Well, Hello 2013!

IMG_2756Wow, it’s truly been ages! My apologies for going missing for so long. Life has taken over in a major way these past few months and at times I’ve felt as though I could do little more than strap in and enjoy the ride. It’s hard, when so much is going on, to sit down and actually write about it but perhaps it’s more a question of will than actual ability. In any case, with the fresh transition to the new year just behind me I’m hopping with energy and ready to sit down once again and document all the wonderful things that make life on this side of the Andes such a beautiful thing.

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Spring Is Coming!

Hello world. It’s been far too long. I apologize for my absence over the past few weeks. Things have been a bit hectic and I haven’t prioritized updating nearly as much as I should. All the same, life has been trucking along splendidly in the these parts and I’ve got more than enough material to write about in the coming days so I’ll be sure to do just that.

In related news, G turned 31 last week and to celebrate this momentous passing of another year and his first birthday here in Chile we decided to celebrate in style by heading to the roof for our first asado of the season. I sent out invitations a few weeks before and asked people to keep word of the party to themselves, but planning a surprise party for someone you live with can be quite the logistical nightmare. I had to skirt around G’s questions, hide clandestine party fare all throughout the apartment and even ask him to stay late at work one night so that I could “get some stuff done” without his being around to “annoy” me. Probably not the finest choice of words, which I felt all the more guilty about when I called him after the big food and booze shop with our friend Pancho and he answered the phone in a sad and exhausted voice, asking “can I come home now?” Oh man! Even if the good intention was there on my part, that was a hard one to stomach.

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¡Bacán! Week 3

This past Thursday (July 12th) Pablo Neruda, the world-renowned and internationally acclaimed Chilean poet, would have celebrated his 108th birthday. Since I was a little girl and my mother would read me lines of his deep and fine musings, he has been one of my all-time favorite wordsmiths. But now, more than ever, his words ring especially true to my ears: “…and one by one, the nights between our separated cities are joined to the night that unites us.”

Here is this week’s collection of Bacánisms:

  • Chilean novelist Isabelle Allende gets mixed reviews here in her home country, to say the least. But I, for one, love her. If you’ve not yet seen it, take a minute (or twenty) to enjoy the very inspiring talk she gave at the TED Event of 2008.
  • The Mapuche may be the most well-known indigenous group of Chile but the Alacaluf (Kawésqar) are just as fascinating. Almost exclusively populating Wellington Island off the coast of Patagonia, the national 2002 census noted just 2,622 self-identifying Kawésqar people, and by 2006 only 15 full-blooded tribe members remained. Artist Chris Valdés met one of the last Kawésqar alive today and sketched a beautiful portrait of her. The Kawésqar are, unfortunately, just one of several indigenous groups of Chile on the verge of extinction. Are you Chilean? Get in touch with your government and let them know that this is something you simply won’t stand for.
  • It’s supposed to be winter here in in the øther hemisphere but a quick glance at the weather forecast for the coming week has me convinced otherwise. In the odd event of rain, however, there’s nothing that a true Chilean will run for faster than a nice, greasy sopaipilla. I’ve not yet been convinced but should you feel the need to try this pumpkin, flour, fatty goodness yourself then this is a probably your best bet.
  • Anthony Bourdain. Love him or hate him, the man covers some serious territory on the culinary front. Awhile back he was in Chile, blathering his way through the maze of completos, terremotos and caldillo de vacuno. Take what he says with a grain of salt but if you’re curious about the gastronomical anomalies that this crazy country has to offer, I’m sure you’ll enjoy.
  • If you’ve been anywhere in (or around) Chile in the past few years then you’ve most certainly heard this song pumping from the speakers of every club and café in your direct vicinity. The lyrics (mamita que está pasando y tú no sabes porque, entonces andas buscando, esta es la escoba, esta es la escoba) are of questionable nature. Some say that they refer to a girl confronting an unwanted pregnancy but others insist they’re a general figurative declaration of dissatisfaction with the current state of Chilean affairs. Whatever the case, la escoba (in Chilean slang meaning disarray, disaster, a complete and utter fiasco) is the common Spanish term for “the broom”, meaning that this is my song of choice to blast while spending an afternoon cleaning my apartment. I suppose I’ll just have to hope I don’t find myself unexpectedly with child while doing so.

Restaurant Review: Barandarian Bellavista

Last week Lucas, an old colleague of G’s from Amsterdam, was in town on his way up to the north for an observation run at ESO. Seeing familiar faces around these parts is always a pleasure, so- making use of his short stint here- we went out for what we’d hoped would be a lovely dinner. As it was a holiday our options were a bit limited, so we headed over to Patio Bellavista, which is always open, to see what we could find. After a few minutes of poking around we settled on Barandarian (Constitucion 54), a Peruvian restaurant which we’d heard good things about and which was pleasantly buzzing that night, but not packed beyond capacity. Always a good sign, right?

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Taxi Cab Confessions

I swear this could be a category all its own. Cab rides in this city range from the bizarre to the terrifying and drivers anywhere from pleasantly quirky to certifiably insane.

Santiago taxis have a standard basis fare of 250 pesos (roughly 50 cents) and charge anywhere between 90 to 120 pesos per 200 meters of traveled distance. Something which G and I caught on to right away is how many drivers don’t recognize (or are simply feigning ignorance of) a startling number of street names in the city center. Granted, Santiago is a huge city but you’d think someone whose job it is to be familiar with her intricacies would be a bit more well-versed. Also, you always have to be vigilant when cabbing it, with one eye on the meter and the other on the drivers’ hands, as a nice trick that taxistas have down to a science here is flicking a little hidden switch that will make the meter jump a few hundred pesos in rapid succession. They especially like to do this when you’re engaged in conversation with them, laughing at their jokes or casually staring out the window. The irony is that cab drivers are an invaluable resource for otherwise little known tidbits of information about the city and make for great conversationalists when the mood strikes them. Their ability to suss out intimate details about you with just a few glances in the rear view mirror is uncanny. And by no means are they all dishonest or keen to con you if they can, it’s just that there are enough of them out there that are to tarnish the reputation of the rest.

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¡Bacán! Week 2

Typical Santiago sight in the warmer months. Photo credit: the funky, fabulous Dutch photographer Peter Schat.

This week’s post is a bit late. Between a short stint of technical difficulties and getting out of town for the weekend I just hadn’t gotten around to it until now. Luckily, any time is ¡Bacán! Time so without further ado, this week’s selection of cool Chile-related goodies.

  • Between the size of the city, uninformed drivers and a host of little tricks to bump up the price a few hundred pesos, taking a taxi in Santiago can sometimes be a real headache. Make it easier by planning your route and getting an estimate of how much your journey will cost before you leave the house so you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.
  • Check out this short film of legendary Chilean street artist INTI talking about where he finds his inspiration at the 2011 CityLeaks Festival in Cologne, Germany. He also did an impressive series of pieces a bit closer home, in Valparaíso, earlier this year.
  • Anyone who’s ever been to Chile knows that Chilean Spanish is in a world all its own. Some of the most humorous misunderstandings I’ve experienced here thus far have arisen from a lack of knowledge of the endless number of chilenismos used on this side of the Andes. North American anthropologist Margaret Snook has been living in Santiago since 1991 and constructing an impressively thorough glossary on her site Cachando Chile. She also runs a great food and wine blog called Tasting Chile.
  • I’m really digging Fernando Milagros‘ music, especially this song, which has been on constant repeat for the past few days. Oh, and this one too. Completely unpretentious indie pop folk homegrown right here in Chile. Great stuff. Have a bit more time? Check out the 3-part tour around Valparaiso with him, shot and edited by the guys over at La Blogothèque.
  • This just blows my mind. Pyura chilensis is a living, vanadium-secreting hermaphroditic rock found off the coast of Chile and Peru. But does it weird the Chileans out? Hell no. They call it Piure and use it in any number of dishes from the well-known paila marina to ceviche. Only in Chile, my friends.


Live, think and ski like a local

This past weekend I headed up with Kerry and her husband Guy to the cottage they’ve rented for the ski season in Farellones (about 1 hour outside of Santiago). We arrived just after 7:30 on Friday night and immediately set up shop with a pot of mulled wine and a blazing bonfire on the deck, leaning back and taking in the clean, crisp air and penetrating stillness which made Santiago feel absolute worlds away. Continue reading

The Winter Wind Came Blowing In

It’s hailing outside. Yeah, you read that right. Hailing. Without a doubt, winter has finally arrived in Santiago and the temperatures and general weather eccentricities around these parts have been notably intense for the past few days. When we moved here back in November we never expected that we would ever utter the words hail, frost or rainstorm ever again. At that time (in the height of summer) temperatures were soaring daily beyond the upper 30s and rain seemed but a long-forgotten commodity which we, out of politeness, simply didn’t mention. After awhile our parched lips and sweat-soaked foreheads became the norm and coming from Amsterdam, a place where wind, wetness and a perpetual chill are simply the status quo, it never crossed our minds to complain about our new arid, hostile environment.

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¡Bacán! Week 1 (25 June – 2 July)

This was the sky over Santiago this morning. And these are the cool things that I stumbled across this week:

  • Chilean illustrator Fabian Ciraolo is turning classic icons into flaming hipsters and turning more than a few heads in the process.
  • At 19%, the Value Added Tax (VAT) on books in Chile is the highest in the world! I won’t even begin to mention the many reasons why this needs to change. Libros Sin IVA is doing their best to see that it does. Lend a hand and sign the petition!
  • Astronomer’s Paradise is a beautiful short film shot from the European Southern Observatory on Cerro Paranal (Atacama). Get ready to be amazed.
  • Looking for a way to chilenificar your 4th of July celebrations? How about a batch of Star-Spangled Pisco Punch?
  • Who wouldn’t want a pool mural like this? Just one of many cool projects thought up by the very talented girls at EstanPintando∆.
  • If you haven’t seen it yet, you should check out this video, shot from the helmet cam of one of the riders at the Cerro Abajo, a downhill urban biking race held annually in Valparaíso. It will blow your mind. There’s also a longer (+/-15 min) and really great mini-feature here of the 2010 event.
  • Consider yourself an emerging artist? Check out Open Mic Night at Le Fournil in Patio Bellavista. They also have great live jazz shows featuring local and foreign artists several nights a week.

Designing the Future: ChileanDesign

Chilean Design, while certainly not visible on the scale that one has come to expect in places like Berlin, Rotterdam or Copenhagen, is most definitely on the rise. Young, inspired artists from all over the country are converging in the capital and slowly setting the scene for what could prove to be a design powerhouse someday.

At first glance Santiago may seem quite devoid of authentic Chilean influence, with bland dime-a-dozen highrises and American-style shopping complexes outnumbering and overshadowing the limited number of historic buildings which have survived the past decade of modernization. By throwing its doors open to principles of free market capitalism Chile has scrambled up the ladder of economic prosperity, leaving it’s neighboring countries like Peru and Argentina in the dust. But this surge of wealth comes with a hefty price tag and unforeseen repercussions, one of which being an unchecked amount of coca-colonialism leading to the steady erosion of Chilean identity from the face of this and many of her other cities.

Fortunately, an ever-growing number of young Chileans is starting to find its voice and reclaim its identity with methods far-removed from the student protests which have been rocking the country with little to no progress for over a year now. Rather than take to the streets, they rock up to the ateliers to speed along the progression of change and innovation this country so direly needs through a flux of creativity. Made in Chile is becoming a concept that not only sells, but also inspires, and that could very well change more than just the Santiago skyline someday.

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