Where Should I Start?

Introduce yourself, discover who else is here, and get news and information about the forum. Most of all, tell us what Chile means for you.

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eeuunikkeiexpat
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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by eeuunikkeiexpat » Thu Aug 29, 2019 12:52 am

Also want to know more about the 1985 quake which you never elaborated on as you pulled your posts before going into more detail of that experience. No rush though, as I like to hear things in a linear temporal fashion.
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the other is to refuse to believe what is true.

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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Thu Aug 29, 2019 2:09 am

Yes, Eukypat, I saw that and will explain the disparity of what I saw actually happen (with my own eyes) and the twists the right as well as the left, portrayed during that time. To be clear, I am a conservative and so less likely/inclined to see the left point of view-----the difference in Chile, for what I saw at the time and heard from relatives first hand as they experienced it, had very little nuance ( you are for us or against us) to it until it hit the news and at that point it all got very distorted.----the reality on the street in Chile when I arrived was very clear-----Follow the rules and no one gets hurt. In my view Chile is what it is today as a result of the hand of Pinochet for good or bad. I don't think most young Chileans get the struggle that took place----again from left or right positions for themselves or what they have picked up over the years since-------modern Chile just arrived and its just what it was.

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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Thu Aug 29, 2019 2:18 am

The 1985 quake as it was and the 2010 quake as well----The 1960 Valdivia quake I can recount through a relative and will detail that history as well----the difference being the 1985 quake hit on a late Sunday evening in March and the 2010 quake hit as we we were all asleep in complete darkness----the 1960 quake I was not even born yet but walked family lands where they showed me the effects of hills gone as well as creeks moved as much as a mile away from where they had been before. But all in time...


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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Putenio » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:21 am

You mentioned entering the airport and while not a question, I thought I would share.

I remember entering the small national airport in 1989. There was a wall window on the second floor, and inspectors looked down on arriving passengers. There was a red light and a green light - green to go, red to the side for a full inspection, with booth like one might see for voting with curtains. The tables were long, narrow, and metal - seems to me they were stainless steel - for inspections. The doors at the end allowed the light to come in, almost creating a light at the end of the tunnel effect. Of course there were guards everywhere.

I remember on an 1989 flight sitting next to a helicopter sales rep who spoke of opportunity - agricultural use - but was picked up on entry and returned to the States. Embargo. The US Embassy was quite aware of who arrived, when, and where. This was right after the grape crisis, and the Plebiscite.
Enjoying the beautiful southern peninsula of Puerto Montt in the heart of it all.
Tenio Natural Reserve: http://www.visitsouthernchile.blogspot.com

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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Thu Aug 29, 2019 8:49 pm

The flight from Los Angeles to Miami was standard, my adventure had officially begun and i was excited so with eyes wide open I waited------ I would not have to wait long for the adventure to really begin. Arriving in Miami after midnight there was not much time for the flight to Caracas. Luckily the airport was nearly deserted at that hour and got to the Eastern desk to check in. My Spanish was pretty good but not nearly good enough to catch everything the Eastern check in agents were saying to each other but it was made clear to me, I was over weight in baggage and would have to pay a $50 dollar charge-----an intense look on the agents face followed with the offer that if I paid him $30 dollars in cash it would be less than the official $50. I contemplated this and had money ready to go in different pockets and pulled out $15 and gave it to him below the counter----he balked at this but they were calling the flight so he just mumbled and handed over my boarding pass.

I arrived at the gate to find it calm but no lights on really with all the passengers sitting in the dark. In those days family and friends could still go to the gate so it was full of people mostly seated but small groups standing and of course crying and hugging. It was not to long after where two flight attendants came out and began a walk through the seated area talking with passengers----a pre-check for carry on baggage.

My ticket at the time cost me $1800 dollars round trip-----it seems not many people going to Chile at the time and there were no direct flights or at least not often. It was common practice back then to take requests from foreign expats, as well as Chileans returned to Chile from abroad, to bring whatever could not be found in Chile so medicine, a new book, specialty foods like peanut butter, car parts, tools, specialty foods, spices, family keepsakes, mail too sensitive to be trusted to the coreos and also fashionable clothing items like shoes and jackets. I had a little bit of everything for maybe 20 different expats and Chileans alike from all over the country. My relatives communicated to me the various items like diabetic test strips, fabric, a part for a Ford truck and other items. Btw, this would happen in reverse leaving Chile to the US where cargo would be greda bowls from pomaire, longaniza, handmade wool sweaters, a huaso outfit complete, palm oil, crema nestle and of course sananues chocolates. My fellow passengers were no different and so began an argument with two separate passengers that had two separate cardboard boxes the size of refrigerators as carry on baggage-----and not exaggerating in away about the size of the boxes (each soon to be reduced to the size of dish washers) and in addition there was also a man with a larger than human sized stuffed toy rabbit, which would eventually find a spot in the seat next to him.

The flight attendants were soon surrounded by a group of 20 passengers all arguing their case in rapid fire spanish. There was no room in the cargo for the boxes to be checked even if they could get the three parties to agree to pay extra baggage fees. This went on for about 15 minutes with not quite pushing and shoving but it was heated. The airline had it down and soon called for boarding (the extra chaos would dilute the argument) with the FA's refusing to budge but finally negotiating a deal where by if the boxes could be reduced to half their size, they would find a place. The man with the bunny was ignored like a child by two aunts to tired to deal with him at the moment. The chaos now for everyone boarding at once expedited the passengers with the boxes to empty them on the floor and not miss the flight The clothing left behind, piled on the floor, was soon ransacked by those remaining. You can ask for a nice orderly line but of course it's a near riot as regardless of age or handicap, all the passengers, like an octopus, began morphing themselves into the tramway to board. I got on last.

Around 2 AM, after all the special/special needs and the super extra needs of every passenger were addressed with some kind of happy result we took off south and over Miami. Of course it can't just be smooth and the city lights below suddenly became brighter as the interior lights of the aircraft crashed out completely partnered with the always fun grinding clank sound, accompanied by a stomach churning downward lurch. Instantly the pilot announced a return to the airport but as we banked around the lights turned on, that familiar upbeat engine whine came along strongly with that calming healthy lurch up, forward and away. We were on our way to Caracas.



***I edited this a lot and added things as I remembered them so read it again----will do better with edits in the future***

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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:58 am

Landing in Caracas went fine although at one point, as we were landing, the wingtip was just yards away from streetlights on hill on my side of the plane. Landed and took off again arriving in Buenos Aires in the late morning. Got in a shave as was going on almost 34 hours before arrival in Santiago. Impressive introduction to Chile flying over the cordillera at about 1,000 feet and even going east to west, from foothills to snowy peaks and foothills again it took awhile. Touch down was in the afternoon and just looking out the window I could tell it was going to be hot, and it was.


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Sr. El Puelche
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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:28 pm

Taxing away from the runway, there was nothing to be seen——anywhere——no city scape but really most airports are fixed outside the city so no big deal——when we flew in it was just a landscape of small farms and smaller farms---- with mostly people burning trash below us. Its was immediately surprising however, the narrowness Chile is with the cordillera just there off to one side and the Pacific ocean to the other---- then the descent into Santiago. Cows, untended and untethered, at the the side of the runway just meters away, munching on grass, caught my attention——most did not pay attention to us even when the shade of our wing passed over them. The engines whined down and we taxied to what had to be a terminal but where?

The national and international terminal, in the same building, was just a simple affair that looked more like a medium to large stand alone hardware store front you would see in the United States——a low slung flat roof of concrete block, stucco and aluminum windows. ( If you stand at the Gatsby dining terrace now, above customs entry, you can see it straight ahead and off to the left as it still stands——it’s now left for special diplomatic entry, celebrities and other notables) The plane nosed in right to the terminal front door and not more than a 100 feet from the the few steps, patio entry and doors passengers would enter for a customs check. There was no tramway and no other aircraft nearby. A few lone jetliners sat far off lonely and moored to the concrete----- apart from a large fleet of military aircraft and helicopters off to one side, none of it seemed to be an airport. Wheeled stairs were brought up to the forward door and it was immediate craziness everywhere as passengers knew escape was imminent. Earlier during our taxiway, even at the behest of flight attendants, as well as the pilot for the aircraft to come to a complete stop before standing, no one remained seated but immediately began to gather belongings and jostle and cross-jostled to gain position for exiting the plane——but not before the obligatory unanimous long happy applause just after touch down——a true Chilean tradition——probably everyone was grateful in the most catholic of un-catholic South American counties——all were glad they would not have to explain their sins———and most likely the applause really meant they were alive to continue with them . With the door open now, the unfathomable heat of the early central Chilean summer entered the cabin. Maybe sweltering is too strong of a word but it was damn hot. I had a window seat in the back of the aircraft so I had plenty of time to sit and wait. An ancient bruised and beat up farm tractor approached alongside the aircraft aligning itself to the cargo doors trailing a long line of little colossos (four wheeled trailers) where baggage handlers set upon unloading hand over hand luggage to be delivered to the top of the steps at customs.

Finally near the door and if it was not hot already, the blasting hot Chilean sun hits you along with something different that I noticed immediately. “The air is different here” I thought to myself and you not only smell it and see it but also, feel it. I have been to dozens of countries now and everything in the air in Chile is just distinct. On that first day, certainly a mix of trash burning (but not as omnipresent like Mexico), there is the strong smell of agriculture and maybe a little of smog and aircraft fuel but I think its essentially the dirt. Sometime later, I figured this out when working within the Pisco Control Co-op distillery——I could blind smell a dozen piscos and call out what was made in the Elqui Valley (where I was mostly) and it was because of that special mix of dirt, dryness, grape, ocean air, and again, agriculture. Now every place has dirt and I know my own hometown in California and how it smells, but it truly seemed to me there was some kind of magic in the essence of that smell—— I still remember it well as I first stepped into the sun and air of Chile for the first time.

Slowly crawling down the stairs to the tarmac, baggage in hand we stopped as the line was still not through customs. Off to the side, passengers culled through their luggage for customs check after entering two or three small glassed-in kiosks where agents checked papers and stamped passports. Casually, I listened to the custom agent as he viewed my documents throwing out questions——I was wondering at this strange accent I had heard for the first time and would soon speak. What exactly did he mean and damn they speak fast here. If every animal in the animal kingdom spoke the same language, the Chilean accent would be the squirrel——fast, chirpy with every third sentence leaving you wondering if you understood it and if you replied correctly.

Carabineros, in summer dress of pants and short shirt sleeves, small bronze numbered badge and cap watched seriously over passengers as we made our way though one line for passport check and the other for baggage. The uniform is dark olive colored pants and soft green shirt but clean and simple along with their demeanor which is so visually strict and correct——its only the small question a traveler might make that breaks the shield as they address everyone with nothing but a clear friendly solution and direction of what has to be done. Only their chested uzi machine guns at the ready belay what their order, duty and allegiance truly proclaim. In uniform as well, dressed in full costume complete with beard, was a Santa Claus on the steps handing out Christmas candy from a bag bigger than him while offering “Feliz Navidjad” to everyone——in that heat I felt sorry for him. Also there, as if with complete and explicit official permission, a quite large tawny colored stray dog with black muzzle spread out exactly in the middle of the entry patio at the top of the stairs and perfectly placed to be in the way of everyone. The Carabinero dogs, looking a little healthier, ignored him as if maybe he was working undercover——he gently wagged his tail without lifting his head only at the small children that noticed him calling out “perrito" before cautious mothers pulled them away.

I think there was the red light green light routine for baggage control at that time but honestly I don’t remember. There were long portable tables out where customs had mostly Chileans stopped and explaining, arguing and negotiating the contents of luggage with everything splayed out——the customs agents picking out and harvesting baggage like eskimos on a whale carcass dead on the beach. Chilean men demanded justice and fairness holding their illicit contraband while young women cooed and flicked their hair back and forth behind ray bans. I escaped that and just hoped my sister would be there to meet me and she was. In the midst of families reuniting I saw her and so it was big hugs and a porter to help with the luggage. It’s not like I had a choice, as I greeted my sister, the bags were already on a dolly so that was it and we were in for a tip. We made our way to the door from the reception area, maybe 40 feet, lead by an old man with what I would call a mechanics coveralls (wearing a tie) and a dark blue police type cap——he looked very official. Next it was the phalanx of taxi drivers insisting on a fare into Santiago ,charging out, hungry, from their parked herd of black and yellow Peugeot 404’s-----they surrounded us------insisting, cajoling and manhandling us——well we had our own car but still they persisted until we were loading up the luggage in my sisters borrowed Renault R4. The taxi jackals now returned, only reluctantly, for easier prey---- I looked around——the parking lot was small and surrounded by small industrial cargo buildings along with dead curbed in planters including the odd three foot high dry palm tree and then of course——more stray dogs lounging anywhere there was the bare minimum of shade——but, I had arrived-----I was in Chile finally——and I liked it.


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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by 41southchile » Sat Aug 31, 2019 5:08 pm

Sr. El Puelche wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 9:28 pm
Taxing away from the runway, there was nothing to be seen——anywhere——no city scape but really most airports are fixed outside the city so no big deal——when we flew in it was just a landscape of small farms and smaller farms---- with mostly people burning trash below us. Its was immediately surprising however, the narrowness Chile is with the cordillera just there off to one side and the Pacific ocean to the other---- then the descent into Santiago. Cows, untended and untethered, at the the side of the runway just meters away, munching on grass, caught my attention——most did not pay attention to us even when the shade of our wing passed over them. The engines whined down and we taxied to what had to be a terminal but where?

The national and international terminal, in the same building, was just a simple affair that looked more like a medium to large stand alone hardware store front you would see in the United States——a low slung flat roof of concrete block, stucco and aluminum windows. ( If you stand at the Gatsby dining terrace now, above customs entry, you can see it straight ahead and off to the left as it still stands——it’s now left for special diplomatic entry, celebrities and other notables) The plane nosed in right to the terminal front door and not more than a 100 feet from the the few steps, patio entry and doors passengers would enter for a customs check. There was no tramway and no other aircraft nearby. A few lone jetliners sat far off lonely and moored to the concrete----- apart from a large fleet of military aircraft and helicopters off to one side, none of it seemed to be an airport. Wheeled stairs were brought up to the forward door and it was immediate craziness everywhere as passengers knew escape was imminent. Earlier during our taxiway, even at the behest of flight attendants, as well as the pilot for the aircraft to come to a complete stop before standing, no one remained seated but immediately began to gather belongings and jostle and cross-jostled to gain position for exiting the plane——but not before the obligatory unanimous long happy applause just after touch down——a true Chilean tradition——probably everyone was grateful in the most catholic of un-catholic South American counties——all were glad they would not have to explain their sins———and most likely the applause really meant they were alive to continue with them . With the door open now, the unfathomable heat of the early central Chilean summer entered the cabin. Maybe sweltering is too strong of a word but it was damn hot. I had a window seat in the back of the aircraft so I had plenty of time to sit and wait. An ancient bruised and beat up farm tractor approached alongside the aircraft aligning itself to the cargo doors trailing a long line of little colossos (four wheeled trailers) where baggage handlers set upon unloading hand over hand luggage to be delivered to the top of the steps at customs.

Finally near the door and if it was not hot already, the blasting hot Chilean sun hits you along with something different that I noticed immediately. “The air is different here” I thought to myself and you not only smell it and see it but also, feel it. I have been to dozens of countries now and everything in the air in Chile is just distinct. On that first day, certainly a mix of trash burning (but not as omnipresent like Mexico), there is the strong smell of agriculture and maybe a little of smog and aircraft fuel but I think its essentially the dirt. Sometime later, I figured this out when working within the Pisco Control Co-op distillery——I could blind smell a dozen piscos and call out what was made in the Elqui Valley (where I was mostly) and it was because of that special mix of dirt, dryness, grape, ocean air, and again, agriculture. Now every place has dirt and I know my own hometown in California and how it smells, but it truly seemed to me there was some kind of magic in the essence of that smell—— I still remember it well as I first stepped into the sun and air of Chile for the first time.

Slowly crawling down the stairs to the tarmac, baggage in hand we stopped as the line was still not through customs. Off to the side, passengers culled through their luggage for customs check after entering two or three small glassed-in kiosks where agents checked papers and stamped passports. Casually, I listened to the custom agent as he viewed my documents throwing out questions——I was wondering at this strange accent I had heard for the first time and would soon speak. What exactly did he mean and damn they speak fast here. If every animal in the animal kingdom spoke the same language, the Chilean accent would be the squirrel——fast, chirpy with every third sentence leaving you wondering if you understood it and if you replied correctly.

Carabineros, in summer dress of pants and short shirt sleeves, small bronze numbered badge and cap watched seriously over passengers as we made our way though one line for passport check and the other for baggage. The uniform is dark olive colored pants and soft green shirt but clean and simple along with their demeanor which is so visually strict and correct——its only the small question a traveler might make that breaks the shield as they address everyone with nothing but a clear friendly solution and direction of what has to be done. Only their chested uzi machine guns at the ready belay what their order, duty and allegiance truly proclaim. In uniform as well, dressed in full costume complete with beard, was a Santa Claus on the steps handing out Christmas candy from a bag bigger than him while offering “Feliz Navidjad” to everyone——in that heat I felt sorry for him. Also there, as if with complete and explicit official permission, a quite large tawny colored stray dog with black muzzle spread out exactly in the middle of the entry patio at the top of the stairs and perfectly placed to be in the way of everyone. The Carabinero dogs, looking a little healthier, ignored him as if maybe he was working undercover——he gently wagged his tail without lifting his head only at the small children that noticed him calling out “perrito" before cautious mothers pulled them away.

I think there was the red light green light routine for baggage control at that time but honestly I don’t remember. There were long portable tables out where customs had mostly Chileans stopped and explaining, arguing and negotiating the contents of luggage with everything splayed out——the customs agents picking out and harvesting baggage like eskimos on a whale carcass dead on the beach. Chilean men demanded justice and fairness holding their illicit contraband while young women cooed and flicked their hair back and forth behind ray bans. I escaped that and just hoped my sister would be there to meet me and she was. In the midst of families reuniting I saw her and so it was big hugs and a porter to help with the luggage. It’s not like I had a choice, as I greeted my sister, the bags were already on a dolly so that was it and we were in for a tip. We made our way to the door from the reception area, maybe 40 feet, lead by an old man with what I would call a mechanics coveralls (wearing a tie) and a dark blue police type cap——he looked very official. Next it was the phalanx of taxi drivers insisting on a fare into Santiago ,charging out, hungry, from their parked herd of black and yellow Peugeot 404’s-----they surrounded us------insisting, cajoling and manhandling us——well we had our own car but still they persisted until we were loading up the luggage in my sisters borrowed Renault R4. The taxi jackals now returned, only reluctantly, for easier prey---- I looked around——the parking lot was small and surrounded by small industrial cargo buildings along with dead curbed in planters including the odd three foot high dry palm tree and then of course——more stray dogs lounging anywhere there was the bare minimum of shade——but, I had arrived-----I was in Chile finally——and I liked it.


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Nice one, I read this last night after coming through Santiago to Puerto Montt , yuck, Friday, end of month, the infrastructure can't cope, but made worse by all the idiots who slow things down. I know it might be your first time flying or you are a nervous or you are just dont consider anyone else around you, or what, but I feel like slapping some people sometimes going through the baggage check and boarding aircraft.
Is it snobbery to say "god it was better in the old days, when not as many flew"? Who cares if it is, it was. The democratisation of flying, with airfares falling by half in real terms between 1995 and 2014, then a further 25 percent from 2014 to 2016. And they say we should fly less ? Everytime I go to the airport I think about flying less, not because it's good for the environment, but because everytime there are more and more idiots .

The applause when the plane landed, lol, haven't heard that for at least 10 years Anyway, enjoying the read El Puelche, look forward to the next installment.
Cheers.
Comuna Loncotoro Lakes Region Chile

Sr. El Puelche
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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Sun Sep 01, 2019 4:26 pm

Hey 41, thank you for the kind words------Gonna take the chance to call out some costs of things at the time------The dollar was at 150 pesos, a collective ride was 50 pesos, from international airport to provedencia was about 3000 pesos with baggage, a good meal, with salad, bread and entree including drinks for two people was about 3500 pesos, empanadas were 100 pesos, coke in a bottle was no more than 50 pesos, a bus ride to either Temuco or La Serena, salon cama, over night, was about 4500 pesos round trip, a single movie ticket was 250 pesos, a decent collation with entrada, entree and dessert was about 1300 pesos without a drink, a greasy spoon cafe lunch was 450 with drink, a schop in a bar was 100 pesos-----I don't remember what bread, fruit and vegetables was but good carne for an asado would have been 1000 pesos a kilo----a negrito was 10 pesos. A bus ride in city was 30, 50 and hundred pesos depending on the route distance-----taking the bus to vina or valpo for the day was about 600 pesos each way. Anything imported like tools, clothing, batteries, electronic devices etc-----crazy expensive-----when i say imported items i mean off the South American continent-----tons of hand tools from Brazil, batteries from Colombia etc-----costs were not to bad.


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Sr. El Puelche
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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Thu Sep 05, 2019 10:48 pm

Now loaded up we departed paying 30 pesos for parking and onto the road. A few back and fourth semi-rural paved roads before we hit the main road into Santiago. Wednesday afternoon and perfect timing for afternoon traffic and schools getting out that day for summer vacation. We came in on 11 de septiembre through all the old adobe buildings in that part of the city. Past the Estacion Central, La Moneda, the Alameda,cerro Santa Lucia and through the Plaza Italia, Diego Portales and into Providencia. Chilean drivers are impressive for their dare and ingenuity———driver against driver like matadors (as well as buses and trucks) not to mention pedestrians crossing through it all. I could taste the smog and then another thing——Chileans just stare. Countless times staring from their seat on buses, collectivos and cars right next to you——men, women, girls and children it didn’t matter——unflinching 60 second long stares from just two or three feet away. I took the challenge and stared back but it’s not as easy as it looks.

Coming out of spring I thought Santiago a nice city with the trees and the mapocho and architecture———and Provedencia even better especially with the architecture of the old buildings——small and large shops as well as big business all together——It was just hot.

My sister and her husband were living in the north at the time but in Santiago on business at the time so we had a small house along a side street off Manuel Montt and we made the turn down and to the house. A nice shady one way street with cars parked along one side and the house tucked well back from the street behind a heavy metal fence. We pulled over the side walk with my sister handing me the keys to a giant decorative iron gate which i pushed open to let her in——now 30 plus years later, I wonder how many Chilean gates i have opened and closed——a lot.

Leaving the bags in the house we left for another house nearby where my brother in law was stuck in bed with hepatitis——The plan had been to make the 500 kilometer trip to La Serena in two days but now he had to wait to travel so we’d be in the capital until he was okay. Checking in with my brother in law, my sister decided we would go out and we left in a collectivo to downtown Provedencia for groceries and meet friends.

The Chilean collectivo——always black with a metal sign on top announcing the route they would complete on an endless circle in both directions. Usually a Peugeot 404 which looked remarkably like the old New York City taxis———but grossly smaller but definitely sturdy. Carrying four passengers and groceries in the trunk if you had them, you’d simply stand anywhere and watch for your route and hail them over. We were two so we watched for one with the space and climbed in——passengers announce their stop immediately along with a single 50 peso coin usually handed over to the driver by the front passenger as the driver is busy driving——in return, a small numbered stamp sized boleto or ticket is handed over, or at least it should be———Colectivos are taxed on the amount of rides where every passenger receives one——this does not always happen and its better for the driver to forget as its less tax to pay and important for the passenger if in the event there is an accident, the injured can make a claim for any injury——no boleto and you have no claim. Sitting silently if you are alone, but most Chileans, especially with a friend, jabber back and worth if they knew each other and most of the time there would always be an old lady that knew the driver and they usually caught up on gossip——in the future, with a handle on Chilean Spanish and slang—— it became better than tv———Pedro, oh yes he’s coming back for summer but he has a girlfriend now——Don Ernesto is still in the hospital——Señora Lucinda had her baby——The carabineros took away Gisela’s husband, Marcos, for robbing the neighbor’s house——The hardware store on Grecia on the corner is closing——etcetera, etc, etc…

Meeting up with friends and it was chaos as last minute shopping Christmas deals were on----and Chileans notoriously love to leave everything till the last minute-----Yes everyone leaves it to the last minute but for Chile its a true art———not only in stores but on the sidewalk with ambulatory salesmen and sales women shouted out prices on goods in addition to social commentary on current politics, the fashion of pedestrians as well as piropo----Chilean flirting phrases—— examples being, “If you were candy, I would eat you up in one gulp” or “With a shake like that, you need a burger and fries." Now I learned what the Chilean bump was——walking along the sidewalk you bump into everyone coming the opposite direction——I could have gone hoarse repeating “Perdon” but its just not done———just bump and move on. Personal space in Chile is where anyone is leaning on you and closer and not the observed 30 to 36 inches in the United States——note taken.

We sat down at a small cafe for something light------my first once, or 5 o'clock tea time traditional in Chile for anyone from the poorest poor and the richest rich——I chose a cafe helado——and it was really good. Catered to by a waiter dressed in a bright blue canvas tuxedo complete with bow tie and a peaked army garrison cap in the same color ———the suit was starched and pressed and as stiff as a bullfighters outfit———he had the face of a prize fighter as did nearly all the waiters of that time——in those days you saw every color eventually and still always wrapped around a prize fighter----and what I mean by prize fighter and maybe I should be more specific---a 1950's prize fighter-----a serious mug face, jet black hair slicked back and every decision off the menu is followed with "Como no" and delivered with an attitude like you were the president of Chile himself

We prepared our good byes and now I really learned what my sister was talking about with the Chilean kiss, hand shake and abrazo——All women get a side cheek kiss when first met and at saying goodbye——all men at least a handshake and then eventually a handshake a man over the shoulder hug and handshake again. Never take a ladies hand unless she offers it and then its taking the hand and then the kiss and Ciao——I thought it was just in Italy but its a consuming word used at every good bye———every woman gets a kiss from 3 year olds to grandmas and everyone in between——Everyone gets a kiss I learned----- I kiss my lawyer, her receptionist, the client that is just leaving as I go in, i kiss the dentist, the doctor and the maid, the maid’s daughter. the postwoman——EVERYONE. Okay got it. Even now and its funny, outside Chile coming across a chilean woman or man in the street anywhere, its a kiss for anything female and or handshake and hug with repeat handshake for anything male and of course CIAO or CIAOITO. Later on I learned how much planning goes into arriving and leaving a party with a large number of people----arrive early and its a few stand up kisses and abrazos and then leaving with 30 people there becomes time consuming----gotta plan it

Its early evening and back to the house in a colectivo———my head hurts from all the spanish——not that its bad but its not understanding the constant barrage of words and the fast beginning of culture shock.


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Sr. El Puelche
Rank: Chile Forum Full Member
Posts: 47
Joined: Fri Aug 23, 2019 4:24 am

Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Sr. El Puelche » Sun Sep 08, 2019 10:36 pm

The dictatorship——where was it? You could not smell it nor taste in the street in Chile when I first got there (at least not if there was a specific protest anyway). Yes, there was a certain ominous presence of national police, carabineros, but they were there more waiting to respond then to deter——except deterrence in their very prescence——this was obvious on the street——if you were a bad guy then there was an obvious fear I would imagine but in minding your own business, there was nothing but getting your own business done——there was no impediment in any way( except for a toque de queda or the random road block or static roadblocks on the pan-american in the north and south regions) to what the regular normal citizen, in the normal course of life, had to do.

Another sister of mine was working in the office of a top US senator at the time———I asked her about what she thought of Chile——Her response was to send me, out of the library of congress, what they called at the time, “Country Report.” It was not secret and simply bound in a a bright yellow folder, about 3/4’s of an inch thick, the basics on any country in the world. Not top secret by any means and anyone could ask for a copy. Country Reports simply outlined the US view of that country. A basic history and synopsis of the culture along the fiscal numbers on that country——agriculture, import and export, bank deposits, GDP, as well as natural resources along with past and future projections——political biographies on the major players in addition to write ups on political parties playing a major role in life for that country. A history of foreign aide certainly as well as from other countries. A break down of military issues including number of people in ranks, equipment, budget and readiness. It included, in vague terms, the US policy for that country in all aspects——political, economical and cultural as well as a projection for what the US government would consider a comparative closeness to a US styled democracy.

I read it closely and just in a day in country I could see it was shit———maybe not the numbers and not specifics but it all did not line up. I wondered who had compiled this synopsis of what Chile was and concluded its what the US mostly wanted Chile politics to view as the US view on Chile-----in other words it was a description of a gigantic wall Chile would have to climb over so the US could accept you in business and politics. While some of it was true and accurate, I considered our political leaders traveling to Chile, guided by this shit report----- and gathered that no wonder the US officials travel and arrive at the dumbest conclusions they will use to determine aid, perspective and direction of foreign policy to that country. It read like some high schooler doing a book report on a book he/she did not read or just skimmed through the day before writing the report——ah well, they probably just save the juicy stuff they know for those in the know.

My instinct told me this “Country Report” was no where near accurate in most cases and after just one day----- so I dedicated myself to first, reading what Chilean newspapers had to say and second, talk to Chileans on the street and where they lived. Now as they say in Chile, “Santiago es Chile”———I did not believe that either. When I arrived in Chile it was a population of about 12 million people——about 400,000 where foreigners or at least the number of foreigners that had been issued a RUT number. Santiago was just approaching 4 million people and bursting at the seams. Through history Chile has had a large number of foreigners come and go———Germans arrived in the south about 1870 in large numbers, British earlier than than that and later in large number going to the north for mining concerns. At the time Chile had a very large number of Palestinians and I think the largest population in bulk outside of Palastine. Russians came in greater numbers than Cubans with Allende during his presidency. A lot of Scottish in the far south of Patagonia on the sheep ranches. Croats and Yugoslovs also and usually all over but mostly in the norte chico. After WWII Chile took on a lot of European immigrants hoping to boost their small population of just under 5 million. A lot of Italians came during this time. Germans came too as many already had relatives in Chile and as well for reasons more nefarious. Canadians came as well but mostly in the 50’s with mining companies and then Americans as well mostly for the same mining work.

Now with my brother in law down and my sister tending him I set my own schedule in order to take advantage of this time in Santiago. I was only going to stay for three months and I had a lot to do I set up a schedule to get my newspapers and magazines at the same corner kiosko. A coffee at the same cafe and lunch from a quiver of several cafes all varying in quality and cost. I got to know the waiters and the usual band of regulars——all willing to impart their view of not only being Chilean but also culture and the direction of Chile. Chileans were curious about me and more curious about answering my questions on what Chile was about----I was very happy about that. It was easy to get around as the city seemed nearly vacant as families abandoned the capitol for the beaches as well as the lakes and mountains of the south for summer vacation. I took the metro up and down checking out what each stop had to offer as well as randomly boarding what ever bus came to the corner first for a close window view of every neighborhood before returning to the same corner-----and then another bus. I would return each evening and ask family the specific questions for what I had seen that day. The next day I’d look closer to see and learn the details of what I had been told and ask more questions.

At the house in the evening I turned to the television to shadow politics, news, crime and the variety of Chilean humor and entertainment shows. Now television in Chile at the time was limited and mostly led by channel 13, the Catholic channel. TV came on in the morning about 10am and went for an hour or two and then off by noon and on again around two pm and off around 4 pm not to come on again until around 6 pm lasting until maybe 11 pm. There were only 4 channels I think and with not all 4 channels on air at the same time except for the evening. At 8:30 every night all channels broadcast a goodnight cartoon for children which was the same. Really it was an effort and guide for parents, the poor ones in the eyes of the government, to put their kids to bed. After that it was some soft adult humor shows finishing off with what would have been much stronger adult content then could be found in the US at the time——mostly variety shows featuring randy male hosts and thong clad young women performers and intermixed with Chilean pop performers. The final clip on all channels would be a canned track of the Chilean national anthem with still and moving views of Chilean landscapes from one end of the country to the other and then just a blank screen or the color registration bands tv channels use in order to correct color for a broadcast.

I remember not long after I arrived and just before Christmas, about 1:30 in the afternoon, we were eating lunch at the house-----the tv broadcast blanked out to still image of the Chilean flag with the national anthem playing------this broke to a close up of Pinochet, in white army frock, sitting behind a desk hatless and wearing his still trademark thick black glasses-----a Christmas message to Chileans. He went of for several minutes before signing off and the Chilean anthem again before the regular broadcast continued like nothing happened. It struck me as a little bit of Orwell's 1984 with its stiffness but left me no doubt who was in control and God help you if you don't comply.

News was definitely pro-government during this time and while not maybe from a catholic point of view but one of pushing everyone the guidance of virtue and responsibility to the Chile as it was now but also of where Chile was going. Now the after 9 shows got away with a lot but lets say there was no joking around by the media with any branch of “Las Fuerzas de Orden” at the time——Carabineros, Army, Navy or Air Force. News casts would begin with any official government advisories which mostly meant hours and restrictions in regard to a toque de queda or curfew. When I arrived there was a toque de queda in place but had been down graded to the very late hour of 11:30 pm and ending at 6 am. Maybe the only real effect I saw on everyday Chilean life during my first weeks in Chile was the toque de queda———the basic rules were that with the second of the toque de queda beginning and ending——anyone on the street would be shot with no questions asked. This was real and I heard it every night with a toque de queda in place——sitting at home that first week, reading in bed, at the moment of 11:30 gunfire could be heard in all directions around the house———not like a war certainly but gunfire drifted across the city here and there and mostly far off, that reminded everyone the seriousness of it all.

Now to talk about the toque de queda, as I soon learned——and maybe jumping ahead of myself——was declared typically after an action deemed a threat to the government usually after a bombing————a car bomb, attempt on a bank, power pole bombing, attack on a police station, or attempted assassination on police or any other authority or an out of hand protest by students, union group or any other subversive group. The severity of the threat would equal the beginning time and end for a toque de queda as well as the over all time in place the toque de queda would last. Usually two weeks from what I saw with the on and off times being degraded and less intrusive over the announced time as authorities determined the threat to be diminished. A severe issue would usually bring on a toque de queda beginning at 8:30 and ending at 7 am the next day———the bad ones would be 6pm to 8am the next day. The government meant the toque de queda as reset as well as to disallow bad guys further freedom to launch more attacks but also keeping those bad guys in one spot in order to take them into custody. Threats and the following toque de queda would only vary depending on location as many times a strict toque de queda in Santiago would be much less in the regions north and south——it just depended and the news would impart this information. Many times, and usually with the more ambitious attacks, the government would interrupt regular TV and radio to announce an impending toque de queda in place for that evening. Everyone in Chile, Chiean and foreigner alike, had no question not to be out after the hour during a toque de queda——you would be shot.

For the regular Chilean——working parents, business owners, students as well providers of transport——this made a big issue———Getting home before the hour——letting employees go home in time to catch public transport, students let out of school, medical issues and appointments etc——and it was not only the going into that evening it but the following morning where everything worked the other way in order to get to work and school----it was a big issue but in true Chilean form, everyone managed to get it done. The Metro closed down about 90 minutes ahead of the curfew with buses, collectivos and taxis leaving station and out of service long ahead of time to be sure to be off the street———in downtown Santiago you had to leave hours before the house in order to make it home as well as all other parts of the city.

I recall later, being at a Friday or Saturday evening party, and hosts would turn the lights on and off as notice approaching the time for curfew. A final announcement would be made and the traditional "La Ahora Avanza." It would not be uncommon, especially with a fun party, that guests would just stay over and sleep on the floor until the next morning. There was a party at an 8 floor apartment in Provedencia where at the hour everyone crowded the balcony to see if there was anything going on----and there was---the typical gunfire here and there as well little flashes we could see reflect up off the buildings into the night-----to be clear this was not Beirut but it was there.

I dont recall what iniiated the toque de queda when I arrived in Chile that first time but I do remember the set hour was light as it was at the end of its cycle with the threat diminished so it was 11:30 to 5 am in the metro area of Santiago with the 5th and 6th regions left with better hours and regions beyond with no toque de queda———Still, families leaving for vacation could not be on the road in Santiago in that time and it made people anxious to be on the move and well out of Santiago. At the time it was considered to be the last toque de queda of the season as it was explained to me like this by Chileans———"We are good for summer because the terrorists will be going on vacation too and they don’t want ordinary Chileans mad at them for ruining their own vacation. Now when March comes and kids go back to school we can expect it all to start again.”

Now in all the years before this, the issue of bomb throwers taking the summer off was true but not this year———1984 and 1985 were probably the toughest years for Pinochet and the government. Chileans were tired of the restrictions now ten years after the golpe and not just in culture. There was a pride for Chileans as having had the most democratic history of non-military interference among all Latin America. Apart from the 1930’s where Chile went through several presidents and the military presence to keep order, Chile was clean in this regard. Pinochet planned a strong economy for Chile from the very beginning and research from national and international experts outlined a very hard road ahead for Chlile to reach a strong economy. Apart from the Soviet Union, only France and Italy had a larger communist party membership in the free world. Hard economic realities left behind by Allende, among them the nationalization of foreign owned mines, left behind trade issues, loans as well as little money in national coffers----Pinochet did not have much to work with. Chileans were glad to have a better chance at food and other goods but wages remained low and people were tired. Opposition parties and groups, legal or illegal and underground, identified the weakness in Pinochet coming short of delivering his promise but also Chileans were worn out and wanted results. Chileans felt they were working harder for less and even with everything much more secure Chileans were scratching their heads after 10 years wondering if it was all worth it———Anyone in opposition to Pinochet saw their moment to fan the fire and the Pinochet government met it all with a harder line——and you felt it in the street.


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Space Cat
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Re: Where Should I Start?

Post by Space Cat » Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:02 pm

Thank you, this one was extremely interesting. Waiting for more! 😃

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