From out of the breakwater, erupted colour in all directions. In the midst of the harbour, brightly hued boxes separated and surrounded the cold grey, they outlined the men and machines working among them, and contrasted the squawking sea birds that circled high above. Carried by the foam and salt of the seabreeze, colour moved inland. Further, faster, higher, brighter. Unshackled by the refraction of light, it detonated its hues along the stone streets. The winding walkways carried the raging current of paint higher, it thrashed and boiled and engulfed the city in a wild iridescence. Like a pyramid of stained glass, the city rose higher, into a mosaic of saturation. The raw undertones gave way to intricate designs as they climbed higher, primal emotion transitioned to thoughtful art, and raging stains spewed portraits and landscapes. The slopes of the city shone brightly as they baked in the sun, stone rainbows weaved their way up the mountains of steps, they settled at the peaks where homes of poets overlooked a waterfall of colour that cascaded back down to meet the ocean.
BACK TO U. DE CHILE
After my almost 2 month sojourn through Bolivia and Peru with two of my roommates from back home in Ottawa, I returned to Santiago to begin my second semester at the Facultad de Economia y Negocios at la Universidad de Chile. I had survived my first semester at FEN and had loved it, the campus was awesome, the students were super friendly, I had improved my Spanish significantly and made some awesome international friends.
Sadly there was only myself and three other exchange students who were staying the entire school year, I had to say goodbye to some great friends, but I was excited for the chance to meet a whole new group of students. My travels overlapped the beginning of the semester and I returned about a week and a half into classes.
This sucked for two reasons, first of all I missed the orientation events and a chance to meet new exchange students, although I quickly got to know them all, especially my roommate Nils, who was studying at FEN and who I consider one of my best amigos I made while in Chile, and to this day the funniest guy I have ever met. Secondly I had the bad luck to sign up for a Marketing Research class (don’t let the marketing fool you, it’s just statistics) which was supposed to be taught in English, but when I walked into class a week late I found out the professor had decided to teach it in Spanish. By now my Spanish was good, but math has been my archenemy since the days of long division, I barely dragged myself through my calculus and statistics classes back home in English, and marketing statistics in Spanish kicked my ass.
Through Nils I found out that some of the new exchange students were planning a weekend to Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, a pair of cities about an hour and a half north of Santiago along the coast, and he invited me to come along. I jumped at the opportunity to return to the beach and see my roommate from Canada who was studying at Adolfo Ibanez Universidad in Viña.
Viña y Valpo
Viña del Mar means ‘vinyeard of the sea’, it is a decently sized city that straddles the ocean and is a popular tourist destination for many Chileans and South Americans. The beach is beautiful, but is lined with high rise hotels, it is here where my roommate in Canada lived in a small bungalow literally steps from the sand.
Further down the beach, physically merged but socio-economically separated, sits Valparaiso, the proclaimed cultural gem of Chile. Considered a poorer and rougher area of Chile, Valparaiso vibrates with culture, art and beauty. The majority of the city clings to the steep hills, with skinny walkways and streets that wind their way up haphazardly. The majority of the buildings are brightly coloured and artwork adorns many of the public spaces, beautiful graffiti runs rampant along the alleyways and stairways.
Valparaiso is Chile’s most important port, and the harbour is filled with brightly coloured containers being loaded an unloaded from the fleets of carriers that drive Chile’s exporting economy. The transition of the containers to the painted streets is impressive, one can look down from a vantage point and see industry and culture merge into a hazy mist of bright hues.
Arriving by bus in the morning we explored the harbour of Valpo and hired a boat to take us around on a tour, the guide was a nice guy who cracked jokes and asked us about our countries as we zipped between Japanese carriers and Chilean navy battleships. We took a gondola to a vantage point that looks out over the harbour and much of the city, and then we began the merciless trek up the mountain of steps and steep walkways to the top of the city.
Atop the steep hills of the city sits one of the houses of Chile’s most prominent poet, and one of my favourites, Pablo Neruda. We marched up the city with the goal of touring the house, this particular one believed to be where he brought most of his mistresses. However when we were told the price of entering the house turned museum, some of us opted to sit on the wooden deck relaxing and watching over the city. We began the trip back down to our hostel where we were treated to an asado by the staff, before returning to our dorm to drink beer and pisco in preparation for going out to experience the Valpo nightlife. The bar we went to was massive, 3 different levels and an outdoor terrace, on one level there was a typical club, the second a concert, the third a sit down bar with a dance floor on the terrace, however the place was completely empty. Regardless it was a great night hanging out with the new exchange students and we returned to our hostel only to be woken up by the sound of one of the German girls collapsing through her bunk bed and the breathless laughter that ensued.
The next day we jumped on a micro to Viña where we enjoyed the sun, sand and some delicious pizza, I said goodbye to my Santiago friends and headed out to meet my old roommate before I headed back to the bus station myself to catch the last ride back to Santiago.