“Shit.” I was late.
That stupid moment when my alarm went off, I blinked, and an hour had passed.
I was late.
I weighed how much time I had—I could still make it. I jumped out of bed. I threw on some clothes, and grabbed the duffle bag I had luckily packed the night before. I made sure I grabbed my bus ticket before sprinting towards the subway under a twilight sky with a piece of bread stuffed in my mouth.
One of the girls in our program was having a birthday. To celebrate, we planned a trip to Chile’s coastal city, Viña del Mar. To get there, one should sprint the whole way to the bus platform, and arrive with seconds to spare. One should then board a Turbus with 15 other college students, have some great music on their iPod, and be careful as to not miss the scenery along the way. If done correctly, one should arrive two hours later in Viña del Mar not having any idea where the hell their hostel is.
After a few moments of unsuccessful wondering with luggage and hungry stomachs, we convinced a taxi driver to find our hostel for us; packing his van full of adolescent gringos. Viña, twin to her sister Valparaiso, is a city built on top of herself. Literally. Stacks on stacks of Easter egg-colored boxes spanned the panorama, accented with Palm Trees of all sorts here and there. The driver navigated up one of the many hills, and dropped us off. Climbing the stone steps, our hostel came into view. A green lawn led up to a brown cottage which looked like it had come from the hills of Europe. An ideal getaway for some college students on a birthday vacation.
Do you know what Slack-Lining is? Two trees, some soft green grass, a blue sky, and a ratchet strap turns out to be all you need to work on your balance. Not so easy, though. We spent the afternoon jumping, walking, and falling off the Slack-line. Hours passed, and we were in want of a little sunset-on-the-beach action.
If you’ve never watched the sun fall into the ocean, you suck. Living in a landlocked state surrounded by mountains and alfalfa never gave me many opportunities to witness this either, but I really underestimated what I missed out on for so long. Beautiful does not do justice the fiery orange sun rays or rolling mirror of an ocean. Soothing does not fully describe the rhythmic waves and call from the gulls. And, insane is an understatement for the overall experience.
The group of gringos napped at the hostel. Napped before walking the two blocks headed towards a banging club on the beach. A great way to cap off Day One was to turn up with a ton of Chileans.
The next day was a free day with nothing planned. While the girls left to explore the Botanical Gardens of Valparaiso, the boys headed to Concón, a beach to the north, to do a little surfing. Surfing?
Paddle, paddle, paddle. Long strokes is what they told me—dig deep. I laid face down on a surfboard. The water salted my lips, and stung my eyes. The winter ocean was numbing my bare feet, my hands, and my exposed head. Impossibly cold, I tried to focus instead on watching the ocean. She was a great, metallic reflection of the sunny sky above us. I finally saw her take a deep breath which signaled an incoming wave.
Okay, let’s go. I turned around with my head to the shore. The whole time never taking my eye off the swelling ocean looming towards me. I waited. Come on, a little closer . . . Go! Paddle, paddle, paddle!
Shoulders burning, I dug into the water, keeping a little ahead of the wave. I was going to get it this time. The wave came, and I felt the swell raise the board up with me on it. Keep paddling, not yet. I felt the wave forming underneath me. Actually catch the wave, don’t just stand on it. The time came. I placed my hands near my armpits, trying to steady the board. Then, pushing off the board, I jumped to my feet. I fought for balance on the glassy surface. I was up! Salty air cooled the water on my face as the wave pushed me. Hot damn, I was finally—unf! My board slipped out, and a metallic reflection of the sunny sky above us swallowed a boy from Wyoming without a second thought.
Surfing = amazing. We spent hours on the water. The boys from the west coast surfing, and me trying to. We saw the sky turn orange as we returned the boards. A sandy swapping of wetsuit for clothes, and a nap on the bus ride later, we were back at the hostel. Here, we met the girls who had cooked a mountain of spaghetti for dinner.
Leaving the next morning, exhausted and sand still between my toes, I boarded the bus again. This time, I was on time. I grabbed a complementary pillow, and rested my head against the window. It didn’t take long for me to pass out. But, before I closed my eyes, I replayed the weekend. It was an ideal vacation, couldn’t have asked for more. But, I am still on vacation, and I have four more months to go.