The city changes at night, and I’m a fan.
Last night was a pretty interesting set of events, and it just kind of cemented notions that I’ve been thinking about for a while about life and culture here. Last night I went to a party at my friends’ apartment and, a short while later, the cops came and broke it up.
This seemed strange at the time, and still strange today, but it was just one part of the night that included a) attempting to break into my friend’s door after the lock broke, b) failing, and c) attempting then to break into the window and d) failing. Now I’m just waiting for the cops to call so I can go get my beer with Obama.
But the fun part came later, wandering the streets of Santiago with a rag-tag group of gringos, combining and splitting up as we ran into other groups of friends, or if some of them wanted to stop somewhere, and eventually we decided that the walk itself was our activity for the evening, and split up.
It was a beautiful night, and I walked around for most of the time in just a t-shirt, which was a fantastic feeling after 7 weeks of freezing nights and colder days. Getting out of bed in the morning is still a pretty shocking experience, temperature-wise, but it’s not as bad as it was, and I know it’s only going to be more and more beautiful in the city.
Which is fantastic, because I’ve been having a really good time walking around the city, night and day, a product of feeling more safe walking around, secure in my Spanish, should I need it, and a better map of Santiago in my mind, which is continuing to grow as I explore.
Two other things make the experience of walking even better, I think, addressing respectively the topics of security and hunger. We get warned a lot about walking at night, given the dangers inherent to any big city whilst walking alone, but I’ve been feeling fairly secure, and here’s why:
The dogs, and the Hot Dogs.
There are a lot of dogs wandering the streets of Santiago, and the vast majority of them are very nice, affectionate, and at times, extremely protective. Sure, every now and then there are annoying/stupid ones, like the one the barks outside my window all night, every night, or the one who chased after a speeding car and managed to bite it, only to be knocked back because it was, well… a speeding car, and that’s what happens. But most of them are really nice, and take to people really well, protecting them.
When walking alone at night, I would argue that it’s a legitimate strategy to carry a small bag of jerky or something in your pocket, and if you start feeling a little paranoid, find a dog and feed it a couple bites of meat. You and that dog will be joined at the hip from then on, and even if they won’t necessarily go all Buck-like (Call of the Wild) on people who bother you, it’ll certainly serve as a deterrent.
The other things, the hot dogs, serve in two ways. On the one, they’re delicious, and open all night. I got off the bus last night, dreading both a walk down a shady street, listening to the growling of my empty stomach. What I found instead were a dozen places selling several types of hot dogs, the most common being “completos,” tomatoes, sauerkraut and mayo, and the “italiano,” which is tomato, avocado and, of course, mayo (s0 named for the colors of each food, forming the colors of the Italian flag).
My hunger satiated, I felt great walking down this road, knowing that all of these shops were open, flooding light into the street like the title of some Jonathan Safran Foer novel. I’m enjoying this city, even if I have to go back to class on Tuesday.
Tonight I’m going to a protest downtown for the recent killing of Mapuches, the largest indigenous tribe in Chile, and that should be pretty damn interesting. I need to figure out how to a) figure out what’s going on, as well as b) not get arrested.
But if I do, at least I’ll always have Twitter.