14 Nov Travelling around with Valaria, Santiago Chile
Its Sunday morning and Valaria has suggested we go to the markets. They are just literally around the corner. They go for around 3 blocks. I am amazed. You can buy fruit and vegetables and nic nacks, clothes, pet food all sorts. The prices are good as well. I ended up buying some nice clown pants for $10 or 5,000 pesos. They price their items as $ so I often laugh as it always seems so expensive. I have to keep translating the prices.
Life here is interesting. When you catch the buses you have to use a swipe card and pay for the bus and then you travel to the train station and swipe again. It is around 580 pesos each trip I think. The bus drivers make me laugh as they drive fast and the break hard I find myself sliding off the seat. I am told the average wages here are around 300,000 pesos a month or $600 US per month. It is not much as the prices are equivalent, maybe slightly lower but in some cases the same as a western country. I asked about rent and it is around $200 to $300 per month, so that is virtually half of the wage. This tells me that life is a struggle for the average person. I asked Valaria how they survive, she said it is a miracle. I surmise that it is due to the family. I think families here are very supportive. I also asked Valaria about mental illness, in many places I have travelled to, big cities particularly, mental illness is visible. You see people talking to themselves, or out of control. I noted this particularly in London. She told me there is none visible. I wondered about that and where people do go when they can´t cope. I was also interested in drugs there are problems here definitely, but so far I haven´t seen anyone high. She said there are places to go where they are visible. In some cities it is clearly visible on the trains. When you look out the window of the train there is a main mountain which is called Cordillera de los Andes. There is wave of mountains that circle the city. It is really beautiful. I feel priviledged to be here.
I am learning about food and few drinks, for example, Pebre is meal of tomato, onion, parsley and chile. I also learned about some drinks, yummy I have to say pisco sour was one which I had when we went out with the girls for dinner. It has lemon in it and only cost $2 or 1,000 pesos, pretty good. Could become a habit, good I don´t live here. Another drink I explored was mote con huesillos which is a grain at the bottom of the glass and peach that is soaked in water. It was very tasty. Non alcoholic, much better for my endless cold.
Anyway back to the day at the market, we caught the bus to the station and headed to see the Virgin Mary who watches over the city, some feel protected by her. We firstly went for dinner and had salad and lovely sauces, very tasty and a nice fruit drink of mango, only cost 3,200 pesos, and was really nice. We found ourselves surrounded by Bob Marley, we were in a district where revolutionaries used to hang out. So it was interesting and good prices. We headed up to this mountain that overlooks Santiago. There we bought two tickets for 1,750 pesos each and caught a trolley that is a pully system pulling the trolley vertical. It was wonderful as we were pulled higher and higher you could see the vast landscape of skyscrapers and homes that stretch out in this valley. The mountains overlook the valley and often the pollution is a layer that covers the city. Today we were lucky the sky was clear and you could see far and wide. We got to the top and there were food places and viewers to see the city in detail. We climbed higher to the outdoor church and garden. Lots of flowers. Above us was the marble white virgin with hands outstretched overlooking the city. We took some photos there and Valaria showed me where we lived (I still have no idea) and where she works. I rested for a while on the step as I was feeling exhausted. Had a laugh at my flatulence must be the food. Who needs a whoopee cushion, haha.
We started to head back and to Valaria´s astonishment the trolley had been stopped. It was a 5 km walk to the bottom. I said we should hitch. So she put out her finger and we got the first car. I nice man, wife and daughter allowed us a ride to the bottom, they were very curious about me. I did smile a lot as Valaria told people about my work as a peace clown and my philosophy of Patch Adams. The people were curious about how we met and she told them the internet, couch surfing. That was a surprise, for couch surfing is all about trust in people.
She has been a wonderful host to me. I have been quite sick here the whole time. When I reflect back I have done so much and had so little sleep that I find myself endlessly sleeping. So I am trying to recover so I can go clowning and meet the wonderful people of Santiago. I hope I feel better soon.