Sunday, 16 March 2014

Viña Del Mar, Chile: Back to School

Once I sorted out my language school at the last minute, I booked a hostel for 2 nights and jumped on a bus to Viña del Mar. However, my phone must have received one last email before I got out of WiFi range. On the bus I discovered the news that my hostel had double booked. I was going to arrive in a new city at midnight with no accommodation.

Once I arrived I tried unsuccessfully to find a WiFi connection. Luckily for me I walked passed a hostel that had one bed left just for one night... I took it. Then I discovered another email from the hostel I booked saying they could give me a private room for the 1st night for the same price since they double booked but also had absolutely nothing for the 2nd night... too late.

The next day I left my luggage in the hostel, contacted the other hostel to let me know straight away if they have a cancellation, then took off to look at rooms in proper apartments to rent for 2 weeks... This was really going to test my Spanish. The first place I looked at was perfect (gym, swimming pool, BBQ, sauna and modern) except for location. The young Chilean couple in the other room had a 4 year old son, I ate lunch with them and watched Thomas y Sus Amigos (Thomas the Tank Engine)... It was good for my Spanish.

Upon returning to my hostel I received the good news that the other hostel had a cancellation and booked me in. I checked in before going to view 2 more properties, both with the same landlady that speaks no English. These were very close to my school so I chose the one with 5 Chilean housemates and saved about 70 USD compared to the language accommodation. Using the phone to type numbers to negotiate price, due language barriers, reminded me of Thailand

That night was a massive party at the hostel with about 30 people (mainly Chilean and Argentinean). I tried Pisco for the first time, the spirit of Chile and Peru, sometimes straight from the bottle. After drinking at the hostel, and in the street we eventually arrived at a club to dance the night away. I even experienced the very traditional Chilean recipe of Italiano Completo on the way home, a hot dog with avocado, tomato and mayonnaise (think flag, not cuisine).

Here is a video someone made on the way to the club, watching is optional. Facebook Video

After the big night I went to meet my landlady, Patricia, to settle into my new home. She taught me that "caña" means hangover in Chile. In Spain it's your standard glass of tap beer and my most common order. So before and after I guess.

The next day I commenced class, 5 days a week 9-12:40 for 2 weeks. School organised many activities during the week. Including  traditional Chilean cooking, asado (BBQ), touring the beautiful Valparaíso by bike and kayaking in the ocean next to seals.

Boiled Pumpkin and Flour... Sopaipillas

Then fried in oil

During the first week I also got back into running most days and went to Patricia's daughter's 20 birthday.

At the end of the first week 3 housemates moved out and 3 new ones moved in. One was an Australian, Tom, he was on a one year exchange program. I also experienced my first earthquake which became a regular occurrence.

 The next week involved many nights out. One night started off with Tom, a group of US exchange students and I drinking at our place, then led to doing boat races at a bar with some additional new Chilean friends. Then I was at McDonald's ordering a happy meal (caja feliz) and giving the toys to a Chilena, Camila, and saying it was a present for our baby... A quiet drink at home can escalate to parenthood with a stranger.

Before the boat race

The next day I thought it might be a good idea to get to know the mother of my future children (mum, this was a joke if you're reading). So I met up with Camila for beach tour. I found out she was a 21 year old psycho, I mean psychology student, and a genuinely really cool and funny girl.


The rest of week involved school, the beach and clubbing.

School was complete and my 2 weeks were up! The day before I was due to leave I arranged with Patricia to stay another week then met up with Camila in the near by town of Valparaíso, the town of her birth, where I ended up giving her a tour (the best parts of my bike tour from the week earlier)... Valparaíso might sound familiar,  it is the world heritage city in Chile that recently had a massive devastating fire. It is a really old port city and actually home to the Chilean Congress (I was surprised to hear congress sits here instead of Santiago).

The rest o the final week involved planning my next destination, reading about Chile, running, drinking with Tom and the exchange students and more time with Camila.

At the end of the week I went to Camila's place for dinner, I had already cooked for her twice, so it was her turn to try demonstrate her skills. She succeeded.  The next day it was time to say our goodbyes but not before she cooked lunch and acted as my translator for my first haircut in 7 months... A very awesome girl that is welcome in Australia anytime.

The Last Supper

Next stop the countryside outside the tiny town of Melipeuco.

Lessons Learnt:
Pisco is a dangerous drink.
Chilean Spanish is very different to Spain.
You never know who you will meet.
If you're enjoying somewhere/something then stay longer/do it more.
Time is the world's most valuable resource.

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