I’ve only been in Santiago for a little over a week, but I’ve already had quite a few adventures. From exploring my own city to the one of Pablo Nerudo, from trying to overcome mountain-like hills to the notorious language barrier, this trip has presented me a number of wonderful, and at times challenging, experiences. To give you a glimpse into my experience so far, here are some thoughts and notes in no particular order:
1. Chileans walk slowly and talk quickly.
Granted, I myself have not had much practice with Spanish prior to this trip, so just about any dialect of Spanish sounds fast to me. However, according to some other students in this program who have grown up speaking Spanish, Chilean Spanish can at times be completely unintelligible even for them. The velocity combined with the extensive use of slang often leads to me doing the clueless-smile-and-nod during conversations with natives, especially those who are my age. Luckily, the professors slow it down for us so that I can “cachai”.
2. Art and design is truly valued and can be seen throughout the city.
One thing that stood out to me during our first bus ride home from the airport was the architecture. Santiago has a beautiful variety of classical and modern buildings that are always eye-catching. The graphic design of each pamphlet and bathroom sign is clean-cut and balanced. On the streets, especially those of the nearby city Valparaíso, murals cover the walls with vibrant colors and striking designs. Street musicians fill the metro stations with beautiful melodies. I could get used to this.
3. The Santiago Metro is very useful and very crowded. Very crowded.
The Metro, which serves 2.3 million daily, has not failed me yet, provided that I am able to squeeze myself into the already-packed metro cars. The first time I went on the metro, I considered it to be pretty full. After the first stop, I had thought to myself “It’s pretty full so it doesn’t seem like any more people can fit.” Wrong. Next stop: having been squeezed to the point that I would probably remain in an upright position if I fell asleep, I had the same thought. Wrong. Next stop: drowning in the sea of other people’s exhalation, involuntarily and inevitably groping and being groped, I had the same thought. Wrong. As it turns out, a Santiago Metro car is never truly “full”; with enough passive-aggressive utterings of “permiso” and enough schmooshing, there’s always space for more. (Note: I haven’t actually taken any pictures within the metro yet in fear that I’d get trampled or pickpocketed.)
4. The Andes are beautiful.
From just about any point in the city, you can get a good view of the mountains which form the eastern border of the city. They are visible enough that when giving directions, people often refer to “La Cordillera” (the mountain chain) rather than East. Santiago, being a large city, does become a bit smoggy at times, and the view of the mountains is not always clear. However, after it rains and the air clears up, it’s difficult not to just stop where you are and gaze for a minute.
5. Salt and mayo are their favorite seasonings.
For the most part, Chilean food is actually a bit bland– far from the typical image that comes to mind when thinking of Latin American food. They’re big fans of bread as well, the most popular type being marraqueta which is similar to French bread. I’ve been told that many Chileans actually prefer Peruvian cuisine over their own, though unfortunately I haven’t gotten the chance to try it out yet. This is not to say that there aren’t a couple of Chilean gems– choripan, a sandwich composed of a link of chorizo (the “chori”) and a piece of marraqueta (the “pan”) garnished with mayo and pebre (similar to pico de gallo) has been one of my favorites from here.
These are just a couple of my initial thoughts from Santiago, and I have to say that I’m loving the place so far.
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Kevin Kuo, and I'm a sophomore at Indiana University Bloomington majoring in chemistry, minoring in geology, and receiving a certificate from the Liberal Arts & Management Program (LAMP). Outside of class, I enjoy photography, cooking, ceramics, and playing trombone (among other eclectic things). Some of my goals for my summer in Santiago include admiring the geology of the area by hiking through the Andes and exchanging lots of recipes with my host family.</span></p>