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Archive for January, 2010

Everyone runs in Iquique. That’s the first thing I noticed when I arrived here 17 days ago.  They run early in the morning, in the afternoon when the sun is burning, and in the evening when it’s dark out. You can run here any time, really, because all of the cars are new! There are no big trucks leaving behind thick clouds of black smoke that burn your lungs like in Cusco. The air is clean and filled with the musty, salty scent of the sea.

Atreyhus and I have been staying here with his cousin, we’ll call him El Gran Jefe. He was nice enough to let us stay at his place, which is right near the beach.  I’d never been to Chile before, and since my 3- month visa was up in Peru, we figured it’d be a perfect opportunity to get it renewed again by going to Chile and then re-entering Peru.

Iquique’s a beautiful town, pleasantly sprawled out along the coastline. It’s got a movie theatre, big shopping malls, bars and restaurants, even a Casino (Iquique’s a port town so it’s a tax free zone). The only problem is getting around. Their bus system is seriously limited and a “collectivo” taxi, which you share with other passengers going to a destination near you, costs 500 pesos a person. So whenever Atreyhus and I want to go somewhere it ends up costing us 6 soles just to get there. That might not sound like a lot, but compared to the 3 soles I’m used to paying in Cusco for a private taxi, it is.

Chilenos are very nice people, though I’ve only met a few of El Gran Jefe’s friends. Their accents were tough to make out at first, but I’ve gotten the hang of it, po. They eat a lot of red meat and (much to my delight) drink a lot of red wine. Chile seems more developed than Peru- at least in Iquique. Like I said, everyone drives new cars, the cars actually yield to pedestrians, and supermarkets have frozen goods like meat and vegetables. The streets are clean and well- lit, there are bike lanes on the sides of the roads, Iquique’s even home to South America’s biggest skate park (which Atreyhus was just thrilled about).

Despite all this modernity, I miss Peru. Neighbors aren’t very neighborly here. I don’t even think El Gran Jefe knows his neighbors. Everyone on his block is so concerned with keeping people out. They have high metal gates and high tech security systems. A lot of them also have aggressive dogs that bark at any passerby. In Peru, you’ll see friends hanging out on street corners, neighbors dropping by to say hello, children playing in the street. Chile reminds me of the U.S. a little in the way that it has a lot of nice, expensive things but it lacks the grit and grime that I love about Peru. It’s like comparing Brooklyn to Boston.

One thing I never realized was the large divide between Peruvians and Chileans. In the 1800s there was a big war between Peru and Chile, which resulted in Chile gaining some Peruvian territory, now called Arica and Iquique.  Apparently, both sides are still pretty sore about it. So much so that our first few days here, Atreyhus was speaking Spanish like a gringo, so no one would know he was Peruvian. El Gran Jefe seems to like it here and when I asked if he felt like Peruvians where discriminated against, he said no. But then again he owns a successful auto parts business, so I doubt anyone treats him badly. Chile has a pretty strong army and just a few months ago there was a big scandal when it was discovered that a Peruvian military official was giving insider information to Chilean spies. Now that’s just downright playing dirty.  Atreyhus told me a quote Peruvians often say, “Chile makes a great student, but an awful classmate”. Well, maybe in politics anyway.

Unfortunately, I can only stay in Chile for a short while, so that doesn’t give Atreyhus and I any time to visit Santiago or any other Chilean cities. We’ll just have to leave that for another trip! Well, that’s all for now- time to hit the beach!

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