Slowing the Pace Down a Little

Trip Start May 30, 2005
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Trip End Sep 30, 2006


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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, November 26, 2005

The flight over to Santiago was excellent, I made a small effort on my part to free Cuba by participating in many Cuba Libres. It didnīt work but was a valiant effort and I had fun trying.

I didnīt get much sleep on the plane so I was a little groggy for my first little expedition out into the streets of South America. I decided on some food and a coffee. despite spending the two years before my trip started learning Spanish things didnīt get off to a great start. I didnīt understand that the dish I wanted wasnīt available. He eventually had to get the menu and point down the list. ĻNo, No, Si, Si, NoĻ.

Things didnīt get any better when I tried to speak the language, I was cooking some sausages in the kitchen of the hostel. I wasnīt entirely sure that they were fully cooked and had cut one open to look inside. One of the ladies from the hostel came into the kitchen and I asked for her opinion, she suggested that it was ok. In a grand statement of decision I proudly proclaimed ĻYou ate it!Ļ. She just looked at me funny and walked off.

The streets of Santiago are remarkably familiar. To be honest you could be mistaken for thinking that youīre walking around Madrid, itīs just so European. I also feel that I blend in a little bit, on more than one occation someone asked me for directions, it makes a huge difference from visiting Asia where you stick out like a sore thumb.

There is a hill in the center of town that you can climb. At the top there is a tower that gives you a great view over the city, not only this but you can see the mountains that surround the city. Absolutely fantastic.

It appears that the Chilieans love to protest. They have elections coming up in December and they were out in force with their placards, scarfs and flags. It was great to see a nation get so involved in their politics, far better than the empathy that we have in the UK. Another group of Chilieans were camped outside one of the supermarkets just down from the Hostel, I donīt know what the issue was but there was a big fence erected outside the supermarket to keep them out. The thing was, two days later the protesters and the fence had gone. Theyīd moved two doors up and were outside the Ministry of Education with new banners and probably new words to their songs of protest.

I had a look at the main square, Plaza de Armas. You can imagine my delight when I found a big group of people playing chess in the corner! It cost me a meer 20 pence for the board hire to join in the fun. I had a great afternoon and managed to finish on a score of 4.5 out of 5. There was controversial moment in the second game though when this guy was beating me. I started to play aggresively as a last chance gamble, eventually managing to checkmate him! He wasnīt pleased at this and took back my checkmate move and the one that heīd made. He then played another move which left me with only one move and then he followed up with a checkmate. He then sat back and looked rather pleased with himself. Yeah right Pedro, as if you won.

A piece of paper came round the tables, a chess tournament in the square on Saturday. I had no idea what format the tournament would take but signed up anyway. I turned up on the Saturday morning and found a long line of tables, looking good. I hung around until one of the guys recognised me and told me to sit down at one of the tables. Everyone was sitting behind the black pieces and no-one at the white side of the board. I then realised that it was a simultaneous match, where some bright egg head was taking on 48 people at once. It didnīt take long before Alfonso was beating me and due to a poor choice of verb I turned to the guy next to me stating, ĻIīm going to winĻ. Cue more embarassment when once the game had finished I kept on saying that Iīd won. They just looked at the funny foreigner.

I did enjoy my time in Santiago, there isnīt a huge amount of things to do but I managed to keep myself amused playing chess and trying to speak Spanish to random people. Iīll definetly be needing to attend a Spanish School soon in order to blow away the cobwebs from the past 6 months, otherwise my Spanish isnīt going anywhere!

Next Iīm off to Rio, a small detour from Spanish speaking land but one that Iīm equally looking forward to and apprehensive off. In fact Iīve never been so worried about travelling to a city as this one. Iīm sure itīll be fine though.
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