Archive for August, 2011

August 28, 2011

Five Day Weekend

If you were to ask an average American what he liked to do in his spare time, you would probably get a variety of responses. Activities such as watching sports, hanging out with friends, playing music, and working out certainly would find their place on the list. If you were to ask the average Chilean the same question, you’d get a different list. At the top of it would be protesting.

This week I had two days of classes. That’s it. Monday and Tuesday class, Wednesday – Sunday free. This happened because all government workers organized a national, two-day protest. Across the country, workers rioted in the streets and businesses were forced to shut down. There was no public transportation and no public services. Things weren’t so bad here in Viña, but a friend who lives in Valparaíso told me it was pandemonium in the streets. Rioters broke into the first level of his apartment building and proceeded to break all of the windows out, trash the place, and set fire to all of the computers out in the street. (You can check out his blog at: http://gringodelmar.wordpress.com/ )

I decided to lay low Wednesday and Thursday. Not being able to leave made me get all of my work done, but by Friday I was ready to get out. My friend Ben and I took a little excursion two hours south to a tiny town called Isla Negra.

The name is decieving. It’s not an island, but it does sit on a beautiful rocky beach. Isla Negra was once home to the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. This was his third and final house that he lived in before his death. I can’t even begin to describe the details inside and outside his house. Everything was handmade and he was a crazy collector, so every time we would turn there would be more and more to look at. For example, here are a couple my favorite bottles in his collection. Other than bottles he had collections of masks, colored glass, shells, sail boats, and lots of other things that I can’t remember.

The living portion of the house was set up just like a ship, with small door frames and creaky wooden floors. His working part of the house was decorated in the same nautical eclectic style, but the shape of the rooms were just like train cars. What an imagination!

After exploring the house and gardens, Ben and I bought some empanadas to enjoy on the beach. There is nothing better than eating a tasty empanada on a cloudy day while sitting on the rocks watching the waves come in. It was a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of the restless city.

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August 20, 2011

Change of Plans

On Thursday morning I left with a group of forty +65 year olds to visit Mendoza and Córdoba in Argentina. The whole reason I was going was so that I could see my mom dance. She has been taking a Chilean folklore dance class for a long time and every year they take a trip to represent Chile at an art festival. Getting to visit Argentina + Seeing her dance + Cheap trip = One happy customer.

However, things didn’t quite go as planned. When our bus arrived at the road that starts to really climb into the Andes, we reached a barracade. The police said that the Argentinian side descent road was closed due to snow. We waited a couple hours, then got some good news. The Argentinian side had opened! The police then informed us that the tunnel was closed. This time we sat down, ate some lunch, and chatted for a couple more hours. We got some more good news. The tunnel was open! But the Chilean side ascent road was closed. After waiting a few more hours, we were informed that the road wasn’t going to open at all. The sun was just beginning to set as we returned to the last little town we’d passed. The plan was to spend the night there and try to cross in the morning.

Things were looking good when we got up in the morning, but the bellman said that it had snowed in the mountains the previous night. Our guide confirmed that we wouldn’t be able to pass until at least Saturday!

My mom left early this morning to try to cross today. She called me later in the morning to say that the road was again closed and there was a long line of buses. She was hoping to pass by 2:00 this afternoon…

The weather here is just crazy. Here in Viña it’s not too bad because we’re close to the Pacific, but it was snowing in Santiago Thursday. There hadn’t been snow in Santiago for twenty years! What a scene!