Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Santiago


About a month before I left the States, I discovered that two of my second cousins were living in Santiago.  (Random?)  I hadn’t seen them in over 20 years, but it was at least a place to land and get my bearings in Chile.  Turns out that we had a ton in common and it worked out to be just the thing to help get my head back together. 
Nathan is the younger of the two and has spent about 8 years traveling and teaching English…including a one year stint in Togo (did not come highly recommended).  Derrick has been in South America more than 10 years, is married to a Chilean national, and has two young boys.  I spent 6 days staying at Derrick’s place (with 3 and 8 year old boys, two dogs, two cats, and a mother-in-law…), but it turned out to be perfect for me.  Well, close to perfect, except for the little dog with the recent “fix” who kept ramming her plastic cone into the back of my fucking heels.  I taught the kids to say, “WHAT THE?”  I had long, completely pointless conversations with my aunt-in-law [twice removed] who spoke zero English.  I rode bikes to the grocery store.  I sat around and drank wine with family that I really didn’t know.  Actually, just what I needed to restore a bit of sanity after The Cusco Rampage.  (Seriously, I thought I was going insane after 4 months and had to struggle for consciousness the last three weeks there…still wouldn’t trade it for anything…but thank fucking little baby jesus that I actually got on that bus and left.)
Santiago is, actually, quite a nice place for a city of that size.  It was safe, clean, had excellent public transportation, lots of parks and open spaces, semi-cosmopolitan (but not overly so), and there are hot women everywhere.  I haven’t stood on the street and stared with my mouth open that long since my first trip to Seoul.  I would call it the most livable big city I’ve been to in a long time, and I’m not a big city kind of guy. 
Over the weekend, I got to do some touristy stuff with Derrick and the kids.  My favorite part was when I took my requisite sacrilegious photo at the top of the hill overlooking the city and the three year old wanted me to take the same one of him:

I spent hours just walking around downtown and even got a chance to pay my respects to Salvador Allende.  (If you look carefully, you can still see some bullet holes in the Presidential Palace from when it was attacked by Henry Kissinger and the CIA…oops, I mean by a strictly “internal” military action in 1973 to remove a “communist” threat in our hemisphere.)

I even had some time to buy new jeans and shorts that fit…and bribed the aunt-in-law [twice removed] to hem them for me with a bottle of pisco.  I did a remarkably good job of putting my entire life into a backpack when I left Portland.  I just didn’t count on losing so much fucking weight.
I was also introduced to some interesting (shitty) Chilean culinary delights.  The “chorillano” is an oh-so-healthy plate of fries topped with thinly sliced beef and two barely cooked eggs.  (I think this would be a big hit in the South.)  The “completo” is a huge hot dog smothered in mayo, crappy avocado-like substance, and raw tomatoes.  (Fucking disgusting.  I mean, unless you really like a lot of mayo…and crappy avocado-like substance.)  And then Nathan introduced me to the “Fancho.”  Shit beer mixed with orange Fanta.  I’ll let you make your own judgment on that one.  I mean, I guess the shit beer tasted a little better, but can’t we just skip the shit beer altogether?   I must also say that Nathan took me out one night to three bars that actually had some house-made microbrews and I have to admit to getting half a boner over that one.  I don’t really miss being in Portland that much (considering where I’ve been), but there are a few things that just can’t be replaced…good beer is gold on this continent.

All-in-all, Santiago was really great for me.  I can’t thank my cousins enough for opening their home to me and letting me have a chance to heal a bit.  (Shit, I think we actually liked each other after all those years!)  And now, it’s time to head for a city that I’ve been dreaming of for 10 years…for some random fucking reason.

“Uh, why the hell is the manger empty?  Casey, do you know anything about this???”



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