So You Want to Move to South America?

So I am finally here.


South America.

The end of the earth.

This is the last destination. What I’ve been pining for the first half of 2011.

It’s been a whirlwind journey so far if you think about it. From Philippines to China to Chicago to Minnesota to Florida to Peru and finally here in Viña del Mar, Chile where I will be spending a semester studying Spanish.

I’ve been here in Chile for almost a month now. I’ve slept under a desk, gawked at seals, joined a street samba performance, ate freakin huge empanadas and had an earthquake (the drink, that is).

So why Chile? It’s because I fell in love….

With this photo, I mean.

Valparaiso is a UNESCO world heritage site that features these colorful houses scattered on these hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can find kick ass graffiti in every corner, ancient cable cars (called acensores), abandoned flea ridden dogs and characters like fire jugglers and oh-my-god-I-will-not-sleep-with-you-messy-hobbo-looking-I-have-not-showered-for-a-month-hippies.

It’s a city with aaaattiduuude.

It’s a city that San Francisco might have looked like had Che got pregnant and gave birth to it –painting it with South American revolutionary ghetto realness.

Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t live in this city. I live in the city 3 metro stops from it called Viña del Mar. It’s a beach resort town that looks like Miami but more ghetto. Before you aaaahhh in jealousy, let me remind you our beach is the Pacific Ocean which is so cold you felt you jumped into a bathtub full of ice cubes.

                                         Viña del Mar City

I know. I felt pretty bummed about it too. There goes my fantasy of sipping piña colada in a coconut husk under palm trees while tanned South Americans service my every whim. As if I can afford it and as if coconuts exist here.

my feet like they were stuck in an iceberg

great view- tiring climb

And did I mention fuckin’ hills (called cerros)? Those fabulous photos should come with a warning sign. I’ve never climbed so many hills before. My thighs get the necessary exercise but mama doesn’t want to be huffing by the time she gets home. It sucks too if you get shitfaced because you have to climb those awful cerros and no wants to do that with 2 liters of alcohol in your system at 5 am in the morning.

Speaking of 5 am, South Americans especially Chileans start everything pretty late and end pretty early.

For example, banks and other government offices open at 9 am and finish at 2 pm.

Breakfast is at 10 am. Lunch is at 2 pm and dinner is at 9 pm. By that time, I’m clawing at the kitchen door. Lunch is the biggest meal of all.

They start their parties very late which is why I have my doubts if I’ll be staying longer here. Carette or going out to party in Chile starts at 11 pm and normally ends at 6 am. Anything early you are labeled as ‘fome’– boring in Chilean Spanish. I once got invited to have an asado at someone’s house at 11pm all the way at Valparaiso and then they will commence to clubbing all morning. I don’t know if I’m just being lazy but I didn’t want to commute to the next city that late and climb another freakin’ hill only to take an expensive cab right back to climb another freakin’ hill.

This is the moment that I know I’ve hit old age. Just my luck to be an old granny in South America where people dance in the streets all morning. I think I’ll be at home cleaning my dentures, muchas gracias.

My classmates could pretty much handle it. Unlike my dear friend Kawadjan who’ll be getting his masters with people his age, most of my classmates are still in college or in high school and are of a different mindset  (‘Justin Bieber’ cough, cough). I have a lot of Mormon classmates though. Now I haven’t met many normal looking Mormons before or those who wear hoodies. I used to see them in their missionary outfits (white shirt and black tie) in the Philippines. And yes, my Mormon mates will vote for Mitt Romney. And I’m dying to know what they think of the Book of Mormons. I can either expect a high five if I’m lucky or a bitch slap.

I never got the sense of how far I was from Asia till I came to Chile. There are few Asians here. Most of them are Chinese. I’ve never come across a single Filipino. I tell people where I’m from, I get a blank stare. Walking down the streets of Santiago one day, I got this racist slur from this punk – “Ching chang cho chan cho.”

I got a suggestion to reply back, “Usted es Peruano.- You’re Peruvian.” Which is a shame cuz I like Peruvians but not a lot of Chilenos do.

But they do like their K-pop (Korean pop). Who knew the nefarious claws of colorful techno bubble-gum artists with weird spikey hair would reach South America? Just wait, “Oppa- Santiago Style” is going to come out.

They have invaded South America!

I do have a bad case of Asia-ngitis though. The kind that makes you crave mapo tofu and dimsum and pad thai and pancit canton. The kind that makes you want to carve the next palm tree into bits of chopsticks. The kind that makes you seek out hanging out with other Asians because you want to see the same slanty eyes as yours. The kind that actually makes you continuously listen to PSY or watch Korean drama even though they’re in Spanish.

I’m a bad expat.

Peruvian-Japanese sushi – an awesome mix!

My experience here though wouldn’t be as meaningful if I haven’t made contact with these awesome Chile bloggers who were a lot of help and welcomed me to Chile even though we haven’t met before. Now that’s something that’s just wow – remarkable bottomless kindness. It might have also helped I’m a woman and not some 60 year old male cyber stalker. Dear ____, So I’ve been reading your blog for sometime and would like to meet you. I’ll be flying from China to South America would have sent them pushing the SPAM button in disgust if I was an old perv with missing teeth with a record of hitting up go go bars in Thailand.  So muchas gracias to Leslie of Beyond China Chile Story, Sara of Titleless and Lydia from Valpo of Just Smile and Nod. You have made my Chile experience so worthwhile. I hope I could return the favor to someone else too.

So this is phase one of my journey in South America. A way to see another side of the world and living outside the box. And I’m holding on to my dear wallet here as Chile is expeeeensive. Who knew right? A good beer costs as much as those in the States. I’m throwing thousands of dollars to chase a foolish dream of living in South America and I don’t know how long my money can last. I do hope I can get lucky and stumble into a pot of cash along the calle but I’ll settle for a part time job, thanks.

Photos and by PSY facebook and Eagle and Eye

So how did I make this journey from China to Chile? Choose one post below!


Scariest Border Crossing Ever in China

North Korea is the Real Matrix- the DPRK tour

Whale Shark Attack in the Philippines


10 thoughts on “So You Want to Move to South America?

  1. waterfallsandcaribous says:

    Sounds absolutely freakin’ incredible! And hearing you speak of the hills everywhere and the Pacific Ocean and its ice-block like feeling makes me think of home…so I say HARDEN UP! Haha. Having grown up swimming in that same icey ocean means us hardened southern New Zealanders can swim just about anywhere. Man, I’m jealous of the huge empanadas though…

    • Kate says:

      Hahaha! I should harden up as you say. Just not used to it unlike you Kiwis. I hail from the warm islands of the Philippines where the ocean is warm and it’s sunny everyday. Granted, I do wish to visit New Zealand someday. The views (“Lord of the Rings”) are spectacular. Yep, home made empanadas are the best! the fast food ones aren’t.

  2. Sara says:

    Oh the stupid racist attitude of some. I’ll be walking down the street minding my business and someone will yell “WELCOME TO CHI-LAY” as loud as they can in my direction. Then, on other occasions, I get the “Well how come you don’t get this if you are Chilean?” routine. It’s weird.

    I love your photos 🙂

    • Kate says:

      Thanks Sara!! Just today in Santiago, I had someone bow to me and then a guy blew a kiss to me and my Japanese friend. sigh. Girl, what have you done by introducing me to Honey Boo Boo Child?

  3. outonvacation says:

    ooohh South America…the far far far away land from Asia.The offer of churrascuro in Brazil, Macchu Pichu in Peru or even a tango in Argentina (w/ visa) are sooo tempting. I’ll let you know if the itchy feet leads me to this far far far away land 🙂 Have a blast there 🙂

    • Kate says:

      Salamat! if your itchy feet lands you here, ya’ll better holler and get in contact with me if I’m still here. Also, there’s fried guinea pigs in Peru if you want some.

    • Kate says:

      Thanks Mafs! Ikaw din, ingatz yan! Trying to live out of the box indeed- keri na mam. Keep exploring and I hope our traveling feet someday cross paths together.

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