Day 6- Teletón, Teletón!
Yesterday was the first day of the Teletón. Evidently the banks stayed open all night so people could go get money. Lisa and I watched a bit- Michelle Bachelet was there and also was in a filmed segment where she was in a hospital with the sick kids who the Teletón benefits… and they had her sitting in a wheel chair. WHAT. If that happened in the US, Fox wouldn’t let anyone hear the end of it EVER. Anyway, all day we were seeing teletón signs and going, “Teletón, Teletón!” because it is a very fun word to say.
Today was a GREAT GREAT day. We started off the morning early, at 7:30, and skeedaddled off to Isla Negra, Viña del Mar, and Valparaíso. I can’t overemphasize enough the amazingness. :-D We did fun things like see on the highway signs for some company that said “Super Cerdo” and “Super Pollo” meaning Super Pig and Super Chicken. I pet a friendly stray dog (seriously, they’re EVERYWHERE.) outside a gas station. Our guide from the beginning, whose name is actually spelled Mauricio, was with us again and he was wearing a Captain America t-shirt. Oh, lordy. One interesting thing that I have discovered about Chile is that they don’t tend to build their roads winding up and around the mountains- instead, they cut through them. Maybe this has something to do with them doing a lot of mining. Anyway, the bus ride was nice. We went through two win valleys where the best wine from Chile is grown. Lindsey and I had a great conversation about Obama, and then Lisa and I talked politics for a bit too.
Isla Negra was AMAZING. We saw one of Pablo Neruda’s other homes. This is the biggest one, right on the ocean with an AMAZING view, and it is the house where he did most of his writing. The house was still very very ship like, but not as much as La Chascona. This one was “like Chile” because it was very long and started in the North and went South. Neruda travelled extensively- when he was 23 he was a diplomat for Chile in the Far East and then later he was exiled from Chile for his communist beliefs. He had gifts and objects that he’d collected from all over the world from Mexico to Nigeria. He collected ships figureheads (GORGOUS ONES), butterflys, guitars, shells and sexy pictures, just to name a few things. He also had an amazing mural… It’s really hard to describe unless you see it but it just felt so homey and right. I want to be him. He also had a narwhal tusk, a HUGE one. It was super cool. Unfortunately we couldn’t take pictures inside the house. But the ones outside are great.
I haven’t mentioned the weather in Chile, yet, I don’t think. It’s been amazing. About 75/80 every day with a breeze- it’s springtime for them right now. Isla Negra, Viña, and Valparaíso were all amazing. And they smelled SO good- like the ocean and like flowers. It was so relaxing. After the tour of Neruda’s home, we sat by his grave for a bit and talked to Mauricio. I have a little crush on him. He is very funny and possibly the best tour guide ever. After that, we shopped a bit and I meant to buy something for mom but couldn’t decide and then it was too late and we were leaving. L Sorry muther! I’ll show you the pictures though!
We then drove an hour to Valparaíso and Viña, which are next to each other. On the way there, Mauricio entertained us by reading poetry and playing guitar- both songs he wrote, in English and Spanish, and American classic rock songs. He also did a couple traditional Chilean ones. It was really fun!! I have video of it and will upload it when I get back.
Valparaíso. Oh my God, Valparaíso. I love Santiago, don’t get me wrong but…. I want to LIVE in Valparaíso. It’s built in a semi-circular hill around the ocean, so the whole city starts low and goes up. It smells FANTASTIC and is much less hurried and relaxed. One of the first things we saw was a guy in stilts walking through traffic. Fun. :-D As soon as we got into the city, we went to the Yacht Club which is right on the Pacific Ocean, of course, for lunch. It was obviously really nice but nothing to write home about, other than the view- I would have liked to try a smaller place in the city, but what can you do. Professor Larrea got pretty drunk though. Fun times. After that, we took a funicular- which is to say, an elevator- up to another level of the city. This is not for tourists, mainly- it’s how the natives get around since it’s just to high that to climb all the stairs every time you wanted to go somewhere would be impossible. Outside the funicular was a little market so I bought a bit there. :-D Then some people wanted to go to the beach, and those who didn’t (Me! Me!) went with Mauricio on a walking tour of the city.
I AM SO GLAD I DID. I can’t possibly explain in words the miracle that is Valparaíso. It’s peaceful, and quiet, although every once in a while you hear someone playing soft music. We took another funicular up to another part of the city and saw some great buildings, but mainly we walked through a warren of houses. There are not many places in the city for cars, and it’s an old city so the drains are just large grooves in the narrow roads. (One thing that I need to say about Chile in general- their roads are NOT WELL MARKED. In Santiago, and in the lower levels of Valparaíso, they use the same tile on the sidewalk as the roads in many places, so the only way you know when you’re in one is when I car comes by. I don’t understand how no one seems to die.
Walking through the city, one of the first things we did is that Mauricio rang someone’s doorbell and it turns out that she was selling chocolate for 100 pesos (about $.20) So we each bought one and they were absolutely delicious and so that was exciting and fun! We kept wandering along and saw more of the city. Valparaíso is so colorful and no two houses next to each other are the same color. Everything was built on different levels, so two houses would be next to each other but you’d have to go separate ways to get to them. You could be walking along and come across a wood street on the outside of the city by the ocean, and then take a turn and suddenly be back in the warren of buildings! There’s art or graffiti on every single building, and all of it was beautiful. As we were walking we saw students filming a movie and we watched for a bit. We also saw some people doing a dance in the middle of a street, which we were able to see from above. There were some street vendors who we quickly chatted with. Also, we saw the cutest cats and a dog who had his head poked out of a window! Professor Masud had the time of his life getting pictures of the cat. He is possibly the most adorable man ever. It was fantastic and the whole city seemed so mysterious. I desperately wish we had had more time and I definitely want to go back soon. We saw an adorable hostel called Hostel Gagliardo, so I’m going to keep that in mind. I have some great pictures so I’ll put those up before long!
After that we took a bus back to the beach to meet up with the group. (Yay for the bus! It was some sort of private one, and so we just told the driver where we wanted us to go and since it was along the route he planned to take, he took us!) Very cool.
The way back was nice and quiet. Amanda and Lindsey interviewed Mauricio for our paper, and I listened in and also got his opinion about politics in Chile. Also, he has a myspace which I need to go visit and as soon as I get back- if you feel like listening to his songs or seeing him, go to myspace.com/mauromolina.
On the way back we stopped at another gas station and I grabbed an ice cream which was really cool (though made from Nestle chocolate, ick). It was called Kriko and it was delicious.
The weather in Chile has been fantastic our whole stay, I can’t say enough. Ahhh such luck!
After we got back, Lisa and I went to dinner at a fish place close to the hotel. Yet again I failed at getting the sea bass, this time because they were out of it. Disaster! But I did try a bit of Maggie’s at the fish market a couple days ago, so I guess that will have to do. L Anyway, we got swordfish and it was really good.
Early in the morning tomorrow we are heading to Mendoza, and tomorrow evening we’re going horseback riding in the mountains. I’m nervous for it, but I’m sure it’ll be fine.
I’m not sure how to summarize my time in Chile. I loved it here so completely, and I think I got a pretty good view of the city by doing all the meetings and stuff that we did. I think I probably could have stood to go out more at night and leave the Bellavista/hotel area for dinner (we definitely left it on our days off etc, but mostly we ate dinner in those two places), but I’ll just have to see more of the nightlife in Argentina. Chile is a very complex country with complex people, and I don’t have a complete view of it but I understand much better than if I hadn’t come here, of course. It’s a very divided society, so I’m going to watch it closely in the future to see what happens with the political and economic situation.
Off to Argentina!
Greetings from Mendoza, Argentina!
Chilean airports are badass. We can have liquids and we don’t have to take our shoes off. Glory. The plane was super nice- we were flying LAN airlines- and it was short. We went over the Andes so I got some *glorious* pictures of that. London Lloyd came with us from Santiago and he’ll be coming to Buenos Aires as well- hurrah! He’s pretty fantastic. I don’t think I’ve mentioned him much before- but he is basically the coordinator of everything and he’s very adventurous and helpful and fun. Mendoza airport is very small and the city is interesting. Evidently it gets a lot of tourism- from extreme sports doers and winery people- but it’s significantly poorer than Santiago. This might be due to the Argetine economic problems. Anyway, it’s still nice but not, in my opinion, as nice as Santiago. I will miss Chile. I can’t wait to go back. Anyone?
The hotel is nice, but not as nice as Santiago either. It’s much smaller. But there is free wireless in the rooms, and it’s very airy and open so I like it. Nearly as soon as we got checked into the hotel, we left again for an Estancia about 2 hours away. This was possibly the best experience of my life to date. This part of Argentina is a desert, but the Andes are very close, so it was a big wide expanse of land and then suddenly mountains- the view was magnificent. On the way there we stopped for a bit because there was a horse stuck in the groove in the road that a bunch of people were trying to push out, and so no one could get past. Our drivers got him going, though, and another couple minutes down the road a car going the other direction stopped to ask if we had gotten the horse out! Partly because we couldn’t be going that direction if we hadn’t, since there was a fence other than in the road, and partly because I think everyone in that area seems to know each other at least a bit.
When we got to the Estancia, it was even better. They served us this delicious lunch of beef cooked over a fire, sausage, wine, and I even tried just a tiny bit of cow intestine. The table was long and white and sort of reminded me of a wedding. The whole experience reminded me of the “wild west”- there were gauchos (cowboys) who sang us traditional songs over dinner, and one of their sons, whose name was Leo, sang a song as well. It was adorable.
After dinner, we got on the horses for a horseback ride. I was so terrified I was about to cry- all I could think about was Christopher Reeve, omg. However, I got on a delightful and friendly horse named Vasco, and she was fantastic and I had what is probably the best experience of my life to date. We rode the horses for about an hour and half on a trail that went much closer to the mountains, though not in them. Vasco was really sweet and responded very well when I told her to do something, except for towards the very end when she alternatively wanted to eat/run, eek. She liked being in front a lot. But I trotted her for a bit and then was like, ok, stop, and she did! So yay! One of the guys on our trip had a really spirited/horny horse that went sort of crazy, so that was a bit scary. But I wasn’t nervous at all and this has been the best experience of my life. I know it sounds dumb when I just say it like that, but it’s impossible for me to put it into words. But either way, I went horseback riding in the plains and nearby the mountains of Argentina. It was these wide open planes, and it was quiet and there were birds and it was so peaceful… and off in the distance were these imposing mountains… Lordy.
I was so scared and so nervous and I am SO happy I did it. The view… there’s nothing I can possibly say that could describe it. Wide open spaces and majestic mountains and it really made me think, this planet is so big and we are so small. But we’re still fucking it up. We need to care more about the environment, si? The view… you’ll just have to wait for pictures. But it was mind-bendingly gorgeous. I made a comment to one of my friends that “We’ll never be able to see this view again” and he said, “Well, it all depends on where life takes us.” And isn’t the truth? I might think I’m going to stay in Chicago forever but it’s just as likely I’m not, as long as I’m open to new experiences. :-D
Anyway, the horseback riding was my favorite thing I’ve done here so far, and although I’m really not super into Mendoza, I am probably going to fall in love with Argentina as a whole. On the drive back, I stared out the window. The view of the stars was the best I’ve ever seen, easily. Orion was RIGHT there, and the big dipper was right next to him… enchanting. And it again made me think about how small we all are.
Unfortunately, something scary happened on the way back- evidently, cars are at great risk in Mendoza. Not only did our guide (whose name is also Santiago) tell us that his car will get stolen if he leaves it on the street, and once he left it for five minutes and it got broken into- on the way back from the Estancia, someone threw (not tosses, threw) a rock at our van. Evidently this happens a lot- there is a “bum” camp nearby and they throw the stones to get the cars to stop so that they can then go and steal them. The rock didn’t go through the windshield, thank God, but it did make a huge hole in it. So that sucked and was scary… but I guess you just have to be careful of where you are and what you’re doing.
After we got back, Lisa and I and a bunch of the guys and Lloyd and Santiago went out for a restaurant. It was already 11:30, but we have a late morning and I wanted to see the sights. We tried one restaurant first but since it was a Sunday they really didn’t have anything so we moved onto a different one that was good. I just got a beer, of the type Andes, but it was super good (I was drinking Austral and Kunstmann in Chile- not to mention the wine. I’ve had more alcohol in the past week than ever before since you drink it with every meal… and I’m barely having any compared to my trip-mates who are getting drunk every night! Lordy!). Anyway, that was nice and we all chatted, and now we’re back in the hotel and I’m going to bed.