Posts tagged ‘santiago’

October 31, 2011

Why Helloween!

North American culture is obsessed with Halloween and they have infected South American with the holiday as well. It is not nearly as big a deal as it is in the States, but kids do dress up in costumes for candy. The funny thing is though, that Chile has two national paid holidays for it. Now to me that’s taking a holiday seriously.

On Friday my host mom and I headed early to Santiago to do some touristy things. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t taken the time to really get to know Santiago. But honestly who can blame me. Valpo has so much character. Anyway I walked around with my expert guide through the center of the city. She pointed out the buildings that her parents worked in, the two buildings adjacent to La Moneda (like our White House), and how she used to run back and forth through La Mondeda playing as a child. This particular day that we were there, a special event was going on and we could go in. In fact, the whole road and plaza was blocked to get to it. But did that stop us from going in? Of course not! I don’t know what it is about my host mom, but somehow signs, rules, laws, military personnel cannot stand in the way of that determined woman. So instead of being this far from La Moneda…


…we ended up having a nice conversation with this kind sir in the threshold.

Popped our heads into the gigantic cathedral in the center before heading to my host mom’s tapestry class. I love talking to old people. They are just hilarious because they don’t have to sensor anything they say. If they don’t like something, they let their opinion be know. No beating around the bush. But seriously, they were very welcoming and loved to give the cute little gringa the opportunity to practice her Spanish.

The rest of the holiday weekend + some I spent in Viña. Gonzalo’s family and two of his friends came with us and we camped out at the beach during the day and played cards til early in the morning. No spookness to my Halloween, and that is just perfectly fine with me. I’ll trade the sound of terrified screams and candy for the sounds of waves on a sunny beach with great company any day.

September 20, 2011

Fiestas Patrias

This past weekend was one huge party across all of Chile. The 18th was Fiestas Patrias and the 19th was Army Day. Fiestas Patrias is the national day of independence. To celebrate there are big fairs throughout the city parks. Artisans and local restaurants set up rows tents made out of chicken wire and tree branches to sell their wares. At night there are concerts and dance parties until the early hours of the morning. Army Day is much more formal. In Parque O’Higgins there is a parade of the four services of the military: army, navy, air force & carabineros (similar to policemen). They march in synchronized a fashion and showed off their expertise and weapons.

I headed to Santiago with my host mom for the weekend. We stayed with her son (Gonzalo), his wife (Andrea) and their son (Facundo). They were so welcoming and treated me like one of the family the whole time I was there. Playing with cars and watching Madagascar with Facundo was especially fun too… 🙂

Friday, I spent the day with Lily. After a nice relaxing lunch complete with papaya ice cream, we took a walk. She showed me some of the apartments that had been shutdown due to the big earthquake a couple years ago. We also saw shops and shops full of traditional folkloric outfits.

Saturday, we celebrated two birthdays. First we went to Anita Maria and Jaime’s house to celebrate Oscar’s birthday. We ate some AMAZING food and drank some really good wine. My favorite of everything we ate though, were these peppers that were filled with sauteed cheese, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, and beef. Delicious!

We had two birthday cakes and I of course tested both of them. One was the typical carmel/filo dough sugar-filled cake and the other was a raspberry cream layer cake. Both excellent. When we felt like we were ready to explode, Anita Maria set out blankets on the lawn and we chatted and snoozed to give our stomachs a chance to catch up. Then we ate ice cream. Eating great food with such a kind group of people topped of with a breathtaking view of the Andes made for a marvelous “asado” or grill-out.

Finally we packed ourselves into the car only to return to a house full of guests for round two of the birthdays. Fortunately I caught my second wind in the bus and I was ready to embrace another asado. More wine was poured, more meat was grilled, more snacks were set out, and more beer was served. The evening ended at about 1PM with another sweet carmel cake and everyone full to the limit.

Sunday morning we all went to mass and then walked a couple blocks to Nelly’s house. Here we spent eight hours enjoying each others company, listening to stories about years ago, and of course eating. My host mom, Lilly, and Nelly’s kids all grew up together and are just like family, so they know each other very well and tease each other plenty. We ate a lot more grilled meat and dishes with lots of lemon, salt, mayonnaise, and oil. I tested (and really liked) two drinks that are unique to this time of the year. One is called a “terremoto” which is pineapple sherbet mixed with a sweet white wine called pipeño. Amazingly good and amazingly strong. The other drink is “ponche” (just a Chilean accent of punch…) which is lots of red wine mixed with lots of chopped up fresh fruit. It’s really good, I’d just suggest eating the fruit slowly because it’s strong. Ending the night we pushed back the tables and rolled back the rugs to watch people dance the cueca. That’s the folkloric dance of Chile that everyone holds dear to their heart.

Monday morning we made our way to one of the nicer fondas in a big park complete with a lagoon at the top. Here are some snapshots so you can get a feel of what it’s like…

After spending the day at the fonda we ate lunch with some friends of Gonzalo and watched the parade of the military. It was quite a day and a very special weekend. My conclusion of the entire weekend? Chileans know how to eat and drink, and they do it well.