Published May 14, 2005

Welcome to day #1 of my PRIME trip. It’s 8:30pm and it’s almost time for dinner in Santiago, Chile.

It’s been a busy couple of days. Flying here was good, although the form that LAN Chile passed out before the flight asking for the contact info of my next-of-kin did not inspire confidence. The flight itself was good, the planes had personal entertainment LCD displays featuring games and movies for every seat, even in steerage, and I got to see Ocean’s Twelve (miss it, very weak script) and some of Spanglish (see it, great!). The food was also tasty, thus proving yet again that everyone out there should ask for kosher or milk-free meals. There was a fun little break in the middle of the flight when we stopped at the Lima airport and we got to leave the airplane for 15 minutes — just about long enough to walk from the plane, into the terminal, and through security to get back to the gate.

We got to Santiago at 6am (having left LAX at 2:10pm the previous day — a 16-hour flight, 2 hours shorter than our classmates’ going to Europe), and got quickly to the hotel, where most everyone checked into their rooms and slept for a couple of hours. I guaranteed the room with my own credit card, which should be fine because my fun and cool roommate is Mormon so I’m pretty sure the minibar is safe.

After said nap, it was time to see the city. I learned that six is probably about the right size for a tour group, we tried it with fourteen and it was a mess. But I got to see a lot of cool places, like:

  • The Plaza de Armas, the old downtown of the city, surrounded by great old colonial and Beaux-Arts buildings. This historic spot is a pedestrian mall, with tons of shopping, and features Inca-inspired sculptures, students who are doing something between protesting and begging, and Chileans of native descent playing drums they mount on their back.
  • The historic cathedtral in the Plaza, a great colonial building with colorful murals inside and a general feel that’s quite different from traditional European cathedrals
  • The famous fish market, filled with fascinating fish. The fishmongers are clearly familiar with tourists; they suggested better camera angles to me. We also had a tasty lunch of fresh fish; my grilled salmon and fries was great, and the soup of mixed shellfish was another standout.
  • Chile’s famous pisco sour (both Chile and Peru claim ownership of this drink) was a perfect, if surprisingly strong, companion for my dinner.

Expect photos of all of these upon my return.

I did learn a few things as well:

  • For future Marshall students, I can’t overemphasize how much I think you’ll value it if you try to learn the language in the place you’re going to. My ability to speak and understand Spanish came in handy at least a half-dozen times today, and someone with even better Spanish became, essentially, our tour guide; people who couldn’t speak Spanish ran into trouble with doing various common tasks. It’s one of those things it’s hard to find time to do, but I think speaking even a very small amount of the language really adds value to the trip.
  • It’s dangerous to get all of your Chilean money from ATMs — ATMs have a tendency to give out 10,000 peso notes, while little things, like the entry fee to public restrooms, tend to cost about 150 pesos. And nobody will give you 9,850 pesos in change, so you’d better have already broken that 10,000 peso note by the time you need to pee (although I did manage to get a 1 peso, or $0.002, coin in change earlier today).
  • Chileans put butter on most anything.
  • Chilean bus drivers do not drive delicately. Be prepared to have an upper-body workout as you hold on to that strap for dear life while the bus driver challenges the commonly-held belief, rooted in basic physics, that only two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.
  • Mussels, in Chile, apparently have black flesh.
  • Chilean restaurants may not have restrooms.
  • The Hooters restaurant is referred to as “coffee with legs”. Not that I would know.

Chile is fun! More tomorrow.