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I traveled to Chile last Feb for a week. Traveling to a different country for a week to understand their business is a required part of our course. Other students in the class selected China ( I thought Indi-Chini bhai-bhai, so I can go to an Asian country some other time in life), India and some stayed in US. Therefore Chile looked the best option for an Indian and the experience was something totally shocking – quite literally.

I have pulled my buzz/fb posts here, followed by the links to photos and a news report.

Feb 25 : Done with Mod 3. Chile, see you soon.

Feb 27: I am safe in Santiago.

Exactly a day ago…

Feb 28: I and my classmate were at the immigration queue at Santiago airport when the earthquake struck. There was confusion everywhere. The officials were as confused and unprepared (I felt so). For few minutes, we didn’t know what to do, tried to protect ourselves.(frankly, I thought it was some terrorist shooting. Seeing Mumbai attacks on screen must have left an impression in my mind. People were looking at the direction of the sound and the sound of cracking of the roof was no different from the pistol’s shooting sounds. Not to be a likely target of the bullet, I didn’t dare to stand or to run – which should have been sensible if I knew for certain if it was an earthquake, I took shelter like others did, below an unsupported rectangle piece of wood. Sounds scary and silly now. A lady was saying prayers. This continued for 3-4 minutes. ) The airport was damaged. We then ran away to open space. Many from the nearby hotel (Holiday Inn) too joined us. All of us were in open space in the night, clueless about everything.

The airport was immediately closed for uncertain duration, and frequently the news was updated that airport remains closed. (Every time we were curios if there was something new, but all the time he apparently said that airport remained closed). The announcements were not in English, so it was not very helpful to us, but we tried to understand through some translators. We also heard that there was heavy damage outside in the city (airport was outside the city) and that several bridges were collapsed and every road except highway to the city was closed. However, no one was going to the city, uncertain of the conditions there. We spent whole night in the open ground. In between, we communicated through mail to our families. Night was quite cold.

In the morning we shifted to Holiday Inn lobby, where all guests of the hotel too were assembled. We got online for a very brief time, and internet and phone were not functional after that point. Not having internet or phone was a major disadvantage. Language was another barrier. I could not understand the spanish tv, except I could see damages and debris. Hotel was damaged and short of staff to prepare food. So elders and children were fed first and followed by hotel guests. We luckily got some veg food at the end. I was very hungry after that long journey and it was almost 12 hours without food.

I heard some other scary stories of those who were stuck in airport lounge or sleeping in hotel. We experienced frequent aftershocks..people ran out for one which was slightly higher intensity. But actually there were so frequent aftershocks that I had to confirm myself by looking outside – by looking at lamps outside which shook if it was a real shake and if it was not my imagination.

Finally, the hotel decided to vacate and to remain closed. They decided to transport all of us to city and we reached the hotel where we already had booking for rest of week. I didn’t see many damages on the way. Luckily here, there is power, phone and internet. However, it is not possible to sleep peacefully on the 12th floor of the hotel.

Thank you all who commented on previous post. I am fine, no worries. Will update later. Thank you have a wonderful time.

Mar 1: Most of us are staying as scheduled. Those who want to go, may not go earlier, because no flights are taking off. Runway is fine, but offices are damaged. Only incoming flights (including international – but only with domestic people), are arriving. No foreigners are arriving or going back. Earliest departure it looks is on thursday, however, people are waiting from last saturday to fly out, so we will be lucky if we can fly out as scheduled, at the least.

However, I am fine to stay here. Our hotel is quite good with all facilities, food etc. The images on tv are from concepcion, place 300 kms away. This city is getting back to normal. I am getting to spend my spring break in Chile, not having to write any paper for credit. Awesome !

We are visiting Codelco in few hours, biggest copper mining company or something.

We went to see the downtown yesterday. I didnt notice major damages anywhere. Most shops are closed though.

“Does this always shake like this here, when any aeroplane lands ?” That was the question I asked to confused immigration officer when I realized the building shook, but before I realized something was not right.

Mar 1:I am having a good time.

Mar 3 Visited vineyard, tasted best wine of South America. Got back my luggage, thanks largely to our tour co-ordinator. She rates 8.8 on my sweetness scale. Gifted her the wine

Mar 4 :Visited copper refinery. Mine, company, refinery – copper is all that I’ll get in dreams now; Walked along the beach. Touched Pacific Ocean water.:)

March 5: Rode the horse for more than an hour in the Andes mountains. He is known as “Sherkhan”. He disobeyed me initially, later he just ignored me. One day, my dream is to tame and ride a new horse, similar to Ikran’s taming in Avatar.

Mar 6: Was it an immersion ? Was it a vacation ? Was it both ? 🙂 It was a short affair, but exciting and eventful love affair. Gracias por todo Chile, Adios, mantener a salvo. (Thanks for everything Chile, Bye, be safe).

Mar 7: Back in US of A. Hope I refuelled enough to last for next two months.

News report :

At the airport, Ravikiran Rajagopal and Harshivl Shah said ceiling tiles fell, some people cried, and others prayed. “I kept thinking that I didn’t want to die so far away from my home,” says Ravikiran, who admits that the noises were so loud that he thought he was in the middle of a terrorist attack.

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