Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Library card and the Café Literarios

Just recently I signed up for library membership.  Providencia (one of the main comunas in the city center) has a small number of Café Literarios (Literary Cafes) where you can relax and find books and other reading materials.  These places are a bit different than US libraries, in that they are more like, well, cafés.  You can find a few books here, but they are mainly places to relax and read or work on your computer.

The membership cost me about USD$20 and is good for a year.  After I got my membership I found out just how small (and poor) the library collection is -- they don't have any books-on-tape!
One of the Cafe Literarios, found in the center of Parque Bustamante, just south of the main Santiago hub (Baquedano and Plaza Italia).
A good place to sit, read a newspaper, drink a coffee or surf the web.
The upstairs, with a long table for computers and stands of books.  The size of the book collection leaves a bit to be desired.

The second-floor walkway out the back of the building, with a beautiful view.
The view south through the park.

The official registration form (no library card issued, I'll just use my Chilean ID).

Monday, July 25, 2011

The end of classes with the kids

English classes with two of my favorite students ("the kids", both 5 and 7 years old) have ended.  Florian and Alexandre's family moved out of Santiago last week to follow the parent's careers and to gain experience living in the States.

Classes with the kids were an interesting experience; we played card games, read books about spiderman, built things with a plastic tool set, drew pictures of superheroes and they even cooked crepes for me out of play dough (the kids are French, of course). 

Getting to their house was a unique experience as well, requiring a metro ride and then squeezing into the back of a taxi colectivo while the taxi driver (usually with a cross hanging from the mirror and some form of latin music blaring from the speakers) cruised around the neighborhood dropping the passengers off at their destinations. 

For posterity's sake here are some photos of a very cool card game that we used to play.  Called Mille Bornes the game requires the players to select cards that enable them to travel 1000 kilometers.  The first person to travel exactly 1000 kilometers (and not over) wins, and they must avoid flat tires, car crashes and running out of gas to do it.  One of the funniest parts of the game was the car engine noises that the kids made when they selected their 50, 75, 100, or 200 km cards.  Who says kids need video games to have fun these days?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Skiing in the Andes - La Parva

Julia and I got the offer of a lifetime over the weekend, a good friend of mine, and an avid skier, invited us out to the mountains to go skiing.

We started off at 9:30 am from Santiago, expecting heavy traffic on the one-way road to the ski slopes.  The 1.5 hour drive took us about 3 hours as we climbed slowly up the mountain side.  Interestingly, the direction of the road changes during the day -- in the morning you can climb to the top and after 1 pm you're allowed to take the road back down to the foot of the mountain.  At the base of the mountain there is a police checkpoint where the carabineros (police officers) check to make sure you have either snow chains or 4 wheel-drive.

At approximately 10,000 feet the ski slop was beautiful, and daunting.  Julia and I spent a few hours on the "beginner" slope and Tomás and Paulina spent most of the day on their own, making their way to the top of the mountain (about 11,500 feet).  After a picnic lunch of leftover pizza and clementine oranges Julia and I hopped on the ski lift ("telesilla") for the 1.4 kilometer ride up the hill.  From there we had the pleasure of skiing back down, a fairly long descent with spectacular views.

The sun started to sink low, the clouds began to rise up the mountain, and the temperature dropped significantly when the slopes closed at 5 pm.  The four spent a while drinking hot wine and coffee in the restaurant and watched the sun set above the clouds off in the distance.
A traffic jam ("taco") on the way to the top.
Forty curves on the way to the mountain top.
Snow on a cactus.
Paulina, Tomás and Julia; getting ready.
Anticipation building.
All ready to go.
Beautiful view from the "beginner" slope.
Me on my second run downhill.
The "telesilla" -- 1.4 kilometers long.
La bandera Chilena and the clouds below.
The sun sets and the cold rolls in.