My Trip to Chile

A Journal

by David Flapan

Welcome back Dave! How was vacation?
I received this inquiry often over the last few weeks. So in response, I decided to actually tell you, with this official summary. It turned out to be a rather extensive article, even after editing. It is divided into sections:

Notes on Chile;
Interesting Foods/Eating Events;
Sites of Interest;
Language/Culture Notes;
Buenos Aires/Uruguay notes.

I arrived in Santiago on November 10.
The plane ride was a total of 16 hours. This was flown in a period of 30 hours. Movies on the flight were: "Lethal Weapon IV," (which I have not seen and did not care to) and "The Spanish Prisoner" (which I had not seen and did care to, and did, and it was free).

I was staying with Marcela, a friend I met in Chicago, who has a large condo. She picked me up after midnight from the airport. She has a white car with stick shift. I had to pay an entry tax of $45. Marcela says that Chile charges only US citizens this tax, and only because it is also charged to Chileans when they enter the US. I stayed in Santiago, the capital of Chile, for 16 days.

Notes: - Every day was sunny and in the high 70s. Apparently, in November, they just don't have clouds, much less rain, in Santiago. Nice for people like me, but not locally. Water is necessary, not just for plant life, but also to keep the electricity going. Since there wasn't enough, they implemented rolling blackouts.
- If one wants hot water in a residence in Santiago, one must light the pilot light. Originally, I thought this was for hot water for tea. But it was for all cases, including showers, shaving, dishes, etc.!
- Milk is not available in bottles. Only in cardboard boxes, similar to the boxes here for soy, non-dairy milk. Seems rather advantageous in a way, as it did not need to be refrigerated. It still tasted fine.
- Marcela lives on the east side of Santiago, in a good neighborhood called "Las Condes." She is one block from the subway (which costs 45 cents).
- The Santiago subway is very impressive. It is clean, inexpensive, speedy, and I never waited more than 5 minutes for a train.
- Despite the Chilean currency of pesos, all monetary amounts in this article/essay will be quoted in dollars. Around 480 Chilean pesos equal one US dollar. This often made for episodes of hilarity. "Whaddya mean that CD costs five thousand pesos?!? Oh, $10? Ok then."
- Unfortunately my gym shoes were stolen. I had stored them in my checked bag. We thought I may have forgotten them, but they were not at home 3 weeks later. So I bought Nikes at a factory outlet we found. They were crosstrainers, for $45.
- All students (children 5-17) are required to wear uniforms in all schools.
- Most people were very friendly and helpful. I am sure it helped that I always tried to communicate in Spanish. But some people went out of their way to be friendly. Best example is Roy.
My second day in Chile, I was walking around Las Condes. I went into a computer store. Since it was my first in South America, I was amazed and wide-eyed. Roy worked there, and we immediately got to talking. We did so for an hour, and then we went to lunch together. What a country!
- We took a field trip to Vina Del Mar (Vineyard of the Sea). It is a resort town 80 minutes from Santiago. Mountains separated us, so we drove through the tunnel. ($4 toll) It was long, at least a mile! Town was on the beach. On the other side somewhere could have been Australia. Waves were rather high, so that was exciting, but the water may have been the coldest I'd ever experienced, so didn't swim much (although I did use the occassion to finally buy a new, updated swimsuit!).

Other notable highlights include:
- VDM has a bird and a clock garden that are made entirely of flowers! And the clock works!
- Since it was a Monday, the disco was closed, so we went to the casino! It was rather exciting to play all of the familiar games in Spanish, and learn some new ones. We also visited the town next door, Valparaiso. It is a port town. The highlight there was the visit to a historic elevator. It was more like a cable car. (.50) It took us up a mountian. But it is so old, that it is on the official list of 100 Historic Places. The little field trip was intense and exciting! When we got home, I joked that my mini-vacation from my vacation is over, now I can get on from my real vacation!
- On November 25, Agusto Pinochet was found to be without immunity. I didn't understand the situation all that clearly, but it was rather exciting to be in Chile at that time, and there was much rioting and protesting and demonstrating going on.

More Coming Soon!