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.



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