Arriving in Valparaiso is a bit like being dropped into the middle of a well-used coloring book.

The first thing we noticed as our van began to wind its way through town was the abundance of street art. Brightly colored and often quirky, few surfaces have been left untouched; in fact, we learned that many Valparaiso residents (“porteños”) hire professional street artists to paint murals on their walls to ward off less talented “taggers.” Whatever the reason, it’s made for a colorful backdrop to our first full week in Chile.

We’re staying atop Cerro Concepcion (“cerro” is Spanish for hill) amidst colorful cafes, narrow cobblestone street, and non-stop live street music. Although we had a day or two to get our bearings, our true purpose in Valparaiso is to help support an amazing local organization whose mission is to make surfing accessible to children in under-resourced neighborhoods, to promote lifelong values and to teach English. Every morning, we help load surfboards onto a van that drives up into the cerros to pick up students for a day on the beach. Our role has been to push the kids of Valparaiso to reach their surfing goals- by quite literally pushing them into the waves they want to ride. A few of us have also had the opportunity to try hanging ten ourselves (with varying levels of success).

Overall, things are going very well. Our Leaders of the Week (or “Jefes,” as we like to call them) are Oz and Soren. Both have done an outstanding job in making this week memorable (and keeping us well supplied with delicious alfajores.) This week’s professor, Kory, ran an awesome trivia night during dinner on Wednesday. Johnny, this week’s coach, brings the hype every day and is helping keep us all accountable with regard to our Challenge-by-Choice 50 daily pushups. Philip carved out a unique leadership role for himself when he became an ordained minister online last night. We don’t quite know how this fits into our leadership team’s plans for the weekend, but we’re excited to find out.

Sending lots of love from Valparaiso! (and warm breezes for those of you stuck in snowy places)

The New Frontiers Gap Crew