I stood motionless, frozen in place. As the building swayed and creaked, as if made of popsicle sticks, my mind raced. Was there a stadium of athletes doing aerobics on the floor above us? Was there a raging party jumping around on the floor below? It finally occurred to me… It was an earthquake. Chile was well known for them and this one was pittance compared to the average quake, coming in at only just above 5 on the richter scale. Nonetheless, it rocked my world, having never experienced anything like it. After discussing it with my roommate and calming down from the excitement, I made my way to the bathroom to shower… the after-shock hit! That’s one way to start the night!
Now that my companions were gone, the next day I had to fend for myself. Fortunately, hostels offer relatively close quarters, so chances of meeting new people are high, sometimes whether you want to or not! Incidentally, I met a Chilean-Canadian that was looking to get something to eat, I too was hungry and so the man-date was on. Over our feast of a shared parillada, he humored me in speaking Spanish throughout the meal… I need practice! After our stomachs were full and blood primered with a few local beers and wine, we were ready to hit the bars.
On our way, two passing girls stopped me to complement me on my cologne. Realizing I didn’t understand what she said in Spanish, she quickly translated to English. Incidentally, I wasn’t wearing any cologne… I think they just wanted an excuse to talk to us.
While thinking to myself, “When will this conversation be over,” my new-found companion interrupted by inviting them to the bar with us… Shit… Not only were they not attractive, they weren’t particularly interesting. Apparently the new guy thought otherwise, but then again he was Canadian; I suppose attractiveness is relative.
A few beers and forced coversation later, I thought I saw the end in sight; we had an out. It was time to move on and I figured we’d part ways, but no, it seemed they were coming to the disco as well. The anti-charm had backfired. The rest of the night was more or less a game of cat and mouse; we were them mice trying to get away!
Like I said before, you often meet new people, sometimes you like them, sometimes you don’t… Next!
For the next day, the objective was to figure out what was next in my journey. While sitting in the common living room doing some research and listening to a group of friends chat in Spanish, much too fast for me to comprehend, one of them leaned over and offered me some mate. Mate is a wildly popular tea in Argentina, drank from a curious contraption with a filtered straw. It’s often seen being passed amongst friends and even strangers, just as it was now. This is probably one of the things I love most about this culture; their openness, friendliness, and sense of community. This simple offer of mate resulted in a awesome day of sandboarding in Concón, hanging out at the beach in Reñaca, winning a dance contest at a burger king promotion, sipping Pisco and Cola at the hostel, carrying one of their overly drunken friends home from the bar, and venturing into a random seafood market for lunch together.
Sometimes you meet people you don’t like, sometimes you make friends that just might last a lifetime!