So here I am, back from my seven-day foray in Peru, a whirlwind trip around the country. It was amazing, and I’ll be updating about that soon, when I have the willpower and time to sit and describe it for hours, but in the meantime there’s been plenty to talk about here in Chile.
School is going to start to get pretty rough, with essays and quizzes galore in the next month. I forced myself to sit and read some Joseph Stiglitz yesterday and today and managed to get through something like 40 pages in just under 6 hours… somewhat frustrating, considering the mountain of reading I have waiting for me.
Today was also a bit frustrating, as I got a not-so-nice grade on a quiz I thought I’d done really well on. The quiz was about inflation, a concept that I am fully familiar with, having taken four years of econ classes. Still, apparently talking about the causes, effects, winners and losers of inflation didn’t quite do the trick, as what he was really looking for was a straight-up “inflation is an increase in the level of prices” definition, which I didn’t have. I guess I just need to make sure to be as slow, obvious and deliberate as possible from now on.
I am now moving on to my next subject.
I got back from Peru on the morning of Sept. 18, which is Chile’s Independence Day (from Spain, 1810). In between the 11th, the anniversary of the coup that put Pinochet in power in 1973, and the 18th, a lot of the country basically shuts down for a week-long series of festivals known collectively as “Fiestas Patrias,” (it doesn’t really translate, but it’s something like “Parties for the Homeland”).
We had school off for Fiestas Patrias, thus the Peru trip, but there was still plenty of merrymaking left waiting for me when I got back. A lot of Chileans go visit family, have big gathering, etc., as would be typical of any long holiday break, but the Fondas are the really cool parts.Â A lot like a gigantic state fairs, but dotted throughout the city (and country, I suppose), Fondas are the best of everything when it comes to celebrating your Chilean pride.
After dropping my bags in my apartment and a quick shower (eager to get rid of that 9-day travel beard), I met up with some friends and headed to the National Stadium. We loaded into the Metro and headed out to a nearby stop and walked in, and it was a madhouse from the beginning. There was nothing actually inside the stadium, but we walked around the outside ring for several hours, eating delicious food (Choripan, or basically sausage in bread) and delicious drink (the police don’t care about open-bottle laws during Fiestas Patrias).
Among other things, we checked out the rodeo, which turned out to be more depressing than anything else. This is to be expected, naturally, but this rodeo didn’t consist of anything other than two guys on horses driving a calf into a wall over and over again. The calf would run around the pen, one of the horsemen on its tail, and another horseman would come and shuffle sideways to rhythm of the calf, penning it against the wall and eventually causing it to crash into the wall. Very impressive horse skills, but by the 10th time they did it, we were more bored than anything, and we quickly left.
The Fonda had rides, including a Drop Zone-type ride that a couple of my friends dared to go on, and though our search for those Spanish-style flat black hats came up fruitless, we all had a lot of fun.
The next day a few of us went to Parque O’Higgins (named for Bernardo O’Higgins, the delightfully mutton-chopped “Liberator” of Chile, who fought for and then subsequently ruled Chile in the early 1800s). This was a bit different, as it was laid out in a park, rather than around a stadium, but was fun nonetheless. It was quite hot out, so we quenched our thirst with ice cream bars, fruit smoothies and other goodies. Military aircraft passed overhead every few minutes, at times trailing red, white and blue smoke (Chile’s colors too).
We headed past that to a more open area, where a saw one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever seen: Guinea Pig Roulette.
That’s right. This man took bids from people (mostly kids and their parents) and each got a number of a small numbered cardboard box, 30 of which were arranged in a circle. After taking numbers from as much of the crowd as he could, he took out a guinea pig and, spinning it several times so as to disorient it, waited for it to choose a box. So strange. I’m uploading the video to YouTube right now, so I’ll post it when it finishes (sometime next week).
After that we stopped by a giant field where thousands of people were flying kites, which was fairly reminiscent of any American July 4th celebration, much more so than the gigantic military parade going on behind us. Row after row of soldiers, clad in green fatigues to white snow gear (with skis), or anything in between, the military put on an impressive showing, followed by President Michelle Bachelet touring through the middle and waving at the townsfolk.
Alas, it’s way late, and I have a big day tomorrow (covering the presidential debate, woo!). I’ve got a nice backlog of articles to write, so I’ll keep adding to that and work on it when I can. Peru updates, and more general updates to come!