July 30th 2010
Training for the program is five days long. Each day it goes from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. with a lunch break in the middle. The training is in a conference room at a beautiful hotel located downtown about fifteen minutes from the hostel. The morning is spent working on teaching skills and the afternoon is spent going over program regulations and objectives.
At 11:30 we have a coffee break. It is quite lovely. Our conference room is on the 10th floor of the hotel. Outside of the room there is a restaurant with beautiful large windows that overlook the city. Each day we are given a plate of cookies and fresh juice, then served coffee and tea. This was definitely an unexpected luxury!
From 1:30 – 2:30 we have lunch! We have vouchers that are good for 2,500 pesos to eat wherever they are accepted in the city. The vouchers equal a little less than five American dollars. This may sound like very little but food here is rather inexpensive. On the first day of training I tried empanadas from a local bakery with fresh juice and a pastry for desert. The empanadas were very delicious! On the second day I tried a “local delicacy” the Italiano hot dog. This is a hot dog with mayonnaise, tomatoes and guacamole. There is also a similar hot dog called the classico. There are advertisements for these all over the city. Let’s just say that I wasn’t in love with the hot dog in my first experience. Following that I tried a Chilean sushi bar. I had a rainbow roll there and it was delicious. The day after we had quite the treat. We made our way to the fish market in town. Here you can find endless varieties of fish – many I have never heard of before! They sell seafood from king crabs to sea urchin! The place can be smelled for miles around, but the charm of the fish market makes it all worthwhile. At the market there are both restaurants and raw fish stands. We ate at a restaurant that was in the heart of it. For our 2,500 pesos we were treated to a large fish platter with fresh fish, salad, rice and soup. We had the most delicious cheese and shrimp empanada I have eaten thus far. It was quite the culinary experience!
After training I have been trying to make the most of my time and see as much of Santiago as possible. On my first day here I discovered a small hill called Santa Lucia. It is a rather magical place! At the base of the hill there is a bright yellow staircase with a large fountain. As you climb towards the top of the mountain at each level there are beautiful structures and statues. At the second level there are seating areas made out of white and blue tiles and a small castle. The third and final level is comprised of narrow steps. At the top there is a viewing area where the entire city of Santiago can be seen. The view is stunning.
Plaza de Armas is in the center of town. Here you can find street performers and artists filling the square. In the middle of the plaza is a gazebo. At all times of the day men are sitting playing very intense games of chess. It is a lot of fun to observe. The plaza has several interesting statues, canon replicas, and old carts filled with beautiful flowers! It is a captivating place.
One of my favorite things I have done in Santiago is climb the hill to visit San Cristobal. The area surrounding San Cristobal is extremely charming and my favorite area I have been to thus far in the city. It is full of bohemian style boutiques and interesting restaurants and dance clubs. At the end of this area is the entrance to San Cristobal. There are two ways to get to the top of this hill – a tram or what we were told was a two hour hike. We decided to hike it. After about thirty five minutes of a steep up hill climb, we made it to the top! At the top of the mountain is a breathtaking white statue of the Virgin Mary. She stands arms spread facing the sea, and watching over the capital city. The statue can easily be seen throughout Santiago. Viewing the statue up close makes it easy to understand how impressive she really is.
Around the Virgin Mary is a smaller statue of Jesus on the cross. There is a chapel and meditation area where many people light candles. The area really is a tranquil and beautiful place. We stayed at the top of the mountain and watched the sunset. The mountains surrounding Santiago turned a beautiful shade of pink as the sun sank behind them. Suddenly the city was black and painted with millions of tiny lights. Each new view of the city was as breathtaking as the last and I felt extremely blessed to have the experience to stand at the top of this hill and take in the beautiful sites.
I have really gotten a lot of good walking in to try and experience as much of Santiago as I can. My friend Jeanina (who I met upon arrival) and I have toured each day from 4:00 – 8:00pm. Our legs are often sore from the walking but as we discover new places and take in all the beauty of this stunning city I know it is worth it! I am excited to continue to explore Santiago and have the opportunity to experience more of it’s amazing sites!