December 9, 2005
My bus rolled into La Serena at 7:00 AM today. I somewhat slept most of the night, but I was still exhausted when I finally arrived in town. I had to search three different hostels before finding one that wasn't full. I guess there was a holiday in Chile yesterday, so a lot people were traveling. As soon as I found somewhere to stay, I went to bed for the rest of the morning.
I had heard that every McDonald's had a wireless hotspot, so I walked with my laptop to the one nearby this afternoon in hopes of getting connected to the Internet. I ordered a value meal and asked about their connection. They they gave me a card containing a code good for a free hour online. I figured I'd want more time than that, so I asked how much another hour would cost. Rather than charge me, they handed me seven more cards! Needless to say, I was online most of the afternoon. It seems that as long as I can always find a McDonald's, I'll never have to pay to use the Internet again.
At around 7:00 in the evening, I walked to the post office downtown to try to mail some postcards. I figured the post office would be closed, but at least I would know where it was, and I would get to see the rest of downtown while I was at it.
Sure enough, the post office was closed, but there was a Coke machine right inside of the main gate of the government building in which the post office was located. I tried to get a Coke, but the machine wouldn't take my money. An employee tried to help me out, but he couldn't get it work, either. Another guy saw that we were having trouble and showed me where a machine that worked better was, and my thirst was finally satisfied.
On the way out of the building, I started talking to three of the men who worked there. It seemed that they didn't get to meet too many tourists, especially ones who could communicate with them in Spanish, so they were very interested in getting to know me. Suddenly, they invited me to have dinner with them in the government building. It turned out that a bunch of government employees had a small party there every Friday night. I was getting hungry, so I gladly accepted.
We went to the courtyard where one guy lit a small fire out of wood he had gathered nearby. After the fire had been burning long enough to form some hot coals, he put a metal grill over it, coated the grill with vegetable oil, and began frying fish. I had to eat four fish sandwiches before they would let me stop. One good thing about being skinny is that people assume that you never eat, so they feel the need to fatten you up.
I ended up hanging out with the workers until 1:00 AM. We talked about life in Chile and the US, politics, and money. We drank wine, jote (a local drink consisting of Coke and wine), and pisco. I had a great time meeting them, and it all happened because I wanted a can of Coke from a broken machine. That's why I like to keep my options open when I'm traveling. I just never know who I'm going to run into.