Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A spoonful of palta






There’s no better way to write about life in Chile than while savoring a chicken and palta sandwich. Chile officially suffers from a national obsession with palta, or avocado; “suffer” might not be the right word, however, because palta is so fantastically delicious. One thing I’ve learned by living here is that anything from hot dogs to toast can be made that much better by being smeared with smashed up avocado.

I’m enjoying my sandwich on a bare mattress in a nearly empty room. For the past week, I’ve been living the glamorous life in an apartment that can only be described as Limbo without Socrates. It used to be the Santiago Times office, but the paper moved downstairs an indeterminate number of weeks ago and left the space looking as though everyone had had to evacuate quickly. There are stacks of National Geographic, a substantial stock of laundry detergent and dismembered computers with no monitors. Some of the most intriguing items that have been abandoned here are posters from the NO campaign, which urged Chileans to vote against extending Pinochet’s term in the 1988 national plebiscite. The NO triumphed, elections were held, and Chile returned to civilian rule in 1990 after 17 years of military dictatorship.

Despite the fact that the former office is no palace, staying here has its perks. I’m getting to know a neighborhood I didn’t frequent much the first time I lived in Santiago, and my daily commute consists of descending a flight of stairs. I’ve also been able to spend some quality time with Mina, the office puppy, a former stray who bounces from intern to intern depending on who can accommodate her.

Given that I’ve never written newspaper articles before, work has been challenging. My first article, which those of you lucky enough to subscribe to The Santiago Times can find in the archives, was about a new Argentine airline that plans to fly to three cities in northern Chile. It wasn’t exactly a thrilling story, but it was a good one to start with because it was straightforward: no political analysis or expert opinions required. Since then, I’ve had the chance to write articles on a variety of subjects that has included Chilean politics, urban transportation problems and environmental issues. I feel more informed than ever, but I still have a long way to go!

Aside from searching for apartments, I’ve been spending my non-working hours catching up with friends I haven’t seen since I was last in Chile a year and a half ago. One of the highlights of my time in Santiago so far has been speeding through Santiago at 2:30 A.M. on the back of my friend Andrés’s motorcycle. A bit of background: Andrés and I met in a judo class at the University of Chile’s engineering school, and two years later, he bought himself a motorcycle. I was (more than) a little nervous as he tore out of his building’s parking lot, but by the time we pulled up in front of the Santiago Times office, I wanted to ask him if we could go back to his apartment and do the whole thing over again. Zipping between familiar buildings on empty streets reminded me how much I love this city. Another high point was a dinner party thrown by my friend Mary (Chilean, despite her deceptive name). After eating homemade lasagna (I can only take credit for the white sauce), we took in a panoramic view of Santiago from her balcony.

Stay tuned for news on my newest purchase. I’ll give you a clue: It’s big, orange, and unbelievably badass.

5 comments:

Helen said...

ummm so i'm excited to start living vicariously through your adventures. keep it up, prima mia.

Alan said...

It's so good to hear about your adventures

Charlotte said...

late night motorcycle rides and stacks of national geographic...really leigh...you've hit narvania...hope things are good

Noel said...

I'm dashing off to the store to buy some palta...

Juan K Peña said...

I have enjoyed your writting. The last one encouraged me to publish something myself, and also to try to improve my English writting.

Ha! thanks.