The DougBlog
"Et sans savoir pourquoi, disent toujours: Allons!" —Baudelaire

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Easter Island Preview

So I’m gearing up for this year’s big vacation: Chile and Easter Island. I’ll try to blog it in “real time” with updates every few days, although that depends largely on time and internet access. But even before I go, I’ve gotten a lot of common questions so I’ll try to answer them up front.

Where is Easter Island?
Easter Island (which the natives call Rapa Nui or Te pito o te henua [“Navel of the World”]) is in the middle of the South Pacific. It’s owned by Chile but it’s really nowhere near Chile (2200 miles away/a 5-hour flight) and has more of a Polynesian influence. It is the world’s most isolated speck (63 square miles) of populated land, as this screenshot from Google Earth clearly shows:

Isn’t that the place with the big heads?
Yes—and they’re called Moai. They were erected during the height of the Rapa Nui civilization. There is a lot of mystery about these ancient people, a civilization that rose and fell hard in 1000 years. More on that when I’m there…

What language do they speak?
Spanish and Rapa Nui, the ancient language of the natives. The natives also had a rather cool-looking written language called Rongorongo, but this has never been deciphered.

Why are you going to such a weird and isolated place?
Because it’s such a weird and isolated place. It’s very mysterious and different and exotic, and I never really seriously considered it until I read a travel piece that the playwright Edward Albee wrote after visiting (click here to read it). I guess that made me realize that people can really just go there.

And why Chile?
Easter Island is owned by Chile, so the only way to get there is on LAN Airlines via Santiago (Easter Island actually has NASA to thank for it’s full-size runway because it was installed by the US government as an emergency landing option for the Space Shuttle). I initially had no interest in spending time in Chile, but as I read about it I fell in love—especially with the wilds of Patagonia. So I’ll be spending a few days in Santiago and the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Then I fly down to Patagonia, mainly visiting Torres del Paine National Park to see glaciers and penguins). Then 5 days on Easter Island. All told, I’m away a little over 2 weeks:

Is Chile the stupidest-shaped country in the world?

Click here for a good brief summary of Easter Island or Click here for the article on Wikipedia.

One more word on Papa

A few of you have asked if you can make donations in my Papa’s memory. It is very thoughtful and of course completely unnecessary, but if you would like to do something then we are asking that donations be made to the Schepens Eye Institute. As my eulogy pointed out, my grandfather was nearly blind. He suffered from a rare, degenerative eye disease that struck him sometime before I was born and caused his vision to worsen throughout his life. The Schepens Eye Institute is an ophthalmology research center at Harvard Medical School; the information is below. My Papa's name was Dr. Max Henry Tischler, and please have them send the acknowledgement for the donation to my dad (Jeffrey Tischler, 21 Glenbrook Road, Monsey, NY 10952) who will be most touched.

Donations in his memory should be directed to:
Schepens Eye Research Institute
Development Office
20 Staniford Street
Boston, MA 02114

Donations should include a note so that they can acknowledge both the donor and the family. If you have any additional questions please contact:
Richard A. Godfrey
Volunteer Patient Liaison
Schepens Eye Research Institute
20 Staniford St., Boston, MA 02114
(617) 912-2569


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