Friday, August 5, 2011

Day 4: the smell of tear gas

Today I had to stop by the Providencia office of the Instituto to pick up some materials for one of my classes I'll be teaching over there.  The lady who runs the Instituto, Christina, was very nice and one of the best English speakers of the group.  I've found it somewhat interesting that half the people they employ at these offices don't speak English themselves.  Oh well, more practice for me.

Going out later that evening (to look at an apartment), I was about 5 stops from where I wanted to be on the metro when people started to cover their mouths with their scarves.  At first I just thought somebody near them had farted, and I tried to contain my smile.  But then this smell hit my nose, which smelled like a mixture of burning rubber, bleach, and a hint of lemon.  And then I remembered one of the ladies at the providencia office telling me that there were going to be riots near the Universidad de Chile later that evening.  It was tear gas.  At first it just sort of stung my nostrils, but soon after it spread to my eyes, making them irritated and welled up.  My upper lip also became quite irritated and sensitive.  Undaunted, I made it past the next couple metro stops to where I wanted to get out, the Policia had blocked off all exits from the subway at those points.  There were probably 8 stops along the metro where they wouldn't let people out, clearly to quell the riots.  I ended up going back to the hostel and watching the proceedings via chilean newscast for a while.

After a while, a girl came in and asked if she could change it to HBO.  They were showing "Salt", with the subtitles in Spanish.  That actually seemed to make for a good practice exercise - hear what they were saying in the movie, read the spanish translation.  It also took my mind off the whole premise of this movie: that a couple lousy North Koreans could torture the crap out of this 95 lb female "special agent", but somehow the entire US government was crippled by a woman who refused to kill anybody besides her own people (Russians).  There are MULTIPLE scenes where there are 5+ agents nearby her, but instead of putting a couple hollow-points into her kneecaps, they wait their turn to get punched in the face by Angelina Jolie.  If the real secret service is ten times as competent as the people in this movie, then we are unbelievably screwed as a country.

The girl who came in was talking with one of her friends for a while, and I realized that I didn't understand any of what they were saying.  Then her friend left, and I found out that she was actually from Brazil, and speaking Portugese.  She spoke spanish as well though, and we were able to talk for a while about random things through my broken espanol.  With a little more practice like that (and a lot more vocab) I may be able to make it in this country after all.

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