Logo Design - Company, Business, Medical, spa, travel, and church logos.
Logo Design

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Random things from the last few weeks

I realized there was a lot in Santiago that I haven’t done yet and I wanted to make sure I got around to it before I left. So one morning before class I went to Pablo Neruda’s house in Santiago. He has three houses, one in Valparaiso, and one in Isla Negra. There were not many people there and so I got a private tour. The house is very cool, it has all kinds of quirky stuff in it and a lot of it is designed to look and feel like you are on a ship. He was also friends with lots of famous artists and so has a lot of really cool art around the house.

Last weekend Sasha and I went on an adventure to Pichilemu, a town on the coast that is supposed to have the best surf in Chile and in the high season is a surfer town. To make a long story short, it is about three hours from Santiago and we managed to somehow get there in eight hours after changing our mind about where we were going a million times, getting on buses that broke, wandering around bus stations… So by the time we got there it was already getting dark. So we went to an empanada place that by far had the best empanadas I have tried so far and ate empanadas on the beach. The whole time we were there it was very cold and cloudy so it was not sitting on the beach weather and so instead the next day we took a long walk down the beach, ate more empanadas and watched the surfers. The surfers who go there are amazing and really fun to watch.

It has been getting cold in Santiago. We had been having a dry and warm season so far (still dry) but now it is starting to get cold (remember that it is fall here). It doesn’t get nearly as cold here as it does at Bard (there is no snow in the city ever) but the difference is that there is no indoor heating. So basically inside is the same temperature as outside but without the wind. That means sitting around the house completely bundled up in jackets and gloves, or coming in the house and getting in bed. I can’t even imagine when it gets colder and rainy.

As I have mentioned before, the smog in Santiago is awful. As it gets colder, and with the lack of rain the smog has been really bad and almost everyday is an “environmental emergency” and you are supposed to limit your exercise outside and stuff like that but no one pays attention to that because you can’t avoid it. Getting to the beach last weekend was so nice just because we were able to breath deeply without inhaling all the fumes and smog and grossness.

This past Friday my friends Isabel and Kate and I went to an Inti-Illimani concert. Inti-Illimani is a Chilean group that is very popular here. They were all in exile during the dictatorship and have since all come back to Chile. There music sounds very traditional Andean but has lyrics that are often very political. Just being around the city you hear them a lot and they are also well known outside of Chile and in the US. The concert was really fun. There are about eight people in the group plus they have other people play with them and they all play tons of really cool instruments. At one point there were 14 people on the stage all playing different things. The other fun thing about being at the concert was the people there. It was a very mixed crowd, people of every age. Everyone knows there music and is so into it so the audience sang along with them for the most popular songs.

Saturday Sasha and I went to a place called Sanctuario de la Naturaleza (Nature Sanctuary) which is a nature reserve in the hills on the edge of Santiago. It was amazing because we took the metro, the bus, and a taxi and 45 minutes later we were still in Santiago, but out of the smog and in these beautiful mountains. We took a gorgeous six hour hike that went up and wrapped around the different mountains and we got views of the snow capped Andes. The worst part was when we got a view of Santiago. All we could see was a giant brown cloud between the mountains that was so thick you couldn’t see any of the city through it. It was nice to be out of the smog, but gross to see from a distance what I am breathing everyday.

Last night I had my first Chilean mall experience. All the malls are in a very fancy neighborhood which I haven’t been to much, and looks completely different than the other parts of Santiago I know. In the mall is all the American chains that are not downtown and being in the mall felt like I was in the US, very weird. Anyway, the purpose of going to the mall was to go bowling which was really fun even though I bowled the worst game ever.

I have about another six weeks of classes, then two more weeks with tests and final papers due. The program officially ends July 12 and then I have three weeks to travel and it looks like I will be going to travel in Argentina but I don’t really have a plan yet.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


The last weekend that my parents visited took a bus to meet them and we drove (in a rental car) to Chiloé which is a big island right of the coast that is just a little bit south of the Lake District. I took and overnight bus to get there and the bus ride was uneventful until the end when I got up to go to the bathroom. The bathroom was occupied so I waited outside for and minute and then….Dumbledore emerged from the bathroom! (it is possible that it was Gandolf, could have been either) This guy had really long white hair and a really long white beard and was wearing a robe kind of thing with a sash tied around it, I thought it was very exciting. He was probably going to visit the Chiloé Wizarding School but who knows…

Let me start by saying that we were warned of lots of rain. In this area it rains a good portion of the year and this time of year is the start of the really heavy rain. The four days we were in the region we didn’t get a drop of rain and it was even sunny every single day, not even overcast, so we were very lucky. It did get very cold but we lucked out with having no rain. To get to Chiloé you have to take a ferry and bring your car on the ferry. This wasn’t the type of ferry that you think of when you think of big ferries that you drive you car onto the bottom and go sit up top. It was much more like a big boat that just had a giant platform to drive the cars onto and then not much else. Once we got onto the island we drove into Ancud which is the first town you get to. There was not much to do there without taking a tour and we were planning to spend the night somewhere else and so we took a look around the artisan market and the fish market and left. We considered a penguin tour but we were told there are no penguins this time of year…oh well. We drove further south to a little town called Dalcahue which is just a little fishing village that this time of year was free of tourists which was nice.

The problem we found was that the town was lacking in places to stay. There was a nice hotel but it seemed pricey and unnecessary so we found a hospedaje which is like a place that just rents out simple rooms. This particular place was run out of a restaurant as many of the hospedajes are and was slightly sketchy. We got two tiny little rooms. My room had two beds. One was like like a board, the other was way to soft and you just sunk into the bed. I chose the saggy one over the board. It got really really cold at night and no way did this place have a heater, so we were freezing! There were tons of blankets on the beds so once in bed it was fine but the problem was keeping ourselves warm and entertained until it was a reasonable hour to go to bed. Oh, the other bad idea (besides staying there) was eating dinner in their restaurant… We told the owners that we would be leaving early in the morning and they said that was fine. To come in and out you walk through the restaurant. We woke up in the morning and walked downstairs with our suitcases and the door to the restaurant is locked and beyond that the door out of the restaurant is locked. So we snooped around and found a door that lead out back where there were a lot of cats and trash, walked around the side of the building and found a gate that was unlocked and led to the street.

One of the big attractions in Chiloé are the churches. There is at least one church in every town but sometimes several (these are really small towns) and they are all the same very distinct style. Here are some examples from around the island.

Day two. The next day we went to a smaller island off of Chiloé. We also had to take a “ferry” there and this ferry was even smaller and more of just a platform than the last one. It was nice to have a car because we basically just drove around the island. There is a main road that goes through the towns but we turned of onto side roads and just saw lots of rural villages, fishing beaches, and amazing views.

That afternoon we took the ferry back to the main island and drove to Castro, probably the most well known city on the island. There are lots of spots in Castro with brightly painted houses that sit on stilts in the water. Most of these houses are pretty run down and poor but they are a huge tourist attraction, and you can see why, they are very cool.

I am a fan of reflection pictures (Becca- I’m not try to out do your picture…I liked yours a lot)

Here is a picture of the hotel we considered staying just because it looked so cool but didn’t stay in. By the way it is called El Unicornio Azul which means the blue unicorn…I think the pink unicorn would have been a more appropriate name, but maybe that’s the point.

Hotel number two. After the previous night we were more careful about picking a place to stay and found a cute little place and made sure it had a heater. So the place turned out to be perfect…but there was a huge party in a restaurant across the street that lasted all night playing loud music until about 6am and so we didn’t sleep very well.

Day three. The next day we drove to the national park on the island. We took a short hike that took us through the most dense forest I have ever seen. There we trees and vegetation everywhere, it is hard to describe and so little sunlight that gets in that even with our luck of having no rain everything is really wet and the path is very slippery. There are wooden bridges you have to walk up and down because in many parts the vegetation is so thick that tree trunks cover the ground and it can’t be cleared. I think the guide book says it was a rain forest, I don’t know what qualifies as a rain forest but I guess we were in one.

After being in the rain forest, me and my mom took a short hike out to a beautiful deserted ocean beach. About halfway there is became necessary to take off our shoes because the path went right through about 4 inch deep water, so we walked the rest of the way to the beach barefoot in the water and sand.

We left the park and drove off the island and up to Puerto Varas to spend the night. Puerto Varas is at the south end of the lake district and a city with lots of German influence (lots of German people, architecture, food, etc.) Hotel three, a hotel run by Germans turned out to be the best one so far, it was very nice…but my mom insists that that lady mumbled some mean comment under her breath but we don’t know if that actually happened. We drove into the city to have dinner. After driving around for a while looking for parking we decided to park in the underground parking lot of the supermarket. We went and had a very nice dinner but when we went to get the car, the supermarket was closed, and the parking lot was closed with one of those big metal doors that roles down covering the entrance way. There were some people cleaning up in the supermarket and so we banged on the window, and through the window tried to tell someone our car was stuck in the parking lot. He motioned to go around the back. We walked down a side street to the back exit of the parking lot and just found another locked metal door. So we started knocking on the big door, and someone actually came, opened the door, didn’t seemed phased at all and let us go get our car and didn’t make us pay for parking at all. In the US no one would ever just open the door and let you out with no fee…anyway that was an adventure.

The next day we drove further north to Valdivia, a town near the coast on a river. One of the guide books we had said it was the most beautiful city in Chile. It is a beautiful town but I don’t know if you can make that claim. But it did look completely different than any city I have seen so far in Chile. I think I have mentioned before (maybe not) that Chile reminds me a lot of California in that it has every kind of environment. The other think that is like California is that there are lots of earthquakes. In 1960, there was an earthquake in Valdivia that was the strongest earthquake that has ever been recorded in the world. Valdivia also had lots of German influence and previous to 1960 was filled with big German style mansions but most of the town was destroyed in the earthquake and so many of the buildings are newer and only a few old restored buildings remain. Unfortunately my dad woke up sick and so spent most of the day sleeping in the car. Me and my mom through the fish market along the river which was very fun.

There are lots of sea lions in the river that come and hang out outside the fish market to get the fish that the vendors toss back in. These are nothing like the sea lions at Pier 39, they were literally twice as big and a lot less noisy.

My dad worked up the energy to go on a boat ride down the river with us. The boat company couldn’t hassle anyone else into coming on the boat and so we got a private boat tour and spent most of the ride talking to the guide about Chilean politics.

To end the very nice weekend, on the overnight bus ride back to Santiago I got sick and once we got to Santiago my mom got sick too. So we all took it easy, sleeping a lot and not doing much for the day and a half my parents were in Santiago. For our last dinner together…well none of us were up for eating, so we didn’t have a last Chilean dinner.

I don’t mean to end on a bad note, but that is what happened. Besides the whole being sick thing, it was great weekend and all the bad hotels and getting locked in parking lots just added to the adventure. That was a really long post, thanks for making it to the end (if you did).

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Weekend in Valparaiso

We spent the first weekend my parents and Molly were here in Valparaiso. If you remember from a previous post, Valparaiso is the port town about two hours away with lots of painted houses and murals. When we first got there we went down to the port and took a guided boat tour. We were about to get in a private boat with a guy who had been hassling us until we realized he was completely ripping us off and the group tour was much cheaper. The guide spoke in Spanish and so my parents and Molly didn’t understand anything and kept asking me what he was saying but I was just enjoying the scenery and not really listening so I wasn’t much help. A picture from the boat...

The rest of the day we spent walking around in the hills with the painted houses and murals which I think are so cool and so we went back to some of the same places I had already been. Some more painted houses and mural pictures.
my mom walking down a painted street

The next day we went to Viña del Mar for the day to go to the beach. It was a beautiful day and Molly and I planned to go swimming in the water, even though we knew it would be freezing because that is what we do. We got to the beach and it turns out you are not allowed to swim, you can only wade. We heard there was a beach further down where you could swim so we started walking and realized that it was really far so we decided to just stick our feet in. Well the water was about a million times colder than we had expected and way to cold to swim (it was nice out but not that hot) and so I guess it was good we never found the swimming beach. We wandered down to the pier for lunch. Molly ordered a hamburguesa completa (a hamburger with everything on it which means mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, and avocado), and this is what comes…
Notice how it is significantly larger than her hand, it was probably about the size of four hamburgers and she didn’t even like it so only took about three bites of the whole thing.

The next day we went to the Open Sky Museum which is just another hill with lots of murals on houses but they were all painted as part of a project and are labeled and there are maps. These murals were all much more abstract and I didn’t like them as much though there were some that I liked and some fun houses.

And the family picture we kept meaning to take all weekend…

We came back to Santiago Sunday evening and my parents got on an overnight bus to go to the Lake District for the week. Molly wasn’t leaving until Monday night and so spent the night with me. The next day Molly and I wandered around Santiago. We went to see an exhibit of Spanish artists, Picasso, Miró and Goya. The exhibit was really good and the venue was also very cool. I forgot my camera so I don’t have any pictures but it is in this old train station that is now used for art shows and concerts. We also went and walked through the Palacio de la Moneda which is the presidential palace and is completely open to the public. Molly was only staying for a week because she had to get back to school and so I brought her to the airport Monday night to go home.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Firestein Bilick Family Visits Chile

I know it has been a really long time since I have posted anything. My parents and my sister have been around on and off for the past two and a half weeks and so I have been really busy. I plan to write about the past few weeks in a few posts so keep checking back.

Sunday about two and a half weeks ago my parents and Molly were supposed to arrive in Santiago. Their connecting flight from San Francisco to Dallas was delayed and so they missed the flight to Santiago and it only goes once a day. So instead of spending Sunday in Santiago they spent the day at a hotel in the middle of nowhere by the Dallas airport doing nothing and eating at Denny’s. Finally they got on a flight and arrived in Santiago on Monday morning. It was so nice to see them and weird to be across the world in a city that I slightly know and they don’t know at all and seeing them all. Because I traveled for four weeks before coming here I packed very light and had barely brought anything with me. They brought me a whole bag of things from home. It is so nice to just have things like your favorite clothes or bags or things like that that I had been wanting. They also brought me yummy chocolate and a bag of my mom’s homemade macaroons! Having missed a whole day of activities I planned I took them out right away to walk around the downtown. We first went to the central market which is a huge fish market with lots of seafood restaurants. It is fun and has really good food but I hate walking through there because everyone hassles you to come to their restaurant and it is really annoying. We made it through all the people hassling us and found a restaurant and had a good meal. Maybe taking them out so soon was a bad idea. As we walked around the downtown my parents and Molly all started to get really tired. They had been traveling for two days and did not have the energy to be walking around. We stopped on a bench for a break and my mom fell fast asleep, everyone was cranky, so finally they all went back to the hotel to sleep for the afternoon.

Basically the whole week consisted of seeing my family at every moment I had free, then leaving them to go to class, and then meeting them again for dinner and hanging out at the hotel until late and walking home to go to bed. So I have had not a free moment to do work or anything. Tuesday I had class all day and so they spent the day on their own and even went on the buses for the first time and got to experience some of the micro culture. Wednesday, the woman who I went to the Passover seder with took my family to a neighborhood called la Victoria for a tour kind of thing. It was a really amazing place and I am going to write a separate blog post about it so keep checking back.

Wedneday night my real family met my host family. My host parents invited my parents over for dinner. I was slightly nervous about how it was going to work out but was relieved that I wouldn’t have to be a complete translator because my host dad speaks perfect English with hardly any accent because he lived in the US for 11 year including all of college and grad school. My host mom told me she doesn’t know any English (although everyone has to take it in high school) and I had been told that my host sister speaks pretty good English but had never heard her speak it. It ended up going so well. The conversation was all in English. It turns out that my host mom understands a lot of English from learning it in school and from so much English TV and movies but we sometimes had to translate for her and we had to translate when she talked. My host sister speaks pretty good English, probably about the same level that I speak Spanish. But it was easy to have a conversation because my host dad could speak to my parents. Although I knew more or less about my host family’s politics, my parents got into detail about it and also found out all about their history which is actually really interesting. So my parents and my host family have the same politics which worked out very nicely. They also had similar experiences that they could share. Like my host dad was saying that he was in the US during the 60’s and was a hippie and then my dad said that he was a hippie in the 60’s too. Anyway it all went very well and everyone liked each other a lot.

Although I have been here for a while there are so many things in the city that I haven’t done yet. One thing I had wanted to do was go to Cerro San Cristobal which is this huge hill in the middle of the city that has a giant park on it. So Thursday we spent the morning on San Cristobal. The easiest way to get to the top of the hill is you take a funicular which is this tram/elevator type thing which takes you up to the top.

When you get to the top there is a view of the city. Santiago is a very smoggy city and some days are worse than others. The city is surrounded my mountains and you can judge how smoggy it is by how clearly you can see the mountains. When we got to the top we could not see a single mountain…pretty gross.
Molly looks ridiculous but notice how there are no mountains in the background.

Then to get around the mountain you can either walk around or take a gondola. So we took the gondola around the mountain which was a lot of fun.

I plan on going back again to explore because there is so much to do on the hill, there is lots of hiking, there are really fancy pools, there is a zoo, a Japanese garden, a botanical garden, and who knows what else. I had to run to class afterwards but my parents went to see one of Pablo Neruda’s three houses, another thing that I haven’t done yet but need to do sometime soon. Thursday night I took Molly out to meet some of my friends but unfortunately a lot of people were busy so she only met two people and we had to wake up early so we didn’t stay out for long. The next day we woke up early to take a bus to Valparaiso where we spent the weekend. More on that soon.