I am doing an internship for Revolver, an underground/insider magazine that reports on independent entertainment, arts, music, culture, and living in Santiago. I wrote my first article for them this week where I got to go out and interview some people at a capoeira event.
Riding the metro in the morning here is frustrating, tiring, exhilarating, comical, and ridiculous. I wrote this one afternoon last week, inspired by my morning ride.
by Anika Rice
metro during Chile’s morning rush hour is not for the meek, physically weak, or
claustrophobic among us.It is a task –
a challenge – to arrive somewhere by 9am in Santiago if you don’t own a car.As the metropolis’ 6 million inhabitants all
try to get across the city at the same time, the metro system turns into a sea
of people teeming with energy, urgency, and serious morning faces.
As I walked
from the crisp morning air of the street level down to the train platform this
morning, Santiago’s population slowly surrounded me.The ceramic tiles on the platform’s floor
were nowhere to be seen, covered by leather work shoes, summery high heels, and
the black leather booties that belong to the common high school uniform.People edged their way up to the bumpy yellow
line on the edge of the platform, forbidden by the official Transantiago guards
to step in front of it.
busy stations, groups of personnel dressed in neon yellow vests patrol the
platforms.Every time a train comes they
yell at people to stand behind the yellow line.After the doors open, a guard at each door has the task of pushing the
people on the platform to the sides to make way for the passengers that are
exiting the train.They then fearfully extract
themselves from the crowd while everyone eagerly – and often violently – pushes
onto the train.How much personnel does
Transantiago have to hire to make sure that its riders don’t trample each
other? More than you and I would think.
on the platform was about 4 people thick, so I knew I had to wait for the
second train to come.With some
patience, I nudged and forced my way on, glad that I could reach one of the
handrails before the train lurched into motion.I was plastered up against three different people, grabbing the opening
of my bag to secure my belongings.I was
looking a middle-aged woman right in the face, only about 2 inches away from
her.She could probably smell the
strawberries that I had eaten for breakfast minutes before.I shifted my feet uncomfortably, but found
that I had nowhere to move them.
We whizzed through the tunnels, a
sleek and fast-paced submarine on Santiago’s ocean floor.But, I wasn’t safe yet.I had to change trains at one of the busiest
transfer stations called Baquedano.
conductor announced, “Baquedano,” the large group near the door mobilized!Everyone tried to squirm his or her hips and
shoulders in front of each other, lacking the patience to be polite.I didn’t have to make an effort to go towards
the door because I was ushered right along, bumping into the man in front of
me.I felt like the only one in a school
of fish who didn’t know where we were going.As I stepped onto the platform, I was blasted backwards by people trying
to get onto the train.A final push on
my part broke me away from the crowd, next to the wall.I took a deep breath, and started towards my
was three times thicker than the one on the last platform!I waited for three trains to arrive before I
had the chance and fortune to sneak my way on.I watched a woman unwisely cram herself past a bursting train door,
about to whip shut.The sliding door
began to close, and she twisted her body so that she barely missed it.The doors hugged her hip but were less
merciful towards her skirt hem.
finally reached the front of the group, I jammed my way through the violent
waves of passengers, turning my body and thrusting my shoulder sideways to get
past the train doors.The doors closed
and we were on our way.I exhaled.It was 8:30am and the hardest part of my day
was over!The air in the car was stuffy
and sweaty.I was packed in tightly
again, but at least I had escaped the flood of people on the platform behind
Santiago just hosted an amazing film festival called FemCine - a collection of documentaries, films, and shorts that relate to women. The films were produced/directed by women, made for women, or about women's issues. The festival was created in 2010 by a group of women who were concerned about the portrayal of women on film. Since they consider film to be an important aspect of social and societal development, they decided to use it as a positive tool in an otherwise machista culture. I took advantage of the festival and went to three events! Everything was free of charge!
The first film I saw is called Circumstance. It was in the Canne Film Festival and I absolutely recommend seeing it. It is made in the US, but set in Iran. It tells the story of two young lesbians living under the repressive regime there. Circumstance reminded me a lot of No One Knows About Persian Cats (which I saw at the DC International Film Fest) and Persepolis. Everyone should see these three movies!
On Saturday I saw Sibila, a Chilean documentary about a woman who rediscovers her aunt's history. Her aunt was part of Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, in Peru. After 15 years of imprisonment she talks to her aunt about her political life. It made me a lot more curious about the politics of Sendero Luminoso.
Lastly, I saw a series of shorts from Brazil! I love shorts because, when made well, they are lovely snippets of a story that leave you curious about the subject matter. If they aren't done well, at least they aren't two hours long.
Now that I've lived in Chile for two months, I feel that its safe to have made some observations about the differences I notice about life here:
1. Plastic, plastic, plastic - at any store or market, they practically throw plastic bags at you! There are employees at the grocery stores who are specifically baggers, and they take advantage of any chance they have to put each of your items in their own bag. When I say that I don't need a bag, I get nothing but puzzled looks in return. How on Earth could I reject the convenience of a free bag?
2. The food is in fact bland and salty - I was warned of this before coming to Chile. However, I still hoped that I would find some dishes down here with peppers, cilantro, tangy sauces, etc. This is generally not the case. Chilean specialties mainly include dough, and friend dough. Empanadas generally come deep-fried, sandwiches with heaps of white bread are the common dishes, and another common street food called a sopaipilla is just friend dough with toppings.
3. Books are so expensive! - I tried to buy a small paperback about Pablo Neruda from a street vendor, expecting it to be priced similar to the US ($10-15). It was almost $30 USD! How could a book about Neruda be more expensive here than in the United States?
4. The (nearly) eternal search for a yoga mat - Yoga has definitely reached Chile. There are studios all over town, workshops at my university, free yoga in the parks. Although it is on the Chilean athlete's conscious, the retail side of it hasn't yet caught on. I searched for days before being able to find a yoga mat.
5. Chileans do one kiss when meeting each other, cheek-to-cheek - Unlike some places in Europe where you greet people by touching both cheeks or kissing three times, here it is just one kiss. You haven't properly greeted someone until you've exchanged that kiss, and it can get very tedious when you are with large groups of people! The other day someone asked me how we greet each other in the US. I held out my hand and said, "like this." It felt so cold compared to here.
6. You cant always get what you want - in restaurants, making substitutions or eliminating ingredients from the dish is impossible. The waiter generally seems confused, and then says, "but the sandwich comes with mayo." When you say that you don't actually want the mayo on there, the sandwich will often still arrive with mayo. It seems to me that Chileans can't understand why you would give up an ingredient when it comes free with the dish, because then you wouldn't be getting your full money's worth.
7. Street dogs are everywhere, but are taken care of - As in the rest of Latin America, dogs roam the streets of Santiago. During the day, they generally sprawl out on the sidewalks or plazas and sleep in the sun, often so deep in slumber that they appear to be dead. Then they roam around at night and control the city streets! The difference in Santiago is that there are people who take charge of caring for the dogs. On my campus, they are all very cute, well-fed, and well-groomed. A teacher told me that they all have names that most of that students know. When a dog is sick, the group that takes care of them will put them on medicine, and put a little sign around their neck saying something like "Please don't feed Sparky, he's on meds."
A street dog at my morning bus stop.. he must have been able to sleep in because he found the most comfortable spot in the city!
Hi! I'm all settled in my new house in Santiago! I have been here almost two weeks, and its working out splendidly. I am renting a room in a large, old, red house. It's from the 1920s, and the architecture is telling. First of all, there are double staircases - a main one for the owners, and back staircases that lead to the kitchen, certainly for the maids. We also have a dumbwaiter! (Thanks to Annie for discovering it!) It doesn't seem to work, but it's there as a somewhat spooky relic of years past.
Our courtyard with a barbecue
Mural across the street from my hosue
My street, Riquelme
Our patio, where we eat most meals, equipped with a big palm tree!
My window view from my 3rd floor room: church steeple, sunsets, and the Andes in the background
There are 14 of us in my house: 7 French, 2 Americans, 2 Spanish girls, a Basque guy, a Bolivian, and a Chilean. About half of us are students studying abroad and the other half are working - at the UN, as a nurse, with water treatment policy.
We have a big kitchen (although 14 people storing food can get complicated!), a big living room with a large new TV, a patio/courtyard with a barbecue, a peach tree, lime tree, and a little terrace where we can dry our clothes. It feels a bit like a big Berkeley co-op in an old Julia Morgan house!
I've been cooking a ton! Polenta, hummus, spring rolls with peanut sauce, hearty zucchini bread, and more!
Fresh fruit smoothies with all the cheap summer market produce!
Chicken coconut curry with zucchini, mushrooms, raisins, and fresh tomatoes
Mixing up granola bars with lots of coconut!
Last night we had a barbecue with lots of friends, drinks, and an unbelievable amount of meat. It seems that the norm at Chilean barbecues is that if you are a guest, you bring some meat to contribute to the grill. So, we had about 20 cuts of steak, ribs, or lines of sausages. My friends Oscar and Felipe made an awesome rub/marinade out of honey, vinegar, thyme, chimichurri, garlic, etc. We had a little Cumbia dance party as well!
Last week I went to a march for Women's Rights on International Women's Day! It was huge - way bigger than I expected. For a while I marched with Amnesty International, who was supporting causes like the rights to abortion and other women's health issues. Other groups were advocating for women's rights in the workplace or for more socialist policies in general.
At marches, I love hearing all the different slogans. A couple of them were...
"Mis Cuerpos... Mis Derechos!" (call and response)
There were people of all ages, both men and women. I saw lots of costumes, some naked people with body paint, and several men dressed as women. It was an exciting march, even before the chaos began!
Tanks showed up because people were throwing Molotov cocktails at the police.
The tanks were spraying water at protesters (you can see it in the distance)
It was definitely exciting to be in the middle of something I've only seen on the news! For those of you who are worried about my safety while reading this, don't be worried! - I stayed on the fringes and didn't feel like I was in danger at any point. Conversely, all the "violent" activity seemed very normal in the context of the city. People on the sides of the street who weren't involved in the march (street vendors, people walking home from work) were completely unfazed by the seemingly dramatic scene. I got the sense that this is very normal at any protest, and that the grand police presence was really no big deal. However, when I saw a cop shooting rubber bullets, I decided to go home!