Views, Pesos, Booze and no Paper in the Loos – Santiago Week 1

Last Saturday (24 August) I packed my bags and swapped life in the UK for what will (hopefully) be one year of travelling around the world. ‘Why?’ you ask. Well, I’ve signed up to a program called Remote Year, on which I’ll be travelling to 12 cities around the world for the next 12 months.

I quit my job at a content marketing agency to focus on a new career as a freelance copywriter – which is a scary move, and probably the craziest, but most exciting thing I’ve ever done. Money and work dependent, this trip will take me to South America, Asia, into Europe and finally South Africa. So… if you need, or know of someone who may need, a freelance writer… hit me up!

New beginnings

I left London at 10.30pm, embarking on a near-sleepless 14-and-a-half-hour flight to Santiago, Chile, where some very British queuing ensued. A long queue snaked left and right before getting through customs was a breeze then, unusually, I saw my bag immediately and grabbed it. However, I ended up in another huge queue – or rather, several long chaotic queues – for bags to be scanned before exiting the airport.

Having eventually navigated my exit – via some serious queue jumping – I soon found several people from my new “Fernweh” Remote Year group – or ‘Tramily’ (travel family) – waiting by the airport exit. A few of them headed off to their accommodation, I had a chat with an American guy called Doug in the airport cafe, then soon got a lift to my accommodation – which was a two-bed apartment in the middle of Santiago. It’s a really nice flat that’s a couple of minutes walk away from the main accommodation location – a big shared house better known as ‘The Mansion.’

My flatmate Yannick, who’s from Montreal, soon showed up, we had a quick chat then I headed for a much-needed nap while streaming Super Sunday on my laptop – not wanting to miss out on the football on my first day away from home.

I woke up in time to meet up with the group outside our WeWork workspace, which is in a shopping centre in the middle of Santiago. Most of us met for the first time then wandered through the city centre and out to the BellaVista area of the city for dinner in a nice restaurant called Vendetta. We had a few beers and some nice steak and papas fritas (chips/fries) that somehow came to £35 – this was my first of many experiences trying to work out how Chilean Pesos translate into Pounds, and it turns out Santiago is more expensive than you might expect.

We then headed back to see The Mansion for a few beers in their top floor communal area. One of the many American guys, Joe, decided he was still hungry and got very excited about the prospect of eating Taco Bell and/or McDonald’s so dragged us in search of it. But, having already eaten far too much meat, I took that as an opportunity to disappear for some much-needed sleep.

Rave in a Museum

Despite being exhausted, I somehow woke up at 4am and couldn’t get back to sleep again. Our first full day in Santiago (Monday 26 August) began with an orientation session that introduced us to Sheree, our program leader, and Sara, the programs team manager, along with the local crew Luis and Gert. The first thing that I learned? You can’t put toilet paper in the toilets in Chile (and actually, loads of places around the world), but rather in bins next to the toilet.

We went out for ‘Lunch Roulette,’ for which we met in the kitchen of our workspace, got split into groups with people we hadn’t yet interacted, and chose a nearby restaurant. I headed out with three Americans – of course, virtually the whole group is American – Doug, Maria, and Morgan, and we went to a little restaurant that’s actually around the corner from my flat. The meal was good, but overshadowed by a crazy crackhead guy throwing breadcrumbs on the floor and attracting packs of pigeons swarming around him.

The main event of day one was heading to a super cool sounding event that Gert had discovered – an EDM event in an art museum. We met in a Japanese restaurant that had a 2-for-1 drinks deal on, then made our way over to Bellas Artes museum and – considering it was only about 6pm – discovered the techno party was already in full flow with a healthy crowd of people raving along. I’m not much of a techno, dance or EDM lover, but it was a fun night in a really cool venue, and you can read more about it here.

Working abroad

Tuesday (27 August) was our first opportunity to get into our WeWork workspace and actually do some work. I headed into the office around 9.30am, changed my LinkedIn status to ‘Freelance,’ and began work on an interesting little project I had picked up through the RemoteYear Slack channel. We also got a quick introduction to Chilean slang from Gert. Mula.

I popped out for lunch with Pauline – the only other Brit on the program – and we sat in a nice city centre park enjoying the weather. After lunch, I had a meeting with our resident Spanish teacher to assess my level of Spanish knowledge which, to my surprise, was sufficient to bump me up into the intermediate class with people who had actually studied Spanish before. Shameless shoutout to Duolingo

My first Spanish lesson followed the next day. I felt a little out of my depth, but just about followed what was happening as we ran through Spanish verbs, how to ask people about things they’d done, and answer those questions. We also ran through the alphabet – which I’d never even learned before, but somehow managed to guess a few!

I stayed in the office fairly late finishing off a bit of freelance work, then headed off with Pauline who had stayed late for a wine tasting event in the office. We went back to The Mansion, picked up Kim, then headed over to a little burger joint called Holy Moly (Lastarria). A group of the guys were already there – all American, bar me and Pauline – which inevitably led to them mocking English words and accents over some tasty burgers and a pint of IPA.

A few people headed home but me, Pauline, Kim, Nick and Grant decided to stay for another – with Nick deciding he wanted a smoothie, which seemed unlikely at that time of night. We headed up to a rooftop terrace bar and had a round of drinks – although a mango juice was the nearest they could do to a smoothie.

Spectacular Santiago

Thursday (29 August) saw an early start as we walked up Cerro San Cristobal, a hill that provides great views across Santiago. We met up to the east of the city centre, walked further east, crossed the river, then began the walk up the hill road. All in all, it took about an hour-and-a-half to make our way to the top, with regular stops to check out the view and take some photos.

We were ably assisted by one of Santiago’s many stray dogs, who popped up on our way across the bridge over the river, decided he wanted to play with us, then followed us all the way to the top of the hill – where he then indulged in some very dubious activity with a few of his fellow strays.

The views on the way up were impressive, but they were well and truly smashed by the one we got at the top – with a near 360-degree-view across Santiago and out towards the mountains. Considering we hadn’t previously left the city centre, it was pretty staggering to see just how big and sprawled out Santiago is.

The summit of the hill was topped with Santiago’s answer to Christ The Redeemer, a huge marble bust of The Virgin Mary – which was pretty impressive. We stopped to take photos, tasted a delicious sweet Chilean drink called Mote con Huesillo, some people bought Empanadas – which are essentially Chile’s answer to pasties – then made our way back down on a little train that had been built into the hillside.

It was a really nice warm day, so myself, Shawn, Doug and Jess decided to stop in the BellaVista area, where we’d been for dinner on Sunday evening, for a delicious chicken caesar salad and a nice cooling Cerveza.

This was the first day with the full group in town following a couple of late arrivals, so we all gathered at The Mansion in the evening for Pecha Kucha. Everyone created a Google Slide then had 30 seconds to introduce themselves to the group – which was a fun way to get a brief insight into who we were about to spend the next 12 months with.

Today also saw the first Fernweh birthday, so we headed out for dinner – which was a huge feast of various types of meat, red wine and, regrettably, huge tequila shots – then crossed the river to go to a club, via a children’s playpark, to celebrate Christian’s birthday.

Pot Luck Dinner

A few heavy heads followed on Friday (30 August), with part of the group heading out to some Hot Springs and the rest of us heading into the workspace. But we gathered at The Mansion in the evening for a ‘Pot Luck’ dinner.

A few of us headed over to a big food market on the other side of the river and bought some much needed fresh vegetables. We got back to the Mansion, prepped a few of the veggies, and Pauline led on cooking a whole chicken with some sausages and generally delicious, healthy dinner.

One of the guys, Anthony, turned up at the Mansion with a Playstation 4 and a whole host of PS4 games and DVDs – which, for some reason, he’d decided to lug to Chile, and then decided to donate to The Mansion. We had a fairly quiet evening watching Superbad post-dinner, as the following day saw our full orientation event, which we’d been told we weren’t allowed to be hungover for…

Orientation and Chilean Clubbing

… And we weren’t! Official orientation began at 10am on Saturday (31 August), with Sheree (program leader) and Sara (programs team manager) running us through what to expect on our way around the world. That included accommodation, workspaces and expected behaviours, followed by group exercises that helped us to get to know each other a little better and become accustomed to sharing our feelings (which is a bit scary for us Brits).

We headed off around 4.30pm, then in the evening headed into the BellaVista region, meeting at a cool pub with a huge beer garden. I had an amazing burger called the Keanu (Ribs) Burger – see what they did there?, and see below) – and taught Americans Joe, Denysha and Grant some more British slang. Including “jippo,” much to Pauline’s dismay…

After dinner, we headed over to Club 57, which had flashing squares (see below) and a ridiculous amount of TV screens surrounding the dancefloor. The music was a little questionable, particularly given the DJ had a penchant for playing songs all the way up to the chorus – then skipping to the next one. Dubious. But a fun night was had by all.

Do you like what you hear from our first week on Remote Year in Chile? Find out more on the Remote Year website.

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