Just outside the city…

One of my favorite things about Santiago is the easy access to great hiking spots. Back in October, I joined a group to hike up to nearby Monumento Natural El Morado in Cajón del Maipo. It was a hefty hike, but well worth the climb. This was just a day trip outside of Santiago. It was a good first hike to help train me for the longer, multi-day ones to come.



Beaches and Wine

So I started this blog to write about my travel experiences. Turns out I can talk about them all day long to anyone but trying to get myself to sit and write about them is a lot harder… I have visited a bunch of amazing places in Chile and have not written about a single one… so I am going to backtrack a bit to October 2016 and try and catch up.

One of the first things I wanted to check out in Chile were the beaches – because there are a bunch close to Santiago – and the wine. So, back in October, two of my friends and I got in the car and drove down to Pichilemu, a little surf town about 4 hours south of Santiago. It was a little chilly since winter had just ended, but still really beautiful. We stayed in a pretty cool hostel (Hostel Patiperro) with pool and a sweet view of the ocean.IMG_7028IMG_7038IMG_7033

On the way back up, we drove through Valle de Colchagua to try some of the amazing wine from that region. Chilean wine is as good as they say. I will definitely have to check out more of those. We chose to visit Viña Montes. Amazing wines with a pretty awesome view and tour of the vineyards. IMG_7044IMG_7041IMG_7045


The anchor that keeps me grounded

Today marks 10 years since the maritime world lost this great captain and I lost the best Dad I ever knew. While I can’t believe a whole decade has passed, I still carry him with me wherever I go. Every anchor I see reminds me that wherever I am he is with me, encouraging me and supporting me as I embark on each new journey like he always did when he was alive. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss him or wish he was still here, but I am thankful that the memories I have of him are ones that have had a great influence who I am today both as a teacher and world traveler. He always taught me that every choice I made was the right choice if I was happy. This post is dedicated to my father, Capt. Ray Dunzelman. May you continue to rest in peace in the calm seas.


Senior Prom, 2002
Santo Domingo, República Dominicana, 2011
Las Islas Galápagos, Ecuador, 2013
Santiago de Chile, 2016



My new home (for now)

I’m finally starting to feel at home here in Santiago. I’ve started my job, got an apartment and my Chilean ID card, and I’ve participated in the festivities of the fiestas patrias, which are apparently the most celebrated days in Chile next to Christmas. I picked a good time to get here!

I’m so happy to finally be in my own space! My new apartment is in an awesome location and way nicer than anything I’d ever have in New York. Plus it came with some built-in friends. 🙂 Can’t ask for anything better than that!

This first month in Chile has flown by so far. Starting the job, making friends and searching for an apartment have cut in to my exploring time, but I plan to do much more touristy stuff now that spring has arrived. Parks are usually the first to attract me. I’ve been to a few so far: Cerro San Cristóbal to get a view of the city and Parque Bicentenario where I will probably go to run whenever I can. The greenspaces here are pretty awesome – some of the best I’ve seen in a Latin American city so far. We also went to participate in the dieciocho celebrations in Parque Inés de Suarez so that I could experience my first fonda chilena.

A brief hiatus

I made it to Chile!I have decided to take a break from teaching Spanish in the US to try teaching English abroad. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time – ever since I returned from my year-long study abroad experience in Spain (‘04-05). I always knew I would live abroad again, I just couldn’t decide when. I’ve been fortunate to teach at some great schools in NC and NYC. It was really hard to leave the last one – I will never forget my Leaders community but, luckily, my co-workers there are now my friends for life.

In addition to my undergrad degree in teaching Spanish, I also have a master’s in TESOL – so I figured what better way to get experience teaching ESL than going abroad to do it? After many months of contemplating on where (in Latin America of course!) to live and sending out resumes, Chile called to me first. I got a job offer to teach adults at an institute called Dynamic English in Santiago. It will be a world of difference from teaching high school, but I am ready for the challenge (and the break). That said, I know I will definitely return to it someday. I love teaching high school – even though it is one of the toughest jobs in the world.

I’m very excited to start this next chapter of my life. Santiago seems pretty cool so far…cold, actually, because it’s winter here. I haven’t explored much – just walked around a bit to get to know my surroundings and purchase items I couldn’t fit in my suitcase. I also met a friend from Brooklyn that is going to be working at the same school as me. (Small world!) I’m staying at Hostal Providencia until I find the perfect apartment. This is a great hostel and I would definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Santiago. Though, as much as I have loved the hostels I’ve stayed in abroad, I am very eager to have my own space in this city.

La clase de espanol
La clase de español! Last year’s students doing their roundtable presentations.
Leaders friends
My Leaders family at the Boecktista wedding.
Preparing for landing in Santiago de Chile.
Walking around Providencia
Walking to Centro Santiago

It’s been a few years since my last blog post. I’m going to make an effort to blog once a week or every couple weeks during my time here. I may even post a few throw-back travel experiences here and there if the spirits move me. Stay tuned!

Underwater Adventures

I’ve been back from Ecuador nearly 2 months now and I still haven’t finished blogging about my trip. At the rate I am going I may continue writing about this trip all year long.

One of the new things I decided to try during my time in the Galapagos was snorkeling. My uncle wanted me to get SCUBA certified but I didn’t have enough time before I left. However, I was still amazed at what I was able to see near the surface of the ocean. Just like on land, the marine life were inches away from me.0D4227A9-AFA7-46F6-A9A8-686BAF444234

The first place I tried snorkeling was at this beach on San Cristobal Island called La Lobería (lobo = sea lion). As soon as I submerged my whole body, it was as if I had entered a different world. There were sea lions, turtles and tons of amazing fish swimming all around me. 2E02AFF7-DBE1-4F87-8C0B-FFAB2BB3B45BF5EAD212-161C-40B0-A0C0-15DCC8CF74C6

La Lobería is a sea lion’s beach. If a sea lion wants to lie on your beach towel, he will hobble up and lie on your beach towel. E2AC9BB6-7AD3-4CBA-B86A-C1B72EEE3DD8

My Swiss friend Loreen joined me for my first snorkeling adventure. The water was cold so we had to wear wetsuits. 7C10D799-F639-43EC-A950-FD6D36E769FB

While renting my snorkeling equipment, I decided to invest in a disposable Kodak under-water camera. Best 18 dollars I ever spent.5D540A53-9F18-46E7-981E-28A1AE46E9FE 80B6C715-AE7A-4F5D-AA50-3A270367D514

Rewinding to my first day on San Cristobal: The day I met my fellow volunteers while they were all still in the port town for the weekend, they invited me to go Kayaking with them. I’d been Kayaking before in Los Haitises in the DR, but Kayaking in the Galapagos was a lot more difficult. It was all really worth the work and the soreness I was in later.   281AF3CF-62B4-4DBE-9E71-B9A3ADB1E092A few weeks later I went back to the area where we had kayaked to to try snorkeling for the 2nd time. It was called Cerro Tijeretas (tijereta = frigate bird) and it was a much easier place to snorkel because there were no waves. However, there wasn’t much to see at the time that I went.

I caught a picture of this sea cucumber: 68CCB53D-3217-4D2D-9815-E6C1261BFD70

I also tried diving down deep for the first time. I was with a guide and he pointed out this stingray for me to get a picture of. I got close for the picture and then shot right back up.

After snorkeling a few times now, I felt ready to upgrade to the next level: Kicker Rock. Kicker Rock (a.k.a. Leon Dormido) is a giant lava rock in the middle of the Pacific that looks like somebody took a giant sword to it and hacked it in two. The canal between the two rocks is where the Galapagos sharks like to hang out. It took a lot of mental preparation to join this tour, but I had stepped out of my comfort zone several times already so I figured, what’s one more time?C17B98F2-C12B-47AD-B811-91D751A8702D

So glad the disposable camera captured these guys. There was no zoom, so this is as close as they were to me. I was able to take a few pictures without freaking out, but this was the only one that came out because the visibility wasn’t great.4700B69F-DA40-454D-B213-ED8795A56F7D

I couldn’t leave San Cristobal Island without taking a picture with a sea lion on a the boardwalk. I leave you with this picture of the sea lion before he woke up…53A00AF3-E5F7-4DA6-AAB1-4F4FD90BC91F

And then after he woke up and yelled at me…42E40ED7-ADF2-4D1B-BB18-997B6B71ED84

Planting / digging / machete-ing

Most of the work at Jatun Sacha, in the highlands of San Cristóbal, consists of chopping down plants and trees that are invasive and replacing them with other plants that control the growth of the invasive ones.

The job on my first day was to gather what had been cut down the previous day into piles so that they could be burned. During our morning meeting, when we learned what we would be doing, I was relieved to know that that was my activity because I wasn’t ready to face the machete yet. However, when we got down there (every day we had about a 10 minute hike up or down to where we would work) it shocked me to see just how much of this invasive debris needed to be gathered. It’s everywhere. Even with 20-40 volunteers working for hours at a time it’s still hard to see imagine it ever being fully depleted. We had to use sticks to gather the chopped mora (blackberry vines) and push it into the piles. After 2 hours, each pile was over my head. That wasn’t my favorite activity because it was one which felt like a lot of work with few results because there was still so much to be done. I was ready to try the machete the next day.8E836928-C7AD-4C4D-A635-4301F198E278154953B5-3A97-49B7-AEAC-0C5E7AF96B68

Chopping down the mora was much more satisfying than gathering it. Once I got the machete (and was taught how to use it without chopping off a hand) I started chopping through the thick forest of invasive plants. We were working in a different area this time where you could only get through after chopping down the mora because there was so much of it and it grew to way above our heads. As if that wasn’t challenging enough, we also had do deal with their thorns and the swarm of mosquitos that flew around us the entire time. The head mosquito nets were helpful until one of those little bastards managed to get underneath it when I needed a drink of water. (My level of hatred towards these insects has definitely increased after this trip.) However, after about a half an hour of chopping my way through, I looked back to see the gap I had created and that pushed me to keep going. This  week we had to cut down lantana which were more like small trees than vines, and then Fernán Sánchez, which actually were trees. We had to use heavier machetes for those and try to dodge the trees as they were being cut down. Now, I am a master at the machete and I feel like I can chop down anything. Not to mention, my arms are getting a great workout.

Ready to machete!C41AA5F2-457C-4FCF-BA2B-07A9EDD64DF6

The owl hiding in the trees we were cutting:DE5FFB0E-D03F-4FED-8A80-7CD5091B738B

Our ride to the Galapaguera, where we worked two times a week.83A7120F-73F7-4EA8-A0F3-373007217F95

Turtle butts.462731FC-40BB-4185-8BB5-BBB89AE8D34C

Another day, we went back to an area that had been cleared to plant coffee. Coffee is neither native nor invasive. It is an introduced species that when planted will eventually grow tall enough and create shade to control the growth of mora around it. The coffee doesn’t put any of the flora at risk and it helps to keep the invasive plants from doing more harm. In addition to that, the coffee that is produced is used to export and help uphold the economy of the Galápagos. These results usually start to happen about 5 years after the coffee has been planted, so it is important to continue to maintain the mora around the coffee until then.A6DFD717-29AF-45EB-8AB1-E999E156F1CE

In the morning we work from 8-12 and then we stop for lunch. The afternoon shift is only 2 hours long, so we are usually doing work at the station during that time. We’ve cleaned one of the houses, gathered fruit for juice, dug a giant hole for a new septic tank and collected wood for a fire. 5B007AE5-0347-48B4-B12E-C07FCBD8A4C3

The past two weeks have been a lot of hard work (with lots of mosquitos and cold out-door showers), but at least we had a nearby bar to hike to to drink off the week’s work. It was a great 2 weeks and I’m glad I decided to participate in this program.

The bar:B62BE900-3F7C-49E7-96BF-6F724B5FC4B2FE7045F8-607B-47E3-ABB5-E5D388FAFD01

The view from the bar on a clear afternoon:4E223E92-E330-4A63-9D0B-1F4A06AD7025