2/22, Santiago: In Which I Arrived and Promptly Got Lost in the Red Light District

I landed in Chile this morning, at 8 a.m., and will be living in Valparaiso and Vina del Mar for the next four months. The independence part of this isn’t particularly challenging — I live and work in D.C. when I’m not in school, and haven’t spent more than a week in my hometown since leaving for college. Technically speaking, I’m 19 years old, but I pay my own bills and am graduating in 10 months, so it’s hard to place my age and independence level. I’m a natural introvert who likes to eat strange meats while listening to Tame Impala, so wandering the streets of some random country isn’t too intimidating of a concept for me. That being said, I know no Spanish, no Chileans, and I stick out like a dreadfully sore (blonde) thumb. Most self-important study abroad-ers start a travel blog. As an equally self-important narcissist, I’m just going to make a series of Medium reflections — read if you want, throw probing questions at me, or tell me I’m full of shit. I welcome it all.

Worst parts: quite hot outside. Men tend to be creepy towards me, trying to talk to me or making hissing/kissing noises when I walk by. Pretty used to that because I’ve traveled a lot, and not going to make a big deal out of it because it’s harmless, but it is an eternal pain in the ass having to field off the fan club.

Best parts: excellent fresh fruit and fruit juice, beautiful mountains, being alone and getting to spend time exploring anywhere with no compromises or other people to consider. Followed a sign that said “MARIHUANA” in really big letters — that led to a fun shop.

Accidentally ended up in a Red Light District-esque place with lots of strip clubs (many of which were open at 11 a.m.) and saw a dead dog abandoned in the street. Those parts weren’t exactly fun in their entirety, but they were tastes of what Santiago is like. I’ve never been in such a developed Latin American country before — sanitation and infrastructure are so much better here than in Peru and Colombia. There are more American brands (saw a very white couple being overwhelmed by the crowds and ducking into a Starbucks) than in any other developing place I’ve been, and far greater police presence than I expected. There are some political organizers and socialist campaigns (a few Che stencils on buildings), but they seem to be more akin to the annoying Greenpeace/Peta canvassers in Dupont Circle than revolutionary guerrilla fighters.

I had lomo saltado for lunch and will probably hit a panaderia for dinner because #norules. Meeting up with the rest of my study abroad program for “orientation” tomorrow. Since I love rules, repetition, and being intensely coddled, I’m really excited.

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