Santiago was what I needed. I was able to stay with a friend of a friend of a friend (you know how it is) who were absolutely incredible to me. I felt so welcomed and at home, and spent a week in a room to myself (woo!), sleeping in a comfortable bed, eating incredible food, and generally being emotionally, physically and mentally nourished.
It is because this that I see Santiago so positively – but I’m sure that i would have appreciated the city as the great city that it is nevertheless. I hid from the rain in several contemporary galleries in Santiago, housed in the most incredible buildings with beautiful collections.
A highlight was a visit, and subsequent conversation, to the Museum of Memory – dedicated to the unquantifiable thousands who lost their lives under Pinochet’s 17 year dictatorship. It is so shocking (or perhaps I didn’t listen in History class?) to realise that I hadn’t learnt about Chile’s volatile political history at all – but was so interested by it all. Particularly, I felt that the museum skirted around the reason the coup initially happened, acting like it was something that lacked any support from Chileans, and marking Allende as a hero. Although after several discussions, I think that the issue is so much more complex than that (as anything is I suppose) – Allende had his negatives as well, completely ignored by the museum.
I also can say that I have now been involved in censuses for 3 countries – I was counted in the Chilean census! The Chilean census forced everything to shut down – no work, public transport, cafes, anything – for an entire day, while government volunteers manually interview the entire country. Although it was a disappointing realisation that I couldn’t explore more of Santiago, I had a lovely day cooking and eating with my hosts.
On an afternoon in one particularly gentrified neighbourhood in the city, I tried my first ever coffee! The barista was ashamed that I, coming from two of the most dominant coffee cities in the world, wasn’t a fan – and proceeded to make me a coffee. Although I can’t say I would drink the whole thing again, I didn’t not enjoy the flavour, and loved talking to the barista about the immensely scientific process that is coffee making. Learn something new everyday.
I also attended a lecture at the Prince of Wales Country Club in fancy suburbia by Michael Burleigh, a very distinguished British academic, although in my opinion arrogant and utterly sensationalist. Although the lecture was supposed to be regarding international relations and political relationships, it was almost entirely a lecture promoting racism – saying that the Chinese middle class (who he stated destroyed the lives of lower class Chinese) deserved to buy up all the houses in London, but all refugees from anywhere in the Middle East were not allowed to seek asylum, as all they wanted to do was drive jaguars along Park Lane (? Wut) and build mosques to invade Britain with Wahhabist ideologies. It was really great to go to, as it is one of the few situations in recent memory which has made my blood boil to the extent that I am forced to argue against idiocy, forcing me to reinforce why I believe the things I do. I thought I made some excellent points when I accosted him after the lecture, but as all of those people who purposefully stir do, he liked to change the argument as soon as he realised he was not going to be able to win. A quick talker with no moral backbone. (That’s enough of that, my temperature’s rising again).