Steve and I have returned from our adventure in the desert. In my last post, I said the clouds would clear. And they did but not until after midnight. Steve powered through and got some observing and imaging done from midnight to 2am. I went to bed at 11pm when the sky was completely socked in and got up about 1:30am and stayed up until 4:30am. More on the astronomy and San Pedro and the Atacama later.
Suffice to say that the Atacama is a stunningly dry place. As in, it stunned us. We have cracked skin, dry coughs and a general unease. Between us we drank 33 liters of liquid, none alcoholic, in less than three days. Is that a lot? We don’t know but it seemed like. We were fully hydrated as evidenced by….look, my last post was enough about bathrooms to see a blog through for a month so, take my word for it, we were hydrated. But still very dry.
That was the bad part. There was a lot – most of it – that was great and I’ll write that elsewhere. But our return to what I normally think of as very dry Santiago has forced reconsideration. Stuff grows here. Your skin doesn’t burst into ash when you go outside. Santiago, it seems, is a humid paradise.
Today, we have unpacking to do and I have work to do. It’s a holiday here, Labor Day. It’s Labor Day pretty much everywhere in the world but in the United States. Labor has a rough history in Chile and hasn’t yet really gotten the rights workers enjoy in the United States or, especially, Europe. So they’re right to celebrate and even protest a bit, which seems to go with May 1 pretty much everywhere.
Speaking of workers, a shout out to my colleagues back in Salem Hall, closing the place down. I accepted this assignment in South America well before there were even thoughts of this semester being a high demand period so while I feel no guilt in my not being there in the trenches with them I do feel badly about it. I’ll be sure to raise a glass to them in the coming weeks. Or maybe even bring a bottle or two home for them. Good luck, gang.