I have arrived in Santiago, Chile to find that it is one of the
cleanest big cities I think I’ve ever seen. Especially in South
America. I mean, this place couldn’t be MORE different from the Caracas
that I remember, where there were massive random holes in the sidewalks
that would break your ankles if you didn’t constantly keep your head
down to watch where you
were walking. Where on Thursday nights on
Avenidas Fuerzas Armadas, the textile shops and restaurants would their
trash out into the streets, and the stinking rotting piles would be
swarming with filthy, slimy sewer rats by the time I got off work and
staggered to the subway.
No, this place reminds me, if anything, of Calgary. There are shiny new
avant-garde looking skyscrapers all over the place, and even more
cranes dotting the landscape, erecting more. The streets are smooth and
well-maintained. The cars are shiny and well-maintained.
The quibbles that I do have are that it was a drag getting into the
airport this morning at 5 a.m., after flying for 15 hours, to find that
after waiting in the long immigration line, I had to get out, walk all
the way across the terminal to get to a window where I had to pay a
$100 "reciprocity" fee to enter the country. The Canucks get slammed
for $167, so I don’t feel so bad.
My guess is that this is close kin to the fees and fingerprinting and
other indignities that the Brazilians have implemented for gringoes –
but only for gringoes – as a result of the parade of stupidity that
Homeland Security has foisted on foreign travelers trying to get into
the U.S. in the last six years.
Anyway, the other thing that blew me away was how much the airport in
Lima has changed. When I was first through there, the whole place
resembled some 3rd tier airport – something that you might find in
Podunk, Texas. These days the floor are spotless shiny marble. There
is a Peruvian flute band playing on the concourse. The stores are all
new and look like gift shops that you find at LACMA or next to Ceasar’s
Palace in Vegas. I almost bought an amazingly soft Alpaca blanket just
because it felt so inviting.
Anyway, here are a couple of shots out the
window of the hotel room,
and of the room itself. The Hotel Novo here is obviously designed for
Japanese visitors – the furnishings, the height of the tables and
toilets and the small space are reminiscent of the small hotels that
starting springing up in the early 90s in Hawaii, specifically to cater
to the Japanese tourist trade.
Now all I have to do is to pull two 90-minute presentations out of my
ass (complete with funny and penetratingly wise slides) by 11 a.m.
tomorrow. Did I mention that I am sick and my back is in agony from 15
hours confined on the flight?
I did want to be challenged more in this new career/life…