April 25, 2006

The Job Hunt Begins

Oh, its good to be back to the warmth of Santiago! This time I decided to stay in a different area of the city called Bellavista, and happened upon a great hostel where I may even have a job for the next while. Its run by a very friendly American ex-pat (there seems to be lots of them living here in Chile) who knows everything there is to know about the city and is being very good in helping me to get settled.
This morning I had my interview with The Santiago Times, an English newspaper, and have been offered a position, although after careful consideration I have decided not to take it. Initially, it is not going to pay well and it could be some months before I actually get to do any writing. I was disappointed that the job was not what I thought it might be, but never mind, there are lots of things I can do here.
And so, the job hunt begins in earnest! Tomorrow, i´m hitting the English schools around the city to see if they are looking for teachers, and I also have a few other contacts in the city who have told me to get back to them and they will see what they can find. Hopefully, the hostel job will keep me floating for the time being.
The next thing I have to do is enroll in a Spanish course - this, I am really looking forward to. Having landed in Lima, nearly 4 months ago, with ZERO Spanish, I am now getting quite good at understanding conversations, although cant string much together myself. I hope, after some proper classes, to really improve!
It will take some time and effort before I can settle in, but Im looking forward to spending the next year of my life here.

April 19, 2006

Al Fin del Mundo

Okay, I´m getting a bit lazy about this blog thing, I know. Ive been pretty busy for the last ten days or so. Once again, I left Santiago and took a bus, this time to Puerto Montt in the lake district. It was cold and grey there and I was glad to be just staying one night. Far from a picturesque place, it looks like what I imagine a small Alaskan fishing town to be. The local people looked a lot different from their fellow countrymen in the North - it seems that the further south you travel here, the whiter people´s skin in and they have longer facial features.
Anyway, before I go off on a tangent about faces, the following morning I was up bright and early to catch the NAVIMAG ferry. In hindsight, this was an excellent decision and well worth the money. Over the course of the three day trip, we passed some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, saw whales, dolphins, otters, shipwrecks and lots more! On the first and third days, the ship was navigating through narrow channels, which meant that the water was quite calm, and so it was pretty pleasant. The second day, however, we were out in open sea and there were lots of green faces and projectile vomiting! On this day, the boat docked at a tiny little town called Puerto Eden, which was interesting because 15 of the 200 inhabitants are pure-blooded Kawesqar people. They look completely different to the CHileans, looking more like Asians. It was a strange little place and seems to be really cut off from civilisation.
Then something completely random and unexpected happened! I was chatting to this aging American hippy called Jeff about matters Irish, when the guy sitting beside us decided to put in his two cents. The minute he opened his mouth, it was obvious he was Irish, so obviously we struck up a conversation. I thought I vaguely recognised him, but couldnt put my finger on where I might have seen him before. Anyway, after about an hour of conversation, he mentioned that he was meeting some friends of his down in Patagonia. Something clicked in my brain because I knew one of Brian´s friends was going down there, so I said to him "Youdont know Dave Nevin, do you?" To cut it short, it turns out that this guy Fergal was in my brothers class in college and they share common friends. Its funny how small the world is really. As I was also heading to Ushuaia, we spent the next few days travelling together and it was great to meet up with Dave.
Ushuaia is absolutely amazing and is exactly what the end of the world should look like! It is surrounded by huge mountainous towers which lend it a very dramatic feel. The town itself is small and very touristy but not in an unpleasant way. We stayed in a great hostel there, one of the best Ive been in so far in South America. Proving yet again, how small the world is, I met an Irish guy who knows a friend of mine quite well and then a girl from Newmarket on Fergus who knows my cousins! There were a lot of Irish in Ushuaia, which was interesting.
Myself and Dave climbed a glaciar and had a great laugh slipping and falling all over the place. Another day, I got on a boat down the Beagle Channel which I hugely enjoyed. We were blessed with good weather for the days we were there. I didnt get to see any penguins, unfortunately, as the feckers have all migrated at this time of the year. Its getting very cold now. I did see lots of sealions and king cormorants though, so that kept me happy. Our guide on the boat was excellent and I found the history of the area fascinating. For example, 6,500 years ago Shamana people used to live in these tiny little huts on the islands of the channel. They didnt wear clothes - can you imagine being naked all the time 1000km from Antartica!! The females of these tribes were the ones who swam searhcing for food (naked) - typical! The men sat in the boats tending fires which were lit on a mound of stones in the middle and waited for the women to swim back with food. The Beagle Channel is divided right down the middle bewteen Chile and Argentina and is bio-oceanic, opening to the Pacific on one side and the Atlantic on the other.
Due to some bad research on my part, Im now stranded in a place called El Calafate. I took a flight up here yesterday, foolishly assuming that I could continue by bus on to Bariloche and then on to Santiago from there. People warned me about the lack of good transport down here at this time of the year (the minute the summer months pass, everything starts shutting down here) but I didnt heed their warnings! This morning, I found out that I cant fly out of here - all flights are full for a few days and I cant even fly on to Buenos Aires! So, the only remaining option is a 36 hr bus journey to Bariloche leaving at 3am. Yuk! Its looking like thats what Im going to have to do.
Normally, none of this would bother me as I have as much time as I want, but during the week I was called for a job interview in Santiago and I promised the guy I would try to be back within the week. He was pretty understanding, given where I was at the time (Ushuaia) but I got the feeling he wouldnt wait forever either! so I need to be back in Santiago by the wknd. Ive made up my mind at this stage to discard my wokring visa for NZ and spend the year in Chile instead. Working in NZ is probably just going to be like working at home really, and here I get to continue perfecting my wobbly Spanish and experiecne a different life. So, Im praying that this job works out.
So, the travels are going to be put on pause for a year, and hopefully I can pick up where I left off after that.

April 8, 2006

Turning 27

Wel, as most of you already know, it was my birthday a couple of days ago and what a treat it was to be celebrating it here in Chile, although I have to admit I did feel a little homesick as I usually spend it with Brian (my younger brother). His is the day after mine (pause to perform ritual birthday dance for Brian - Happy Birthday!
It turned into a sort of three day celebration - the gang in the hostel were looking for an excuse to party - an i got some pretty thoughful gifts from some of them. I think Ive said this before, but the smallest things mean so much when you{re backpacking. My favourite present was a pair of jeans which fit like a glove! from my German friend Markus. On the afternoon of the 5th we had a great outdoor lunch and splurged on a decent bottle of Chilean wine. It was great to be just lazing around in the sun contmeplating life as a 27year old!
Latera couple of the hostel staff took me out for a birthday beer.
Matt and Sky didnt get back from Mendoza until the following night so we waited until then to go out dancing. One thing I{m really going to miss about South America is dancing -the people here seem to be born with rhythm and its so infectious! There{s no such thing as sitting on a couch for the night in a club nursing your drink.
Anyway, reluctant as I am to leave the warmth of Santiago, tomorrow I{m off to Puerto Montt to catch the ferry to the tip of South America. I{m hugely looking forward to it, although its getting very cold down there now. I have no idea whether I will be back in Santiago again or not. I might just keep going to Argentina and Brazil from there, but I{m finding it hard to let go of this city.

April 4, 2006

Stuck on Santiago

God, I cant believe I had only planned to stay in Santiago for 2 nights and Im still here a month later! Its like the Bermuda Triangle of South America - people get lost forever in the HI hostel! In fact, Im really just enjoying taking some time out from the hectic pace of bus journeys and taking tours. Its great to just unpack your backpack for a few weeks and relax.
Ive really enoyed the last week here actually . My American friends Matt and Sky also came back to HI and we had a little reunion the other night. The week started with a stupid jokeamong all of us about pirates (which I wont explain because it would take too long) but it just grew and grew and got more and more ridiculous, and it ended up with us all dressed as pirates on Saturday night. Ive never had so much fun in one night. There was a bbq on the same night for one of the staff members birthdays, and so there were a lot of CHileanos in the house. At the start of the njight, they were all huddled at one side of the terrace looking at us like we were crazy, but it wasnt too long before they just got into the stupiduty of it all and it turned into a great night. I salsa danced for so long, I just love it! We have some hilarious photos of us with big black eyes,bandanas, hooks, a parrot and lots of rum!
The last couple of days have been spent job-hunting, which is proving fruitless so far. I am leaving here in a couple of days to go South to Patagonia, and if I havent heard anything back from any of the schools at that point, I probably wont come back to Santiago but continue on to Argentina instead. At this stage though, I have my heart set on living here for a while and I will be disappointed if I cant find work. Im also considering an Irish bar but my lack of Spanish is a problem in applying for any kind of job other than English teaching.
On Sunday we spent the day wandering around Santiago´s flea and artisan markets and I bought a lot of stuff which I probably dont need, but it was really enjoyable. My favourite purchase was a fantastic black Russian military hat which i will have to send home. They have the weirdest stuff in these markets, including one stall with tonnes of old Nazi memorabilia which you can buy for a song.
Santiago is hurting my pocket significantly though and Patagonia isnt going to be any cheaper!