Corrugated City

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Here and Gone Again

So I made it back from Buenos Aires in one piece. Not even a close call. Boring, eh? The city did try to make me ill as I woke up on Monday morning feeling like I was about to get a dose of the flu that seemed to be laying everyone low but I managed to get over that with about 30 clementines and 10 oranges. 

Buenos Aires was, in short, great fun as always. More expensive than last time, quite definitely colder but fun. Being there as a tourist is way more fun than being there as a resident. I'll try and get one of two photos posted at some point.

I'm actually only back for a few hours. At 4am I'm returning to Santiago to take a flight to London (with a fantastic 5 hour stopover in South America's worst airport, Sao Paulo. Yey) for about 3 weeks. I'm going to try to blog at least once a week from back home. (If any of you are worried about my cats-and of course you are-they and the house are being left in very capable house and cat sitting hands :)

I can't wait to go back. It's been almost 19 months since my last time home and I'm really looking forward to catching up with friends and my family (well, most of them jeje). I'm also going to see West Brom v Arsenal and then against Everton, something worth the price of the airfare alone. Boing Boing.

This is possibly the worst blog post ever but I'm too busy to think about writing anything interesting. As I said, I'll try to do some blogging when I'm back. If not, you'll have to wait 'til the end of August.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Dying in Argentina: Let's Hope Not

Tomorrow I'm back off to Buenos Aires for a little under a week to sort out some business and to also enjoy large amounts of juicy, bloody dead cow (now the farmers' strike is over and there's plenty of juicy, bloody dead cow around).

Now I really like going back to BsAs and Argentina. It's such a fun and beautiful city with so much to do and see. I'm really looking forward to the trip. What I'm not looking forward to is the insanity on the roads. Argentine drivers are, by quite some distance, the worst drivers I've ever had the misfortune to have to deal with. They deliberately speed up if they see you crossing the road, don't respect traffic lights or any kind of traffic signals, make 1 lane into 23, deliberately try to knock down cyclists (I used to cycle in BA), drink and drive, text and drive, write letters and drive (I had a taxi driver writing a letter to his mother telling her how much he loved her-I could read it over his shoulder) and generally do anything possible to drive as dangerously as they can. When my brother visited me in Buenos Aires, he refused to get inside another taxi after just 3 journeys. If anyone thinks driving is bad in Chile (it's really not) then don't ever go to Argentina, it's a million times worse over there.

An accident a couple of days ago left another 6 people dead, taking the total for the year to over 4000 people. At the moment, the average is 22 people dead every single day of this year. This will exceed 8000 dead if the current rate continues, beating last year's average by 1 extra person per day. Compare this to England, a country with about the same population as Argentina but with far more cars on the road, where about 1500 people are killed in accidents with a further 1000 cyclists and pedestrians, making 2500 traffic related deaths per year. The Argentine stats don't specify if they include pedestrians and cyclists killed by careless driving-I strongly suspect they don't.

Bear in mind that we're talking only about the people who have died in accidents, not the people who have been maimed or not so seriously injured. That number is probably 100 times beyond the death figure (at least that's the ratio mentioned in the link to the England accident rate).

Luchemos Por La Vida is a non-profit that tracks the carnage and puts adverts on telly in Argentina. There is no government sponsored campaign to stamp out the madness.

This road based insanity is one of the reasons I prefer to live in Chile these days.

Hopefully, I'll be back blogging next Wednesday...if I'm not run down by a psychotic bus driver...wish me luck :)

Dying in Valparaiso: El Cementerio de Playa Ancha III

So now back up to Playa Ancha on our cemetery tour.

The cemetery is very much a "people's" cemetery. Burial plots in an open field can be purchased and then it's up to the family to decide what kind of grave should be created. And when I say 'created' I really mean it-plots are anything but exact in dimensions and the graves are a colourful mix of wackiness.

Each grave is surrounded by a white picket fence or something similar. The plot is then adorned with football flags, streamers of all colours , flowers or whatever the family deem appropriate. A white cross is the only constant. Some families build a kind awning over the grave in an attempt to recreate an old fashioned mausoleum. It's really quite an interesting concept in burial and not something I've ever seen before...

It's all a bit of a muddy mess in winter with spare concrete coffins lying around...

The only non-white cross I saw...and it's surrounded by a baby's cot...

A mausoleum for a family without a tonne of money...

A Santiago Wanderers fan (local Valpo football team)

An empty field, ripe for death development...fantastic sea-views, mature garden- what else could you want?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Council in Positive Action Shock! Council in Not-So-Clever Action Non-Shock!

I frequently complain about how poorly this city is managed in terms of tourism and basic things like not having any public bins anywhere, potholed streets etc. But I'm happy to give credit where it's due and over the past 3-4 months there have been a couple of positive developments in terms of traffic management and signage, two things very much linked to the tourism aspect of Valparaiso.

Until a few months ago, there were no signs anywhere giving directions about how to get to Cerros Concepcion y Alegre, the area of the city that attracts the most tourists. Now, along with new traffic lights on Erazurriz/Pasaje Ross there are clear signals as to how to get to the neighbourhood.

Along with this, the council initiated a scheme to change all the street signs. Now I have to say, I'm not a great fan of the new design: I really like the old style white lettering and black background especially when it's stencilled onto walls. I find the red on white a little jarring. But's certainly an improvement: Now, in most of the city, you can see what street you're on. Before, you could often walk several blocks and not find any street signs and have no idea where you were.

These may seem like small developments, but they're more than that. It's proof that the council is actually starting to think about the little things that make life for locals and tourists alike just that little bit easier. The city has many grand plans, but a succession of small projects will benefit the city and its inhabitants far more.

So that's the good news. The bad news is that the city still has no idea what it's doing from a tourism point of view. Valparaiso is marketed sooooo badly. Take this poster campaign, for example: Now, I know it's not the best photo (I was driving, it was a cloudy day and I've had to zoom in and cut around the image to make it large enough) but look at it: It's so pathetically uninspiring it's laughable. The choice of photo is awful (it looks like a slum), the background colours are terrible, the font and the colour of the font are looks like a bad school project.

Here are 4 suggestions for a better photo:

Not only this, but the new logo for the city, which cost in the region of us$20,000 to create, was dropped a couple of weeks ago before it even came into use after widespread criticism. Unsurprising, really...after all, what the hell has tango got to do with Valpo (apart from the fact that it's quite popular here)? The logo looks like a very bad kindergarten project undertaken by blind toddlers. With no hands. With epilepsy. They even forgot to put an accent/tilde on the 'i' in Valparaíso (I don't usually bother with accents because I can't be bothered to constantly change my English keyboard over to Spanish but a Chilean ad agency should be able to remember).

The same advertising agency (from Santiago, not Valparaiso) has been asked to create a new one.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Alvaro Besa y Miramar-Before and After

Where Calles Miramar y Alvaro Besa meet, one of Valparaiso's most famous houses can be found. The house is famous in part because it, like my own house, is shaped like a ship. But its real claim to fame is that it was used as the 'residence' of the main character of a Chilean soap-opera called Cerro Alegre. Below is the marketing fluff for the series-it's quite entertaining. Look out specifically for the late 90s massive mullet.

This intersection looked very different in 1865-the Casa Crucero didn't exist and neither did Pasaje Bavestrello, built in 1927. It's impossible to get the same angle for the photo-i'd have to be standing about a quarter of the way up the Pasaje but without the Pasaje actually being there, in the way.

The house you can see in the original photo is still standing...but not in its original form. It's one of Cerro Alegre's oldest houses, built sometime in the 1850s by all accounts. The American owner, a semi-retired professor, great fun and always good for a G&T, bought the place about 20 years ago just after it had been almost entirely consumed by a large fire. Over the years, he's slowly renovated the place and also collected a fair amount of information about the house and lots of photos. At some point, I intend to raid his collection...

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Dying in Valparaiso: Firefighters (again)

A while ago, I posted about the tombs of Valparaiso's International Fire Brigades. On a wander through El Cementerio de Disidentes a few days ago, I found the tomb for the British founded Undecima, George Garland Brigade. So here it is-click to enlarge and to check out all the British names on the tomb:

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

How Not To Install A Chimney or How To Install A Chimney, Chilean Style

On the corner of Urriola and Templeman, Cerro Concepcion:

Monday, 14 July 2008

Miscellaneous Oddities and the Clown Museum

Today I went for a short walk around Cerro Alegre with an acquaintance, along Avenida Alemania, through the cemeteries and then back up to Cerro Concepcion. On Lautaro Rosas, I came across this multi-tasking little store. It sells frozen fish, jam and also couples up as an internet cafe. Certainly an interesting mix of products.

On Subida Cumming, just as it reaches Plaza Bismarck (Cerro Carcel), we then stumbled upon the completely fantastic Clown and Puppet Museum and Theatre.

Inside, there are gigantic puppets, little puppets, the history of the clown and other random clown and puppet based entertainment. We learned that there's even an NGO called (I kid you not), Clowns Without Borders. These cheeky chappies travel around the world helping the most needy through the medium of pie-throwing, tripping over and wearing make-up. What a job: International Clown Doctor.

On weekends, they put on puppet shows, usually aimed at kids but it think everyone should be able to enjoy this kind of entertainment. Psychedelic drugs may or may not make it more fun.

Spot the clown.

Skiing-Valle Nevado and El Colorado

Last year I posted about Valle Nevado being overpriced and having some of the worst food on the continent.

So this year, I went back.

Now, I still believe that the resort is massively overpriced for the local market and also for what you get-the equivalent of a small resort in, say, Bulgaria. Including ski hire and lift pass, you're looking at about 48,000 pesos (us$100) per day. That's a hell of a lot of money for the average middle-class Chilean.

Luckily, on the first day we went- Thursday- Entel had a 2 for one deal on lift passes and a 20% discount on ski hire which reduced my cost down to about 30,000 for the day. Not too bad...

And the good thing about it being too expensive for almost everyone in Chile is that the pistes are completely empty. On a few runs down, we were the only people on that particular slope, something that is pretty much inconceivable in most European resorts.

Despite the fact that it hadn't snowed for about 3 weeks, the conditions were actually really good-decent snow and very little ice and, after a 10 year absence from the slopes, I was soon back in the swing of things. I'd forgotten two things about skiing:

1. It's great fun.
2. It's completely knackering.

By the end of the first day, my legs felt like jelly and I was exhausted (almost 5 hours driving didn't help with the exhaustion either).

Valle Nevado

Ski buddies Olivier and Sophie. They're French but I don't hold it against them.

On the second day, we decided to give El Colorado a try, instead of Valle Nevado. I'm glad we did so that I can now make an informed decision as to which resort to go to in the future. El Colorado is a couple of thousand pesos cheaper but Valle Nevado is far superior. Valle Nevado has better equipment to hire and better slopes (and the snow was way better as well, El Colorado was compact and icy). Not only this, but at El Colorado they decided not to open one of the chair lifts. There was no reason for this but to save costs. The problem is that this particular lift services about 25-30% of the resort. So we had to pay full price but were denied use of a good proportion of the resort. I found this pretty outrageous. And they also charge 300 pesos to use the toilets. Pathetic.

El Colorado

From El Colorado you can see Santiago covered in a cloud of toxic smog. In the morning, the towers of Sanhatten are still visible.

That's me. The black outfit's rather slimming, isn't it?

Farellones is the small village just below El Colorado. It looks like a Swiss ski village that's been abandoned for 50 years, bombed and then inhabited by vandals. In short, it is a typical Chilean town.

By mid-afternoon, Santiago was invisible through the lung-destroying smog. I feel really sorry for the people who have to live there full time, although it's nice to visit from time to time.

In summary, avoid El Colorado and go to Valle Nevado if you want to ski in Chile.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Educational Graffiti

There was another march today about the state of the educational system here in Chile (bad) and a recent bill that passed through congress. To be honest, I haven't really been following the whole thing very closely so I don't have all that much to say. If you do, feel free to post. What I do know is that there are two separate causes at the moment. One is the bill I just mentioned and the other is the pase escolar which is the subsidised transport pass for students. Protests about this topic have lead to both students and bus drivers going on strike (they're not in agreement with each other) and universities being 'taken', resulting in cancelled classes.

So this piece of graffiti says: splurg running over education (I couldn't read the first word).

And this one asks: State Education? with ironic question marks.

That's it.

Monday, 7 July 2008


Carlos Hermosilla was born on Cerro Alegre in 1905. The rest you can learn here (if you speak Spanish, that is).

Anyway, there's currently a really decent expo of his work in the El Consejo Nacional de la Cultura y las Artes (click for more biographical info as well) down in Plaza Sotomayor. I'm not sure how much longer it's on for (I went over a week ago and then promptly forgot), so go as soon as you can. It's free. I'd never heard of him before wandering in but I really liked his stuff.

I only managed to take a couple of photos before being told off by the security guard.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Graffiti in Valparaiso

More stencil graffiti from around town:

Anyone want to explain this?

DIY revolutionaries:

Here comes...the same old year.

Not sure which genocide this is talking about:

Pro-Farcness in Valpo: