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Las Campanas paseo

Another end of year party, this time for G's observatory, attended mostly by workers, the astronomers being at graduations, on vacation, or stuck at the observatory. Located in an interesting little village in the Elqui Valley, about which more anon. Hung out with an accountant and his family, again doing the English-Spanish practice exchange, mostly with him; the wife didn't seem to speak it and the 15 yo daughter's isn't good or confident enough. She did have a ring with the largest zircon I've seen, which wasn't as brilliant as I expected. I don't know if zircon is the same as cubic zirconia; aren't those supposed to be more brilliant than diamond? But I think it was emerald cut, not diamond cut.

Food: good empanadas and salads, great cerdo (pork), meh lomo (beef). Then OMG, dinner, completos (hot dogs with palta (avocado) and mayo) and cake and bon-bon. If I were keeping a diet, it would be so broken. Drinks included mango sour and pisco sour; I belatedly realized that they actually use the word 'sour', not the Spanish agrio.

The variety of appearances was interesting, largely dark-skinned part-Indian, but one girl was rather Indian-yet-pale, like a smiling Wednesday Addams, and one very Indian family had an almost English little blonde girl. Who later amused me by looking tiny compared to the completo she was licking the garnish off of. 5 or 6 yo, I'd guess? Smaller than our 6yo.

I went for a walk at one point, through a fairly picturesque village, reminding me of movie Italian villages. Narrow cobblestone streets, looking 1.5 cars wide with tiny sidewalks if any, wall to wall buildings painted bright pastels. Surprisingly many little shops and restaurants, like every few doors. I was thinking "poor agricultural village, other side of the Gini curve" but G said "no, people's winter homes." A tiny Plaza de Armas in primary colors and broken benches, fronted by a little church with IMO tacky art. Kind of like the cathedral in Santiago's art.

I really wish I'd brought my camera or phone.

I also figured out why walking around down here often feels so oppressive: no shade! Or at least a very high sun/shade ratio. Very few trees, and short buildings so it's hard to get correct-side-of-street shade. G says this region doesn't *have* native tall trees, and Chile's cracked down on alien species. At any rate, you end up walking in the sun in dusty brown landscape and no me gusta. Downtown's probably better, with 2+ story buildings, but my memory says it takes like half an hour to walk there.

G says the winters have been very dry, and there's real worry the valley water will simply run out in March.

I haven't uploaded my airport photos yet, but I don't really need to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_florida_airport_scse_pano_1280_low.jpg
That's pretty much all there is to it. Like I said, the building is two rooms deep. Lobby and security, then boarding and luggage rooms. Very bus station.

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Phoenix
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Damien Sullivan
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