My first few days in Chile have included all kinds of adventures; the large majority of them great! Last night I followed a few other American teachers to a local bar where we began the night with the much revered chilean drink piscola. I know what you’re thinking…it sounds like someone added coca-cola to a few shots of urine (piss-cola) and charged you the equivalent of $5.00. I suspected the same thing, so I checked with the bartender after the first sip. It seemed like she gave me more of a hollow chuckle (rather than a wicked laugh), so needless to say I’m relatively sure it’s not piss!
After a few drinks with my American counterparts I decided to venture into the wild abyss of the bar and meet some native guapas at the other end. Doing these sorts of things used to be daunting, but over the past few years I’ve made talking to random people a part of my lifestyle! I approached the girls directly and sat down in the couch across from them. The music was blaring, so I had to keep the conversation relatively simple, or else I would have ended up saying, “perdón??” and bobbing my head next to her mouth every other sentence. Overall, the interaction was good! Even if I didn’t understand everything these girls were saying, I knew that as long as I kept good, relaxed body language and tried my best I could at least be endearing! I don’t know if Chilean girls take endearing for attractive, but it sure as hell was worth a try!
After about 20 minutes of conversation the girls had ripped through about three cigarettes each. Not a fav, but hey, what the hell are you gonna do! I had to go to the bathroom briefly and check back with my American friends. It turned out they bailed early, but I did manage to find a Canadian guy from my hostal who was at the bar on the floor above. He loved hockey, the Trailer Park Boys, and having the opportunity to live in a city where winter doesn’t have a wind chill of -38 degrees Celcius (yes, Celcius). After a brief banter with him I decided to head back to the sexy ladies I was talking to on the bottom floor. As I approached them, I quickly realized that sitting at their shoulders were two Chilean dudes. Shit! Not only that, but the girls were laughing like crazy and playing with their hair. Dios mio! I turned around and putzed for a few minutes, until I realized that restarting my flirt roulette would be much harder at this point, because the bar was absurdly crowded (now approaching 2:00 A.M…prime party time). The more crowded it gets, the less I can hear, and once that happens, endearing transforms into annoying pretty damn quickly. I sat down next to the one of the comedic bastards shook his hand, after which he turned to the girls and made them laugh over and over again. I got a few points in, and even tried to get the girls to come dance with me, but ultimately it was a lost cause. It was a moral victory because I proved to myself I could do it, but I still fell into the bitter hands of defeat…a Rocky I if you will.
So, at 2:30 in the morning I decided to hit the streets of Santiago by myself. Being the discerning man that I am, I decided not to get a taxi, and to instead amble somewhat aimlessly. Everyone I asked told me hostal Providencia was far away, and that I would need to walk for at least 10-15 blocks to get there. Only a few minutes before I was in a packed, sweaty club, and now I was simply alone in the deserted streets of Santiago. Even the dogs that laid lifelessly on the sidewalks during the day were completely absent. I finally found a cute couple who were sitting on a balcony, and I asked them if they knew the location of la calle Vicuña Mackenna. Both immediately told me that it was far, and apparently far enough that the women hopped inside to grab a map. As I stood there with my head humming in a post party buzz, I spotted a man walking on the street side across from me. I asked him from afar if he knew Vicuña Mackenna; he jogged across the street and told me that he was already walking to a location close to Mackenna. At that point my options were low, and he looked like he was middle-aged and amiable, so I decided to trust him! As we were walking we made the usual 3:00 A.M. on a Wednesday night small talk. He told me he was a chef getting off the night shift. He also told me that it was ridiculous for me to be walking alone at night, because certain streets are quite dangerous. I said that I could always run if anyone tries anything. He told me that it wouldn’t matter; if someone really wants to rob me they’ll just shoot me. I responded, “Pues, no voy a caminar así en el futuro.” (“Whelp… I’m not doing this ever again!”) He laughed and told me, “Eres un muchacho muy simpatico” (“you’re a very nice guy”). Immediately a red flag went off in my head— he was potentially coming on to me. He then told me that since his place was closer than the Hostal, so I could just stay there. Two red flags go off in my head— dude is definitely coming on to me! I took a breath and looked down for a second, at which point he nonchalantly reached out his hand to graze my crotch. I boomed out, “No soy homosexual, tio!” (I’m not gay, dude!!) “Perdón, tranquilo, tranquilo!” He responded. I have never read in a travel handbook what to do when you’re lost in a city late at night, and your random pedestrian guide is coming on to you, but I decided to stay the course. Yes it was strange that he non-chalantely tried to graze my genitals when I gave absolutely no indication of being interested, but I could see from the scenery that we were walking in the right direction. I told him to simply take me to the nearest taxi. He obliged, and 10 minutes later I found myself in a taxi, talking to a driver who was speaking with a jarbled accent of which I understood nearly nothing. I’ll take that!
When I finally got to my hostal, my ears were ringing like crazy. One of the half-naked Canadian dudes was sleeping in the top bunk and snoring up a storm, but there was nothing that could stop me from getting to sleep. I woke up at noon the next day to the sound of an Argentinian woman speaking over the phone to her hubby in the hallway. It was a strange, long night, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t refreshed!
NOTE: I will not be walking through the streets of Santiago by myself past 12 ever again. Although nothing terrible happened, the potential was probably closer than I realized.