Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chile Adventures Ultimate Verse

Chile, The Ultimate Adventure

I’ve written a great deal on Chile but I’ve for the most part concentrated on Santiago and the major outlying areas. In this article I’ll concentrate more on the beach and coastal areas.

I frequent these areas just about every single weekend and had, for a time, planned on building my cottage near the coastal areas. I can say there’s still a great deal of readily available land for purchase in the coastal areas also.

Prices for a lot range about $3500 to $7500, depending on the size and locations desired. In my ebook on Chile, I have specified some websites you can go to look at that have photos of available land lots and surrounding areas. These areas are very attractive and rustic. The kind of places, where a small cabin would make one feel so cozy and at home in the environment.

The coastal areas of Chile have a lot to offer anyone who is thinking of living there. The most popular area or city is Viсa Del Mar. It’s the most popular beach or coastal town due to the fact that, it has a casino, which makes it the central focal point. People travel for miles around to go to the casino and this is where the Chilean elite and well to do play. It’s very common to run into local tv personalities at the casino and Saturday’s are the best for casino action. The casino hotel itself almost rivals the MGM in Las Vegas, in terms of luxury.

If you’re not a gambler that’s ok also, because Viсa Del Mar has a wealth of shops, restaurants and waterfront activity for any and all to enjoy. Right next door to the casino is a large city park where you can rent scooters, bicycles and more for the kids, if you’re looking for a bit of romance, then try a “Victoria”, which is a horse drawn carriage ride around the city center.

Right behind the casino is the carriage stand, where you and your loved one can take a slow ride down one of the side streets that is parallel with the ocean. You can ride and see the waves and the sunset.

Going into the main part of downtown Viсa, you will find tons of street vendors selling anything from oil on canvas paintings of seascapes, to handcrafted leather items and more. There’s much to see and do and there are more small curio shops then I’ve ever seen in my life in Viсa. If you’re looking to collect unique and rare items, this would be the place to start.

Now as far as accommodations, the cheapest places are called "residenciales". These are old family houses where you can rent a room for a very low price, you won't find luxury but it’s cheap and clean. One of the best places can be found at:

Residencial Blanchait
Avenida Valparaiso 82-A
Viсa Del Mar
Singles USD 20.00 - 25.00

There’s fine dining in Viсa but if you want something fast and simple there are tons of cafes and fast food type of restaurants. Fine dining is great but this city is one with people on the move who don’t always want to take the time to enjoy a fine cuisine. Everybody’s coming and going at all times of day and night. The city is not as lit up as Las Vegas but believe me when I say it has the same feel, the same energy and the same excitement.

During the month of February, the Viсa Del Mar International Song Festival has been held each year since 1970, lasting all of six days. The venue for this major event is the Quinta Vergara amphitheatre, and it’s organized in three parts: the first is the international competition, which traditionally has around ten countries taking part; then there is the folk section, with performers coming from all over Chile; and finally the international show, sprinkled with international stars, and the ever-hopefuls who wish to win over the demanding audience, and let me tell you, Chilean crowds are very tough to please when it comes to entertainment.

Many american cruise ships are starting to make regular stops now in Viсa Del Mar which is quickly making it a very international city. One of my other favorite cities is Valparaiso. Valparaiso is only ten minutes by car from Viсa Del Mar and it’s considered a historic city. This city has the same protection as that of Prague; nothing in this town can be changed. It all must be preserved exactly as is.

Valparaiso is more or less a historical monument, the whole city! It’s very old but this is its charm and character. A real treat in Valparaiso, is a ride on an ascensore. The city of Valparaiso has been called “The Vertical City” because it was built on large hills, and so the city is truly divided. The shops and stores are in the lower part of the city but the residential living is in the hilltop areas, and to get from the hills to the lower part of the city you can take an ascensore.

That is, basically a large elevator car that takes you from the upper to the lower part of the city and vice versa. It’s only a couple hundred pesos for the ride but it’s a thrill you’ll always remember and cherish. The ascensores where first built and put into use sometime in 1883 and then there were over 83 working units throughout the city giving the townspeople access to the lower parts of the city.

Now there are only 15 working units left. It’s amazing to see these little boxes going up and down tracks built into the sides of hills. They work just like old time elevators in that they use a counterweight system to provide the lift. It’s highly suggested if you plan on coming to Chile you make this one of the things you want to experience.

If you want more info on them you may want to get your hands on my eMag, that’s free at my website. Valparaiso has always reminded me of a European city, due to its architecture and styling. Narrow, cramped cobble stoned streets, give a definite air of old world European charm.

It has always reminded me of Paris, and once you’ve walked down the streets you’ll feel the European influence too, even some of the street names are French. There are several good cafes that are French in name also. One place I can recommend for cozy eating with Euro flair is the Le Filou De Montpellier Cafй. Stop by and get a sandwich and a cup of tea, you’ll be glad you did.

There’s also Casa Museo, the museum for Pablo Neruda, a great Chilean writer. This is definitely a cultural event and worth seeing. The Brighton Hotel is a great place to stay that also has a lounge with lots of excitement! There are all types of places to find action in Valparaiso.

Just try to get here before June which is the rainiest month for this area, and when it rains it truly pours!

So now comes the big question; is this a good place to potentially live in? The answer is yes it is. Rents are cheap here and that‘s because there are no modern buildings here, remember Valparaiso is a historical city, so there’s no new building going on.

Do keep in mind though; it’s a bohemian lifestyle here in the real sense of the word.

The apartment buildings are old and Chile is a country that is only interested in what’s new and seemingly modern. Most do not wish to live in an older building, as I’ve said in my previous writings. Landlords find it difficult to rent older buildings out. This is why rents are so low here but this is not the case in all places. No, in some parts of the city the rent is high, because you’re living near the ocean. Overall, for the right person, this can be an ideal situation though.

There’s very little work in Valparaiso. Most work in Santiago and commute everyday. It’s just a little over an hour from Santiago to Valparaiso and Viсa Del Mar and for many this is the only way to make a living. But due to the fact that cruise ships are making regular stops here and the casino is the big draw, I suspect a persona can make a great living teaching casino personnel English.

There are also smaller areas that are all along the coast, that make great hideaways, and places to live. If you have a car, I’d say take a drive down the coastal highway to Con Con (pronounced, Cone Cone). This is a great coastal town. Sleepy, rustic but with real spirit, several hundred apartment complexes line the ocean with the only thing separating them from the sand is the two lane highway.

Don’t be alarmed if you happen to see so many Greek styled apartments in this area. That’s normal. Remember what I said about Santiago being an eclectic and diverse city? The same is true for the coastal areas also. You’ll swear that you’re taking a drive in Greece when you see the stylings and the color schemes of the apartments and that’s one of the things that make Con Con so interesting. It almost seems to be a misplaced city.

Whether you’re going to this area or coming back from it you will pass Edelweiss. It’s a Swiss restaurant that has a breathtaking view of the ocean and nearby cliffs. Stop and soak up more Euro styled culture at this great restaurant and have a piece of cake and coffee. Check out the menu for other traditional Swiss and German dishes. The best time to go is around 4pm, any later than that and you risk running into the early evening crowd. Just look for the large Swiss flag and you’ll know you’re there.

Ah yes, you’re wondering now, what’s the average rent for a place in Con Con right? Well it averages around $375 give or take, depending again on how new or old the building is. Always expect to pay more if the building is newer and as I have said in my past writings, you don’t want a newer building.

Here in Chile, the newer apartment buildings do look all modern and such but they are oh so small space-wise. The older buildings have way more character and are alot more spacious in size. Again, go to my website and download a free copy of Global Living and check out the pictorial on Valparaiso and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

My only complaint, and the reason why in the end I chose to start building my cabin elsewhere, is that the airport is very far from the Valparaiso-Viсa Del Mar area. From the airport, these areas are almost two hours away. So I thought to myself, if I arrive from traveling and have been on a plane for ten hours, I don’t want to spend an additional two hours in a car just to get home.

So I ruled out building near the beach and coastal areas but I love them so much that I spend just about every weekend in these areas. My friends like to go to gamble at the casino (they’re gambling addicts, but that’s another story in itself) but I like to explore and look around or find a good place to eat.

If you love photography, then these areas are a photographers dream! Even if you’re not a great photographer, take lots of pictures anyway! You’ll be glad later you did. There’s no way you can come to any of these towns and not leave with a good feeling. I personally, doubt one can come here and not entertain the idea of moving and living there.

Don’t think for a moment you can’t live and make it in any one of these cities or places, because chances are with a bit of resourcefulness you can. There’s nothing like staring out over the cities from a hilltop and enjoying the lights and the sound of the waves hitting the shores.

It’s then that you’ll realize, just as I did, there’s so much the world has to offer, and that there’s a place for everyone. You just have to find your place and make it your home. Who knows, maybe the beach areas of Chile will one day become your new home.

Jon Steele has been splitting his time living in Chile, Europe and the US for the last 3 years. He has several ebooks on living the "Global Lifestyle" and how to make and generate an income while living abroad. He can be contacted at his website http://www.travelogue.uk.tt.

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Imagine Morelia Mexico Travel Ode

The Sights, Sounds, and People of Morelia, Mexico

As the sun set on my first evening in Morelia, I found myself reflecting on the day’s events and my initial impressions of this old colonial style city that would be my home for the next several months.

After arriving by air into Guadalajara, my bus trip from there to Morelia with Primera Plus, one of Mexico’s first class bus systems, had taken about three or three and one-half hours over the fairly new autopista (freeway) that connects Guadalajara and Morelia with Mexico City. The ride had been a marvelous, comfortable experience when compared to riding Greyhound buses in the United States. In addition to a good meal and a new release movie, one of my fellow passengers shared many of the interesting things about Morelia that I would be able to see and do once we arrived. This helped me relax a little and feel more at ease. Even so, nothing would quite prepare me for what I would experience right after we arrived.

The trip from Morelia’s central bus station to El Centro (downtown) normally takes fewer than five minutes and is less than a ten-block distance away. That is, unless you take a taxi ride with a driver that knows you are in unfamiliar territory and gives you a scenic, roundabout tour in order to capture more of a fare than he is entitled to. A trip that should have cost me 10 to 12 pesos (1 – 2 $USD) at the most, ended up costing about 250 pesos (25 – 30 $USD). Needless to say, one of my first purchases in Morelia was a city map. That way, I would know for sure where I was at all times and not be taken for a “ride” ever again.

My evening meal and hotel room more than made up for any disappointment and anger I may have felt initially, however. I honestly don’t remember the name of the first restaurant I ate at in Morelia, but the food was wonderful. My room at the Mintzicuri hotel was only a surprising sum of $8 a night. Now how good could that possibly be at such a low rate? Not only was it comfortably furnished and clean, it even had cable TV!

Apartment living, the neighborhoods, and the people

While I won’t say that everything I experienced was pleasant, for the most part I truly enjoyed the places that I lived and the people that were my neighbors. At first, a few of the local people in the area around my apartment on Padre Lloreda were a little antagonistic toward me because I was a foreigner, an outsider. I remember on occasion being called “guero” which, near as I can tell or remember means “white boy” or “white- faced boy” or something to that effect. Now that I think back, it is kind of funny – I was very white-faced for the first few weeks I was there! Then, thankfully, my skin started to darken and my Spanish greatly improved.

Right from the start, I became well acquainted with the local people by going out on the streets around my apartment and getting to know the stores and the people that owned them or shopped in them. One such place was the local grocery store that was about a block away from where I lived. The man that ran it and his niece quickly became good friends to me. The local corner grocery store in Morelia is much more than just a place to shop - it is a gathering place for friends that want to socialize. At least, that one was. One day, one of my name callers came in and asked ‘guero, why are you here? These are all my friends!’ Alma, the store owner’s niece quickly spoke up and said ‘they are all his friends too! So, why don’t you just be quiet or go away?’ That was the last time I ever had a problem with anyone in that neighborhood. Even my name caller became more pleasant and almost friendly.

In appreciation for Alma’s great act of kindness, I offered to tutor her in English during my off hours from teaching and studying at CMI (Centro Mexicano Internacional). She proved to be an excellent student. Sometimes, Spanish speakers have problems with certain sounds in English. The “th” sound, as in “thank you”, is one of the most difficult to learn. Alma was determined, though! One night, we sat for at least 3 hours doing word exercises to grasp the sound. I even had Alma watch my mouth carefully to imitate the way I held my teeth and lips to form the “th” sound. It would come out more like ‘fank you’. Alma never did get it that night, however, one day as I turned to leave the store; she called out a resounding thank you! She had been practicing.

My next apartment was at least a couple of miles away down the side street from Padre Lloreda on Calle Vincente Santa Maria. My favorite person there was my landlady Amparo, affectionately known as “Amparito” to all of her “boys” in her apartment-rooms. She was warm and kind, but at the same time let you know the “house rules.” There never was any loud music, wild parties, or any funny stuff going on, at least not in that house! Our neighbor just north of us, however, liked to get a bit sauced and sing loudly until the wee hours of the morning occasionally.

This neighborhood was very welcoming. I had 3 corner style grocery stores, a beer store, a tortilla factory, a barbershop, a restaurant, and a laundry within a four or five block radius. I wasted no time in getting to know most of the people on a first name basis, and I never experienced prejudice of any kind.

Shopping – mercado style

I did most of my shopping for clothes, food, and household things at Mercado Independencia on Avenida Lazaro Cardenas next to Vincente Santa Maria or at other stores in the immediate area. This mercado occupies a huge city block area – more like 3 or 4 blocks here in the U. S. I have never experienced anything so unique as shopping mercado style. Everything under the sun seems to be here. I could go and get fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats here, eat a restaurant style meal at one of the many food stands, buy leather goods, get my school supplies, etc. The food stands are basically a long counter with chairs and cooking facilities. The meals are simple and nourishing and generally cost around $2, never more than $3 or $4.

One of the funniest experiences I had in Morelia was at this mercado one afternoon during a break in my classes. I had decided to purchase a couple of ears of corn to go along with my spaghetti dinner that evening. Now, I had always learned the Spanish word for corn to be maiz (my-eece). When I first asked for some maiz, one of the vendors went and got me a can of cut corn from a neighboring vendor. Then, I tried drawing ears of corn and explaining what they were by means of gestures and other descriptive words – to no avail. Finally, one of the young children looked up at me with big eyes and said – “elote, elote!” Si! Elote! I really was not sure what elote was; however, I figured it was worth a try. So, the little girl brought me back, yes – thankfully, an ear of corn. I have never forgotten the Spanish word elote.

Another time, when I was doing my shopping at the mercado, I got another lesson in Spanish that I will more than likely remember for the rest of my life as well. I had said something to one of the young women in the shop that I thought for some reason had embarrassed her from the response she gave me. I had no idea what I might have said, but I tried to ask what it was and apologize. So, I tried to think of what the Spanish word for embarrass could be. Now, a lot of Spanish words are similar to their English counterparts. To make a word end in ed (embarrass – embarrassed) you add ado. So, I added ado to embarrass and asked the lady if I made her embarasado, to which she adamantly said – “No, no seсor!” Her face said differently, or, so I thought. I asked again – “No, no seсor!” came her immediate reply. Now, I was really confused. I dug through my backpack and found my pocket dictionary. Imagine my horror – I had been asking if I had made her pregnant. Thankfully, she realized I was stumbling over my words and we both had a good laugh. Incidentally, the Spanish word for embarrassed is averganzado. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that word either.

One of my favorite stores in Morelia, Milano’s Men’s Clothing, was right across the street from Mercado Independencia on Avenida Lazaro Cardenas. I never paid more than $10 for any of the shirts and pants I purchased there. Within a couple of months of moving to Morelia, I lost over 40 pounds from all the exercise I got every day in walking back and forth to my school and around the city. So, I bought a new wardrobe. The quality of clothes at Milano’s was wonderful and at prices I could easily afford. I even had my own personal clothes-shopping assistant that would meet me and help me to match colors on my outfits.

The sounds of Morelia

One of the other things I came to appreciate about Morelia was its sounds. From the roosters crowing all over town at the crack of dawn heralding the beginning of a new day to the vendors and various service providers on the streets, each would have their own sound. For instance, the garbage man had a unique sounding whistle that he would blow as he wound through the neighborhood streets. Generally, when you heard the first hint of the whistle, there would be about 5 minutes or less to make sure any unwanted trash was at curbside for pickup. Trucks loaded with bottles of gas for cooking and heating had a special horn sound. And, on most weekdays, the streets teemed with sounds of traffic and people as they hustled about busily involved in their day’s activities. Weekends would bring the music of fiestas (parties) as people would get together and socialize. When Morelia’s futbol (soccer) team played a neighboring city’s team and won, sounds of jubilation could be heard as people drove up and down the street blowing whistles or making other noises and shouting “Morelia, Morelia” at the top of their lungs.

Making Morelia my home

I never wanted Morelia to be just a place to visit, study, and work. Right from the beginning, it became my home. I knew I had to learn to communicate effectively to fit in and do well. The teachers at my school, CMI, played a big part in helping me to learn to conjugate Spanish verbs, but it was the people I came into contact with on a daily basis, however, that helped me to build my vocabulary of words and learn to communicate well. Very few of them knew English. So, to eat, do my shopping and other day-to-day activities, I had to speak Spanish well enough to be understood. It took me between one and two months of trial and error to learn to converse freely.

My students were another part of what made me feel at home in Morelia. I have never seen people so eager to learn. English opens up a whole new world to many of them. For many, traveling to, living and working in the United States was a dream or goal. I tried to remember this while teaching practical language usages that would make it easier for them to adapt to a new culture and land. A lot of my students loved to read books and magazines, surf the Internet, and listen to American music. So, I would use each of these avenues to make learning enjoyable for them. Learning is a two-way street. My students could always sense that I really cared. To this day, though, I feel that they taught and helped me more than I ever did them.

Learn the language, make mistakes, but keep your sense of humor

So, you want to live in Morelia, eh? The best encouragement I can give you, then, is learn the language to the best of your ability, surround yourself with good friends, keep a strong positive attitude, and try not to lose your sense of humor when you make mistakes. And, though you do not want to be tied to your dictionary or other language aids - keep them handy just in case you encounter a word or words you are unsure of.

If you enjoy history, culture, adventure, and people, by all means – go to Morelia!

The author, David Wix, lived, worked, and traveled extensively in Mexico during 1997 and has degrees in history and languages. Currently he is working as an insurance broker in California. He has had articles published in his areas of expertise and is currently working on a couple of books to be published in the near future. Author's websites: http://www.dave-wix.com and http://www.travelwriters.com/davewix.

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