A Soft Landing in Santiago

I floated down on a feather into Latin America, with no jarring experiences or any major challenges. I had no travel issues aside from lotion & soap bottles exploding in my backpack. English is commonly known. My Spanish has been sufficient. I’ve met people who helped me immensely—hosting me, cooking for me, exploring with me…. I’ve had it easy. ()Knock on wood.

I expected the transition into Latin America to rattle me a little. At this point, I cannot tell how much of this effortless transition is due to my good fortune, to my aversion to risk, and/or to my incapacity to be easily perturbed, but blessings have always have come easily & frequently to me. Maybe it’s because my Christian friends are always praying for me—thanks, guys! Keep ‘em comin’!  (´´)*:・゚✧ <(^o^<)

Santiago itself captivated me for only a few brief moments; however, my time spent with its amazing inhabitants & its role as my first Latin American city are significant. So let's jump into a summary of Santiago's Dingle.

Santiago's Dingle

Santiago is a city. I think that sums it up best. There are few remarkably distinct features of this city [that I noted], and it is not especially challenging culturally. That is not to say I didn't enjoy my time there, that it has nothing cool going on, or that I didn't learn anything either; however, I largely ascribe my pleasant time in Santiago to the amazing people that I met there.

Initially I spent a couple nights with a CouchSurfing host on her birthday, which proved an opportune time to meet locals in a trusting atmosphere, including Sunna—another girl who kindly hosted me & helped me around to my first terremoto, sopaipilla, food market experience, and more. I owe her a billion.

photo cred: Sunna

photo cred: Sunna

My previous post discusses my dull relationship with Santiago’s tourist attractions. Since they’re of no particular import to me, let’s just gloss over them. Instead, let’s talk about the following:

Learning Chilean Spanish

Chilean Spanish is notorious for its speed, unfinished words, slang, and misuse of grammar, so learning to listen hasn't been easy. For example, some people will say “tú soy” instead of “tú eres” to mean “you are,” or they may leave entire syllables out of words. Combine these with my persistent neuroticism, and you’re left with one confused Dingle.

Chileans also have a charming set of slang that I’ll be sad to abandon once I leave the country, including:

  • Pico = Dick
    • Me dejó como el pico = It fucked me up (literally: “It left me like a dick”)
    • Mi español es como el pico = My Spanish is shitty (literally: “My Spanish is like a dick”)
    • Escribo como el pico = I write like shit (literally: “I write like a dick”)
  • Concha tu madre = Mother fucker (literally: pussy [of] your mother)
  • Cochino = Vulgar/Filthy
  • Maraca = Slut
  • Zorra = Slut
  • La zorra = Cool
  • La raja = Cool
  • Bacán = Cool

Of these, you'd probably hear "bacán" used the most while "pico" & "concha tu madre" are used frequently in comfortable social settings.

Soy zorra cochina.

Furry, Feathered Friends

The pigeons are ugly. The pigeons are brave. One flew so close to my face that I could feel the beat of its wing. They suck.
⊹⋛⋋( ՞ ՞)⋌⋚⊹   (((( ;°Д°)))) ⊹⋛⋋( ՞ ՞)⋌⋚⊹ 

The heartbreaking stray dogs of Santiago lie despondent and motionless. The strays of Valparaiso, by comparison, are lively and interactive.
(づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ  U^ェ^U

But most important of all our bestial buddies is Plutonio, Sunna’s ferret master. In her own [poorly translated] words, “I’m beginning to doubt that Plutonio is, in reality, my pet and I am his!” Indeed, Plutonio’s draw is so magnetic, his presence so commanding, that even I found myself staying for just another minute to snuggle & play with him.

photo cred: Sunna

photo cred: Sunna

Plutonio is a just ruler of his people.

photo cred: Sunna

photo cred: Sunna

Plutonio overlooking his kingdom from his plush throne.

photo cred: Sunna

photo cred: Sunna

Really—how could you ever say no to such a face?

Plutonio is seriously bacán!

Things I Put in My Mouth

Santiago left much to be desired in terms of food. Not only are their sit-down restaurants severely overpriced, but there’s very little in the way of quality authentic Chilean cuisine. Admittedly, my tight budget didn’t allow me to experience the full range of Santiago’s cuisine though, so I’m no expert. Perhaps the extortionate prices are actually worth it.

However, I did experience a handful of noteworthy foods & drinks, discussed below with recipes in links. I encourage you to try them and let me know what you think.

Sopaipilla

Yo, this mah shit right here! This fried pastry is a traditional snack of many Latin American countries, and Chilean sopaipillas are flat & topped with either chancaca syrup (sweet) or pebre (savory). For 16 cents, I bought a sopaipilla with pebre from a street vendor. #Heaven

Terremoto

Aptly named “Earthquake” for the danger this drink poses to your equilibrium, the terremoto combines pipeño (cheap Chilean white wine), pineapple ice cream, and sometimes pisco to send you soaring—straight into the floor. Luckily, I managed to snag one at La Piojera, which is famous for its terremotos. My assessment? Delicious for the first half, too much sugar by the second half. Certainly worth trying though!

La Piojera's bartenders making terremotos. The giant jug contains pipeño.

La Piojera's bartenders making terremotos. The giant jug contains pipeño.

Pisco Sour

Chileans certainly love to mask the alcohol content of their drinks. Just as the terremoto is dangerously sweet, the pisco sour cocktail goes down smooth like a Santiago love nurse. While I enjoyed it, it certainly didn’t astonish me. Unfortunately, you will likely have trouble finding pisco outside of Latin America.

EDIT: The amazingly sexy & intelligent Ben Lloyd has informed me that pisco is in fact not difficult to find, but it can be a bit pricey.

Melón con Vino

One of the more exciting of the drinks I tried involved chopping the top off of a honeydew melon, spooning out the seeds, filling it with white wine, and throwing in a few straws. If you enjoy tha honeydewz, you’ll enjoy this sweet bevvy. The taste was decent, but what I truly enjoyed was drawing faces on the side of the melon. Totally worth the effort just for that!

If you’re a Honeydew Hater™, feel free to try this with another melon like cantaloupe.

photo cred: Sunna

photo cred: Sunna

Fruit

After walking for several hours through sweltering heat, I came upon a lone street vendor selling various fruits. I’d anticipated this moment for over a day. At last, I knew the time was ripe. I selected a standard box (I dunno—4-6 ounces?) of blueberries for $1.30 USD and continued towards my host’s home. Unable to wait, I popped one into my mouth. Dear sweet, succulent baby cherubs, I couldn't believe my taste buds! Large, juicy, and full of definitive flavor, THESE ARE BLUEBERRIES, I yelled in my stupid head. (´ω`)

I continued to have this revelation with every fruit I ate. Peaches. Strawberries. Pineapple. All irrefutably better than their Seattle counterparts, which taste like peepee dirt by comparison.

Getting Lucky

Santiaguinos don’t seem to think highly of Santiaguinos. Many warned me about a rude demeanor of Santiago’s people—akin to the “Seattle Freeze”—but very rarely did I encounter that. More often than not, people were happy to help out a stupid gringo who could barely speak Spanish.

My amazing time in Santiago was undoubtedly due to a few particular people who opened themselves to me, showed me around, and spent time with me. In particular, I’m thankful for having met Sunna & Jopi, with whom I spent the most time experiencing the local culture.

But I got lucky. Two cities later in Pucon, I’m alone again and unlikely to find anymore CouchSurfing hosts since my Santiago host changed her reference to negative. (҂⌣̀_⌣́)  Things are slowly becoming more difficult, but the soft entry into Latin America has allowed me time to build my skills & confidence to handle the coming challenges. I hope.