Category Archives: Travel articles

Barcelona Blog: Calling time on Barcelona’s nightlife?

No smoking signThere’s a killer on the loose in Barcelona and its name is the smoking ban. It’s coming for the city’s nightlife.

Barcelona has long had a problem with noise pollution. In the narrow cobbled streets of the Barri Gòtic, where thousands live above bars and clubs, angry residents – desperate for a good night’s sleep – bombard noisy weekend revellers with water bombs, eggs and worse. Now thanks to the smoking ban, neighbours no longer have to wait for closing time or Saturday nights to get in some target practice.

Smokers have nowhere to go but the street for a nicotine fix since the smoking ban came into force on January 2nd. All well and good you may say, if it means you can see your hand in front of your face while you enjoy a drink and your clothes don’t smell like you’ve wiped the ashtrays with them, but are the neighbours quite so happy?

In a country where a reported 29% of the population light up, groups of law-abiding smokers are now going outside for a cigarette. Walk down any street in the city and you’ll see them, puffing away and putting the world to rights while they do it, and therein lies the problem. The sociable Catalans don’t smoke in silence.

In chilly January when windows are firmly closed to keep in the heat, local residents don’t have too much to gripe about. But come the spring, when temperatures start to rise and balcony doors are flung open, the streets are likely to become a battleground between fractious egg-throwing grandmothers in their nighties and the puffing hordes below.

So what will the town hall do about it? In the past they’ve caved in to residents’ demands and closed down bars and clubs that make too much noise – the Raval’s historic dancehall La Paloma being just one example.

Long-suffering bar owners – many of whom are still out of pocket from installing air conditioning and no-smoking areas when legislation was changed in 2005 – can hardly be punished for sending smokers out to the street. But punished they will be if noise complaints close them down or if the Catalans, like the English, decide to stay at home and drink. As has been seen in the UK, bars without customers don’t stay open for long.

From the bohemian hangouts of Gràcia to the modernista masterpieces of the Eixample, where hams hang above the old men sneaking a drop of rum into their early morning coffee, Barcelona boasts a quirky bar on practically every corner. If they are lost, the city council marketing department will have a hard time promoting Barcelona as one of the nightlife capitals of Europe.

My prediction for 2011? A ban on smoking may prove to be more dangerous to the city’s health than the evil weed itself.

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Barcelona Blog: How to not get robbed in Barcelona

We want a decent neighbourhood!! A common sight in areas of Barcelona with lots of noise, pickpockets or prostitutes

Barcelona is a wonderful place to live but the downside is, it’s a den of thieves. Barcelona topped the poll as worst city in the world for pickpockets and the sad truth is, I can’t remember the last time I went out and didn’t see someone chasing after a bag thief or plaintively yelling for the police. Here’s how to avoid it happening to you:

1. Get the airport bus

If you fly to Barcelona, take a cab or the bus from the airport. On the train, thieves only have to pay once to spend the whole day rifling through people’s pockets and thefts are common both at Sants station and on the trains. The bus, which costs around 5 euros is a far safer bet.

2. Don’t carry more than you need

Savvy Barcelona residents empty their pockets before a big night out and you should too. Go to the cashpoint during the day and take only the cash you need when you go out at night. Empty your wallet of everything else – credit cards, photos of loved ones, library card, driving license, whatever – and they’ll be a whole lot less to cry about if the worst happens.

Officially, you’re supposed to carry ID at all times in Barcelona but a photocopy of your passport should suffice if you get stopped by the cops. If you’re out shopping, you’ll need ID to pay by credit card: just be sure to keep it tucked away in a money belt.

3. Pickpockets love tourists

Out in the untouristy suburbs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a pickpocket but around La Rambla they’re ten a penny. Hot spots include: Carrer dels Escudellers (which runs down one side of Plaza Reial and is also known as ‘scally alley’) Plaza George Orwell, Carrer de la Princesa and Carrer dels Carders in the Born, Carrer de Sant Pau in the Raval and of course, La Rambla. None of these places are no-go areas by any means, but if you’re staggering down Escudellers at 6am, you won’t be short of company as you trip over the empty wallets on your way home.

4. Leave your backpack at home

If you must carry a backpack, wear it on your front where you can see it. The best way to not be a target in the first place is to carry a bag that you can wear across your body so it can’t be pulled off your shoulder. Bags that have zips and secret inner pockets are even better. Never put anything of value in outer pockets and if you really have to walk alone at night, keep your hand over the zip and the bag on an unexposed arm (facing the wall rather than the street).

5. Underground, overground

Bag-snatchers love the metro. Gangs work together in groups and are particularly active around the train doors during the evening rush hour and on the touristy green and yellow lines. One popular method known as the ‘tapon’ involves a member of the gang dropping something in front of the victim and then bending down to pick it up. As people back up behind them, accomplices get busy with everyone’s bags.

6. Be terrace smart

Watch the locals on a restaurant terrace. They don’t leave their bag on an empty chair or their phone on the table and neither should you. If you really must take your bag off your shoulder, keep your valuables on your person and the bag strap tied to your chair or between your feet.

Taxi drivers will tell you that all thieves are Moroccan but don’t be fooled: pickpockets are just as likely to be a group of young girls or a frail old lady. Be on your guard for anyone coming to your table and asking for change – there’s a good chance they’re scoping your stuff. Most of Barcelona’s genuine homeless tend to stay in one spot.

7. Cab it

If you’re drunk as a skunk, don’t even think about walking home or taking the metro: get a cab.

8. Blondes don’t have more fun

It’s not just in the bars and clubs that blondes get all the attention, the pickpockets love you too. Nothing screams tourist more than blonde locks and short of dyeing your hair, there’s not a whole lot you can do. Practise your psycho ‘don’t mess with me’ face and avoid making it worse by not jabbering on your phone in your own language, carrying an expensive camera or gawping too long at your map.

9. Lock it up

On the beach, take as little as you can and never leave your stuff unattended. If you’re travelling alone, ask the nearest friendly-looking group to keep an eye on your things if you go swimming or use the lockers at Platja de Bogatell or Barceloneta (the lockers are underneath Passeig del Maritim not far from the big fish in Barceloneta and on the beach at Bogatell).

10. If you luck out

If the worst happens and you do get robbed, check all the nearby bins. Thieves are just after your valuables and will ditch everything else quickly. It’s worth reporting the incident to the police (especially if you have travel insurance) as sometimes things do get handed in. The Guàrdia Urbana station on the Ramblas (no. 43) is open 24 hours but to save time, you can report the loss online and then nip into the police to sign the form within 72 hours.

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Filed under barcelona, blog, Travel articles

Stuff your rucksacks with pens, bras and the Economist

www.stuffyourrucksack.com puts travellers in touch with charities that need help

BBC TV presenter Kate Humble came up with the idea for stuffyourrucksack while stuck in a small Saharan village. Invited to a local school, the kids asked her how many hours it would take to travel by camel to England. Wondering out loud about how camels might cross the sea and whether they were allowed on ferries, a little arm went up: “What’s the sea?” The teacher asked her if she had a world map. Humble was humbled. If you grow-up in a land-locked country with no access to maps, books or the internet, how do you learn about the ocean? If only she’d known the school needed a map, she could easily have stuffed one in her backpack and opened up the world to a bunch of kids somewhere near Timbuktu. www.stuffyourrucksack.com was born.

The idea is simple. Small charities (or travellers who know about them) use the site to post wishlists of things they need. You check the site to see who needs what near your next destination, pack a few bits and pieces for them and then see what the organisation do when you drop them off. Travellers can feed back on the places they visit and are encouraged to keep their eyes peeled for more organisations that deserve support.

“The beauty of it is that it gives equal value both ways” says Humble. “The community benefits from something they actually really need and you get a local experience that you just can’t buy or get out of a guide book”.

Marybeth Gallagher from an after school programme in Namibia says: “The children have benefitted greatly from this website. I cannot begin to tell you how much loot people have hauled from all parts of the globe to donate to our kids. They have also come to visit and to spread the word about our work. It’s a brilliant idea!”

The site is currently getting a revamp and due for a re-launch in May. The hope is that it becomes a vast self-policing message board between travellers that extends to include more information about volunteer work. Aware that many big projects need volunteers to commit to 6 months or more, Stuffyourrucksack wants to hear from smaller organisations that would appreciate even just a few hours help as travellers are passing through town.    

To give you an idea of what you could be stuffing your backpack with, here are just a few ideas to get you started:

A doctor in Chiang Rai in Thailand needs ibuprofen

A charity that helps street kids in Guatemala needs more sleeping bags

A deaf school in Kenya wants toys

An animal hospital in Sri Lanka needs dog collars

A school in Cambodia needs English teachers (minimum 1 week)

A hospital in Malawi wants cell phones

A school in Cuba would love some musical instruments

A university in Macedonia is desperate for copies of The Economist

A school in China needs balloons

An organisation in South Africa wants your bra

And if you’re travelling across the Sahara, there’s a school out there in need of a map…

Visit www.stuffyourrucksack.com for more information and join them on Facebook.

Read the article on Matador or here.

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Chile’s Earthquake From Far Away

Photo by Luis Iturra

I was in a hotel room in Doncaster, England when I heard about the earthquake in Chile. I’d got a few days work and had woken up late after driving through the night. My mum texted me the bad news.

I’d been living in Santiago until early January and had missed being in the middle of the quake by a few short months. The badly damaged art museum in central Santiago was round the corner from my old flat. While I was living and working in Santiago, locals kept telling me they were expecting a big one (Chile, located on the ‘Ring of Fire’, seems to get hit every 20 years or so) but I don’t think anyone was really prepared for this. Chileans joked at us foreigners for being so nervy about the tremors, telling us that if things weren’t falling off the walls, it wasn’t worth waking up for. Saturday morning’s 8.8er certainly made them sit up and pay attention.

My initial reaction was fear – fear that my friends might have been injured or worse – followed by shock, sadness and, I have to admit, a little bit of envy. Here was the biggest news story to come out of Chile in decades and I’d just missed it. I’d experienced a few girly tremors but nothing like this and the trainee journalist within felt a bit duped.

I have no doubt that Chile will bounce back from this. Chileans are a stoical bunch. They’ll rally round to help and many have survived worse (the 1960 quake in the south was the biggest ever recorded anywhere). It’s the dogs I’m worried about now. The shelter where I was volunteering is now in ruins, and in a country where the majority of the people don’t have a great deal and will be struggling themselves, I fear the stray dogs of Santiago and the shelter in Melipilla will be forgotten about.

Here below is how I experienced Chile’s big earthquake, through the emails and status updates of friends on Facebook. These small snippets of information were way more informative than the BBC, newspapers or other media networks. 3 simple words – SAFE AND SOUND – were all anyone wanted to see. Other updates and emails were terrifying, while some expressed panic, resilience or good humour. The ‘Stiff Upper Lip’ award goes to a British colleague, who, much to everyone’s disbelief, managed to sleep through the whole thing on the coast…

From my inbox

Don’t worry, we’re both all right. I spent a few hairy minutes standing in my bedroom doorway – thankfully I live in a modern building and there was almost no damage (although the burglar alarm which reacts to movement spent the next couple of hours crying). It hit around 03.40am so I was a little drowsy and went back to sleep for hour or so afterwards though there were a few aftershocks. Xxx was at her mum’s and there’s plenty of glass that needs sweeping up but otherwise they’re okay. Both her parents have seen worse than this – her dad was in the south during the big one in the 1960’s. I haven’t been able to phone England. My mum is probably going mental. :S

Hey! Please tell Lemmy Killmister that Chile ROCKS!!! (Literally)

Thanks for worrying about me. Mobiles still don’t work. I was in a basement watching some bands. The earthquake was incredible and I had to walk a really long way home. Luckily though, I’m OK. Thanks.

I’ve just talked to him. He’s in the city and fine. His cat threw up though.

The tsunami now going towards Hawaii, thoughts and prayers going out to them.

I’m ok. Everything looks ok around providencia. not too much damage, we have eletricity, water, internet… supermarkets are open. Thanks for your concern.

It was at about 3:30 in the morning. I had just seen some friends off at the door of my building which is in the very centre, overlooking the Mapocho. At the beginning it felt normal, but then it started to shake so heavily that I decided to get up. I live on the top floor, so I though that if I tried to go down, the building would fall on me, so instead I decided to go into the terrace, which has a view of the Mapocho and north, and then I panicked! I saw how the pavement moving like melted chocolate and the traffick lights blowing up. Everywhere I saw flashes of light and then a general blackdown… And it didn’t stop. It went on for a couple of minutes (or at least that’s how it felt) and the only thing my panicking nervous system managed to do was dial my boyfriend’s mobile. No answer. The city was entirely dark. When it stopped, I hurried downstairs I don’t know how. On the way ddown, people with mobile phones to lighten up, or candles, or flashlights, most of them in pajamas. I went out of the building and the only thing I could hear was people crying, screaming. HORRIBLE!! I was shaking… I managed to take out a cigarrette and light it, and I sat down, still shaking: I couldn’t control myself…

My neighbour, a very nice man who I now wish I’d more of an effort to know, has given me his wifi key and also let me use his blackberry.. His entire family is in Conception, apparently their house is destroyed but they’ve survived okay. He’s waiting to get hold of a friend who was living in beach area that’s been 90% washed away by a tsunami!

The Lider has been looted!

It was a distressing night as it was about 4 am. The apartment shook violently, it was impossible to walk, everything fell off the walls, the electricity went so we were in pitch dark and the aftershocks continued through the night and still are. After that we spent the next few hours outside. The next day we noticed massive cracks in the walls, the corridors windows were cracked and water was coming through the ceiling in the one of the rooms.

I was in Viña asleep in a hostel and didn’t know anything until I got up at 10 am and asked why there was no water or electricity. No one can believe that I slept through it!

Thanks for your concern. I’m alive & well. Lost all glassware and some furniture but the building seems to be fine. I moved to my parents though, ’twas reaaaaaally terrifying to be on a 13th floor. The important thing my girlfriend and my family are alive.

I’m OK. There are some cracks in the flat and I’m sleeping outside in the square because my building is old and likely to collapse.

OK everybody, alive and in one piece, was in Valparaiso while all the shit happened, so the floor was moving from before for me.

(Description of a video link): The first impression I got of the earthquake was a river of water coming down the emergency stairs…

and yet another aftershock…just when I was starting to relax

SAFE AND SOUND

Was on an island when quake hit, spent hours in a hill billy truck “reading” the ocean, finally got back to mainland when found out landing strip wasn’t damaged. Flattened villages, crevasses in road, boats on land and houses in river. Friends flat pretty damaged, slept in car outside Conce… no water, gas, electricity. Pillaged supermarkets, riot police, more flattened villages and broken roads. Just assimilating the fear now my family know am fine and all friends here in Chile are ok. Now looking forward to some fine wine and a Chilean bbq. Love to all, will be back in touch when the hangover subsides!

It’s a bread frenzy, buy bread, forget the tinned tuna, buy bread!

I can’t sleep with all these aftershocks!! I’ve got a headache, there’s no internet or hot water, but I can’t complain. There’s a lot of people worse off than me..

Electricity, check. Water, check. Gas, check. Swaying building from aftershocks, check. Life is almost back to normal

Xxxxx and xxxxx, please, if anyone knows anything about them, let me know.

 Be careful if you’re wandering around the city- there are lootings at shopping centres and scuffles with police.

The animals were behaving weirdly ’cause they could feel it. Then, there was a creepy low-pitched sound from underground. The first tremors appeared while everything started to shake and, after an apparently short retreat, the huge wave was unleashed, striking us all without mercy.

In Santiago everything is OK, no visible damage in our neighbourhood and all our friends are OK, just very scared. Our flat has some minor creeps in the inner walls, the only problem was that our front door got stuck and we had to break it down. In the south, things are much worse. Let’s hope for a quiet and shockless night

If you’re near the coast i.e. viña, valpo, try to make your way towards the hills because of the tsunami warning- DON´T try to come to Santiago- highways are damaged and buses aren’t running.

Xxxx has never been so scared before. We are fine, our flat only has minor damage…update follows

Guys stay away from the coast they’ve issued a tsunami warning

Massive earthquake last night….but we are fine. Lots of broken glass in the apartment….i prefer my Iowa tornado over the earth shaking violently…and at 4am on sat morning…no where to hide.

With thanks to my brave friends in Chile.

P.S. If any of you would prefer not to see your words here, please let me know. x

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20 Random Acts of Kindness for Backpackers (Matador)

Photo by Daniel Gasienica

Imagine a hostel in which revellers tip-toe silently through the dorms, cups of tea appear beside your bed while you’re in the shower and your bill has already been paid when you go to check out. Inspired by Danny Wallace’s book ‘Random Acts of Kindness: 365 Ways to Make the World a Nicer Place’, here are 20 ways to spread the love this February. 

1. Do the washing-up in the hostel, even when it’s not yours.

2. Write up your top tips for nearby places and post them on hostel notice boards.

3. When you’re hostelling with friends, invite solo travellers out for dinner and drinks.

4. Travel with a plug-in mosquito repellent and keep the dorm mossie-free. Raid do a good one.

5. Offer to guard other peoples stuff at bus stations while they buy their tickets.

6. Buy a CD from a local busker, copy it onto your itunes and leave the CD in the hostel.

7. Pack some biscuits and a magazine from home and give them to a compatriot who has been travelling for ages.  

8. When you’re heading out for a heavy night, leave your toothbrush and whatever else you need out ready on your dorm bed so you don’t have to rifle through you backpack at four in the morning.

 9. Offer to make the hostel reception staff a cuppa.

10. Call or Skype your friends on their birthdays. It’ll mean all the more that you’ve remembered to call from the Amazon.

11. If you’re next to a nervous flyer, keep them talking during take off and landing to take their minds off the flight. Hold their hand if need be.

12. Rinse the hostel shower after use and clean the plughole.

13. Use cloth bags for your stuff rather than plastic ones. Your dorm mates will love you for not rustling in the morning.

14. Pack a few pairs of extra ear plugs and offer them to people trying to sleep in noisy dorms.

15. When you get on a local bus, pay for the person behind you too.

16. Buy a bag of dry dog food and feed the strays as you wander around a new city.

17. When you leave a country, give your left-over currency to travellers heading in the other direction.

18. Support new businesses that aren’t in the guidebooks.

19. After you take photos of other travellers, email them your pics. If you take a great shot of a local, consider printing off the photo and taking them a copy.

20. Call your mum and tell her where you are.

Got one of your own? Add your random acts below.

 See it on Matador here.

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How to Couchsurf Without a Couch (Matador)

Santiago’s party people. Photo Natasha Young

You don’t need Couchsurfing’s most famous accessory to take advantage of the site. Here’s an overview of how to couchsurf sans couch.

When you’re tired of traveling thousands of miles across the globe only to be faced with a hostel-full of your loud drunken countrymen, it’s time to join Couchsurfing. No matter if the idea of staying on a complete strangers’ smelly sofa fills you with horror; you can still use the site to meet knowledgeable locals and avoid all those hostel ‘have you done Peru?’ conversations.

Better still, if you’re moving to a new country and don’t know a soul, Couchsurfing meetings are a great place to start making friends. Here’s how.

Once you’ve joined the site and created your profile, your first stop is to check the CS communities. Most big cities have their own group/forum on the site and even if they don’t, it’s worth checking the events page to see if anything is going on nearby. If a meeting is listed, you can generally assume that everyone and anyone are welcome.

The Meetings
Couchsurfing meetings aren’t (just) about trying to cop off with handsome foreigners although they can sometimes feel a bit like speed-dating. In big popular cities like Buenos Aires, Paris or Barcelona, meetings may be so packed with eager residents and traveling Couchsurfers that it’ll make your head spin. Wherever you are in the world, you’re likely to meet some of the following:

a) The Party People. These young kittens have no job. They probably study astronomy or anthropology. They don’t care who you are or where you’re from. They’re just delighted they have a new friend to soak up the gin with.

b) The Lechers. “Mmmmm, you’re new”, they purr, as they clumsily brush their hands across your knee and look down your top. Couchsurfing may not be a dating site but no one has told them. In their profile shots, they will be wearing the very shortest shorts. They will only want to host girls.

c) The Knackered Travelers. They want to like Couchsurfing they really do, but before they came to this bar, they spent 3 days hiking up a volcano and then got on a bus for 32 hours. They were hoping to collapse into bed when they got here but their host is one of the party people (see above) and now they’re going to a club…

d) The Ex-Pats. When they first arrived here they were full of gleeful wonder but they’ve waited in one long bank queue too many and now they’re all bitter and twisted. They will take real pleasure in telling you everything that’s wrong with the place you’ve just landed in.

e) The Professional Couchsurfers. These will be the people who organized the meeting or answered your question on the forum in 30 seconds flat. They will make it their life mission to make you, and any other newbies, feel all warm and welcomed. They will have 543 positive references and get very cross when they read newspaper articles that describe Couchsurfing as a free alternative to hostelling rather than a cultural exchange.

The City Forums
When you need up-to-date local info on your destination of choice, there’s nothing better than an active Couchsurfing forum. Residents will know exactly how much the airport bus costs, where the drum and bass clubs are and if you need to include a photo on a local job application. Just be sure to ask them nicely, thank them profusely and return the favour to other travellers when you get home.

You can pretty much find anything on a Couchsurfing forum, but if what you want to see isn’t being organized, consider doing it yourself. From camping trips to city tours, piss ups to opera outings, language exchanges to sex toy parties: someone somewhere is planning it. Recent posts in Santiago de Chile included a trainee masseuse looking for people to practice on for free, Chilean Couchsufers and their families taking in solo travelers at Christmas and everyone rallying round to help one of their own who had taken ill in Brazil.

The Groups
Like listening to The Grateful Dead when you’re naked? There’s probably a group for that. Couchsurfing lindy hoppers, gay cyclists, handsome lawyers and high maintenance male backpackers all have their own groups, so why can’t you? For a walk on the wild side, check out funny negative references.

The Private Messages
If big social gatherings aren’t your thing but you want to meet people, it’s worth searching the list of local Couchsurfers for like-minded souls. Look for those with positive references that have logged into the system recently. When sending them a message, be sure to mention something from their profile; nobody likes a cut and paste. If you don’t need a bed for the night, check ‘coffee and a drink’ to find eager tour guides and drinking buddies.

Good manners and positive traveling karma underpin the ethos of Couchsurfing. Don’t forget your pleases and thank yous, and when you’ve been around long enough to know the answer to a question on the forum, be sure to dive in and answer. If you meet someone and have a splendid time, consider leaving them a positive reference. Equally, be honest and leave a neutral or negative one if you don’t.

In a perfect world, every Couchsurfer would want and be able to host and surf but it’s not always possible. If you can’t go the whole hog but want to get involved, remember this: sleeping over can be awesome but just hanging out can be fun too.

Read it here on Matador.

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Billionaire Piñera takes Chile – now the party really is over

Sebastian Piñera has just won the general election in Chile. As one friend on Facebook put it, the Mercs and the 4x4s will be out on the streets of Santiago tonight.

The polls and pundits have been predicting his win for months but I still can’t believe it. The man with the smarmy smile and the billboard that said ‘Delinquents – The Party’s Over’ has gone and won. Was that a Pinochet slogan? It sounds like it could have been.

After only a year in Santiago and now back in the UK, I can’t claim to know a lot about Chilean politics. But I can imagine that a billionaire who apparently owns a TV station and has a controlling interest in LAN, the national airline, is probably quite keen on making money. Namby pamby topics like social justice, free health care or environmental concerns like not ruining the countryside by building an effing great big dam in Patagonia are unlikely to be top priorities.

Bachelet has been generally well-regarded. Had she legally been able to stay in power, she may well have done so. Eduardo Frei, Piñera’s opponent, didn’t seem to be nearly as popular. ‘I just don’t trust him to do what he says he’s going to do’ said one friend. Meanwhile, Piñera’s posters were everywhere. From deserted deserts to the wind battered beaches of Chiloe, his smug beaming face was there, promising tough reform on crime and a ‘breath of fresh air’. In the end, he won, with 52% of the vote to Frei’s 48% in tonight’s second round.

As a non-Chilean, I can’t possibly begin to understand what it’s like to grow up in Chile’s rigid class system. I haven’t seen a military coup or lived under Pinochet’s regime/government (choice of word depending on what side of the fence you sit).

What I do know is how hard it is to talk about politics in Chile. As a teacher in Santiago, students clammed up whenever politics was mentioned. I was told specifically by my boss not to discuss it in class. Occasionally, I’d see unguarded glimpses of Pinochet support – ‘It was just a change of government’, ‘He was nice to me when I was little’, ‘My friend says his only mistake was he didn’t kill all the communists’ – and it shocked me to the core. Essentially there are those in Chile who really believe that a man, under whose rule thousands of people allegedly disappeared, was the best thing to ever have happened to their country. And yet nobody seems to want to openly challenge this belief. It’s as if politics is a nasty, embarrassing business and that the past should be lain to rest. Will Chile ever be able to move on if it can’t talk about what happened in 1973 and the years that followed?

And so it hit me today, as the election results were coming in, that my friends in Chile were talking about politics in their status updates on Facebook. For many there was disgust – ‘Nothing to celebrate’, ‘disaster’, ‘I’m leaving Chile!’, ‘Chileans have sold their souls to the devil’ – while for others there was a feeling that not much would change. ‘It’s just the centre right versus the right. Half of this country has already been sold off, I just hope there’s something left after the next 4 years’ said one. Some had practical concerns ‘When are the shops opening again? ‘(it’s illegal to buy or sell alcohol during an election) while others didn’t even seem to know there was an election happening, ‘Can anyone lend me a tent for the weekend of the 25th?’ asked one, ‘Where can I buy a cheap fridge?’ said another. Only one lone voice sounded gleeful ‘A great conversion! Chile is a great nation. I’m proud of my country’. Nobody liked his status. Meanwhile others, in the grand tradition of keeping their opinions to themselves, chose to seethe quietly with a ‘……………………’ and a ‘no comment’.

Here’s to more commenting. May there be much more of it. The last time I checked it was still free and OK to do so.

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Filed under blog, chile, Politics, Santiago de Chile, Uncategorized