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Santiago wrap-up

Oh god, I didn't post for a week. Aieee.
netbook continued to be usable with care, but yeah I need a new cord, or maybe a new computer. I can see exposed metal in the head of the cord.

Peruvian food: right, this was my second restaurant in Santiago. I ordered ceviche pescado estilo peruvano and pisco sour peruvano. Ceviche is basically marinated, acid-cooked, seafood; mine was pure fish, as opposed to other things. It also came with small kernels of what seemed like roasted corn, and giant steamed kernels of definitely corn, also probably sweat potato. It was interesting, if not mindblowing. Table bread came with a couple of sauces, one spicier than the other. No avocado in the green one. The Peruvian pisco sour was stronger than the Chilean ones I've had, including the one I'd had four nights before courtesy of S's parents, and I wasn't fond of it.

Other food:
Went to a menu del dia, belatedly. 3400 peso, $7. Hot sauce for the table bread. Tuna on tomato, lomo with salad. For dessert I was offered what sounded like "sanria, melon, helao", I had him write it down, and it looked like "saudia, melon, helado". Right, I'd been told Chileans often drop the 'd' in 'ado' but hadn't noticed it before. In hindsight, probably had heard 'cortao' for 'cortado'. Had the ice cream, it was decent. The next day I went to another one, this on the fancy street Mosqueto. More expensive, less food -- gazpacho, chicken with vegetables and rice -- but very good chocolate ice cream, I almost ordered more. Also met a couple Canadians visiting on business for 6 months, and gave them some tips. And apparently Canadian Medicare doesn't cover long-term drugs, unless you're poor? Of course prices are kept down through bulk purchasing.

I don't think I've had any two pebres that were the same. Hot pico de gallo, mild pico de gallo, pureed pico de gallo...

Cafe strip clubs. Right, so if you walk around downtown Santiago you'll probably see places that say "CAFE" but have blacked out windows and signs saying something like "se necesita señoritas 18-25", and which may be emitting loud music through the walls. If you pop your head in and aren't blinded by the light difference, you'll see young women in string bikinis and similar outfits.

On researching this online, I learned of "cafe con piernas", "coffee with legs", which I think covers a spectrum. At one end, the places just described. At the other end, chains like Cafe Haiti or Cafe Caribe, described as "Hooters with coffee and legs". These are generally open to the outside, either truly open or glass walls, and aiming for attractive without being particularly sleazy. I went to one Cafe Haiti, and had good coffee -- I also read that these places are distinctive for having good coffee, otherwise hard to find in Chile -- brought to me by a waitress in a dress which was modest on top -- form fitting, but short-sleeved and now cleavage -- and interesting on the bottom: the opaque cloth stopped right below the butt, very stripperific if by itself, but some flouncy gauze went down to mid-thigh, so it was basically decent while being tantalizing. Their behavior was "bring you coffee then ignore you", and the other clients were self-occupied.

I then tried Cafe Rex, which moved a bit in the other direction: the interior is more recessed, and darker and redder and louder, and the girls wore sleeveless backless dresses tight to a few inches below the butt. And I observed a lot more touching going on. Nothing dirty, but waitress hand on shoulder, or customer hand on waitress back or shoulder, or customer grabbing waitress arm -- one guy was particularly grabby in that respect. I didn't get much attention, I don't know if you need more familiarity or bigger tips. Clientele was mostly but not entirely male.

I also saw ones without any chairs, just bars that you'd stand at, including both Caribe and another Haiti where the dresses were tighter, so it's not a consistent look; maybe up to the franchise owner?

There's a fair number of those. There's a LOT of the strip joints. There's one multi-level mall I went through, and I counted half a dozen just from the basement to the ground level, probably a dozen in the whole complex. Nonetheless, they don't dominate the tone of a place, instead being right next to restaurants, clothing stores, jewelry stores, etc. They seem mostly closed at night, if only because the malls they're in close, vs. the more standard strip clubs near my apartment.

Only saw a couple X-rated film theaters. Perhaps rather unnecessary, between Internet porn and so much of the real thing.

Museums: I went to the National History Museum. Cheap, 600 pesos! (USD$1.20). I discovered I know enough Spanish to get something out of reading the placards, though not everything, and it got tiring. Not sure I remember much interesting. One thing was a painting of Inez Suarez defending Santiago from the Indians; the page calls her a conquistadora. Another, IIRC, was indications that the Mapuche resisted the Spaniards for approximately forever. Also had some nice pieces of painted glass.

Went to the cathedral. Huge and very detailed, and not as old as the art looks; one alcove was an altar for someone canonized in 2005! People were using flash cameras, so I guess that's kosher etiquette? Gregorian chant filled the air -- from loudspeakers.

Sunday I tried going to the Precolumbian art museum, but it turned out to be closed for renovations until 2013. Doh. Instead I took the Metro to Providencia, and walked around a lot. Major discovery: most things are closed. Happily not a restaurant, which fed me filete and papas, and for the record there are a few 24/7 places, like a McDonald's near Tobalaba, and some food place downtown on O'Higgins.

On my penultimate day, the zoo! In Parque San Cristobal, and up a hill. There's a funicular, but I didn't have the patience, and just walked up. It's decent, more fun than the Boston one in the winter. :p A glass cage full of chinchillas and degus, chinchillas endangered. A nice aviary with lots of South American birds. Boston zoo had a S. America duck with rosy beak, this had geese and swans with such beaks as well. Later I was told it was their diet, though is the Boston duck fed the right stuff to get a rosy beak? Got to see scarlet ibis and blue crane, and peacocks, which make the most godawful sound. The aviary had 'rain' at various points, probably meant for the plants, but very pleasant to stand in. There was a white tiger, also like Boston, also with a note about how they're all from one mutant found a while back. Why do they bother? Must be completely inbred. Tiny deer with big horns, mudron I think. Insane looking emu. Inconsistency in separation: swans were behind two layers of fence, but black swans, and the emu, were just behind one, ready to bite off careless fingers.

Also meerkats. Not as many as, the LA zoo maybe? some zoo that had like 3-4 meerkat enclosures. Not endangered at all, but I'm guessing easy to breed, stackable in colonies, and active in the day so popular with the crowds. Also flamingos, crowdable and so very very pink.

One Andean condor, sharing a cage with what looked like hawks. Non-antarctic penguins (most penguin species aren't, you know!) A poor polar bear 'Taco', with a sign I couldn't read well about how he was adapting to the climate.

Oh, but bathrooms. Between this place and Belles Artes, I discovered an unpleasant variant: standard toilet stalls, but no toilet paper in them. Instead there's a dispenser by the sink, and you have to take some paper with you. What if you need more? Tough, I guess... I don't get the logic, is there any resource this setup saves? The zoo would later have another variant: here you have to get toilet paper from a woman outside the bathroom, for a "voluntary contribution". Restaurants happily are normal.

The end of the world
Zoo day also saw me taking the metro more, such as the yellow to the last northern stop. I got out, faced north, and... wow. I saw highway, a couple of buildings, and then undeveloped hills. Like I'd reached the edge of the city. I've never seen that before.

I'm not sure how much I really saw it this time: from a bridge over the highway, I could see more buildings going off for a bit. And people are coming from somewhere, whether locally or the the bus depot, because the train is *full* as it heads back south. Full from the very first stop...

Yellow line and green line have red, green, and red/green stops, like the A B and AB stops the Chicago El used to have. Trains will be red or green, and stop only at their color.

Frequency is impressive: 3-5 minutes on Sunday, and I only waited 30 seconds for another train at rush hour. Stations are warm but some have fans blowing mist. Cell phone worked in the yellow line tunnels.

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Damien Sullivan

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