When traveling, I’ve found that it’s easy to turn cities into check lists and destinations into collectibles. As a tourist, I’m often swept up in trying to get the most bang for my buck, cramming all the hot spots into a few precious days. But living in Santiago, I have the luxury of experiencing more of the life, rhythm, and energy of this city. It’s less of a drive-by and more of a slow meander. So, this post is dedicated to the little things that make Santiago feel like home, the small intimate moments that cannot be captured in a tour or in a guidebook…
1) The crisp, impressive view of la cordillera, cleared of the winter smog after the rain. I went for a walk around INTA (Instituto de Nutrición y Tecnología de los Alimentos) to soak up its magnitude, and a neighborhood man asked me, “Estás perdida?” He admitted that for him, it’s easy to forget that la cordillera is right there!
2) When I finally realized that the kiss on the cheek greeting was NOT actually a kiss! I was so confused for the better part of my first 2 weeks in Santiago because each time, I heard the kissing sound, but no lips ever touched my cheek. Was I actually supposed to kiss the cheek…? The answer: NO! It’s just cheek to cheek, sometimes with the kissing sound.
3) The refreshing sweetness of a cold mote con huesillo atop Cerro San Cristobal. After running to the peak (where the Virgin statue overlooks all of Santiago), nothing beats a drink and the view.
4) Two Italians, a Mexican, a Chilean, and myself crammed in a taxi after a long hike through the pre-cordillera to Aguas de San Ramon. We drooled over pictures of food (empanadas, porotos, lomo al pobre) on my phone and dreamed of the meals that we would be having once we got back.
5) One night, I squished a moth on the wall and forgot to clean up the remains. The next morning, I caught Yin, my host mom’s cat, licking the moth stain on the wall!
6) Two mangy stray dogs, in a city full of stray dogs (often wearing sweaters), humping outside La Moneda, the government building of the President. To which a Chilean commented, “now that is a true political statement!”
7) Laughing with Carmen Gloria on the bus on our way back from work. I was trying to ask her how to say “fart” in Spanish, which devolved into my attempt to make fart noises with my mouth and the both of us keeling over from laughter.
8) Watching the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention with my host mom and her French friend. President Obama said, “People outside of the United States do not understand what’s going on in this election.” Even I struggled between comprehension and disbelief, so that could not be more true!
9) The sunset over Valparaiso from one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses. The colors of the sunset bounced off the colorful hills and reflected onto the ocean. What a stunning sight!