The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 90, Being Sociable In Santiago

The following takes place on Friday,  February 25, 2011

After waking up with surprisingly no hangover, the first thing I did was attempt to find where Ben was. Or, more importantly, whether he actually got back to the hostel safely. After a massive margarita and numerous tequila shots(you’re welcome!), he was a tad bit gone. Probably didn’t help that he was still a wee bit jetlagged from coming from Melbourne.

With Ben officially found and alive, I sat around while the rest of the previous nights gang slowly woke up. With plans to head to the Plaza de Armas for a free walking tour of Santiago, we had to start getting a bit of a move on if we wanted to make it.

When everyone finally got up, we met downstairs at the little cafe that was attached to the hostel and had some espresso and lunch. It was a good, light lunch. I ended up getting a huge caeser salad which was just perfect.

We ended up leaving Kasandra back at the hostel as she had already done a bit of a tour of Santiago with some people she had met. So, with Ben and Erin in tow, I jumped on the metro and headed down to the Plaza.

IMG_2281We got there just as the tour was starting. It was pretty easy to find as the guide had a bright red shirt on that said “FREE TOUR” on the back. We started with little introduction of the Plaza, and how the center fountain is considered Kilometer 0 for all of Chile. We also learned a bit about the church that was in the Plaza, and how it had been destroyed many times in the past. Twice by earthquakes and once by fire. Each time rebuilt to it’s previous splendor. We were given some time to explore the church before we moved on.

We stopped in the lobby of the Museum of Pre-Columbian Antiquities where our guide, Arnold, explained a bit about the Mapucho tribe of people. Anyone that lives in Chile, and is not a first or second generation immigrant, will have some MapuchoIMG_2286 blood in them, deriving from the Spanish ideal of improving the Spanish race by mixing with every indigenous group they encountered.

We walked past the large court house where, across the street was a garden built on the site of a former Jesuit Church. Years ago, during a celebration, when there were over 3000 people in the church, it collapsed, killing everyone inside. The garden on the spot is now considered one of the most haunted place in all of Santiago.

Then we got to the interesting portion of the tour, for me anyways. We wandered into the area with many government buildings and Arnold went into a very detailed, and surprisingly balanced explanation of the military coup that occured in the 1970s. And the subsequent chaos that followed until democracy was reformed in the 1980s. The gist of it: Chile elects socialist president. President wants to create a more socialist state IMG_2295but, unlike his friend Castro, believes it can be done in a non-violent manner. Rich people didn’t like this. Convince military leaders to stage a coup and throw President out. September 11, 1970 something, all police and military turn on government and take over. Becomes a military state for years until leader is convinced to hold a national referendum on whether to hold democratic elections. Motion passes, military leader voted out. Democracy reigns and economy starts to turn around.

We stopped at a small little cafe in the middle of the Bohemian area of downtown Santiago for a quick drink and bite to eat before making our way across the river IMG_2346to the Bellavista area and one of Pablo Neruda's homes. Pablo Neruda, the Nobel Prize winning poet, was a socialist but was so beloved by everyone that when he died, the anti-socialist military leadership allowed, for that one time only, to let the communist and socialist parties meet again for the funeral without fear of detainment.

It was an amazing tour of the city and ran for five hours, an hour longer than advertised. But I didn’t feel tired. We stopped enough times that we got plenty of time to relax. The guide was incredibly knowledgable and funny. The best thIMG_2363ing about the tour too is that, because it is free, the guides all work for tips. It makes them work harder I think. Instead of hashing out fact after fact, they do their best to make the entire thing exciting and fascinating. I highly recommend the Free Tour. It meets everyday of the week at 10am and 3pm in the Plaza de Armas in front of the Cathedral. Just look for the person wearing the red shirt that says “FREE TOUR” on it.

Back at the hostel, we made it just in time for the BBQ. It was all you can eat and all you can drink for two hours. So, what do I do? I introduce the people in the hostel to the wonderful game of Sociables. It’s a drinking game involving giving each value of card a rule or game to follow like “Take a Drink,” “Never Have I Ever. . . ,” and “Girls Drink".IMG_2397

It became an amazing night and we once again all headed out to a club, but this time one right in the Bellavista area. I ended up pulling a Ben though as I found myself falling asleep standing up so I left the bar early and stumbled my way back to the hostel. Well, not before I found a gas station that was open and had completos for sale. Best after bar food ever!

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