Weekend trip to the Coast

Trip Start Jun 03, 2006
Trip End Jul 05, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, June 19, 2006

First off, Happy Father's Day, Dad! I e-mailed last night; I hope you got it.

Second, Congratulations Joyce and Steve and Zoe on the new addition to the family!! I expect to start hearing some news and seeing pictures.

Well, this weekend, we took a trip by bus to the coast.

Valporaiso: On Friday, we first headed to Valporaiso to visit Chile's Congress. Chile is the only country in the world that has the Legislature in a city other than the capital (Santiago). The Congress is in another city because Pinochet (previous dictator) moved congress away from his own headquarters to decrease their power and influence. Pinochet's regime was strange because it ruled with an iron fist but did so under the rubric of complying with the constitution. This enabled the Democratic government to reverse some of the dictatorship's policies under the same constitution.
Anyway, the Congress was a Congress. It had some cool doors, though.
After the tour, we had lunch and there was a Congressperson eating with us. Mohammad, Erin, and I happened to be placed at the table with this guy (whose name I don't remember) and his wife. We talked throughout lunch. This guy identified with the right wing party. However, right wingers in this country are actually very progressive and smart on a lot of issues compared to America. The only issues where the right and left disagree significantly in Chile are on the so-called "moral issues." Basically, the religious ones: Abortion, Right-to-Die, and Sex Education. However, he was pretty great on Human Rights issues, etc.
At the end of lunch, he stood up and addressed the entire group and answered questions. During this, he mentioned that he is of Palestinian descent. Mohammad's and my ears perked up. Turns out, his family was from Bethlehem, and the mayor from Beit Jala had just dined with him last week, two tables over. He also informed us that there are eight Palestinians in Chile's Congress. Another interesting tidbit that we learned, from his wife that is a judge, that 80% of circuit judges are women. However, there are almost no women judges in the appellate level and only one on the supreme court.

Vina Del Mar: After Valpo, we traveled the ten other miles or so to Vina Del Mar, a small coastal town, mostly for tourists. We spent the rest of the weekend there, walking around the city, eating lots of fish (I got some great fish soup), and drinking here and there. On Sunday, we went down the coast a little ways and found a small climbing (bouldering) spot right on the ocean. I assume it's only really accessible during certain tides. I just wish I'd known about it earlier. It would have been fun.
I really wanted to go body surfing, also, but we were told not to, as there is syphilis in the water. I am skeptical but I refrained anyway. I am holding out for the hot tub in the Andes.

Last night, we came back "home" to Santiago. I did some reading and was treated to a great bowl of homemade soup, courtesy of household 705. Mmmm.
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