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Families Of Chilean Miners Prepare For The Big Day

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Families Of Chilean Miners Prepare For The Big Day

Latin America

Families Of Chilean Miners Prepare For The Big Day

Families Of Chilean Miners Prepare For The Big Day

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Living in constant uncertainty in the middle of the desert has been hard for the families of the trapped miners in Chile. And now that the rescue is imminent, many of their wives and daughters are taking time to relax and get beauty treatments.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Rescuers in Chile today successfully tested the capsule that's designed to bring 33 miners to safety. Workers lowered the empty capsule, dubbed the Phoenix, 2000 feet underground - just short of where the miners have been trapped since early August. The plan is for the men to be brought up one by one starting late tomorrow night.

Annie Murphy has been covering the story for us, and we'll be talking with her more in a moment about what's expected to happen when the miners reach the surface. First, she sent us this story about some preparations by family members - preparations at a beauty salon.

(soundbite of voices and traffic)

ANNIE MURPHY: The Palumbo(ph) Salon in Copiapo, Chile sits in a mall parking lot. This afternoon, it looks pretty ordinary: families out to run errands, a teenage employee collecting shopping carts. The inside of the salon is pretty typical, too: swivel chairs and sinks, the sharp smell of ammonia and nail polish, and the hum of conversation between female clients and their stylists. But these women aren't just dropping in for a cut and color. They're the wives and daughters of the 33 trapped miners, and they're preparing to welcome their family members back to life above ground.

MURPHY: Heties Henriquez is the daughter of miner Jose Henriquez. She's touching up the roots on her long black hair, getting a massage and a manicure.

Ms. HETIES HENRIQUEZ: (Spanish spoken)

MURPHY: Heties says, they're treating us really well, pampering us. It's necessary after two months. It's necessary. She says it's been difficult to live at the camp, but not impossible. It really tests what a person is capable of being, she says.

Monica Araya is getting her hair highlighted and straightened, and waiting for four of the trapped miners: her husband, Florencio Avalos, as well as her brother, her uncle and her brother-in-law.

Ms. MONICA ARAYA: (Spanish spoken)

MURPHY: She says, this is a good way to forget the anxiety for a little while, and to pull myself together. The sun has done a lot of damage. Our hair and skin is dry because of the sun and the air.

These women have been camped out in one of the harshest environments imaginable. The Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world. While piercing daytime sun simmers the camp, nighttime temperatures have people shivering in their sleeping bags. But getting their hair cut and colored, straightened or curled, their nails painted and a massage is about much more than fixing the damage the environment has done to their physical appearance. For many of these women, it's the first time they've been able to step outside the frenzy and drama of the camp. 26-year-old Claudia Achu(sp)is one of the stylists working with these women.

Ms. CLAUDIA ACHU (hair stylist): (Spanish spoken)

MURPHY: Claudia says, we were told not to make any big changes. Not to cut a lot off, not to make to make drastic changes in color or cut really strong bangs because they're really sensitive, and you don't want them to feel lost or like someone else. If they feel uncomfortable, they're not going to enjoy the moment that they see their family members. Claudia, whose own hair is feathered and dyed cranberry red, says that her job is always a mix of beauty and therapy. This time the circumstances just happen to be more intense.

Ms. ACHU: (Spanish spoken)

MURPHY: We're hairdressers and psychologists too, she says. This is a therapy for everyone. Everyone has a right to put themselves together and look better. Claudia and the other stylists from Palumbo will soon be setting up a mobile salon in Camp Hope, to make sure these women look and feel their best when the miners reach the surface.

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