I’m way behind in posting regarding my trip in October, and I return to Canada in 3 days. I lost over half my photos of La Serena, and all my photos of the Elqui Valley, and it took me ages to recover these. With a few exceptions, I’m just posting photos without captions.
While standing in Valparaiso, you can see the two “ends” of the bay very clearly–it’s more what you might call a lagoon. It’s relatively small. But it’s an excellent harbour, and back in the 16th century it was decided on as the best spot for the new Spanish colony’s shipping. That took a long time to really happen though, and it was only when copper and nitrate were found in northern Chile that Valparaiso really got going. It soon filled with–strangely enough–British businessmen who exploited the new resources and became VERY rich. One problem: next to Valparaiso’s bay is the thinnest strip of flat land, and then STEEP HILLS. The very rich built their beautiful houses on the hills anyway, and later, elevators (!) to actually get up and down.
Then there was a horrible earthquake in 1906, the prices of copper and nitrate dropped, and all the rich folks left Valparaiso. What’s happened to the oldest part of the town since then is pretty amazing: it’s now filled with every kind of artist–most obviously graffiti, but sculptors, theatres, and dance schools too–plus amazing restaurants, hostels, and shops. I did NOT want to leave.
7:51 pm, 17 June 2017, Santiago
It’s said that when you move to a new country, there’s a honeymoon phase. Everything in the new place is, to you, exciting, different, and often magical. This will, however, at some point, be followed by phase 2: Reality.
My honeymoon phase in Santiago is over.
It began raining here about 2 am on Thursday morning. Rain was slapping against my window so hard it woke me up — I’ve been sleeping fitfully anyway because it’s cold here, which is compounded by a lack of indoor heating except with space heaters. It continued raining for a straight 26 hours! Despite experiencing flooding in the past, and regular rain in their autumn and winter, Santiago’s drainage is very poor, so there’ve been streets flooded. It was also very windy last night, and there were broken branches landing on cars. A friend who lives near Salvador metro station had part of her building’s roof fly off.
Today, Saturday, I slept in and went to have a shower at 11 am. The water was off throughout our apartment. I had been warned this happens sometimes in Santiago during winter, because the sewage system gets overwhelmed. Buildings will be told to shut off water to keep from adding to the problem. If this had been a weekday and I had to work, I’d be going there looking and smelling like an angry cat.
The water’s come back on since, but now the power is off in all the common areas of our building. We still have electricity in our flat (thank God), but my flatmate had to rescue three wet loads of clothes from the common laundry room. She’s hanging laundry off the shower curtain rod, on broom handles laid across the tub, off the curtain rod in our living room, off the backs of the stools at our breakfast bar…!
All that, plus buses with plenty of room sometimes not stopping if they don’t feel like it. And transit fares having THREE rates depending on time of travel, rush hour being TWICE as much as off-peak (what’s called “normal” time is only a bit cheaper than rush). There’s the banks closing at 2 pm every day (including, of course, pay day). I find the drinking culture here is on par with Scotland — that is, more insane than France! Sure, you CAN say no if someone offers you another drink… it’s just not DONE.
Overall, I do still like it here. Except when it rains. And this is proving to be an unusually cold, especially RAINY, autumn.
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.