Chile – Part I

Chile – Part I

Chile: A Country of vibrant colors, diverse landscapes and exceptionally kind people.
Living Outside the Boundaries – Chile

If you want a land that is diverse with a variety of activities to keep you actively engaged then Chile is it. From dessert dunes in the north to the highest peaks in Torres del Paine National Forest near the southernmost tip, Chile is the place to be for the adventure seeker. I was quite comfortable with sitting back observing the adventure seekers. The picture above is from Torres del Paine National Park. I took it by accident. Now if I can figure out what I did I’ll have better pictures. I hope you enjoy this entry on Chile.

The Chileans have survived earthquakes, revolutions, dictatorships and poor economies but they stand strong. I survived a Chilean earthquake as well. Actually it was only a small aftershock but enough to sway the building. Thanks goodness I was used to it from time spent in Japan otherwise I would have been running around the apartment like a crazy woman screaming.
Warning! Warning! Warning! Brief History Lesson coming up.
In 1973 the Chileans had a president who was not the best at his job, according to what I’ve read and responses from some of the locals. On September 11, 1973 a man named Augusto Pinochet staged a coup. However, his reign was brutal and oppressive. He didn’t simply ignore the constitution he got rid of it. Under Pinochet’s rule political parties were dismantled, gone; freedom of speech, gone; Congress, gone. The country was suddenly under military rule. Both men and women were imprisoned, executed, murdered, exiled or went missing. The Museum of Human Rights was excellent and paid tribute to the thousands who suffered under this brutal regime. I should mention that under this dictator the economy improved as well as the education system, but at what cost I would query. In 1989 the people were allowed to vote to continue military rule or vote in a new president. The peoples’ voice was heard and in the end the military ruled government ceased and the government was given back to the people. Now they have a testosterone free presidential office. The first woman president was elected. Chile has a stable government and economy. Way to go Chile!!

Chilean Society:
I wanted to shout for joy the first time I saw a man give up his seat on the metro for an elderly lady. I later discovered that I was mistaken in thinking this was an isolated incident. I saw this activity time and again on the metro; seats being vacated for the elderly, women with children, pregnant women and the disabled. In one case a seat was given up because the person standing looked tired. Oh my goodness!!!!  I was ready to gather all my worldly possessions, move to Chile and apply for citizenship.  LOL!!!!!!! Okay, that was a bit dramatic but you get the point. I observed and experienced acts of kindness on a daily basis. How refreshing. I like Chile.

Metropolitan Cathedral in Plaza des Armes the Main Square

Santiago – The Capital
Santiago was headquarters for the month. I settled into the Airbnb apartment but I was dissatisfied with its size, I quickly adjusted.The neighborhoods are distinctive, each with a unique personality. I was a bit disappointed at first sight of downtown Santiago, the city and the surrounding areas eventually won me over. Santiago (inner city) reminds me of Naples; if you look beyond the dust and grime you have a diamond in the rough.  I did not listen to advice from a fellow Toastmaster who recommended I stay in the Los Condes area of Santiago. Note to self; listen to people who have more experience/knowledge than you. Downtown was a bit grimy but as usual I made myself at home right away by finding a good spot for the all too important morning coffee. Finding a good breakfast was more elusive. After 28 days in Santiago I found a great coffee shop with an awesome breakfast. Finding an SIM card and a place to linger over a morning cup is my first priority after checking into a hotel or apartment in any city.

Bellas Artes Patios – if you can’t find something to eat here you are too picky. It is a haven for foodies.

Santiago Neighborhoods
Bellas Vista neighborhood was a favorite because it was artsy, funky, hip and groovy man. Yeah I am channeling the 70’s now. Walking through this neighborhood you will be transported back to that special time when everything was groovy. Bellas Vista is dotted with art galleries, artisans on the streets selling their art, cool restaurants and night clubs.   It is a neighborhood for backpackers and you can feel the young vibrant energy of the community. I am sure it gets pretty noisy at night. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised to find out that the Bellas Vista neighborhood was the home of a favorite poet of mine, Pablo Neruda. More about Pablo later!

Statue of the Virgin Mary at Cerra Cristobol

Cerra San Cristobal
The biggest draw to Cerra San Cristobal is the famous statue of Virgin Mary which is located in Parque Metropolitana the largest park in the city. Unfortunately the day I chose to visit visibility was at a minimum. Air pollution often makes the statue impossible to see from afar and the extreme mist in the air on the day I visited made closer viewing equally impossible. The statue of the Virgin Mary is very similar to the Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro but it is much smaller. There are two places for worship on the grounds, one indoors and one outside with beautiful views of the city. You have two choices for ascending to the statue; by funicular or hiking. Guess which route I chose.

La Chascona – Pablo Neruda’s Home in Santiago

La Chascona home of Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda is one of my favorite poets. When I first discovered him many years ago I spent quite a bit of time seeking out everything I could find on him. He is the rock star of love poems in my opinion! It was a surprise and treat when I discovered I was in the city where he lived years ago and that I could tour the home he lived in. I thought I had read most of Pablo’s poetry until I visited La Chascona, his home turned museum in Bellas Vistas neighborhood.  There were so many books in the museum I had never read. His life story is as interesting as his poetry. He had three homes in Chile. Who knew poetry paid so well?

Below is the first stanza of the first poem I ever read from Pablo’s extensive collection. After that I was hooked.
Love Sonnet XI
I crave your mouth, your voice, your hair.
Silent and starving, I prowl through the streets.
Bread does not nourish me, dawn disrupts me, all day
I hunt for the liquid measure of your steps.
Need I say more? He had me at I crave your mouth!  HA! HA! HA! Pablo had a lot of love to give. He was married three times and built Las Chascona for his mistress who eventually became his third wife. I think it is safe to say Pablo was a player.

Cerra Santa Lucia this is the bottom of the hill.
Santa Lucia Hill is a small hill in the center of Santiago. The metro stop with the same name will put you right in front of the hill. At the very top is a viewpoint that is popular with tourist. How do I know this? Someone told me. You didn’t think I climbed that hill in the heat?

Abraham Lincoln in Parque Forestal
Parque Forestal metro  Bellas Artes
I really enjoyed Parque Forestal, an urban park in the heart of Santiago. I walked a part of it just about every day. Its green winding trails run along the river and expand for miles through the city. I was sitting one day in the park minding my business and I heard my name. I turned around and there was Abe Lincoln calling my name. Okay I hadn’t eaten that day so maybe he didn’t call my name. I was having hunger induced hallucinations. I was so surprised to see a statue of Abraham Lincoln in a park in the heart of Santiago, Chile. It is truly a small world.

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