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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 1

Yesterday I woke up, finished packing, and spent the rest of the day thinking of ways to pass the time until it was time to leave for my flight. I went to Publix for one last wistful goodbye, and watched Pocahontas with my sister. At 5:30, I checked in my bag (which was way overweight, but after 10 minutes of scrambling to move weight from one bag to another with the check-in guy looming over me, I figured I'll be using this stuff for three months, so the fee is worth it). I texted Ian, to let him know that I was boarding, which alerted him to the fact he was leaving Monday, not Tuesday, prompting a mad rush of which I was unaware until hours later when I turned on my phone again. He made his flight and we met in Atlanta to continue the journey with a 9 hour flight to Santiago. Neither of us slept very well, but we landed only slightly worse for the wear at 8:00 am this morning. We had to declare any animal or plant products we had brought, which I figured didn't apply to me until they emphasized that spices and herbs are counted as plant products. My suitcase was occupied by not only salt and black pepper, but also cumin, lemon pepper, red pepper, seasoned salt, ground mustard, and poultry seasoning (I will be cooking for myself for the first time this summer and had no idea what sort things are/aren't accessible in Chile). I was a bit worried they would deprive me of my spices as I checked the "yes" column for plant cargo. We went through immigration, got our luggage, moved through the next few lines, hopped on a "TransVip" shuttle and headed to our apartment. Ian asked why I was still holding my customs form in my hand, and that's when we realized I had inadvertently walked straight through customs without anyone taking my forms or checking my bags. Hm.
The shuttle delivered us directly to the entrance of our apartment building. Ian looked what I was holding and asked me why I still had my TransVip ticket - the driver never took it. Apparently if I wanted to be an international criminal mastermind, it would be very easy. We walked in and faced the man at the counter, a bit nervous about using our broken Spanish for the first time. He looked at me, and I said, "We're renting an apartment on the 8th floor." He smiled and handed us the key, showed us the elevator, without asking for an ID or even our names.
The apartment is small, but lovely. Whitewashed walls, old furniture and a balcony overlooking the city, with church spires decorating the middle ground and dramatic mountains in the distance. There is a blurry haze over the entire city - we have yet to determine whether it is fog or smog - but regardless it added a magically mysterious quality to our first real view of Santiago.
While unpacking, I proudly took out the Chilean plug and voltage converter I had brought with me, set it up in one of the outlets, and plugged a three-pronged extension cord into the two-pronged unit, short circuiting the entire apartment. It made that classic, foreboding buzzing sound electrical things make when they're about to either die or kill you. All the lights when out and I was a bit dismayed, while Ian asked cautiously, "Do you smell smoke?".
We were in the apartment waiting for the lady we were renting from to meet us anyway, so we planned to simply explain the problem when she showed up. While waiting, we became increasingly aware of our accumulated filth from the overnight plane ride (not to mention Ian's sweaty mad rush to the airport the day before), and investigation of the shower revealed that it was ice cold without the heating system that unfortunately depended upon functional electricity. I decided I was too grimy to wait, thinking that my days of cold showers at Good Counsel Camp had toughened me enough for this moment. I was wrong. The water was ice, actually numbing my scalp as I washed my hair and knocking the breath out of me when it hit my shoulders. Ian followed suit after I'd finished, and soon understood my gasps of discomfort as the frigid liquid seared into his soul, too. In a timely fashion, the landlady showed up soon after this trauma, and turned out to be a lovely woman who fixed the electricity, explained the laundry and trash systems and brought up a space heater for when it gets colder.
After settling well into our apartment, Ian and I decided to get a sense of the area around us. We walked a few blocks in each direction, talked to people, went into a few buildings, and discovered several things:
1. Chileans are for the most part well-dressed and will look judgmentally at your highlighter-colored sneakers.
2. Most of the beautiful buildings I'd seen in my tour book in this area are currently under construction after severe earthquakes over the last few years, hidden behind a large tarp bearing a picture of what it's supposed to look like (a poor substitution, in my opinion).
3. It is very difficult to find milk in a chilean supermarket. You would think it would be with all the other refrigerated dairy products, which led us to buy what looked like milk while trying to stock our kitchen, but was actually the equivalent of strawberry yogurt mixed with water. The milk is actually in cardboard boxes in a random aisle not at all affiliated with the rest of the dairy products. This was explained to me by a laughing Chilean at the check-out counter.
4. It is particularly hard to communicate in another language when you have not slept the night before, which led to many embarrassing mistakes, awkward silences and gross misunderstandings throughout the day.
After exploring we decided to return to the apartment and make dinner for ourselves: pasta, frozen vegetables, and chicken, which, though well spiced and carefully cooked, we were both a bit hesitant to eat for fear of getting salmonella. Cooking was a dance of ducking underneath each others' arms as we tried to cook in a space that was really built for half a person.
Now we are feeling pretty comfortable with our food stocks, our apartment and the surrounding area- tomorrow's goals are to figure out the metro, explore beyond Plaza de Armas and get cell phones for local use.

1 comment:

  1. ahahahah
    reminds me so much of colombia. we gotta talk when you get back :P