Carolina’s Place

Around lunchtime I rode the metro up to Zapadores station, north of Santiago’s main districts, to meet up with a girl named Carolina I’d spoken to online. She was advertising a couch in her living room for about $10 a night and I figured it’d be interesting to try something different than the hostel scene, get to hang with some locals and all that.

I was a little early but after she arrived we walked back to her place. The neighbourhood was definitely interesting, and different than any other part of Santiago I’d seen – very residential, and filled mostly with small bungalows, a handful of corner stores, butchers and hair dressers sprinkled in here and there. A much more “gritty” feel as well – at first I thought this might just be my Norteamericano prejudices but when I later asked Carolina about dangerous parts of the city she immediately responded, “Here.” Haha, alright. It really didn’t seem that bad but around the bus stops and major intersections there were homeless people sleeping in piles of detritus, something I hadn’t once seen in Santiago’s core. She said there were shootings occasionally as well – drug-related, usually – but as long as I wasn’t walking around waving a fancy phone around I’d probably be okay. I figure any place where families are out walking with kids in tow, which there were in droves, can’t be that bad… but Carolina did tell me that if I was out on the town it wouldn’t be a bad idea to get home relatively early to avoid walking around alone when it may get a little sketchier.

(For any SoCal readers, picture San Bernadino. It reminded me a lot of it, especially because there were steep hills covered with sun-dried grass overlooking the neighbourhood.)

Carolina’s house was a little three-bedroom bungalow that she shared with two other women, one a few years older than myself and the other a few years younger, like Carolina. She owned the place – left to her by her mother – and apparently had just started renting the couch out to foreigners in the last month or so, mostly just to meet people. I was her third guest after a Japanese dude and a guy from Brooklyn. She fixed up lunch for the two of us and it was fantastic – pieces of red pepper sliced up like little crackers and topped with cream cheese and other vegetables, and some kind of small gourd stuffed with a mixture of cheese, rice, spices and veg and baked. Both were fantastic. Oh yeah, she’s a cook… not a bad person to crash with, I’d say. I helped clean up a little bit, threw a load of laundry in the machine and then crashed out hard on my rented couch on account of being stuffed.

After my siesta I rolled down to the corner store and grabbed an empanada and twelve beers and we got into them. She was a lightweight – could tell she was getting kind of silly by the third brew – so we bounced and headed to a barbecue place she said was awesome. We walked to a bus stop on a major route and she said I didn’t have to pay if I just followed her… I didn’t really know what she meant, but as we got on the bus two people pushed ahead of me and between us. She swiped a pass to get through a turnstile at the front of the bus, as did the next two people, and so I started fumbling in my pocket for change when the bus driver punched it… I stumbled toward the turnstile and it let me pass, so I just kept “stumbling” toward the back and jumped in the seat next to Carolina. Yeeeaaaah, stealing bus fare, keeping it classy. She figured we should try it again though, when we jumped off and got to the next stop there were turnstiles on the sidewalk – almost like a old railroad siding – with security guards. The bus showed up just as we did so Carolina hyperspanished out something to the guard about her tourist friend from Canada and how we had to make THAT bus, RIGHT now. The guard gave a “well, alright then” and waved me through. Sweet!

While we were riding she was talking about how a lot of the buses have sketchy people, and as if proving her point she nodded toward a woman about three feet away from us and said, “Like her, for example.” I gave her a “She’s RIGHT there!” expression and she responded with “Ahhh, I’m sure she doesn’t speak English.” Haha, those beers got right on top of her.

At the BBQ joint there were two main options, a huge plate of mixed meat and a huge plate of mixed meat with innards. She said she loves tripe (gross) so we went with the innards, a small salad to split and some wine. She was right – the place was fantastic – but even though I’m a fan of innards (hearts, livers, kidneys, whatever), I’m still not a fan of tripe. I gave a hard look to a side dish of mountain oysters but given we struggled to finish what we had (and ultimately failed) I didn’t get them.

We grabbed a taxi back – it was getting late and the buses seemed fewer and farther between – and finished off the rest of the brews, just shooting the shit and trying not to be too loud for the roommates until two or three in the morning.

In the morning I woke up and needed to hit the head but I could hear someone in the shower. I waited until I heard it stop, then another couple minutes and headed down the hall. I turned the corner and Carolina was halfway between the bathroom and her bedroom – a distance of five or six feet – and buck naked. She was as surprised as I was and let out an “AYEEEEE!” as she jumped about a foot in the air, I quickly apologized and retreated back around the corner. I waited until she re-emerged with clothes on, blushing a bit, then continued where I left off on my way to the head.

She was on her way to visit her aunt but said I could stick around another night, but had to leave the following day because both of her roommates were leaving for the weekend as well. She implored me not to trash the place and I said I’d try my best.

The busy scene in Frutillar prevented me from getting Fancy Drunk to live classical music but I’m persistent so I had a few lunchtime drinks and headed down to Santiago’s Museum of Fine Arts with a decent buzz on. Just past the entryway was a main room with all the galleries branching off of it, and hanging from the ceiling were these things made out of thin plastic and circuitry:

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There were eight of them and they were hanging from wires with a motor at the junctions that was swinging all of them like pendulums, but not in sync. The embedded speakers in each were playing distorted mixes of modem handshakes, what sounded like old-time radio broadcasts, white noise and what may have been numbers stations. I was kind of tripped out staring up at these things and one of the security guards had a good laugh at my expense.

The first exhibit I went into was pretty meh, the guy had a style similar to a lot of South American street art but – in my opinion – wasn’t as good as most street art. The second exhibit, downstairs, was called Universo Carreño, displaying the works of Mario Carreño, and was more along the lines of something I could dig:

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Upstairs were a series of exhibits, mostly disappointing – one was medieval religious art, which got me excited because I love the really old creepy shit that looks like Slayer album covers but there was none of that. Just this guy emerging from clouds:

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Along with that were a few exhibits of cut up books (?), the most interesting being this:

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Some collage work:

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And then a room full of black of white photos with guys that looked (to me at least) to be victims of horrific war injuries, likely The Great War judging by the clothes and the style of photo. The faces were pixellated out on all of them. Most were missing arms or legs, but there were three photos side to side where the guys had their pants down and their junk hanging out, and didn’t really seem to be missing anything. One guy had some kind of leather sling on his sack but that might have been the result of having a nut blown off, or maybe was just the style of the times, much like wearing an onion on your belt was in the twenties. Anyhow, given that everyone else was missing arms and legs, I’d count this dude among the luckier ones. (Caution: That’s a link to a dick pic there, buddy)

I went back to Carolina’s with a few beers and watched the Bruins trounce the Islanders. The roommates were polite enough but I got a weird vibe, especially given that they spoke zero English and my Spanish still kind of sucks, made it kind of awkward. Carolina had suggested that when she returns mid-next week I could come back over but I think I’ll pass, just head back to Casa Mosaica or maybe Kombi…

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