We now have one country under our belt; we learned a little while there. We mostly recovered from our time in Africa and the whirlwind trip to Austria, scammed in South Africa, and having to put our dog down. But, we did learn a little about culture and are starting to get an idea of the continent.
So firstly this is our first major language barrier, in Africa nearly everyone speaks English as a second or third language. Most people here only speak Spanish and do so with a lot of varying accents. We have already had some funny encounters with this. We love markets, so on our first day we went to the fruit and vegetable market in Santiago. There we couldn’t figure out how to say ‘one-quarter’ we could only say ‘1 and 4’. The helpful seller on the market actually took my hand and separated my fingers to show me ‘1/4, 2/4, ¾, 1 Kilo’. It was a pretty funny experience since he could have just told me, but he thought it would be more fun to have an impromptu Spanish lesson.
This is how a lot of people are down here, they are very friendly and friendly to tourists who don’t speak the language, they usually apologize for not speaking English, and in some cases when people hear us talking in English about how we are confused about something they will stop on the street and help us because they speak English. This happened while catching a bus, while ordering food, and while trying to find a ticket office. No one ignores us or gets mad that we don’t speak Spanish, they either want to teach us or will find someone who does speak English, or a random stranger will help.
The climate here is as varied as the landscapes. In one day we went from high alpine to desert to ocean to lush green forests. On one bike ride we experienced, sun, rain, hail/sleet/snow, high wind, then blazing sun after. We are almost getting sick of spectacular mountains, with volcanoes and crystal blue lakes.
I was surprised by the culture as well, it felt very European. I would say that the thing that made it feel the most European is that it has a booming art scene. Around Santiago we found posters everywhere for bands, music, dance, theatre, or art shows. Valparaiso on the coast has also now become an art-mecca. Every street is filled with murals and tags. It’s the type of thing my parents would say they usually hate, but I bet even they would appreciate the murals found EVERYWHERE in the city. Plus the whole region seems to have a vibe of appreciating artists, letting them sell little pieces wherever they like to the city commissioning murals by former graffiti artists.
The other change for us is accommodation. We are now mainly in hostels which are everywhere just like in Europe. They also have a feel of the European ones, where there are people from everywhere who like to hang out, party, and talk travels. This was nice as we had good company for our first warm Christmas, which is celebrated like 4th of July with a big BBQ and cold drinks, and our first warm New Years. One improvement from Africa is that we always have a kitchen now which means we are cooking a lot which we love, and now that we are in a place where food is abundant our hostels often have a free food bin which has helped the budget. Free and unopened pasta sauce is still just as good as store bought!
We are warming quickly to South America and we are happy we did it after Africa. Looking back on Africa we now realize that was like jumping in the deep end, but we were rewarded by meeting some of the nicest people on the face of the planet. We have hopes that South America will be the same even as we head to the more remote North!