May 6, 2011
A new day and a new tour guide. Alberto left Carol and I to ourselves, while he took care of the last minute details of leaving for Argentina. But not before putting some more minutes on my phone so Carol and I could stay in touch with him during the day in case anything came up. It was a good thought. But I left the phone at the apartment and didn’t discover the error until we were already well on our way in the taxi. We were going to Colegio San Enselmo, in a suburb north of Santiago proper. This was the furthest we’ve had to travel by taxi so far. It’s a swank expansive campus that reminded me a bit of Interlochen for some reason. Maybe it was the palm trees.
Our hostess was Maria, who participated as enthusiastically as the students in the programs. I got to meet Jason, a tall, dark and handsome Canadian expat from Winnipeg, who had come to Chile back when he was in the wine importing business and never looked back. Since then he’s discovered his true passion: teaching. And the Chilean woman he’s just married. Everybody knows and likes Jason, it seems, and indeed he’s a pretty likeable guy. I imagine the high school girls that he teaches swooning over his long, dark, curly hair. It was a luxury having a full blown conversation in Middle North American Continental English, eh? And talking with somebody who has a pretty good concept of what “cold” and “a lot of snow” really are.
Throughout this trip people have been telling me that I have to try a Pisco sour. Pisco is a very sweet liquor made from grapes. La Serena, where we are scheduled to travel on Saturday, is near the heart of Pisco territory, but Pisco is a drink favored throughout the country. There is, apparently, a vigorous debate about whether Peru or Chile is responsible for the invention of Pisco. This only adds to the sense of rivalry caused by past territorial disputes. Maria, from San Anselmo, is one of a chorus of teachers encouraging Carol and I to find a good Pisco place and sample the national drink of Chile. Since this night was Aberto’s last night we’d been planning on checking this particular chore off our list at a celebratory meal. But first we had to reconnect with Alberto who, you will recall, we couldn’t reach because I had left the phone in the apartment. We borrowed a phone, called Alberto and then summoned a taxi to take us back to Santiago. The taxi that showed up was really two taxis, though we didn’t know it at the time. We were all settled in the first taxi, ready for the long ride back when suddenly he veered into what was apparently a hub where, he informed us, we were to change taxis. OK. Here was another glimpse of something more third world-ish. I killed some time by taking a picture of the ground which was littered with colorful leaves and bottle caps making for an interesting design. We waited and were eventually picked up by a female cab driver, the first I’ve seen in Chile. She was very friendly and, like everyone else, knew Jason (Remember? The Canadian?), So it was a ride full of lively conversation, mostly between Carol and the cab driver. Another opportunity for me to hear a variety of accents. Carol’s accent is Argentine like Alberto’s, but with an underlay of French. (She is Swiss).
Friday night Alberto, Carol and I went to La Ancla (The Anchor) for a seafood meal, oh! and don’t forget the Pisco sours. We had to wait a bit for a no smoking table so we started with the Pisco Sours. They reminded me a bit of Margaritas. Plenty delicious. But not as good as milk and cookies. It was a late night. Today (Saturday) Carol and I are leaving for La Serena, a city to the north of Santiago and along the coast. The weather has taken a nasty turn: gray and cold . For the first time we’re seeing temperatures that are lower than the ones I’ve been tracking at home. People here say that this is much more common for this time of year. I guess I’ve been lucky up to now. I’m glad I brought the warm clothes with me. The shorts that I optimistically packed, remain unused.
I’m starting to get familiar with the neighborhood. I’ve begun to recognize the panhandlers in the area. I know where a lot of the shops and restaurants are. The couple that runs the cheese shop recognize me, as do the concierges. I’m glad for the changes scheduled in the weeks coming up. New tour manager, new locations. Putting down roots is for home. Two more weeks to go. Already Carol and I are reviewing our plans for getting to the airport and I can feel Wisconsin tugging at me. I am steadfastly putting this feeling to the side. Adventure beckons. Long bus ride, here I come.