Monday, September 2, 2013

Santiago!

I've been bad about updating, but I’m in Chile! Internet access has been spotty (or rather, I've been too busy to find it), and I think once-a-week updates will be the norm from here on out.

The crazy packing and last-minute-stuff-acquisition stories will have to wait for another time, but miraculously, by the time I got to Miami (my final leg of the Portland->Atlanta->Miami->Santiago journey), I had just about everything on my list.

The flight was uneventful, except that for the first time in my life I was on a plane where the primary language spoken was not one in which I was fluent. One would think it would have been an excellent opportunity to practice what little Spanish I do know (“Un jugo de tomato picante, por favor”, "¿Quién se tiró un pedo?"), but I shamefully wussed out and slept the whole way (or pretended to be sleeping). There was one on-board medical emergency that made me grateful I elected not to put the freshly-earned “Dr.” title in the box when I booked my tickets.

The conversation that didn’t occur:

Steward: “Maam, one of your fellow passengers needs medical attentions.”
Me: “I’m a rock doctor, not a people doctor, sorry.”
Steward: rolls eyes and thinks, “Douche”.

My excitement about the trip went from excited to HELL YEAH WOOOOOOO!!!!! Thanks to two key moments. First, just before leaving Miami I received an email with this weather report for the mountains:

Snow dump! Although the forecast later changed to rain, rain, and more rain.


Then, about an hour from landing during the flight, I woke up to the smell of airplane breakfast (chewy mini-croissant with fake butter and an aliquot of orange juice, yay), rolled up the window, and this is what greeted me:

Santiago, check out those MOUNTAINS!!!


Oh yeah, this is gonna be baller.

It took me two hours from landing to escaping the airport. The customs and agricultural inspection lines were ridiculous and I didn’t have a connected smartphone I could use to keep me entertained, egad!, but everyone was really polite, despite my bumbling attempts at gesticulation and liberal application of “Por favor” to try to figure out what I was supposed to be doing. I happily paid the $160 “recriprosity fee” (just what it sounds like: Chile’s policy is to charge the visitors from a given country whatever their home country charges Chileans to visit, so hey, that’s fair enough, sorry we’re assholes, Chile) and got a neat receipt-like thing for my passport in exchange. Saw some super cute dogs in the Ag Inspection line. Then a whole team of agricultural inspectors banded together to help me figure out how to get in touch with my friend Ignacio (including one of them loaning me her cell phone), who I was supposed to visit but, having neglected to write down his address before I left, the trip was more difficult than it should have been.

My ridiculous amount of luggage. Big backpack full of camping and backpacking gear + all of my clothes for a year, snowboarding bag full of...snowboarding stuff...and little backpack with my laptop, notebook, camera, and a bunch of chargers. Check out that hard-working puppy. (Ann, this one is for you)

Then the taxi ride. “Es circa el Templo” apparently wasn’t clear enough, so once again a team of people descended to figure things out. This would happen several more times that day, so it seems to be not that I’m just that helpless, but rather just how things are done in Chile. Anyhow, I made it safe and sound! Although the taxi ride took about twice as long as it should have because these guys were all over the street:



This is my charmed travel life where crazy awesome stuff just happens whenever I happen to be somewhere. Turns out there was a festival going on centered less than a block from where my friend lives (which happens to be Chile’s most important temple, and it happened to be Cuasimodo, a holiday celebrating not the famed hunchback, but for a battle where the Spanish were chased out of Santiago, paving the way for Chilean independence), and we rode with people coming in for the parade.
Poor Ignacio, despite being pretty, how to say, "tired", from partying until 7am the night before, then fed me breakfast and took me on an incredible tour of the entire city. And I mean the entire city. At least one full East/West transect. Imagine touring L.A. from Venice Beach to Arcadia, by bus, subway, and [mostly] by foot, and you’ll know why I got blisters and am totally pooped (it was great).

Templo Maipu
Mountains as a backdrop for the city
That's one big flag

Check out more photos in the Santiago Album!

Midway we stopped for lunch at a Peruvian restaurant, the reasoning being that I’ll get plenty of Chilean food on this trip, and Peruvian food is awesome. It was awesome. Best ceviche I’ve ever had, and one of the best steaks I’ve ever had, and Pisco Sour, the national drink of Chile (but this was the Peruvian version), which was also the best (albeit only) Pisco I had ever had.

After making it all the way out to the foothills of the Andes, we turned around and headed home. Again, we were delayed on the way, this time not by huasos, but by a jam of cars driving through the city, honking their horns, waving Syrian (and Iranian, and Iraqi, and Egyptian flags) and yelling to protest the U.S./U.N. decision to go to war with Syria.

We eventually made it back, where I lasted all of 5 minutes into a 6-line ultra-simple Spanish conversation before my brain gave up and shut off, and that’s where I was at when I wrote this.

Thank you Ignacio for the wonderful time in your beautiful city!

Professor Dr. Señor Poblete outside his office. The last time I saw him he had neither of the first two titles...
and dressed significantly less like a Professor Dr. Señor.