Today is our last day in Santiago! Very early tomorrow morning we will leave for a 5 day journey to the heart of Patagonia. Our internships are wrapping up: Ian just has one project to finish, and I have one more participant (myself) to run with my eye-tracking experiment before I call it quits and condense all my data for analysis at some undetermined time in the future. Weeks have passed, smog levels have varied, and we have managed to make the most of the rest of our time in the city with several fun escapades. But although our last few weeks have been peppered with a) asados (Chilean barbecues), b) learning the traditional Chilean dance, "Cueca", c) meeting the new round of international exchange students who will succeed our fruitful reign, and d) having several street-encounters with Chilean jugglers reminiscent of a 90s skater movie, I'd prefer to use this blog post to reflect on our time in Chile as a whole... cue slow acoustic guitar.
I will miss the look of pleased surprise I receive when Chileans realize I speak Spanish. I will not miss the frustration I feel when they use that as an excuse to start talking to me in rapid, slurred Chilean slang.
One of the strangest encounters I've had with a Chilean: One day, when I was walking my oh-so-scenic walk to work in the rain, and I encountered a puddle too huge for me to walk through or jump over. Before I could simply walk around it, a Chilean ran up to me with a big smile, holding a long piece of plywood over his head. He set it over the puddle in front of me, forming a make-shift bridge. Once I had crossed, he shook my hand, picked up the board, and scurried off into the rain.
Several other MISTI students are in agreement with this statement: Chilean waitresses are the sassiest waitresses you will ever meet. Prepare to feel uncomfortable and/or insecure after an encounter with one.
I took three tap classes in Santiago. It's the first time someone has shouted "Arriba!" at me while I tap danced.
In general, Chileans aren't quite as outgoing as some other countries, but if you initiate a conversation with one, they will often be incredibly friendly, giving you advice on where to go, what you see, possibly even inviting you to tea or introducing you to people who can aid you in your travels.
Chileans eat everything with a knife and fork. This includes pizza, hamburgers, and sandwiches.
Concerning traveling in Chile:
Chile has great traveling infrastructure: buses and flights criss-cross the whole country. Just make sure you're not getting a crappy deal as a foreigner: when Ian and I checked "United States" as our country of origin on the official LAN airlines website, the prices were nearly 40% higher than they were when we checked "Chile"...
Chileans will be very confused if you visit non-touristy parts of the country. For example, when we went to Constitución, we asked at the train station if there was a place we could find visitors' information or a map, and he just gestured to the town around him and said, "For a town this small? Not necessary."
When you're traveling in Chile, it will be obvious right away that you're not from Chile, but beyond that they have no idea. I've pulled off telling people I'm English, Australian, and I've had people ask me if I was from Paris or Spain. On the other hand, it's surprisingly common when you're walking in El Centro for vendors to start following you, trying to talk to you in English just because you're white. I bet the white Chileans that vendors must inevitably accidentally do this to get really annoyed.
And thus ends our Penultimate Post. I hope that our readership has enjoyed "Chile con Queso" thus far, and that they eagerly await our 15th and final chapter, recounting breathtaking tales of Patagonia and Torres del Paine, undoubtedly told by Ian since he gets to write all the exciting posts.
...We will miss you, Santiago!