Santiago de Chile, part 2: No hablo español.

Jesu Cristo. Santiago. I’ve only been here a few days and I feel like it’s turning me into someone else. First, a couple of photos. Then I’ll record a few thoughts before my brain shuts down for the day, like all my electronic devices that I haven’t brought enough plug converters for. Oh, I’m not dead, by the way. There was an earthquake, but it was in the north.

This is a park and mall/plaza known as Parque Arauco, in fact it is where I had octopus for lunch the other day.

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I took this next picture because of the mountain in the background.

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Thoughts.

  • Right, first of all, ‘No hablo español’ is a phrase that has absolutely no meaning here. No-one cares. You can say it as much as you want, but all that will happen is that Chilean people will smile and then continue to chat very animatedly to you in Spanish and ask questions and look at you like they expect an answer. If you look confused and obviously don’t know what they are on about, they will simply repeat the question. In Spanish. I swear to god. I did no Spanish at school, okay. I did some French. But I know more Chinese than I do Spanish. Ot at least, this was true when I arrived in Santiago last weekend. I might not have habloed any español a few days ago, but I certainly do now. I am absolutely amazed how much I can hablo.
  • Apparently my name is Graciela now, as decided for me by the staff at the local Starbucks. You know when you are ordering your drink and they write your name on the cup? Yeah. That’s how that happened. I decided to go with the flow and will answer to Graciela as necessary.
  • Customer service, LOLZ. Oh my goodness. That is the most chaotic branch of Starbucks I’ve ever seen. About one in four orders goes wrong and has to be chucked away and re-made. Nobody knows what they are doing. They are all lovely and desperately helpful but there is no system. And it’s not just the coffee shop. I had dinner last night in the restaurant at my hotel. The restaurant was almost empty with the result that I was mobbed by about six waiters. It was way too much. I just wanted a plate of pasta, a mineral water and some coffee. I didn’t need quite that much attention and since nobody was communicating with anybody else, people kept asking me lots of times if I wanted the same thing. Please just stop already. It’s not a complicated order. One waiter would have been fine.
  • This is a city of love. It is also a city of getting your cock out in the park in broad daylight, I couldn’t believe it. Apparently if a gentleman needs a wee on a sunny afternoon and he is in the park, he can just stroll over to the nearest wall and nobody bats an eyelid. Meanwhile, all around, young couples lie on the grass, engaging in a festival of excitable, al fresco physical passion. It is quite something. I’m all for love and liberal attitudes and suchlike but cripes. It was like 1970s Porn Park this afternoon. I felt quite left out. The whole park was at it. Oh, and back at Starbucks, when the 18 staff behind the counter are regularly getting the orders wrong and blatantly using the jugs marked ‘Dairy’ for juice, and other such shenanigans? You have to forgive them because they all love each other too and they are constantly hugging and kissing each other, even the men. So yeah. Mmm.
  • A quick fashion note. People here are very relaxed, casual dressers. They dress for comfort, they aren’t all dolled up in bling and impossibly high heels like in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Also, there’s no body fascism here, as far as I can tell. It’s not Paris or London. It is within the local laws that you can be fat and sexy. If you are fat, which quite a lot of people are by Northern European standards, that’s no reason to be ashamed. Put on a stretchy camisole and some leggings, go to the park with your boyfriend and have at it. It may be something to do with the food as I am gaining weight at an absolutely shocking pace and if I stayed here any longer I would soon be square in shape and walking around with a massive arse, like everyone else. But then I would also have a passionate boyfriend so I would have no reason to complain. In fact, let’s pause at this point for another picture. I don’t know if you can see those blue leggings on that mannequin there? That bum is like four times the size of anything I’ve seen on a shop mannequin in the UK.

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  • No-one rushes or runs. Everyone strolls, and when they do not stroll, they slow down even more and saunter. This is in strong contrast to China where people often run about, seemingly for no good reason.
  • The taxi drivers are a law unto themselves! It is quite surprising if you are not used to it. To begin with, it is apparently normal for them to say that they don’t know where places are. When I say ‘places’ I mean large, well-known monuments and important buildings. My business associate who I came here to meet and work with assured me that this happens all the time. Secondly, if they don’t feel like taking you to your destination, they will just turn you down. I have known this to happen in London maybe once in the 15 or so years that I’ve lived there. Happened to me three times in Santiago this afternoon. Eventually I gave up and bravely got on the subway and then walked the rest of the way home, which took the best part of two hours as the nearest metro station is rather a long way from the hotel. Thirdly, if they do deign to let you get in the car, don’t imagine that they’ll automatically take you all the way to your destination. They will quite likely dump you in the street somewhere that’s allegedly in the same neighbourhood as the place you wanted to go and wave vaguely in the direction that you are supposed to continue on foot. They are perfectly nice about it. They aren’t aggressive or anything. But it is very, very clear who is boss and it is not the passenger.

I think that’s all. I need to rest now. I did a lot of sight-seeing today. There will be more pictures in due course. Probably when I get home in a couple of days, as I am syncing my phone to my cloud right now and thanks to the hotel’s “high-speed” internet access, my iPhone estimates that it’s going to take 25 hours to complete.

Hasta la vista!

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