A man jumps out of the crowd with a big, friendly smile at the airport in Santiago. He scares the wit out of us! Oscar Ordenes, the National General Secretary of YMCA in Chile. A great friend and a man with a great sense of humor and he laughs a lot. But he is also a very serious YMCA leader with a heart for the poor and troubled. He studied sociology and has worked for the YMCA in Valparaiso all his life. Ingunn and I enjoyed our visit in Chile very much, especially because of Oscar and his unlimited generosity and friendship. If you have a great leader, the staff and volunteers around him often are of the same caliber, and this is definitely the case in Chile.
Juan Manuel Arancilia is the responsible for international affairs in Valparaiso, and he is also our excellent bus driver, and he lines up in the brand new bus of the YMCA, a 100 years birthday gift to YMCA. It takes us two hours to go to the coast of the Pacific Ocean and to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, the twin cities. We have a quick round of Vina del Mar YMCA before we enter the very nice hotel with a fantastic harbor view downtown Valparaiso.
Next morning we have the obligatory round of the nice YMCA building in Valparaiso.
We meet with the four German volunteers there and a bunch of young leaders, before we climb up one of the many hills of the city.
In the beautiful villa of the first lady member of the Valparaiso board, (many years ago), we have a wonderful meeting with the President of the Chilean YMCA federation, the President of the Valparaiso YMCA, board members and friends both from Valparaiso and Santiago, a big group of people, and we spend the whole day together with good food and drinks and excellent conversation and lots of interesting sharing.
I am given the floor to speak about the Sleeping Giant and Youth Empowerment, and again I receive a lot of good and positive feedback. This is more and more encouraging, I must say. It seems that the message from Nairobi is finding fertile grounds in Latin America.
The President of the International Committee in Santiago is a professional singer, to the far left of this photo, and she gives us a few samples of her repertoire. Beautiful!
Sunday is time for service in the Lutheran church and a meeting with the Lutheran Bishop in Chile. In the Anglican church there is an organ concert and we enjoy that as well before we walk down to the harbor again, accompanied by three street dogs, which take a fancy in this international group.
The lunch in Zamba Y. Canuta takes us to the 5th floor with a splendid view of the harbor, and we look straight down at a relatively small ship. Oscar tells us that this ship goes to Juan Fernandez, a small island 1000 km into the Pacific Ocean. It takes a week to sail there, and the boat brings supplies to the island and bring Langusta, lobster, back to Valparaiso. We dream about the long sailing to Juan Fernandez, and slowly it dawns on me that this was the island of Robinson Crusoe and his friend Friday. I never heard that this story had any roots in reality, but Oscar convinces me that it is based in a true story.
The evening takes us for a beautiful walk along the coast and a bus ride to the poorer districts of Valparaiso, unlike many cities, the higher you get, the poorer the houses, so the poorest have the best view in Valparaiso.
And as the sun sets and darkness surrounds us, we enjoy new friendships in Valparaiso and look forward to new adventures tomorrow. More later, friends, just now I have a flight to catch!