The Sabbatical's Last Week
13.12.2010 - 22.12.2010
Greetings from Houston, TX. This entry covers the last week of our long voyage...
Valparaiso is a crazy port town that resembles a head with messy hair, trying to comb itself endlessly without success... jeopardizing its own particular character, just like Chilean poet Pablo Neruda described it.
The intense, vehement, and bohemian town continues to grow sideways and upward. The many alleys attest to a revolting population that expresses itself in hundreds if not thousands of colorful graffitti; "decorating" walls, portals, old balconies and even rustic elevators that spread throughout the capricious geography of a hilly town in front of the Pacific Ocean.
On the weekends, Valparaiso is filled up with Santiaguinos (people from the country's capital). It was a Wednesday when we arrived in Valpo. A strike of public workers had altered the normal atmosphere of the town. Elevators didn't run and there were loads of garbage accumulating all over the place.
An old three story building own by a family of artisan hosted us for the next 5 days. It was very well located on a steep street full of restaurants, pubs and alcohol vending facilities. "Non Smokers Not Allowed" stated a popular unusual cafe a block away from us.
People-watching, wandering around the maze like steep streets of Valpo and eating fresh seafood are the things to do. As we walked downhill from visiting La Sebastiana -Neruda's home- we encountered a very talkative old lady who had Santa sneaking through her window. "Go ahead, take a photo" she yelled from across the street.
Standing in front of her house we chatted for about half an hour. "When I hear the youngsters speaking on the streets I ask myself: what is that language?" said Doña Esther. "They look at you as if you are an alien when you speak properly," upset she declared. Indeed, Chilean Spanish is one of the most difficult to understand, even for native speakers! No wonder why our fluent Swiss friend e-mailed us: "I thought I knew Spanish until I came to Chile."
One day we decided to walk to famous Viña del Mar. In addition to visiting the popular music capital of South America we wanted to find a good movie theater. It was a very enjoyable stroll right next to the water. What we didn't know is that it was going to take more than two hours to reach our destination. But oh well... the modern, clean, exclusive high-priced city was more beautiful than expected. That being said, we both agreed that staying in Valpo was a far better idea.
As we arrived in Santiago a Peruvian friend -she is Chilean now- I hadn't seen in a long time awaited us on the bus station. Taking in the city views from her centric 20th floor apartment, Danixa filled us up with stories about the fast growing Peruvian population in the city. "They mostly live in confined places and even though they make enough money, they do not try to upgrade" she said upset. Of course this is just a generalized opinion.
In Santiago, we stayed with a nice couple who lived in one of the most exclusive parts of town. We had met Jorge almost a year ago waiting on a bus in Beijing, China. We had such a great time conversing about Latin American politics and idiosyncrasy in Spanish -oh! it felt so good to speak in your native language- that he kindly invited us to visit him in Santiago... and so we did. Despite of what the lovely couple say they were great hostesses. Their busy schedules did not prevent them from showing us the city and taking us to delicious restaurants.
Surprisingly enough we had continued travelling since we got back to the U.S. Denver, Boston and Austin welcomed us with an old friend's warmth... It has been great to listen to all your impressions on our long voyage. We noticed though there are many questions we have not addressed in the blog. Therefore, we have decided to write one more entry (yeah, one more!) about the journey's highlights. So, please if there is anything you would like to know about the trip (budget, itinerary, planning, etc.), feel free to post it as a comment or send us an email. We'll make sure to include the answers to your inquiries on the next entry. We LOVE having you as reader and commenter of our blog...