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Crowd-Support

5:30 pm. I stood on the platform of the Santiago metro. No, not stood, sagged. Eyelids blinked in slow motion. Shoulders protested the weight of my bag. I was exhausted. The day’s interviews (two: one with a representative from Ecosistemas, and the second with a spokesman for Costa Carrera) and the wealth of information they’d provided (in rapid, blurry, Chilean Spanish) raced around my brain, jumping on my cerebral cortex and exciting my neurons. Yawning uncontrollably, I watched the approaching train. Arms, backs, butts pressed against the doors and windows. Around me, several dozen people began to jostle closer to the edge of the platform. The train stopped. Two people got off. About seven got on. I did not. I watched the passengers inhale collectively as the doors shut, sucking in body parts and hugging bags closer to themselves. Rush hour, I remembered dimly, and noted that perhaps next time I’d walk.

When the next train approached, it was equally loaded, but this time I was at the front of the platform and forced my way into half a square foot that was open near the door. There was a prolonged squeezing sensation as two more people wiggled on board and then pressed themselves against the crowd to avoid the closing door. I couldn’t reach any handholds, but I didn’t need to. The train bolted forward, and as a unit, the crammed mass of humanity leaned backward slightly, cushioned and held upright by proximity. Sleepiness forgotten, I studied the people around me with all of my senses save taste. I counted seven split ends in the orangey dyed hair of the woman in front of me, and heard the breathy laugh and eye roll of a woman behind me. With one elbow I experienced the starched six pack of a man to my left; with my forearm, the tired back of a woman who smelled of lemon cleaner and dust. For six stops, I rode in intimate and anonymous communication, protected and supported by this complacent and temporary association of metro-riders.

Disembarking at Universidad la Catolica, I felt giddy, elated, uplifted by the brief but fascinating ride. For those ten minutes, I was a part of a whole: a Chilean whole. Not a tourist, just a body against five others. Weird, perhaps, but it cleared my head of the entire day, buoyed my reeling mind and renewed my sense of purpose. I do belong here! I am capable of not only completing, but nailing this project.

This was my state of mind when I opened my email and saw that I have earned %3 of my fundraising goal in one day! Katie Leum, Brin Finnegan, Syreena Mortimer, and Jordan James: THANK YOU. Thank you for being part of my supporting community. Thanks for validating my efforts and holding me up in the speeding subway train that is my life. Thanks for feeding and housing me for four days, which is exactly how many days I’ve been here! Let’s keep this up. If I can get at least $20 worth of donations every day for the next two and a half months, I’ll break even. Who will be the next to step up to the plate? Find out more here: Hydroelectric Dams Proposed in Patagonia meet Fierce Resistance.

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