Monday, October 31, 2011

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (and a few other things)

On Saturday I took the metro out to the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of the Memories and Human Rights). The museum is relatively new, and it details the history of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet from 1973 to 1990. The museum is really sad (and quite graphic), but it is important to go if you want to learn about Chile’s political history.

One thing that I learned at the museum which was interesting is that the coup that overthrew the Chilean government occurred on September 11, 1973. That’s when the violent dictatorship of Pinochet began. It’s interesting that September 11 is an infamous day in history for both Chile and the United States.

Anyway, the museum was really interesting and the metro ride to get out there was worth it. It’s kind of like the Holocaust Museum in DC – it’s really somber to go through it but you really shouldn’t miss out on going.

Saturday night I went to the California Cantina in Providencia to watch the Clemson game. It was a rough night for the Clemson family, especially for me since I was the lone Tiger in a restaurant full of Yellow Jackets. Regardless, it was really cool to be able to see Clemson play all the way down here in Chile. (Side note: I ordered a burrito at the cantina and in addition to the normal rice, beans, veggies, it was filled with French fries. Bizarre.)

Well, this is a four-day weekend in Chile, so even though it’s Monday I didn’t have to work! I went on a day trip today with some co-workers to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar (the coast!). I’ll write about that another time after I have my pictures uploaded.

In the meantime, Happy Halloween to everyone!


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Santiago City Tour – Part 2

I’m just going to pick up where I left off on my previous blog post…

After stopping in Plaza de Armas on Saturday, I stopped at the Mercado Central (Central Market). This building was originally planned and built to be a gallery, however somewhere along the way that changed and they decided to use it for a market. Today it is still a hugely popular market. I was a bit disappointed, but probably only because it didn’t even come close to comparing to the market in Nice, France. Regardless, it is certainly a huge market and they sell lots of fresh fish, seafood, fruits and vegetables. When I walked past all the fish and seafood, I literally had to hold my breath because it was so stinky. There are a ton of restaurants inside the market, and every single one was packed to the brim. It was mostly seafood restaurants, and they serve some of the fresh fish that is sold in the market.

Here are some pictures that I took at the Mercado Central:

The entrance (excuse my photography skills) - the Chilean flag is at the top

Stinky fish

More stinky fish

Fresh vegetables for sale

Fresh fruits - the green fruit on the left is a local fruit called cherimoya

The crowded restaurants

The stop after the Central Market was Cerro San Lucia. This is another (smaller) hill in the city. The park is really nice, and I walked to the top. There are also great views here, and I think I liked it slightly better than Cerro San Cristobal. Near the hill was a local artsy-type market where people sell clothing, purses, jewelry….anything. I browsed around for a little while and picked up a few Christmas gifts for some undisclosed recipients.

Cerro San Lucia was my last stop on my bus route. The other stops were either places that I’ve already been or places that are close enough for me to walk from my hotel. All in all, it was a nice day and an excellent way to see the city. I think I’m finally starting to get a sense of direction here and know my way around certain parts of the city.

One of the few pictures I had someone take of me - this is at the foot of the Cerro San Lucia hill

Cerro San Cristobal in the distance

That's all for now! Hope everyone has a great weekend!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Santiago City Tour – Part 1

On Saturday I played tourist here in Santiago. Since I’m still getting familiar with the city – and because the city is really big – I decided to take one of those bus tours where you can hop on and off all day long at the various stops. It was a great way to see the city without having to worry about being ripped off by a cab. And yes, I did go by myself because all of the other Fluor gringos here have already done the tourist thing and I want to take advantage of my time here and see as much as I can. Plus, I’m scoping out activities for Zack to do while he’s here since I’ll have to work 4 days during his stay.

The first stop that I got off at was at Cerro San Cristobal (St. Christopher Hill). This is a hill in the city that is the second highest point in Santiago. There is a zoo half-way up, and you can either hike to the top or take the “funicular” (tram-type vehicle). I opted for the funicular since I wanted to maximize my time on the bus route. The top of San Cristobal hill offers great views of the city (and associated smog), and there is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary on the top. There is also a chapel on the top of the hill and of course plenty of touristy souvenirs for sale.

On the funicular, ready to ascend to the top!

Check out the nasty smog in the distance...that is the worst part about being in Santiago

After Cerro San Cristobal, I stopped at Plaza de Armas. This area is kind of like the city center, and it is always packed with both locals and tourists. The square is filled with artists, comedians, preachers, old men playing chess (seriously), and on Saturday there were tons of Caribineros (Chilean police) and each had their own German Shepherd. I got some pictures because the dogs were just so awesome.

There’s a 18th century chapel in Plaza de Armas which is open to the public. I think there’s a good bit more history about this area, but I haven’t learned it yet. Although you get a really local feel in Plaza de Armas and you can get some of the good local food, I really don’t like the area all that much. It is crowded, feels dirty, and you need to be aware of your surroundings all the time because pick-pockets and scams are rampant (maybe that’s why there were so many police?). Especially someone like me who looks so different from everyone else here, I did not feel totally at ease in this area. (My light skin, blonde hair, and the fact that I am a foot taller than everyone here makes it 100% obvious that I am a foreigner.) Nonetheless, it is a pretty interesting area and is known as the heart of Santiago.

Artists everywhere!

The Metropolitan Cathedral - construction began in 1748 and it was completed in 1800. There were cathedrals in this location prior to the existing buildng, however they were all destroyed in earthquakes.

I think the dog on the right looks like Sadie!!!!

I’ve got a lot to document about last Saturday in Santiago, but I think I’ll stop here and do a separate post to cover the rest of the day. Thanks to everyone who follows my blog – hopefully you’re finding it interesting!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quick Update

I just want to write a quick update today to give people time to catch up (and to give me time to catch up too). I think I’ve mentioned before that we work 10-hour days here in Chile (typical Chilean work-week), so it’s hard to come home and get back on the computer to update the blog at night.

The weather has been great here over the past week. The highs every day are in the upper 70’s, so it’s nice and warm but not too hot. The sun here is extremely strong. I think this has something to do with the ozone layer (or lack thereof). I got a little sunburned on Saturday… I need to be more careful and use my sunscreen. I bought a new bottle of sunscreen to bring with me since I was forewarned about the sun, so I’ll be sure to use that next time I go to the pool.

In other news, Zack and I are taking a weekend trip when he comes to visit! We will be going to Mendoza, Argentina for a weekend and I could not be more excited! We have our bus tickets and hotel booked, and I think it’s going to be so great!

Last but not least, I wanted to share a picture that Zack sent me of Sadie with her new friend (toy). We decided to name him Yoshi, and Sadie just loves this little guy. According to Zack, she loves playing with it and she even sleeps with it. Here she is resting in the kitchen with Yoshi:

I’ll be writing soon about my Santiago city tour that I took this past weekend. I took lots of pictures to post on the blog! Sorry this is so short…more to come later this week!


Monday, October 24, 2011

Good Eats in Chile

The food in Chile has been really good! Most of it is not much different from what we eat in the states, but I have tried a few authentic Chilean dishes.

Last weekend I had “cazuela de vacuno,” which is literally translated “beef casserole.” Anyone who knows me at all knows that I typically do not like super-meaty dishes (much to the dismay of my carnivorous hubby). Meat is actually one of the only foods that I’m somewhat picky about – especially the way it is cooked. But this one was actually pretty good. Cazuela de vacuno is less of a casserole and more of a stew or soup. The primary ingredients are: some sort of broth, a hunk of meat similar to roast beef, corn on the cob, a potato, an orange veggie similar to pumpkin, green beans, rice, and cilantro. Here is a picture:

This past Saturday I had my second authentic Chilean meal: pastel de choclo (literally translated “corn cake”). This is like a casserole baked in individual clay pots. The bottom layer contains beef, chicken, onions, raisins, and maybe other things. The top layer is like a corn souffl√©. Very delish – here’s a picture:

Another thing I’ve noticed about the cuisine here in Chile is that there is an abundance of really good fresh fruits and vegetables, especially avocado. I’ve probably eaten a whole avocado every other day here, and I love it. They also have a lot of dishes that they serve “a lo pobre.” This means “to the poor” in English, but for whatever reason if you order food “a lo pobre” in Chile then your meal is served with an egg on top. I took a picture of a display case at one of the restaurants, and you’ll notice the various authentic-type dishes…some of them are a lo pobre. Take a good look because you can be certain that I will NOT be ordering anything a lo pobre (gross):

A couple of other random thoughts about the food here specifically related to mayonnaise and coffee (but not at the same time). Chileans love, love, love mayonnaise. I’m telling you they sell mayo by the gallon here, and they eat it on everything. They eat hot dogs with mayo on them, and you can’t even see the dog due to the mayo coating. The coffee is one of the biggest disappointments here…it’s absolutely terrible. Even the Starbucks is sub-par. I can’t wait to get home and have a decent cup of coffee. We bought a Keurig the week before I left (Mr. Krups bit the dust)…when I get home in December dear Mr. Keurig will be my best friend.

Another thing that is huge here is soda. At restaurants, you pay for your drink even if it's water and there are NO free refills. Unfortunately, this makes soda very tempting. I've had more cokes in the last two weeks than I've had all year. This has seriously got to stop! I am hoping to gain more self control and start ordering more "agua sin gas" (water without carbonation) even if I have to pay $3 for it.

And last but certainly not least, the ice cream here is fantastic. It is similar to gelato, and it is awesome. There is the best ice cream restaurant right next to my hotel, and the best/worst thing is that they have happy hour. So for about $1USD you can have a nice serving of any flavor between 5-9 PM Monday through Friday. Yikes. Here is my happy hour treat from Friday...Nutella flavored ice cream:

Alright, I guess that takes care of my blog post about food here in Chile. I hope that Anthony Bourdain is proud that I’ve ventured out to eat some authentic meaty cuisine. And if you don’t know who Anthony Bourdain is, you are truly missing out.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween Party

On Friday night my friend Lindsay (an expat here from Texas) hosted a Halloween party at her apartment. Halloween is a relatively new "holiday" here in Chile, and most of the Chileans had not ever been to a Halloween party before. There were some great costumes, and everyone had a lot of fun. I did not bring a costume from the states, so a few of us went shopping last Friday and found some costumes at a store that sells uniforms for various occupations. I was a doctor, Lindsay was a miner, and Ethel was a Chilean nana (maid/housekeeper). Here are some pictures from the big fiesta:

There was a great spread of food for the party

My favorite - Oreos dipped in white chocolate (colored orange)

Me, Lindsay and Claudia

Ignacio and George (George is from our Greenville office and travels here regularly)

Ethel the nana

Yesterday I played tourist and took a hop on hop off bus tour of Santiago. It was an easy way to see a lot of the highlights of the city. I got lots of pictures, so be looking for another post very soon. Meanwhile, I'm headed to lunch then back up to the rooftop pool to read. The weather has been so nice lately, and it's perfect that my hotel has a pool.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Student Protests

If you look at any news from Chile, you will surely see reports from the student protests that have been occurring over the last several months. Here is a link to the Wikipedia article on this subject.

The protests are not happening in the neighborhood that I live in, so no worries, but on Saturday I was out and passed by a school where it was evident that there are problems. From what I’ve heard, some students have not been in school for over four months due to the protests. Most of the protests have been peaceful, but there has been some rioting. Here are the pictures that I took of the gates outside the school. You can see the chairs hanging from the gates…around the corner, there were hundreds of displaced school chairs (I didn’t get a picture of that):

Zack commented recently that he likes the "educational aspect" of my blog, so hopefully those of you who are reading are becoming a bit more cultured and informed, in addition to reading about my life. :)


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Concha y Toro Winery

This past weekend I visited the Concha y Toro Winery. It is on a huge estate about 45 minutes outside of Santiago in the Maipo Valley. The Maipo River flows through this region and is one of the primary sources of water for the city of Santiago.

The house on the property and the winery were built in the 1800s, and the property was really beautiful. I took the “English” tour which was great because there were only 3 other people on it – it was almost like having a private tour. The rest of the group took the “Spanish” tour.

Even though the Concha y Toro Winery is very touristy and commercial, I wanted to go because it is the 2nd largest winery in the world. Wine is a very important export for Chile (they export over 70% of what they produce) and it is a huge part of the culture. In fact, if you ask a local Chilean what you should do while visiting Chile, they will almost definitely mention that you should tour a winery.

Concha y Toro produces the Casillero del Diablo wine (literally translated - Cellar of the Devil). It got its name because back in the 1800s, the owner realized that people were stealing his wine so he started telling people that the cellars were haunted by the devil. The theft immediately stopped, but the legend carried on through history that the cellars are haunted. We got to go down into the cellars, which was neat because you really could tell that they date back into the 1800s.

At the end of the tour, we got to sample some wine (Don Melchor) that sells for about $200 USD per bottle. I guess that’s why they charge so much for the tour. :) If you want to try a more reasonably-priced wine produced by this winery, try the Casillero del Diablo line. It is not too expensive and is readily available in the US.

So there’s your wine lesson for the day. Now, here are some pictures from my visit:

The grounds were beautiful!

Part of the owner's mansion, built in the 1800s

Proof that I was there ("Welcome to Concha y Toro")

Baby grapes (it's spring right now)

Going down the stairs into the Casillero del Diablo (and our tour guide Barbara on the right)

The reserve wines.....

That's all for now. Tonight I'm going to dinner with my colleague who I've been helping for the past two weeks. We are going at 8:30...joining the Chilean custom of eating a late dinner.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Tribute to Fall (even though it's spring)

It's spring here in Chile - and we have finally had some warm days - but I got some nice fall pictures from Zack today that I thought I'd share. I hate missing fall because it's my favorite season, but at least I've got these nice pictures from home. The first is a mum that I bought last year, planted in our backyard, and now it's blooming. The second is the maple tree in our front yard, which might possibly be the highlight of fall colors on our street every year.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some time to post some more pictures and stories from Santiago. I work on the 29th floor of our building, so one day I'll make time to take pictures of the view from our office - it's fantastic!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Top Tens and a Celebrity is in Town

My creative juices aren't flowing tonight, so I thought I'd make some Santiago Top Ten Lists for my faithful blog audience.

Top Ten Santiago Highlights (so far, and in no particular order):
10. Waking up every day to a view of the Andes Mountains
9. No dishes to clean up, no towels to wash
8. Chocolate on my pillow every night
7. Per diem (allowance for adults!)
6. Walking to work
5. Practicing Spanish
4. Learning about a new culture and lots of Chilean holidays
3. Always something new to do on the weekends
2. A reprieve from U.S. politics (not that it's not important)
1. Zack gets to come visit in a few weeks!!!!

Top Ten Things I don't like about being in Santiago (in no particular order):
10. No free refills in restaurants
9. You always have to order your water "sin gas" (without carbonation)
8. Nobody speaks English
7. Smog and pollution
6. The couch in my room is as hard as a rock
5. Two TV channels in English: International CNN and BBC
4. No sweet tea, fried okra, or Chick-fil-A
3. No DVR
2. Lots of homeless doggies on the streets :(
1. I have to use a Blackberry instead of my Droid Incredible 2

Again, those are in no particular order! And I didn't count the obvious negative part of being in Santiago which is that I am away from my loves (Zack and Sadie), family, friends, my church, and my house (and everything else that I love about home).

I'll leave you tonight with some pictures I took this weekend. Santiago had a celebrity in town this past weekend - JUSTIN BIEBER!! The Chileans must like him even more than Americans because they sure did crowd around the W Hotel in hopes of seeing the kid. The police had to close the street in front of the hotel because the crowd was stopping traffic, and there were screaming tweens EVERYWHERE near the Plaza Peru park. Yikes.

The police had to direct traffic and close the street

Marry me Justin!!

Taken from my friend's balcony at her apartment. This was before they had to close the street. Apparently Justin's favorite color is purple, so all he girls wore purple.

Okay, that's it for tonight. Tomorrow (if I find time) I'll try to write about my winery visit this weekend. I've got lots of nice pictures.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Update from Chile

Sorry I haven't updated in awhile. I am staying pretty busy here between work and trying to learn the city. On Friday afternoon I went with some girls from work (one from Texas, one from Puerto Rico, one from Spain) to a part of town called Patronato. It's sort of like Chinatown in New York...the streets are lined with vendors selling all sorts of things. We went for the purpose of getting costumes (or "disfraces" in Spanish) for Halloween. My friend who is from Texas is having a Halloween party at her apartment on Friday...I hope I can get some good pictures because I think there are going to be some great costumes.

When I wasn't working on grad school this weekend, I got out and saw more of Santiago. Here are some pictures:
Fluor's main office is right in the middle of the picture - this was taken from my friend's balcony at her apartment

Feels like home, haha

Shoe shining is popular here - right in the middle of the street...this one charges 500 Chilean pesos, which is about $1 USD

View from my room

Part of my dinner Friday night at Piola - they serve avocado with everything here

The big news from today is that we had a small earthquake in Chile! I was getting ready for my trip to the winery when all of a sudden I felt the building shaking. I waited for a second, then it started shaking again. I heard the windows creaking while it was happening. I wasn't quite sure that it was an earthquake, but the staff at breakfast confirmed that they felt it too.

Today I visited a local winery just outside of the city. It was really neat, and I took plenty of pictures. I'll write about that early this week when I have some time.

Time to webcam with Zack and Sadie...hope everyone had a great weekend!