First Impressions of Chile

Everett writes:

The truth about Santiago

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Santiago is hot like I thought, but only during midday, when the sun is out. It reached upwards of the mid ’80s in the sun, however before 10:00 AM and after 8:00 PM the temperature drops to mid-’70s and is very enjoyable. These times also happen to be when many people flock to the beautiful public parks. I found a nice park a few blocks from our apartment and was able to play a one on one game of basketball.

The city has many parks and a surprising number of trees for how dry the climate feels. The city does have a river running through it, but the river is nearly all dried up at this time and the surrounding mountains are quite sparse and dusty.

Chilean food seems to consist mostly of cheese and bread, for example, we had pizza the first day, empanadas on the second and a ham and cheese sandwich on the third. We found several people who spoke English and helped us when we needed it, but a surprising amount of people spoke only Spanish.

Santiago is busy and like most cities, there is no room for trash so it ends up on the sidewalk or street making the sidewalks smell like garbage. Overall I’m not a big fan of cities so I will admit my bias, that said Santiago seems like a relatively safe and well-kept city but not somewhere I would want to live for six months. 

The truth about Valparaiso

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Valparaiso is a picturesque city with street art everywhere. In addition, Valparaiso showed us a side of Chile we did not see in our apartment in Santiago. We watched on TV as we ate in an empanada restaurant downtown that the port workers in Valparaiso were protesting and that they had been on strike for a month. The very next day our tour met in the square where the protest had begun the day before and the teargas left over made my eyes tear up and my nose run.

Overall Valparaiso has a strong connection to protesting and standing up to the greed of the wealthier classes. We learned that workers in Valparaiso sometimes make less than ten dollars in a whole day. Because of this poverty, Valparaiso is not very well kept, a problem that becomes obvious no matter which block you walk down is the stray dogs and dog poop that is not being cleaned up.

Valparaiso is made up of several different hills and some of the streets are so steep that cars can barely make it up. There are so many alleys and staircases throughout the different hills that it can be very confusing to get around. I was intimidated when I first saw the City but it is already growing on me and I am enjoying exploring new areas every day and seeing beautiful murals and views everywhere I look. 

Ian writes:

My first impressions of Chile are somewhat mixed. On one hand, I am now living in a city that’s sunny and warm, on the other, I’m now living in a city that has active protests and riots. Valparaiso is very nice, it has some lovely murals, but it’s dirty, poor, and potentially dangerous. Chile is very nice, but it has a lot of problems. On top of that, I don’t speak Spanish very well, and the heat gets to me easily. I am not very sure how I feel about Chile. 

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Valparaiso looks like a beautiful city, there are hills everywhere, and colourful murals on the sides of buildings. The people here are very nice, they seem welcoming and inclusive from what I could tell of them. The food here is different than in America, with a lot of restaurants serving variations of ham, cheese, and bread. I’ve had to expand my pallet a lot and its only been a week here. Yes, Valparaiso is a big city, but it seems nice.

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Unfortunately, Valparaiso has a lot of problems. It seems that half the city has gone on strike at some point, and currently there are semi-violent protests that are happening in the streets. Valparaiso is also one of the poorest cities in all of Chile. Since Valparaiso is a big city, it’s smelly and gross. People don’t seem to be protecting this city, even though Valparaiso is widely regarded as the cultural capital of Chile.

All in all, I’m unsure of the next couple of months in Valparaiso; it should be interesting. I just hope that at some point, people realize how beautiful Valpo could be. But, until then, I’m waiting.

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