My flatmate Ileana, from Mexico, and her best friend in Chile, Hector, invited me to go on a day trip to the Andes on Saturday.
If you go to Baquedano Metro station, then cross the river, you’ll find yourself in Bellavista.
I haven’t captioned any of these: what could I say except that they’re beautiful!
I wrote this in pieces on my phone over SIX HOURS I had to wait at the PDI (police department of international affairs…roughly) one day:
10 am. At PDI I had to register and get my Chile ID card. Without that, I can’t open a bank account, my employer isn’t allowed to deduct my taxes (which means I can’t stay here). First, there was a line to get into the building. Then, I was given a ticket with a letter and number – just like at the cambio yesterday ! It looks like they do a lot of different things here, which is why it’s SO busy: not just registration for foreigners like me, but for citizens too, plus tourist visas, replacement cards for all of these. By number alone, there were over 200 people ahead of me, but it was more than that because of the letters too – no idea what they meant.
10:30 am: There’s a recruitment slide show playing too, and it pulls no punches – the opportunity to break up human and drug trafficking, seizing insane illegal guns!
11 am: I’m standing RIGHT under a fan now. Bliss. Was just thinking I should’ve brought water. If I thought about it, I would’ve guessed they’d search bags and not let water bottles in – but no screening at all.
12:30: I’m also a little bit sick: just a sore throat, in the evening a bit tight in my chest. Illeana gave me some flu medicine last night, and offered to get me some more today. Would lie to shake it before my orientation Friday. I’m guessing it’s from the stale air on the plane(s), and the last-minute running around the week before that. (also not helping: my body fighting theIUD, causing the non-period cramps)
1 pm: As busy as it is, it’s moving quickly. And the line just to pay ( must me done before you can be seen) just keeps getting longer. Who knows how long the lineup outside is now?
1: 20: I feel like I really stick out here. I did in China of course – I expected to, there – but I feel really obvious here, too. I don’t feel that people are overtly looking at me, like they DID in China. Maybe I just feel like it, I’m self-conscious.
2 pm: Maybe I should’ve had another coffee. Or BROUGHT coffee.
2:15 pm: I wonder if there’s any point to the lineup, with the ribbons (Is that what they’re called? the line-up…things? Why don’t I know this??) Or if it’s just a means of crown control, or to the show people the line IS moving. There are enough numbers ahead of me – and a while other half to this room full of seats , full of people (150+ ?) that I’m sure I’m going to be standing around to wait even after I clear the line. And the. There’s the numbers. It doesn’t appear there’s an express line or any jumping of the queue.
2:30 pm: I also really hope I have everything. Maybe it was foolish to come here without having been to the office first. But Peter at the consulate said to go in the first week, and the guy at the airport was clear too. I was told: the doc from the consulate, my passport. I’ve got me bit folder with my work contract too – and everything else – just in case. If it turns out I’m missing something, oh well. Them’s the breaks. Adventure!
2:40 pm: I suspect some of the people waiting are in fact waiting for others to get their paperwork done: that they don’t have numbers themselves.
2:45 pm: I was going to find a metro card after this, but I think instead I’ll go home and have lunch first!
2:50 pm: HERE’s a problem I didn’t expect: the fellow who spoke to me yesterday at the immediately addressed me as “tu”. I couldn’t figure out if that was because (he guessed?) I was younger, if we were in a similar situation, or was he instantly being friendly. I can’t very well assume anything but “usted” can I ?
3 pm: Not sure what happens when the current line runs out. THEN you get to grab a chair? If you can find one?
At 3:35, I got my turn, and 10 minutes later, I had my temporary ID. WHEN the real one arrives, I couldn’t tell you!
Maybe one day I’ll have enough Spanish to adequately describe this place. Charles Darwin gave it the high praise of “certainly most striking.”
On my walk around Central Santiago, there were bells ringing from all the churches, and ladies weaving palm fronds for people as they went into mass. I’m looking forward to Easter here next week – I can’t fathom what it’ll be like.
It took almost 2 weeks for me to get some Chilean pesos at my bank in Edmonton, and shortly – too late – before I left, I realized I’d need some more money right away in Santiago after paying my first month’s rent. I knew exchanges at airports tend to charge a lot, so I decided to take out my cash in Canada, bring it with me, and exchange it when I got into the city.
I found – no joke – dozens of cambios on Compañia street, and they were all packed. It seemed unlikely they were ALL tourists. I could find only one place that would change Canadian money, so I got a ticket, and waited almost an hour for my turn.
In the meantime, a very nice man from Santiago and his co-worker, a lady from Bolivia, let me practice my Spanish on them – I learned they were both waiters. And that’s when I started to clue in: almost all of the people in there were black, and the ones who were Latino were in their regular clothes, some with little children. They were all changing American money to Chilean. I saw two more dressed-up Chilean people – they were the only ones changing Chilean pesos to American dollars.
Almost all of those cambio customers are working in Chile at service jobs, and likely getting paid under the table and in tips. They have to change all of their earnings into pesos, and probably lose quite a bit of money every time. The people changing to American must have been either tourists about to visit the US, or (given what I discovered in China) maybe they bringing their money out of the country.
Meanwhile, I’m a white girl with the choice to be in Latin America for a year before going home. I am a very lucky bunny.