September is an extremely happy month for Chileans. The weather starts getting really nice, the smog clears, spring begins, and their biggest celebration all happen within a couple weeks. The official independence day is Sept 18 and is referred to as either Fiestas Patrias or Dieciocho, but the parties start 4 or 5 days before that. We had two parties at the university where we ate traditional Chilean food (empanadas, sopapillas, and pebre), drank Chilean beverages (chi-cha, which is a cider made from grapes, and terremotos, a very sweet mixed drink with grenedine, sweet wine, and pineapple ice cream), and played games. It was a really fun couple of afternoons and was a very relaxed week.
That Friday I went to tour a vineyard that is in Santiago with Andrea and her sister and her boyfriend who were visiting on their way home from Australia. We went to Vina Concha y Toro, which makes the brand Castillero del Diablo, or Devil’s Cellar, which is known around the world. I had actually ordered some of their wine at a restaurant in the US! The vineyard is pretty big and most of their fields are inside the city limits. The actual Devil’s Cellar has a really cool story behind it. Back when the vineyard first started the rumor circulated that the devil lived there when one night thieves tried to steal the best wine and heard strange noises coming from within the cellar. Since that day no wine has ever been stolen from the vineyard…
Over the weekend there were thousands of asados throughout the city as people got together with family and friends to celebrate. There are huge fonda’s in a couple localities of the city where vendors sell typical food, drinks, and knick-knacks as well as live music and games. Lots of people leave the city for the beach or family outside Santiago, too. I met up with a couple Fulbright friends to walk around a park and eat Chilean food in the afternoon and then went to a couple bars later and a place with live latin music. Every place was absolutely packed! The bars don’t have to close at a night, so they are open literally all night until 7 or 8 in the morning.
On the 18th and 19th there were countless parades around Parque O’Higgins, which is Santiago’s biggest park a few blocks from where I live. Since the 19th is a military holiday the marching bands and companies of the different military branches had a huge parade. I have never seen so many people in one place in my life. They had set up bleachers in the park that were literally over a half mile long.
September has been the month of events as everyone has been really up to doing things. We also have been super busy with classes and project work. I had the opportunity to go to the Santiago Municipal Theater to see my first ballet last week! The theater is located downtown and is an amazing venue with impressive paintings and architecture. The orchestra was really good and I really enjoyed seeing a story from just dancing and music instead of dialogue. A few friends and I also went to a salsa class in Bellavista, the destination for dancing, bars, and karaoke in the city. For many of us it was our first time learning salsa and so we were in the beginners class! It was really fun and not that difficult to learn the steps and moves and we are all in agreement that we want to return again for more practice. We also recently went to a dance club in Vitacura, the upscale neighborhood in Santiago. It was called the W and was pretty fancy. The music was pretty good and there were so many people there.
As for my project, the first half of my paper has gotten reviewed and rewritten and I’m now waiting to get the second round of comments back. Writing the actual words is really only about half the work, as I’ve found getting all the figures perfect and edited takes forever. I present the results to our group this coming Wednesday and hope to submit the manuscript in October. September has been the best month yet and I’m excited to see what is to come in October!