Sunday, October 3, 2010

Catching Up on Posting

Chile was unbelievable. In every sense of the word.
And yet, now it seems like a distant memory. I've been having trouble motivating myself to update this blog. It almost seems like the more times I tell the stories of the experience, it seems further away from me.
Now, 2:30 in the morning, listening to Leadbelly and reviewing photographs,
I'm nearing a dangerously high blood-nostalgia content.
Por eso, I'll try to keep to the verbal descriptions to a minimum and let the photos do the talking...

It was the second week of September, and earlier in the week some friends asked if I wanted to go to Chile for the coming long weekend. Wanting to take advantage of every opportunity which arises, I said, "Of Course." The next day, I bought round trip bus tickets and that was that. I didn't even think about it. It was going to be what it was going to be and that was it.
I had a presentation on Friday morning in my Spanish class, went to lunch, took a cab back home, packed quickly, then hopped in a cab to the bus station. I made it there with only about 2 minutes to spare. The bus left at 5 o'clock I believe? And so began my 20 hour bus ride. The trip consisted of six of us from the IES program. Three of the other kids didn't have class on Friday, so we went in two groups.
Here are a couple of pictures from the next morning from the bus window:

Quick Photo Op at the Chilean Border

I believe we arrived in Santiago around 2 in the afternoon. Our phones stopped working, so the six of us wouldn't be able to meet up until later that evening. In the meantime, Dan, Ian and I went walking around the city, exploring the colorful neighborhood. Fortunately, Chile happened to be celebrating their bicentennial the SAME weekend that we were there. (I had no idea of this.) As such, because everyone was out late celebrating and sleeping during the day, or staying at home with their families, the streets barely showed signs of life. We saw few people on the street, and when we passed a park, the only people there were two guys who CLEARLY had not discontinued their celebrations with the sunrise. When I went over to them to ask a question, I saw one of them had a hand covered in blood. I didn't ask about that.
Some things are better left a mystery.

Colorful, quiet streets of Santiago

A girl on the sidewalk plays with streamers

Beautiful street graffiti

We began walking towards a giant hill in the distance, with a Virgin Mary statue at the top.
Though exhausted, we made the trip. It was steep and tiring, but entirely worth it.
We probably hiked for around 30 minutes?
The view was incredible, and it was fun to people-watch.


Overlooking Santiago, I was absolutely in love

The sun began to set at around 5, and we decided to take a box-car lift back down. (I don't know the proper term for it.) We managed the Metro (subway system) to meet up with our friends at the time and place mentioned in a note they left us, but they were nowhere to be found. We waiting 45 minutes and still nothing. Turns out, when we met up with them later, we found out that they did the same thing. Went there, waited, looked around, and nothing. Hmm..... how many college students does it takes to figure out THAT THERE'S A TIME CHANGE. They changed their watches and we did not. Either way, we met up with them later that night at the hostel we were staying at, which really was a great place.
That night, one of the employees was celebrating his birthday on the patio with a bunch of friends and a bunch of liquor. Some were people from the hostel, travelers, but most were natives of Chile. I was able to converse with them, which was awesome, though they made fun of my Argentinian accent. (Ex: Castellano in Argentina is pronounced "Cah-steh-shah-no." In just about every other Spanish-speaking country they pronounce the LL as Y: "Cah-steh-yah-no.") Nonetheless, awesomeness. They brought "pisco" which is one of the national liquors of Chile. Pisco Sours are most traditional, but they only had the fixins for Pisco and Coke, which was still

I went to bed at about 4ish, and woke up at 6:30 to go skiing. For all of those who are reading this and know me, yes, the experience was about as ridiculous as you're imagining in your head. For those who DON'T know me: (a.) I had never been skiing, (b.) I have the spacial reasoning of a bumper car, (c.) my sense of balance is like a drunk deer on an ice rink, and (c.) who are you and why are you reading my blog?
Anyways, I'll try to keep this short.
-Got picked up by a van
-Headed to a ski rental place
-Got geared up in goggles, gloves, snow pants, skis, shoes, and those stick thingies
-Friends left me for a difficult slope, pointed out where I could take a day class
-Did not have enough money to take a class
-Decided to teach myself
-Struggled trying to figure out how to put my skis on while trying to figure out how to do so without slipping down the slope in only one of them
-I fell
-I face-dived
-I got snow up my nose

The slope I was on was the most basic one, so it was pretty much just parents helping their kids, which means no time to lend a helping hand to the American girl belly flopping down the hill. Um.... so I did THAT for a while, then stopped and got myself some lunch.

The currency conversion between Argentine pesos and Chilean pesos is ridiculous.
Por ejemplo, take a look at the receipt below:

Yes, that is a $7,000 Cheeseburger.

Finally, after relaxing on a balcony overlooking the snow-covered Andes mountains, I decided to dive back in. (Hm... oddly appropriate verb choice.) FORTUNATELY I met these two friendly boys who were experienced in skiing and snowboarding, and helped me for the next hour of two. Since they were SIGNIFICANTLY more skilled than myself, I let one of them bring my camera half-way down the hill where we took a few pictures.

"Um.... no seriously, I cannot get up."

At around 5, things started shutting down. We took the van back to the ski-rental place, returned our stuff, returned to the hostel, quickly packed our things, grabbed a cab to the bus station, and bought tickets to Valparaiso. It's an hour and a half bus ride, and cost I think 7 USD each way. Goodness, there is so much to tell of almost making things and getting losts and separated and hostel nonsense but I'm tired, so I'm gonna skip ahead to when the six of us are all together and at our hostel.

SO, we really lucked out at the hostel we were staying at, La Casa de Henao. (I recommend it to anyone who goes to Valparaiso.) For 13 dollars a night, the six of us got a WHOLE HOUSE to ourselves, because the main part of the hostel was already booked, and the house was for overflow. The place was gorgeous and brand new. It was a real shame we could only stay in Valparaiso for one night. Anyways, at around midnight we left for this carnival thing, which was part of the bicentenario celebrations.

Skyline of the carnival

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. Those are churros covered in chocolate with sprinkles.

Live music in a tent with DANCING DANCING DANCING (like one continuous song for hours)

We left the carnival at around 5ish? Walked around for a while, and probably got back at about 6, 6:30ish.

Valparaiso at night

The next day we got to leave our stuff at the house while we went out exploring.
Here's the six of us in front of the house:

There was this big air show by the coast, so we walked down to check it out. It seemed like everyone in Valparaiso AND Santiago were there for the weekend. Valparaiso has got to be, now, one of my favorite places in the world. It was just UNBELIEVABLY beautiful, full of culture, full of life, but still tranquilo.

From the airshow, we walked down the road to this place that the people at the hostel recommended for fresh seafood. It was fantasticcccc....

More graffiti in the city

We walked around the town a bit more, then hopped on a city bus to Viña del Mar, about a 40ish minute bus ride out of Valparaiso. We weren't really sure what we were looking for, so when we hopped out of the bus we had to walk towards the shore for about 20-30 minutes, but it was a beautiful day, and a BEAUTIFUL walk.

When we got down to the shore, we got delicious ice cream, and then headed to the beach. It was a warm day, but the water was COLD. This didn't keep Dan from stripping down to his boxers and running in and then making a horrified facial expression like he was screaming so high pitched our human ears could not hear him. After spending some time relaxing there, we realized it was six, and that our bus back to Santiago left at 8:30. SO we ran back up the hill, hopped on a city bus, scurried to the hostel, packed up our stuff like crazies, bused to the station, and hopped on with not a MINUTE to spare. One of us was nearly left behind because he tried to get snacks before. Oh the dangers of snacking....
By the time we got back to Santiago with all of our things, we were pretty pooped. We settled for some crazy good pizza, a bottle of pisco, and hanging out with some travelers in the hostel. I was up 'til 4, but a few of my friends didn't sleep. I was woken up at 6, gathered my things, and we left. Walk>>metro>>bus.
We hopped on our bus, and 24 hours later we were back in Buenos Aires, at 7 am, all going back to the class that same day.

Oh, you know, just another typical weekend in South America....
(but in all seriousness I would like so badly to live in the country of Chile for about four months. At least.)

I know I'm still wayyy behind in keeping up to date with this thing but I'm tired, and am going to go to Tigre in the morning with the mother, father, and brother, who are in town visiting for the week.

Hasta Luego!

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