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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Mania & Maipo

So Friday was Chile's first game in the World Cup, played against Australia- it was madness. Everyone (except for bartenders) was out of work by 4 for the 6 pm game. Ian and I met at the apartment and took the metro to a bar in Providencia- it was so crowded we had to let 4 cars pass before we could finally get on.

Sophie, Ian, Brittney, Anthony and I met at "Cantina California", where it is said there are a lot of foreign customers (I was thinking we might befriend some Parisians or something, united in our non-Chilean-ness), to watch the game. If there were any non-Chileans besides us there, they were hiding it well, because as soon as the game began the entire pub was pulsing to the rhythm of "CHI CHI CHI- LE LE LE- VIVA CHILE!"
People would stand up, jump, hug each other at every goal, and any time someone stood in front of one of the giant screens set up just for this game, an angry, guttural sound would rise from the crowded bar and various women would shriek "Siéntate!" Sit down!
There was this one frat-looking guy with a skull cap and abnormally broad shoulders who seemed unaware of the fact that he was basically a human billboard, blocking a huge proportion of the room's view just by standing up. He got a lot of dagger-quality looks as the game progressed.
But with Chile's (spoiler alert) victory over Australia, all grudges were forgotten. A band that had found their way into the restaurant was blasting an upbeat march while people screamed and laughed through their tears - people (including us) spilled out into the streets to meet the honking horns, waving flags, and smiling shouts of a million other people basking in Chile's victory. We walked across town (to visit Brittney and Anthony's apartment) and everywhere it was the same- honking horns, people shouting at you in happiness as they walked/drove by, motorcyclists decked out in red white and blue, faces painted, chilean flags tied around their necks like capes,  proudly displaying their apparel in a trans-Santiago motor parade.
I can't imagine what it would be like if Chile actually won the World Cup- I think the city might explode from happiness.

The next day we (a group of 8 students from the MISTI program) went to Cajon del Maipo, a park for outdoors activities and natural preservation just outside the city - a common weekenders' destination in the summer. However, it's winter in Chile (or the "Verano Gringo", as my research advisor called it). Unfortunately for us, the vast majority of Cajon del Maipo- the natural hot springs, the breathtaking waterfall, the stark cliffs- was closed due to a lot of snow, and would likely be closed the entire season. However, one section, Cascada de las Animas, was still open, and we decided we would stay in San José de Maipo (where we had gotten off the bus to inquire at the tourism office) overnight, and hike through Cascada de las Animas in the morning. This turned out to be a great decision- there was live music, slack-liners, fire-dancers, and, wait for it... JUGGLERS. While we were still debating what to do, Ian made a beeline for the jugglers and before we even realized he was gone he was teaching them tricks with clubs. This little kid kept giving him more to see how many he could do.
We bought some hats, Sophie got some impossibly tiny books, and then we all had dinner.

The hostel we stayed at was called Tío Valentín, and it was owned by the nicest Argentinian couple- a woman named Gladys, and Valentín himself! We set down our bags, played a few rounds of cards, then called it a night. I guess when it's off-season hostel owners don't think it's really worthwhile to turn on the heat, because that night it was literally freezing. I was wearing long underwear, pajamas and a sweatshirt under the thick covers and I was still shivering. We woke up the next morning around 8 am to the sound of roosters and the smell of tea- we packed our back packs for the hike and had a nice chat with Tío Valentín over breakfast. Then we caught the bus up to San Alfonso, and entered Cascada de las Animas. They only provided guided hikes, the longest of which was 3 hours, so we took that one with a couple - a Chilean woman and a German man - up through a series of hills and mountains to a breathtaking view of the snow covered peaks that surrounded us.

A three legged dog led the way- hopping up the steep path like it was nothing and showing us all up. Our guide brought up the rear, and poured us mate- a common hot drink in South America - when we reached the peak.
When we finished the hike, we waited by the side of the road for a solid hour and fifteen minutes waiting for the bus that was supposed to come by every half hour. While we waited we watched the many cars of Maipopians whizzing by- many sported tiny snowman on their dashboards, complete with scarves, noses, and "Viva Chile" hats. We had just decided to try hitchhiking when a series of three in a row finally showed up.
We hopped on, and headed back to San Jose, picked up our stuff from the hostel, said goodbye to Valentín and Gladys, and headed back to the smoggy drudge of Santiago. Just kidding, Santiago is great-- but we were a little sad to leave that lovely, clear-aired mountain town.

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