July 9, 2011.
The flight over was by far the longest I’ve ever been on–probably made worse by the fact that I kept staring at the slow-moving plane as the red line extended down Mexico, past Managua, past Quito, stopping in Lima and then down across the ocean and into Santiago. LAX is the worst-laid out airport I’ve ever been to, so thank the lord I had two hours to figure it out. When I got off the plane from Sacramento I asked multiple workers there how to get to the international terminal and their repeated directions were “go straight, and then left.” What every one of them failed to mention was that I needed to physically LEAVE the terminal, walk out of the building, and enter a completely separate one where I would need to do the whole shoes-off, passport-out shpiel again. After the 13-hour leg of my flight (LAX to Stgo) as I’m trying to leave the airport, I was told that I need to pay a country entrance fee of 140 vs the 40 dollars that Francisco warned me about… I would say I was too tired to care but the surprise (!) still made me wince. Luckily, Francisco was at the airport at 5:45 am with a rose to welcome me back, and after paying for parking he explained to me that we needed to get back to the apartment before 7:30 am or else he would be stopped by the police because his license plate ends in a 1 (numbers ending in a 1 or 2 were not allowed to drive that day because the city is trying to cut down on pollution), and that was combined with the fact that he was past his car-checkup date, which would mean a $200 ticket. We finally arrived at the apartment at about 6:45 am, and immediately fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning at about 10 am still crazy sleep-deprived, and got ready to leave. After eating a bowl of chocopic (the best cereal in the world, product of Chile and exported to Ecuador), we were on our way out via the metro–a very high tech, clean system that is not as far-reaching but better maintained than Chicago’s system. One ride costs about 600 pesos, the equivalent of about 1.20 (Chileans constantly complain about how expensive it is, compared to Buenos Aires’ system, which costs about .05 cents per ride). The rule here is take away three zeros, multiply by two, and you have your price in dollars, so 4000 pesos=8 dollars and 1000= 2 dollars.
Francisco and I rode into La Moneda, which is near the Ministry of Finance (where Francisco works) and got to see the presidential building, a museum of Chilean history, which had a “toys of the early 20th C. exhibition” below that Francisco and I decided to skip because we were trying to make it to Fuente Alemana. Students at the Universidad de Chile are protesting everywhere in Santiago for free education, like the students in Uruguay and Argentina have. Signs everywhere read, “No al lucro en la educacion” which means, “do not profit from our education.” Apparently one of their chants when facing policeman intervention a few days ago started out, “Paco, amigo, la cosa no es contigo,” which means “Policeman, friend, this thing is not with you,” and then became, “la cosa es con tu esposa, y ella si que la goza,” which means “the thing is with your wife, and she is pleasured by it.” The front of the Universidad de Chile is plastered with left-wing issues with the almost entirely right-wing government–the city is plastered with spray-painted sayings like “Piñera lies!” and “Death to Piñera!”
After strolling around the streets for a while, we went through a street market (it smelled fresh like the ones in Ecuador, I think it’s from some type of wood) and saw the building that used to be the parliamentary building before Pinochet kicked them all out and made it his personal residence as a way to show his power to the Chilean people. Now it is a museum that looks a lot like the De Young in San Francisco, completely stripped of all signs that Pinochet lived there.
Francisco and I went to eat at the Fuente Alemana (a major destination filled with Chileans, a little pricy because of their fame–they were featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations a few months ago). I had a sandwich with lomo (kind of like roast beef), avocado, tons of mayonnaise, and sauerkraut, with a Kunstmann beer on the side. It was so packed that Francisco and I stood on the side of the restaurant on a table that skimmed the length of the walls–we were there during peak hours and we could barely walk around in there.
Afterwards we went to a place call Sport Cafe to watch the Chile-Uruguay game and have dinner (cheese, ham and cheese, and pino [the traditional meat and mushroom] empanadas, french fries, as well as a mango daiquiri that was so strong it made me shiver and beers on tap). The bar had over 100 Chileans in it, completely losing their minds every time someone approached a goal–there were two chants they kept doing. The first was:
¡Atención, Chilenos de corazón!
¡Chi, Chi, Chi!
¡Le, le, le!
And the second was:
¡Vamos, vamos Chileno, esta noche, tenemos que ganar!
“Let’s go, let’s go Chileans, tonight, we have to win!”
And everyone was singing at the top of their voices. The end score ended up being 1-1, but if Chile beats Peru on Tuesday , Chile will end up being first in their group. Chile has never won the Copa América before: it ends up falling to Argentina and Brazil almost every year (and once to Bolivia), but apparently this year those two major contenders aren’t playing at the top of their game.
After, we went to Francisco’s brother Rodrigo’s house, a very nice place in the beautiful and streamlined northern part of town, and talked for a while with the Mexico-Peru game playing in the background (there was not a lot of heart in that game, Peru won 1-0). I met Francisco’s niece Catalina, who is eight years old and showed me probably every drawing she had made in the past five years, a few of which were of me (Francisco had been showing her pictures). She showed off some of her English by naming off fruits (apple, pear, banana, strawberry) and saying “sit down!” (seedawn) and “stand up!” and then at about 11 PM passed out on the couch like a rock while Rodrigo showed us pictures of Valparaíso (the colonial town that I am going to visit on Sunday).
Today I slept in until 12:30 to catch up on sleep, while Francisco went out to get a checkup for the car. I’m eating eggs, a mix of corn and mushrooms, and a mix of hot dogs and onions that he worked on for about ten minutes for lunch—really delicious. I’m not sure what we’re doing for the rest of the day but the Brazil-Paraguay game is on and Paraguay is beating Brazil 2-1 (?!) so I’m sure that will be occupying the next thirty minutes of our time.