Chile was just a superb trip. I’m sure we speak for all of us in saying it triumphs New York by a landslide. How do you forge some of the greatest bonds among like-minded people? Obviously, you take 14 of them; put them in Santiago, Chile, far away from home where no one speaks their language, send them on a few corporate visits and city tours, feed them like kings, converse over a few glasses of wine, and most importantly, capture every moment with a picture. It’s the perfect formula. Seriously, it was a blast—one of the highlights of our lives together. It’s hard to swallow the fact that this might have been the last time we’re all together in such a setting as this. However, it’s comforting to know that we went out with a bang. A week (which felt more like a couple days) served to be just the perfect amount of time to discover a culture—to examine business a world away. As we look back on some of our most precious moments, unforgettable sayings, cultural discoveries, and life lessons, we can certainly conclude this: after searching for distinct differences (in the culture, commerce, people, and tradition) we progressively found that a lot of what we expected to be drastically different was more or less the same. We were all quite pleasantly surprised by our concluding reflection, when compared to our original expectations:
• Chile is beautiful, developed or undeveloped. If you expected shanty towns, ruins, and underdeveloped rural areas, good luck finding them. What we got instead was an extensive skyline view of a poor man’s New York, if not grander in some aspects.
• Gracias, gracias, muchas gracias. Clearly, our favor phrase, followed closely by, “Permiso.” They weren’t kidding when they told us to know a little Spanish. But when all else failed, at least we knew how to be thankful.
• Altitude is a workout. We learned this the hard way of course, but the gift at the end was always worth the climb—rare opportunities to touch the heavens: San Cristobal, the Terra Tower, the Andes heights, the sights from the upland parts of Valparaiso—priceless.
• Business is business? Evidently, the American model—100 mph—doesn’t work for everyone else. In fact, it only suits America. But most people are okay with that. Hard work is still churned out, but when personal relationships are emphasized and things like--oh I don’t know…fun?—are encouraged, those systems can be just as efficient and rewarding. Ultimately, people matter. It certainly doesn’t hurt when you live in a place where both the beach and the ski resorts are only an hour or two away.
• Cherish water…it isn’t always free. Not to mention ice, either. We probably drank more wine and pisco sour in one week than we ever did at any other point of our lives. But we aren’t complaining.
• PAY now, or forever hold your PEE. Yes, evidently, bathrooms, aka banos, are difficult to find in this country. And some will cost you some pesos. Oh, and don’t forget to get your toilet paper PRIOR TO going into the stall.
• Y.O.L.O. That is, indeed, the motto. How else could we justify white water rafting in the fall?
• Homogenous people. It’s true. The more we talk about it, the more we realize that not much in Chile is actually Chilean. Michael Jackson and modern pop music can be heard at any bar or street corner. Steak and potatoes are the norm. Be prepared, however, to stand out because Chileans do have a very distinct look.
• Besos! People love to kiss here. Period.
• Red light, green light. When crossing the street, there’s pretty much red and green, no yellow; therefore, no warning. You get exactly 10 flashes of the green “walking man” as your warning. IF you’re not across the street then, too bad! Cars go, immediately, without hesitation! No bueno!
Honestly, we could go on and on about life lessons learned in this wonderful country…big or small. But what truly matters is that we got to learn all of this as a group: the Neeley Fellows. There’s no other program out there that facilitates such amazing opportunities for its students, just for the purpose of getting them exposed. If you think you know one, you don’t. If you think you can find one, you won’t. This is as good as it gets. So put your frogs up. Viva Chile!