16th - 25th February (My first week in Santiago, Chile)
The terrorists here have gone back to more conventional forms of weaponry.....
I had pre-booked a two week hostel and language course together online for $399 U.S. Hostel de Sammy is a little shabby, the showers run boiling hot and freezing cold and if you want to go to bed early and get a good nights sleep you will be woke up around 05.00 by people coming back from the clubs. The owner is ok but he is a very loud American who seems to annoy a lot of people in a Basil Fawlty kind of way.
People are drinking on the patio until late every night so there is always someone to hang around with and it's a really sociable place. There is also a crappy pool table, table footy, free internet, a good tv and dvd player and free breakfast. My first night out, a club where the dance floor was packed from start to finish, ended around 06.00. My main problem here is that my Spanish lessons are monday to friday 10.00 - 13.30 so I am burning the candle at both ends. My first two days of Spanish lessons were pretty horrible, after a little one on one session I was thrown into a group of five who already knew quite a lot (there were no other absolute beginners to put me with). I thought maybe this would make me learn a lot quicker but after day two where I understood virtually none of what had gone on I was thinking of complaining and demanding more one on one sessions. The lessons are not like how we learnt languages in school, ie. translating between English and German, they speak no English so if you are not getting something they can only try to explain in Spanish. I decided to stick with it for day three expecting that I would say something afterwards but somehow a lot more of the lesson made sense. Sometimes the school organises things in the afternoon or evening, so I have socialised a bit with the other people at the school. I attempt to converse in Spanish but most of the time revert to English pretty quickly. We went to an Italian restaurant where I spoke to a nice girl called Rebeccah from Bristol, I also attempted a Salsa lesson which was a good laugh. I have homework every night!
The money here is very easy to convert as there are roughly 1000 pesos to the pound. Everything seems pretty cheap here - I am drinking every night but a 2 litre box of wine costs under 2,000 pesos so why not? You can eat good food at the restaurants for about 5,000 pesos and I have eaten some lovely paella and some fantastic salmon with seafood.
There was a norwegian guy called Kim here in my first week. I went with him and some others to watch the local team 'Colo Colo' play a league game. We were with the home fans, the atmosphere was good but a little scary - Kim told me not to take my camera out of my pocket and to keep hold of my wallet. Colo Colo won 4-2. The fans were singing and dancing for the full ninety minutes. The stadium looks smaller and less impressive than the county ground but apparently can hold up to 65,000. The ticket cost only 3,500 pesos.
A few days later, River Plate (from Buenos Aries in Argentina) came to play in the early stages of the Copa Libertadores (their equivalent of our Champions League). Kim is a fan of River Plate so an Argie staying at the hostel called Nicolas, Kim and I went in the away end. The tickets cost 5,500 pesos, I imagine a Champions League game costs at least ten times that. For some reason we went really early, we and the other River fans spent three hours getting abused in Spanish by the Colo fans with a lot of gestures involving crotch grabbing. There was lots of stuff being thrown our way including a coin that hit me in the head and a bag of nuts that hit Kim in the face. Once the game kicked off the atmosphere was amazing, there were fireworks and flares and lots of singing and dancing. It quietened down for a while in the second half when River went 2-0 up but soon got going again when Colo got one back and when River had a player sent off. It finished 2-1 and the home fans were held back to let the away fans escape, we ran to the exit as we were bombarded with more stuff. I have attached videos of the River fans and of the goals. The quality of the football was fantastic - loads of great one and two touch footy. Definitely the best live game I have been to and don't forget I have been to the County Ground!
What with all the study and socialising I haven't really explored Santiago much yet. The area where I stay (close to Republica Metro station) has a faded European charm to it. Many of the buildings look like they were once very grand but now need some tlc.
Towards the centre there are lots of grand churches, museums etc which are in a much better state. On my first day here, there was some rain and strong winds were blowing the leaves from the trees so it felt like Autumn, but every day since has been incredibly hot and clear. The streets generally feel pretty safe and I have no problem walking around at night. After a week my Spanish is still rubbish and when the assistant at the supermarket asked me something I had no idea what she said, but I did have a succesful trip into town where I managed to buy a plug adaptor and an alarm clock using a little Spanish and some made up words like 'electrica' (if in doubt take an English word and add an 'a' or 'o'!) On Saturday I spent four hours on the patio doing revision and I feel like some progress has been made. I also got my shoulders a bit burnt. A heavy night out last night and today is Sunday, I watched the Coca Cola cup final, lounged around a lot and caught up with my blog. I'm still not sure where I am going next but I'm looking forward to it.