Tag Archives: Chile

No Ordinary Beagle

Nope, we’re not talking about Snoopy or that breed of dog.  We’re not talking about the ship Darwin made famous either.  Well, maybe a little.  The Beagle Channel is actually named after the ship Darwin sailed in.  But it had a history before Darwin’s voyage started in 1831.

The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during the ship’s first hydrographic survey of the channel.  During that voyage the ship’s captain committed suicide and Captain Robert FitzRoy took the helm and finished the survey.

The channel itself is a challenge to navigate and the only way a large ship can pass through its waters is with a Chilean captain at the helm.  Even then accidents still happen due to rapidly changing conditions.  There are a couple of sayings in Patagonia which allude to how rapidly the weather can change.  You can experience all four seasons in one day and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.

We ventured out twice on the channel on the same day.  In the morning the wind blew, it rained and heavy swells tossed the ship about.  Anyone who was brave enough to leave the warm cozy confines of the cabin would have surely been soaked from the waves breaking over the bow.  We weren’t completely certain we were going to go on the afternoon cruise.

However we decided to test the 15 minute saying and sure enough, we got the summer season that afternoon.  The Beagle Channel went from waves breaking over the bow of the ship to being as smooth as glass.  It was simply amazing.  As a result of our bravery (foolhardiness?) we were rewarded with two fantastic experiences in one day.

You’ve already enjoyed the penguins photos from an earlier post – now you get to see the Beagle Channel in all its glory.  Majestic snowcapped mountains flank each side of the channel.  On the trip we saw cormorants (a penguin cousin that can still fly) and sea lions.  We also cruised by Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world and a rusting wreck of a ship that ran aground.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Zigzag

Some roads in South America are noted for their zigzags with good reason.  You simply don’t want to take the fast way down.  Here are a couple.  The first is the main highway from Santiago that crosses over the Andes and takes you to Mendoza.  Raeski took this photo from the bus window.  The second dirt road takes you to Machu Piccu.  If you are like most, you wish the bus driver would take it a little slower.

Street Life – The ‘Ladies’ of Valparaiso

Every large city has ‘ladies’ that seem to hang around street corners and sometimes dark alleys.  Valparaiso is no different… well, then again, maybe it is.  I could not help but turn my camera lense on them hoping to capture the essence that makes Valparaiso such a fun place to wander around and take in the sights.  I hope you enjoy my ladies as much as Raeski and I have.  We would love to know which lady is your favorite.  Cheers, Wooly and Raeski.

Cerro Barón Street Life

Cerro Barón residents have recently had a hard time.  Their homes ravaged by recent earthquakes and fires, the people still return to rebuild and they may best represent the spirit of Valparaiso.  It’s not the best nor the worst neighborhood in Valparaiso.  It’s resilient and manages to thrive in spite of the hardships.  Homes are colorful and people are friendly.  Here is a taste of street life in Cerro Barón.

Valparaiso Street Art – Cerro Cordillera

Today I take you into an area of Valparaiso where no tourist should venture alone.  When in this area my camera only is visible when taking pictures and I am ALWAYS aware of my surroundings.  In Chile crime is rarely violent, but it is opportunistic and ready to take advantage of a lost tourist.  In Valpo art is everywhere.  Even in low income neighborhoods like this one.  It’s part of the charm of Valparaiso.

Valparaiso Street Art – Cerro Artillería

To understand Valparaiso look no further than the street art.  Considered the Bohemian capital of Chile the art spans a wide spectrum of genres.  Known for its brightly painted homes clinging to hillsides, Valpo is also home to one of the largest collections of street art in the world and residents are quite proud of it.  The entire city embraces the graffiti culture.  Almost every street has art somewhere along its length.  It doesn’t matter if the neighborhood is run-down or appointed with fine restaurants and elegant hotels, street art can be found.  Entire blocks may be painted telling a story.  Enjoy my take on street life taken from the streets of Valparaiso, Chile.  These photos of the artwork are from Cerro Artillería where the Chile’s Naval Museum is found.

The Fruits of our Labor

Before we moved to Chile we knew produce prices would be lower than in the U.S.  How much lower you ask?  Dang, I knew you’d ask that.  Now you’re making me do the kilo to pounds conversion.  I thought I would get away from that math stuff teaching English.  Yeah, and you’re going to make me do a currency conversion, aren’t you?

$12.77 USD for this haul.
The Fruits of our Labor

Anyway, here’s a picture of the fruits of our labor with some veggies tossed into the mix.  In it we have:

  • 4.5 lbs of Gala apples
  • 3 pears
  • 4 bananas
  • 2.2 lbs. of strawberries
  • 2.2 lbs. of blueberries
  • 1.1 lbs. of mushrooms
  • 2 avocadoes
  • A cantaloupe
  • 2.2 lbs. of red potatoes
  • A cucumber
  • A head of butter lettuce
  • A head of red leaf lettuce
  • 2 tomatoes

Now take a guess of how much that would cost in the local grocery store and prepare to be jealous.  So how much did all this cost you impatiently ask?  The grand total for this haul was $12.77 U.S. dollars.  And have I mentioned that tomatoes actually have flavor in Chile?  And don’t get me started on the frutillas (strawberries).  The flavors explode in your mouth.  The cantaloupe you buy is actually ripe and bursting with flavor.

Chilenos (That’s what they call themselves) love their platas (avocados).  They accompany almost every meal.  Even McDonald’s gets into the act with putting them on their burgers.  Or so I’ve been told.  We haven’t been to one yet.  You can find a street vendor selling them at just about every other bus stop in Valparaiso.

Anyway, you get the picture.  Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive in Chile.

Busy, Busy, Busy

Having moved from one place to another on numerous occasions, I can tell you without a doubt moving to another country is an entire new ballgame.  Moving across the country isn’t anything like moving to another continent.  The costs are simply exorbitant.

Our last full day in the U.S. has been a busy one.  Packing away what we’re not taking, cleaning the house, pick up currency, moving the hummingbird feeder next door, scanning documents, shredding documents, moving furniture around for the carpet cleaning, cleaning the other floors, the list goes on and on…  and has been for a couple of days now…

Packing is a challenge.  I got my stuff in two suitcases and a carry-on except for a couple pairs of shoes, but Raeski being a beautiful and fashionable woman, has discovered some things may have to be left behind.  Thankfully she is being a great sport about it.

However, there is no doubt we will be paying for extra bags even after using the space saver bags.  The $75.00 extra bag fee is cheap compared to replacing all the clothes we can fit into an extra suitcase.  Some day when you’re bored, try testing yourself and see how much stuff you would want to have with you for a year’s stay.  Then you will understand Raeski’s dilemma.

We’re down to 16 hours before our flight leaves and it’s time to pack the laptop.  The next post will be from Valpo in Chile.  Hasta luego.

It’s Impossible!

It’s next to impossible and the challenges are close to insurmountable.  That’s the impression websites give as they try to sell their services.  People say the same thing in blogs.  To land an English teaching job in Chile, you are told the best way is to enter the country on a tourist visa, get a job, and then obtain a work visa.  For an exorbitant fee some companies will place you in a teaching position.  I was ready and willing to go the route of entering Chile as a tourist and then getting a job but Raeski is a bit more cautious and liked the idea of having jobs before we arrived so we gave one of those placement companies a try.

Of all the temperate places in Chile, Santiago is our last choice.  Our preference is to live where the air is clear and people are more social.  With 12 million people, Santiago doesn’t pass the air quality test.  So of course this is where we were offered jobs at different universities.  We accepted the jobs simply because they got us into the country on work visas.  We would fulfill the contract, learn how things really work, and next year move to a different city.  All was well in Wooly and Raeski land until my job offer was rescinded.  Since Santiago wasn’t our optimal destination we decided not to take Raeski’s offer.

Because we don’t allow failure to stand in the way of success, we decided to take the impossible route of sending out resumes and hoping for call backs.  And it worked!  Both of us have been hired as English teachers at the Chilean Naval Academy in Valparaiso, Chile.  Not only did we get jobs in a much smaller and cleaner coastal city, the jobs are in the same building.

Sometimes saying no to the impossible works!

Isn’t it Dangerous?

But isn’t it Dangerous?  Raeski and I often hear this question when people learn of our plans to move to Chile.  Driving is probably is the most dangerous act we will do in Chile.  If you’ve ever experienced driving in large South American cities you understand.

I believe people’s fears of South American countries are based on events from decades ago.  For years the American press focused on revolutions and dictators which often were a result of foreign governments meddling in their internal affairs.  More recently Columbia and its war with FARC and drugs were vilified by the press starting with the Reagan presidency and ending with the Clinton presidency.  Sadly, the press never returned to Columbia after the war was over (after Americans got over their cocaine addiction) so they missed the drop in Columbian violence.  If they did they would find a vastly different and revitalized country.

But you’re probably asking what about our destination?  Is Chile safe?  Is the government stable?  If you are reading this in an American city you are in more danger than if you were in Chile.  Crime in the U.S. is four times higher than Chile.  Economic prosperity is a stabilizing factor in Chile.  With a positive trade surplus and a debt that’s less than 5% of its GDP, Chile is doing well and the middle class is growing.  Chile is a country with a bright future.

But statistics don’t tell anything about a country’s people, culture or attitudes.  To get a feel for those one must visit the country to gain clarity.  For both Raeski and I, our experience in Viña del Mar on New Year’s Eve left a lasting impact.  When I think of Chile my memories take me back to that night.

Viña del Mar time
Viña del Mar time

The coastal town of Viña del Mar, a short drive from Santiago, is located on a crescent shaped bay shared by Valparaiso on the south, Reñaca and Cón Cón on the north.  It’s the site of a fantastic fireworks show that draws people from all around South America.  For New Year’s Eve, eight barges of fireworks lie offshore guarded only by red hazard flags.  That’s all that’s necessary in this law abiding country even though there are between 500,000 and 750,000 people gathering for the festivities.  During the day we watched kayaks paddle around the fireworks barges and ships from the Valparaiso docks line up on the other side for the show.

Fireworks Respect

After dinner we sat in the hotel bar watching a parade of people streaming by on their way to the beach.  Minutes before the show started we asked the bartender if it was okay if he refilled our champagne glasses before we went out.  With a, “Sure, it’s holiday!” he reached under the bar and handed us an unopened bottle of bubbles to take with us.  Outside, with our viewing spot secure, we popped the cork and were met with smiles from those around us.  And then the show began.

Fireworks from two of the barges
Fireworks from two of the barges
Wooly's head explodes
Wooly’s head explodes

After 15 minutes of almost non-stop synchronized fireworks from the eight barges, my inner thought was, “This sure beats watching a crystal ball drop.”  After 20 minutes I’m asking myself how long the show will continue.  Finally, after 25 minutes, the unmistakably finale began.  Then the crowd moved to their parties that lasted into the early morning.

Reflecting back on the evening I was struck by the sounds I didn’t hear.  Absent were sounds of gunshots, fighting, sirens and firecrackers.  However, oohs and aahs seem to be universal.  As the mass of humanity walked back to their rooms and parties I realized we weren’t being jostled about as we walked.  Wow, talk about everyone respecting everyone’s space.  And into the early morning all we heard were people having a good time.  What we experienced spoke volumes about the Chilean people.