Friday, March 26, 2010

aquí hablamos gringo

Dinner tonight at California Cantina, one of just a few Mexican restaurants in Santiago, and one of the gringo bars. This was partly Corrie's idea, since Baylor played in the NCAA basketball championship tonight and she wanted to watch. I'd forgotten it was a gringo bar, but I walked in, headed to the back room to scout out space for 10 people. I said, "Podemos sentarnos aquí?", and the waitress said in perfect American English, "Sure. How many are you guys?". Turns out she's 18ish, from Bakersfield.

(Baylor beat St. Mary's, but that was a blowout and they were showing the Tennessee-Ohio State game, which went right down to the wire. We decided to root for Tennessee, since they seemed like the underdogs. And they won, which was very exciting. I'm sure the several pitchers of beer had nothing to do with it.)

I had a California-size California-style vegetarian burrito, and almost immediately realized I needed to leave before I passed out. I paid up and left, wandered up and down the street a bit, had a rather expensive but satisfying donut at Dunkin' Donuts, and finally asked directions to the Metro station. Turns out it closes at 11, so I wandered some more, in and out the endless side streets full of bars and clubs (this is in the Providencia district, which is sort of the hip happening clubby place). A taxi would have been easy, but what fun is that? I asked for help from a lady at the bus stop and managed to get on a bus that dropped me on the Alameda--whose official name is La Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins, in honor of Chile's hero of independence.

I did get sidetracked into a conversation with one of the hotel guys, and then Allyson appeared with a couple of the volunteers from last year. I'm not pleased with the level of my Spanish right now, but I'm also not working very hard to change it, and it's tricky when I'm spending all my time speaking English with the volunteers.

Not all of my colleagues were willing to try the bus alone at night; it's interesting to see what I'm willing to do, between the Spanish, being male, and having some martial arts training. I have to be careful, too: remember that I'm not bulletproof or knifeproof. I'm just paying attention.

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