Entry #063: Thursday, February 27, 2014 (Santiago, Chile)

Before I begin, I gotta level with ya, folks. I'm again in one of those moods where I get no pleasure in the prospect of writing, where it's just another burden that I have to deal with. It's been a while since the last one of those, no? But, of course, this blog is for my own personal record benefit, as well as for the benefit of the Chinese phishing websites that Google Analytics says makes up two-thirds of my audience. So still I write. I'm not going to say "I'm gonna go qucikly through everything", because every time I do that, it's a 10,000-word entry, but still, I apologize if the quality here isn't up to whatever usual standards I might have. Anyhoo, moving along.

I ended up sleeping in a bit on Saturday, which proved to be for the best, as I felt considerably better and livelier than the day before. Basically, I didn't have any dreams that were screwing with my sleep energy regeneration, or whatever you want to call it. I went downstairs and had my desayuno (breakfast), which was actually quite good, at least for a hostel. There was a hot water pot - along with coffee, tea (about six different types), and even hot chocolate - melon juice, ham, cheese, spreads, and bread. Lots of bread, and all sorts of different types. I have been informed that Chile has the second-highest per-capita consumption of bread in the world, right after Germany (it's like 450 pounds per household per year), and I've definitely noticed it. They are not shy in giving you healthy (a term used somewhat ironically) portions of bread. After finishing my meal, I went back to my room and waited to be picked up by Cecilia, who I mentioned in the last entry. I spent a good portion of this time looking for my room key, which I thought I might have inexplicably lost (turns out, it got caught between the bed frame and the mattress). Then, just around noon, I headed outside, and Cecilia came to meet me. Actually, she headed into the hostel, and was then informed that I was standing outside. Apparently, she had been told by my aunt that I look like my mother - which is true, especially in the nose - but that I have brown eyes. In fact, my eyes shift between blue and green (with hints of yellow), but never brown.

Still, we found each other, greeted, and were on our way. Coming from a English/Scottish background (on her mother's side), and often visiting the States, Cecilia has a very good grasp of English, much more so than my Spanish. But more than that, she's a very nice person, and was interested in treating me like I was family (by which I mean blood family; I'm only distant marriage relation). She drove me around the city, showing me a few spots (though it was really just us driving around; I wouldn't really call it a tour or anything). We then drove up to a nearby hill where we could get a pretty respectable view of the whole city. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy, and so the view wasn't as beautiful as I suppose it could have been. (Luckily, though, it's summer. Apparently, in the winter, the pollution gets really bad.) We then went back into town and bought some empanadas, which are different in Chile than in Argentina. Traditional Chilean empanadas are stuffed with onions, a chopped-up hard boiled egg, and a single olive. We then went to her apartment, a lovely little place (with lots of paintings that Cecilia herself created) in what I would call the residential part of the city, and sat down a bit. She offered to let me stay at her place, but I think I had already paid for the hostel stay, so I don't think I would have been able to get that money back, at least not easily. Besides, the hostel was in a good part of town, and has excellent WiFi. Also, I didn't want to be a burden. So, I declined.

Cecilia prepared lunch, constantly refusing my offers of assistance ("In Chile, the men relax while the women prepare the meals"), and we had our empanadas and some salad. It was good, though as I've said before, I'm not the biggest fan of onions. As for the olive, I enjoy the occasional olive, but really only a few served separately as a sub-appetizer; I don't really like them as part of another food. For dessert, we also had tunas, which has nothing to do with the fish (that's atun), but is rather one of the different varieties of prickly pear fruit (a green type that made my lips tingle). We spoke while we ate, mostly me sharing anecdotes of my travels. Afterward, I showed her some of the photos that I had posted on Facebook (since I didn't have my laptop handy). I also tried using her ability to speak Spanish at a conversational/improvisational level to see if we could get the Internet working on my phone. We called the Entel call center three times, but each time we were hung up on while waiting to be transferred to someone else. So no luck there. Cecilia mentioned that her brother Pablo, who we'd be visiting later, worked in IT, and so would be more capable of helping me out.

So, before long, we headed out, and went to this place called El Pueblito Los Dominicos, which is an artisan handcraft market area near a church. Actually, we tried visiting the church - I even rang an old-timey bell to get somebody's attention - until we realized that it was closed for construction for a couple of months. So we just went into the market and looked around. There was definitely a number of neat things there. I was curious about the possibility that maybe I could get some leather here for my Kilimanjaro obsidian bracelet, but I had to remind an overzealous Cecilia that I actually needed the bracelet to know the necessary sizes before asking questions. While we were there, Cecilia also treated me to another traditional Chilean dish, a dessert/snack called mote con huesillo (literally, "wheat with peaches"). As the name implies, it is husked wheat served with dehydrated-then-rehydrated peaches in a thin syrup-like liquid. Sugary as heck, but very good for how simple it is.

After finishing our snacks, we drove over to her brother Pablo's apartment, which was a lovely place with an amazing view of the eastern mountains. I also met Pablo's wife, but she didn't speak a lick of English (Pablo himself seemed like he had an even better grasp than Cecilia, though). And so we talked for a good long while, him relating some of his own travel tales with mine. While this was happening, I didn't even realize that the ladies had left the table we were speaking at (more on that in a second). Also among our conversation topics, Pablo gave me some information about the city, and some itinerary ideas. He also mentioned that if I wanted to get something Chilean at McDonald's (as I had mentioned that part of my trip), I would need to, counterintuitively, get something with Italiano in the name. This apparently means it has tomato (yum!), guacamole (yum!), and something white, possibly mayonaise (yuck!). So it's only Italian in color, not in origin. Good to know, except that now I knew I had to go back to McDonald's, which was not the best of news. Finally, Pablo tried to help me with my phone, but found that I had no money in my account to call the call center, because I had used it all...to call the call center. That's right, they charge you for getting in contact with them for help, and now all my phone could do was receive calls. I wasn't feeling so hot on this Entel company. After we had concluded that there was nothing more I could do at the moment, we were called for dinner. I then realized that the women had went in to prepare the meal while we were just sitting out here. I felt like a lazy piece of garbage, which the ladies just laughed at. Culture, donchaknow. Anywhere, what we were having was a light dinner (and I should note, this was slightly past 9pm), featuring bread - and lots of it! - ham, cheese, avocado spread, butter, jam, and little malt biscuits. This was apparently a traditional weekend dinner. And, like I'd been doing all day, I just spent the night talking. At about 11pm, Cecilia drove me back to my hostel, and then said she'd call me to see if I wanted to meet her son in the town of Limache the next day. So, I went in and tried to look up as many things as I could. I didn't have much time to make a great itinerary before she called and asked. It seemed like I could get a lot done in Santiago proper in three days, so I told her okay, somewhat nervously (only because I was worried this was just going to eat up an entire day without actually accomplishing much). I then tried continuing to build an itinerary before going to bed.

I woke up the next morning, had breakfast, and waited for Cecilia to call while trying to ignore the people in the room next door getting intimate with each other (really, though, at 10am?). When she did call, she said she was going to be late, and wouldn't pick me up until noon. I kind of wish I had known this before, because I would have been able to use the time I had in the morning to visit at least one of the local sights, but it was too late for that, so I had to just continue milling around until she showed up. When she did, I hopped in her car, and after a quick stop for her to buy coffee (and me water), we began driving to Limache, which was about two-point-five hour drive through a mountain range called Cuesta la Dormida ("The Cost of Sleep", roughly). There were some nice views, and we stopped at one point for me to take a picture. With the layers of rolling mountains and the distant haze, I was reminded of the cover for the book The Alchemist (though, looking at the book online, I totally forgot there was a church on the cover). I then got back in and we continued driving along winding, winding, winding roads. All the while I was feeling the name of the area was appropriate, because all I wanted to do was take a nap. Past the mountains, we stopped at a couple of roadside stands to buy some produce, all of which was amazingly priced (you could get a kilo of tomatoes for a couple bucks). I got an avocado to hold onto for a bit, and Cecilia bought some tunas (the fruit) and olives. We also stopped to get some manjar, which is like dulce de leche, but Chileans will scold you if you make such a comparison (despite the fact that it is completely appropriate). Cecilia offered to buy me a half-liter for myself, but I asked for a sample first. That was a good idea, because it was sickeningly sweet (and I do like sweet things). I declined having any more (ever).

Finally, we reached our destination, which was the home of Cecilia's son, Andres (which, people still called me despite the fact I said that I don't appreciate being called it; I had to make the comparison that I also hate being called "Andy" by anyone who's not family). The house was currently being renovated, so it wasn't much of a looker at the moment, but apparently it was a nice place in a nice comfortable neighborhood. One of the first things Andres asked when we arrived is if I had brought my stuff; he had thought I was staying the night. It's weird how that's been the common assumption. I told him I wasn't, and then after showing me around the place, we sat down and talked. Basically, I repeated many of the same stories I had shared the day before. We were then called for lunch (which we hadn't helped out with, again making me feel like a scumbag). It was actually quite a full lunch, with chicken, salad, and some other side dishes, topped off with some watermelon for dessert (and this was the first watermelon I've had in some time, so that made it pretty special). We then talked more, until I was told that Andres was going to take me out to see some of the sights in the area. I hadn't known about this, but I decided to go along.

The two of us got into Andres' car, but to my surprise, our first stop was just at a house, where we picked up a couple little girls who I was assuming were Andres' daughters. We then drove back to his house, where he went in to drop off the younger of them, leaving me alone in the car with the older of the two (probably, maybe, eleven years old). Man, was that awkward. I don't think I've ever felt like more of a foreigner than sitting in the car with this little girl, wanting to be polite and start a conversation, but not having the capability to say more than just basic pleasantries without becoming frazzled. To my surprise, though, she proved to have fairly good English skills, and in fact, Andres wanted her to practice her English with me. We then drove around the town of Limache and it's neighbor, Olmue (which the daughter noted with undisguised contempt was known as Olmuerte by all the bored kids of the area, for being such a dead town; I have to admit, I agreed with her). Andres asked if I liked horses, and when I said I did, he drove us to a horse-riding area, where you could ride for a half-hour for less than six-dollars. I said I'd be willing to do what everyone else wanted to do (I wouldn't want to ride if nobody else did). The daughter wanted to ride, but Andres didn't, and so we left. Why we even came there, I don't actually know. He then said he would take us to the entrance of the mountain national park, but first - at the daughter's behest - we'd try to get some ice cream at a local specialty shop that's only open when they feel like it. Luckily, they were open when we went. Unluckily, none of their twenty-some-odd exotic flavors (pumpkin, cinnamon, cactus) had labels, so even after having my limit of samples, I was choosing blindly. I ended up going with a flavor that had half-dried grapes in it, and one that ended up being vanilla. They were both good, at least. We then went back to the house. What happened to the trip to the national park entrance, I'm not sure; this whole little venture was very strange.

When we got back, we saw that the celebration of the feast of the Virgin of the 40 Hours, which is apparently sch a local devotion that the only Wikipedia entry I could find on it is that of Limache itself. According to the wiki, "The Feast of the Virgin of 40 Hours (La Fiesta de la Virgen de las 40 Horas) begins in Limache 40 hours before the last Sunday in February with masses every hour, culminating on Sunday with a procession through the city." So there you go. I went out and watched a small portion of the folks outside, listening to some old man play a guitar and sing. When it seemed as though this particular mass was ending, I went back to the house, where I showed my photos (I had brought my laptop) to whoever wanted to see them. As is usually the case, people were very interested at first, but became bored before long, reminding me that I'll need to create a super-filtered version of my photos that can be run through on their own strength, without commentary or context. This continued until sometime after 6pm, maybe 6:30, at which point Cecilia insisted that we leave. So, I got my stuff together, said goodbye to the family, and we were off. It turned out that Cecilia wanted to leave to make sure that we made it through the mountains before nightfall, not due to any chupacabras, but just because it's better for her to drive in light conditions.

It was a long drive back - even longer than the way there - but we were able to fill most of it with conversation. Cecilia paid me a nice compliment by saying that I tell my travel stories very well, making them come alive in her head. So hey, I've got that going for me. We eventually made it back to my hostel at 9:30, and once I put my stuff down, I went out to get dinner. Again, it was too late for me to really put any effort towards it, so I just went to a nearby restaurant, and overpaid to get a kinda-fancy pizza. While waiting, a waiter came up to me and said something that I figured was "Have you been helped?" I said I had, but when he didn't go about his business, I thought maybe I got it wrong, and so asked him to repeat himself. He did so, but almost faster than before, which just got me more inwardly frustrated. He then said in English, "Have you been served?" I said I had, and he left, and I just started gnawing on my knuckles out of embarrassment. I had even gotten it right to begin with, too. I got my pizza and headed back to my room, where I ate it in peace and relaxed the rest of the night.

The next morning (Monday, it was), I made sure to wake up early enough that I could make it to the morning tour of the area. I went down to have breakfast, where there was already a somewhat large group of Chilean folks my age eating. I sat at a different table and ate, and while I was checking my email and not paying attention to what they were saying, I did hear the words "gringo" and "feo" in suspiciously close proximity to each other. Whatever the context, I couldn't be bothered, as I had to leave for the day. Luckily, the meeting place for the walking tours was at the entrance of the Museo de Bella Artes (Fine Arts Museum), which was only ten minutes away, if that. So, I got there and greeted some folks, and before long, we were beginning my first tour of the day. This one was the local culture tour. By that, the idea was not meant to show the coolest or most historic or most beautiful places in the city (that's for later). Rather, it was meant to go to the smaller, dirtier parts of town, the parts where people actually work and live and shop. It was a neat concept, and was also good for getting an idea for cheap places to eat. We went through the biggest local markets, which included the Mercado Central (which, despite the name, is really mostly for fish and meat), and the Vega Market (which is for produce and cheese). The prices in all these places were absurdly low: two kilos of tomatoes for $1.50, a kilo of grapes for $1.80, etc. This is partially because crops are so plentiful, and because it's where a lot of restaurants buy. Still, if there were a big produce market like that close to where I lived, I'd love buying cheap stuff.

After being treated to some sopapillas (street food made of a mixture of cornmeal and pumpkin and optionally topped with a spicy salsa), we got on the metro, and made our way to the local cemetery. (This was actually quite useful for showing me how the subway system works.) There are actually two main cemeteries in Santiago. First, there is the general cemetery, and then there is the Catholic-only cemetery that was built when the Catholic patriarchy of way-back-when started to notice Protestants being buried in their general cemetery. The general cemetery was an interesting place. There were definitely some old tombs there, and there were also a number of mausoleums, which were pretty interesting, because apparently back in the day, the rich folks decided to have a competition to see who could have the most interesting mausoleum. As a result, there are some with Greek, Egyptian, and even Aztec influences. There were also a couple of examples of "animistas", the best English term I can think of being "homemade saints", which were normal, innocent people who died tragically. People pray to them, and when they get a favor granted, they return to the grave and leave a plaque of thanks. Finally, we stopped at the grave of Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected Communist president, last dude in charge before the military dictatorship, and dead guy. There I probably learned more history about Chile than I had probably ever known up to that point (I love history, but I'm admittedly very Euro-centric). After this, we went to a local bar, where we got samples of the local cocktail, the Terremoto ("earthquake"). It's grenadine, white wine, and pineapple ice cream. Basically, enough sweet added to the alcohol that I could tolerate it. After this, the tour ended. An old couple who I had been talking to throughout the tour left me by saying, "Good luck, traveler," which I genuinely loved for whatever reason. After the tour, I went to the Catholic cemetery to see how it compared. To be perfectly honest, it was pretty disappointing. I would have thought there'd be magnificent statues parading about, but I guess the folks who would want to be buried there were ultra-conservative, and so it was pretty blah.

I took the metro back to the main part of town, and saw that I had an hour-point-five until the next tour. I decided to get some food. I figured this may be a good time to try one of those Italiano dishes at a McDonald's and get that over with, but I couldn't find one in that area. There were, though, plenty of mote con huesillo carts, so I got one of those whilst continuing on. I also saw an Entel store. Perfect! I thought, They'll be able to fix my SIM card so I can recharge and use the Internet. I went in, described my situation as well as I could in Spanish, and handed my phone over. The guy looked it over, and then said something so fast I couldn't understand. I asked for him to repeat, but even paying closer attention, I was unfamiliar with most of the vocabulary he was using. What I could definitely tell was that he was saying he couldn't/wouldn't help me, and was directing me out of the store. I was horribly frustrated, and almost genuinely angry - the first time I've been almost genuinely angry in a long while - both because this Entel company is complete garbage (seriously, this is the first time I've had such issues with a local SIM card), and because of the Spanish situation. And I think my frustrations regarding Spanish are partially, if not mainly, due to my own pride. Like, I realize it's one of the deadly sins, but I have a lot of pride in my speaking and communication abilities. So when it all falls apart - when I know enough about a language to communicate but not communicate - it just grinds my mind. Also, my generally poor ability to handle other languages is just a general blow to my pride as well.


I ended up getting a couple empanadas, and ate them in a park while watching the front of the Museo de Bella Artes. When I finally saw people show up, I walked over there. Not too surprisingly, a lot of the people on this tour were around for the morning tour. We met our new guide (a girl from Pasadena, as it turns out), and then went on a tour of all the most important/interesting/historical/beautiful sites in the main part of Santiago. During this time, I was again speaking with folk about my travels (it's funny how it always works out: I mention one thing to somebody, and then someone else overhears and says, "You were in [BLANK]?" and then it goes on like that). The tour covered the government buildings, the cathedral, the main business area, a big plaza that had a lot of cafés con peirnas ("coffee with legs", a type of coffee shop where the waitresses are dressed in revealing clothes, if not just flat-out bikinis or stripper outfits; we didn't actually go in one, but I looked up pictures online, and it looks more awkward and sad than anything). At one point, while standing outside and talking about a small church that took 200 years to get finished due to earthquakes, some old man came up to me and just started talking, randomly, about how much has changed in the last forty years, and all the struggles, and Venezuela's current problems, and then just left. He didn't speak to anyone else, and was gone as quickly as he arrived. Very mysterious. Anyway, we ended up finishing conveniently close to my hostel, where I learned that the small church on the corner street was actually run by the Opus Dei.

Once the tour ended, I decided to get something to eat. The tour guide recommended a nearby (well, within a mile) sandwich shop, which was actually featured on Anthony Bourdain's show, and was apparently his favorite sandwich (maybe even food) in Chile. Gotta be worth a shot, I figured. So, I went to this place, and chacarero completo, which has churrasco-style meat sliced up and grilled. The completo part of it just meant that it came with everything: tomato, lettuce/sauerkraut (it looked like the latter, but tasted like the former), avocado, something else I can't remember now, and mayonnaise. Of course, hating mayo, I asked for it sin mayonesa. I then sat down and watched the waitresses (and it was exclusively waitresses, aged anywhere from 20 to 80) cook in a big griddle in the center of the room. It was almost like a little show. Eventually, I got mine, tied up nicely in a little bag, and then walked back to the hostel. As if to spite me, it seemed like my sandwich had extra mayo. Despite this (and taking off as much as I could), the sandwich was delicious. Much better than I was expecting. Still a bit on the expensive side ($7 for a sandwich and nothing else) but at least I thoroughly enjoyed it. I then spent the remainder of the evening bouncing back and forth between writing and messing around, since I, again, haven't been in the mood to write. This continued for a long while (I think I stayed up until 3am) before finally going to bed.

After breakfast the next morning, I headed out, back to the Museo de Bella Artes. No, I wasn't going on a repeat of one of the tours I'd already done; I was just going to explore on my own. All the museums in town were closed on Monday (which I didn't know about until the tour guides told us, much to my disappointment). Admission was a scant $1.10, which is a steal no matter how you look at it. That said, I'd say the museum was fairly small, partially because they were doing a bit of construction and setting-up of new installations. So, I didn't spend terribly long there, but there were some neat statues (including a plaster [ugh] replica of Michelangelo's Lorenzo de Medici statue, which has always been one of my favorites), some modern art, and a underground (literally) exhibit on the German Bauhaus Film, which, as you can imagine, is art films, which is one of those things I appreciate in principle, but can never get myself to unironically enjoy.

After that, I walked to the base of the San Cristóbal Hill, atop which a large, famous statue of the Virgin Mary stood. At a small park around the base, it looked like a tiny street fair, with a couple arts and crafts vendors, as well as cotton candy, mote con huesillo, and sopapillas, which were only about $0.20 apiece. So, I got one and looked at the funicular which could take me up to the top of the hill. I considered it, but decided to walk instead. It might have been the price (1,500 pesos, a smidgen less than $3), but I like to think I was in the mood to walk up a hill, even on a hot day. It took about an hour, but I got up there, appreciated the view, and then walked back down, again refusing the funicular. When I got down to the bottom, I got some more mote con huesillo (gotta admit, I like the stuff) and then tried going up and down the street until I could find my next museum of note, La Chascona, which was one of the multiple houses of Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda. The whole shtick with that place was that he was an avid collector of things from around the world, and they preserved the house as he left it. I felt admission was pretty pricey for what it was (4,000 pesos), but it came with a free audioguide, and I guess the place was interesting enough. There were definitely some cool things he collected - my favorite being a table either designed after or made out of a ship's prow figurehead - but some of it was kinda tacky. Still, I guess I can't win until I get my own Nobel Prize for Literature (I've sent every blog entry so far to the academy, but they haven't written back).

I then walked to the Vega Market (that's the produce one). I wanted to get some lunch, and there was a place recommended that was right in the middle of this market, Donde la Tia Ruth. I felt a little bad because I rejected a woman offering me a seat outside her shop, to sit in a seat outside the shop right next to hers. I sat down, and Ruth herself came out to ask me what I wanted, and then listed a number of things. Among them was cazuela, which I remembered hearing was one of the "authentic Chilean dishes". That said, I had completely forgotten what it actually was, so I ordered it blindly. Turns out, cazuelo (specifically, the kind I got, cazuelo de vacuno) is a soup/thin stew with a piece of meat (still on the big circular bone which I couldn't quite place), potato, squash, hard-boiled egg, and probably some olives and other stuff. It was pretty good. After finishing, I walked around the market to get some fruit. I eventually settled on buying some grapes. However, I once again misjudged metric weight (mostly because I was so enamored by the price), that I bought a full kilo of grapes for about $1.80. I immediately realized my mistake, especially since I couldn't bring them into any museums. I ate as many as I could handle, and then left them in the worst possible place: next to a metro bench. Had I been smarter about it, I could have just handed them to a homeless person and/or homeless dog. Well, hopefully somebody got some use from them.

I took the metro across town to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). The main point of this place was to talk about the history and abuses of human rights during the military dictatorship under Pinochet. It was free to enter, but I paid to get an audioguide, which was goddamn useful, because there were very few translations in the museum, and the ones that were there were sub-Babblefish. (My personal favorite: "Papa Juan Pablo II" became "Father Johannes II".) Still, while the place was not quite as stark and affecting as the Killing Fields of Cambodia (which still linger in my mind even now), it did help to show how screwed up things were not very long ago. You especially got that feeling when you saw video footage of some of the stuff going on. It was almost like the YouTube era of human rights before YouTube (if that makes sense). At one point, completely unprompted, someone began talking to me. I had to take out my audioguide to figure out what he was saying. It was an older man, and he was just talking about some of the posters on the wall. I tried communicating as much as I could in Spanish, but he switched to English when he could see me struggling. The guy's name was Victor, and he was a really nice guy. I lied to him a bit about my time length in Chile and South America, because I felt he was the type of guy to chide me for not staying long enough (and in fact, he was; he even thought the four months I claimed to be staying was too short). Still, he talked to me about language, and gave me encouragement about all the times I get frustrated when I can't think of the word (and his advice was to not think, just speak). On the whole, it was actually exactly the kind of advice I needed. I don't think I'm suddenly going to become a pro, but at least I feel a bit better about the whole thing.

What I felt bad about, though, was that I had to leave in the middle of our conversation. I had thought the museum would close down at six, and that everyone would be ushered out. But when I looked at my phone, it was already 7pm. I had plans to meet up with Cecilia and Pablo for dinner, and I was already late. I almost wish it wasn't that, because, "Sorry, I have dinner plans with someone" seems like the most blatant "I wanna get away from you" excuse ever. But I couldn't remain, so I thanked Victor, said goodbye, and then hurried out the door and into the metro. I made my way to the other side of town, and got to Pablo's home at 7:30, just as Cecilia was calling me. Like, literally, I was right outside the door when she called, which might have seemed a little uncanny. In any case, when I went in, I met Magdalena, one of Pablo's children. We talked for a bit, and showed each other photos from our respective trips. We then had dinner, which was salad, baked chicken, and some melon for dessert. Again, we mostly just talked, with me trying to talk about new stuff, but kinda being asked to repeat some of my previous anecdotes for Magdalena's sake. After that, Cecilia drove me back to my hostel, and then asked if I wanted to meet with her son on Thursday. While flattered, I really felt like I couldn't keep meeting with people, lest I have no time to do my own thing. So, I declined as politely as I could, and then went back inside. I tried to get some work done, but went to bed before too late.

The next morning, I had a special breakfast. I remembered that I still had that avocado that I had bought super cheap in Limache, so I decided to spread it use it on my morning toast. Arguably the best decision I've made in my 26 years of life. Afterward, I immediately headed out and took a metro to the bus station. I bought a round-trip ticket (which actually saved me a cool thousand pesos), and waited for about ten minutes. When the bus arrived, already mostly full, I hopped on board, and we were on our way. Apparently, it was almost full already (from what stop, I don't know) and I had gotten the last seat. I settled in and watched the landscape go by for the next ninety minutes (there's a good distance between the two towns, but the fact that you can go from the country's border to the coast in about four or five hours is pretty impressive. Eventually, we arrived in Valparaíso (did I mention that's where I was going?), and I got off, eager to explore the "Jewel of South America". Unfortunately, I didn't quite see as much as I'd like, mainly because I spent most of my time looking for it. For instance, on a info sheet I was given, I was told that there was a farmer's market and arts fair every Sunday and Wednesday. It being Wednesday, I wanted to take a look at the local arts and crafts to see if they were unique in any way. However, there was no information as to where this took place. I looked at my physical map, and saw that the vast majority of the city was south of where I was. So, I went south, hoping I'd run into the fair. Unfortunately, I didn't, and only later found out that the fair was in fact taking place in the only two blocks of the city that were north of the bus station.

Eventually, though, I made my way to the main part of town. I can't argue that Valparaíso didn't seem like a colorful and vibrant city (it really did), but I'm not sure it's my personal style. In any case, I looked at my map, and tried looking for a recommended place for lunch. However, I was having more difficulty finding it than I probably should have. Like, according to my maps, I was walking circles around it, but never actually found it. Still, this offered me some opportunities to explore. I kept on going up stairs (choosing not to take the couple of elevators/funiculars that I came across). These were not small staircases; they went up a couple hundred steps, at least. Not as bad as some of the temples in Cambodia, but impressive nonetheless. And in one case, I found my way up to a museum of sorts, which seemed closed, but at least had a nice view of the city on it's patio (I assume the place used to be a military compound, maybe a general's home). Eventually, I made my way back to the main center, and tried again to find the food place. I didn't, but I passed by a sign that caught my attention. It was advertising chorrillana. It looked terrible...ly tempting. And terrible. Basically, it's fries, topped with fried egg, topped with fried onions, topped with sliced pork, topped with sliced hot dogs, topped with cheese.

Jesus Christ, that may have been the most regretful sentence I have ever typed.

Morbid curiosity took hold of me, though, and so I ordered it. The owner was very nice (even coming out to shake my hand, perhaps because I was a new customer), but damn the service was slow. I was literally waiting 45 minutes to get my food. I probably wouldn't have minded so much if other people hadn't come in, ordered, got their food, ate, and then left whilst I was waiting. Finally, though, I got my food. I ate it, and...I really don't think it's necessary to give a review of this food. Go back up and read the composition, and you can probably figure out the conclusion. I then left, and looked at what I could do. I really wanted too visit the local cemetery (which was atop a hill and really cool-looking), but because of my time being lost and waiting for food, I wouldn't have the opportunity. So, I had to settle with getting another bottle of water and heading to the tour meeting spot.

While the tour through the city was interesting, and really gave you a better idea of what the city is like and how the local people view themselves compared to the rest of the country, I actually wasn't a big fan of it, mainly because of the guide. A dude from Springfield, Illinois, he was kinda awkward and made a lot of bad jokes (and not the kind of bad jokes that are funny in their own way; these were just painful). More than that, though, there was an underlying sense of cynicism that coated his tour like a thick lacquer. It's hard to give a solid example, but I guess one would be when I noted that Valparaíso didn't seem like it was built as an automobile town (since it was really hilly and had tiny winding streets). His response: a sneering "Thank God." I can't argue with the idea that having fewer cars is nice, but it's more the way he said it. I dunno, I just didn't care too much for it.

What I did love? Dogs! I didn't mention it much yet, but there are a ton of homeless dogs in Chile, or at least in both Santiago and Valparaíso. And the various tours I was on all mentioned them, basically saying that they are almost universally not dangerous, and are in fact treated as citizens in their own right. Like, they wait at stoplights and walk across the street when the light changes (I actually saw this), and will hop on and off of buses (I didn't see this, unfortunately). And because everyone feeds them, they aren't starving. In fact, some are super fat. And anyway, they're all really friendly, so it's great. Whenever a dog got close to me, I went down on one knee and gave it a good scratch. "They belong to everybody and nobody," as one guide put it. I love dogs, so constantly being surrounded by friendly dogs was the best. I only mention this now in particular because we had two dogs - one named Maria Jose, and the other named David Bowie due to the heterochromia in its eyes - follow us for nearly 2/3 of the entire tour. I absolutely loved it!

Anyway, tangent done. As we continued Valparaíso, we each got an alfajores cookie (which is like two pieces of shortbread, with manjar in the middle, covered in chocolate) from a local baker, and then made our way to a funicular which took us up to Cerro Alegre ("Happy Hill"). This was actually pretty convenient, because this hill was specifically mentioned by Cecilia to be a place to go to. And it had a nice view, so I can understand the rationale. Along the way, I was trying to see if there was anybody in the group I could chat with. I spoke a little bit with a Canadian dude, but two really bratty Finnish girls (and it pains me to write that, because I normally love Finns) kept interrupting and pushing me out. So, I mostly just listened to the cynical tour commentary until we finished up in an art cafe, where we were each treated to a Pisco Sour, which apparently is Peruvian/Chilean, and is made up of pisco (a type of alcohol) and lime. Again, it was just a sample, so I tried it. It was basically a margarita, and I didn't even want to finish the small amount I had. After leaving, I decided to go to a place called El Pimenton (the name is a bell pepper), as it was recommended as one of the better places in town. After I arrived and washed my hands, I noticed that there were two German guys from the tour. We decided to sit together, and I was reminded how much I like Germans (especially where they're not everywhere like in some countries). I then ordered a pastel de choclo, which is a kind of small casserole in an earthenware dish, containing sweetcorn, ground beef, chicken, raisins, black olives, onions and slices of hard boiled egg. They also offered to top it with sugar, which I promptly declined. It was pretty good, though. I ate it pretty slowly, though, because I had a great conversation with the German guys. And, as has been my lot in life (and probably will be for some time), I was talking about my travels. And I was actually thinking to myself, What if I didn't like telling stories? Like, I think I'd probably go insane. But I do like telling them, so it's all good. And they enjoyed hearing them and comparing it to their own travels.

After dinner was done, I didn't have much time before I had to get to my bus (which was a good twenty minute walk away), but there was just enough to go to an ice cream shop. The guide had told us it was the best ice cream in the world, but I've become so weary of superlatives that I wasn't expecting much. The shop itself was much more modest; it only claimed to have among the top 25 ice creams in the world. We each got a double scoop (I got strawberry and banana-manjar), and said our goodbyes and good lucks. I realized afterward that we hadn't gotten each other's names, but then I smiled. It's almost better that way, sometimes. I then hurried to the bus station, licking my ice cream (it was okay, but I'm sure I've had better). I made it to my bus with literally less than a minute to spare, and we were on our way. Once the sun set, there wasn't much more to look at, and so I found myself dozing a bit. In fact, at one point I fell plumb asleep, because a girl woke me up to let me know we had arrived at the Santiago station. I got off and went down to the metro. I then got almost angry for the second time (ooh, this ain't good), for a pretty silly reason: a metro ticket cost 620 pesos. I paid 1,120, because I wanted a single 500 peso coin back (I wanted to get rid of my coins). They definitely had 500 peso coins, I could see them. They refused my coins and instead gave me an additional seven coins. I don't know why, but that kind of stuff frustrates me. Anyway, I was able to let it go after a minute, and then headed back to the hostel. It was nearly 11pm when I got back, and so even after just going through my emails and getting everything sorted for the day, it was quite late. I tried to take a shower, but after literally 30 seconds, it seemed as though whatever created the hot water broke, and so all that was rushing out was freezing cold. Not desiring an ice shower before bed, I instead chose to sleep in my own filth.

And then we come to today. It began the same way each other day this week began: I woke up. (I suppose the same goes true for every day on the trip.) After breakfast, I set up a shuttle to get to the airport, which was going to pick me up at - gulp - 8am. And this is for a noon flight. Eh, it's not the worst thing in the world, I suppose. I then went back to my room, and did some writing for a while. I also did some work, as into looking into booking my bus trip from La Paz to Cusco (and it looks like I can do so for $11, which is a price I can live with). But mainly, yeah, catching up on writing. I then left for lunch. I decided this was my last opportunity to go to a McDonald's in Chile, and so for the sake of My Disgusting Quest™, I walked over. Along the way, I passed by a promotional Entel kiosk where some employee was calling out to me, trying to sell me something. I just turned my figurative nose up. I'm actually quite glad I didn't give them one peso more than I already did, and truth be told, I actually managed without mobile data pretty well. It was just like being in Morocco all over again, except that I could actually made heads and tails of street signs here. Anyhoo, I finally got to the McDonald's, and got the Pollo Italiano, which was a chicken sandwich with avocado, tomato, and mayonnaise. While I can't say it was disgusting, it was one of the most inconsequential, forgettable things I've ever eaten. That's almost worse than being disgusting. I'm at least going to remember the McFondue for some time.

After that disappointment, I walked over to the Plaza de Armas for no real reason other than to walk around. I went back into the Cathedral, and found myself in the middle of some service. It wasn't a mass, it just seemed like a Eucharist adoration, or something to that effect. Once that was over, I left and went to the nearby Museo Histórico Nacional, which was the former Chilean palace. There wasn't much there, so I was in and out within 15 minutes. I then continued walking around town. At one point, I thought to myself, I can probably use some of the money I have left to get a haircut. Not but two minutes later, I randomly turned into this one gallery, where there were - I kid you not - eighteen hair salons. Like, all in a row. In some ways, that almost made it more difficult, because then you had to choose. But choose I did, and got a nice sub-$6 haircut. I admit, I actually liked my hair at the length it was, but not when I'm travelling and have to bother with hair gel and the likes. Now, it doesn't need any management. Now that I think about it, this may very well be my last haircut of this trip. After that, I walked to the nearby Santa Lucia hill. I walked past all the young couples making out (PDA is apparently a big thing in Santiago, since everyone lives with their parents until they marry; they have to mack on each other outside of home), and got to the top of the hill, which had a nice view. I then went back down and walked around the nearby artisan center, which didn't have anything to tempt me. So, I went back to the hostel and did some more writing. I also tried to take a shower, but the water was still freezing. I needed to clean up my recently-clipped head, though, so I just gritted my teeth and washed my hair in the icy torrent. Before long, it was time for dinner. I took what was left of my cash and went out to town. I actually first spent some of it on deodorant (because who knows if I'll find solid stick deodorant in any other country; I can't handle the roll-on stuff, I tells ya!), and then went to a nearby sandwich shop. This time, I got a lomito, which was similar to the chacarero, but used thinly-sliced pork instead of beef. It was another of those "classic Chilean foods" (which I'm just noticing now all seems to be really unhealthy), and I also like how it sounds like my hometown of Lomita. Mine was a "Mexicano", which included tomato, avocado, and salsa; all things I like. The thing was overpriced, though, especially when the waiter added his 10% tip, even though I was taking the thing to-go. Had I not actually been trying to use up my money, I definitely would have argued that one. I brought the lomito back, ate it - it was fine - and then continued my writing. That's the problem when you're not in the mood for writing: you don't do it, until you need to do it, and then you just have to do more, even though you still don't want to do it.

But enough about that. Would you look at it: I'm already done in Chile! That didn't take long, did it? It feels like just one entry ago I arrived. But now we must continue on, up north, north, north! To La Paz! To Bolivia!

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