Friday, September 30, 2011

Los Dominicos (Photo-heavy)

I've started a new teaching gig on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  It's in Los Dominicos, an area on the far west side of Santiago.  So far, in fact, that the town starts to creep into the foothills of the mountains.  It's really a fantastic view from the area.  Here are a few shots from the trip out there:
 Looking up at the hill from where I get off the metro.  I travel all the way to the end of Linea 1 to get here.

Looking back from where the last photo was taken.  Clearly, it's considerably less dense out here.

 After a 15 min bus ride, I'm left with a little walk to the campus.  I'm walking past the building on the left, and this is looking up into the hills here.  You can see the soccer stadium close to the campus from here.

 Looking the other direction.  Santiago is off to the left in this picture, we're in the northwest suburbs, surrounded by cerros (hills, between "loma" and "montana")

This is a shot of the building I teach in.  It's actually a very good (expensive) university.  I'm not teaching the students, but I give classes to the faculty there.  Most of the students here look like me - blue eyes and not black hair.  It's kind of nice to blend in somewhere.

 A shot of leaving the campus at night.  We're overlooking the northwest suburbs again, with Santiago somewhere in the direction of the sunset.

And here are the northwest suburbs.  It's actually a really pretty view at night - my camera isn't doing it justice.

Also, I noticed this morning on our little laundry balcony, we have a new visitor:
This pot is over head-height, so I couldn't see what was in it.  I'm wondering if it's her nest though - I was ridiculously close to her to take this picture.  The camera was within 3 feet of her.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Potpourri #4

I received a bunch of birthday letters today - thank you very much to those who sent them.  I also received an official notice from the Chilean Government saying they received my visa application.  The letter itself was dated 02-Sep-2011.  A letter from the Chilean Government takes 3+ weeks to travel about 20 blocks.  This does not bode well for the Chilean postal service.

As I was doing some ironing yesterday, I noticed a certain message on the bottom of the spray bottle.  Either there is a great plant in Michigan for special needs adults, or these Chileans have a very low opinion of people from the hand-state.
"This spray bottle was proudly assembled by mentally and physically challenged people in Michigan."

I've offically mastered the teacher-style sleeve roll.  The trick is, you roll the cuff over once, and then roll that part over once again so the cuff is completely covered by sleeve.  It works great as a teacher because: 1) you can always see your watch, and thus know how much time is left in class. 2) if you go to write on the board, the rolled-up part comes neatly up to your elbow, instead of pulling your shirt out of place.  And 3) because it says "I'm casual, but I'm ready to fight if I have to."

This is often the type of lunch I get at the office.  It costs about 4 USD, and it's often quite good.  Today, they had a "pepto-bismol pudding cup" for dessert.

Also, this is why I hate scrabble:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Blackouts, or Adventures in Taxis

Last night the entire city of Santiago lost power at 8:45 PM.  I was just heading when literally every light inside our apartment complex and city block went dark.  As it was past sunset at this point, the only lights on the streets came from cars driving around, many of which were using their high-beams.  I caught a taxi down to my buddy's apartment, which was a little bit of an adventure in itself.  Everybody who was out started heading home at that point, so there were a ton of kids on bicycles and skateboards in the middle of the street, most of who were only wearing shades of black.  And the taxis down here are much more similar to New York City taxis than they are suburban ones.  It's a miracle nobody got hit, and I'm only talking about my cab.

All the traffic lights were out as well, so it led to some creative intersection work as well.  My taxi couldn't make a left across a lot of traffic, so he turned right down a street, then immediately did a U-turn.  After making this U turn, he just slowly drove through the intersection, playing more or less of a chicken with the traffic coming both from our left, and then right.  After getting through the left-side traffic, we got stuck in the middle of the intersection for a while, waiting for some cars to let us go.  There were 3 lanes of traffic coming from the right, and we got into the first one pretty easily, but the second 2 lanes would not let us pass.  We sat there for a good 30 seconds, and then a bus comes barrelling down the first lane - the lane we were sitting in, waiting.  I was on the passenger side of the taxi, and I saw this bus's lights coming into my window from a ways away.  I sat there like a deer in headlights, hoping that we would be able to get through this intersection before the bus got to us.  But no luck.  The bus sees us, and starts slowly stopping, but not really fast enough - I think he was hoping we'd get through too.  The bus ends up getting about 5 feet away from my taxi door when it screeched to a complete stop.  The headlight was shining directly in my window.  Then the bus honked, and laid on the horn continuously until we got through the intersection 20 seconds later.

After I (thankfully) made it to my buddy's apartment, the 4 of us there sat out on his 9th floor balcony, overlooking a city of 6.7 million people without light.  It was actually really peaceful.  It sounds weird, but I sort of wish there was one day every year in major cities where they just turned off the electricity for the entire day and night.  The view, the atmosphere, and the total silence has this indescribable majesty to it.  Living in a city, you don't think about how many visual and audial distractions you put up with on a day-to-day basis until they're taken away. 

The lights started to come back on after an hour or so in chunks.  We first saw Los Dominicos get them, to our right.  Then we saw Central get lights, to our right.  Then Bellavista, to the north, got theirs.  In Nunoa, we were the final group of people to get our power back.

Marco and I had plans to meet some people at a club in Bellavista later that night, so we ended up leaving the apartment around 1 to head north.  Unfortunately, that's the time when everybody goes out around here, so all the taxis were completely full.  After trying to hail one for a good 10 minutes, we were starting to lose hope.  One of the annoying things about down here is that all taxis have a sign in the upper left side of the winshield that says "Libre", but they never turn it off when occupied.  So a couple times a minute, we'd see a taxi driving by with "Libre" illuminated, try to hail it, and then see the 4 other heads silouetted in the backseat.  Supremely annoying.

I thought I had one at one point, when the taxi stopped close to us.  Then I realized that the taxi had only stopped next to us because the traffic light behind us was red.  I looked in the backseat, and saw a pretty attractive Chilean girl sitting there, looking out at us.  I smiled, and she smiled back.  I started to look for another taxi when Marco asked the taxi driver where they were heading.  The driver said a street that was apparently close to where we were going, so he asked the girl if we could ride along.  She smiled and nodded.  "Come on dude!!"  Marco says to me, opening the back door of the taxi and sliding into the seat.  I jump in, thinking to myself, "Not bad, we get to ride up to Bellavista with a pretty hot girl."

Only once we were in the cab did we realize our mistake.  In our defense, "she" was pretty convincing from far away.

Once we saw "her" up close, it was semi-obvious.  The makeup had been liberally spackled onto "her" face, and the choker necklace "she" was wearing was most likely obstructing the view of "her" adam's apple.  "She" started talking to us a bit, with an incredibly raspy voice.  I mumbled "no entiendo, soy gringo."  So "she" repeated what she said just a bit louder.  I pretended to take a phone call.

"She" shifted "her" attention to Marco, while gently stroking his face with a gloved hand.  Marco started talking to the taxi driver in his lightning-fast dialect, and the cab started driving a little faster.  I was looking out the window at other now-empty taxis we were driving by when I felt a gloved hand on my chin.  Then it started to wander south.  I intercepted it with my hand somewhere just below my chest, and forcibly returned the gloved hand to the area of its owner.  Some more raspy Chilean from that side of the car.  I debated taking another fake phone call, but decided to just pretend I didn't understand again.

Finally we arrived at "her" destination, which was a stretch of clubs on the other side of Bellavista.  "We're not going here, right dude?"  I asked Marco.  "F*ck no, man." was his reply.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  "She" blew us a couple kisses from "her" radioactively-red lips, and then walked away.  A couple minutes later, we got to our destination on the other side of town, and headed into the discotech. 

The rest of the night was pretty uneventful.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Potpourri #3

My newest favorite thing to do down here is karaoke.  We went to a little dive last night that was doing it, and everybody in there got up to do at least one song.  I heard a lot of good old rock songs, then mixed in with stuff like Depeche Mode and crazy latin songs.  I also received rave reviews because, you know, I actually knew how to pronounce all of the lyrics for my music.

A very popular thing to do down here is to cut up a tomato, and just serve it raw with a sprinkling of salt and fresh lemon juice.  It's actually very good - I'm eating it right now as I type.

For fans of the Erik G Incidental Weight Fluctuation Watch 2011, I had topped out a week ago or so at 72.6 kg, but as of this morning I was back around 70.5.  Again, the only real explanation I can provide is lack of dairy, and portion size.  And yes, I feel healthy.

In my business class yesterday, one of the students mentioned that he read that there were fewer car accidents this year than last year.  Immediately after saying that, the other 11 students completely dismissed it, saying that there was no way it was true.  I asked them why they thought that.  "The government...manipulates the data," was one of the student's replies.  I guess there is very little faith in the honesty of the government down here.

Also in business class, there is a coffee break every night for a couple minutes, where the students can also get sandwiches, or some small pastries.  One student announced that he couldn't get a sandwich, as his "rollo" was already growing a little too big.  This lead to a discussion about each of the student's rollos, and eventually came to me.  "Erik, what is the English phrase for 'rollo'?" they asked.
"In the US, we call them 'love handles'," was my reply.  The one female student in the class looked at me in shock, and then started laughing hysterically.
"People say that in public???" She asked me.
"Yes," I said, "it comes from when people are married, they tend to gain weight around their hips.  So often it's people who are in love that get them, hence the phrase 'love handles'."
"Oh," she replied, then turning bright red.  "I was thinking it came from something else."  Then everybody else started laughing.

(If you don't get it - congratulations, you're a good person.)

Finally, this one is for Kellyn:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Valparaiso and Vina del Mar

To cap off my vacation week, I went to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar for the day with my roommate (Adolfo), his girlfriend, and another friend.  He rented a car, so we all piled into it at 8:30 AM on Saturday morning, and took off for the beach.  They didn't tell me too much/anything about what we were going to do there, so I packed a bag with stuff like a towel, swimsuit, change of clothes, etc.  I think Adolfo thought it was food, so he was very excited to get it in the car.  However, once it became obvious that there was little else in there besides underpants and some sand-ready shorts, he told me I could put it in the trunk. 

The ride there was actually very pleasent.  It's only about an hour and a half, so we passed the time getting to know each other.  And by getting to know each other, I meant that I fielded questions from the 3 of them for the majority of the time in Spanish.  But it was actually great - they are all from Guatemala, and their dialect is crystal clear.  I was silently kicking myself for not moving to a crisper-dialect country after the car ride.  But then I remembered that any country with crystal-clear Spanish is like that because they are essentially still developing nations, and for what I'd gain in dialect, I'd lose in wi-fi, supermarkets, and indoor plumbing.  And just like that, the Chilean choice came back into a favorable light.

Alright, I know the majority of you are here for the pictures (accompanied by my razor-sharp witty commentary, of course), so I won't keep you in suspense any longer.  To the spoils of my camera!
It's really too bad that my camera can't capture the majesty of the landscape on the drive out there.  The entire terrain outside of the city is incredible.
 The boardwalk of the beach.  We ended up walking along here for a good 3 hours or so.  There were a ton of little shops and touristy activities to participate in/look at.  Also, the guy in the bottom of this picture is my roommate Adolfo.

Here's a shot out to sea from the boardwalk.  Vina del Mar is the entire city along the beach where you see.

I got Adolfo to take a picture of me out on the rocks.  The cloud formations in this picture were really interesting to me.

I quickly made a new feral friend out on those rocks.  I lost him almost as quickly once I stopped petting him, and he realized I wasn't out there because I had found food.

 Can't decide between the raw treats of the orient, and the carbo-loaded delights of the Mediterranean?  Also love vague allusions to the Hard Rock Cafe?  Welcome to heaven.

 Even in other countries, my name doesn't show up on these "custom" name trinkets.  Only here it's even more insulting, because they include names like "Erasmo", "Emiliano", and "Enzo".  How many "Enzo" name bands can they possibly go through?  Once my Spanish is strong enough I'm writing a VERY heated letter of complaint to the parent company of these peddlers.
Cool bottles, but I certainly hope they waited to fill them with soda until after they had been warped.

 After the beach, we visited a "fondo" in the middle of town.  This place had a ton of barbecue spots like this, as well as a little carnival and amusement park.  The carnival games were laughably rigged against the player, but still people continued to throw money away at them.  I got a great deal of enjoyment watching somebody try to win 20,000 on a ring toss that was clearly impossible.  We spent our cash on better affairs, such as "Anticucho" (shish-kabob with a medley of meats - more on this later)

The crew.  From left to right: Fernanda, Adolfo, Lillian, and yours truly.  This was just post-meal, as evidenced by our 8 year old cameraman not giving us a countdown, and thus Fernanda was still mid-bite.

This is the aforementioned Anticucho.  For your consideration: this includes chicken, hot dog, chorizo (like italian sausage, but better), steak tips, onion, green pepper, and a piece of Italian bread.  If I lived closer to here, I'd be 50 lbs heavier and at extreme risk for diverticulitis.

 These pictures aren't tiling for me, but it's a semi-panoramic shot of Vina del mar from the other side of the bay.  We drove over here after the fair, and rode a little trolley up to the top of this hill.  There were a ton of these barge containers as you can see.  I'll put the over/under at 10 for the number of them containing cocaine.
One more shot of the elusive custom name keychains.  Technically there are 2 spots open just in front of "Erika", so it's possible that they actually had my name on here before.  It makes sense, I'm sure if any other Eriks ran into this, they'd snap up the tags out of sheer principle.  If so, well played, other Eriks.
My ride home?  Stay tuned.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Red Hot Chili Peppers

So there's this group from the United States called the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Maybe you've heard of them?  No?  Sure you have, they do that one song...  Under the Bridge?  Unnder the briidge downtownnnnn... Not ringing a bell?  Giiive it away, giiive it away, giiive it away now!  No?  Ummm, they also did "Sir Psycho Sexy", but that's kind of a deep cu...  Oh, you knew that one?  Well good.

In case you're lying to me, here's a picture of them to jog your memory:
(Actual shot from the show, but it wasn't mine.  I didn't take any of the pictures in this post - I didn't think I would be able to bring my camera in.  Turns out I definitely could have.)

Anyway, they did a show Friday night at "Estadio Monumental", the home of Chili's most popular soccer team, Colo-Colo.  Here's a shot of it:
The stage was on the side of the field with the flares going off.  The seats behind them weren't used, but the playing field was completely filled with people.  It was seriously a sight to behold.

Getting into the concert was an affair of its own.  My buddy Wasi had bought tickets online through his friend, so he had to wait in line at the box office, then provide copies of his driver's lisence, the guy who bought the ticket's license, and a handwritten, signed note stating that the person who purchased the tickets was legally bequeathing them to him, including his credit card number.  Chile is nothing if not untrusting of their citizens.

After that, we walked around to the other side of the stadium where our tickets granted us entry.  Along the way, there were a ton of street vendors set up, selling all kinds of chicken, ham, burgers, empanadas, and the like.  Interestingly though, everything there was still incredibly cheap - not like a US event, where they gouge the prices by about 200% whenever they have a captive audience.  A lot of it still looked uncooked though, so I did not partake.

We got up to the gates, each holding our tickets in hand.  They had 4 big cops standing by while everybody was patted down and checked for weapons and the like.  Fortunately for me I left mine at home, so I skated through the first checkpoint.  we walked up to the next part, where they scanned the bar on our tickets to make sure they were legit.  I held my breath slightly, as I had scalped my ticket on the street.  It was good though, so we skipped through.  We were in!

Well, almost.  After walking through some cattle feeder-like pathways, we got to a third checkpoint.  Here they looked at our ticket again, ripped off the large stub side, and passed us through.  Again, more cattle-like feeder paths for 20 yards or so, and then to a FOURTH checkpoint, where they retook our tickets and ripped off the small side on the left.  THEN we were in!

I should also mention that this entire time, we were surrounded by large 20 foot chain-link fences, topped with razor wire.  I have no idea if these fences are standard for the stadium, or were just set up for the concert to keep crazed fans from rushing the field, but it was a little harrowing.  It felt like I had just bought a ticket to prison for 3 to 5.

After we got in, we took our seats in the back side of the stadium, directly across from the stage.  Again, in our section there was now 30 ft fences, topped with razor wire.  It didn't obscure any of our views, but it was really kind of a creepy feeling to be trapped inside this area with all these other people.  We got great seats towards the front of the section, but still high enough up to see the stage with relative clarity.  From our vantage point, I was also able to see at least 30 riot cops lining the backside of the stadium, standing buy in full riot gear to break up any issues.  There were also at least another 15 that I could see just standing by in the tunnel to the field, just in case.  It was then that I decided to save my molotov cocktail for another place and time.

The opening band was "The Foals", who sounded like they could have been a Chili Peppers tribute band.  The music was quite similar, but really not bad for an opening act.  In between sets, they turned up the stadium lights, and I was able to get a good look around at the people.  Honestly, looking around I would have had no idea that I wasn't in the United States.  There were a ton of other white people, along with your usual concert-fare of people with pink hair, tattoed necks, and pierced faces.  It was strangely reassuring.  No matter where I go in the world, I can count on the same group of derelicts to frequent live music shows.

Once the Chili Peppers took the stage, it was electrifying.  Everybody started screaming, cameras started flashing, and the smell of hash immediately ripped through the entire stadium.  They had some really cool visuals going on behind them, as well as large shots of the band members playing live, often with some filter effects on them.  And even from the distance we were at, Keidis could clearly be seen doing his crazy dancing between bars.

For those of you who are fans, here's a copy of their set list from the night:
In terms of the band themselves... to be honest, it was kind of clear that this was a warmup show for the band trying to get its shit together.  Kiedis forgot some of the chorus to Dani California, and Flea had to leave for a couple minutes at one point to get his bass fixed.  Klinghoffer is still not in complete control of some of the older songs like Under the Bridge and Can't Stop, and he fell out of rhythm a couple times.  He also seemed pretty one-dimensional in his improv-jams with Flea.  However, he had really interesting takes on Californication, Soul to Squeeze, and Otherside.  The solos and modification to the verses were very welcome.  I'm sure that everything will be cleaner after they finish touring the rest of the world, and come back to the US to promote the album.

It was actually funny to listen to the crowd sing along.  Since most of them aren't English speakers, they often only knew the beginning of the chorus to each song.  So the entire crowd would belt out "STANDING IN LINE TO SEE THE SHOW", and then everybody would quickly tail off and just listen.  To be fair though, it's entirely possible that everybody had to get back to their cigarettes.  Asking them to yell loudly for more than 6 seconds would have been a real tax on their tar-coated lungs.

I also enjoyed hearing Kiedis and Flea talk Spanish to the crowd.  It was very heartening to know that there are still people out there worse at Spanish than me.

After the show ended, leaving the stadium was a sight to see.  It reminded me of leaving a Michigan football game, except everybody walked through a parking lot to get out of the gates.  Some people had parked in the stadium, and I felt a little sorry for them.  Everybody was walking out of the gates they needed to go through, and with the tide of people flowing out to sea, there was no way that any of those cars were moving for a good hour.  The metro was shut down, and there were a couple busses running, but the lines to get on them were out of control.

I was resigned to just walking back to my apartment (at least an hour), when a mini-bus pulled up right next to me.  The door opened and the driver yelled out "Plaza Italia, un luga!" (Right by my house, 1000 pesos).  I jumped on the bus, along with about 60 of my closest friends.  There was standing room only, so we all just sort of were jumbled in there bumping against each other as we drove north.  You might think that the driver would take it easy, knowing that he was over capacity by a good 40 people, and the bus clearly wasn't build for handling.  Well, you would be wrong.  This guy drove like an absolute maniac, passing taxis on the right, zooming around SUVs on the left, and running red lights.  At one point he slammed on the breaks to avoid crashing into a car in front of us, and my pelvis was slammed into the back side of a seat.  I have a nice black and blue on my right iliac crest thanks to that break.

However, we did make it to Plaza Italia alive, and I walked back to my house with a huge grin on my face.  It was one of the best concert-induced afterglows I've had in a long time.  Thanks, RHCP.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

La Serena

As I had the entire past week off from work due to the Institute closing for holiday, I decided to do a little traveling. Initially I wasn't sure where to go, so I consulted my Chile guide book for some ideas.  Immediately the telescopes in La Serena caught my eye.  It was about a 7 hour ride by bus, but was pretty economical ($17000 pesos round trip, about $36), and they have some of the most powerful telescopes in the world.  This is all due to the 0% humidity they experience for about 300 days every year, and the relatively high altitute.  Tours were every night, weather pending.
I end up taking a midnight bus out of Santiago, and arrive in La Serena at about 8 am on Wednesday.  The first hostel I had researched was completely full, so I went to the second - "Hostel El Punto".  I walked in the door, and was immediately greeted by a 6'6 German man named Jan (pronounced like "yawn").  We alternated between his heavily accented English, and German-accented Spanish, which I enjoyed a lot.  My room wasn't ready yet, so I put my bag into a locker there, and took off to see the city.

As it was about 8:30 AM at this point, the city was still pretty much asleep.  I decided to walk down to the beach and have a look around.  Truthfully, it was much further than I expected - I think I walked for about 45 mins before I arrived.  But it was kind of nice being there early on - there were essentially no other people anywhere nearby, so the local animals and birds were still milling about.  Here's a few shots:
 The local car dealership on the way to the beach.  It would have been cheaper for them to advertise which brands they didn't sell.
 The path along the way to the beach...

 ...and how far I'd already come.  It's not quite a "seaside" town.

 Once I got there, the view was pretty nice.
And the local gulls.  There were some other birds out there diving into the water for fish, but it was too far away to get a decent picture.

Now, you may have noticed in these pictures that it's pretty overcast.  I was currently hoping that this was just a morning phenomenon, and that maybe the cloud cover will burn off by 7:00 pm, when the tour is scheduled to start.  300 days a year, right?

After walking back, I went into a little Japanese garden to read for a while, and just hang out.  There were a few birds here who were much less afraid of humans than the other gulls. 
 The black swan, her half-brother, and the duck entourage.

 A wider view of the park.

For mom - the lilac trellis area (I think they're lilacs).

And later on, I continued walking up to the archeological museum which contained a couple interesting artifacts.  Here's a couple from there:
 One of the Easter Island statues.  This one was about 9-10 ft tall.

Apparently the natives used to use boats like this to TAKE DOWN WHALES.  This was a 6 ft long raft.

And of course, the clouds never burned off.  I chose one of the 65 days out of the year where there was no tours, and humidity above 0%.  Fantastic.

I decided to drown my sorrows in some Ceviche - raw fish with fresh vegetables in a citrus juice.  It's really, really good.

So then I ended up going back, and hanging out around with some other tourists at the Hostel.  The majority of them were actually from Germany (probably because of the staff), so it was kind of fun to talk to each other with our amateur Spanish.

All in all, my time in La Serena was pretty fun, despite not being able to see the telescopes.  No matter, I'll get to see them one day, whatever it takes.  Now all that was left was to go home.  Easy, right?  I already had my ticket, all I had to do was go down to the bus station and wait for my bus the next day.

Thursday afternoon, I get to the bus station.  My bus is scheduled to leave from there at 1:00 PM (13:00).  To be safe, I arrived at the station at about 12:40, and sat down to wait for my bus to arrive.  While I was sitting there, I noticed that often the busses would say "leaving at: 12:00" despite the fact that it was already 12:45.  For example, I took the following picture at 12:55:
(If you can't read it, it says it's leaving at 11:45. I guess not.)

So of course, many busses come and go, but none of them are mine.  13:00 comes and goes.  I sit patiently for another 45 mins or so, and then I go up to the sort of "manager" of the station area - he directs the busses in and out.  I ask him where my bus is, and if he knows anything about it.  Of course, he does not.  I show him my ticket to confirm that he doesn't know where this bus is, and he responds by saying "Oh, Fullpass.  You can take any pullman bus that comes in."

"Any pullman?"

...You probably know where this is going now.  But regardless, continue reading!

 How can you say no to this face?

So the jackass tells me that I can get on any Pullman Bus, so I look around and realize "Oh, here's a Pullman, and it's on time!"  I get in line, and when the driver comes to check my ticket, he looks it over carefully for a good 20 seconds, then rips it in half, and nods to me.  I smile - it worked!  I got on the bus, which was essentially empty at this point.  I take a seat on the upper deck, towards the front so I would have a decent view of the area.

A view towards the back of my double-decker bus.  Sadly, I never got the chance to make friends with the man behind me.  He seemed like such a delight.

So after I get on the bus, the conductor starts to come around, and asks to see my ticket stub.  I show him the ticket stub, to which point he looks it over thoroughly again, then smiles.  "You're actually in seat 40," he says to me.  I thought it a little strange that they had assigned seats here, especially when I wasn't scheduled for this bus, but who knows?  I move further towards the back, and sit down again.

10 minutes later we pull into La Serena's sister city, Coquimbo, and more people board the bus.  And of course, as soon as we pull in, somebody with the seat 40 ticket gets on and asks for it.  I get up and move to another empty seat.  Then the bus slowly fills up, and I am ousted again.  At this point, the conductor comes up, sees me sitting in a different seat, and asks me to "step outside to talk".  Fantastic.

At this point, he takes a closer look at my ticket and then tells me what I already knew - that this wasn't my bus.  "Pero no hay espacio por mi?"  I ask, further explaining that my other bus never came.  He looks over the bus roster, and then writes "33" on my ticket.  I go up and take seat 33.  I had that seat for a solid 4 minutes before the guy with the seat 33 ticket shows up and kicks me out.  The conductor comes up again, and tells me that I need to wait for my own bus.  Fortunately there is a ticket counter nearby, and the lady there is able to assist me with sorting this out.

By some stroke of "luck", my bus arrives 5 minutes later.  After a lengthy discussion with the driver AND conductor AND ticket counter lady, they figure out that I am actually supposed to be on this bus, and that my mutilated and scribbled-over ticket is actually for this bus. 
 My ticket.

I get on, take my seat, and promptly fall asleep.  When I wake up, I catch the end of "Undisputed III", which is essentially a ridiculous MMA movie from Russia.  Pretty enjoyable actually, for what it is.

We arrived in Santiago a few hours later, and before we were allowed off the bus some Customs/Police officers boarded with a couple canines and sniffed everybody down.  Sort of intense, as these guys again were in full tactical gear and armed for action.  I wouldn't want to be a drug runner down here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cerro San Cristobal

I finished off a tub of butter today.  Not all at once. It was a little weird though, because it's the first time I've ever had a tub of butter to myself, and I can look at it and objectively say that I ate the entire thing.  Granted, it was over the course of 5+ weeks, but still.  I processed all of it, mostly with toast.

Yesterday I climbed Cerro San Cristobal, the largest of the hills in the area, which has been taunting me ever since I moved into the Parque Bustamante area.  On the way there, I stopped for a little pre-climb fuel here:

I wimped out and opted for a normal hamburger.  One day, though...

Once I arrived at San Cristobal, I looked around for a map, ready to climb to the top.  Unfortunately there really weren't many options.  I could either walk up the winding, paved road for cars and bicycles which covered about 8 miles en route to the top, I could forge my way through the forest and arrive at the top undoubtedly scarred and exhausted, or for about $2 I could ride the trolley car to the top and arrive in about 6 minutes.

I took option B.  Just kidding, I ended up trolleying it.  The ride itself was pretty fun, in this little sectioned-off trolley car where it gave you a semi-decent view of the countryside as you went up to the top.  Most of the view was obstructed by trees, but it was ok since the best view was at the top anyways.
Then we arrived to the top, and the view was pretty spectacular.  If you remember the hill from which I took the first couple pictures (also the title picture), it's in the middle of this picture in the distance.
So yes, this one's a bit higher up.  You can also see from this height the level of pollution around the city.  It's a little disconcerting, but I guess that's just what happens when your city is surrounded on all sides by mountains, and it's also still 1980.

 Great view, but the smog was pretty apparent from this level.  It was also something of a religious sanctuary at the top here, with a few different statues, and pews lining one side of the hill for services.

I've been trying to figure out what makes the people down here different.  Aside from the obvious language and overall homogeneity of the population, there is clearly a different approach to things like time, relationships, and the like.  I don't know how to describe it, it's just different.  I think the best way to describe it is with a metaphor.  You all are familiar with American drinking fountains, right?  Water shoots up in an arc like the St. Louis Arch.  Well, this is what theirs are like:
Not really better or worse, just different.