Although I enjoyed Peru it was something of a relief to arrive in Chile, definately a more stable country with transport than runs on time and far less poverty. Chile is so westernised it reminds me of home, other than everyone speaking Spanish of course! After a while, the constant harrassment by hawkers got to me in Peru, although I was tempted to see what the shoeshine guy would do when I was wearing sandals (he kept asking anyway!).
Santiago is a very easy city to move around in because of the fast, frequent, safe and relatively cheap metro service. I have been using this service every day to explore the city.
The first three days I spent most of the time taking Spanish lessons everyday. As it is winter here the weather has been quite crappy so being inside was no problem. My Spanish language ability has risen from non-existent to extremely poor.
Although Chile is a far wealthier country than Peru was, there are still demonstrations here. The largest of these has been a massive student demonstration the second day that I was here. Students really know how to protest here, with spraypainting, hundreds of participants, chants, songs and poetry. The Government's response was to send out combat troops with weapons and armoured vehicles. The troops just drove their vehicles directly at the crowd, sending demonstrators scattering for their lives! Although it did not happen this time round, last week they also got a massive water cannon out and were using it for crowd control.
I was walking along and almost managed to blunder right into the middle of one of these protests. Was going to go down a street to my left and when I got to the corner I saw the main group of marchers only 20M away. Luckily I was able to shady it down a side alleyway and avoid being involved in this shambles!
It was also surprising to see that the communist party is still active in Chile. I was walking along trying to find my course on the first day when I walked into the wrong building. It turned out to be the Chilean communist party's main office, complete with hammer and sickle signs and merchandise.
I am staying in the world's nicest hostel - it is better than most of the hotels that I have stayed in so far other than only being dorm style accomodation. I will post some pictures of it as it is hard to imagine a hostel being this nice. It is a building renovated in the traditional style with wood flooring, its own bar, cable tv and new kitchen with full facilities (i.e. gas cooking - sweeeet!).
The people that work in the hostel are really nice too. A couple of nights back we all went out drinking Piscola - a particular nasty combination of Pisco, and you guessed it, Coke. Managed to make a frenchman in my room and another american particularly unwell! Got home after 5am and had to be up at 7am to make it to my course. Fair to say that last night was a bit of a write off as a result...
Most of the people that were out with us had lived in Chile for a few years, meaning that they knew the best places to go and how to not look like a complete gringo - i.e. how to dance in the 'Latino' style. They provided a few lessons which, although I thought would be particularly uncomfortable (being a blundering idiot on the dance floor) turned out to be pretty damn good. No broken toes that I was aware of!
Today was a public holiday here in Chile, so not much was open. I still had a look about as I have managed to leave all the cables for my Ipod and Camera in Peru. Very annoying trying to recharge either or change the contents of what is on each! No luck finding a decent electronics store, maybe tomorrow. The holiday celebrated Chile's victory over Peru in the last war - nice way to rub it in guys! Particularly when Peru is still a bit sore about it! As a result, lots of armed forces about today, all in full dress uniform. Like ANZAC day back home. Except we celebrate losing (at Gallipolli) not winning.
There are several parks in town with big hills on them - spent today going up and looking over. Would have been a great view if not for the massive smog problem that Santiago has. Most days you cannot even see the Andes even though they are right on the edge of the city.
During my wandering today saw a poster for a White Stripes concert here on the 24 May for only 15000 pesos (about40-45 NZD). I was scheduled to move onto Argentina, but have now delayed my flight until the 25th so I can go to the concert. Should be a good time!