Sunday, September 30, 2012

Carrera contra el cáncer de mama (i.e. Chilean Race for the Cure)

Even if you don't speak spanish, you can probably guess what this event is for!

This past week, Caroline and I both noticed posters around the city promoting some sort of event "contra el cáncer de mama." Now, I'm no expert in spanish, but the bright pink ribbons and branding made it pretty easy to guess that this was some sort of Chilean "Race for the Cure." Caroline signed us up for the race, and this morning we ran it. But of course, part of the fun of being in a foreign country is that things that are simple at home become mini-adventures, and this was no exception!

The race was on Sunday morning, but our adventures actually began on Saturday. We were biking home past the race area and we saw all the tents being set up, so Caroline suggested that we try to get our bibs and chips. Lucky we did, because after asking around, we found out that you can ONLY get the kits on Saturday, and they were frustratingly located 8 metro stops away...and they were closing in 45 minutes! We rushed over, feeling VERY stressed, but luckily we got there on time. As a bonus, the race kits came with all sorts of free goodies: my bag had disposable razors, Caroline's had tampons (?) and both of us got sunscreen. Maybe this is a side effect of the race being sponsored by Avon.

OK, fast forward to this morning. We wake up early and bike over in cooooold weather, with a little rain even. Ugh, not promising. However, once we got to the race site, things got a lot more fun.
It's hard to see, but everyone is dancing and following along to the leader on stage. It was sort of like a giant zumba event.
We dropped our bags off at the bag check (this turns out to be a pivotal decision, as you will hear later!). Then we explored the race area and did some sort of Zumba dancing and stretching along with a zillion other people. The pink was everywhere!
The whole event seemed very nicely organized. There were even tents around the port-o-potties, separating them into caballeros and damas
And then we lined up and the race began!
Right before the start of the race. You can see the starting gates up ahead.
It was a 7k race that went around the Mapocho River. This is the main river that flows roughly from east to west through the city, snow melt coming down from the mountains. It sounds great, but it's actually the saddest river ever. It's brown because of the silt from the mountains, and it is extremely small and fast flowing. I'll try to get a photo up at some point.

The whole of Santiago slants downhill from east to west, so the first half of the race (going east) was all gently uphill, and the second half was all gently downhill. We made great time on the second half, and we were passing people a lot, which always feels great :)

We tracked the run using an iPhone app called Strava, so you can see the map and our splits at this link:

After the race is when the real adventure began. We went to the hydration booth, where lots of volunteers were shouting "Gatorade" in spanish accents, and also grabbed some bananas and oranges. Then we went to the bag check tent, where there was already quite a line.
Stray (but well behaved and healthy) dogs are really common and friendly in Santiago. Here is one dog that was sleeping in the middle of a ton of people in the bag check line! There were also some dogs that ran the race with us, including one that we think did the whole thing :)
The line moved VERY slowly, so as time went on and we got closer to the front, people got more impatient and started pushing. When we got within about 5 people from the front, it was basically just a solid mob of people packed together, like the front rows of a concert. Everyone was just trying to push up to the front and get a volunteer to grab their claim ticket and give them their bag.

This was a bit of a squeeze at first, but not too bad. Caroline managed to push to the front and get her bag and get out. But after that, the press got much more extreme. I was completely smushed up against people in every direction around me, and many times one person would start falling over and we would all just push off of each other to keep upright. This one guy who had gotten his bag tried to push out through the crowd, and almost toppled a whole group of us (we were also trying not to step on another dog that was sleeping right near the front!).

Fortunately, everyone stayed in good spirits about this, and people were smiling and laughing about how crazy it was. One person told me (in English) that this was unusual for a race, and not the typical process. People started chanting and shouting just for the fun of it, and when a bag came up, everyone would repeat back the number to help the right person get up there to claim it. Finally, I got my bag and as I was squeezing my way out, I held it above my head for space. People saw me carrying it and cheered, honestly, cheered! I think people were just so happy that someone had succeeded, and it was fun to cheer for them.

The whole experience was a ton of fun, and we will definitely do this sort of thing again. Caroline has been looking online today and has found there are lots of road races, and many of them are even free! Sounds like a good way to keep active, see more of the city, and hopefully have some more adventures :)
After the race (and before the baggage claim line), so we are relaxed and happy

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Street view comes to Chile!

Google Street View has just arrived in Chile! Just a few weeks ago, before we had left, we couldn't use street view to preview our apartment. Well, now you can, just click here!

The pics have definitely been taken very recently. The green VW bug is outside our place right now. So scope out our place, in case you might want to come visit.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gangnam Style, Chilean Style

If you haven't heard the Korean pop song Gangnam Style, you really should check it out. It's super catchy, and the video (see above) is hilarious! It was a big break-out hit in the US right around the time I was leaving, and seems to be growing (at least the YouTube views are!).

Anyway, the other day I was at Bicicleta Verde, and there were some workmen there building something (I'll explain why in another post). Well, I was fiddling with the radio and flipping stations, and I heard Gangnam Style come on. I turned up the volume, and turned around to see all the workmen sort of dancing and singing "Heeeeeeeeeeey, sexy lady - op, op, opa Gangnam Style!"

Apparently, Korean pop has made it all the way to Chile as well!

(Shout out to Eitan for introducing me to the song in the first place)

Poll: Short posts or long posts?

Quick question for everyone: do you prefer when we write short posts about one little thing? Or longer posts with stories and details? Or do you mostly just look at the pictures?

Let us know in the comments, and we will try to adjust accordingly!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two food mishaps

Being vegetarian in a new place is difficult. It's not that there aren't options here, it's just that you don't really know what the options are, and you don't know when you will find something you can eat or when you'll be stranded. So, with that in mind, I give you: two recent food mishaps.

Mishap Numero Uno
That's spanish for number one. I was making a fried egg for a sandwich a few days ago, and after the egg got well cooked and firm on the one side, I thought I might try flipping it by giving it a little toss in the pan. Well, just as I was about to flip it, I chickened out and didn't flip hard enough. Here's the result:
The first attempt is sitting on the counter. It wasn't pretty. The second attempt was successful, as you can see in the pan.
I started a new egg, and this time flipped it with a little more gusto - and success! You know what they say, to make an omelette, you have to throw some eggs on the counter.

Mishap Numero Dos
I was working at La Bicicleta Verde on Sunday this past weekend, and didn't break any food with me. When I finished work around 1pm, I figured I would venture out and find a restaurant or bodega or something. Before leaving, I asked another employee for suggestions. He told me about a good chinese restaurant, but then remembered that I am vegetarian and warned me there would be no good options there.

Well, I figured I'd find something else nearby...but I didn't feel like another pizza meal, so finally I thought I'd stop into the Chinese place and check the menu. Sure enough, there was a vegetable chop suey dish. "Ha," I thought, "I found SOMETHING vegetarian here!" I asked carefully to double check there was no meat or fish.

I ordered it and sat down to wait, and when the dish came out, let's just say I was surprised.
It's sprouts, all the way down.
At first I thought it might be lo mein, which would have been decent. But when I looked more closely, I realized it was NOTHING BUT SPROUTS. A few scallions, but pretty much all sprouts. It wasn't terrible, but there's only so many sprouts a guy can eat.

Hopefully I'll have some more successful food stories coming up from this weekend!

A few quick things

1) I found salted sunflower seeds here (already out of shell). This was not easy! Most grocery stores have lots of nuts, but not sunflower seeds. The one place I found had unsalted. But today I found salted. Woot!

2) Does anyone have an iPhone 4 or 4S that they want to sell, now that they bought a newer phone? I am interested.

3) Shout out to the Pals: Keith & Rebecca, Jenn & Alan, for booking trips to come visit us in Chile in December. We love visitors, you are welcome too!

Yom Kippur in Santiago

It's interesting to see how they spell hebrew words differently with the spanish sounding letters. For example, in spanish the "h" is silent so Ruah is spelled Ruaj (since "j" has that throaty sound).
This post is all about Yom Kippur - I'll do my best to explain important terms, but some of this stuff will be dependent on your familiarity with typical conservative Jewish traditions in the US.

Tuesday evening was Erev Yom Kippur, and I needed to find somewhere to go. I had seen a poster for services (see the top of the post), but also had a particular congregation, Kahal Yakar, recommended to me by a British half-jewish guy who had been around Santiago for 4 years and had tried it out. So I decided to go to Yakar.

It turned out to be very different than I expected.

I had emailed the Rabbi, and he helped me get tickets beforehand, so I figured it was going to be pretty crowded. Well, I arrived to Kol Nidre (the evening service) about 45 min late, and I would say there were less than 100 people there, and seating for only 150. My ticket was labeled #91. Not exactly a huge crowd.

I sneaked in the back and went to find a seat. Next, I looked for a machzor (the prayer book for the high holy days), but couldn't find one. A few people seemed to have machzors, but most did not. On each seat was a booklet, photocopied and spiral-bound, with spanish transliterations of the most well-known prayers and songs from the service, but the booklet was only about 15 pages.

At this point, I was feeling a bit lost, but did my best to follow along. The community was sort judaism, and they had a keyboardist playing along throughout the service. The rabbi himself occasionally played a guitar while leading the prayers, along with two women as back-up singers - I mean, cantors. Still, the tunes were different, I couldn't understand anything spoken (in spanish), and I didn't have a book to follow along.

After a while like this, I decided to get brave and I slid over to stand next to a middle-aged woman who had a machzor. She shared with me, and we spoke together a bit in English and a bit in Hebrew. Then a young man behind me offered to let me use his machzor, while he shared with his wife. I was very grateful.

After the service, I talked to them all a bit more. It turns out that the young couple lives very close to us in Providencia, and even gave me a ride home! They both spoke English quite well, and Hebrew even better! They had lived in Israel for 2 years. He is an engineer, and she works in cultural and art museums (she actually did an internship at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem - not too shabby!). I hope that Caroline and I will see them again soon and maybe become friends. They also drove me to and from services again on Wednesday morning.

OK, that's the main story, now I just want to point out a few interesting things from the service, because this was so different from what I was used to:

  • A funny thing - the rule against using instruments on shabbat and holidays is because if the instrument breaks, you will want to fix it, and fixing things is forbidden labor on shabbat. Well, sure enough, the guitar broke a string during the service and the Rabbi fixed it.
  • The service was much less participatory - it wasn't the whole congregation singing. Mostly people just stood and watched the rabbi and cantors. Often the rabbi would do the leader's part, and the cantors would act as the congregation response. And everyone else just stood and watched.
  • The Torah reading on Wed. was totally surprising to me. Right before the torah reading, the rabbi gave a speech in spanish that included the english phrase "Back to basics." Then the first aliyah (reading) came up, and he started right from "b'reisheet barah elokim" (in the beginning, god created...), and using the regular shabbat trope.
  • It was sort of disappointing for me that the tunes were so different. One of the things I actually like about Yom Kippur is hearing these very majestic, serious-sounding tunes that you only use once a year. But they had different tunes here - not bad, just different.
  • The keyboard was really a bizarre addition to the service! It was electronic, and the keyboardist used it to make many different sounds. Sometimes like an organ, sometimes heavenly choral voices (he'd use this behind the rabbi's speech, so it sounded like an epic scene in a movie), and even the synthesized drums for percussion on some chanted prayers.
Anyway, it was an interesting experience overall. I don't think I'll go back to that congregation, but the couple that I met goes to a more typical orthodox congregation just around the corner from our apartment, so I might try that for a shabbat soon.

For all you jewish readers - how was your yom kippur? And for everyone - how is life? Leave comments or email us, we love to hear from you!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some busy days, and crazy nights!

You know what they say: time flies when you're having fun, and it's hard to keep your blog updated when time is flying. We've had a lot going on the last few days, so I'll try to get caught up here.

On Saturday, we had some of the best weather yet, so we decided to venture out and see some new parts of the city. It was around 75F, but when the sun shines here it feels very hot. We biked into the Centro area, intending to walk around the pedestrian mall area - sort of like the Downtown Crossing of Santiago. We found that the Plaza de Armas (the central plaza) had been set up for a fitness festival, and there was a chilean dance troupe rehearsing on stage. We had a fun time watching for a bit, and then wandered around.

The presidential palace La Moneda. Read more here

We also went by the president's palace, called La Moneda. This is only where the president not works, not where he/she lives. It is also significant because during the military overthrow on Sept. 11, 1973, the old president Allende was attacked while in La Moneda by Pinochet's military troops, and this is where Allende died. Today, there is a statue of Allende in the plaza in front of La Moneda, but not a statue of Pinochet.

From there, we went to look at Barrio Brasil, a neighborhood that is young and hip with a lot of students and artists, but not quite as happening as Bellavista (which is the more central nightlife area). In Barrio Brasil, we found the main Plaza Brasil, which was set up for a feria, like a community yard sale fair. All sorts of people were out selling: college-age kids selling old clothes, artsy girls selling t-shirts they had painted on, older folks selling books, women selling their children's old clothing, and plenty of people selling crappy plastic toys from China.

I had arranged to buy a bike from a German guy via craigslist, and he lived in this area so he came and met us with the bike. He was very friendly, but after we bought it, we realized we were now half-way across the city with 3 bikes and two people. Not an easy problem to solve! For a while we tried to sell the bike at the feria. We asked someone for a piece of paper and wrote a price, and set up shop. I think we got a lot of funny looks ("Are those gringos really trying to sell a bike here?"). And the woman next to us was very friendly and talked to us a lot in spanish. Eventually we had to give up, because we had dinner plans that evening, so we walked most of the way across the city with three bikes. Ugh.

That night we ate dinner with the family that we are renting our apartment from. There are four aunts, about our parents age, and they have all been very friendly and welcoming to us. We had dinner with two of the aunts and one's boyfriend, who we had met before. It was in another apartment in our same building, so it was very simple. The meal was delicious; they called it a picayuno, which means it was less of a full dinner, and more like a wide array of appetizers and finger foods.

This is the place we went out dancing, though of course we went at night :)

After that, we went out to a nearby salsoteca (salsa dancing discotech) with a cuban theme, called Ilé Habana. We arrived around 11pm and it was nearly deserted! The waiter came by and gave us menus and asked us if we wanted some-word-we-didn't-understand. We said yes, to be adventurous, and so he brought us an ash tray. Oops. Anyway, we ordered drinks and did some people watching to pass the time. Around midnight, a band started setting up, and we decided we would really stay to dance. By 1am, a few couples were dancing to the house music, but they were really good and the dance floor was really open so we were too afraid to go up. Finally, at about 1:30am, the band started and the dance floor got crowded. We got up our guts and went to dance -  and we had a blast! We aren't very experienced salsa dancers, but we just went for it, and we had a great time.

In the end, we left around 2:30am, got home by about 3am, and slept the next day till very late! I think this has been enough for one post, but I have lots more to share: some food mishaps, my first English class, an adventure at a very fancy mall, and more! Leave comments please, we love to hear from you all.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Presenting, due to popular demand...

The video of me "riding" the mechanical bull. Before you watch it, I just need to say a few things. First, I stayed on a lot longer than some of the other guys I saw. And second, about that little girl who stayed on the whole time - the controller was going easy on her!

Also, I can't figure out why the video ended up stretched. Anyone know how to upload to youtube without it getting stretched?


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sam rides a mechanical bull

"Any last words?" "I hope this doesn't end up on YouTube"

Well there's a headline you probably thought you'd never read. But yes indeed, yesterday we went to a bigger, more organized Fonda, and I rode a mechanical bull. Not well, but I did it. There is a video, but I will only share it if lots of people leave comments on this post :)

Let me back up first. Yesterday at the Bicicleta Verde party, Caroline and I were determined to make some new friends so we would have knowledgeable people to do things with around Santiago. We arranged plans to meet up with a few people the next day to go to a big Fonda at Parque Padre Huartodo. Unlike the free Fonda we went to on our own, this one was much more than just endless booths of food and cheap plastic toys you can buy.

We saw a Chilean rodeo, which is different from what you'd typically see in the states. Instead of a cowboy trying to ride a bucking bull, there were two cowboys on horses trying to herd a calf around the rodeo ring and eventually through a gate. The interesting part is that Chilean horses can run sideways, so there would be one cowboy chasing the calf from behind, and another one with the horse pointed straight at the calf, riding sideways along the calf's route. See the picture below to get the idea.
Seems like the calf is outnumbered here...
All in all, it was a pretty humane version of rodeo. The calf sometimes got slammed into the wall pretty hard, but there was no blood shed and it wasn't like bull fighting where you go until someone dies. On the other hand, this made it a little dull after you'd seen a few rounds - nothing exciting or unusual ever seemed to happen.

You can tell from the layers and gloves that it was pretty cold outside! We are ready for South American summer.
We also got a chance to try a famous Chilean drink, called the terremoto, or earthquake. When I first heard about this, I thought it sounded like a jokey thing that Americans had made up for parties in Chile, but this is actually a super popular drink here. The Fonda was like 1% gringos, and yet every restaurant had terremotos on the menu, and many were advertising SUPER terremotos, whatever that was. It is made with something called "rough wine", with a scoop of pineapple sherbet and a drizzle of grenadine. The result is very sweet, and only kind of tasty.

I've heard two explanations for the name, both entertaining. One story is that it was invented shortly after a major earthquake (decades ago), when someone mixed a drink with the only things that they had left in their home after the earthquake. The second explanation is that after you've had a couple, it feels like there is an earthquake because you will be so unsteady!

OK, I know what you are all thinking. "This is very interesting, but when will we hear about the trapped Chilean miners?" Well, that moment is now! At the Fonda, they had an exhibit about the technology used to rescue the miners, and they even had one of the rescue carriers. Here is Caroline standing in front of it.

OK, that's all from the Fonda. There IS a video of me "riding" the mechanical bull, and I will share the link if this post gets comments from at least 5 different people!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fiestas Patrias with Bicicleta Verde

The assembly line for delicious empanadas!

Today we were invited to a party at La Bicicleta Verde, the place where I am volunteering/working as a mechanic and possibly a tour guide. Everyone there has been very friendly and welcoming, and they insisted that Caroline and I come to the party today. We are sure glad we did.

It was a make-your-own-empanada party, and luckily for us they had some other vegetarians in the group so they had a non-meat filling if you wanted. Everything was very delicious, and we met a bunch of new people. Mostly Americans, but also plenty of was just much easier to talk with people in English so we spent a lot of the time with Americans.

Oh, one other funny story. We have a laundry machine in our apartment, but not a dryer. Well, this morning, Caroline found that all of her pairs of pants were still drying from laundry the night before, so...we microwaved her yoga pants until they were dry :)
Microwaving yoga pants - totally works!
You can see a slideshow with the rest of the pics from today:

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Climbing Cerro San Cristobal

We did only the very first part, the green section below the word "Cultura"

Today we explored Santiago a bit more. It is a huge city, so we are taking it bit-by-bit. Overall, Santiago is very flat and wide, but there are a few big hills, including Cerro San Cristobal. This is a big hill very near the heart of the city, and it is part of a larger nature area comprising a zoo, a statue of the virgin, and a very long hike that we might do in the future.

It has been much colder than we expected here, like in the 60s most of the time, occasionally going into the 70s or 50s. By the time we got started on our hike, it was already late afternoon so it was getting chilly. Fortunately, we had plenty of energy thanks to some delicious deep-fried empanadas that we had.
33 types of empanada fillings! Wow!
This was part of my eat-unhealthy-foods diet
(Oh, in case you are wondering about currency conversions, it is approximately 500 pesos to 1 dollar. This means that 1,000 pesos is a very typical quantity, and is roughly equivalent to $2.00 US. In the picture above, you can see some prices around 1000 pesos. You can call this "un mil pesos" or common slang is "un luca" which means the same thing)

On the hike up, we stopped many times to appreciate the good view, which kept getting better and better as we got higher up. At the very top, we saw the statue of the virgin, and got a great view of the city.
From the top of the Cerro San Cristobal
By the time we got to the bottom again, it was pretty dark. We found a good bike path through a city park and took that most of the way home. You can see the rest of the pictures from today right here:

If you want to subscribe, and some pictures

At Alan's suggestion, I added back in the ways to subscribe to the blog.  Scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and you can subscribe by email, become a follower, or get it in an RSS feed.

And now for some pictures.  I'll start with the most interesting (just kidding).  Here's the bus I take for my commute (to the metro), when I'm not biking:

And here's the little train at work that I suppose takes kids around the grounds, but I've never seen in action.  Maybe it just takes wood around:

Here's my keyboard on my computer at work.  Note that not only are the things on top of the numbers different, but there are more keys over near the Enter key and they get in my way when I'm trying to press Enter.  Also see if you can find the apostrophe.  Sorry I can't figure out how to rotate it. 

On Thursday, a group from a local dance school came to the museum to perform the traditional Chilean national dance, which involves elaborate costumes and handkerchiefs.  Here are some pictures I took.  Check out the adorable little kids in the traditional outfits in this one:

There is a lot of clapping involved in the dance:

 And spinning, and waving around handkerchiefs.  See if you can see the spurs or whatever on the back of this guy's shoes (they're moving pretty fast):

The theme of the dance is the rooster and the hen.  I'm not sure why.  There is also some fancy footwork.  You can see the spurs a little better here:

And this one gives you a better view of the museum:

Then on Friday it was someone's birthday in the office, so we had a birthday party for her.  This is everyone who works in my office and then some:

 And here's my bike!  Note the basket on the front:

Friday, September 14, 2012

A thing that I ate

I accidentally posted this on my other blog, Caroline in Barcelona, which you may remember. 

To see what I ate, here's my latest post:

It was really foggy this morning

I couldn't even see the tops of buildings as I was biking by them!  I guess I'm not sure if it was fog or smog.  It was wet, though.

I'm getting settled in to work.  I have a project that I'm working on which is to develop an activity about astronomy for 20-30 kids that takes 20-30 minutes for a fair that's happening in October.  I am not sure if I'm working on a project about astronomy because that's a big deal in Chile (tons of observatories, really clear skies) or because that's what they think my background is in.  I'm just not sure how much is lost in translation when I say aerospace engineering.  I guess that happens in the US too, because people often think I do astrophysics.  Either way, I'm happy to do astronomy for this activity.  I'm considering 4 different activities that I found on the internet (thanks, internet!).  One is making bottle rockets (which in this case means bottles that launch rockets made out of straw).  The second is making a scale model of the solar system.  The third is doing a game about matching up planets and other solar system objects with facts about them.  And the fourth is making a model of how an eclipse works, which I think might be the least fun but is particularly relevant because a couple weeks after the fair there's going to be a solar eclipse visible from Chile, so that might add some excitement.

I'm feeling less enthused about biking to work after doing it today and yesterday.  It's not so much that it's not safe as that it's really difficult and annoying.  Unlike in the US (excluding LA) or Copenhagen, there's not really a clear place for bikes to be, like Sam said in an earlier post.  It seems like most people bike on the sidewalk, but the sidewalks are not well set up for biking.  Especially as I get closer to work, the sidewalks stop having ramps consistently and I have to keep getting on and off my bike to get off and on the sidewalk.  And sometimes the sidewalk is a disaster or suddenly stops existing.  I haven't felt like I was going to get hit by a car; in fact the drivers here are much more polite than in Boston.  Nor have I felt like I was in a neighborhood that was unsafe (at least during the day, when I'm there).  But there are still lots of problems with biking.  For example, the roads are mostly in a grid pattern, except at the end when it becomes a very tricky maze.  So yesterday when I was biking home, I ended up a whole neighborhood away from where I was trying to go.  The roads that had been there in the morning had been moved by the afternoon.  Or at least that's what it seemed like.  Luckily I had the iPhone with me (thanks, Alan!), so I wasn't too scared of being lost, but I ended up doing a lot of extra biking and being late for dinner with Sarah, my old next door neighbor who I used to babysit who just so happens to be doing study abroad in Chile for the semester!

So dinner last night was at our second vegetarian restaurant that we've experienced, called Cafe del Patio.  The food was great.  But the highlight of the dinner by far was catching up with Sarah!  It really blows my mind that she's not a little kid anymore.  And her Spanish is worlds ahead of mine.  I hope we get to hang out more!

Sorry this post doesn't have any pictures.  I've been taking some, but I have to wait until I'm home in wifi to get them from the phone to the computer/internet.  I'll write more later!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bike touring with La Bicicleta Verde

On Sunday (the day after we arrived!), we woke up early to go on a tour of the city with Bicicleta Verde. We had a great time, check out the photos from our tour:

The same, and yet different

You have to REALLY squeeze to get on the subway at rush hour (note: this is a photo from Brazil, thanks to 
André Gustavo on Flickr. I will try to take a picture in Santiago soon)

Caroline and I have both been commenting on how much being in Santiago feels the same as home in many ways...but obviously different in some crucial ways as well. I thought it would be interesting to write out some of the main differences and similarities, and that it would help all of you get a better sense of what our life is like here.

  • Everything is very modern and as clean as you'd expect from any major city. Walking through our neighborhood in Providencia, things are green, quiet and fairly pretty. There are tons of high apartments, with a few smaller homes scattered throughout. If I had to compare it to somewhere I've been in the US, I'd say it's kind of similar to Lakeview in Chicago - nice, upscale, spacious, but not the super-wealthy area (that is Los Condes), just a lot of residences on quiet clean blocks.
  • Grocery stores are exactly the same as in the US. Obviously the item selection is different, but the stores feel very similar to home, unlike in Europe where everything is so cramped and squished in the grocery stores. There are some differences, however:
    • In the produce section, after you put some potatoes (or whatever) into a plastic sack, you need to put it on a scale and get a sticker for the bag so they can ring it up at the front. Some stores have a clerk to do this, some are self-serve.
    • A lot of sauces come in tear-open plastic packs that kind of look like a Capri Sun bag. This is how you buy tomato sauce, salad dressing, mayonnaise, etc. It seems like a bad system for something that might have left overs, but it's good for us because our place does not have a can opener!
    • Milk comes in small rectangular cartons and are not kept in the fridge section. This is similar to Europe I believe...I think they pasteurize the milk differently or something for a longer shelf life.
  • The Metro (subway) is waaaaay better here than in nearly any city I've seen in the US. The trains come very frequently, like every 2 minutes, and they move really fast between stops. It definitely puts Boston's red line to shame :(  The price is right too - it's only like $1.30 per trip. However, all that good news comes with a catch: the trains are extremely crowded at rush hour. A train will arrive at the platform all the way full, and you just have to push yourself on. If you aren't willing to push, you might find yourself waiting for like 5 trains before you see some open space.
  • We have seen quite a lot of cycling, but it's a little different than cities in the US. Bikers seem divided - about half bike on the sidewalks and half bike in the roads. Once I get a bike, I think I'll do a combination, depending on busy the street is.
  • When you walk around the main street in our area (Avenida Providencia), it feels more like NY or Europe than anywhere else. Lots of small shops along a block, interspersed with plenty of banks and some larger chain stores. There are tons of sidewalk cafes, but not super nice or fancy. Just a place to get an empenada and a coffee.
  • Obviously the biggest difference is that everything is in Spanish, and this is true to a larger extent than we realized. In Europe, you have a range, from countries where everyone speaks English in addition to their home language (like Denmark or the Netherlands) to countries where you only find some people who speak English in addition (like France, Italy, etc). Here in Santiago, it is even farther off the English charts than France. You could probably go into ten random stores here looking for a clerk who speaks English, and not find even one.

    I'm very grateful that my job is teaching English and my colleagues are native English speakers, because I would be lost otherwise. At Caroline's job, everyone is Chilean and almost no one can even speak English, so she has a more challenging environment at work. I'll let her tell more about that.
Anyway, this post makes me realize that I need to start taking more pictures to share with you guys. I will try and do that soon. Leave comments if you want to see pictures of anything in particular!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

We are connected!!

It's working!!!! AHAHAHA!

One of the cool things about traveling is that everything becomes a little adventure, and a little more fun - even things that are normally boring or a chore. Case in point: the cable guy today!

Waiting for Comcast to come set up an internet connection is like the worst thing ever, but today the Chilean cable guy came to connect us, and it was great! He spoke no English (very common here), so we sort of grunted and gestured and used our limited Spanish to explain what we wanted. Fortunately, he already had the order form so he pretty much knew what to do.

Now we are connected, and it's pretty great! We got a pretty fast connection (15-20 Mbps) so that we can use Skype and Google Voice easily. Look forward to more blog posts, and now you can call/Skype us anytime. We ported our US numbers over to Google Voice, so you can just call our same old numbers and it will ring on our computer here in Chile - for free! For both us and you! So call our usual US numbers and we'll talk to you.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Oh, Canada


In an attempt to make the best of our delay in Toronto, we decided to head out from the hotel and explore the city. Obviously (if you know us) we didn’t get an early start, and we wanted to get to the airport with lots of extra time, but we still managed to do a couple hours of wandering around downtown.

Our hotel was about 15 miles (or 23 kilometers!) outside the city, so we took a very long bus ride and then a transfer to the subway. We were not impressed with the bus, but the subway was fast and clean. Apparently they call it “the Rocket.”

When we got downtown, we oriented ourselves toward the lake and started exploring.P1080050

We found a lot of public art, including this sculpture of a chain of elephants. Of course, Caroline wanted to ride the baby elephant :)


Toronto also has a bike sharing system, nearly identical to Hubway in Boston. You can tell right away that it is made by the same company. Their system is called Bixi. We were tempted to rent some bikes to get around faster, but we didn’t really know where we were going anyway, so there wasn’t much point in getting there faster. Besides, we didn’t have helmets.

The biking situation in Toronto was sort of interesting. There were a lot of cyclists on the road, and they have bike sharing, but they don’t have bike lanes. All the cyclists just ride in the car lane, or they sort of squeeze between the outermost lane of cars and the curb. It seemed like it worked fine for them, but didn’t look very appealing for me.


We found a public market with produce, meats and cheeses, and bought some pretty good raspberries using three Canadian dollars. Then we came across a beautiful flower garden, and took a lot of photos there. In the picture above, you can see this very cool orange plant, and it’s hard to see, but it has little tiny purple flowers.

We started making our way back to the subway, and ended up walking down a street that sort of felt like the Toronto version of Times Square. There were theaters and huge billboards and street performers. This weekend was the start of the Toronto International Film Festival, so there were tons of students camped out in rush lines for tickets, and lots of publicity and events set up. I was kind of hoping that we might see a movie star, but I learned later that the red carpet had been the night before, so it was pretty unlikely.

From there, we headed back to the hotel to grab a quick bite to eat (sponsored by Air Canada, thanks!) and then back to the airport. Hopefully the next post will be from Chile!

Our friend Fiona

If you know our friend Fiona, I just wanted to call attention to her blog,

She is starting her PhD in Cambridge, England, and writing all about her experience. Check it out!

Air Canada screws up 4 times, so we are stuck in Toronto

Caroline enjoying her first class meal, before the problems begin :(
The long story is a little convoluted and I need to vent and share all the details, so bear with me here. The short story is that we missed our connection to Chile, and we are now in a hotel in Toronto waiting to take a flight to Santiago tomorrow.

Here's what was supposed to happen: we should have flown from Philly to Toronto, taking off at 8:11pm and landing at 9:35pm. We have an hour of layover - kind of tight, I know! - and then we catch at 10:35pm flight from Toronto to Santiago.

Here's what actually happened: We arrive at the airport in Philly, and find out that Air Canada doesn't have any staff there, they just code-share with United. As a result, the United person could only print our boarding pass for the first leg, and told us to get the next boarding pass in Toronto (and we had tried online before, same problem).

The flight out of Philly was delayed, because of problems earlier in the day. Our plane came in around 8:10, and after waiting in line on the runway, I think we got in the air around 8:50. The flight time is supposed to be 1 hour in the air, so we are already going to cut it very close. Then the real problems began.

We land in Toronto around 10:00pm, giving us approximately 35 minutes to taxi to the gate and then make the connection. Tight, but do-able. We get to the gate, and after a while of standing in the aisle, we get an announcement that they can't operate the jet bridge, so we can't exit the plane. The clock is ticking, and around 10:20 they get the jet bridge attached. Very tight, but maybe possible!

But wait, there's more! For some crazy reason, they still can't let us off the plane, because apparently there is no gate employee to open the doors from the jet bridge into the airport for us. Seems to me like they could have seen this need about...35 minutes ago. While we are standing in line, the clock hits 10:35pm and we think all hope is lost...but then a nice guy next to us tells us he checked our flight to Chile and that flight is delayed until 11:00pm. Hope springs again!

We run off the plane at around 10:40, passing people on the moving walkways to be the first one in the line for Passport Control. We get there with time to spare and things are looking good. But then, we find out that the Customs Agent cannot let us through, because we DON'T HAVE OUR BOARDING PASSES, which Air Canada declined to give us in the first place!!! We had to exit out of security, and by the time we reached an Air Canada agent, the Santiago flight was in the air, and all they could do was put us in a hotel for the night.

So frustrating.

However, a few good things happened along the way. For reasons we don't quite understand, we got upgraded to first class for the 1 hour flight to Toronto, so we enjoyed a nice snack/meal of cheese and crackers, plus comfy seats. We also had a super friendly flight attendant. We found someone else's Kindle left behind in the seat pocket, so we helped her figure out the owners name so it can be returned properly.

And now, we are going to sleep in a cozy bed, and hoping that everything goes a little smoother tomorrow (and hoping that Air Canada will upgrade us on the 10.5 hour flight tomorrow to make us feel better).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How to follow our travels

Thanks to the magic of modern technology, you won't have to miss us that much while we are traveling. In fact, we will try to share lots of blog posts, emails, pictures and status updates so you might not even notice we are halfway around the world.

Here are some good ways to follow our travels, depending on how much you want to read every single thing we ever post.

Subscribe to blog posts by email
If you don't like checking a blog, you can submit your email address here and receive an email automatically every time we post an update.
Subscribe to The Adventures of Sam and Caroline by Email

Subscribe to blog posts by RSS reader
This is the way I follow most of my friends' blogs, using Google Reader. If you already use RSS, just click here to add our blog. If you don't use RSS, it's sort of like a special inbox for websites that you read frequently, not just blogs. You can use RSS to subscribe to updates from the New York Times, this blog, or even craigslist! Here's a tutorial if you want to try it.

Check the blog!
Of course, you can also just check the blog, whenever you like! Be sure to leave comments, since we love to hear from you too.

Check Google+
OK, OK, so there aren't a ton of people active on Google+. But I am, so that's a good reason to add me to your circles and then you'll see my blog post updates and also any photos I snap to share with people.

See our photos
You can also see our publicly shared photo albums. Here are the links to both of our public galleries on picasaweb:
Sam's albums

Small frustration with Air Canada

Turns out you can't check in online for Air Canada if your departure city is Philadelphia.  This doesn't make any sense to me, and it's frustrating that we can't check in ahead of time because I always like to check in as early as possible for my peace of mind and sometimes to try to get better seats.  There are plenty of US cities that you can leave from and check in online, but Philadelphia isn't one of them.  So we'll have to get to the airport a minute earlier than we would have otherwise.  Because of course we're checking bags, so we still have to wait in that long line anyway.

Also, our Kindle arrived today, and to say I'm enchanted is an understatement.  It's so small and light and wonderful!  And we're going to use our access to 3 different library systems to get plenty to read for free!  Also, my mom is going to sew us a case for it, so we'll also be the coolest people who have a Kindle.  I'll post a picture once it has its jacket, as I'm thinking of it.

This time tomorrow we'll be on the plane to Chile!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What should we do? Seeking recommendations...

"You'll have to see the penguins of Patagonia!"
"You'll have to add that to your list of things to do!"

As we have started telling people all about our trip and our plans, people have suggested many awesome things for us to see and do while we are traveling. Someone will always say "add that to your list!" The embarrassing problem is that we have been so busy getting ready for this trip, we don't actually have a list of things that we want to do while traveling.

We have some ideas specific to Chile or South America, such as:

  • See the Andes mountains and the beaches of the Pacific
  • Go wine tasting in the Chilean wine region
  • Visit Patagonia and the southern regions of Chile, hopefully to see some penguins
  • Travel to Buenos Aires and learn to tango
  • See the famous Iguaco Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil
And of course, some ideas that would apply for traveling anywhere:
  • Make lots of new friends
  • Try new foods (though we are sticking to vegetarianism)
  • Read good books (any recommendations?)
  • Keep a journal, which will be on this blog
I guess that is the starting point of a list. But now we want to hear from all of you! What recommendations do you have? Anyone been to Chile and know of a must-see? Any general traveling suggestions? Or life suggestions?

Leave us comments below, and I will write a follow up post highlighting some new ideas.

Getting ready to leave

So, we're getting ready to leave Philadelphia!  Our flight is on Thursday, and of course since we're flying to South America, we'll have a layover in Canada :)  But we've heard good things about Air Canada, so hopefully the out-of-the-way detour will be worth it.  And it was still the fastest possible trip, anyway.  Here's a picture of me sitting at my desk at the Museum of Science before I dismantled it.  Also, if you haven't seen my haircut yet, there you go.  It sure is short!

My boss David threw me a fun going-away party at work.  My coworkers Lucy and Emily made me the most awesome cakes, shaped like my marathon jersey, an alarm clock to represent my sleep talk and my sleep forum, and a vernier probe to represent the climate change workshop we did with high school students this summer.  Aren't they great?

Sam and I have been working hard to get ready to go.  We've had more shots than I care to count (and we're still not even done!), we've packed up our suitcases (see below), and we've moved everything from our apartment into either our generous friends Eitan and Kelly's basement and my parent's attic/basement/my room/anywhere there's a square inch of empty space.

We're getting close!  Also, we ordered a Kindle, which we're anxiously awaiting.  The most awesome thing is that you can get library books on the Kindle, even from South America!  So we're going to take advantage of having access to 3 large library systems (MA, PA, and MN) to cover most of our English-language reading needs over the next year.

It looks like the weather when we arrive in Santiago is going to be 67 and sunny, lucky for us!  Earlier it was saying there would be rain, which would be a huge pain with all of our luggage.  Now we'll be able to stay dry.