So Santiago Isn´t So Bad…Now That I´m leaving

April 17, 2007

My first impressions of Santiago were pretty bad.  A lot of it had to do with my living conditions that first week I was here and the fact that the weather made the city seem so dreary and sad.  I survived the hellish boarding house for a week, but after throwing a small fit with my school I was moved to a modern apartment owned by the school where I live with other students from the program.  It smells a bit like cat piss, but other than that it’s heaven compared to where I was living before.

Santiago is also EXPENSIVE and I didn’t expect that at all. I knew that the economy in Chile was the strongest in SA, but I didn’t expect New York City prices (ok maybe that’s a teeny exaggeration, but some things are) for everything.  I mean hell I am still in South America right?  After leaving Buenos Aires, where it’s such a wonderful city and so incredibly barato (cheap), you feel like you get so much for your money.  After leaving that for Santiago, you start to feel like you are being robbed here.  So all this combined with the fact that the food is HORRIBLE made me want to flee this city as soon as possible. I wasn’t in a position where I could change my travel plans with out losing a ton of money, so I decided to just bunker down, stick it out and count the days until Brazil. I also ran out of the city the first two weekends in attempts at finding some small relief from what seemed like an icy hell nestled sweetly between the Andes Mountains.

I now know that all of that was my brain reacting to my disastrous first week here and the heartbreak one feels when leaving a city like Buenos Aires.  So last weekend was the first weekend I spent in town, and let me say that it took some doing but I think that I did in fact find the charm in this town.  I read in several books that Buenos Aires isn’t the kind of place that you fall in love with instantly, but it’s a slow love.  That wasn’t true for me.  I fell in love with BA instantly.  I could almost fell tears welling in my eyes as I was driving from the airport towards the city in Buenos Aires because I was overwhelmed with this feeling of amar. However, I can say that I find that sentiment to be true about Santiago.  All the things about the city that initially struck me were negative.   It was cold, dirty, overpriced, and the pollution in the air is so thick that you can hardly even see the Andes most days………. and while these are things that plague most cities, for me it lacked the charm that comes with most big cities.  Anyone who knows me knows how I love big dirty, polluted, rat infested, overpriced cities……… but never for those reasons, I am just willing to accept those things because I love the charm and the spirit in big bustling cities.

Santiago doesn’t have that instant charm.  Not at all.  But it does have its own charm.  I spent the weekend in various barrios SEARCHING for the charm.  This past weekend was my last full weekend in the city and I was determined to not leave this place feeling like I wasted my hard earned money.  I did find it, in art museums and in areas like Bellavista that I thought I had properly toured before but I apparently didn’t.  I went to the noted Chilean poet and revolution visionary Pablo Nerudas house here in town and it was excellent, even though people said that it wasn’t much to see if you had been to any of his other houses in Chile but it was well worth it. ::sidenote:: I went to his house in Valparaiso on the eastern pacific coast of Chile and that was PHENOMENAL……… but everything in Valparaiso was phenomenal.  I went to Valparaiso on a day trip a couple weeks ago and it an incredibly charming, beautiful port side town.  It reminds me a lot of Nice, France which I adore as well……… anyway.

I also had a few decent meals this weekend (which cost me an arm and a leg) but it was worth it to have some good Chilean food.  I have been surviving on ethnic food since I’ve been here because Chilean food tends to lack flavor and seasoning.  I have eaten plenty of Chinese food, Sushi, and Mexican food since I’ve been here because those are places where you are guaranteed some flavor and some vegetables.  One place for people to check out if they are ever in Santiago is a restaurant called Como Ague Para Chocolate (translated Like Water For Chocolate…….named after the Mexican novel/Indie film for those of you familiar).  I had one of the best meals in a long time there.

It has also been pretty sunny and fair the past couple weeks and that makes any place look better, but developing countries in dark, dreary, cold weather are truly depressing.  After the first week and a half, I have come to see little by little the charm in this city that hides from you at first.  With a little digging and a little ingenuity charm is to be found in Santiago after all.   So as I am preparing to leave Santiago in 4 days and I am satisfied that my attitude has changed.  I still probably won’t come back to Santiago…….unless I am on my way somewhere else like Valparaiso, but it’s not such a bad place after all.

…….having said that, I still can’t wait to get to Brazil, but it’s no longer just because I am hoping to flee Santiago.


One comment

  1. Clearly this post is old. But! Having just stumbled upon and read it after google-searching “bright eyes stgo”… I have to say, I hated [HATED] Santiago for at least 6 months straight before coming around to see the beauty of bellas artes and bellavista. I stayed for 10 months and left feeling like I had just finally scratched the surface of a richly artistic community. I also visited Buenos Aires for 10 short days in the middle of those 10 long months, and I hope to move there and stay forever. It is so so charming.

    Just saying, initial hatred of a bleak, smoggy Stgo may not be an uncommon experience…

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