Life in Santiago

Santiago Centro: Living downtown

After living in Gwinner & then Fargo ND, Santiago is an entirely different city. I am so used to having a car and being able to go for a walk and be relatively alone. Here, every sidewalk is small and there are always people around. When I look out my window I just see buildings squished together and a few trees scattered between them. The smog has been getting worse, and sometimes I can’t see the hills in the distance. I am really missing the space I had in Fargo to go biking, running, or just walking. It’s definitely different. I really am annoyed by the car alarms here, I must say. I’ve witnessed this in the street: a car drives by a parked car and the parked car starts sounding its alarm. The alarm is actually a mix of alarms, changing tune every 7 seconds or so to a another annoying sound. It cycles through 7-9 alarms before finally stopping. It is the most annoying thing I’ve ever heard.

Stores & Supermarkets

Since moving in, I’ve been to many different stores that sell food around my apartment. There is a big supermarket about 150 feet from the door to my building, so that’s pretty nice if I just need a mix of things quick. It’s called Santa Isabel and is part of a large chain of supermarkets in Santiago. It’s funny because you walk in and basically have to go to the checkout lines to get a basket or cart because there’s not room to push your cart through the checkout line so they just accumulate. The dairy section literally consists of 80% yogurt. It’s an endless wall of yogurt with some butter and cheese thrown in at the end. You can find the milk in small cardboard boxes on the opposite shelf, not refrigerated. Eggs are also not refrigerated. You have to buy dry beans, there are no pre-cooked beans in a can, in either of the supermarkets near my apartment. The coffee and tea aisle is entirely devoted to those two items, with a few varieties of yerba matte, of course. Finally, the spices are sold in little plastic packets, making them kind of a pain to use and store. I am still trying to keep all the names straight because most of them are nothing like the english name (enaldo = dill). There’s also not nearly the variety of spices as in the US. I was stoked when I found curry powder at the Lider (Walmart of Chile) near my apartment. I am very impressed with the fresh fruit and vegetable stores, though. They are everywhere, one on each street almost, and are run by people who must haul in the fruits/veggies every week to sell on pickups. They are very small stores, only about the size of a small living room, and are filled with lettuces, apples, onions, plums, carrots, and a lot more. Everything is dirt cheap there, too! I can get a couple
apples, an onion, carrots, bananas, pears, and garlic for $2.50 USD. I definitely have my go-to places, though, as some of the stores let their food go a little rotten and then bugs are everywhere…but overall very good, very fresh produce.

Asados

Just like in the US during the summertime/fall, people in South America like to have asados, or bbq’s. The only difference is the food! This past week I got to go to two different asados: a Chilean style and an Argentinian style. First, the Chilean asado: grilled choripanes (little sausage/hotdog things) on a bun with pebre. Pebre is my new favorite condiment and is made using freshly diced tomatoes, onion, cilantro, oil, lime juice, and of course, salt (Chileans really love salt). Also on the grill was a huge slab of beef and a couple smaller pieces of pork in a red chili pepper seasoning. The pork was my favorite, as it was so juicy and flavorful. On the side were grilled zucchini slices with cheese and
and green bell peppers grilled with an egg inside. For drinks, there was beer and this really delicious mix of red wine and canned strawberries. Kind of like a sangria. I have a feeling I’ll be serving that to my friends back home!
Argentinian asado: there were grilled sausages at this asado, too, served on a bun with pebre again. This asado was all about the beef, though, being that an Argentinian was cooking. Again, the meats were extremely tasty and perfectly done. There was also a salad very similar to potato salad, with potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and mayonnaise, but it was much less saucy than the potato salad that I am used to. There was also an Ecuadorian salad, which consisted on lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and oil. On the drinks side there was beer and wine. This asado was on top of an 8 story
apartment building, so the view was absolutely gorgeous.

A couple other random things

The metro is so nice to have, it’s so efficient, clean, and gets you where you need to be fairly quickly. The only downside is going during rush hour: people are packed in there like sardines. Luckily, I don’t have to take it in the morning to get to the university.

People here don’t seem to think that an ambulance or firetruck with their lights on is very urgent. Twice now I’ve witnessed an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens sounding get completely trapped in traffic because people don’t drive to the side of the road to let them by. It is very weird and worrying to see an ambulance with somewhere to be stopped behind a bunch of cars at a stoplight.