Archive for January, 2013

I went out to do some fixing up on the new BobMobile. It needed a new passenger side mirror because the old one took a dive off the side while I was adjusting it. It literally jumped off its little mounting bracket complete with cartoonlike popping sound, because it jammed up on something while the motor kicked it off the car. I watched it go, amazed.

Did it fall and survive, like countless cel phones and other breakable objects dropped from the same distance? No, of course not. It hit just right and shattered into a million tiny bits, and after I put it back on, it was worse than not having it at all, like looking at my blind spot through the compound eye of an insect. With one human eye and one insect eye. BrundleFlyEyeBob.

Anyhow, I went to the car repair part of downtown to see if I could find a replacement mirror, get a leaky tire fixed, and see about finding a new remote control for the car alarm, because the buttons on the old one bit the dust and all I can make it do now is panic and not let me start the damned car without hotwiring it. Meaning I have to disassemble the remote and short connections on it to re-enable the starter. Fun.

At some point I will tell you about the car repair part of town. Which is now.

So you go there, and it is chaos. Bad traffic, cars in and out of everywhere, driving and parking on the sidewalk, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria. First thing I see is a guy waving a broken mirror at me. I nod to him, and he motions for me to pull over. So I do. He takes a look, pops the mirror off, and says he will be right back. “How much you think it will cost?” I ask to his back as he runs off. Ah well, maybe he just stole a broken mirror. I know what is coming when he gets back– chamullos. MirrorBob returns in a few minutes with a nice new replacement for the old mirror, pops it in, and then tells me an absurd price, which I knew was coming. I laugh at him. “For that much I could get the whole assembly with the motor and everything.”

“Nah, that would run you at least 60,000.” he replies.

“Bullshit. Because I went yesterday and checked and they told me it was worth 35. Shall we go and ask them again?”

All of a sudden the mood changes and a realistic price emerges, which I pay. He scurries back under the rock with his other cockroaches as soon as money changes hands. New mirror: check.

I continue on to the street where every vendor sells car stereos and alarms. I am looking for a place a friend recommended, and I find it. I go in and ask them if they can replace the remote, but they can’t. It’s one of them fancy American ones which can’t be adjusted or matched, unless you send off for one with the same serial number or somesuch. Maybe if I find the shop that originally installed this one, but it’s old, and fat chance they are still selling the same ones. After some haggling and bidding wars with the neighboring shop, they agree to replace the whole alarm for 30k (USD$60) so I agree. And I get a better alarm system to boot. Fixed alarm: check.

After that I continued on to the street where tires are fixed. Total chaos. The road becomes more of a parking lot as folks pull in and out and service is done in the street. Touts ask you what you need and guide you into places which provide your specific service. It’s like a giant crazy pit-stop on a raceway, with crappy cars. In my case there was a screw in the tire and a bad valve stem. $20 and 20 minutes later it was all as good as new. Fixed tire: check.

Did I mention that I got all of this done within a couple of hours? Never would this happen in previous places which shall go unnamed.

This is a street, not a parking lot.

This is a street, not a parking lot.

Parque Natural Aguas de San Ramon sits right on the eastern edge of Santiago. It’s a little gem of pure, clean nature where the mountains meet the urban sprawl. We decided that we’d go hiking here this Sunday, and we were glad we did. Aguas de San Ramon is a really nice place, and a nice break from the noise and claustrophobia of the city.

We went digging for hiking trails close to the city, in order to facilitate getting there as we still have yet to purchase a vehicle here (that whole easy public transportation system thing keeps delaying it). We found San Ramon on the Chilean Hiking Club website, along with directions on how to get there on public transportation. Turned out the directions were wrong. It had us trying to find bus routes that did not exist. The Chilean Hiking Club lies!

Fortunately a good samaritan pointed us in the right direction, and a helpful cabbie did the rest. For a fare of about US$6.00 he managed to get us from Metro Plaza Egaña all the way to the park entrance, which for 3 people is cheaper than cheap.

As we headed up the mountains, I was reminded that I am still not accustomed to heavy activity in high altitudes but after about 30 minutes of exertion, the lactic acid was being steadily washed from my system and things were looking good. We did the lower circuit of the park, about 5km total, in about 4 hours’ time, which included quite a bit of lazing at the waterfall.

The views were a bit spoiled by the smog. When you get up into the mountains and look back into the valley, and realize that you cannot see across it, even barely halfway across, you realize just how repulsive the air quality is. Thinking back on the past months of living here, the air is the only thing I truly, thoroughly dislike about Santiago.

I must say it is a pleasure to be able to drink pure, clean mountain water and not get sick. It tastes wonderful. The guide did tell us it was potable, but he also told us that there was potable water available at the bathroom station near the waterfall, which was a lie. If you don’t hear from me again, you know the truth about the water…

On the way back we walked from the park entrance to the nearest bus stop, maybe an additional 2km. About halfway down, we managed to pick up a pair of friendly chocolate Labradors who accompanied us all the way to the bus, and wanted to follow us on. The bus dropped us at the metro station and we took that the rest of the way home.

Chile bans smoking

Posted: January 5, 2013 in Medical, News, Stupidity
Tags: , ,

“Smoking in Chile will be banned in enclosed public spaces following the passage of a bill in the Chamber of Deputies Wednesday night.  After a drawn out debate of terminology and conditions, the Tobacco Law passed with a landslide majority to restrict media projections of tobacco use and smoking in nightclubs, bars, casinos, and stadiums.”

“It is a great joy to start 2013 with such a tremendous victory for public health in Chile,” said Health Minister Jaime Mañalich.

Too bad they don’t have a Minister of Free Will to bring up the fact that your ability to choose for yourself is gone. I am not a smoker, and I think it is a disgusting habit, but I do not think it is right for anyone else to tell you what you can and cannot do to yourself. Some say that secondhand smoke makes it my problem, but I can always go somewhere that smokers aren’t, and choose to vote economically by not patronizing businesses that cater to smokers. Choice is the keyword here. And it’s now gone. What a shame. Down we start on the slippery slope.

So far this season, more than 5 million dollars worth of cash and jewelry has been stolen from LaBarra alone.

Add to this other waves of “VIP robberies” in which an American family was relieved of a chest containing $40,000 in cash, $20,000 and two Rolex watches taken from Alejandro Bulgheroni, an Argentine oil magnate, $35,000 worth of jewelry taken from a house in LaBarra, €25,000 in cash and $3.5 million worth of jewelry stolen from the summer home of Italian businesswoman Paula Marzotto, the list goes on and on.

Read more about it all here.

Friends of mine finally got their Uruguayan passports. Well, I should say, “Friends (plural) of mine finally got their passport (singular).”

They are a married couple, and the wife was denied because she did not have her own separate bank account with records going back the requisite 3 years. The husband did get his, but what good is it if UY is splitting up expat couples 50/50? How counterintuitive can they possibly make it?

Citizenship, with a heaping side of Fuck You.

Just imagine how much the rules will change in the next 3 years. Ahhhhh, government customer-service in Uruguay. It gives me such warm, fond memories.

She writes, “For me, the whole horror of it all continues… Just be advised that the rules changed in mid stream and I now need additional papers that were not required before.  Women should note that you need your own title to your bank account or some similar group membership in which you can show specific dates of membership for the full 3 years required.  Joint membership does not cover it.”

DiverBob, WifeBob, myself, and the Brits went out on New Year’s Eve for some drinks and dinner. Little did we know that the whole city of Santiago would be shut down. Completely. Tumbleweeds. No traffic. Creepy. Things were a normal workday for the beginning half of the day. But after noon, things started clearing out and shutting down. We called some places we had wanted to patronize, only to find out that they were closed.

“Ah, well the California Cantina, the gringo establishment, will surely be open at this time, because the whole city must be hungry and therefore wanting to spend their money at the one place which is open here.” and so we went there, to find it closed as well. There were some guys at a nearby bar who were waiting for it to open so they could start working. “Everything is closed until 11,” they explained. We tried to fanagle a beer or five but they would not relent.

“What is it, a law saying nobody can do anything until midnight?” we asked.

The bar guys looked at each other and shrugged, and agreed that it must be a law. Weird.

We asked them where the nearest botilleria was so we could refuel, and they pointed us in the right direction. Unfortunately it was closed as well. Who closes a liquor store on New Years Eve??? Apparently they all do. Santiago partiers must have to do some serious pre-planning.

We saw some lights on ahead and continued on through the fog of nothingness, and finally found a Chinese restaurant that dared to scoff at the laws and was still open. God bless the Chinese! So we sat and ate and drank and a good time was had by all and we spent our money into the hands of the deserving.

Once we were done we took a cab to see the fireworks show off of the top of the Entel tower downtown. Reportedly, 16.5 tons of fireworks were set ablaze for that show, and I’d believe it. It was pretty neat. This, coupled with reports of spectacular shows over the water in Valparaiso, which are supposedly the best in the world, lead me to believe that Chilenos really like their fireworks. This part I can get used to. The closing everything down when you need it the most part, I can’t.

A good drunken time was had by all, and the Brits were both accosted by locals wanting kisses. Then we went back to our place and got shitfaced drunk on what remained of our liquor supply.

Today, the first, is completely dead. Another ghost-town day. Not even the grocery stores are open, so we subsist on potato chips, soda, and candy which were procured at the local gas station. Blecch. Tomorrow I can imagine the lines and stripped-bare shelves at the grocery store, as the entire population of Santiago has been without access to supplies for 2 days. What a weird culture.