A fantastic day in every way! Today we left the hotel at 7:30 and headed to El Teniente Copper mines, about two hours south of Santiago. We were on one of those buses that makes you fall asleep the second that you step on it, so I looked at the beautiful mountains (the Andes on the left, the Coastal Mountains on the right) for a bit, and then conked out. Oh, well. Once we got to the mine, we all put on mining gear- heavy iron reinforced boots, a bright orange jacket, a respirator, a belt with a locater machine and another breathing apparatus on it, and hard hats on goggles. So that ROCKED. El Teniente is the largest underground copper mine in the world. However, in the 40 minutes it took us to drive from the offices to the entrance to the mine, we got to see some above ground things like the pools for separating the copper and the smelting stuff. One interesting thing about CODELCO, the company that owns El Teniente, is that it’s trying now to be more green so it’s planting trees all over, though in many places they haven’t taken due to the heavy pollution.
Inside the mine was so cool. We had about 2 kilometers of mountain above us. There were all sorts of safety doors and devices, so the air down there was actually more fresh than the air above ground. It was very cold and some parts of the floor were wet. We almost got to see huge rocks being crushed, but unfortunately the machine was broken so we only got to take pictures of it. Everything in the mine is now done by machinery and computers, so there aren’t any more miners in the traditional sense. Instead we went to see the men who control the machines from an office as far as 2 km away, and some people even got to control the machine and smash stuff. I, alas, did not have the chance- which is good ‘cause I’m pretty sure I would have broken it. Those guys have amazing comfy chairs that have the levers on the side like a virtual reality game, or something.
Next we went to see them mystical crystal of El Tenamiente, a part of the mine which has huge crystals in it and was thus never mined to keep its integrity. The miners believe it gives them energy.
(okay, after this I left to go to a dance club and as I write this I am very very drunk since I chugged a mojito, what the fuck. So, forgiv e me if this makes no sense.)
Ok…. Um, after the crystal, well- actually, the crystal was before the guys with the control of the machine, we left the mine to go to the Sewell mining town. Sewell is BADASS. It is currently a ghost town, but it was in use until the ‘70’s when the mine was nationalized. Originally the mine was owened by an American company. Sewell is amazing- I highly encourage you to look it up on Wikipedia or wherever- it is built in the Andes and it is tall and colorful and completely badass. Many of the building were demolished, but many important ones are still there. There were big divisions in Sewell regarding class- the Americans lived in one section with nice houses that got a lot of sun, and the workers lived elsewhere. No surprise. Sewell was a super Americanized town, but it seems that many Chileans didn’t mind because they thought Americans were better bosses than Chileans. Sewell was the first place in Chile to have a bowling alley, and the first place for American movies to come, even though it’s this random far off town in the mountains. But a lot of Americans engineers etc. lived there.
So. It’s this cool town and it’s all made of stairs since it’s on a huge mountain and I loved it and I am drunk. Um… There is other stuff. There’s a cool museum there. I’m not sure why they abandoned the mine but I think it was because it was unsafe and also after the mines were nationalized. Our tour guide was amazing and super-knowledgeable, and they’re trying now to get the town restored so it can attract tourism, etc. CODELCO doesn’t want to pay for it anymore since it’s not really part of their operations.
This brings to mind the perception of Americans in Chile. Evidently they really like us for the most part. I’m not sure why, except that Chile is the most right wing country in Latin America, probably (although rightwing by LA standards, not US standards.)
Anyway. After Sewell (lunch was also at Sewell but it wasn’t great) we headed home. I was kinda annoyed with the group, but I think that was leftover sadness from yesterday. When Lisa and I got back we decide to go back to Baquedano/Bellavista, which is now my favorite place in Santiago. It’s amazing. We first went to the market place, where I bought some presents for people and interview this amazingly nice guy about the politics of Chile- IN SPANISH. Yes, that’s right, I spoke it! A LOT. AND UNDERSTOOD IT. SO I ROCK OK THANKS. He also said that Lisa was like a gift from heaven and a fantasy from a movie… and that I was very diplomatic. Is it ok that I actually felt complimented by this? Oh, Latin American men. I want to marry one. I think that the Latin American perception of life mixed with mine could really help me. Anyway, the market was GREAT. I bought a fat penguin made from lapis lazuli (a stone that is only found here), a bracelet, and a bunch of gifts.
We then went to dinner in Bellavista. It was a nice little place where Lisa and I had empanadas and sat on the sidewalk and looked around. Four amazing guys- one on the sax, one on the trumpet, a guy on drums and a kid on drums- came by and spontaneously serenaded us so I gave them a bit of money. The empanadas were great. We hung around and talked and it was so so beautiful and nice. I LOVE LOVE SANGTIAGO OK. I spoke more Spanish to the waiter. After dinner we headed back to the hotel and I showered quickly and put on my Grecian dress that I hadn’t worn yet from Nevermind, and then started this blog and headed off to a bar. We were going to meet up with the rest of our group at a place called Kamasul, which is the most famous bar in Chile.
Unfortunately, it was like 11:30 and Maria Cruz, our guide, said that they probably didn’t open ‘till 12:30 or 1 (oh, Chileans.) So, instead of meeting Maria Cruz and everyone else at the place where we were eating, Nick, Steve, Marielle, Maggie, Lisa and I headed off to a place called Club Habana. We had a hard time finding it but we wandered around the city and that was pretty fun. Once we found it, we all sat down and had a mojito, the last half of which I chugged because Lisa did and the hot waiter told me to. This was not wise, given that I had had a beer earlier in the night. But I am young! So fuck it. Then we danced and Marielle who is Cuban showed me how. SO MUCH FUN. After that they all went on to Kamisol, but I was pretty drunk so Lisa and I decided to head back, especially since we’ll go out with them again tomorrow. And thus, I write to you this entry at 1:51 PM. DRUNK. Hee.
Ok, some other things I’ve been meaning to mention but haven’t:
-There are stray dogs EVERYWHERE in Chile. They have no pound here. I want to feed and or take every single one home with me, but I am not allowed, says everyone else. L We saw a gross pregnant dog today at the mines, and a half blind dog with a limp. I am sad. I hope they are all okay.
-The phrase on the Presidential flag for Chile is “Por razon o por fuerza”. This means “By reason or by force.” This is especially interesting given what happened to Allende.
-La Moneda was bombed during the coup, and in the place where they have a memorial to Allende they kept some of the old burned brick next to the new brick to symbolize unity. This is interesting given that the palace was built during Pinochet- I know the memorial didn’t come until after, but I wonder if the brick was always like that. Also Pinochet is not pictured in the palace at all since he wasn’t ever elected in a fair election, but there’s controversy over this apparently.
-There are signs all over the city to free the “Mapuche Political Prisoners”. Evidently the Mapuche, the native tribe in Chile that successfully fought Spanish rule for hundreds of years, is protesting their treatment and being discriminated against and some were taken prisoner. So there’s graffiti all over. More on this later, probably.
OK BED TIME. (I love it here.)
We had a little bit of a later morning today. We met at the bus at 9:30 and then went to the Universidad de Desarollo in one of the most wealthy/upscale areas of Santiago- it really showed the disparity in wealth that is here. A Professor from the University lectured on the political/economic climate of Chile. I really can’t completely wrap my head around it yet because while the Chileans like Americans and are, unfortunately, at least a little Americanized/globalized due to their very very open economy (which is good for the economy, evidently, although there’s still a huge disparity in wealth, again…) they are also very very different. I can’t decide if Chile should be considered right or left wing. It’s definitely right wing for Latin America, even though the current president is socialist. However, abortion here is not legal (owing probably to the religion). So I recognize that American standards don’t apply here- Latin American standards do- but I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around what those standards are. We’re only here for another couple of days so I don’t know if I’ll have time to get it completely. Ah well. I will come back. Chile is so different more American and yet really similar- and people here are the same as people everywhere, I think. :-D Anyway the university was cool and there were some cute students there.
It has made me think more about travelling. I think whenever I go somewhere from now on, I’ll read a book about the recent history before I go. It really illuminates some things. For example, everywhere in Chile that is says that you can’t do something, it cites the exact law that says that. You can buy a copy of the law at any newsstand. This is sort of creepy given Chile’s recent history has a country ruled by an authoritarian government.
It has been decided that in Argentina I am going to marry a man named Fernando and bring him back home. How Chilean of me! (My mom will be happy. :-p)
I bought postcards today so anyone who wants one, speak up now! (Tim and Caraleigh, I gotcha!)
Something weird I learned: on the first or second day, we went to the coffee bar that I wrote about earlier, called Café Havana. All of the servers were wearing very short skirts and only men where in there. It turns out that according to Lloyd, one of our guides, this is a common thing. It’s called “Coffee with Legs” and they serve coffee during the day and other things at night. So here we were, these tourists in the creepy old man bar…. Haha, fun times!
The big thing here right now is the Teletón. Don Francisco, who is also very famous for a variety show in America, comes back to Chile every year to host it. It’s a telethon like the Jerry Lewis one that raises money for children with disabilities. There are signs for it EVERYWHERE and “Yo Estoy” and “Teletón” is soaped onto EVERY bus. It starts tonight.
Here there is a weird situation with the water. Chileans LOVE bubbly water. They call it “gas” and since water never comes free, even at a meal, you order it “ con gas” or “sin gas”. And I have been getting it from newsstands. So that is a big thing. Good times!
Ok, let’s see. After the University, we went back to the hotel for a bit and then Lisa, Mirelle and her sister who lives in Chile, Maggie, Lindsey, Amanda, the two Professors and I went to El Mercado Central, the fish market in Santiago. It is pretty amazing. There were ridiculous amounts of fish and this literally foot long giant-ass crabs. SO CREEPY. We all ate at a restaurant there, and I meant to get Chilean Sea Bass which is hard to get in the US but I failed due to a misunderstanding while ordering. Instead I got some other kind of fish, but it was still really good, so that’s ok. I had some of Maggie’s sea bass and it was reallllllly good. There were more serenaders there as well. :-D
After we left the fish market, we decided to slowly walk back to La Moneda to go the museum under it. We wandered over really slowly and just looked around the city and took our time. We all went into a bookstore but I didn’t buy anything ‘cause I don’t think I have enough Spanish skills to read it. This trip HAS immensely improved my Spanish, though- take for example my interview yesterday- or if not my Spanish, it’s at least improved my confidence. I need to make sure I keep Spanish up when I get home.
The museum was amazing and super cheap, only 600 pesos. (The conversion is 500 pesos roughly equals $1). We saw some archaeological stuff and an exhibit on Violeta Parra, a famous folk-singer and mother of many other famous Chilean artists. There was also an artisan section that was cool. They were showing a movie about the disappeared at 7:30, which is very relevant to our studies as well.
Lisa, Maggie and Mirelle and her sister didn’t go to the museum, so it was just the professors, Lindsey, Amanda and I. We left the museum intending to come back for the movie, and decided to go visit El Museo de Belles Artes, or the Museum of Beautiful Art. We wandered there in a very roundabout way, and saw the outside of the public library as well as just people watching and staring at the mountains that surround the city. Also, as we were walking along Professor Masud found a check for 21 million pesos, or about $40,000. SERIOUSLY. It was real. So we decided to split it 5 ways :-p. (I’m pretty sure it was a payroll check and that they called the company- but lord, what an adventure!) Unfortunately, when we got the museum it was just closing, but they let us into the lobby to take pictures. The building is a work of art itself and there were some sculptures there. So gorgeous.
After the museum, the two professors decided to head back to the hotel and I decided to go with them instead of seeing the movie because I want to go out tonight. However, Luis wanted to walk, so Felix and I did it as well. It was at least 5 miles and about an hour, but it was SO worth it just to see the city. We walked through a very long park and saw more stray dogs. We stopped at a record store and I got a Silvio Rodriquez CD that was very overpriced. We peopled watches and looked at stores and took it easy. It was great.
Tomorrow we’re going to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar to see those cities as well as one of Pablo Neruda’s other houses, so today was really our last day in Santiago since we’re heading to Mendoza early on Sunday. They have a bunch of markets in Viña, so I need to go get a bit more cash to buy a present for dad. I have fallen absolutely in love with this city and with Latin America. I think Latin America is very much a place that I love, and although it’s history is often tragic it is so interesting and I love studying it.
Next year Felix says they’re going to change the trip and maybe go to Patagonia instead of Mendoza. JEALOUSY. :-D Except for Mendoza will be great. :-D :-D
Just as I was about to post this I found out that Aga, the study abroad coordinator who also came on this trip and who was feeling ill most of the time, had to go to the hospital to have surgery for kidney stones. L It’s a really good hospital and I already heard that she’s ok, but how horrible.
Anyway, she’s ok! So that’s good!
-Mucho amor, Lizzy