Monday, May 31, 2010

National Heritage and Nibbles, a Sunday Morning in Santiago

The moneyed, the less-fortunate, the smokers and chocolate eaters all lined up for hours yesterday in Santiago to get their architecture and history fix. I had tweeted (@bearshapedspher, so fascinating, get your bearshapedsphere/eileen fix several times a day instead of just a few times a week (or less), and written about it on NileGuide's Santiago blog, where I'm now an expert for Santiago, which if living someplace for six years doesn't make you an expert, at least someone can come along and offer you a job which gives you that as your title. Come to think of it, it trumps many of my other job titles. I think now intstead of introducing myself as a blogger extraordinaire (as we'd been talking about earlier), I will just say, Hi, I'm Eileen. I'm an expert. And leave it at that.

Except I can't leave it at that! I have to tell you more. And one of the things I will tell you is that if you want to see all the fabulous buildings that Santiago has to offer and which open on Día del Patrimonio (Heritage day), you'd better live here for six years, too (or hope for rain), because yesterday was a glorious day, and as such, the city was packed to the gills, and even the uptown people (who we call cuicos, kind of the upperclass set, yuppies (or not so young) who want you to know) were out and about, in their Euro best with children in colorful sweaters and a studied thinness not often seen in other parts of the population. Bonus points for light hair, double bonus points for light hair and eyes.

But the good news is, if you have to wait in line for nearly 2.5 hours to get into a building, you can at least catch up with your friend who works at the optical shop and studies full-time at the same time, and who you never get to see since university started back up. And you can make friends and enemies with the people on line with you who wonder when, if ever you will just run out of things to say. Answer: never.

And you can hear the drone of the guy intoning "super ocho, super ocho, super ocho" (sounds a bit like supidOcho, if you were wondering) as he arrives with his taped-together boxes of this Chilean candybar. I guess it's something like a kitkat, with chocoate and wafers, but the whole candy bar only costs 30 cents, the chocolate seems pretty thin and maybe waxy, and they have lard in them, so I've never tried one. They're a very popular snack, sold on the bus, on the street, etc.

super 8

And then there was the guy selling Suny, 4 en cien, which are a little soft caramel wrapped candy, which my nephew loves (Aunt Eileen bring Suny, he says!), these 4 for 100 pesos, or 4 for about a quarter. Our neighbors on line bought some and gave us some, probably because we were their entertainment for so many hours.

And the cuchuflí vendor, which are disappointingly soft rolled wafers with manjar, or cream caramel inside. The neighbor on the other side bought some candied peanuts (maní confitado) from this vendor, who had a special going on, 300 pesos (about 60 cents) for one item, and 500 pesos (about a dollar) for two, so he bought the cuchuflíes to offer us as well. I guess we looked malnourished, or maybe he just wanted to shut us up. We rejected the cuchufliés. Sorry cuchuflí (coo-choo-FLEA) guy, I just don't care for them.

And then there came the people with the apples. Apples, you say? Not only were they giving out apples, but they were dressed as apples as well. Curious? Curious, indeed.

manzanas por cigarillos 2

And you may be saying to yourself, as I was, what's up with the dudes dressed as puchos? (slang word for cigarettes). It turns out that this group of people (medical students, I believe)was trading cigarettes for apples, telling people that for each cigarette less that they smoked, they'd live five minutes longer. Sadly, there were no apples for those of us without ready access to cigarettes, as an apple would have gone down a treat with all the caramel being bandied about.

But this little girl's mom traded a pucho for a manzana (apple), so all was well for her.

niña con su manzana

And also her bunny backpack. Sweet.

Now is a good time to digress, I find, and so I will point out to you how this little girl is eating her apple. Where I come from, apples are eaten around the broadest portion, and then hinging off the top and bottom bands that are left. Not so in Chile. They eat one half, and then flip around the apple to eat the other half. If I had seen just one person eat an apple like that I'd have thought it was a personal proclivity. No, it's an apple-eating way of life. Do they do this where you're from? Do you find it as troubling as I do?

And so the wait continued.

And finally, someone came along and stuck these stickers on us (thanks optical-shop working friend for letting your chompa (Quechua word for sweater that we use here) appear on the Internet.

chapita, dial del patrimonio

And we were led on a breakneck tour of Club de La Union, which is inaccessible to anyone other than members (a very elite group) and their guests, and most of the time it is men-only. Apparently there used to be bedrooms upstairs, but it was turning into a bit of a love-motel, and so now a) the rooms have been reappropriated, and b) licentious uterus-bearers are banned. Oh machismo! How we love you so! There were other interesting details, and a painted portrait of Arturo Prat framed in wood taken from the ship the Esmerelda, but this dato (fact) stuck in my head for some reason.

The place is an elegant study in imported French and British furniture, sculpture styles and over-the-top gold leaf, and gorgeous archways and capitals. It's gorgeous. And look! they have their own little shop inside, so the members don't have to walk three blocks to the Santa Isabel to rub shoulders with the ordinary to buy their tipple.

club la union, almacen

I don't know who the cellophane-wrapped baskets were for, but I suspected they were not for me, so I didn't take one, despite my friend's urging. The guy working at the shop assured us that it was open and that we could buy something, but there didn't seem to be any takers. Commoners, each and every one (myself included).

It was worth it to me to wait all this time in the shade, sun, and then shade again, because I got to see the apples, the cigarettes, the super ocho, the cuchuflíes, the suny, the maní confitado, my fellow humans, and because I got to see the inside of this institution, which made me feel small and alien, because the scale is truly grandiose. And so I will share one picture of the interior, the view from above, looking down, because I imagine that that is the posture most of its members take.

club la union, arriba pa' bajo

And then I jumped on the metro and flew away up towards the mountains, because having their snow dusted tops peer over your shoulder as you sip a cup of coffee is a kind of wealth that's available to all of us.


So, how was your Sunday?


Margaret said...

Cool! I sooo thought of you yesterday and all the fun we had on this day last year... sorry I had to miss this year, but glad you enjoyed and spilled all to the rest of us (the best part)!

Marginal Squeak said...

I've just taken a philosophy job at the Grange school Santiago. Have I done good? I'm terrified, your blog is a little light into my future... thanks... maybe you should show me around when I arrive? I shall have a total of zero friends.

Sara said...

Crazy bumping into you on the metro. I blogged about my Sunday too. My electricty/waterless Sunday, that is.

Sharon said...

I was sick sunday, but I went to the show at Consejo de Monumentos on Satuday. It was fun and I got a balloon! I want to go back next year, because we missed the tour (they had food!)

And BTW, chompas are called chombas here. It's like the rocoto/locoto debate.

shantiwallah said...

Hooray for experts!

I love the idea that all of those cool buildings have an open day.

It was a gorgeous sunny day here on Sunday so we went out west and had coffee and cake in a cafe in the Waitakere hills. It was so nice to sit out in a sun trap courtyard since it's been really rainy and windy most days lately. NZ winter!

The Refined Hedonist said...

Licentious uterus bearers LMAO! Le sigh. We really should try to go to Santiago more often. It's not that far for us, but sadly requires a level effort that involves leaving the house and possibly foregoing sleeping in or napping mid-afternoon on the off chance we did get up early. Yes, I know. It's sick.

As for the cuchufli issue, that stuff is the Bee's Knees! My BF and I are like crack addicts on that stuff. That being said, I like to think of myself as more of a cuchufli connoisseur. You can't just buy any cuchufli. You have to know where to go and this can only be discovered through trial and error and a serious commitment to early onset diabetes. However, when you do find a place that sells the good stuff, the rolled wafers have a crunchy, but airy texture. Like crunchy clouds filled with creamy manjar. And filled all the way through I might add, not just part way on both ends.

I find though, that more often than not, the artesenal sweets Chile offers often taste better outside of Santiago. It's like once they get there, between the shipping or the mass producing, they go stale or something. This theory is based solely on the fact that anytime I've bought something along these lines in Santiago, we've usually thrown the bag out rather than finish it. Go figure.

mellafe said...

I eat my apples like you do.