Merry Christmas and joyful festivities to you all!
It’s been a while since I gave you an update, so here is a Santiago Christmas special – although if I’m completely honest, with these long sunny days and 30+ degree for the past few weeks, I don’t feel even remotely festive. I wasn’t joking when I said I came to Latin America for 18 months of summer!
Since our last chat, I have been attempting to fully immerse myself in Chilean life. From learning some Chilean slang to museums and balcony BBQs, I’m making the most of my time here as it is already flying by – I’m over half way through this placement already!
Once the protests had settled down a little and life began to return to normal, I was finally able to visit the Museo de la Memoria, which I have been itching to do since I arrived. We studied Latin America in first year and I have since been fascinated with the history of Chile and Pinochet’s dictatorship. It was a really valuable experience and I really encourage anyone to go when in Santiago. The dictatorship is a fundamental part of Chilean history and I think it also unlocks an understanding of the attitude of the people once you know more about those dark years. There are a lot of museums in Santiago, and I intend to visit most of them. I still haven’t managed to get to the Museo de Bellas Artes yet, but it is next on my list.
Last week we had a BBQ at work – in Chilean an ‘asado’ – as Lee, the other intern in the Magma Office was leaving, and also because they hadn’t had one for ages. At about 5pm, two of the team headed out to the shops and returned armed with meat, veg, bread, and a worrying amount of Pisco. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this potion, it is the Chilean elixir of life, and no dinner, event, party is complete without the sweet, syrupy taste of Pisco. Or so a Chilean would argue. Pisco is a variation of whisky (I think, don’t quote me on this, I’m definitely not an expert on alcohol!), and is customarily drunk with ice and coke. The strange thing is how powerful it is. Yes, I’m a lightweight, but that stuff is stronggg. Perhaps that’s why the Chileans love it so much.
It was a great evening, made even more enjoyable by the stunning sunset we witnessed over the surrounding hills of Santiago, and the subsequent rising of the moon. I’ve never seen a moon ‘rise’ before, and it was quite something to see it climb into the sky from behind the crest of the hill.
The following weekend I headed for the beach at Vina del Mar for some sea and (more) sun. Lots of people warned me that the sea would be freezing, but I don’t think they realised that I come from the UK where the sea is baltic on even the most scorching of summer days. I found the sheer size of the waves much more challenging than their temperature, and found myself getting sucked under a few times… No jellyfish though, which is the MOST. IMPORTANT. THING. I also managed to burn my ankles, knee caps and a small patch on my back that I couldn’t reach, so that not only did I look like that ‘classic Brit’ on the bus ride back, but it also looks like a small child decided to doodle on my back… Made the co-workers laugh though. You’ve got to take one for the team occasionally, you know.
Unfortunately, in the past few weeks I have also had to say goodbye to some of the friends I have made here as many of them finished their term at University and are off travelling or going back to Europe. This included the two other interns here, but there are more coming in January!
I have also steadily been working my way through Santiago’s long list of vegan cafes, with my new favourite definitely being Polen. It’s a beautiful little café tucked away off the main street in Providencia, where I live, and it has the most fabulous array of brunch options, lunch meals and vegan treats. I have a secret aim to try everything on the menu….For a country that is well-known for its love of meat, I am really impressed with the amount of vegan and vegetarian cafes there are here. I still have so many to try out!
All these adventures bring us to today, December 25th! Happy Christmas! I’ve taken a little week of holiday over the Christmas week to the little town of Pichilemu, a renowned surfing hideout. I’m here for 5 days before going back to sweltering Santiago and it’s certainly nice to be in some fresh air and feel a sea breeze for a change. Chileans don’t seem to really celebrate Christmas as most people seem to be away for the summer holidays or just not that interested. I can certainly understand this – the idea of feasting, snowy walks, and burning fires just seem out of place in this little beach town and under the searing heat of the Santiago sun. So this year, apart from a gorgeous little stocking my Mum sent me in my suitcase back in October, I think I’ll probably skip Christmas and try not to get burnt on the beach. I might even improve some of those surfing skills I discovered last summer in Exeter!
Someone please go and eat a mince pie while singing ‘O Holy Night’ as loud as humanly possible and wearing a fabulous festive jumper for me,
Christmas besitos, I miss you all.