The Eagle has Landed...

Trip Start Jan 15, 2006
Trip End Sep 05, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

We are on the ground, safe and sound in Chile. Getting here was a bit trickier than expected. Our flight on Sunday was delayed as the crack SFO security team decided that one of our fellow passengers might be carrying bomb parts. He was immediately hustled outside, cuffed and interrogated. The offending bag was then opened with a fire hose (evidently this is standard operating procedure.) Fortunately for all, the bag contained nothing more sinister than a couple of Furbies. The gentleman in question was then uncuffed and allowed to retrieve his soggy Furbies. The TSA decided to do a three- hour search of the entire terminal (In case there were more loose Furbies?) and we were going to miss our connection, so we restarted the process on Monday.

Santiago is truly a very beautiful city. The good news is that the city is ringed by mountains, including several dramatic snow-capped peaks. The downside of this is that the automobile exhaust cannot escape. Think LA, circa 1980. This is probably exacerbated by the lit cigarette in the hand of every third Santiagan. We are told that we are very lucky to be able to make out the faint outlines of the peaks (see photo).

The Chileans seem to be a very contented people. We have witnessed almost no poverty since we arrived, but, also, almost no conspicuous displays of wealth. Very few Mercedes or BMWs. There are no street beggars or unwashed kids trying to sell you Chiclets. We didn't see any angry youth. Almost everyone appears to be middle class. Why is this so? I suspect it has something to do with having a Marxist government in the early 1970's (Salvador Allende) that nationalized most of the country's wealth followed by almost twenty of years of a far-right military dictatorship (Pinochet.) Your intrepid reporter will attempt to get to the bottom of this mystery.

There was a presidential election here on Sunday. The winner, Michelle Bachelet, is a Socialist. (Don't despair. My understanding is her coalition is a Clintonesque, slightly left-of-center group who is unlikely to make a major lurch to the left.) She was educated in East Germany following her family's exile under Pinochet. She is divorced and had an additional child out of wedlock. This is particularly noteworthy in a country where the Catholic church had managed to make divorce illegal until the past few years.

The political process is much more subdued here. There appears to be limited celebrating or despair over the results. The streets are not littered with campaign advertisements. Again, the Chileans appear to be quite contented and continue to go about their business.


Tomorrow we take a cab ride to the coast, hopefully, pick up the Jeep and begin our journey in earnest.
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