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Day 30 - Hating and Loving Chile - March 28, 2013

The day started off on a bad note, finding an email from Juan Carlos sent late the night before, very politely asking why we had not bothered to mention the broken mirror in the bathroom, and WTF had happened to do so much damage?  I responded (truthfully) that the chaos surrounding our departure took priority and I had simply forgotten about it.  About how, I suggested that there was a small crack that grew during our stay due to thermal cycling of hot showers and cool ocean air.  Because it had indeed happened during our stay, I said I would take responsibility for the repair.  This reply seemed to calm him down, and he said that he had reserved US$100 from our damage deposit, but that he hoped the actual repair might be less.  I told him that I would stand by for the results and thanked him for his professional handling of the situation.  Even though he was clearly pissed off, the tone of his emails was always courteous and professional.  We shall see what the final bill will be.  Ugh.

Next order of business - mucho calor (too hot) in the apartment.  When I reserved it, I knew it did not have air conditioning, but late March and early April in Santiago are known to be temperate.  Unfortunately it was unseasonably hot, near 90, with 90% humidity.  Our night with all the windows wide open was too warm and too noisy from traffic.  We decided to go to a store nearby and by a box fan, or perhaps an oscillating one.  Simple, right?  Well welcome to Chile, my friends!  We found on the map several Lider (Wal-Mart) Express stores, small groceries like Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets in the USA, but one regular Lider about a mile away right down the subway line.  Time to get our bip! cards.  The Metro (subway) has 6 or 7 lines, all interconnected, and you can get nearly anywhere in Santiago on it.  With a bip! card you can also connect to any bus and truly go anywhere.  The name bip! comes from the "beep!" sound the system makes when it recognizes your card and drains a bit of credit from it. It cost about US$2 for the card, and we put about $8 prepaid charges on each one.  This proved to be enough for 5 trips each.  You can go as far as you like via subway or bus until you exit the system, then there is a new charge for re-entering.  So we paid about $3 for both of us to go 1.5 miles down the road, and the same for the return.  Cheaper than a taxi, and better than walking in the sweltering heat.

Your bip! card is literally the key to the city of Santiago!

Emerging from the subway we found that the Lider was an Express and there was no hope of a fan there.  We went in anyway to verify it - no fans.  I got out the translator and went to the service desk.  I asked in poor Spanish if they knew where we could get an oscillating fan for cooling.  They said they did not have those, which I knew.  "Donde?" (where?)  resulted in some complex directions to a bigger store, some miles away, too far to walk, but reachable by the subway.  The Chilean guy in line next to me spoke English and stepped in.  He advised us not to go to the bigger Lider store, but rather to go 10 blocks or so up the street (not along the subway) and find the Sodimac Home Center store.  "It's like a Home Depot," he explained, "and they will have every sort of fan there."  He then proceeded to lead the way, pointing us in the right direction, and then charging ahead at warp speed.  It was too hot for us to go so fast, so we plodded along.

Soon after I passed to close to a streetlight and smashed my cheap Wal-Mart watch into 1000 pieces.  Disgusted, hot, and angry, I tossed it into the basura (garbage) at the next gas station and we plodded on in the heat.  After a mile plus of walking, we found the Sodimac Home Center and walked inside.  There was an enormous patio just inside the gate with (literally) more than 200 models and sizes of HEATERS for sale.  But nothing for cooling at all.  We went inside and prowled around for half an hour.  Finding the electrical appliance section completely devoid of fans, we asked the guy there, who spoke English, and he told us the season for fans was done.  Since January.  They were sold out, and no more would be stocked until next summer, which is NOVEMBER!  But he had one stashed away.  Unfortunately it was one of these fancy Chinese tower models, with 50 settings for movement and a fan no stronger than waving a paper napkin.  Only US$75 or so.  Only one in town.  I suggested that whoever did stocking was insane, and the guy agreed.  But his hands were tied.  He said we would not find anything else in the entire city, and we should at least try this one.  "Return it if you don't like it."  At 75 bucks I declined, and we went across the street to Falabella (kind of like Macy's) and got the same story.  You can order one on our website and have it in 3-5 months!  (in Spanish).  At this my head exploded and I went all "Ugly American" yelling at the guy in Spanish about insanity and stupidity and how Chile sucked in general.  He stood there in shock with his mouth open, and I turned on my heel and left him to soak it all in.  We marched, dripping with sweat,  a mile back to the (hot) subway and then back to the apartment.

Subway NOT during rush hour

At this point I pulled up AirBnB and searched for alternate lodging with air conditioning. I found three apartments in the the building that was literally next door.  Air conditioned, and about half the size, but costing 50% more.  Shit.  I finally called our friendly anfitriona (landlady) and told her we were having trouble with the heat.  We had tried to purchase a fan, and could not do so until next summer.  I was thinking we may have to leave.  She was very concerned and told us she had a ventilador (fan) that she could loan us.  I asked if she did not need it, and she said no, her house was well shaded by trees.  15 minutes later we met her in the lobby with the fan, and 1 minute later blessed relief!  It seems always when Chile screws with you, some Chilean steps up and fixes everything.  Amazing.  I alternately hate and love the place, which is making me crazy.

Blessed relief!!!

We sat in the cool breeze, returning our core temperatures to something resembling normal, and calculated what to do next for amusement.  We had another cocktail hour starting at 6PM and plenty of time to do something in between.  J had advised us to go to the Cerro San Cristóbal (Saint Christopher's Hill) and take the Funicular (inclined railway) to the top.  We had a tourist magazine in the apartment, and it looked as if we could get there by the Metro (subway) changing lines twice and exiting at the Cementerio stop, then making a short walk.  The subway was sweltering, and it took the better part of an hour to get to Cementerio, where we emerged into bright sun and a cool-ish breeze.  We walked along for about a mile by the map, discovering we were now at the previous subway stop!  Oh well, we soon turned toward the hill and walked another 2 miles or so, suffering in the heat.  We finally found a market in this textile district and bought 1.5L of cold water, some of which we drank, and some of which I poured onto my head and neck.  Another mile or so of walking found us the gate to the park.  It was only about $US4.30 or so each for us to ride the Funicular to to the top, and we opted to do so.  A spectacular, albeit hot and smoggy, vista awaited us there.  Take a look for yourselves...

Mote con Heusillos - Honey syrup, peaches, barley, and corn - surprisingly refreshing!


 We walked another mile plus through a somewhat gritty neighborhood (Barrio Bella Vista) full of nightclubs and then through a busy garment retail area to the nearest subway stop, which, ironically, was 2 stops (3 miles) closer than the Cementerio stop we took thanks to the distorted scale and view on the touristic map.  Bedraggled we showed up to the cocktail hour over an hour late, making ourselves mildly more presentable in the restaurant's restrooms before going out to meet and greet.

Barrio Bella Vista is a rough place - nearly anybody can hit rock bottom here...


  1. Amazing pictures. Sorry about the heat and the fan, S, you should really learn to take a deep breath before your blow a gasket!

  2. I rented a flat in Krakow, Poland one week in July (2010 I think it was). I'm usually pretty savvy but this one time I neglected to notice that the apartment didn't have a/c...Went through similar travails as you and finally found one...phew.