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Nichol and Matt go to Chile!

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We’ve Arrived!

Well, here we find ourselves on our fourth night in Santiago. The sun dropped below Cerro San Christobal a few hours ago, and we find ourselves watching “Wheel of Fortune” en espanol, enjoying our segundo botella de vino blanco de Chile. Suffice it to say, the show proves slightly more difficult than the version de Nor Americano. Es bueno.

Last night we came to learn that the well-documented partying ways of los Santiaguinos is very much accurate! The music above us started up “early”, or about 10:00pm, with dancing and a “tribute” to Whitney Houston. Around 1:00 the music started dieing down, only to be picked up by the bar around the corner, which continued the dance beats until some unmentionable time in the morning. Welcome to the Party in Providencia!

Now, of course we can’t just update on our fourth night without mentioning at least a few highlight of the journey here.

For the most part, our journey (at least after the luggage fiasco at YVR…but we don’t need to start on such a negative note) was smooth. Our flights all left reasonably on time, and landed in similar fashion. Our luggage all arrived safely and securely with no issues, although we were starting to get worried after waiting about 15 minutes at Santiago’s SCL airport for our last piece to show up. But show up it did, and we were on our way to customs! This experience was quite painless; we got in line, had our bags pass through the x-ray machines and were only asked to open up one bag which contained a kilo of Saltspring Island coffee (which, incidentally we finally got to enjoy today after finding a ‘cafe presse’ and the proper electric converter for our coffee grinder). After they were satisfied that it was not, in fact, a kilo of cocaine, off we were to our shared van to take us to our new apartment! Or not.

Our ride didn’t show. Damn.

Luckily, maybe, a suspiciously friendly fellow quickly recognized us for what we were (i.e. two deer-in-headlight gringos with bags under their eyes) and asked us if we needed a taxi. We politely told him we have a ride arranged, and were slowly lead through the large cheek-by-jowl throng of humanity to wait in a relatively clear exit area of the airport. There Nichol guarded the luggage while I went back with the man (who in fact, turned out to be quite friendly and legit) and followed him, looking for a sign that said “Matt Taylor” while he yelled “Tai-lor!? Tai-lor?!” for 20 minutes until I was satisfied that our ride was indeed not there. We negotiated a price and even brought it down from 20.000 CLP to 15.000 CLP (go me!) and were whisked away with a 20-something Chilean couple who had just gotten back from their vacation in Spain.

After a brief ride at 120 km/h (without seatbelts) into Santiago we finally found ourselves across the street from our new abode. There we unloaded our 9 pieces of luggage (and Nichol) onto a nearby lawn (so as to avoid the passing traffic and local driveway) and once again Nichol stood guard whilst I popped inside the building to see if our landlady was there. By gesturing like an idiot and saying things like “rent apartmento” and “Contact Chile!”, los chicas at the front desk eventually got my drift and invited me to sit in the waiting area. “Muchos gracias” escaped my relieved lips as I ventured back outside to collect Nichol and the luggage, which were currently being soaked by the sprinklers that the local business who owned the lawn turned on as an oh so subtle way of saying “Get off our lawn.”. Maybe they were trying to cool us off in the 33 degree weather?

Skipping ahead 20 minutes, we were introduced to our new home by our very lovely landlady, Sonia. Combining our Espanol basico with her basic English we went through the apartment together, signed the necessary documents and got a tour of the building. There is a wonderful pool on the roof with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and city (pics to follow when we figure out how…), a large laundry room, gym and rather sad multipurpose room (card table and four folding chairs anyone?). All in all, the apartment is very pleasant, albeit small, and will suffice very well for the first three months…as soon as the toilet works properly that is (the mechanics are currently being held together with scotch tape, carefully arranged by the previous tenant).

After parting ways with Sonia, we were quite hungry, and unfortunately the expired cumin left in the cupboard by the aforementioned tenant just wasn’t going to suffice. As a result we Googled the nearest grocery stores and were delighted to find that “Ekono” was not even a block from us! Off we went, nervously into the (gorgeous) Providencia streets to seek out our first groceries at Ekono…the ‘k’ says it all. Having rung most of our purchases through the till, the cashier picked up our pack of toilet paper, looked us in the eye and said “laskdjflaskdjfalskdfj ?”. I wish we had a picture of our faces. Nervously, and apprehensively I tried “quiero comprar…” but alas she challenged our choice again and opted to set the toilet paper aside. Meanwhile, sensing a commotion, the Ekono security chap decided to saunter over to see what was going on. “laskjdfalskdjfaslfj” she said to him….”ffasdlfkjasdlfhweoigh” he said to us. “Quiero comprar!” I tried again. Blessedly, he handed the toilet paper back to the cashier, she rang it through, we paid and went back to the apartment. The realization struck us shortly after we returned that this particular toilet paper is meant for children, perhaps that’s what she was trying to say? Oh well, the baby powder scent is nice, and maybe we can even graduate to adult toilet paper next time. After making a brief snack, we went to bed and so ended our first day in Santiago.

Since our arrival, we’ve mostly been exploring the neighbourhood and tracking down various essentials. To say the least, it has been a very interesting experience thus far, and we nervously anticipate the next week as we attempt to register ourselves with the Chilean police, obtain our Chilean “RUT” number, navigate the metro and find Matt’s campus. Much has happened since arriving, but this will have to wait until another post.

Buenos noches!

-M&N