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Published: October 6th 2010
This is the beginning of spring in Chile, or two weeks in, actually. But you can definitely feel that the air is a touch warmer, people go to the beach on the weekends, and I have seen non-gringos wearing flip-flops. Unfortunately the lovely weather came at a time when my classes are kicking into high gear with tests, essays, and various other tarea. This is because, with one month of Chile under my belt, I am halfway through with my classes! That is, I am halfway through with my 3 hour sessions of meandering Spanish in the mornings and 2 hours of lectures over health or research methods in the afternoons. Everything- lectures, readings, homework- is in Spanish, which has forced me to spend a lot of time with my dictionary. Of course it is all to improve my Spanish, but some days I miss a nice lecture on Shakespeare or bone growth in English. Another aspect of this program is that we go on at least one excursion every week to a type of public health clinic, because the public system is huge and-- more or less-- effective. It covers 76% of the population using a tax on income and
government support, and guarantees treatment and resolution of a variety of diseases. Of course, every system has its problems, but Chilean healthcare is downright simple in comparison to the mess that we have back in the US. Okay, I'll stop being boring and talk about food now!
I don't think I have done many exciting things since I went to Putre (I guess that is what you get when you have a strict class schedule...) but I did take a visit to the Agro. This is where you can buy just about anything you might happen to want in Arica. It is enormous, and you can find 8 types of oranges, 6 kinds of avocados, and any other fruit, vegetable, or dried good you might be interested in. A lot of the produce comes from Chile, central or souther regions, or right here in the Azapa valley, as is the case of olives. There are also tons of Peruvians and Bolivians selling bananas and pineapples from Ecuador or Andean potatoes. As far as markets go, it is fairly sane and calm, or it has been when I have visited. But it is so colorful, the flower booths are
bursting with dyed daisies and carnations in every imaginable color. Some bouquets even have an extra-special sprinkle of glitter, but they are all freshly picked. Outside of the fruit and vegetable market you can buy 'Ropa Americana,' meaning clothes from Goodwill and Salvation Army that are imported and sold, car parts for every make and model, furniture, and anything else you might need. There are also a lot of slot machines, though I watched for a while and didn't see anyone cash in.
My other interesting visit this week was to the Puerto. There is a fresh fish market where you can pick up a variety of fish whose names I know in Spanish and am too lazy to look up in English. They have sardines, eel, huge tuna (I've only seen it in the can or on my plate before, so sheltered!), crabs, sea urchins, oysters, clams, octopus... A lot of fresh pescados y mariscos. You can find really tasty empanadas of pulpo y queso (octopus and cheese) or mariscos (a mix of seafood), ceviche, and puree (like ceviche, but made with shellfish). My host family fed me puree this weekend, but I think I definitely prefer ceviche.
People at the puerto were really interested in telling me about the fish and why it was good for you because of the iron content and its qualities as an aphrodisiac.
I think one of the most exciting moments of this week was that I ate a completo. Not the one in the photo, that was consumed by my friend Sebastian. Mine wasn't as pretty! Anyways, the completo is a very important part of the Chilean diet. It is a hotdog buried under a layer of tomatoes, onions, mashed avocado, and mayonnaise. These things are as ubiquitous as the empanadas, and pretty delicious except for the hotdog! There are endless variations, such as the italiano, which lacks avocado.
I want to promise a more interesting entry next week because this weekend I am taking a trip up to Tacna, a border town in Peru! For now, I can leave you with a picture of the humongous vegetarian sandwich that we found in a restaurant on Avenida 18 de Septiembre. Cheers!
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