Close to Santiago, about an hour, to an hour and a half bus ride away, are Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. They are both on the water, and have a lot of character. Valparaiso is a port town, and has amazing street art/beautiful graffiti lining the walls. The streets are very similar to San Francisco with the steep inclines. We had an amazing fish meal with a beautiful view of the water. It is really fun to get out of the city,
and be around the water. We walked around Valparaiso for a while, and really need to make more trips out there!
From Valpo we took a bus over to Vina del Mar, one town over. Vina del Mar has a very different feel to it, and is much more of a beach town. In Vina del Mar, there is a beach (as opposed to just being a port), and the water is beautiful. We went there at the end of September, and the water was very cold, we could only put our feet in! They have a little board walk, with some crafts and snacks, but it’s very low key. People line the beach in all temperatures, and there is a lot going on. We enjoyed just sitting on the beach and looking at/listening to the water. There is also a casino there so we did a little bit of gambling :-P We found a nice restaurant on the water and had a drink as we watched the sun begin to set.
After our drink, we sat on the rocks and enjoyed watching the sunset. As it was getting later, we decided to grab a quick bite to eat and head to the bus station. About two bites into our sandwiches the power went out in the restaurant. We soon realized that the power in the whole city was out, and had to find our way to the bus station with our limited Spanish and get on a bus to take us back to Santiago. Once we boarded a bus, we discovered that Santiago was without power as well, and many other cities in the area because they are all on the same power grid. We got lucky when we returned because the power was back on, and we were able to get a bus to our
apartment. The bus stations were extremely crowded because the metro was down, so there were TONS of people at each bus station.
In other Santiago news, they are continuing to have protests for free education. Sometimes they are very peaceful, but there are days when the protests turn into riots. Tear gas and water cannons with tear gas mixed in are used to help control the masses. Our apartment is located near a major university and we often had protestors fairly close by. One of the worst riots I have seen was a couple weeks ago, and benches were uprooted, street signs were torn down, and trashcans were set aflame. When this happens, they usually shut down the metro near us. When the riots occur, we try to avoid the areas with the people, or just stay in the apartment for the day. The tear gas permeates the air, and it’s not comfortable to walk around until it dissipates. However, like I said earlier, not all protests turn into riots. The people have very strong feelings about the price and conditions of education in their country…and of course, all extranjeros (foreigners) have their own ideas and opinions about what is going on as well.
I am continuing to teach English to children. I go out to their homes, which is an interesting experience. I take the metro and the a bus (called a micro) to get to their homes. Getting there most classes take me about 1 hr.-1 hr. 15 min, but getting home in rush hour can take more than an hour and a half!! I’ve been listening to podcasts to help make the experience more enjoyable, but a crowded bus in traffic is definitely not the biggest perk to living abroad! We’ve been going to La Vega (the produce market I wrote about in my other blog) almost every Sunday and we now have “a guy.” A lot of the places put the really good fruit and veggies in the front of their display, and then pull from the back and you get the not as good fruits unless you ask to trade them. “Our guy” always picks out the best fruits and asks us when we want to eat them, so he can pick the correct ripeness! He also has started to go the back room to get the good stuff… he’s definitely our favorite and has the most amazing fruit! He introduced us to chirimoyas. A chirimoya tastes like a milkier, sweeter version of a pear.
Well, this post is getting awfully long, so I’ll cut it off here with one final request! Scott's business--the whole reason we are down here on this adventure--will be launching on Monday, and we would both really appreciate it if you could join! Use my link: www.bungolow.com/invited/esolomon.
The next couple blog posts will be about our awesome travels to the south and the north of Chile. We have been to Puerto Montt/Puerto Varas in the northern area of Patagonia, and San Pedro de Atacama, in the Chilean desert, so stay tuned. I miss everyone at home a lot, and am looking forward to getting to see my family VERY soon!