So after a 22 hour journey from London I landed in Santiago on 02/03/2014. My first time in South America! And hopefully not my last. On long plane journeys I am really thankful to be as short as I am, I still have lots of room for movement in economy, unlike the poor 6ft + American man next to me whose knees were against the seat in front of him. On the other hand, he does have the advantage of being able to put things into the overhead lockers. Swings and roundabouts, hey?
Anyway, I will be here until the middle of July helping at Redland College as an English assistant and trying to improve my Spanish (which at the moment often involves me saying French words with a Spanish accent), after which I have 2 months to travel around a bit before I head back to London for my final year of university. I am living with a wonderful family in a beautiful home in the Las Condes district of the city. Las Condes is a lovely area to live in. The population are generally from the upper and middle class sectors of society; some notable people who have lived here include ex-Presidents Allende and Piñera, the current President Michelle Bachelet and also Pinochet. The houses here are mostly built in a neo-colonial style with terracotta roofs and have pretty little gardens filled with bright tropical flowers. The roads are wide, clean, well-maintained and lined with palm trees down the main avenue and other autumnal coloured trees down the smaller roads.
Redland College is luckily walking distance from my house so I’ve spent quite a lot of time walking down these charming little roads, snapping pics of the super fancy houses with personal guards and being barked at by the scary guard dogs!
There’s also a collection of shops just 10mins away which really brought home to me the connection between the US and here. The cinema there only shows international films; there’s a McDonalds and Dominos but worse than that, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts and a huge sweet store with Jelly Belly beans!! So I know that when the time comes that my willpower cracks, and it’s approaching soon, I’m going to go and eat my weight in sweets and deep fried goods J
It’s a pretty drastic change from little old St Benoit, Réunion, but I still like it here.
It’s also a pretty drastic change from lovely old England.
Santiago is set in the middle of a bowl-shaped valley surrounded by mountains which I absolutely adore! I look out of my bedroom window and there are the Andes! Walk out of school, Oh there are the Andes again! It is pretty spectacular.
Unfortunately, the geography of the city also contributes to the problems with pollution here. When I first arrived I would look at the mountains and think “They look so beautiful through that hazy mist”, then I realised, it was smog. The smog and polluted air is trapped here due to thermal inversion; this is especially bad during the winter months, which are coming up quite soon.
One of the most exciting things to have happened to me so far is that I have experienced 2 earthquake tremors!!! The first one was quite small, just a little shaking of the bed. The second one lasted about 20 seconds and my whole room was shaking. It was caused by an earthquake north of the city which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale! Apparently that tremor was quite similar to how the huge earthquake of 2010 started here, so a lot of people were scared that it may have developed into something more. I, being ignorant in these matters, was just quite confused, turned over and went back to sleep.
More posts to come soon on my life here!