Hola Mundo!

I am selfish. Time is fleeting. Time spent updating you on my travels and transcribing my musings is time that I would rather spend exploring unfamiliar metropolises and getting my ass kicked by the world. At least until I get homesick. I’ts hard to say how these posts will evolve, but I am going to start by maximizing my time/text utility function. In other words, I am going to stream-of-consciousness free-style.

I am staying with a friend’s loving and lovely family in Santiago, Chile. Thanks Chris and Marisol for making this happen. Tata (jazzy and maxito’s 90 year-old Great Grandfather) and I are best buddies. We have trouble communicating, but we bond over our love of beautiful, scantily-clad, Chilean television stars. The Madriaga’s are some of the most generous and enlightened people I have ever met. Patricio is seventy and has stayed up until 2am the past two nights partying with the poker group and then watching soap operas with his wife. These guys eat like kings and drink like peasants.  Who needs agua when you have vino tinto?

My flight was excellent. It’s been a recurring theme — the standard of Chilean infrastructure is incredible. LAN airlines’ 767 was brand new and my steward took a liking to me, so he gave me lot’s of free chocolates and muffins. I guess that makes me Hansel. You can decide whether I mean the one that got owned by an evil witch or the super-sexy Derick Zoolander. I rode the Metro Red today. The routes are extremely comprehensive, covering a large portion of this sprawling home of six million permanent residents. The trains were brand new and being well used.

I had to pay a $131 reciprocity fee upon entering the country — it’s good for the life of my passport. This is exactly what Chilean’s need to do when they enter the US (hence, reciprocity. )

Patricio gave me a tour of the city on my first afternoon. We did it from the perspective of an economist. We went to the top of a tall hill, Cerro San Cristobal, to gain perspective. We then drove around Providencia, Downtown and made our way back to Las Condes. We went to an upscale mall — which compared to ANYTHING I have seen in the states. We went to a few banks. A supermarket. Chile has an extremely high GINI coefficient, I believe it’s the second highest in Latin America, or at least South America, behind Brazil. This country is extremely stratified, where the wealthy live like they do anywhere else in the world. It’s very comparable to Taiwan. I shut down at 19:00 and woke up the next morning at 9:00.

We got a late start on Sunday. I hung out by the pool and finished the latest issue of Monacle. We got lunch with Marisol’s sister Nicole and her daughter. I ate pastelle de choclo. What I am told is a very authentic Chilean dish. I drank pisco sour and half a bottle of Chardonnay. I went with the flow of the table. As proof of my scattered thoughts, my first lunch was very very tender beef with mashed potatoes, carrots and mushrooms. Every meal has had bread with a spread consisting of something very similar to pico de gallo. Every meal has been followed by a plate of fruit. We have tea and ham sandwhiches at 1700. Coffee and toast for breakfast. Fruit and wine for dinner.

Yesterday, after lunch, we drove around some of the newer upscale developments in northeastern Santiago. Honestly, the oldest of this region looked like a toned-down Beverly Hills. The houses definitely classified as estates and there were beautiful trees enveloping the streets.

I spent most of the evening reading and researching Santiago so that I could make the most of today. Oops, I forgot to mention that Patricio and I have already spent hours discussing economic issues. He was trade commissioner to the US during Pinochet’s regime. Despite Pinochet’s reputation, Chile made very shrewd economic decisions during his tenure and Chile has been reaping these benefits for two decades. Patricio’s latest ventures have been dealing with genetically modified foods and fish. Interesting things going on in Chile. Their basic philosophy was to model themselves after the success of California and California’s San Joaquin valley because of the remarkably comparable climates.

I went to work with Patricio this morning. I left his office at 9:00 and spent the next nine hours walking Santiago. I read at a park in Bellavista, at the base of the gondola climbing Cerro San Cristobal. Had an authentic lunch of Cazuella de pollo (a soup with chicken, pumpkin, corn, rice, green beans and spice). It was fantastic. I went to the museo de bellas artes, biblioteca nacional, archivo nacional, plaza de armas, some of the popular streets and walked around Providencia. Basically, I was a regular tourist who likes walking.

I’m going to meet with someone from the US trade commission in Chile either tomorrow or the day after. I got set up to go to the clubs with my host’s friend’s daughter and her friends tomorrow.  Should be interesting.

Out of necessity, my Spanish will be vastly improved when I fly to Singapore on February 24th.

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4 Responses to “Hola Mundo!”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Zoolander for-sure!

  2. Boris Says:

    Sounds like Chile is treating you very well.

  3. David Says:

    Great Post Lavashaun!

    I feel as if I’m there with you and am jealous because I’m not at the same time…

    Keep the local women happy (I’m sure you will) and take down more vino tino!

  4. slammer Says:

    thanks for lettingyour friends know how great Chile is.
    Viva Chile

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