Friday, 19 April 2019

Short vignettes on life in Chile

Went to a rummage sale in a church to see if we could find any bikes or plants and oddments for our flat. Found none of the above but did find lots of Americans - All different shapes, sizes, ages and reasons for being there. Oddly, not one Chilean among them. Even so, this religious mono-culture enclave did share a common factor of all being quite lovely. “Come along” They said, almost in unison. “We ain’t too godly and there’s a whole lot of things going on that you might like….” Ummm. Food for thought. In principle people are people whatever their beliefs. In experience, however, god’s a sneaky chap and will wheedle his way in somehow.

We went to a huge fruit and veg market across the other side of Santiago. Fantastic! Crowds jostling for positions to buy produce. Piles of huge avocados, deep red tomatoes, sweet tasting potatoes (other stuff with different word endings are also available). The stalls are manned / womanned by people calling out for business in football style chants “Ogee Ogee Ogee” or generally shouting to one another over the riffs of Latino music that changes from stall to stall. The smells, energy and general ambiance of the place filled our heads and hearts and left us both with the same inane grins that we had in the last big market we visited here.

Weighed down with enough fruit and veg to feed a troupe of monkeys for a month we decided to follow the local consumer fashion by acquiring a shopping trolley – A red one with a white ‘go faster’ stripe. You can throw your jibes about getting old but it’s a sensible urban solution. Admittedly, not a minute goes by without a wheel trundling over one’s foot but it’s better than straining huge loads on our backs and, as a bonus, we get to feel part of the red trolley gang!! “Gerroutatheway you leopard print trolley punk”

At same market we tried a Chilean concoction called Mote con Huesillo - basically a syrupy liquid poured over husked wheat with a dried peach plopped in for good luck. We also had a Churrasco sandwich. Thinly sliced beef that melted in your mouth that was served with avo, melted cheese and a big smile from the guy who cooked it for us. Delicious.

There is a concert supported by our language school in a couple of weeks. A Bowie tribute band will headline and there’s to be 70’s and 80’s music too. It’s in a local pub. All good so far except for the facts that the doors don’t open until 11.00pm and the band starts at 1.30am. Yes!!!! 1.30am in the morning! These people never sleep. Well, not at night time anyway. Pubs are generally open till 2.00am. Clubs don’t open even open doors till 11.00/11.30pm and rooftop parties on the tower blocks don’t finish blasting out music until 5.00am. We’re changing to accommodate but it takes some getting used to. Thank god for earplugs and alcohol.

Weather. What weather. We have been here nearly a month and have had a smattering of rain for an hour around midnight once and a day of cloud. The rest of the time blue skies and sunshine. The temperatures are around 26 to 28 in the day at the moment. The sun is hot but the shade is pleasantly cool. The nights are warm and we sleep with the windows open (noisy bastard parties allowing). We have aircon but we never have to use it. It’s perfect. We are told that in the winter - we are now in early autumn -  that although the nights are colder the days will still be sunny and warm. Woo hoo.

We tried our luck at a local pub quiz recently. A bi-lingual affair ran by an American expat. We went with Veronika. A fellow teacher from Hungary. 28, uber confident, very little tact, never wrong and the sort that will deffo get you in a fight (although in her defense, she is entertaining, sweet-natured and we are very fond of her) – a bit like the gobby daughter I never had. Anyway. Pub quiz consisted of a few Chilean references but mainly American pop culture. Normally we do better than average at a pub quiz. Here, we came a firm last. It seems we know nothing about fucking High School Musical or who Jim Carey was talking to on twitter. Anyway. The booby prize which we had to accept among faux cheers were free tickets to either a comedy show or another pub quiz. Fearing a downward, never ending spiral of degradation with the pub quiz option I think we will try out the comedy show. The highlight of the evening for me personally was watching the one of the winning team, standing at the top of the stairs in a mock Freddy Mercury manner, singing the entire song of ‘We are the champions’….no time for losers….to the assembled runners up. Very funny and all taken in good spirits.

The gym we have joined is always empty. There are loads of machines and weights but there is hardly ever anyone there. Max 7 people at a time. Fantastic. We are going about 4  times a week. Sometimes 5 and the weight is slowly coming off whilst the body definition is coming back. Don’t get me wrong. We ain’t in great shape but we are deffo feeling a lot better for having a regular regime of activity. We are so hi brow though. We listen to plays or ted talks instead of pumpin’ music. I even asked the staff to turn down the piped beats yesterday as I couldn’t concentrate on my talking book whilst doing free weights among a small group of gorillas.

WE Became a proper Chilean the other day. Got our ID cards and RUT numbers. Rut numbers rule here. They get you discounts on shopping and track your purchases, identify you for bank accounts, driving etc. Your whole life instantly trackable. At this rate, by the end of next week, we can officially start growing moustaches and speaking fluent Spanish.
Talking about Spanish. We have started Spanish lessons with Jesus. Funny enough as a stand alone sentence but feel free to drop us a line with any amusing thoughts….. I hope did doesn’t get cross, Lets see if he can work another miracle etc. My personal favourite from Rachel was that “starting lessons with Jesus on Maundy Thursday (day before good Friday) was chancing it”.

We spent a couple of hours in the Museum of human rights and memories the other day. A jolly place that details the Pinochet rule and the infringements on human rights that took place: shootings, torture, persecution. All the old favourites of any militaristic regime. Interestingly the old scoundrel’s rule wasn’t all bad. He did lots of reforms and brought about a lot of improvements to life (for many, obviously not those who were politically opposed or in the wrong place at the wrong time). Life before was one of soaring inflation, lack of food and poor government. Consequently, a lot of folk we have spoken to miss the good old bad old Pinochet days. Perspective huh? It’s a funny thing. Do the means always justify the end????

Met a lady in the life with a dog called Rose Marie. Chatted to her and her adult daughter a little on the way down. Today got in the same lift with her and Rachel. Introduced them to one another and within two floors it was all kisses and offers of any help. They are such lovely people. Its almost a daily occurrence to be warmly welcomed and we are informed that they are the least demonstrative of the Latin American countries.

At a flat warming party the other night we stumbled up to the public roof space about 1am in the morning to look at the view and basically drink lots of rum in a high place. When we came out onto the terrace, we found blaring dance music, disco lights and balloons and, rather wonderfully, a deserted dance floor. The 7 or us spilled out onto the floor and started dancing. Suddenly, we noticed standing against the far wall, 5 skinny men. All about 28 – 32 years old, all looking a little taken aback at our arrival and all, bizarrely, dressed as superheroes in different colours. One soon game over and politely (not giving away what his possible superpowers could do to us) asked us to please leave as it was a private party. We apologised and retreated to another section of the roof which was a around the corner from the party and even though we were up there for another hour or so, we saw no other guests arrive or any of the super folk dance. Too busy looking down on the mean streets of the city and ready to swoop down and apprehend baddies I guess.

Party ended with the host unconscious on the bed for a couple of hours they throwing up over their bed, self, another friends sleeping bag etc. No worry. Grown up Sicko Superheroes were at hand to help. Brought the party to swift and rancid smelling halt though. Just as well it was 4.00am and if we hurried home we might just catch the last hour of a rooftop party nearer home!!!

Final point. In case you never hear from me again. I have a new student starting next week. Can’t say much more in a public space but it transpires she is an ex-model, very wealthy and married to an arms dealer. Can’t wait!