Saturday, November 19, 2011

Life in Santiago

It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about life in Santiago. During holidays, it is definitely a fun place to be! Dieciocho de Septiembre is their Independence Day, and this is an awesome time to be in Santiago :-) They have fondas throughout the city during the day and at night. We chose to go to one of the biggest fondas, and it was quite an experience…they have all of the traditional street foods and drinks that Chile is known for: Anticocho (meat on a stick!), empanadas, choripan (chorizo + pan(bread) = choripan), churros, and terremotos (Spanish for earthquake). A terremoto is a strong, interesting flavored alcoholic drink—called a terremoto because it’s supposed to kick your butt like an earthquake!
The churros you can either get with powdered sugar on them, or filled with manjar (a caramel sauce). Beyond the food, the atmosphere is crazy—there are people everywhere, of all ages, and all conditions (0 terremotos to 5 +…). They have rides, very similar to a fair, and a lot of crafts at stands throughout the fondas. People stay out VERY late, including the children! They also have a lot of the fair games like knocking the milk jugs over, and tossing a ring on a bottle (whichever bottle you land the ring on, you get to take). When you try and knock the milk jugs over, you have basically a ball full of light feathers, making it virtually impossible to knock over the jugs! But, still fun to try. The traditional dance of Dieciocho de Septiembre is called the cuaca. We learned it a friend’s house… but Scott and I haven’t mastered it yet! It’s basically a rooster chasing a hen, and trying to woo her. The people move in figure eights, and the man stomps his feet a lot.

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:

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!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Off to Mendoza

I know it's been a long time since I posted a blog, so I figured it's about time. Last week, we took a short trip to Mendoza, Argentina. My classes on Wednesday and Thursday were cancelled for Dieciocho (which I will explain in my next post... yes, 2 posts in a row!), so we decided it would be a perfect time for a trip. The flight was relatively inexpensive and was only 40 min.!
The public transportation in Santiago has a lot of perks, and can be extremely frustrating at the same time, but it is great for getting to the airport inexpensively. When we began our trip, we took the metro to the usual bus stop to catch the bus to the airport, but as the Chileans often do, there was a protest going on, and we couldn't find the bus..I was nervous there weren't any buses going! We hurried back on the metro to catch the bus somewhere else, and it all worked out. We got to the airport and went through their security (when compared to the US security, it's a joke here), and got to our gate with time to spare.

On the flight, the plane has to quickly get up over the mountains, and you fly just above the mountains the entire time. It is by far the most beautiful 20 min. in I've ever spent in an airplane. The ascent and descent are little rough because you have to get up too fast, and the same with going back down.

We arrived in Mendoza in the early afternoon and took a cab to our hostel. It cost 45 pesos which is about $11USD. We stayed at the Damajuana hostel which is located on a street with all the bars and restaurants. It was my first hostel experience, and it was definitely an experience! We got a room with four beds (two sets of bunk beds). Our first night we had to share our room with an older man, but there was a lot of open space to hang out throughout the rest of the hostel, and two computers with wifi. So, we got settled in and decided to explore the city. The town shuts down during siesta time, so the streets were very quiet, and most of the restaurants were closed. We decided to go to La Florencia for lunch and had empanadas and salads.

Our first impressions of Mendoza were that it is clean, and we really liked it. That night, we went to a restaurant across the street from the hostel and had a fantastic meal! We each had a glass of vino tinto, shared baked provolone for an appetizer, and I got a delicious steak with mushrooms and a balsamic reduction sauce, with a baked potato with cheese in it. Scott had a breaded steak with potato wedges. Our entire amazing meal cost $33 USD! Our first evening was spent in the hostel hanging out with some new friends and drinking a few beers.
Thursday was by far our best day in Mendoza! We took a bus to the Maipu Region where we rented bikes for the day and biked between the wineries. Our first stop was a food tasting: We tasted different kinds of olive spread, different olive oils, jams, dulce de leche (my absolute favorite was dulce de leche with coconut!) and some different spreads. At this same place, they also make liquors... so we tried a few different drinks (including one called the Russian death!). The tour is awesome because you can choose which wineries you want to stop in, and which ones you want to skip... it's self-guided, and really fun! It was an amazingly beautiful day and all of the wine was delicious!
We ate our lunch at Tempus Alba, which was a beautiful winery. At this time of year, all of the vines are really short, but they told us to come back in March for the wine festivals. At a few of the wineries we did their tastings, and at one of them we just ordered a bottle of Malbec, relaxed while we drank it and enjoyed the beautiful views with the clear blue sky.
The wineries close at about 6:00, so after we completed all of our tours, and bought a couple bottles of Malbec to take home with us, we rode our bikes back which took about 30 min. We continued drinking wine with people from all over (Australia, US, Mexico City), which was such a fun experience.
On Friday we woke up and walked to a cafe called Kato Cafe. It was in a more residential area, but had a cute little patio, and delicious sandwiches. Scott had a meeting with a hotel, so I just walked around the city. At around 1:30 all of the restaurants were packed with people, and the bus stops had really long lines... everyone was going home to eat and take their siesta! After Scott's meeting, we dropped in to a few gorgeous hotels so Scott could meet with some people, and then went to the casino!It was small, and nothing like Vegas casinos, but people there were enjoying themselves. I found it interesting that there was a lot of daylight coming in to the casinos, because ours aren't like that.
These were so inexpensive!
L: Dulce de leche, R: Chocolate

We also had two mid-day snacks. Yummy pastries, at a bakery we had walked past on our first day, and then panchos (hot dogs). The panchos come with two specialty toppings, and there is a huge array of them, as well as two regular condiments (mustard, mayo, ketchup, hot sauce). I got a hot dog with garlic sauce, and a tomato mixture, with papitas (little potato crunchies).. yumm!!

A fun fact we learned about Argentina was that it only rains about 7 days each year. Well, as we were walking, winds starting picking up and the sky was extremely overcast. We felt a few drops of rain (nothing that would even frizz hair though..), and when we asked to sit down for a glass of wine outside of a restaurant, the server pointed to the 5 (maybe 6) raindrops on the table, and had us sit inside! We learned from a few people, that despite the lack of rain, there is enough water coming from the mountains, that places can run their sprinklers 6-7 times a day! And the vineyards take turns with the water.

To round out our amazing mini vaca, the hostel hosted an asado. They cook tons of amazing meats, and serve salad, bread, and wine. We got to hang out with people from the Faroe Islands, Israel, Portugal, England, Australia, and of course the US!

All in all, it was an amazing trip to Mendoza! I would love to go back, and next time I will pack differently: I will bring white water rafting clothes, and hiking clothes! We got to the airport without any problems. In Mendoza, once you go through the metal detector, they frisk you anyway! Our flight was great, and once we arrived, we ended up standing in lines at immigration and customs! It took almost 2 hours from the time we landed before we got on the bus. Once we arrived home, it was such a treat to take a shower in my own shower, and a nap in my own bed :-)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday at the Market!

Today, Scott and I walked over to the produce market! It was amazing :-) It is across the street from Mercado Central which is the fish and meat market we went to a couple of weeks ago. It was a little chilly today, but the walk is a pretty easy walk, probably about 20 minutes. There are tons of vendors in the market, so you can walk between them and see who has the best produce or prices and choose what you want from each vendor. There are even places with spices and a lot of legumes.

Keep in mind 450 CLP is equivalent to about 1 USD.
Lechuga: 500
Dos pimentos roja: 300
Seis cebollas: 500
Cauliflower: 800
Cinco naranjas: 400
Seis tomates: 400
Ocho limons: 200
Uvas: 1000
Siete Paltas: 800
Brussel Sprouts (dos bolsas): 1000
Clementinas: 600

We spent a total of 6500 Chilean pesos :-) I can't wait for berry season! The market will be even better then.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Todas las pequeñas cosas

All the small things..

My mom requested that I start writing down all the little things that I'm noticing about Chile, so here it goes:

I have been searching all throughout the stores for Women's shaving cream. Finally, I mustered the courage today to play charades with the lady at PreUnic and discovered they don't sell Women's shaving cream… but they do sell women's razors!

The other day, I had a tummy ache and just wanted some ginger ale. I walk across the street to the mini-mart and reached into the refrigerator case to pick up a bottle. All of their bottle sizes are different, but I see a 2.5 Liter bottle with a price in front of it, so I place it on the counter. The lady begins speaking to me in Spanish telling me tons of things I can't understand but all I got out of it was: Despite that fact that the soda was priced and in the refrigerator case with everything else you can buy, I cannot buy that bottle. At the grocery store they sell litros of beer, but you have to pay for the bottle…

Everything comes in plastic packages: spices, mayonnaise, ketchup, pasta sauce, olives… you name it!

They do not have milk like we are used to in the states. Milk and cream are all in those cartons and they are warm… like when you buy soy milk or almond milk. We haven't tried it yet!

Produce is ridiculously cheap. You feel like you are stealing from the grocery store. We bought 4 apples for less than $1 (USD). 7-8 kiwis are less than 40 cents (USD)! And there are lots of produce stands and markets, which are an even cheaper way to buy produce. I've been told, during the berry season, you can buy more berries than you can eat for 1,000 CLP (2 USD).

The malls are very similar, but McDonald's is expensive fast food here… No Dollar Menu! And TacoBell/KFC/Pizza Hut have CocaCola products. At home they're Pepsi.

When you order a soda, you don't always get ice with it… some fast-food places (like at the mall) don't even have ice available.

The buses and metros are amazing! I've never waited more than 5 minutes for either one, and they are very user friendly. Once you get the hang of the bus map, it's really easy! When waiting in the line for the bus, people actually form a line. It's nice to see such civilization. But then, when you're walking on the street or in the mall, men and women alike will plow you over and not say, "pardon" (which apparently, is what you say when you bump into someone). They could be walking 4 people wide on the sidewalk, and they don't move for the oncoming walkers. Very interesting.

Natural peanut butter is not sold down here: You can choose chunky or creamy, but they all have azucar (Bummer!). Jelly was extremely difficult! At the grocery store you can only find marmalade with azucar as the number one ingredient! When I went to a slightly nicer grocery store I found preserves, but they were still marked as marmalade.

I am still waiting to hear back about a job I really want, so the next blog will be about my OFFICIAL CHILEAN ID! and hopefully my new job :-)

Miss everyone mucho!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Semana Uno: Terminado

So, we are one week into our adventure down here in Santiago, and an adventure it has been! I’ve said “No hablo espanol, lo siento,” or “No se” more times than I can count on my fingers AND toes! But beware, Scott and I will be amazing at charades by the time we get home.

Food: The food here varies, just like at home. Hot dogs are huge down here… especially completos italianas… which is basically a hot dog covered in avocado (palta), mayo, tomatoes, and who knows what else. So far, all of the fish meals I have eaten out were delicious and inexpensive…usually 5,000-6,000 Chilean pesos (CLP) which is about $10-$12 USD! We went to Mercado Central on Sunday which is a huge fish market, and I was going to buy some fish, but I don’t know if I’m ready for something that intense yet..

Our Apartment: For the first two days we were here, we were sharing an apt with Francesca and Scott, that was wayyyy too small for 4 people, but we quickly found a new apartment, which is pretty great. It’s in the Bohemian part of town, with Patio BellaVista right by us… it’s an enclosed block with tons of security and about 15 restaurants, all with outdoor seating (which people use year round). So, we have a one-bedroom apartment with a small kitchen, living room, balcony, bedroom, walk-in closet, and bathroom. It was fully furnished, but Scott let me put some personal touches on the place like a new comforter, and rug

Climate/Scenery: So… it’s winter here! But in the middle of the day it feels like Fall. But, in the morning and at night it feels like Winter! You need to layer your clothing, because when the sun isn’t out, it’s very very cold… but when the sun is out, it’s very very nice. We took a hike near our apartment with a group of people on Sunday. It was beautiful, but there’s a lot of smog! It was a very steep, but short hike, so we were up and back in less than 2 hours. When you take the metro further away from downtown it goes above ground and it’s really good to have the mountains as your scenery!

Well… that is all for now, more updates will come along with pictures! I miss everyone tons!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Less than 24 hours...

So, I'm trying my hand at blogging...

A lot of people have been asking why I'm going to Chile, and how long I will be there, so my first post will tell the story of how Scott and I got to this point:

After three years in the same school, and seven years in Maryland, I wanted to do something different. Scott and I began talking about moving overseas for a year at some point, and me teaching English while he began his own company.  All of our plans were for further down the road, until his friend Scott B. heard about Startup Chile.  The Chilean government was offering grants to 100 teams to start their own internet/technology based company in Santiago, Chile.  Scott and Scott B. applied, and became one of the 100 teams accepted into the program.  I, of course, could not pass up this opportunity to join him in Santiago.  We leave on July 11, and have a Visa that is good for up to 1 year.  As of now, our plan is to stay for a little over 6 months (his program is 24 weeks).  I found a couple of contacts down there, and plan on teaching English--because I don't know Spanish..yet!

At the moment... I have my two suitcases filled, a carry-on suitcase... and part of Scott's suitcase filled! We will arrive during Winter, but be there for Winter, Spring, and Summer... how is a girl supposed to pack for all those seasons??  I tried using those space bags, but the travel version because you don't need a vacuum.  They do save some space, but weight is the bigger issue.

The process to prepare for Chile has been very long, but I feel quite accomplished when I get to cross things off my list.  Getting a visa was the hardest.  I needed: A letter of good health from the doctor, two passport photos, an HIV test, my passport (which I had to apply for and expedite in order to begin the visa process), two visa forms, and my bank statements.  Once we applied, it only took 5 days (including the weekend) to get out visas.  Our one hole so far (at least my hole) is a cell phone... if you have any thoughts or know of the best way to go about obtaining a cell phone, or unlocking my iphone, I am all ears!  Then there was getting a bank account without international fees, giving my parents Power of Attorney, getting my international drivers license AND moving out of my apartment and either selling furniture or taking it to my parents.

Ok... so I may not be the best blogger, but hopefully when we start to do more exciting things down in Chile the material can wow you without needing good writing skills to make it look good.  It's time to finish packing, and get ready for my parents to get here so we can do the "last supper" with both of our families at Matchbox...yum!