Monday, February 10, 2014

Notes from Chile

Three-ish weeks late as well...
  1. Flew to Santiago via Madrid. Passport stamp says that counts.
  2. Santiago looks just like LA. Palm trees everywhere, some nice areas and some poor areas, hispanic population, same latitude, same weather, same slightly-inland location.
  3. Chile confusingly uses the same "$" sign for its currency, but the exchange rate is around 500 pesos to the dollar, and they Europeanly switch the role of dots and commas in numbers, so everything looks half as expensive as it really is. Ie $10. means approximately 20 USD. I discovered this when I accidentally withdrew twice as much as I intended from an ATM.
  4. The southern hemisphere must really have a recruiting advantage in the economics job market. It's summer and beautiful.
  5. Doing Spanish Rosetta stone for a few weeks a couple years ago totally paid off. With just that limited vocabulary, I can decipher most signs. Spanish is so easy, it's actually pronounceable, and phonetic, and genders are obvious.
  6. The kindle free 3G model is still the best thing I've ever bought for international travel.
  7. I wanted a convenience store to buy diet coke in Santiago. I searched google maps for "supermercado", "Mercado", "bodega" and "tienda". No luck. Walked around and discovered they're all called "market" or "mart"...
  8. Similarly, a Chilean who went to grad school in the US laughed at the fact that what Americans calls "plazas", Chileans call "malls".
  9. Comparing average prices between Chile and the U.S. indicates that they're about the same. But variance is key. Restaurants seem to be either substantially cheaper or substantially more expensive than the U.S. Downtown in the main market, every meal costs about $20 or more, but a few blocks away, you can get chicken and salad and bread with French fries or rice for less than $3.
  10. And real estate is cheap. If you can move there on an American salary, you can live very very well. (Hint hint: if you've been stuck in Oklahoma for awhile and can no longer afford to trade your house back in for one in your preferred major American city, consider Santiago...)
  11. And despite that, it's more civilized than, say, Oakland... Safety statistics are better in every dimension. And I never once smelled urine! Or any of the other mysterious scents of the Mission.
  12. And there's a fantastic subway. The city is overall about as accessible as New York. It's not open 24 hours a day, but it's incredibly cheap, clean, and comfortable. And if you're out late, the taxis are MUCH cheaper as well. 50 cents to start instead of $2.50 or whatever it is now, and about half the per mile rate.
  13. Like Gabon, stray dogs are everywhere, and they're incredibly sweet (but healthier and better fed than in Gabon). This is a major, but unintentional, public good :)
  14. I definitely took many wrong turns due to the sun being to the north instead of the south.
  15. Also like Gabon, the standard food paradigm seems to be choice of meat + choice of carb. No matter where else in the world I travel I seem to come back to California craving vegetables like crazy.
  16. Gabon is actually entirely dissimilar to Chile despite the two comparisons above; funnily, however, a couple professors seemed a little sceptical that I might want to come to a "less developed" country, and asked if I'd travelled in less developed areas at all, and I said well I went to Gabon for a month, and that seemed to reassure him. That really cracked me up. Despite the fact Gabon is doing very well compared to most of sub-Saharan Africa, Santiago is much more like a standard American or European city than anywhere there.
  17. In fact, the most significant aggravating thing I heard that there is to deal with is poor customer service. This stems from a general lack of trust/trustworthiness, which in some ways isn't so bad if you're American, because they know you're trustworthy. Getting an apartment is apparently trivial as soon as you show up as a tall blonde person.
  18. Santiago is also a paradise for anyone who likes the outdoors. In the same day you can *easily* go surfing and skiing in the same day, and stop at a volcano and a glacier in between.
  19. I was surprised, however, how much I stuck out just by being blonde. Anyone who spoke English automatically addressed me in English.
  20. Watching the NFL in Spanish was exceedingly entertaining. If I concentrated I could understand a bit of what they were saying, but it's bizarre to have Spanish followed not by mariachi but by the NFL theme music.
  21. To watch the conference championship games, I went to "California Cantina", a bar filled with ex-pats. But despite the fact the workers and clientele were predominantly American, the first menu section was "California favorites", from which I didn't recognize a single dish.


Mike Urbancic said...

Three points:

1. I'm totally jealous!

2. The Sun-in-the-north thing definitely screwed me up during the first bit of my stay. I lived there long enough that I was also seriously disoriented for several hours after returning to the Phoenix metro area (where I was raised), since the Sun was--again--on the wrong side of the sky.

3. You made no mention of the limiting magnitude of Santiago's night sky. I'd be curious to know if you're willing hazard a guess. (We've had continual clouds for about a week in Eugene. I'd much rather make out Crux or other southern gems through the haze and light pollution there.)

Vera L. te Velde said...

oh yeah! I tried, but without a star map the limited magnitude was too bad for me to be able to recognize any southern constellations... I'll have to go back and rent a car to get out of the city some time.