Chilean Warmth

Trip Start Sep 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2011

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Flag of Chile  ,
Friday, May 13, 2011

After a winding bus ride through the Andes Mountains, I was more than ready to find a good place to stay once I was dropped off in Valparaiso, Chile.  Looking for the easiest exit out of the bus terminal, I headed towards the main gate but found that it was closed.  As a growing crowd stood around me and the security guard let a few people inside the building, I quickly slipped out. 

The street outside was perfectly quiet with the exception of a dozen soldiers.  I assumed this was normal since the National Congress building was located across the street and made a beeline for the only two taxis available.  After haggling with the drivers for five minutes, I asked why no one else was around.  It turned out there had been a huge student protest just before my arrival.  As I took a closer look, I noticed an armored truck, security fences and banners down the street

Remembering all those State Department warnings about avoiding protests, I realized maybe this wasn't such a good place to be standing.  I turned around and tried saying this in Spanish, but the elderly man standing in the doorway of his shop just shook his head in confusion.  Luckily the only other person on the street came to my rescue.  She asked where I was trying to go and advised me not to bother with a taxi.  As we started walking and talking she told me her name was Vanessa and she's a photography student. Upon seeing the protest, she realized that her classes were cancelled and offered to show me how to use the metro system.  

Before parting ways she offered additional advice about a better part of town to stay and invited me to get together the following day.  The next afternoon we enjoyed a typical Chilean lunch and I tagged along during one of her class assignments.  She even helped me purchase a new cell phone since my bubble-gum repair job on my old one no longer worked.  As we exchanged stories about our lives and dreams, I felt filled with gratitude for such a great introduction to Chile.  Spending time with Vanessa and others has definitely put the magic back in my carpet ride. 
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