Sunday, June 22, 2008

Solstice Weekend

While you were all busy celebrating summer solstice in the northern hemisphere (I can't tell you how I missed being in Fremont with the naked bikers and all of my friends having the party of the summer), those here in the south paid very little attention to the winter solstice. Although it should have been June 20, apparently they consider the first day of winter June 21 here, so I just counted my entire weekend as one long solstice event. It started Friday, which this incredible sunset:
On Saturday I woke up to sunshine and decided not to lose the day. Well, okay, I woke up at noon so I guess I decided not to lose the rest of the day. I had never ventured past Viña del Mar but I kept hearing about Con Con and Reñaca, two beach towns north of there, and I knew I had to see them before I left. So, I caught a micro (local bus) to Con Con and figured I'd make my way back south from there. It cost $1, like all transportation here. Here is a self-portrait taken on the micro:

The ride ended up taking an hour, and when I got off the bus, I was sort of like, is this it? I did buy a first-of-its-kind (for me) wheat and vegetable empanada which was fantastic (allegedly Con Con and Reñaca are famous for their empanadas). Seeing that there was nothing going on in this tiny, sleepy town, however, I made my way down to the beach:

Of course, it being the first day of winter (albeit a beautiful one) there was also not a lot going on shoreside, so I started walking back south toward Valparaíso, about 30 kilometers away (no, I did not walk the full way). I knew Reñaca was about 10 kilometers away (roughly 5 miles), but there were also micros running on this ocean road, so I figured I'd walk until something compelled me to stop or I didn't feel like being on foot anymore. The walk ended up being beautiful and fraught with sights, tourist-related and otherwise. It sort of felt like Malibu meets Maui. For those of you who have been to both places, observe:

There was a small pedestrian path between the road and what was at times a cliff plummeting to the ocean, but I felt surprisingly safe despite the fact that at times the path was washed or landslided away and I had to walk closer to the road with cars whizzing by at top speed, despite it being relatively curvy and narrow. I definitely felt safer than the bikers who had no choice but to ride on the road (the path was way too small and trecherous for bikes to risk the cliff) and many of whom - I'm assuming tourists on rented bikes - looked miserable.

I should note that condos here are skyrocketing (pun intended). There must be at least 100 buildings under construction in the Viña-to-Con Con region (Valpo is gloriously void, except of course for the one I live in.) Everywhere you look there are cranes, half-finished buildings with rebar sticking out, and signs proclaiming the sale of thousands of condos I doubt will ever be filled. I did my best to keep my eyes on the ocean to the right and not on the construction sites to my left.

After about an hour I arrived in a small strip of land filled with trendy restaurants and a large, posh Saturday crowd. It's worth mentioning that Chileans aren't very good at anticipating other people. In a crowd, no one moves out of the way for you, and no one waits for you to move out of their way, either. There is a lot of shouldering, bumping, foot-stepping, and generally inconsiderate behavior. It drives me mad. The same is true on sidewalks: groups walking four abreast do not seem to notice that they leave no room for anyone else, and maybe, imperceptibly move a fraction of a hair out of the way as you flatten yourself against whatever structure you are now up against in order to pass. I have taken to shouldering with glee, especially once I figured out that if they size you up for a gringo, they expect you to move. I mention this because I know this particular instance will always stick out in my head: in this crowded, bustling, high-falooting strip of beach, an oldish-trying-to-be-youngish woman wearing the ugliest, gaudiest fur I have ever seen was sauntering toward me and actually moved to be IN MY WAY, assuming, of course, I would move for her. Instead, I gave her a great gringo body check, and when she said something I will not translate due to my varied readership, I turned, smiled sweetly, and said, "hay que dejar que otras pasan, señora." (You have to let people pass, lady.) It was a particular burn to use "señora," I think, since it's generally reserved for older women. I bet she'll remember it for a while too, as yet another example of why foreigners should be shot at the border rather than let cross, or at least that seems to be a prevailing mentality. (A recent poll showed that more than 70% of Chileans do not approve of foreigners living in Chile. Ouch.)

Anyway, I continued on my walk and soon found myself admiring a lot of pelicans, which was cool. There were great rock formations all over the coast, and, as you can imagine, some incredible houses. Here's an example of one such house built into one such rock formation:

Here it is from the other side:

I think it might be famous and will have to ask my tourism students when I see them on Tuesday.

Further south, there was a random area dedicated to Pablo Neruda, which means I have now been to all three of his houses and a fourth special park just for him. It was lovely, but my legs were starting to protest so I didn't stay long. Since the whole area sits on a bay, it had a nice view of Valparaíso, so it was fun to see my own city from a distance since I've so long had these towns as my distant view. Here's Valparaíso from Pablo Neruda's park:

Next up on the walk was what I'm assuming is North Reñaca for lack of another posted name, but it was literally just a collection of brand-new condos an a few open-air restaurants. Did I mention that a lot of rich Chileans live in this area?

I finally made it to Reñaca about 2 hours after I started walking. Things were really bustling and apparently they know how to enjoy a sunny day, regardless of the season. I sat down at an outdoor restaurant since so far I had only eaten a vegetable empanada, and ordered a strawberry milkshake, seafood empanadas (since they're famous there, too!) and seafood stew.

My view was this hilarious set of trampolines rigged with body harnesses that let kids jump really high and do flips and the like. It was actually fun to watch. The sun set just as I finished my soup, and I noticed that a couple sitting in front of me didn't bother to turn around and look even once at the glowing landscape. I'm often surprised by how little people appreciate their natural environment.

When I got back on foot I was surprised how much my heels in particular were aching, so I hobbled to the closest bus stop and hopped on the first micro heading to Valparaíso. When I got home, I watched a dubbed version of Jaws on TV, napped, and then went to meet two of my favorite students, Ivan and Elizabeth, at a crazy party held at the old Italian embassy. (Eli is well connected due to her fashion-designer sister and puts me on the list for all sorts of fun events. Thursday I went to an opening of a club, complete with a fashion show with none other than Miss Chile herself. More importantly, there was free booze and food, including a full sushi bar. Wicked.) Anyway, at Casa Italia there were three different rooms boasting a variety of music and I danced for several hours with Ivan (who is blessedly gay), while he encouraged me to dance with this other guy, who also turned out to be gay. Not my night for straight men. I made my way home at 4 a.m., and I have to say, I do love the transport system here, with 24 hour busses and shared taxis that literally drop me off at my door, come frequently even in the middle of the night, and cost $1.

Today I woke up at 2 p.m., and was happy to be greeted by a gray sky, since clearly it was going to be an "indoor" kind of Sunday. I tried to stand up and promptly doubled back onto the bed from the pain in my calves. Apparently my legs don't take well to long walks and dancing in heels on the same day. So, naturally, I stayed in bed and watched a movie (The Fifth Element) until hunger forced me to hobble onto the streets in search of pasta (since they don't believe in greasy breakfasts here at any time of the day and let alone at 5 p.m.).

And, that pretty much brings us up to speed. It's now 7:00, I haven't planned my review session for class tomorrow, and I'm behind on my work for Apex. The first of many finals (both oral and written) start this week and I know this will be a long few days, but at least I had a fantastic weekend to lead into it!

I hope summer solstice treated you all equally as well. Please post comments - ahem - telling me how you celebrated the longest day of the year. (p.s. while the days are now getting shorter for y'all, they are getting longer down here. Suckahs!)


Renée said...

Damn. You make me like, want to do stuff with my time. Outdoor stuff. My winter solstice weekend wasn't nearly as cool. I want to go to Valparaiso again before you leave!!! Seriously. The smog in Stgo is killing me. Literally and figuratively.

Hahahaha to that lady with the fur. I'm going to use that line next time someone crashes into me here. Take that, Chile.

Nick said...


I have also had the best weekend in a long time. I started off going for a run with Mickey which left me pretty sore. Saturday I went to the parade with Mickey and Quinn. Cool Guy Frat Guy standing in front of us was wasted and narrated the whole thing; Batman! Bush, it's Bush mask! Ah, bike, bike!...BOOBIES!!!! Say what ya see. The party was often, I talked mental health and addiction recovery with anyone who would listen, including an internet celebrity and his wife. Later I found a design award from Microsoft laying in some beauty bark, which I had David present to him. Today Ray, Jen, BK, and myself did a Twin Peaks tour, including a hike down the falls and back up, which was pretty punishing. I was dripping sweat, and standing in the shower-like mist in the observation platform provided no relief. I got back and went to Sonic Boom to spend my gift certificate from my sister and Garett. I am now rockin out to DJ Kicks: Tiga at Adam's, waiting for the marinated chicken to finish BBQing. I'm emerging from my depression funk and feeling pretty good. I'm starting a blog soon. I'll keep you posted.


Nick said...

I meant awesome. I wish it was more often!

Hauteroxx said...

I spent my summer solstice lounging poolside at my friends rooftop pool while sippingo n homeamde sangria...And ended up chowing down on Korean BBQ and pineapple soju. Heatwave in Los Angeles..

Casey said...

While you did miss a good solstice here, it sounds like yours was equally valuable. I spent a lot of time cleaning up Jacob's place while we partied. I don't think I could be any gayer.


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