Archive for February, 2008

Baseball in Santiago

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Baseball in Santiago 044 On a sunny, warm Super Bowl Sunday, we had weather like Glendale’s but a completely different experience from our friends rooting for the Patriots in Arizona.  We played Sunday morning baseball in Santiago, Chile, with a great group of young boys and girls.  Their coach, Luis Hernandez Olmedo, was a terrific host, and brought lots of enthusiasm to his teams in Santiago. 

Baseball in Santiago 006 As best as I could gather (I speak some Spanish, and none of the coaches spoke any English, so I may be off on some of these points!), they have two younger teams (12 and under) in the Little League, one team for older kids (15 and under) and an emerging league for adults.  They seem to be picking up momentum, and there were players at our practice session showing up for the first time (besides us :-) ).   We caught them during their summer vacation, and they adjusted their practice time to better fit into our schedule, so we played from 10:30 a.m. to a bit after noon.

Baseball in Santiago 047 The gathering had the feel of a great family picnic.  Several parents were there, and there were sets of cousins on the team.  They came from all sorts of different backgrounds.  About 1/3 rd of the players all went to a nearby private school, and had parents who were in professional occupations (doctors, engineers, lawyers).  Another 1/3 rd all went to the same public school, and came from fairly poor backgrounds.  And the final third came from all over, and were friends of others on the team, or just had an interest in baseball.

Baseball in Santiago 027 We were dragging a bit this morning, and poor Gibson was running on empty.  Our flight from Easter Island was delayed by about four hours (no reason ever announced), and we got to our hotel in Santiago after midnight.  He got to bed around 1:00 a.m. (normal bedtime is 9:00 p.m.), and so the wake-up call this morning seemed especially early.  As I write this blog at 5:00 p.m. from our hotel room here, he’s asleep in the other room taking a catch-up nap.

Baseball in Santiago 002 The practice started with some stretching drills, a run around the field, and proceeded to shagging fly balls in the outfield.  After that, they focused on infield drills.  As far as I could tell, they didn’t have batting helmets, and only had a few old balls.  So, at least during our practice time with this group, it wasn’t possible to do real hitting practice.

Baseball in Santiago 054 There were a number of young girls at the practice, which was exciting to see.  The team only practices once a week, but it was clear that some of the players were practicing a lot at home.  The big sport in Chile is football (soccer, for those in the U.S.), and baseball is not on many kids’ radar screen.  However, these coaches were terrific, they were excited to be playing Little League baseball, and the players brought lots of enthusiasm to the practice, despite playing on a hot Sunday morning.

Baseball in Santiago 009 The one negative about this gathering was that several of the participants had New York Yankees hats :-) .  We quickly saw to it that they were Red Sox-ized, and we hope to make them long-term converts to Red Sox Nation!  Feel free to check out our pictures from this fun day in Santiago, Chile, with an up and coming baseball organization.






Easter Island

Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

Easter Island 212Easter Island has two claims to fame.  It has 600 fascinating, bizarre statues, called Moias (pronounced Mo-eye’s), spread around the island.  These Moias are carved out of volcanic rock, and located in a range of spots, from still being carved out of a mountainside to upright on a oceanside platform.  And Easter Island is the world’s most remote inhabited location, with its 4,000 people living over 2,000 miles from the nearest neighbor. 

Easter Island 133 I’d like to give a positive report on our visit to Easter Island, since it’s such an unusual place.  But you’d really have to have your heart set on seeing these moias to justify the trip here.  It’s 2,300 round trip from Santiago, so you chew up a full day getting here and a full day returning.  We ended up spending five full days to see these statues, along with a few other interesting artifacts, and could really have used the time on mainland South America.

Easter Island 125 The moias are truly amazing.  They weigh up to 100 tons, and were carved in situ in a quarry on this volcanic island.  Then, they were transported from the quarry’s highlands to spots all over the island.  As best as anyone can tell, they moved these gigantic statues by rocking them back and forth and “walking” them along.  They’ve done modeling of the process, and think that a reasonable number of people could move these huge carved stones.  And the moias weren’t religious tributes of any kind, but were statues carved and erected in memory of particular important people who lived on the island. 

Easter Island 205 We had one really interesting day during our stay on Easter Island.  Our guide for the day was Jose Letelier Morel, son of former U.S. Ambassador from Chile Orlando Letelier who was assassinated by agents of a prior Chilean government.   Jose (in photo on right) has lived on Easter Island for 15 years, and has a strong background in architecture and archeology.  We first went to a great village site with several moias, a stone chicken “coop,” and various homes build from stone under lava overhangs. 

Easter Island 229 We then went to meet with a downtown craftsman, who guided us all in the stonework required to make our own moias.  We used soft stone, and sharp steel tools, in contrast to the early inhabitants here who carved huge moias from much harder stone using very primitive tools.  My moia was the unanimous choice for “worst” of our group, but we had fun, and learned a lot about the art of carving stone.

Easter Island 242 We then went to Orongo, a volcano with a lake filling in its crater, surrounded by moias and stone houses.  The volcano was too big to capture well on film, but looking down on its interior was fascinating.  And standing up on the bluff, amidst the reconstructions of these ancient stone dwellings, was quite an experience.

Easter Island 235 The Rapa Nui people were historically quite creative in their island-wide contests.  Apparently, hundreds of years ago, bitter in-fighting among island inhabitants threatened the future of its existence.  Rather then killing each other off, they came up with a serious-stakes contest.  Each of the ten or so tribes would designate one representative to participate in an annual ritual, with the winner’s tribe controlling all island resources for the coming year.  Talk about high Easter Island 327 stakes!  The contest??  Climb down to the ocean from this cliff (photo above looks down on the smaller islands, photo to left looks up at the cliff), swim a mile and one-half across shark-infested waters, find a bird’s egg on one of the two small islands, and bring the bird’s egg back to the top of the cliff without breaking it, presenting it to your very happy tribe’s chief.  Oh, and the other participants are encouraged to kill off any early leader.  (Sounds almost as brutal as the primary process used in the U.S. to pick candidates for President).

Easter Island 284 That night, we had dinner at a local resident’s home, which sounds more interesting than it was.  But on the way back to hotel, we stopped for the kick-off to Easter Island’s annual festival.  The new version, which lasts two weeks, is a competition among young women on the island to become its queen for a year.  And it’s a very interesting competition.  There are two weeks’ worth of events, ranging from dance contests, to singing contests, to rowing, to swimming, to sliding down a mountain on banana leaves.  The prospective “queens” aren’t the ones competing, though.  They have to line up people on the island on their team to compete on their behalf. 

Easter Island 216 Anyway, we only got to experience a half hour or so of the festival, which got drenched by a tropical rainfall just after we left.  Good timing on our part!  But if anyone is tempted to come to Easter Island, coordinating with this festival, which captures the attention of the entire island, sounds like a smart move.

I can cover our other three days on Easter Island quickly.  Boring.  On our first two and one-half days, we had our two worst guides of the trip, who seemed intent on showing us little to nothing of interest.  And our last day was supposed to be a noon flight to Santiago, but a flight delay meant we hung out at our hotel doing homework for most of the day. 

Easter Island 053 Easter Island went through a period of heavy de-forestation and wildlife kill-off.  As a result, the island is rather barren, with almost no wildlife other than horses.  There are just five land species of birds to be found — a sparrow, dove, finch, hawk (the Chimango Caracara at right), and tinamou.  Remarkably, our guides were barely able to identify them as birds, let alone to be able to determine which of the vast selection of five species we were seeing :-) .   We learned, though, that the main criteria for being a guide on Easter Island is to be a native of Easter Island.

Easter Island 109 Anyway, there is little chance we’ll return to Easter Island, so I suppose there’s merit in having been there once.  And the moias are truly fascinating, so we’ll carry that memory forward.  But after the moias, there’s precious little to do there.  And, as I write this on the looooonnnnnnngggggggg flight back to Santiago, I need little reminder of Easter Island’s remoteness :-) .  Anyway, for more on the moias, and our trip to Easter Island, feel free to check out our photos.