Tag Archives: Valparaiso

El Diario – 18 Octubre 2014

This week when we got to work we were asked if we felt the tremor (check out the Earthquakes tab) earlier in the morning (we didn’t).    That got me to wondering what Chileans believe is the difference between an earthquake and a tremor.  They called this year’s 8.2 in Iquique and the 7.1 off the coast of Easter Island an earthquake and Tuesday’s 5.2 a tremor.

To further complicate matters – on the same day last August we had a 6.5 tremor while Napa had a 6.0 earthquake.  Confused yet?  Well this got Wooly thinking (oh, oh) about what the difference is between a tremor and an earthquake.  After checking numerous sites on the web that all disagreed about the intensity required to promote a tremor to earthquake status Wooly came up with one conclusion.

Armed with that conclusion Wooly decided to test it at work the next morning.  When he asked his gringo friends they pretty much concluded anything above 6.0 would qualify as a full-fledged earthquake.  A couple of them said before they came to Chile that number would have been around 5.0 or so.  Yet when the Chileans were asked they all pretty much agreed it takes a 7.0 or greater to be called a bona-fide earthquake.

So there you have it.  If you live in an area where ground movement is rare or occasional, anything you feel is an earthquake.  Yet someone living in an area with frequent ground movement it takes a higher number.  Or in the case of Chile with lots of large earth movements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Chile) it seems a 7.0 or greater is required before the local folks grant a tremor earthquake status.  For those who remember, just think of the damage the 1989 6.9 Loma Prieta (the World Series earthquake) caused and how many lives were lost or the 1994 6.7 Northridge quake in the L.A. area.   I had to chuckle last March when a friend commented on the 5.1 earthquake they had in L.A. had him shook up.  Sorry, had to do that.

And what about the Valparaiso and Viña del Mar areas where we live?  Here is a list of Valparaiso earthquakes:

  • 1730 – 8.7
  • 1737 – 7.7
  • 1822 – 8.5
  • 1829 – 7.0
  • 1831 – 7.8
  • 1833 – 7.7
  • 1900’s – Nothing
  • 2000’s – Nothing

A 200 year gap without any significant earthquakes makes us overdue for a very large one.  It could possibly even be in the 9.x range.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen while we’re here, or if it does nothing falls on us or collapses underneath us.

Valparaiso’s Vintage VW’s

Valparaiso is a surprising city.  When walking the streets you never know what you’re going to find one weekend to the next.  It could be an art show in a square or a wine festival.  Or maybe even a protest. After all, the Chilean Congress convenes here in Valpo.  However, on this weekend it was a bunch of vintage VW’s in Sotomayor Plaza.  Just like in the States, they love their bugs too.

A Long Humorous Lesson about Public Transportation in Chile

We ride the Metro (train) and micro (bus – pronounced “meek-crow ” really fast) to work daily.  That’s how we travel here in Chile.  Our daily work routine is to take the metro from Viña del Mar to Valparaiso.  From the train station we then take the micro to the school where we teach English.  The metro is always on time.  The micro?  Not so much.

When we first arrived in Chile we asked if a bus schedule was published anywhere.  We got the same puzzled looks we got when we asked if anyone did anything else other than ‘Just in Time Planning’.  I’m sure the thought balloon would have said, “Why would they do that?  They run all the time and one will eventually come by that will take you to where you want to go.”

Conquering the micro system(?) was a bit daunting at first with our language barrier and the rapid fire Spanish(?).  First, micros come in a variety of colors.  Orange and yellowish, green and white, blue and white, and other colors we still know nothing about.  Even more confusing are the orange and yellowish and the green and whites seem to go to the same places.  Blue and whites seem to never venture across city boundaries (we think???).

The buses have multiple signs on them informing you where you hope it will go.  Sometimes this system breaks down and it takes you to a new destination leaving you to figure out how to get back to the ‘Start’ square.  They also have numbers.  These seem to work fairly well if you are fortunate enough to have been introduced to a seasoned bus rider who has survived the ride.  The ‘word of mouth’ system rules in the micro world.

And the fares are different on some of the micros.  We have never boarded a micro with a 700 peso fare.  God only knows where you may end up if you ride one of those.  Although we have seen people riding them we’ve never seen them again.  For all we know they go to the place of no return.  We don’t want to go there…  yet…

When you get on the bus you hand the driver the fare and if you don’t want dirty looks, don’t hand the him a 10,000 or 20,000 peso note.  Stick to the smaller denominations of 1000, 2000, or 5000 notes.  He then gives you a small paper ticket to show you’ve paid a fare.  There are 4 colors of tickets depending on the fare you decided to pay.  He doesn’t care what you pay as long as it matches one of the listed fares on the bus.  Just be sure to have the correct color in case an inspector/interrogator comes on board to check tickets.

Nope, there’s no such thing as a transfer or electronic system (System? We don’t need no stinkin’ fancy electronic system) to make things easier.  If you’re up to the challenge you can tell the bus driver your destination but be prepared to repeat yourself even if you pronounced the words perfectly.  We call it the gringo penalty.  We’ve concluded the drivers are caught up in ‘gringo gazing’ when you get on the bus and don’t pay attention to what you’re saying or they assume you can’t speak the local lingo.

There are a few drivers who have grown accustomed to seeing us on their micros and they don’t give us those puzzled looks of either shock or amazement of an ‘out of season’ gringo on the bus.  We think they’ve become victims of the Stockholm Syndrome.

Once you are on the bus you may run into the ‘getting a seat’ challenge depending on the time of day or night you ride.  In the mornings Raeski usually is offered a seat by any of the many gentlemen or younger ladies on the bus.  And what about Wooly?  No such luck.  He often stands during the wild rides.  More on that later…

Oh, and the seats… should you be “lucky” enough to get one…  These wonderfully designed seats (WDS) are perfect for short people with tiny legs.  It is absolutely impossible for Wooly to get his legs into the prescribed space without breaking them.  Even Raeski has trouble with this at times.  We think the model used during the design of seat spacing was the shortest person in Chile.

On late Friday nights after the Metro quits running the chivalry system on the micro breaks down.  Raeski rarely is offered one of those WDS.  Of course that really doesn’t matter if you are riding in one of the wild driver buses.  Again, more on that later…  And why doesn’t it matter you ask?  With one exception, it’s because you are packed in like sardines in a can.  In this case a rolling can but a can none the less.  As the bus fills up everyone keeps getting jammed to the back of the bus.  Eventually you reach the point of the one exception.  And who might that be?  Why the last person on the bus standing on the first step with his rear-end hanging out the bus.  Nope, the door isn’t shut because it can’t.  But the driver seems happy because his bus is now officially full and he only stops when one of the victims can’t take it anymore and rings the buzzer to get off.

When it’s time to get off and make your way to the “great egress” a new adventure begins.  That is unless you are right at the door.  In that case you just let go and fall out the bus, then everyone is shuffled one spot closer to the back of the bus.  But if you are one of those unfortunate souls not close to the great egress you have the challenge of pushing, shoving, pleading, or begging your way off the bus.  If you’re a fan of rubbing up full body against strangers come to Chile.  It’s your nirvana.  When you finally get to the door you have to wait for the final few pasajeros (passengers) to fall out of the bus onto the street before you can get off.  And the last passenger is now happy because he no longer needs to hang his butt out of the bus.

Wild man (WM) driving…  You haven’t fully experienced the micro system(?) until you ride a bus with a WM driving.  These wanna-be Formula One drivers attempt to wheel their bus around like a sports car.  Speed shifting a diesel powered bus?  Check.  Careening around corners?  Check.  Breaking hard enough to the point of smelling the brakes?  Check.  Drafting other cars, micros or anything else that moves?  Check.  They’re fast with horn too.

When riding a WM bus you find yourself wishing your WDS (if you’re one of the lucky ones) came equipped a five point harness and you were wearing a full face helmet.  You may even catch yourself wistfully looking for a bus sized roll cage.  But before that you first find yourself struggling to find one of those WDS as the WM at the wheel launches the bus towards the next stop.  Just when you are about to sit in that WDS the WM at the wheel attempts a gear grinding speed shift which propels you past your intended seat.  Once you finally manage to squeeze into that WDS the adventure continues.

New victims unwittingly wave to the bus to get it to stop and pick them up.  If you have one of the nicer WM drivers he will screech to a halt by the soon to be unwitting pasajero.  But if another micro is in front he will try to come to a screeching halt in front of the other micro thereby blocking the other driver from making his 15 seconds or less stop.  Meanwhile, the would be pasajeros are running down the micro to get on.  At least now they’ve been clued in that a WM is at the wheel.  Of course the WM at the wheel of the blocked bus behind you is honking his horn at your WM because his 15 second or less stop is taking too long.

And now you are treated with the entertainment of other people trying to find and get to one of those WDS as the WM at the wheel launches into traffic again.  If the WM at the wheel recognizes the new victims as seasoned pasajeros he will toss in a few quick lane changes for added difficulty in getting to that WDS.

When everyone gets off the micro you know you are at or close to the end of the line.  You will also get puzzled looks from the wild-eyed driver wondering where the obviously lost gringos are trying to go.  This happened to us once when we foolishly thought the bus was taking us to Cón Cón before we figured out the Cón Cón bus system(?).  This is when we learned that when riding to a new destination you should always sit at the back of the bus so you have advance warning that you are the last survivor on the bus.  This will also clue you into the idea that your bus may not be taking to your intended destination.

We kind of figured this out when we started getting strange looks from our wild-eyed driver.  As we were foolishly sitting towards of the front of the bus we didn’t see we were the last remaining bus survivors.  As the bus pulled onto a dirt road the realization dawned on us that we screwed up and weren’t on a bus that would take us to our desired destination.  After stopping at a shack selling empanadas our wild-eyed driver asked why we were still on his bus.  After we finally were able to communicate our destination he took us back to the last stop, booted us off the bus and pointed us to the direction we needed to walk.  Fortunately the walk was only a half mile.

Now that we’re pumped full of confidence at conquering the micro system(?) we are considering taking one of those 700 peso buses of no return to see where they go.  After all we are on an adventure.

The World of Reina Victoria

You are entering a fantasy world where artists boldly express visions from within their minds.   Once the door shuts there is nothing to do but wait to be transported into this world.  You ascend in your cage knowing you are stepping into another world when the door opens.

Ascensor Reina Victoria in Valparaiso has transported you into this fantasy world.  Enjoy the show.


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.

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.