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Comet Ison Tour – Wrap Up post

Before I offer my final thoughts about my trip to Chile, here are all of my previous textual posts about the trip:

So now for a few remarks about the trip overall. I’m very glad I went. I had thought about doing a solo trip to the big island of Hawaii to view ISON. But I would have missed out on seeing parts of Chile with a pretty amazing group of people. Also would have missed out on Bob Berman’s astronomical and cultural commentary and that was a significant trip bonus.

Going to Chile rather than Hawaii also gave me a chance to practice my Spanish, which was both better and worse than I thought.

The trip was put together by Berman Astronomy/Special Interest Tours and I highly recommend them. My wife and I are starting to plan going on their 2016 Hawaii total solar eclipse tour.  I’ll be very frank and say that my early communications with the company were not confidence building. But it turns out our tour organizer was brand new. By the time we were in Chile, Anjali was well organized and extremely attentive to guests. I couldn’t have asked for better. Slower, occasionally, but not better. If you’re interested in astronomy AND you enjoy local cultural flavor, then Berman Astronomy Tours is for you.

Turning to Chile itself, I think it is a great travel destination and would happily go back despite the long flights to get down there. I visited four cities in Chile (Santiago, Vicuna, Pisco Elqui and La Serena). People were friendly in all towns and I felt safe nearly all the time. There is an amazing variety of scenery and the skies are very dark outside of Santiago and La Serena.

In some ways, Chile felt like more like a free country than the post 9/11 United States.  For example, people in Chile can demonstrate right next to their Congress building:

Santiago Constitution Square Protest November 7 2013

At airports, I felt more like a guest than a terrorism suspect. I didn’t have to raise my hands over my head in a quasi-surrender pose like everyone must do to leave Juneau Alaska.

Chile, at least on the surface level, seems more open in their politics. We were there in the week before their presidential election and they had THREE major party candidates and TWO of those were women. We in the United States have yet to nominate a woman at the top of the ticket for either the Republican or Democratic Party. From the campaign posters, it looked like more women were running for their version of Congress than in ours, but I have no real statistics to support that.

On the other hand, I did see signs of very serious poverty in most of the places I visited. Plus there is a distinct lack of potable water in the rural areas. So I’m not trying to say that Chile is better than the US, but different. Possibly with some things to teach us about our politics and how we handle dissent.

So that’s all I have to say about my trip. I reserve the right to post more trip photos that catch my eye. If you’ve got questions about the trip or about Chile, I’d be happy to either answer or provide referrals.

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