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November 08, 2004

More on Santiago

I've only had a few days in Santiago, but they've been really enjoyable. I arrived on Friday night, and was picked up from the Metro by Cote and Cata. Cote is the brother of a woman my mom works with; Cata's his girlfriend, and I've been staying at her house with her, her mom, Doris; and her brother, Daniel. They've been so welcoming--one of the first things Cata said to me was "La casa es pequeña, pero la corazon es grande"--The house is small, but the heart is big--and they've proved that to be true. The house is in the Nuñoa neighborhood, a middle-class residential area that's east of downtown. One interesting thing I've noticed is that every house has a wall/gate around it, so the streets don't have a very neighborhood-y vibe and you don't see a lot of people out playing or talking in the streets. I wonder how well these people know/get along with their neighbors!

Cata and Cote took me out to a bar with them on Friday night to celebrate a friend's birthday, but we had a relatively early night by Santiago standards, getting home around 2:15 because they had to work the next morning--they're both in their final month of medical school and really busy, but still made a little time for me.

The next morning I had the house to myself until the afternoon, when Cote's mom, Carmen Delia, picked me up and took me around the city for a few hours. She was so nice, and so patient, even taking me to a few shops to look at jewelry and helping me pick out postcards. We stopped first at Palacio La Moneda, where the president used to live, and out front in Plaza de la Constitucion was a huge exhibit of what they call cuerpos pintados--all were photographs of painted bodies, and they were really amazing. Then we drove through part of downtown, did a little shopping, and ended up in Parque Metropolitano, which is located on Cerro Cristobal, a big hill in the middle of town that has a statue of the Virgin Mary on top. The views of the city were great and helped me get my bearings a little bit, and the park was a lovely oasis from the craziness of the city.

Carmen Delia drove me through a few neighborhoods in a nearby valley, then took me out for the hugest ice cream cone I think I've ever had! It was a waffle cone with huge scoops of three flavors--amaretto, frutos del bosque (means fruits--as in products--of the forest, and had a kind of mixed berry flavor with a little nuttiness), and crema mora (sort of a vanilla with a stripe of blueberry in it). As if that wasn't enough, I had the whole thing dipped in that chocolate that hardens over the top. YUM.

That night, I had a true night out on the town. We had dinner around 11, then Cata hooked me up with some of her clothes so I could feel like a normal person out on the town--I was even able to fit into her red leather boots! Cata and Cote were worn out from working all day, so I went out with Daniel, his girlfriend Paola, and a few other people, around 12:15 or so. There were six of us all piled into a Volkswagon beetle, and it seemed like we drove all over town and I could never keep track of where we were--we could have been going in circles for all I know! But it seemed like at every stoplight, I'd see a similar group crowded into a small car, also looking for a party. Even really late at night, there were people in the plazas, and walking around town--this place doesn't seem to sleep! In the car we seemed to listen to a lot of 80s music, and it was funny listening to them sing along when they don't quite know or understand the words. I particularly remember Daniel singing along to an old Spin Doctors song, only knowing the "If you" part, and singing that every time.

First, we went to a bar in the Bellavista neighborhood called Casa en el Aire where they had a guy with a guitar singing Chilean folk and patriotic songs that everyone knew the words to, and everyone was singing along, clapping, and really getting into it--these were mostly young hip people, and I was struck by how "uncool" such behavior would typically be in the U.S., but they were totally into it, and I felt like I really stood out since I was pretty much the only person not singing!

Around 3:00, we arrived at our next place, a hip club with no sign out front that they told me was called, aptly, Clandestina. They told me it's really small inside, and people have to wait out front until enough people come out that they can get in. Normally I have a pretty strict policy that I don't wait to get in anywhere, but I didn't have much of a choice, and luckily we only had to wait about 20 minutes. It was a cool place, kind of reminiscent of a mellow place with a dance floor that I'd easily see in SF, but they told me this kind of scene is pretty rare in Santiago--most places to dance are huge clubs playing techno and with a million dance floors. The music at this place wasn't all good, but they did play Cornershop and New Order--Julian, a guy in our party, didn't know the Cornershop song ("Brimful of Asha," for those who might know), but enthusiastically blurted out "Forty-five!" every time that part of the song repeated.

We left when they closed the place down at 5 (I think they can serve booze all night here), and I was happy to hear we were next in search of food. After scoping out a few places that all had really long lines, we ended up at a quiet place pretty close to the house. They served a sandwich called As--which means Ace--but the sign said Ass, which we all got a laugh out of. The sandwiches were amazing--I ended up having two! It has thinly sliced beef, similar to that of a cheesesteak, with tomatoes, guacamole, and a huge dollop of mayonnaise, on a hot dog bun (they also serve the same thing with a hot dog instead of beef, called a completo). Today, I had a somewhat similar sandwich to the as called a churrasco, also loaded with mayonnaise and avocado. These people do love their mayonesa and palta (I have no idea why they don't call them aguacate here), and I love them for it.

Anyway, after two sandwiches that probably went straight to my thighs, we went back to the house and went straight to bed, just after 6 am. Luckily I was able to sleep until 11 or so, and didn't feel too much the worse for wear. I'm just proud of myself for making it through the night!

Even though staying here has been great, and I know I've gotten to see a really different side of Santiago, it has been an adjustment, especially because the house is not close to the Metro, so I couldn't come and go exactly as I pleased--until today, when I pushed for info on how to get a bus to the Metro. Yesterday I had to wait for Daniel to drive me to the Metro, and then I went to the Mercado Central, a huge market that's supposed to be the best place in Santiago for seafood. I had an obnoxiously large bowl of ceviche--couldn't resist--and another bowl of paila marina, the local seafood soup. It was loaded with stuff, much of which I couldn't quite identify, and I realized how scary seafood can be. I didn't like every piece, but overall the flavor was great and I really enjoyed the meal.

After the mercado, I went to the Museo de Arte Precolombino, which happens to be free on Sundays, and was pretty impressive, including art from Mexico all the way through South America. They had some kinds of things I haven't seen at similar museums elsewhere down here. I'm afraid I can't remember what else I did on Sunday! That might be it.

On Monday, I packed up a bit then headed out on my own, navigating the bus to the Metro with ease. I went to Cerro Santa Lucia, another park on a hill with some great views; a nearby artesan market where I bought a few souvenirs; the Biblioteca Nacional, with an interesting exhibit on Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, and another Chilean writer whose name I can't remember; and a cozy internet cafe where they played great music and I uploaded a bunch of photos.

I went back to the house to pack, had a quickie snack with Cata and Daniel and took a few photos, then headed to the bus station for my overnight bus to Temuco--more on that in the next entry!

Posted by Amy on November 8, 2004 04:37 PM
Category: Chile
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