes, rocks between
your toes and under the heels of your feet? One section of the
muddy, dusty, and very hilly 5km loop had a 75ft mud and water pit
almost waist deep. I actually saw one gentleman swimming it with a
snorkel and goggles. I don't believe the goggles provided him any
visual assistance..."mud" is "clear as mud"! Needless to say the
clothes worn that day did not come home with us. The day was
frightfully hot as the temperature rose above 100 degrees. Since it
was a church sponsored event there were no ice cold adult beverages
to be had. We found our way to Old Towne, San Diego and enjoyed
some icy cold margaritas and Mexican food to cool and feed our
bodies. (Note to all that read this: We are always open to the new
experiences that we can share with old and new friends. Come join
us on our adventure.)

Santiago, Chile was made very special because of our Luther College
friend, Greg Eide. Greg gave us the contacts of Ann and John
Walker. They are both Luther College graduates. They are both
teachers and have lived in Santiago for 14+ years. They provided us
with a wealth of information concerning the Chilean society, they
fed us gourmet meals, stored our bikes while we were in the US,
introduced us to key people from New Zealand, made it possible to
visit Ann's school and provided a tour route itinerary for the city
using the public transit system. But for me, I really have to thank
John for his insightful discussions of world travel, mission work
and Chilean and Latin American politics. (Write to Remember)

Ann teaches English at a private school built by Methodist
Missionaries who were originally from Iowa. Ann made it possible
for us to share our world adventure with her 6th, 7th and 8th grade
English classes. We were very impressed with how the Chilean
students wanted to travel to different parts of the world. This
seemed different from what we see in our students from Iowa. The
Chilean students seemed to have a worldly vision. Maybe the size of
Santiago or the position in their political history makes this
happen. Maybe its because Chile had been under political
dictatorship in the past and is now experiencing a freer political
environment that enables everyone to feel free to look beyond its
boundaries. (The U.S. has never been under a polictical
dictatorship.) One thing we did learn is that kids are kids.
Music, PlayStation, friends and sports occupy kids' free time
everywhere.

John teaches private music lessons in his in-home music studio and
he also composes music. His students are Chilean and ex-patriots
and he accepts payment in the most unique way. Some of the students
want to pay with euros or dollars and some with pesos. Therefore,
he uses a published index to determine his lesson rate. The home is
very nice and has a tall fence and brick wall that surround it for
security. To give you an idea of what things cost in Chile...the
electricity at their house is about $400 US monthly and the property
taxes are comparable. We noticed very little economic bargains in
Santiago in regards to housing costs or food costs. Wine was the
only bargain which Jacky and the Walkers enjoyed.

Santiago, a large city with beautiful parks, boulevards, great
markets and grand palatial buildings, is tucked into the snow capped
Andes. There are also a plethera of mountain bike trails. By using
a contact that I had made 7 years ago in Las Vegas at the
International Bike Convention I was able to get a first hand look at
the trails. Nelson Diaz of Intercycles allowed his service manager
Phillipe Vasquez to show me the trails and very kindly lent me a
bike for the ride. I felt pretty good during the climbing portions
of the ride, but that is where the comfort ended. I was able to
keep up and the elevation of the Andes was not a bother, but when we
headed down, things changed. HANG ON TO YOUR SHORTS!!!! We were
dropping out of the sky. I was later told that Phillipe was the
South American Downhill champion. School was in session to say the
least. I did not crash or hurt their bike...both good things for
where we were.

We took a few days to go to Valprariso which is on the coast. The
city is a major shipping port for Chile and Argentina. The numerous
container ships and cargo ships captured my interest. Jacky was
more excited about the very hilly landscape of the city and their
use of elevators to get to different portions of the city. The maps
even indicated where all the locations of the elevators and stairs
thoughout the city were located.

The people of Valprariso were very helpful. In one particular
situation when we were at a restaurant we were warned 4 times by
locals of the security danger if we walked the street. The owner
even came over and told us to get a cab. We were only 4 blocks from
our youth hostel and it was 6:30 p.m.. A local man about 60 years
of age, became our guardian angel and walked us to our hostel. He
carried our packages and took Jacky┬┤s arm and I followed from
behind. We were now realizing that security will be different and
we must now ask many people to get the pulse of the city or area.
We listen well to the information given.

I was able to attend a Rotary meeting in Las Condes, Chile. It was
a real treat because one of their members in attendance was on the
executive board of Rotary International. When he spoke everyone
listened. It did not matter in which of the 5 languages that he
could speak. Rotary clubs are much smaller and are more social in
South America. This meeting started at 9:00 p.-m. and took 2.5
hours.

Back over the Andes and off to Paraguay. Adios for now:
Ward and Jacky