Tuesday, June 1, 2010

when to take advice

I only had one class today, since Marcela kept the second class to work on an acto they're responsible for in the coming weeks, so after my one class finished their test, I took off wandering. I haven't spent much time in the far west/south end of town, since it's harder to get to and I've been under the impression there's not much there.

My impression was correct. I traipsed around the Old Port area for a while and except for seafood restaurants, there's no reason to go there. And travelers are universally warned to avoid the area after dusk, usually more because of sailor bar-fights than anything else, though since it attracts tourists for some reason, there's a lot of petty theft there as well.

I started wandering uphill from the Iglesia de La Matriz, because the area behind it looked intriguingly decrepit. I figured it wouldn't be nice or anything, but that at midday I'd be fine.

I walked past a kind-looking woman selling candy, and when I'd passed her and was about to enter the next street uphill, she called me over.

"Foreigner?"
"Yep."
"Where are you going?"
"Dunno, just walking. Thought I'd go up there."
She shook her head. "Alone? No."
"No? Bad?"
"Always wear your backpack in front, and nothing in your pockets." [I've never brought myself to do this.]
"It's dangerous up there?"
"It's complicated. There was another young foreigner, who got beat up."
"Like, flaite? Or something else?" [Flaite is a rich word that covers all kinds of petty criminality and poor taste.]
"Complicated."
"But I shouldn't go there."
"Definitely not. They'll rob you, and maybe beat you up."

She wasn't very urgent about it, but she was very earnest and well-meaning. It wasn't a hard decision to go a different direction: Chileans are notorious for telling you everything is dangerous, but the universal warnings about Valparaíso don't come from nowhere. And I'm not the guy who's determined to go down that dark alley no matter what new information comes in.

"What's that, you say? That sketchy-looking neighborhood is actually sketchy? Well, I mean, I'm almost there anyway, I might as well keep going. Thanks, though."

I went and had coffee at my favorite cafe instead. Much easier.

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