Wednesday, August 8, 2012

A visit to the bank

I went to the bank yesterday, which like usual, had me waiting in line to then tell the attendant I needed to take out $500.000+ in Chilean pesos (over $1,000 USD).  This is a typical process, because my bank account is only a "cuenta de ahorro" (savings account) and has some restrictions -- I can only take cash out 10 times per year without a penalty, mainly -- and the banks are only open Monday through Friday until 2:00 pm.  Not the most convenient hours.

Since May my "carné" (Chilean ID) has been expired, as I'm still waiting for the paperwork from the government so I can get a new one -- a process that can take 6 months or more, so I have to show the cashier a stamped document that says I have 6 more months to be able to use my ID card.  About 50% of the time this works out okay, however this time I wasn't so lucky; the cashier said I had to go over to another line to get approval to take out my money.  I walk over to the other line, that has about 15 people, and after jumping in front (to avoid the 30 minute wait) and asking about approval I'm directed to the manager's office.  I walk over, knock on the cubicle wall, and the 55 year-old gentlemen finally acknowledges me, I explain the situation, he takes a copy of my paperwork and sends me back to the original line.

I finally get my cash and stuff it in my sock, a habit I've picked up, as I have to walk around the rest of the day with the cash on me until I can store it in a secret place in my bedroom.  And I'm off on my way.

An extremely typical visit to the bank.

Cash safe keeping for the day.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Gustavo's Bike Repair Shop

One of the best features of my neighborhood is the local bike maintenance guy, Gustavo.  He runs his humble shop, which is down a short alley just in front of the San Cristóbal hill (a major tourist attraction), with a sparkling smile and a calm demeanor.

I get most of my repairs done here, quick axle tightening, brake pads, you name it.  Gustavo always quietly asseses the bike, makes a quick repair and then throws out your price ("quinientos peso" -- about $1, for a quick tightening or trouble shooting).  He also does full bike repairs for $28.000 CLP, about $55; which includes full disassembly, re-greasing and full cleaning.

When you drop off your bike to Gustavo he gives no receipt or documentation, all is based on his knowledge of his customers and the customers' trust in him.  So far, so good.
The sign for Gustavo's bike shop, located down a short, dead-end street.
Gustavo, replacing the chain on my bike.
Filled with bike parts.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Valparaíso Birthday Celebration

Last Saturday a group of nine took a trip to Valparaíso city, a gritty, colorful port town about 1.5 hours from Santiago.  There we ate, drank and "carreteamos" (read: partied) to celebrate our buddy Sven's 25th birthday.
On our way from Santiago to Valparaíso, about 1.5 hours from Santiago. Valpo a port city, known for its colorful houses, winding and steep streets, and gritty vibe. A total of 9 of us were traveling, here are Cristián and Lexie.
The main plaza, Plaza Sotomayor.  The dogs just sleep anywhere they want here (and just about everywhere in Chile).
The port machinery.  Our group made its way to see a house that we could rent for the night, passing through some twisty streets with some nice views of the city.
Colorful city.
More twisty streets.
Beautiful views of the scattered architecture could be seen in every direction.
The house wasn't great, so we returned down to the city.  The sky was grey and the lights from the city were impressive.
A quick stop for some empanadas and below-average pizza at the local panadería.
Waiting for our food to be heated.
Back to the main street where we found our hostel, with many bars and restaurants.
First, a break for dinner and drinks.
Sopa de mariscos (seafood soup).
The evening entertainment.

Waiting in the rain to decide where to go.
A quick stop at Lider, the big supermarket (owned by Wal-Mart) for some Red Bull.
On to Irlandés pub (Ireland pub), a place widely known for a great selection of international beers.

Some quality brew.

Even the popular Rogue brewery.  This quality comes at a cost, though.  A typical beer of this kind costs between $6 and $8USD.
And of course the traditional "Happy Birthday"
The gentleman on the trumpet (in the background) serenaded us to the song "cumpleaños feliz" ("happy birthday").
Through the rain to the club "El Huevo".
Waiting for our "entradas".
The ticket to get in, fortunately we were on a list and got in for free.
Kuntsmann beer, a high-quality Chilean beer.  Cans were only $1,000 pesos (about USD$2).
Enjoying ourselves.
The second floor salsa room.  It was raining, hence the attempted puddle controls with the cardboard on the ground.  Alan made the mistake of falling flat on his back in a puddle after attempting a salsa spin.  Whoops!
The band playing the popular hits.
Waiting for the birthday boy to awake.  Amazingly he had no hangover.
The rainy day outside our hostel.
Our hostel.
Valparaíso makes for some great pictures.  Very romantic, no?
On our way to the Germany-Denmark Euro game.  Here we are outside the German society.  Noone was there waiting for us, but our determination wasn't lessened.
Breakfast, going down an alley to the famous Jota Cruz (in English "J Cross") for the infamous chorillana (pronounced "chore-ee-yana"), a Chilean specialty.
Entering the place.
Starting off with a "maraqueta" bread, very typical Chilean.
Another music serenade.  Apparently this guy is always at this restaurant.
The chorillana, a heart-straining mixture of french fries, onions and meat.
On a little bus to the other side of Valparaíso to watch the game.  Cost is 300 pesos (about USD$0.60).
Entering the building of some of Sven's friends.  Notice the street dogs, which are incredibly common in Chile, having a grand time.
Ah, gametime.
Very focused on the match.
Germany scores to go up 2-1, to eventually win the match!!!
The view of Valparaíso from the 15th floor.
Quick taxi ride down some steep roads, on our way to the bus station.
Three tickets to Santiago, $3,000 CLP each (about USD $6).
Quick stop at the bathrooms before the bus, cost 150 pesos.
A pain to pay for some bathrooms, but worth it.
And back to Santiago, a busy metro station due to Father's Day travelling.  Good times had by all this weekend, and some much-needed sleep to come.