Happy Independence Day, everyone! Today started off like any other day: waking up at 1:30 pm, taking a cab to La Católica, playing “fútbol” for several hours, etc. The Caligringos decided to play soccer, on a back field on the La Católica campus, and it was actually quite fun. I, like most kids, played soccer for a couple of years when I was younger, but it’s been several years, and it was quite evident on the field who was actually good and was used to playing, and who was there just to have a good time and try not to hurt their team’s chances too much (read: the people wearing jeans).
At one point, and continuing for a while, a dog joined the game, chasing after the soccer ball, back and forth across the court. As cute as this sounds, and was for the first hour, I was truly impressed by this dog’s willingness to continue getting hit in the face time and time again, as it seemed to love jumping directly into the ball’s path. Still, filling his role as all-time defender, he added a new element to the game, forcing both teams to learn to pass and shoot quickly, because as the axiom seemed to suggest, if the dog catches up to you, you’ve held onto the ball too long.
After the game, every gringo in the country was acutely aware of the date, and we all had our plans to live as American of a day as possible from halfway around the world. Some were baking apple pie, others were planning on getting sh**faced on good-old-American Budweiser. I was getting Chinese food with my host family.
The day also marked an important collegiate finals soccer game between La U (the fútbol team for La Chile) and Union Española, a rival team. Still, try as we might, we could not find a place to sit and watch it. The rare café we found with it playing was packed, and if we had managed to find a seat, the players would have been nothing but brightly colored specks on a tiny screen 20+ feet away. Alas, we returned home, me to my comida China and my friends, I would discover later, to be semi-mugged and then saved by the Latin Bruce Wayne (story to come).
The Chinese food was excellent, as it seems they had bought a bunch of food and prepared it themselves, bringing an interesting (and delicious) new approach to fried rice. Still, I was in no hurry to complain, and had to stop myself, as overeating would have been easy.
Plus, I had a long night ahead of me, as I heard we were going to a nice, quiet American bar to toast the US of A and knock back a few American brews, speak English and generally reminisce of the land we’d left behind just two short weeks earlier. This bar, literally called “Basic Bar and Restaurant,” would be a nice place to do that.
Or so I thought.
It turns out there are quite a few gringos in the city of Santiago, and I don’t mean to exaggerate that every single one of them must have been at this bar. Basic was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people, decorated gaily in Red White and Blue, with strobe lights flashing and a deejay busting everything from Michael Jackson to Bon Jovi to N’Sync. The beer bong started getting passed around, though I didn’t take up the opportunity, not wanting to imagine where that mouthpiece had been, and Escudo (the Chilean equivalent of Budweiser) flowed freely all night.
All in all, it was a really good time. Most of the students in our program turned out, packing an already filled-to-the-brim bar. I had my neighbors with me, and as surprised as they were to discover that all of my friends could speak Spanish, it was nice to see that some things never really change, as bars, it seems, are pretty universal concepts.