Friday, January 29, 2010

I like big b***s and I cannot lie...

What on earth are they advertising in this photo? No, not giant Italian asses (sadly for those who arrived at this site because they googled that particular phrase). In fact, these are sandwiches. Which may of course give you a giant ass if you eat enough of them, although I doubt they'll be able to turn your tush Italian.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Things Chileans Like 2: Bad Customer Service

Actually, that's a little unfair. I don't know if Chileans actually like bad customer service, but its certainly a possibility given its prevalence here.

Lets take the dinner I had last night as an example.

We're in a nice restaurant in Bellavista that serves the most awesome sandwiches which, amazingly, are not of the completo style, but rather of the pan-American gourmet style - think sandwich of aji de gallina with salad or lomo saltado complete with tiny potato crispies. Ok, it might sound a little weird but take it from me, these sandwiches are the real deal. As in, delicious, and not at all like a completo.

We sit down (after being told that the table we wanted was for six people and us only being four made us ineligible for it..). So we sit down at a crappier table, for four people. Menus arrive. There are lots of drinks in a big long list headed 'tragos', which oddly enough, means 'drinks'.
O turns to waitress and points to one of the drinks.
O: 'Que es esto?' (what's this one?)
Waitress: "Uh.. Son tragos.' Waitress turns, and walks off.
In case you didn't get that, her response to his question was "They are drinks". That was it. Then she left.
Well, thank you for that. I think that counts as Strike One.

Food arrives. O wants another drink. He asks the price of the beer.
Waitress: 'I don't know'.
Long pause. Waitress stands there.
O: "you don't know the prices?'
Waitress: 'Well, they've just changed them.'
Another long silence. O eventually asks for the menu. Strike Two.

Finally, I order a beer from the tap. It arrives two thirds full.
Me: 'Sorry, but this beer isn't full.'
Waitress: 'Well that's because the foam has gone down.'
Me: 'Erm... well can I have a full one then?'
Waitress makes face and tomps off with the beer. It comes back full. Probably with saliva.
Definitely Strike Three for Chilean Customer Service.

And you know, that interaction wasn't even that unusual.

Oh, and the table we originally wanted and weren't allowed to sit at because we didn't have six people? Yeah, it ended up hosting an enormous party of ... two.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Year in Santiago...

... this year alternatively known as Fuegos Artificiales vs Fuegos de Verdad.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that New Years celebrations always bite. So why every year am I surprised?
Call me an eternal optimist, but I'm always ready to have the time of my life on New Year's Eve. And with a few notable exceptions (I'm looking at you Edinburgh and you Buenos Aires) my New Year's have been emotionally traumatic let-downs that I may never get over. In fact, in my experience, New Year's can reliably be expected to involve at least one of the following: fights with one's significant other; excessive amounts of tequila; remaining depressingly sober even after excessive amounts of tequila, tears; getting pulled over by the police; getting lectured by police because while you are depressingly sober the amount of heinously drunk people you have in your car is alarming; overcrowded beach bars; bogans; Melbourne's fireworks getting canceled due to strong winds/thunder/heat/Robert Doyle/bogans; and things never, never, never going the way they were planned.

So no surprises then, that O and my plans to get away from Santiago for the weekend were considered by the gods of New Year to be rather ambitious. Which was disappointing, but really, I guess I should have expected it.

In preparation for the weekend away I had in fact spent the morning body slamming Chilean nannas in the supermarket in the insanity that is trying to buy provisions on New Years Eve. If you're ever in the position where you are considering visiting a Chilean supermarket on New Years', I heartily do not recommend it. Not if you like your sanity. Or full limb functionality, those nannas can be vicious.

Of course, even at the best of times (and for those who don't know, the best of times is precisely 10-10.15am on a Tuesday), Chilean supermarkets appear to have been created by some shady secret service to elicit confessions to international hate crimes. Or perhaps to provoke the same (see Gauntanamo). They only thing they're missing is a bit of waterboarding in the cold storage room. I'm sure one of the seven levels of hell is a Chilean supermarket. They're crowded, which would be ok except that the aisles are tiny, shelf stackers lounge around stack shelves at the most inappropriate times, and people seem to sprout blinkers from their temples upon entering them and thus have no qualms about parking their trolley/fat ass precisely in the middle of the aisle while all the other timid Chileans wait patiently behind for them to move. As people here have precisely zero awareness of anyone else, this can take a while. Doing a lap of the supermarket requires about 40 minutes of your precious life that, let me be clear, you will never get back
Now take this usual shopping experience and multiply it by a hell-factor of, say..  a billion, and you'll get supermarkets on NYE. The whole experience consisted largely of an hour or so of me vaulting over dithering groups of nannas while screaming 'permiso' and lunging blindly at various shelves in order to grab whatever my hand happened to land on. Close enough is good enough, I say. I also say 'never again ask me to do this if you value my presence in your life.'

Naturally, after this I was more than regularly keen to get the bejeebus out of Santiago. And while everyone in the fifth region was planning on heading to Valpo/Vina where they claim the display is the 'third biggest in the world' (which, call me a horrible cynic, I have to say I'm slightly dubious about), we decided to go somewhere a bit more .. peaceful. Also, the normal 2 hour drive to Valpo is said to take upwards of 5hours on NYE, leaving a lot of people to bring in the new year in their car, in the middle of a traffic jam. Which doesn't sound terribly appealing.

So bags packed and barbecue foods at the ready, I was waiting for O to make it home. Which he did .. eventually. Or at least his body made an appearance, his mind, unfortunately, remained at work. Given that the place he works is about to inaugurate a rather important state cultural project that will be the legacy of the Bachillet government, and given that said project is in an entirely predictable state of disarray that, unfortunately, seems to have been predicted only by me, he was rather stressed out. So when I asked him whether we should take the expensive bottle of red that we have in the wine cellar cupboard or the one he got given as a Kris Kringle and his eyes nearly bulged out of his head at the prospect of making yet another decision, I sadly realised that we weren't going anywhere...

Vengeful Gods of New Years 1: Katy 0

So ever adaptable, and not really keen to insist O get behind the wheel of a car, we cracked open the supplies I'd fought so hard for earlier and saw in 2010 from the roof of our apartment building. Which fortunately has a wonderful view of the city at night:

We parked ourselves at the front, looking towards the Entel tower (approximately where the brightest lights are in this pic) and settled in to enjoy the view.
Of course, this being Chile, about 15 seconds before midnight the Sheraton across the river decided that to hell with the countdown and started its own display. Cheaters. (Although nice advertising technique - everyone in Santiago was looking their way for a good ten seconds, that's got to be worth something doesn't it.). I suspect this is the first and only time I'll ever see something begin not just on time, but actually early, in Chile so I savoured the moment.

Then, after much hugging ...  

..clouds of billowing smoke.

That's right. The fuegos artificiales ('artificial fires' i.e fireworks) had been superseeded by fair dinkum, real, lots of smoke style fuegos. Artificial fires are so 2009. Apparently.

So again,

Vengeful Gods of New Years - 5 billion and 1 : everyone else - 0

Did I mention that New Years always bites?

 **Article about the fire here. It doesn't seem that anyone was hurt.