Rimaykullayki, hola, and hello! My name is Elena Pojman and this is my third blog during my semester abroad in Perú. I am about seven weeks into the Peruvian school year, and I still cannot get over some of the differences between classes here and back at UT. At this point in a UT semester, I know I would have taken my first (and probably second) round of midterms. I would have turned in dozens of homework assignments and I’d have suffered to make it through many a day that consisted of back to back school work + volunteering + off campus job + social life.
Here, however, I’ve had to adjust to having a somewhat relaxing semester. For the first time, I’m not working and I have no clubs or volunteering to do, so I have a lot more free time than I’ve had in some time. The Peruvian calendar consists of a midterms week and a finals week rather than a smattering of exams throughout the semester, so most weeks so far have consisted of me going to class (which I have three times a week, plus the occasional statistics quiz on Saturdays), doing some readings and practice problems, and prepping for the next week.
This abundance of free time has allowed me to have a pretty stress-free semester so far, in addition to giving me the opportunity to explore. In my previous blog posts, I described my trips to Ica, Paracas, and the Lomas de Lachay, as well as the new museums I’ve been visiting every week. These excursions are all planned out at least a few days in advance by friends or by myself. Recently, on a whim, I decided to visit Santiago de Chile for the weekend, and my only regret is that I was only there for three days.
Day 1: Friday
I headed over to Jorge Chavez International Airport at 5am and waited for about thirty minutes in line to drop off my checked luggage (I’m the queen of over packing) for SKY Airlines. I was nervous about using this airline as it’s a cheaper one, akin to a Frontier or Ryanair, but truly the only downside was having to wait for the one customer service agent. The flight left on time, we had no problems in the air, and the flight attendants were super kind.
Upon arrival to Santiago, I changed my Peruvian Soles to Chilean Pesos. 10,000 Chilean Pesos (CLP) is roughly $15 USD, which was a weird conversion that often gave me a bit of stress as many vendors wouldn’t say “This costs 15,000 pesos” but rather “This costs 15” so I would awkwardly hand them the biggest bill I had and let them give me a bunch of change.
After an hour of confusion with finding an Uber — Uber is illegal in Chile, but still heavily used, although drivers will cancel if they see police or government officials — I made my way to my Airbnb. I had forgotten my charger in Lima, and my phone was about to die, so I left my phone to charge for a bit and walked around the neighborhood, which was right by Parque O’Higgins. Once my phone had reached a level to where I did not fear getting stranded in an unknown neighborhood in Santiago with no way to call for an Uber home — I am weary of using taxis from the street if I do not know the area well — I made my way to an excellent restaurant called Vietnam Discovery. After dinner, I was exhausted, so I went to sleep early.
Day 2: Saturday
Saturday began with a visit to the Gran Torre Costanera, the tallest building in Latin America. At the top at the 64th floor is the Sky Costanera, an impressive 360 degree balcony with views of the entire city. Trying to explain this experience in words would be completely useless, so check out some photos instead:
I was in awe of this incredible view: colorful buildings dotted the streets for as far as the eye could see with snow-capped mountains in the distance.
After visiting the Sky Costanera, I headed to el Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, which is dedicated to the human rights injustices committed under Pinochet’s regime in the 70s and 80s. Chileans do not wish to forget their history, no matter how uncomfortable or sad it may be. The museum had testimonies from victims, descriptions of torture methods used, photos of the murdered and desaparecidos (disappeared persons) and crafts made by prisoners. I saw that the victims of Pinochet did not only include radical political activists but also children, pregnant women, innocent adults, and the elderly. I would recommend reading about the experiences of people in this prison camps during this time.
I also visited Villa Grimaldi, the most important complex used by the Chilean secret police during this time. Most of the structures had been torn down, but plaques and photos located throughout still gave an accurate description of the prison camp during the time. Something I really liked about Villa Grimaldi was that instead of relying on the shock value of portraying the suffering of the victims, it memorialized the lives of those who experienced unspeakable horrors there. It was strangely beautiful, as there were mosaics and flowers on the grounds, but it was impossible to forget the sheer evil perpetrated during that time.
I would like to make it clear that I do not only enjoy visiting macabre places. At the end of the day, I visited La Chascona, one of three houses owned by the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The house was poetic and quirky, with furniture and decor from across the world. Each room contained a story and a personality – the dining room had a secret door in the cupboard from which Neruda would arise to surprise his guests. The bar came from a ship because Neruda loved the sea. The house was also split into several parts, connected by outdoor stairs and pathways. I took some serious home decor notes since I loved the art that covered the walls and objects from across the world.
I had dinner at a restaurant called Peumayen Ancestral Food, which was probably the coolest food-related experience I’ve ever had. They specialize in pre-Hispanic food, prepared in the more or less the same ways that the original people living in the lands now called Chile prepared their food. You have the option to choose an entree or a sampling of various foods from the Land, Sea, or Vegetarian menus. I chose the Sea Menu. I wish I could remember exactly what I ate, but I loved how each course had different samplings from the north of Chile all the way to the south. This was one of those experiences that you cannot find anywhere else, which made me so excited to try everything in every course.
Day 3: Sunday
Sunday was rainy and cold, but I decided to visit the Museo de la Moda, a place dedicated to fashion, located inside the home of a Chilean family known for their work in textiles. There were garments from the red carpet to tennis outfits. Afterwards, I visited the Pueblito Los Dominicos, an outdoor market known for its sale of jewelry and handicrafts and strangely enough, small pets. I bought some beautiful lapis lazuli earrings and then headed to the airport to catch my flight back to Lima.
Santiago is one place I know I’ll visit again, hopefully for much longer. It was hard to get back into the groove of going to class and doing work after visiting such a beautiful and interesting place, but I was so grateful I had the opportunity to make a spontaneous trip there!
This post was contributed by Elena Pojman, a 2018 Global Ambassador.
Don’t get left behind. Read more about Elena’s experience in Peru>>