My first few mornings were spent talking to Bev and fiddling around on my laptop. Bev is a sweet English woman who is here visiting her daughter for a couple weeks. Becca—daughter—just spent a month working on a ranch in Argentina and will continue her voyage around the world, until long after mom has gone home. The three of us went out to dinner a few times and also took the funicular up San Cristobal Mountain and the cable car down the other side. There is also a pretty big park there, but we went up a little late in the day and so didn't have time for that. The view of the city is nice and the ride is fun. Recommended.
Bev and Becca took off yesterday on a few jaunts around Chile, including Easter Island. Since they've left, my meals have gotten significantly cheaper. We went to a few nice places ($15-$25) and now I'm making up for it by buying cheap meals ($3-$5). Bev and Becca both made for wonderful company and I'll miss the good visits.
Today, I went back to the market and actually went in to one of the photography stores and asked about a ball head. She didn't have them—which I pretty much knew by looking in the window—but she made a phone call and found a store that did have what I needed—sort of. What I really need is just an Arca Swiss quick release plate, but I'm pretty sure there are few, if any, stores in all of Latin America that have those. This was the conclusion I drew yesterday, so I just figured I'd get another ball head. The store I went to is called Matrix S.A. If you're a Spanish speaker, I'm pretty sure that's a cool name. They've got a lot of nice tripods and heads (they appear to be an official Manfrotto dealer), mostly video stuff, and they have Sekonic posters on the wall, so maybe they sell light meters, too, but I didn't actually see any. They also have some lighting gear—hot lights, umbrellas, and reflectors. Decent store and helpful, friendly people.
I also took a tour of the city on a double-decker bus. This tour is targeted at dumb tourists who are too lazy or rich to see things on their own. I'm not really sure why I did it, but I pretty much felt like I had wasted my money during the whole thing. I did get into a museum at the end for free, though, and saw parts of the city I hadn't yet seen. Not recommended unless you're dumb, lazy, and rich. Do it yourself.
After getting home tonight, I heated up some leftovers from the other day, and grabbed the three-liter bottle of Coke I bought last night. Somehow, even though I had drunk only one glass last night, the bottle was about eighty percent empty. I've been fuming for the past couple hours. And I had to hike all over the place to buy more, since, unlike in Buenos Aires, there aren't that many little kiosks selling this kind of thing, and lots of places shut down early—i.e., by 8:00 or 9:00 P.M. If I find out who drank it—doubtful—I'm going to give 'em hell. I've lost any toleration whatsoever that I might have had before for anyone who steals my stuff.
To make matters worse, I put in a movie a little while ago in the common room, and a couple people just began yakking away with no regard for the fact that I was already sitting here trying to watch this movie. It just went downhill from there with more chatting, so I just turned the movie off.
In general, the people here in Santiago are friendly, polite, and helpful. When I was having trouble getting through the turnstile in the subway—I was trying to use a ticket I had already used and the machine was rejecting it—the guy behind me just scanned his pass and offered to let me through on it. At that point, I grabbed my pass out of my pocket and had him go on through. What a generous gesture! I've also asked for help and directions from others and they've always been willing to try and help.
The traffic is also pretty mellow. The cars actually pay attention to the lines—entirely unlike Rio and BA, where the lines are meaningless. If a car squeezes into another land where there's a car or cuts someone off, horns start honking and hands rising in anger. I found myself getting annoyed by this today. In Rio and BA, that's just par for the course—drivers aren't bothered by the fluidity of it all. Odd as it sounds, I bet that the blood pressure of drivers in cities like Rio and BA is lower than in Santiago or the States.
Want another tidbit? Today, I had flashbacks to Rio. I saw a guy peeing in the street. At least he was aiming into a corner instead out into open space. Later, I saw a mom pulling the pants back up on her young girl, who had just had a number-one emergency in the street. That was first for me.
All in all, Santiago is a pretty boring city. I won't plan on visiting here again, unless it's just to pass through to visit Valparaiso. At the very least, it would be far down in the list. In contrast, I would go back to both Rio and BA in a heartbeat.