...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Baby steps

Yesterday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to Santiago (about an hour and half away) by myself. It might not sound like a big deal, but to me, it was: although I´ve travelled a fair amount, I´ve never been completely on my own (well, I was on the six-hour bus ride from Coquimbo to Valparaíso a few weeks ago, but I´m not counting that because Ambar´s mother Paufá helped me by my ticket and put me on the bus. But that´s another story). Even flying to Chile I was with the other LC students, and Eugene is close enough to Portland that my parents always just drop me off or pick me up from school at the beginning and end of the semester. But my very tentative January 2-January 11 plans include travelling through Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay alone, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it without dying or flailing around.

And I did, which was the remarkable thing. I wanted to see the Salvador Dalí exhibition at the Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho, so I got off at the Los Pajaritos bus station, successfully read the metro map and took the red-line metro (it´s like the MAX in Portland, but underground and bigger) to Los Héroes, transferred to the yellow line, and rode it to Puente Cal y Canto, then de-trained and found the Centro, without having to ask directions once. This was an achievement for me considering I have a horrible sense of direction and usually have to ask directions whenever I venture over to the East side of Portland, much less a huge metropolis of 6 million people. I loved almost all of the Dalí exhibit, especially a series of about two hundred paintings he did to represent different Biblical scenes, and his ´´Hippies´´ series of paintings. The sculptures were cool, especially ´´Perseus,´´ and interesting to me because I don´t really think of Dalí as a sculptor.

I spent about two hours at the Dalí exhibit then wandered in to an exhibit about the history of copper mining or something like that. Copper is Chile´s chief mineral export, and the country is the number one producer of copper in the world. The most interesting thing about the exhibit was El Hombre de Cobre (Copper Man, but it rhymes in Spanish), a dead body that was excavated about a hundred years ago from one of the copper mines in the far north of Chile. Apparently he was a 19-year-old man who fell into a copper mine around 550 CE (!) and was trapped by rocks. Based on the physical evidence and lack of wounds on his body, scientists think that he died from carbon dioxide (?) poisoning from his own breath. Totally creepy.

After leaving the Centro Cultural I walked down to the Plaza de Armas, at the historical center of Santiago. I bought two sopaipillas (fried, sweet squash cakes), some candied peanuts, and a mote con huesillos, some kind of sweet peach drink with...barley? at the bottom. It wasn´t bad, exactly, but it tasted kind of funky and a couple months ago I almost threw up from some chocolates I bought off the street in Santiago, so I decided to play it safe and tossed most of it out. After walking around for awhile I ducked into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for bife a lo pobre, a traditional Chilean dish that my mom would call ´´Heart attack on a platter´´: a steak, a fried egg, carmelized onions, and french fries. Tasty, but I wouldn´t want to eat it every day.

It was getting pretty dark by then so I decided to head back to Valparaíso, again successfully navigating the subway system without getting lost. As it turned out there was a bus leaving right as I arrived at Los Pajaritos, bound not for Valparaíso but for Viña by way of Agua Santa. Perfect, because I live right on Agua Santa. All the way back I talked to the somewhat cuico (monied, higher class) guy sitting next to me, who had pretty much the most non-Chilean name ever: Jonathan Kiddenstein. Interesting conversation and all of that.

All in all, it was a great day. I feel really good now about the prospect of travelling alone at the end of the program; in fact, I think I´m going to enjoy it a lot.