Friday, January 04, 2008

El ruta es zigzagiando

We are back in Santiago. The 3 nights in the deeeluxe apartment (in the sky) of Punta Arenas has passed and now we’re spending some time back with Cristian and Vanesa’s families. This means lots more eating, drinking, and laughing, which is great fun.

Three weeks around the southern areas of Argentina and Chile, combined with 2005’s driving excursion from Santiago to the central Lakes area have left us feeling like we’re seen the majority of Chile and Argentina. The northern countries may have to wait for a few years, since other plans for Europe beckon.

After a long vacation that is stacked nonstop with activity, home becomes a memory that arrives in fleeting seconds each day, but is triggered by everything you see. We took some extra bread outside to throw to/at the feral dogs and we were reminded of our pets at home, waiting for us somberly.

Bathrooms are a hollow comparison for the monstrosity we created this past Fall, but they function well enough and we’re glad to not have to work on them, haha. There are still a few more posts we’ll be doing on that project’s status, since we have some final touches that nobody has seen, including us. Look for that after our trip is complete.

So we head home, ready for it. I have plenty of work lined up for me (I hope!) and Hanmi has several thousand photos to sort as she begins her new fiscal year on the photography. Other than that, we’ll probably lay low for a year or two, with only visits to family as outings. We’ve spoken several times about Cristian and Vanesa coming to visit us next, which would be a huge undertaking on their part, but if they want it badly enough, it’ll happen.

As a small vignette on the differences down here, Cristian and Vanesa both have phones that do so much more than typical phones in the US. Camera, video, MP3, radio, flashlight, internet, etc. It’s a surprising difference to see the US trapped and stumbling over the smallest feature when the rest of the world is so far ahead. The actual features don’t matter to me, since most of the gadgets suffer from the bundling, but for “kids these days” the single device is pretty neat.

Punta Arenas was in the mid 40s and 50s raining on and off with gusty winds. Santiago is 100 with light breezes and bright sun. We’re melting, even 5 minutes after a cold shower. So, we are sitting around looking at the photos from all the devices and lounging.

It is difficult to describe South America in concise terms without sounding crass. I have the utmost respect for almost everyone we’ve met. The standard for everything is just “off” from the Northern Hemisphere. The level of luxury we’ve experienced, even at the higher ends, is somewhat bizarre. Most of our trip was spent in surroundings that are way below typical US standards, and sometimes was even more expensive. But, spending a few days dirt-bagging it in a tent always makes a bed and running water seem worth the cost.

However, if you are planning a trip to the South America, keep a very open mind about the standard of living you’re used to. We’d be happy to answer direct questions, publicly or in private, but overall I’m delighted to share in all this, especially given that Cristian and Vanesa’s familes have been so helpful and welcoming. We are deeply indebted to them. Above all things in a tourist romp, having friends that speak the local language, know the areas, or can de-tangle a strange situation is invaluable. We were lucky to have made friends down here early, and there’s no easy way to describe how to do that, but it seems to happen wherever we go.


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