Looking for a wattage converter on a Saturday afternoon turned out to be quite the adventure. I quite literally spoke to 10 people and visited 6 or 7 stores until I found one. Places were either closed or didn´t have one, and sometimes I completely misinterpreted the directions people were giving me. (Chilean Spanish is very difficult to understand.) After an hour of wandering every street in el central, not only did I find myself a converter but a great picture of the Chilean people. Some people went so far as to write things down, draw detailed pictures of plugs and electrical outlets, and walk with me to the corner to point me in the right direction. I felt more like I was in a small town than in a large cosmopolitan area.
I was also able to enter the courtyard of La Moneda, which is like the Chilean equivalent to Capitol Hill. A guard inside took the time to tell me all about Santiago and where to go. The access to the government buildings and officials here is amazing. Last week they held a special screening for us of the movie Machuca, which is about two young boys in Santiago during the time that Allende was overthrown. Not only was it a powerful film, but we were watching it in the basement of La Moneda, the building where many events of the film went down. Imagine watching a controversial film about US politics in the Capitol Building! It gave me the chills. Despite the fact that the mood in the city is jubilant, the memory of Pinochet is very present. Chile is still a country struggling to emerge from a dictatorship, and because the government is so new, it feels possible to create a lot of change. The people here seem to truly believe they can make things better. This is very energizing and refreshing as opposed to the current climate in the US.
And now for the food situation. I have been eating most meals at the hostel because it is free and convenient, but they don´t really understand how to make vegetarian food. I ate about 20 salads this week, with iceberg lettuce, beets, carrots, tomatoes, and sometimes cheese or avocado if I´m lucky. Feeling mal-nourished, I found a vegetarian restaurant while looking for the converter in the central part of the city. They had great fresh juices and a decent menu. I got a burrito with cheese and a meat substitute that I´ve never seen before in the states. I think it was soy, but it was very light in color and chewy. Could have been wheat gluten. They also served a salsa that was blended with carrots and was very good, and hard salty biscuits to eat with the salsa. The big thing here is empanadas, which are kind of like fried dough with filling. There are endless different kinds to try, a few that don´t have meat, and they are cheap and filling. And the Nescafe rumors are true. Drip coffee is very uncommon, and at coffee breaks we have to spoon our own Nescafe into the cup and mix it with hot water. Nasty. But the big news... Dunkin Donuts is here in Santiago. A good thing or a terrible thing? Is it cultural imperialism at its worst, or are we blessing Santiago with quite possibly the greatest creation from New England in modern times?