Thursday, September 15, 2011

La vida nocturna

One thing I love about my Chilean life is how active it is. Weekdays are dedicated to lesson planning and teaching, and weekends to partying until the wee hours and then sleeping the whole next day to recover. We're coming up on a holiday weekend that promises ample opportunity for this, so I figure I'd talk a bit about the night life here, which is--in a word--awesome!

In general, Chileans are exceedingly friendly and patient enough to deal with beginning Spanish speakers without derision or exasperation. They are very relaxed about social gatherings, and since I've been here, I've been able to just sort of waltz my way into a circles of friends and show up at parties where I don't know the host without surprising anyone (well, other than the initial 'ooh, gringa !' reaction, por supuesto.) This is a breath of fresh air after France, where social circles are constructed at a young age and practically impenetrable (and where the people, in general, are much less welcoming and laid back as warm latino americans).
But what isn't a breath of fresh air is--the air! Chileans smoke. A lot. Technically, you have to be 18 to buy cigarettes, but the older high school students who come to class reeking of smoke report that the law is never enforced. Unlike in the US and France, there's no smoking ban here, so every bar, restaurant and club is full of smokers and clouds, and I come home from a night out smelling like an ash tray. The only positive thing about the cigarettes are the packages themselves, which skip the death warnings that Americans go for and appeal to the real fears of young, seemingly "immortal" youth--impotence! (Seriously, isn't that the most hilarious picture above?) The air quality in general isn't great, either--it's not as bad up north as the equal-to-5-cigarettes-a-day Santiago smog, but we have the dust of the desert and whatever sort of chemicals go into the air from the copper refineries nearby.

Anyway, back to nightlife. I came to Chile expecting the stereotypical, smooth-tongued, hard-bodied Latin Lover. What I've found, happily, is much more subdued. Yes, men can be forward (regardless of relationship status, age difference, etc) but they are generally not crude, and they are generally fairly respectful of women's interest or lack thereof. When dancing, most people seem to actually want to, you know, dance! Not just grind and grope, which is what passes for dancing in most of Europe these days. Here there's a trend towards more organized styles of dancing, and when men put a hand on your hip it's to guide you through the steps, not to cop a feel.

Here, a night out is marked by cheap drinks (relative to the US and Paris at's about $4 for a beer and $5-$7 for a cocktail). The alcohol of choice is pisco, a strong grape brandy, that is most commonly mixed with lime juice (pisco sour), mango juice (mango sour) or Coca-Cola (piscola). If you byob, wine is abundant and dirt cheap. I have to admit, I still prefer the heady, full-bodied reds of France to the lighter, spicier, fruitier wines here, but quality is pretty good, especially considering the ridiculously low cost.

A night out here tends to last until the morning, which makes every weekend feel pretty epic (and often leaves me feeling like I need a weekend after my weekend!) Here's a taste of what I've done so far:
...checked out a lot of local bars/clubs/performance spaces and seen a few shows including a Beatles cover band (called, appropriately, Sgt Pepper's) a quadri-lingual modern jazz performance in the municipal theater and an up-coming Pink Floyd orchestral tribute...
 ...gone dancing (seen here in a really cool bar called Cafe del Sol, which is only two blocks from my apartment and which specializes in jazzing traditional folk music--think covers of 70s social activist Victor Para, or pan pipes and traditional, lute-sized charango guitars made from armadillo shells fused with saxophones)...
 ...sang karaoke (including once at a legit music venue, where singers had access to the stage, the lights, the sound system, costumes--everything! I sang Eye of the Tiger, Don't Stand (so close to me) and I Will Survive. Truly epic) ...

 ...attended "asados" (BBQs, where the specialty is the spicy "choripan" sausage, slathered in mayo on a hoagie roll)...
 ...eaten more than my fair share of meat-filled empanadas, and pichanga platters (french fries topped with a greasy assortment of sauteed onions, ground beef and sausage, with various spicy and creamy dipping sauces)...

...and attended a weekly conversation club in a bar, which is where I've met most of my friends. A language dork is a language dork in any language, and j'adork them all.

In fact, I'm off to the polĂ­glota meeting now. Hasta luego, mis amigos, y felizes fiestas patrias a todos!

No comments:

Post a Comment