LINES in #Chile

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!

Photos of #Chile : Cerro Santa Lucia, the most beautiful park I’ve ever seen.

Maybe one day I’ll have enough Spanish to adequately describe this place. Charles Darwin gave it the high praise of “certainly most striking.”

Photos of #Chile : #Santiago Centro

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.

An eye-opening experience.

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.

First thoughts on #Chile

Taxi drivers going after tourists are even crazier here than China!
Petrobras (Brazilian company) gas stations.
Palm trees again! But leafy, deciduous trees, too!
Big blue Costco equivalent
I’ve grown up with red cross meaning medical/first aid, but here’s it’s the green cross, like in France!
Graffiti here!
Bonkers traffic (it IS Saturday)
Parque en la Avenida Bernardo O’Higgins (good Irish boy?)
Different colour license plates depending on vehicle! (car, taxi, bus…)
I guess 2 guys got tired of the traffic and just got out of their taxi in the middle of the street!
Niño a bordo – Baby on Board
The Nissan Tiida – same as in China!!
Mussels in a CAN, like tuna!!
Ketchup in a pouch, like tomato sauce is sometimes in Canada.
I’m using my EU adaptor to plug in!
Lots of stray dogs…they’re all big ones, like Labs. All pet dogs are small ones.

Vancouver, British Columbia

To get my work visa for Chile, I had to visit one of the country’s consulates in Canada…and there isn’t one in Alberta. The nearest one is in Vancouver, British Columbia.

I have two cousins, neither of whom I’ve seen in years (because I’ve been in China, they live in Vancouver and Toronto, and I’ve never been home at the same time as either of them!). There’s also a Chilean consulate in Toronto, so I’d get to visit one of my cousins no matter where I got my visa. And it made the most sense, logically, to get it in Toronto, because all flights from Canada to South America go through Pearson airport. However, my cousin there is very busy…he’s an engineer, and he’s planning his wedding…and, really, I wanted to visit Vancouver more.

I’ve been there a number of times now, and I absolutely love it. The stories about the cost of living there are outrageous, and also true. On the cab ride to my cousin’s place, I passed a new condo development on Granville Street, apparently geared towards families…they started at $2 million. There’ve been efforts to control land prices, and taxes for absentee owners who buy property in Vancouver but then don’t live there — many of those investors are of course from China, and are desperate to get any money they have out of that country. But Vancouver has always been expensive, because everyone wants to be there, because it’s beautiful.

Another story about Vancouver is you can go swimming in the morning and skiing in the afternoon, and in winter that is true. It has the Pacific Ocean on one side, and mountains right there on the other! It has Stanley Park, with one of the best aquariums in the world, totem poles, dozens of kinds of wild birds, roses and TREES, on an amazing coastline. Downtown Vancouver has (expensive) buildings right on the water which are all glass, so they reflect the water and the hundreds of boats docked there. They have outrageously good sushi, and the coffee culture is so pervasive I wonder if their blood is half caffeine; I say that having been to three excellent coffee houses in two days. They have salmon, and amazing fruit. There are so many beautiful (expensive) neighbourhoods with phenomenal houses and huge trees. The university of British Columbia sticks out into the ocean, and has its own forest, Japanese garden, and the legendary (notorious) Wreck Beach.

I know that when many people outside of Canada think of Canada, they’re thinking of Vancouver. I love that I got to spend my last few days in Canada there.

Vote. You have to VOTE. Part 4, Party membership.

Woe. As of now, there won’t be as many people voting for the leader of the Conservative Party as way back when Stephen Harper won in 2004. Let’s change that, shall we?

My best friend briefly joined the PC Party of Alberta when Alison Redford ran for their leadership. She’s NOT remotely conservative (she’s voted NDP all her life!), but she wanted to make sure the only woman running, in years, to be our premier was elected. I was shocked: it didn’t seem worth it to me to join the most arrogant, entrenched group of cronies to vote for their leader.

I have changed my mind. Right now, Canada is undergoing its own xenophobic crisis folowing the Brexit vote and the US election. There are like-minded candidates running to lead a major political federal party here — people who have publicly said that immigrants should prove they hold “Canadian values” and have grabbed a woman on TV— want to be prime minister of this country.

And they are DESPERATE for us to vote for them.

If, like me, you feel icky about joining the Conservative Party just to vote for its leader, just know you’re not alone. I’m calling it $15 well spent.

Here is the link to join and decide WHO YOU WANT to run for prime minister in the next election.

(Previous thoughts in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.)