Monday, May 25, 2009

---> Coquimbo/La Serena

On Thursday morning we all piled into the jeep and headed south for five hours to the cities of La Serena and Coquimbo, which are two cities about 15 minutes away from each other (except they're practically joined). The drive there was fairly uneventful. It was a little frustrating at the start when my host family explained to me we were driving on the alternative road that trucks use to transport dangerous goods, because they can't drive through the cities, and I wanted to ask what kind of dangerous goods, but couldn't think of the spanish and they repeated the same thing (that I already knew) 3 times instead. At times like that you just accept that being an exchange student has its downsides - communication in this case. But finally I clicked that unlike in NZ, where the trucks can drive through the cities, sulfuric acid is a lot more dangerous than milk. And the sulfuric acid is for the mines in the north. 

Day 1:
We arrived in Coquimbo at about 2pm, just in time for lunch! We stayed with my host grandparents, the parents of my host dad. With them lived my host uncle, and my host aunt. My younger host sister told me that every time they come to Coquimbo, there are always home made empanadas waiting, and she was right! So we had lunch. Their apartment was on top of a hairdressing studio, and it was a big apartment. There was even a rooftop terrace! 
The apartment

My host parents used to live in Coquimbo, so after lunch and relaxing - everyone always has some 'quiet time' after lunch, my host dad took us kids (3 host siblings, me, and older host sis's boyfriend) on a tour of downtown Coquimbo. The whole 3 days we were there it was very foggy and damp. Unlike Copaipó, Coquimbo is hilly. It is a port city, so it's not as rich as La Serena. Downtown there was a little plaza, with a fountain, and at the port part, two statues which I thought were Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but were actually just statues or English things, because it was a port city and an important port for the English. Lots of the people there were blonder and had blue eyes, because of English ancestry. For onces we ate cerviche, which is a seafood dish with onions and spices. We also had a custard pie and apple pie that we bought from the supermarket for onces, which were both yummy, of course! Then we went to La Serena to see a movie, but the tickets were sold out, so we hung out in the huge mall instead.

Day 2: (Friday)
After breakfast, I went with my host mum to downtown Coquimbo because she needed to buy something for the classes that she teaches. The population of Coquimbo is about 400,00, therefore there are a lot more shops than in Copiapó. A lot of the architecture is very British inspired too, and the buildings are taller than in Copiapó. We got back in time for lunch, which was at 2pm. This time lunch was cerviche and empanadas, which I can never complain about! After lunch we went to La Serena because my host sibs wanted to see X-Men: Wolverine, and there is no cinema in Copiapó. Luckily for me, it was in english with Spanish subtitles! After that we had something to eat in the mall. The La Serena mall is huge and fancy, but we stayed in the food court part. Chilean fast food is churrasco, which is like a hamburger, except with real meat and avocado, tomato, mayonaise, and the buns are proper bread. There's completos, which are hot dogs with tomato, avocado and mayonaise, lots of ice cream shops, and the usual KFC and McDonalds. But I think it's a lot nicer than the kind of take outs we have in NZ! The we walked around the centre of La Serena, saw a cathedral (La Serena has about 40 churches) and a market there.

Day 3: 
My host dad gave us a little tiki-tour of Coquimbo, where he grew up. First of all we went to the port, to the fish market. I was a little bit worried about going there, as I had a little bit of a sore tummy, and the smell of fish is a little bit unpleasant when you have a sore tummy. But it was ok. I mean it still smelt like fish but my sore tummy went away thank goodness! The fish market had an indoor part and an outdoor part. Us kids walked through the indoor part, where there were stalls selling all types of sea food, and some in ready to eat plastic cups. There were a few eateries, with people showing menus and trying to get customers. It was packed too, like a can of sardines!
Fish market

Restaurant in the indoor part of the fish market
After the fish market part, there was a proper market, the kind that sells earrings, scarves, bags, jewellery, minerals, glassware, you name it. I noticed a lot of the prices were cheaper than in Copiapó - I bought a scarf which would have costed $15 in the Copiapó market, for a mere $6 in Coquimbo. The day was grey and cloudy, but we still got a good view over the port and across the bay to La Serena.
Me at the port
A sign I found quite funny!

Next up on the tour was to see the statue of the Mirador, which is William Drake, looking out over the bay. (The statue is on a hill). A lot of the landscape in Coquimbo is similar to that of Copiapó, it has huge rocky, sandy hills (albeit with more plants than in Copiapó), and a more humid climate, (Wikipedia lies, when it says precipitation is sparse). 
The Mirador
View of the bay from the Mirador lookout. And a cannon
After getting a bit lost driving on a big hill in the poor part of Coquimbo, we made it to the biggest tourist attraction in Coquimbo, the Cross of the Third Millenium.
The cross as seen from the port
It's a religious structure, and at the base is a church, and a papal museum. We had a look in the (small) museum, but then went up the cross in a lift to see the view of the city. The lift went all the way to the cross part of the cross, which was very high. Host dad said it was higher than the statue of Jesus Christ in Brazil.
The cross and I
It also showed a lot of the inequality in Chile. I was standing in a building that had cost millions of dollars to build and attracted rich tourists from around the world (I swear there were Spanish tourists in our little tour group of the museum), yet down below, we could see slum like buildings, right next to this huge expensive monument. I could see people washing clothes in a tub outside of there houses, street dogs, lots of rubbish, and poverty.
For example:
Sign I found funny - 'Ocean Pacific Horizon', 'Photographic zone', 'Keep out place clean', and 'Watch out your children'

Back home for lunch. After lunch I had organised to meet up with my two AFS friends hosted in La Serena/Coquimbo, Nic the Australian and Ines from Austria. We met up in La Serena while my host dad and host sister saw a movie. But there was a bit of a problem with meeting up - I described a church to them as a place to meet, but turns out, La Serena has quite a few churches! So we were waiting in two different places. But we met up in the end, and started to walk down to the beach. About halfway there, Ines got a phone call from Nic's host brother (because he speaks German) to ask when they were going to see a movie. So we decided to walk back to the mall to see the movie. In the line to buy tickets was my host dad and host sister. But the tickets to the movie we wanted to see were sold out, so we went to McCafe and had coffee and talked - us exchangers talk a lot! Then we took a colective to Nic's house, so Nic did a tour of his big house for me, and we hung out, and had onces with his host mum and host brother. After that my host dad picked me up and we went back to Coquimbo.

Day 4:
In the morning, we visited the property my host parents own in La Serena, then went to a cake shop to buy cakes for lunch, had lunch, and packed the car to return to Copiapó. We go back at about 9pm yesterday. 

I don't have school today because the teachers are on strike.

Just a small thing:
To leave a comment, write the comment, type the letters from the box into that box thing, then write your email address and password in the other boxes. I think that's how it's done, because you don't need a blogger account to leave a comment.

1 comment:

john said...

You don't have to worry about those alternative roads because those truckers had transportation of dangerous goods training. They know how to handle all of those chemicals and they know how to keep other passerby or drivers in the road safe.