Tag Archives: Santiago

Santiago go go!

12 Apr

In Santiago I stayed with my friend Cori and her husband Cesar.  They were excellent hosts with lots of Chilean wine at the ready!

While walking around Santiago many parts felt familiar, yet changed in the three years since I’ve lived there.  Walking around the cuico (rich) areas of town felt otherworldly– where did all of these foreigners come from?

Balding men in Corvette (or enter large company name here) polos who seemed like they would sooner be the butt of one of Jeff Foxworthy’s Red Neck jokes than lunching in a Santaigo sidewalk cafe were scattered everywhere, lunching in sidewalk cafes on business meetings!

I could make the few block walk from the metro to the apartment without hearing a single word of Spanish.  Men and women in business casual were speaking English on their way into Starbucks.

Luckily, old men in newsies hats still dotted the streets, seemingly strategically placed as a reminder of a different time.  They were anchors to the past, the last living reminders that this extremely modern city sprung up around them and not the other way around.

While studying abroad in Santiago I was often frustrated at the effects of the modernization and growth of the city.  I thought that it left it sterile and out of touch with its Latin American roots.  These same perks of the modern city I couldn’t help but LOVE this time around: its organization, clean streets, bus schedules and routes that you can check online, street art, international chain stores and restaurants, people who keep to themselves (and therefore don’t comment on your 1-pound fluctuation in weight, etc.), and access to art, culture and public spaces!

You mean we can play in this beautiful park?


Or walk through this sculpture garden?


Or randomly get off of the subway and run into an excellently curated and free Animal Extinctions Mini-Museum INSIDE of the Metro Station?


Or meet up with old friends who are shaping up to be the movers, shakers, and entrepreneurs of Santiago to reminisce, talk about ideas, the challenges of development, and drink borgoña? (red wine with lots of added sugar and fruit)


Or go to an art museum for free (or a small suggested donation) that has spaces for children to play, learn, interact, and do art themselves?


Or go for a run and then end up in an adult playground of gym equipment?


I guess this graffiti says it best, “Turn off the television! Turn on your mind.”


That’s what I was loving about Santiago, what I miss about home, and what I fear on a daily basis is missing in Paraguay (except, perhaps in Asunción or Encarnación).

I loved that should someone want to actually turn off the television and walk out of their house there were all sorts of things at their fingertips– books to be bought from vending machines or libraries in the metro, free events in the park, kids to play with and people to bump into in the park.

Bumping into literature, art, culture, museums, people who are different than you…Santiago was almost forcing these things down your throat at every turn of the corner.  I LOVED IT!  The city was making things that were once a luxury accessible to a more general public, the kind of thing that will help spur creativity, innovation, and critical thinking now and in future generations.

Santiago is obviously not without its faults– major smog problems, major public education strikes in the past year, and one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in Latin America, to name a few.

But on the whole Santiago is an enjoyable city and at least seems to be making an effort to open up cultural and educational spaces to populations that traditionally have been excluded from them in the past. The city of Santiago has half a million more people than Paraguay has in its entire country and therefore access to a lot more variety of and just a lot MORE resources.  Yet I still think the principles of the recent development initiatives are good and could be modified or used to inspire goals for places like Paraguay!


Walk it Out

7 Apr

a small comic

*Drawings are not to scale, and are actually much more crowded in real life than they appear on paper.

The Zig Zag- No Explanation Necessary

The Bike Jam-  Everyone here rides their bikes on the sidewalk [I don’t blame them, the streets are crazytown], but I think they all secretly know that they’re not supposed to be riding them there, so no one will ask to pass; “On the left” does not exist here.  Instead they just slowly trail behind people until they get to the next cross street and can go around quickly– this makes things difficult when you’re on a giganticly long block.  The worst is when there are people floating around the sidewalk, with the bike slowly trailing behind, and then YOU, forced into trailing behind only because there is no chance you would ever be able to pass a group of people AND a bicycle.

The Fortress- People here pay no mind to anyone else’s needs or wants on the sidewalk, it’s every man for himself on the sidewalks of Santiago, Chile.  These fortresses are packed so tightly you will sometimes begin to think that it is actually an obstacle course that has been set up in your honor.  Unfortunately, these are not the obstacle courses of elementary school gym class where you get a McDonald’s happy meal toy if you successfully cross the finish line.  If you want to pass the fortress you need to loudly say the password, “Permiso,” and even then you’re not assured passage.  If you do make it around it will most likely be accompanied by hysterical laughter in your face from school girls, or ninja stars via death glances from grown women.

The “I will attempt to read your mind about where you will walk, and fail”- This generally turns into a game of chicken where I convulse back and forth with uncertainty of where to take my next step because apparently my telepathy skills are not that strong.  The scenario depicted in the last frame ended with me awkwardly crashing into a man carrying a gigantic basket of fruit, when I was trying my very hardest to get out of his way because clearly he had his hands full!  Since mind reading failed me I attempted to employ other methods of walking such as: walking with no particular direction, walking so slow that I’m practically walking in place, the “I’m not going to move for anybody” walk, and the American “we walk like we drive, stick to the right.”  Unfortunately, I had no success with any of these methods, either.

y la democracia?

27 Feb

Before I arrived to Chile I was intent on observing their politics in action while I was here.  The fact that they have a female president who is also a single mother and openly agnostic fascinates me [I don’t think this would ever go over in the United States, at least in the near future].  You will also notice that her last name is not Chilean or Spanish, at least I don’t think it is; there is an overwhelming amount of German and other non-Spanish last names here, but I’ll talk about that more in a different post.

Three tidbits that I will let you judge on your own:

1. In order to vote in Chile you have to register, once you register it is for life.  But IF you register you are required to vote in EVERY election always, including little tiny elections [something like for a city alderman in the U.S.].  If you are registered and miss voting in an election you are required to pay a fee every time.

Ok, I can’t help but insert commentary here:  This voting system requires two things: stability in one’s life and money in case of fines.  Both of these are things that people below a certain income level certainly lack.  If someone isn’t positive that they will be able to vote in every single election for the rest of their life it takes away their ability to vote in one presidential election, for example.  Even I don’t know where I’ll be on a certain day in five years, and I can’t promise I would make it to the polls.  This obviously makes for a pretty exclusive voting system, which perhaps they’ve realized as they are currently taking strides to change the system, however the current system will be in place for all of next year’s elections.

2. September 18th is Chilean Independence Day.  There is a mandate that says every single Chilean home must have a Chilean flag outside of their home on this day, if you don’t have one you get fined.  Everyone is also prohibited from having a Chilean flag outside of their home on any day besides September 18th, if you do have one besides the 18th, then you get fined for that.

I just think this is absurd.

3.  Santiago has a major problem with abandoned dogs, they are running ALL over the city.  More so than there ever were in Colombia, where I felt like there was a pretty sizable amount.  Some dogs are really dirty and gross, but there are a lot of them who seem like they were living in a house just last week.  People here have a habit of just dumping domestic dogs into the streets.  These perros vagabundos are called quiltros.  There’s quite the critical mass of these quiltros surrounding “La Moneda,” an official government building where the president conducts meetings, in downtown Santiago.  My Spanish teacher told us that visiting foreign presidents continually commented on the need for Santiago to take some steps to address the problem.  Apparently after one state visit too many (I don’t know after which one) all of the dogs around La Moneda disappeared overnight (most likely taken somewhere and killed).  Everyone who lived and worked down there had grown attached to the dogs and given most of them names.  There was a city uproar about cruelty towards animals after this.  The state tried to open a shelter for abandoned dogs but inspectors ended up discovering the conditions were far worse in the shelter than the street.

Santiago en cien palabras

25 Feb

There is a project in Santiago right now for people to submit short writings describing their Santiago in 100 words or less.  My teacher assigned this as our homework assignment last night, so I´ll post what I wrote here for those of you who read Spanish:

Los Santiaguinos caminan en sus mundos propios; quizás sin destino, quizás en cualquier dirección que el viento los lleve o quizás sólo disfrutando el paseo.  De todas formas, las reglas de como alguien debe caminar en los EEUU no se aplica a nadie aquí.  Creo que esto dice algo sobre la cultura chilena, que es más libre y más relajada.  Pero de todas maneras los mundos de los Santiaguinos son sus propios y me lo hace un poquito difícil para entrar al principio.  Pero he descubierto que después de que alguien entra al mundo, o al corazón de un chileno, estará adentro para siempre.

Basic Translation: ¨Santiaguinos walk around in their own little worlds, maybe without a destination, maybe wherever the wind blows them, or maybe just enjoying the journey.  The rules of the U.S. about how someone should walk do not apply to anyone here.  I think this says something about the culture, that it is more free and relaxed.  However, the worlds of Santiaguinos are their own and this has made it a bit difficult for me to enter their worlds.  But I have discovered that after someone enters the world, or the heart of a Chilean they will be there forever.¨

-By rules of the U.S. I was referring to how we transfer our rules of the road to the sidewalk and stairs usually: walking on the right, etc.  That is NOT the case here, people make it extremely difficult to pass or to walk anywhere at a pace that would allow you to arrive in any sort of timely fashion.  And own little worlds…I´ve noticed that Chileans are considerably colder as compared to my experiences in Colombia, but I think once you break their barrier they are just as caring.

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