Monday, October 18, 2004

In Chile Again...

Santiago is green and fresh from the winter rains, the oaks and maples along the Alameda are looking healthy and the parks and plazas bright with new grass. The air is crisp and relatively smog-free; it seems that spring is the city's best time of the year.

It also appears strikingly modern and sophisticated after being so long in Peru. When I first arrived here I felt I was definitely in Latin America; now it feels like being plunged into Europe. Big, modern buses run up and down the avenues and there are twenty private cars for every taxi - the exact opposite of Arequipa. People are more confident and relaxed, less friendly, less bothersome, and overwhelmingly whiter. You can sit and eat in a street cafe without *anyone* trying to sell you something or asking you for money.

I went straight back to the Hostal Bellavista, where I stayed in April, and found that once again it's inhabited by interesting people. Last night there was a bbq/farewell party for two Argentinian girls who have been working here since August - lots of wine, pisco and chorizo leaving me somewhat the worse for wear this morning. I talked to an English girl who's doing her PhD on the foreign policy of the Salvador Allende government - on Monday she gets to talk to Isabel Allende's stepfather - and a Chilean guy whose father procured foreign loans for Chile in New York during the Allende era.

Meanwhile, the trip Arequipa-Lima-Santiago, while squeezed into 36 hours and ultimately pretty exhausting, was surprisingly easy and incident free. I would have expected something to go wrong somewhere between bus terminals, airports, luggage transfers, passport controls, customs, currency exchanges and taxis, but it all turned out to be too easy. Am likely to head to Mendoza on Monday or Tuesday, giving myself the chance to find out whatever happened to my application for a Chilean working holiday visa on Monday morning.

And the half-term report...

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