Friday, April 13, 2012

Santiago, Chile

Our flight to Santiago wasn't our worst, but it was up there.  We crossed the international dateline and had to live April the 6th twice (which happened to be Good Friday.)  Regardless we didn't manage to make it to any church services.  We made up for it on Easter however, more about that later.

Our apartment for the week was a modern but not cheap 2 bedroom in the very hip Lastarria neighborhood.  We spent a good portion of that week trying to get acclimatized to the time change, with little success.  We had difficulty falling asleep before 5am (even with sleep aides) and the kids didn't get up the first several days until late afternoon.

The first evening, on the Saturday night of Easter weekend, we headed up the big hill to Cerro San Cristobal to attend an outdoor mass with the backdrop of a fabulous view over the lit city below.  The view of the city lights was stunning and the Mass was moving, but it was also long and we got cold as we hadn't taken sweaters so we ducked out a little early.  We tried to call a taxi but had no success.  The area outside of the church was deserted so we decided to start walking down. That turned out to be a bad idea.  We knew it was a long and windy way up in the taxi, but it was much longer and scarier in the dark.  Peyton and I were wearing flip flops, the only light was from the moon, and there were stray dogs everywhere.  One dog started following us at the top of the hill.  We couldn't shake him.  When service let out and cars started coming down we had to use our cell phones as reflectors and occasionally dive into the gutter so they wouldn't run over us.  No one offered to give us a ride.  We took a wrong turn somewhere and after 1 1/2 hours we made it down the hill but into the wrong part of the city.  As we couldn't find a taxi we continued walking toward our neighborhood - less scary then because we no longer felt like we were about to be mugged.  Our dog was still with us.  Wilder named him Max.  After another 1/2 hour of walking we finally managed to hail a taxi.  When we opened the door Max jumped in.  When we yelled at him he backed right out.  I can still see him running after the taxi as we pulled away :(  


After the initial excitement of that first night, things in Santiago have been relatively uneventful.  We didn't wake up in time for Easter morning service in the big cathedral, but we did make it there later in the week.

We were happy to be back in the land of corn chips and tortillas.  Traditional Chilean food however didnt appeal to us very much, as it seemed to feature a lot of large pieces of meat and lots of blood sausages.  Fortunately the international restaurants in our neighbor featured more a more modern take on local food, and so we stuck to our standard trip plan of one meal out each day supplemented by snacks.  Some of our favorite dishes included shrimp empanadas and beef in mustard sauce.  We also drank a few pisco sours, enjoyed the great Chilean wine as well as the lovely parks and architecture.

Prices are notoriously high in Chile by South American standards, but having just come from Australia and New Zealand they didn't seem bad to us.  There were however a couple of notable exceptions.  To enter the country Chile charges what they call a "reciprocation fee" to the countries that charge an entry fee to them.  For Americans that means $140 per person upon arrival.  So we had to pay that times 4.  Then, strangely, the other thing we found ridiculous expensive was laundry.  At a self-service lavandaria we had to pay nearly $10 per load.  At first I thought we might be getting ripped off as tourists, but the attendant pointed out the posted prices and sure enough it looks like everyone pays them.  We think our clothing is hardly worth the $40 our 4 loads cost us (every stitch except the ones we had on) but we were desperate to get clean ones and so forked over the dough.  On the flip side Mark got a haircut for about $7, the cheapest and also probably the best of the trip.

Taking high school classes online has been more difficult for the kids than we anticipated.  While the curriculum is good and the teachers responsive, the course work certainly isn't any easier than in traditional classes and without daily lectures all the material has to be absorbed by reading it.  My kids are not particularly avid readers and so this is very time consuming.  Add to this the fact that we don't always have decent wifi connections and then finally that we are actually busy trying to see the world.  Finishing the courses though by the end of the semester is a requirement if they are to stay on track to graduate on time, so here in Chile they are kicking on the burners, spending 6-8 hours each day working on english, history and math.

Today we depart for the last official destination of our around the world trip - Easter Island.  I can hardly believe it.

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