Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Capturing the Fog

I would really like to travel and visit the Atacama desert in the north of Chile, my Chilean apartment mates are both from Arica, the most northern city, and speak well of the desert in the north, which is also said to very closely resemble the surface of the moon (many sci-fi flicks have been filmed in this desert). Due to its geography, surrounded by the Andes mountains on one side and the Chilean Coast Range on the other, and a series of cold currents, the desert in Atacama is said to be the most arid desert in the world...with only 1mm average yearly precipitation!
No need to say that the people living there need to conserve water (perhaps buildings there have a priority to preserve water), but as it turns out there's a very cool way to deliver fresh water for these people. It consists of utilizing Camanchacas, which are dense clouds banks that form in the Atacama desert.

As a response to water scarcity, fog catchers have been installed in the desert that basically capture the moisture from the camanchacas and collect water which is of exceptional quality.

These fog catchers are very inexpensive to install, and can produce significant amounts of drinking water. Architects have got a hold of them, and are making them in all shapes and sizes... hopefully not sacrificing function over aesthetics!

They look awesome... provide water, and add to the martian theme!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Viña del Mar

Viña is a much flatter place, with grid street layouts (easier to get around). Most people come to the beach in (their) summer, and this is the place where the famous Viña del Mar festival takes place. Here are some Pics!


I Took advantage of the long weekend in Santiago to walk through the winding roads of Valparaiso and venture through the beaches of Viña del Mar. Valparaiso is a port city about 2 hours from Santiago. It's famous for its colourful houses and winding roads that follow the topography of the place. There's about 15 hills that border the coast, and It's pretty easy to get lost. Here are some Pics of Valparaiso:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sustainable Energy for Chile

Chile has been having problems meeting its energy needs. Like many countries, it is currently facing an energy crisis due to the rise of fossil fuel prices. Today it imports about 72% of its energy in the form of gasoline, coal, and natural gas.
It seems that a lot of countries are facing the same problems; energy is becoming a scarce commodity. Is there a way to resolve the energy crisis with sustainable energy sources?

Last Saturday Morning, I witnessed a protest right on my street. The Cause of the protest is a hydroelectric dam project being developed in the southern part of Chile. The project is called HidroAysen, and it consists in making 6 hydroelectric dams in Chile’s 11th region.
I instantly remembered my sustainable energy classes at U of T, and recalled a presentation from a colleague on the theme of hydro electricity. Hydro electricity is a renewable resource, emits negligible carbon emissions from its operation, it is reliable and can compete economically with fossil fuels…
Why would people protest against it? Isn’t Hydro electricity a good thing?

This GIF was picked up from Patagonia sin Represas (Patagonia without dams) an environmental organization against the HidroAysen Project ( ). The reason why they disagree with the project is because of the large footprint that it will have on Chile’s natural environment, how private companies will benefit from the detriment of public land, and because the project bypassed proper environmental assessments on the grounds of being an urgent necessity. Chileans are proud of their virgin landscapes, the natural beauty of their country that is almost untouched in the South. The dams planned are located around various Andean mountains in the south which will directly change the relationship of water and land, and destroy the existing ecosystems in the surrounding areas. Environmentalists fear that many endangered species in those areas will be affected. In addition, since most of the population is located in the Central part of Chile, transmission lines would need to travel through half of Chile… scaring the landscapes, and perhaps damaging the eco-tourism that has developed.
An alternative that is proposed by the opposition is the exploitation of solar energy in the northern part of Chile (also the most arid dessert in the world). It is a rare occasion when it rains in that dessert, and they argue that it would have a lessened environmental impact since there is fewer fauna in the area.
Considering that Chile lies on the edges of tectonic plates, there is also large potential for geothermal energy. Its Coastal geography also gives opportunities for offshore wind power, and tidal energy… I am not suggesting that energy needs of tomorrow are easily solved, but I do believe that these types of projects should have a thorough environmental assessment, and have open discussions with the public.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


I speak Spanish, but I don’t speak Chilean. Chileans speak a language of their own! Their Spanish is so much different from Mexican Spanish: They have unusual names for a lot of things, don't pronounce the Ss, speak very fast and sometimes don’t finish their words entirely. My roommates and I laugh comparing the different words we have for the same things, and the different meanings we have for the same words! One of the first Chilean words I learned was CARRETE which basically means Party. I must admit that I’ve spent various nights from the past couple of weeks attending Carretes! Out to bars, clubs, and house parties. When Chileans say party, they generally mean being out all night! The problem with Carretes is that they usually START at midnight (finish… When the sun comes up?) but the subway stops at around 11 p.m., so the only ways to get back home sometimes are taking the bus, or taking a cab. Preferring to save some money last weekend, I opted for the bus, but my first bus ride was also my first rock concert in Santiago... When I got in the bus, I noticed a guy playing an acoustic guitar (clearly under the influence of something). He wasn’t making much of a commotion at first, but soon after, he picked up some rhythm. He began singing songs from the Bunkers, a Chilean rock band, moved on to the Beatles and later played some other Chilean songs. The greatest thing about this was that everyone on the bus started singing along! People were really into his music, and were even making requests. It wasn’t long before things got out of control though, and in the heat of the moment the guitar player began smashing his acoustic guitar against the bus! Guitar pieces flew everywhere. I should note that all of this happened with the bus in motion! I managed to get to my apartment in one piece, but I must admit this was a pretty wild bus ride and/or concert.

Friday, June 18, 2010

View From My Window

My first week in Santiago was a blast. I arrived on a Sunday at midnight and got a collective taxi to take me to the Hostal Forestal, a hostel close to Downtown. Here I met some interesting people over a glass of PisCola (which is Pisco, a grape liquor, and Coke). The next day I made contact with my supervisors at the GBC and looked for places to rent. I managed to rent a room in a bohemian neighborhood very close to a subway station and the downtown Plaza de Armas. My room is very small, about 3 meters by 3 meters, the walls are painted blue, and it just has enough room for my bed, a small desk and a small dresser. The apartment is on the top floor of the 4 storey apartment building at the corner of Brail street and Huerfanos way right infront of the Plaza Brasil. I share the kitchen and a bathroom with 2 Chilean students from the University de Chile. We get along really well, and they’ve taken me out various nights to some bars and parties, they’re really fun, and very patriotic when it comes to FUTBOL!! The thing I like the most about my residence, apart from the colourful walls, the convenient location, the price (90, 000 Chilean pesos a month, which is approximately 180 Canadian Dollars) is by far the beautiful view!!!

At sunset you can see, from my window, the outline of the mountains that surround the city tinted bright red and orange, the cafes across the street on Brasil Street seem to glow, and the Music BEGINS! Almost every night, you can hear the sound of drums from the Plaza Brasil that is just across the street. There is a dance school on the street, and students, cheerfully dressed in colourful gypsy-like clothes congregate to dance and make music. It becomes very lively and with a very positive vibe. I’ve gone out a couple of times and they’ve invited me to the community center nearby to attend some cultural events.

Friday, June 11, 2010


I’m finally in Santiago de Chile. My Plane arrived about a week ago. People here seem very nice. I met some people on the plane that even offered to take me around Santiago, a very nice Welcome indeed. Some of you, fellow interns, began your internship in May… but mine is just starting out. Santiago has been full of surprises thus far, a very vibrant culture. So… how do I explain my online absence before arriving in South America? Turns out the Chile GBC wasn’t ready for me on May, so they gave me a month’s vacations! Me, wanting to catch some sun rays, decided to spend that month traveling around Mexico and seeing some friends and relatives. I had a really good time in Mexico, went to a lot of new places, met some interesting people… and overall had a great time. Here are some pictures… to give you an idea.

Murals by Diego Rivera at the National Palace in Mexico City. He portrays important events in Mexico's origin and history.

This is Me enjoying a Shrimp and Calamari Cocktail at the Beach in Chachalacas Veracruz... it was really really good. Maybe you can't tell from the picture, but I got really sun burned (I peeled for a week). That's what I get for not using sunscreen!

This is the view at sunset in Chachalacas. The Ocean waves were really calm, and it wasn't deep... Floating on the waves and tiny silver fish jumping out from the water!

The trip to Chachalacas was nice, we also Traveled half an hour to Cempoala, an Archeological Site with small Prehispanic pyramids. Mexico seems to have pyramids and prehispanic structures all throughout the country. Some Historians say that Mexico doesn't have a beginning in History, Mexico has an Origin.

Many Historic Buildings in the center of Mexico City were built by the Spanish with stones from destroyed Aztec temples. What a Metaphor for Mexican Culture... Sustainable Building???