07.06.2011 - 10.06.2011 18 °C
Hola bonitas y guapos,
So here's entry two! It's currently Friday night (I suppose early Saturday morning) and I have an action packed weekend ahead! It's a long weekend in Chile this weekend so I've decided to get out of the city and see some new things. Tomorrow I'm going to the Cordilleras (some of the most famous mountains in the Chilean Andes region) and going horse riding with a group from my Spanish school, on Sunday I'm going to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, and on Monday I plan to go to Cajon del Maipo and relax in some hot springs. Hopefully all goes to plan and I can make use of this weekend!
Week one of Spanish classes are over and I'm really enjoying it. I got 90% this week, so I'm moving on next week to study pasado - past tense. Perhaps now my sentences to Elena won't sound like 'on Sunday I go to park and eat a sandwich, but tomorrow I go to mountain and take photo.' My teacher, Ximena, is great, and I really like my classmates. The other people in Casa Loca (our house) are pretty nice, some are warmer than others but it's pretty chilled out and easy to do what you want.
I'm a little pissed off as the holiday which is on Monday means there will be no class, and they're being pretty lazy about make up lessons. I'm getting a bit of my bitchy, or 'affirmative', tone on my emails, so hopefully that will be all fine!
I left off last time on Tuesday afternoon. After I left the school I met up with Mariana (my roommate) and we headed to Cerro San Cristobal - a huge hill with great views of the city and a giant Virgin Mary statue at the top. Dani had told me the best time to see the mountains was on a warm day right after a day of rain, which was exactly what happened on Tuesday. I bought a 'Bip!' card for the metro (like an oyster card, named so because of the name it makes when you swipe it..haha) and we walked past la Universided de San Sebastian and through Bellavista to the bottom of Parque Metropolitano. We got a taxi up for $2 and as we drove around the many bends I could see through the smog some nice silhouettes of mountains behind the buildings. As we got out of the taxi at the top of the mountain I turned around and all of a sudden saw a giant, lengthy snow topped peak sitting in the sky! It was still very smoggy, so you couldn't see where the edge of the city met the mountains, and it just looked like some strange snowy mountain peaks floating along the sky. It was hard to get nice photos, but it was still really exciting to be like 'whoa! There are the Andes!'. We climbed to where the Virgin Mary sits and Mariana and I just hung out - it was pretty funny for her trying to understand my poor attempts at Spanish. Being Brazilian, her Portugese vocabulary has quite a few similarities to Spanish, so she's doing well. As we were walking down to the taxi area I was asking about the word for an outdoor wall, which I'd learnt that day and remembered started with an 'm' - I said, 'you know, like the 'Grand Manuela de China'... Of course, forgetting that Manuela is a name. Mariana found this endlessly funny and from now on I will be more formally known as 'La Grand Georgia de Australia (the big Georgia of Australia). I think it has a nice ring to it.
After we made our way back down to Bellavista we decided to walk around for a big longer, and ended up getting some lunch/dinner at a cafe near Plaza de Armas. I noticed a woman near our table who I recognised from school, and Mariana invited her to join us. (That's one thing that's really nice about Mariana - I think we're quite different in our interests but she is as sweet as candy, and wants to be friends with everyone. It's really admirable). Her name is Claudette and she's from Austin, Texas, and her brother lives here in Santiago. We had a really nice chat and and number of beers, after she invited us to a dinner party on Thursday night, but unfortunately her roommate got sick so we couldn't go through with it. A nice sunset passed which we could see through the streets, and by 8pm we decided it was time to head home.
Eventually Mariana and I strolled home, taking a few photos on the way. By the time we were back at Casa Loca I was pretty pooped and I think I just did my homework and headed to bed.
Wednesday was the day of weather we'd all been hopeful for - the one day on my weather forcast that had a little 'sun' icon next to it, unlike its brothers and sisters with clouds and rain. I teared open the curtains and let the glory sink into my skin. What glorious weather it was! Crazy how much it can impact your mood.
I had class in the morning, and then went to lunch up the street with Lindsay (American in my class, who is here with his son, Sam - I really like them both), Stijn and Louz (a Belgian couple who are engaged and travelling around and seem really smart and interesting), and Mariana. We went to a cafe at the end of Roman Diaz and Mariana and I shared the strangest thing...it was like chips, covered in fried pork, cheese and sauce. It wasn't bad, just a combination I wouldn't have thought of. I don't think that's a cultural thing though...
After lunch I headed back to the house to relax for a bit, and later decided to go for a walk, kicking myself for not taking advantage of the fleetingly beautiful weather. I found myself once again at Santa Lucia, which I still think is my favourite place in the city. I walked up and the sky was AMAZINGLY clear. You could see pretty much all the surrounding mountains (though of course there was a thick screen of smog in front of them). It was so exciting to see the Andes. I don't know what it is about mountains, but I just really love them! I compared two photos from identical angles; one from Sunday and one from Wednesday - given what I could see on Sunday (or lack thereof), it was really amazing to view these enormous mountains. While I was up there I met a Colombian guy named Donald (like the duck - his words, not mine). We spoke for a while about all sorts of stuff as I took a trillion photos of the sunset. Unfortunatley we were kicked out of the park at 8pm sharp - the time with the perfect lighting! Donald and I walked around for a while, I took a few photos of the city, and then got on the metro back home. Having not eaten for about 9 hours, I walked around the corner to a Chinese store Max (a nice German/Filipino guy from Casa Loca who always wears button up shirts and is going to be a diplomat) had told me about, and got a bit of food before eventually heading to bed.
On Thursday the weather was still glorious, which was a pleasant surprise, and after class Sam, Lindsay, Nina (a really lovely German girl with amazing skin - half Dominican!) and I (plus an American friend of Sam's who I forget the name of) got some empanadas and strange sugar/creme filled pastries and headed for Parque Forestral by the fountain to eat them. My empanada con queso y carne was a bit stale but not bad. I didn't finish my pastry because it was incredibly rich but I shared it with a friendly dog.
That's one crazy thing about Santiago - the dogs! It kind of reminds me of south east Asia, however these strays appear to be well fed and well mannered (the best way I can describe it). They're not skinny and dirty, I've only seen one bark at/attack someone, and they even wait at the traffic lights! It's pretty funny really.
Which is another thing - the traffic lights. The crossings here don't have any button or any sound for when the green man goes off - you just have to be watching the sign. And if you're even two steps away from the curb when the drivers light goes green, you are sure to be beeped at and possibly mowed down.
After lunch Sam, Lindsay and Nina went to Cerro San Cristobal, but I was in a study mood and decided to go home to make some flip cards. I did do a bit of study but soon a bunch of people from Casa Loca (Nico, Elliot, other Nina, Sandra, Lana and other Mariana) were leaving to walk up San Cristobal. It's about an hour walk, and I'd wanted to do it last time, but Mariana didn't seem keen. I wasn't going to go as I thought by now the dust would have settled and we couldn't see anything, but funnily enough as I was sitting on the toilet I happened to glance out the window and saw a giant peak of the Andes! Man that's a cool feeling. Thus - I decided to join them for the trip up!
The walk up was super steep but really nice and relaxing, and the scenery was nice - it felt good to do some exercise. The view from the top wasn't as clear as the day before at Santa Lucia, but it was still awesome. Plus the sunset was gorgeous.
After an hour or two as the sun had pretty much set we made our way back down, this time deciding to follow the road instead of the bush path so that we wouldn't get lost. Of course this backfired as the road was even more confusing, but we did have some really nice places to stop and take photos of the city with the lights. Now I just wish I knew how to actually use my camera! I've been playing with an editing program I downloaded for free a while ago (PhotoFiltre) which is nice, so I'm having fun getting back into photography.
We eventually found our way down the hill and trekked it back to Providencia, soon arriving at Casa Loca for a quick bite of Chinese leftovers and some shut-eye!
Which brings us to today! We had our last class with Ximena, and after class I went with Nina (German/Dominican) and Mariana (not my roommate) (man too many people have the same name!) to get some awesome sushi. Surprisingly, sushi is muy popular here! After lunch we met up with Max, Mike and Barbara and headed to the Museo de Memoria y Derechos Humanos (the Museum of Memory and Human Rights), which focused on the dictatorship of Pinochet from 1973-90. It was really interesting as I haven't had the chance to learn much about Chilean history before, but everything was in Spanish so I bought the audioguide. I thought the exhibition was arranged really tastefully - there was a particularly interesting display of a map made from photos which depicted various human rights crimes from modern history. There was also a mural drawn by children of the time, many TV displays of relevant footage, documents, etc. Thousands were killed under his regime or have 'disappeared', and many were tortured - including up to 2,000 children.
I've seen similar examples of this in my travels, particularly in Cambodia and Germany/Poland/Holland, but it never ceases to amaze and disgust. And make you fear humanity. There was one section which showed a few segments of footage about students - footage of a young girl being shot by a policeman (who was on traffic duty). Most alarmingly was the case of Carmen Gloria Quintana and Rodrigo Rojas DeNegro - two students who were beaten, doused in petrol and set on fire in the street (in front of Carmen Gloria's sister) by two uniformed soldiers. They then wrapped them in blankets, drove them 20km to the outskirts of the city and left them to die. On record, the story was released about how their own molotov cocktails had apparently set off, and another being that no soldiers were on duty in that area on that day and instead the whole scandal was arranged by the US government to devalue the military government. Rodrigo died four days later from an infection in hospital, and Carmen Gloria survived with 62% burns and broken teeth, but only one officer was held accountable for failing to get Rodrigo to a hospital and sentenced to 600 days in prison.
There are many memorials for the missing around the country, and I've been trying to look online for some, so hopefully I can check one out but I'm not sure. I'll at least try to get to Villa Grimaldi and General Cementero.
After the museum, Nina and I went to Manuel Montt to buy some bus tickets and get money out to pay for horse riding tomorrow (eee so excited!), I got some food near the station, and then headed home. When I arrived some people were playing Shithead - a card game I'd forgotten about since yoga in Nepal! I played a few games and had a glass of red, and before I knew it Max and Nico were serving us all pork medallions, potatoes, and lasagne! They both love to cook (and are great at it) and kindly made us an enormous feast.
After dinner I wasn't in a very social mood, so I came up here. A few people went out to a place which sounded cool, but I don't feel that I speak enough Spanish to be out on the town, and I don't feel like being drunk, so I am going to stay right here! It's quiet now so I assume people are out or in bed, but earlier they were playing some crazy drinking game which called Chicken Ready, which involves immitating chickens. I recorded what I could hear from my room, because out of context it sounds hilariously funny.
Anyway, big weekend ahead, so I'm off.