This is entry five of an ongoing travel journal. Click here to read the first. March 3 & 4, 2017 Traveling from the brisk Michigan winter to the dense heat of the Chilean summer takes a toll on the body. Especially when the first 48 hours in Chile are spent partying like the Chileans until […]
March 3 & 4, 2017
Traveling from the brisk Michigan winter to the dense heat of the Chilean summer takes a toll on the body. Especially when the first 48 hours in Chile are spent partying like the Chileans until the wee hours of the morning. By Monday, a thick fog clouded my brain, my sinuses throbbed, and my body was feeling like a corpse.
Despite my deteriorating health, I showed up on time (by Chilean standards, where almost on time is early) every day for my first week at work, and began scratching down my first impressions and researching the surrounding areas of this wild place.
By Friday, I was feeling slightly less like a corpse, and ventured out into the Santiago nightlife with a fellow gringa who is also working in the city. We went to a local bar called La Piojera.
I was trying to think of a fair and honest way to describe La Piojera, but the LonelyPlanet Chile Travel Guidebook did it for me:
It’s riotously loud, reeks of sour booze and cat pee, and the name translates as ‘the louse-pit.’ Yet with its dangerously potent drink mixes, aging barmen and rowdy guitar-strumming regulars, this 90-year-old bar is a local institution.
We ordered two of the famed terremotos, which translates to earthquake, that were the sweetest and most face-cringing cocktails that have ever touched my lips. With each sip I knew I was going to regret every grain of sugar that would be pounding through the veins in my temples in the morning.
A large, local Chileno sat in the back corner of the bar, with eyes closed and beads of sweat rolling down his forehead. He belted some opera-esque, acapella Spanish lyrics. His voice was deep and powerful, with vibrato that resonated off of every graffiti covered, cat piss surface of the bar. It was beautiful, so beautiful that I halted conversation with my gringa companion, just to take in the spectacle unlike any I have ever seen in the United States.
The following morning, my predictions of the earthquake’s effects on my body were correct. My head thumped in remembrance of the sugar laden cocktail, but I dragged myself out of bed and into the summer sun to meet up with some locals and attend a rivalry soccer match: La Universidad Católica vs Colo Colo.
We took the subway to the Colo Colo stadium. Hundreds of Colo Colo fanatics chanted and stomped and banged the walls and ceilings, drinking 24 oz. cans of Becker (Chile’s PBR), and jumped up and down, nearly bouncing the subway car off of the rails.
My amigo Chileno leaned over and whispered in my ear, “The stadium is in a bad part of town, try not to look like a gringo.” Sound advice, but utterly unachievable.
The car stopped and the hundreds of raucous Chileans poured out, where la policía lined the streets, standing stoic and stern. I bought a Colo Colo hat from a street vendor in a fruitless effort to blend in, and entered the stadium.
The fans in that stadium would have put the green and yellow face-paint of the Packers’ following to shame. I saw dozens of Colo Colo tattoos. The whole crowed screamed vulgar Spanish chants in unison, degrading the opposing team and praising their own from the moment the game began to the moment it ended. Despite the intensity of the sun in the incubator of a stadium, everyone stood atop their chairs every second of the game, never resting for love of their team.
The stadium doesn’t even serve alcohol, because there would certainly be a riot at every game – in celebration when they win, in destruction when they lose. I felt fortunate that Colo Colo won 2-0, in fear of the raged madness that would surely follow a loss.
I leaned over to my amigo, “This is loco hermano! I’ve never seen anything like this!”
“The Chileans are a passionate people man, they feel it in their hearts.”
Which is true not just of the love of their futból teams, but in every aspect of life. The average Chilean loves and lives with an intensity that would be off the charts in the States.