December 20, 2005
I started my day by making my way to the Plaza de Armas again. After sitting on a park bench and soaking in my surroundings for awhile, I decided that it was time to do something slightly more productive. I took the lazy man's choice and went to the Museo Historico Nacional, located right on the Plaza. The museum was really big and contained a detailed history of Chile. I finally found out why every town seemed to have streets named "O'Higgins," "Pratt," and "Montt:" They were all war heroes. I also found out that nearly all of them were executed by a firing squad. Winning battles and getting killed appeared to be the secret formula for success in Chile.
The only other big attraction in Santiago that I had heard about that wasn't a museum was the zoo, so I went there next. It was a lot bigger and better than the zoo I had seen in Oruro, Bolivia. At least there were no house cats on display this time. This zoo featured animals from all over the world including lions, monkeys, elephants, lizards, and birds, but most of them were rather lethargic in the Santiago summer heat. I had read that animals escaped from there constantly, to the point that they had the police department's number on speed dial. I kind of liked the idea of being on the set of Jumanji, but unfortunately, it didn't happen today. In fact, I think even if some liberator had opened all of the cages in the zoo and invited the animals to come out and play, most of them would have simply peered up momentarily before returning to their slumber.
When I returned home from the zoo, I got antsy to see something completely unlike anything I had ever seen in the States, so I headed out to the Alto Las Condes shopping mall. Dubbed the "Most Modern Mall In South America," I figured it would be straight out of The Jetsons. Instead, it was more like the zoo I had just come from. Thousands of shoppers eager to get their last-minute gifts had piled into the mall, reminding me once again that Christmas was near. It's still difficult for me to get into a festive mood considering that it's the middle of summer here. I didn't feel like competing with the crazy parents in their frantic bids to find something their kids would like, so I took the long walk back home without buying anything.
Tonight, four guys from Brazil joined me at Katty's place. It was strange to hear her suddenly switch to Portuguese when talking to them. The Portuguese language is frustrating for me because it always seems so close, yet so far away. Half of the words are almost identical to Spanish, but the other half are completely different. I understood the gist of their conversation, but when it came to speaking it, I had no idea where to start. I think some Portuguese classes will be in order once I get to Brazil.
The photo album for this entry is here.