Friday, August 26, 2011

Letting My Pinko Flag Fly.

So in setting a new personal best for a weekly total in frequent flyer miles, over the course of a week I flew from Dar es Salaam to Zurich to Washington DC to San Francisco (congrats Mike & Sara!) to Washington DC to Santiago de Chile.  For those keeping score at home, and if you let me count the six hours that I spent raiding the complementary gummy bear and Toblerone bar in the Zurich airport lounge (which I actually had to get stamped into Switzerland to go to), that is four continents in seven days.

Don’t ever do that.

Two things are immediately noticeable when you arrive in Santiago.  One, it is winter here.  Complete with snow capped mountains and the occasional flurries.  Two, the country seems to be in the middle of a major social uprising.  Complete with water cannons and tear gas.  More on that in a couple paragraphs.

So other than being located in a giant crater that is ideally designed to collect smog, Santiago is in the perfect location.  Drive one hour up – snow and skiing.  Drive two hours down – sea lions and surfing.  And what did the master planners stick in the middle?  Vineyards.  Seriously.  Does it get better than that?  Oh yes, in fact.

Besides the awesome nearby amenities, the food here is also epic.  As it was explained to me by my host, “Chilean food didn’t used to be anything interesting.  Then everyone had to leave because of the dictatorship, and when they came back, they brought their food with them.”  Now it is basically a 'best of' hit list, with the freshest ingredients.  Plus there is all sorts of crazy aquatic shit that lives in the Antarctic current.  We went to a fish market for lunch one day – cheese baked clams, sea urchin in tomato sauce, and eels stew.  Washed down with a perfect crisp white wine.  All delicious.  

What could possible spoil the tender budding romance between Kristen and Senor Santiago?  Well, riots.  Hundreds of thousands of people marched for education reform (the conditions sound pretty dire) over the last two days.  Basically it was peaceful, but it turned really nasty in pockets (particularly around the hotel where I am staying).  200 people were injured, 1400 arrested and a 16 year old boy was shot and killed.  Protesters threw stones and bottles, police had tear gas and water cannons (and allegedly live ammunition as well).

Note – as I promised my mother – I stayed away from the protests to as much as extent as possible.  There was one occasion when, just as I was thinking that was an unusually large group waiting on this particular street corner, the light changed and everyone raised their fists and started singing.  I thought about pulling out my World Bank badge and lecturing them on the glories of free market capitalism, but I just crossed the street instead.  I would have gotten my high-heeled, business-attired, laptop-toting ass kicked.

And, speaking in a totally personal capacity and in no way reflecting the views on my omnipotent employer, good for them – they should get a better education system.  Hell – we all should.

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