Thursday, June 14, 2012

I am here : Estoy aquí!

Just landed in Santiago this morning. I found it almost impossible to get decent sleep on the flight, so as soon as I stepped into the apartment I am staying at, the blinds where down and a 2 hour nap followed. After I woke up I took a stroll around downtown Santiago. Since my checked bags are still in Miami (for some reason they did not board the plane with me, I hear this is a common occurrence for arriving international flights) I needed to find myself a couple things to hold me over till tomorrow.

First impression of centro Santiago: Imagine a Manhattan on steroids, layered with a thick blanket of some tantalizing blend of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and sulfur. The city has just as much hustle as New York, with twice the congestion and twice the smell. With almost every turn of the corner I found my nostrils inviting either wonderful smelling street food (empanadas y sopaipillas) or knee buckling mixtures of awful stench (???).  As with any big city people move fast, heads down and destinations in mind. However, unlike any big American metropolis I have been too, Chileans seem to congregate in these awesomely big groups of friends (at least young Chileans). Cigarettes in hand, smiles, and jokes all around.

I passed by many carabineros (Chilean police) and have to say their entire persona is very intriguing. I've read and watched a good amount of their involvement with the ongoing student protests in Chile and just like the abuse that took place and is taking place during the Occupy Wall Street events, there is even more of that here in Chile. Carabineros literally look like standing military. Either on horseback, motorcycle, foot, or giant caravan, these elite Chilean law enforcers wear bullet proof vests and definitely look like they will not think twice about embracing the back of your head with the front of their night stick. There are tons of them throughout the streets, I have not seen a city with so many viewable police officers!

The sun is now gently setting over the smoggy horizon and there is a strange sense of comfort I have in this foreign city. Chileans are so welcoming and understanding (even as you butcher their native language and look perplexed when they give you directions at 100mph mouth speed), that it is easy for anyone to feel at ease in Santiago. I still could never imagine living in a huge city for an extended period of time (I need some green trees, blue skies, open trails and fresh air), but Santiago is definitely a place to get to know and I am looking forward to doing just that over this next week!

As soon as my luggage gets to me I will be off and running the city...planning to cover as much ground as I can before I head down to Los Lagos. Voy a explorar Santiago a noche ahora! (I'm off to explore Santiago by night)

Santiago de Chile

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