Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weekend on the Coast

Okay, so the whole being regular about the blog hasn't worked out so far, but here's some pics and a summary of last weekend.

I went to the reception aboard the USS Doyle. They had just completed some excercises with the Chilean Navy as part of Teamwork South 2009.

On board was Donald Toso '01 who I knew from A&M. I got a pic with him and a hat.

After the reception I spent the night at Mike's who I had met the first week I was in Santiago. His wife is the Naval Attache in Valparaiso and he offered to let me crash at his place if I ever made it over. I took him up on his offer. The balcony pics are from his house. His wife Rene was out of town up north where the other ships in the excercise had gone. Mike turned out to be a great guide and I had two great days on the coast.

The first day (Sat) I slept in and then we went down to the shore in Vina del Mar. Walked the board walk and had lunch in a little place. I got waylaid by some gypsies who Mike pointed out too late for us to avoid. They ended up scamming me out of a few bucks. I knew I was probably going to lose money going in, but I figured what the hell.

Sunday was spent walking around Valparaiso. Of the two Valpo is much more interesting. It is older and less developed but has a lot more character. I went up one of the ascensors that take people up the steep hills. It was kind of like the first part of a roller coaster, but you're hoping that you don't get the drop at the end. They are old and privately maintained, but mostly seem to function just fine. They have taken graffiti to a whole new level in Valpo and the houses and buildings are very colorful. There was a mix of run down and maintained places, and shops and cafes all over.

After a stop to enjoy yet another pisco sour (a Chilean specialty drink that I will describe in a later blog) Mike dropped me off near the bus station and I made my way back to Santiago, took the metro back to near the Embassy, and then drove home.

All in all it was a great weekend.

For all the pics you can go to Facebook, Shutterfly, and Flickr. Most of you should have gotten invites or notifications from at least one of these. I recommend shutterfly because it has everything right now. If you don't have facebook, well, you should because its the easiest way to keep up. Okay, more to come soon, I have topics written down, they just haven't made it to here yet, but they will.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Getting Started


Copied my mass email here.. more to come soon.


It's a cold rainy day in Santiago so I thought this would be a good time to send out an update. Sorry for not getting to this sooner.
For those who don't know I have been living in Santiago, Chile for the last 3.5 weeks for an internship with the State Department. I will be here for til Aug. 7.
I have been working in the Regional Security Office which is run by special agents from the Diplomatic Security Service. The RSO is responsible for all Embassy and personnel security. We work closely with the Marine Security Detachment ( 5 Marines and a Gunny) and the Local Guard Force, but pretty much everybody comes to see us for one reason or another. I also started moonlighting in the Political Section last week working on the NonProliferation/Nuclear Energy Portfolio.
It has been a great experience so far. I am living with the Assistant Regional Security Officer and his family. The house is in the Lo Barnechea district of Santiago, which is the upscale suburb where most of the more well off live. The city is ringed by mountains, which all have snow on them now, because its winter down here. The ski resorts opened last week, so hopefully I'll get to go skiing before I leave.
The embassy is located in the modern business district, although when it was built it was in the sticks. The city seems to have grown towards it. Everyone I have met at the embassy is very nice and eager to answer questions. I have been to more than a few going away parties so far. This is the changeover season, where people rotate out and new people come in. The locally engaged staff are all very nice too, and patient with my less than stellar spanish. In my defense, the Chileans speak super fast and with a very distinct dialect.
In the office I work with the RSO - Paul Backstrom, the ARSO - David Kuhlow, and we share space with the Force Protection folks Gary Malcolm, AOSI and Mary Teer, NCIS.
I visited the PDI Academy (Policia de Investigaciones, basically Chilean FBI) with Gary and Mary. I've also met people from the FBI, DEA, MILGROUP and the other sections of the embassy. The embassy community is pretty close knit.

A day in the life during the week goes something like this usually:

0530 - 0630 Workout at the Marine House with the RSO and ARSO at the Marine House (where the Marine Security Detachment lives)
0630 -0730 - Return to house and get ready for work.
0730 - Leave house to drop off David's son at school.
Somwhere between 0830 and 0900 arrive in the office and log in to the workstation
0900 - 1200 - work/meetings/bull sessions
1200 - 1300 - Lunch - usually a bag lunch but sometimes go out around the embassy
1330 - 1700 - more work/meetings/bull sessions
1730 - leave embassy
Around 1900 have dinner with David's family (they have three boys, 8,5,and 2, more about them later)
Help clean up after dinner
2100 - Watch a little TV/Read/Talk with David and Margaret
2230 or so, sometimes later, head upstairs to get ready for bed
Usually asleep by 2300 or 2330.

Of course this varies and I will be more specific about what I do, and what has happened in later messages.
Weekends so far have been fairly tame. I've been to a few parties and gone out with the Marines a few times (which was a littel less tame).
Yesterday, I went downtown to La Mercado Central, to try some of the local flavor (see pic). Mariscos was good, except for something red that we could not identify. Luckily I only had to endure one of those. It was mostly fish, shrimp, and muscles, very tasty. Pisco Sour is a local drink, that was very good, but pretty strong.
Also went to see some other sights.
Next weekend is July 4th. I will be working two events with the security folks. One at the Ambassador's house and the other a flag raising ceremony at the embassy. (Might get to have an earpierce, if so there will be pictures)
Going to Valparaiso the weekend after that to attend a reception on board a Navy ship that is making a port call there. The captain is an Aggie, and there is a Lt. on board from A&M that I know also. The Navy attache in the Defense Attache Office is also an Aggie, CMDR Vince Saporito, so we are going to have a little Aggie reunion.

I am creating a blog where I will put descriptions of day to day events. I will also send out another email with more details soon.
The blog address is barcuni.blogspot.com , go there and follow along, hopefully I will be regular about it.

While it hasn't snowed in the city, (and I'm told it won't) it is getting quite cold. Mornings are in the 30s and the days get close to 50. The sun is very strong here so if there is no wind and sunshine it is still comfortable during the day. Overcast and raining like it is today makes for a cold and miserable day.

Santiago isn't the cheapest place to live in South America, so I'm having to watch my spending, but I will be able to make a few short trips away from the city.
I have about 6 weeks left. David and his family are going on leave next week so I'll be more on my own for most of July. Should be fun and I will keep yall posted.

That's all for now,