Corrugated City

Thursday 29 May 2008

Monday 26 May 2008

How To Make A Bacon Sandwich In Chile

There's not all that much that I miss about England. To most people's surprise, I usually mention food. Things like chicken pie, roast lamb/pork/beef with all the trimmings, cottage pie, sag wal, dim sum and pad thai amongst other traditional British dishes. But I think the one food item I miss most is bacon. Bacon is a gift from the gods. Smoked back bacon with just a thin line of fat. Maple cured bacon. Fatty, streaky bacon. Hmmm.....just thinking about it is making me dribble onto my keyboard.

For some unknown reason, proper British style bacon is not really very common outside of certain countries (Denmark, Canada and Australia are the three that mainly spring to mind). I don't know why this is. It's soooo good. Strange people, foreigners.

So what can you do about this unfortunate fact of life in Chile? Improvise. After much investigation, here's the definitive guide to how to make a bacon sandwich in Chile.

First off, just accept that there's no bacon. I've found the best substitute to be Jamon Colonial J.K. (J.K being the brand). It's available in most supermarkets and costs around £1.50/250g. Out of all the different hams I tried, I keep coming back to this one. Make sure you get slices with the all important fat on it them, like this:

The next most important part of a bacon sandwich is the bread. Don't buy your bread from the supermarket. It's horrible. Go to a bakery. If possible, come to Cerro Concepcion and go to the bakery on the corner of Alte Montt and Urriola. The bread to buy? Pan batido as it's known in Valparaiso or Marraqueta as it's known pretty much everywhere else. Below is what it looks like. This is two pieces-break in the middle, horizontally to get the one piece required.

Now heat it in the oven for 5 minutes.

When I can be bothered, I fry a few red onion rings for added flavour. Once they're done, fry the ham until the fat on it has become crispy.

Cut the bread in half and add a little olive oil. Put the 'bacon' in. Then add a couple of slices of fresh tomato, a bit of salt, a sprinkling of oregano and, if you're feeling fat, some freshly grated reggianato cheese. I also like a bit of tomato sauce.

Cut down the middle and enjoy. Yum.

Don't forget to have a nice cup of tea afterwards. Here's my guide about how to make a good cuppa in Chile.

Saturday 24 May 2008

Another Quirk Of Chilean Spanish

Re-reading my post from last year about how to speak Chilean Spanish I realised I'd completely forgotten to mention a quirk that I think is unique to Chile (please correct me if I'm wrong) and one that I really like. 

It's common in Chilean Spanish for people to be referred to as nouns. How so? An example:

-Donde esta la fiesta esta noche?
-Donde la Caro. 

-Where's the party tonight?
-It's at the Caro's house.

It's normal to use the definite article (el/la-the) when mentioning people's names and not only when referring to an object or non-human being. In 'proper' Spanish, talking about la Leo or el Pato would probably make you sound the equivalent of a wurzel driving a tractor or some red-neck from the Deep South. In Chilean Spanish it's perfectly fine. I've got so used to it that I don't even notice I'm doing it and I usually get laughed at when I'm back in Argentina with friends from over there. Particularly when referring to Chilean friends, it sounds really weird not using the definite article.

In my experience, it's more common to use the definite article when referring to girls names but it is also often used when referring to boys as well.

Chilean Spanish is harta pega but it's always entertaining.

Thursday 22 May 2008

The Expat Get Together And Plans For Another

Last night we had what I hope will be the first in a series of get togethers for expats and English speaking locals. Luckily, the rain stopped enough to make actually getting to Cerro Concepcion a possibility. It's been seriously tipping it down here for a couple of days and on Tuesday the streets were almost knee deep in water in both Valpo and Vina.

I wasn't actually sure how many people were going to come along so I was more than a little pleasantly surprised at the turn out. In total there were 14 of us. From the local blogging world we had: Meredith and only friend Elisa, Allie and only friend Julie, Luis, Clare, Jess and myself. Other attendees were Adrian and Sybil from England, Emma and Scott from Australia, Berkeley from the US and Pablo from here in Recreo. Ed, Allegretto's English owner, also joined us for a short time.

So thank you everyone for coming along. I hope you all had a good time- I know I did. It was cool to meet the people behind the blogs I read and also everyone else as well.

I'd really like to try to get something regular going and to attract more people to the meetings. I was thinking maybe once or twice a month to all come together and have a good time? Let me know if you'd like to do it again at least...Allegretto is always a good option as it's not too expensive and there's usually draught Cerveza del Puerto (it had bloody well run out last night...bah...). But if anyone else has a suggestion then please let me know and we can all decide.

Also, if anyone just fancies meeting up for a beer at any other time, I'm not usually averse to that kind of activity so just get back in touch..!

Something I would like to definitely try and organise is a trip Pablo, Jess and I were talking about. For 300,000 pesos we can hire a boat that will take us 30-odd miles out to sea. The reason for this adventure? Once way out into the Pacific we'll be able to see a huge array or sea-birds and other marine life, including Albatross and Penguins. I'd love to see an albatross in real life. With a group of 15 we'd have to pay 20,000 pesos each, including light snacks and all the dead fish required to throw overboard in order to attract all the sea-going critters. The boat would leave early in the morning, around 6am and we'd be back sometime around 2-3pm.

If anyone is interested in doing this, please let me know and we'll try to fix a date for sometime in June.

Thanks again for coming along and I hope to see you all again soon. If you couldn't make it this time, hopefully there'll be a next time in the near future..!

Wednesday 21 May 2008

English Speakers Anonymous


I'm confirming that the meet up is going to be on Wednesday evening-8.30 pm at Allegretto (Calle Pilcomayo and Templeman behind the Iglesia Anglicana on Cerro Concepcion). Great pizza and draught Cerveza del Puerto.

If you're coming with someone can you let me know. If there are more than 6 of us-and if everyone turns up, we will be-we'll be best off in the upstairs part of the restaurant as space is limited downstairs for large-ish groups).

So enjoy the 21st May parade and I look forward to meeting everyone on Wednesday.


Edited post:

We're organising a get-together for English speaking expats and Chileans. This will, hopefully, turn into a regular meet-up, maybe every couple of weeks and will give long term expats a break from speaking Spanish and newcomers the chance to meet people. If you're an expat who wants to meet other expats, then come along. If you're a local who wants to speak English then you're very welcome to join us as well. Please contact me either by leaving a comment at the bottom of this post of by emailing info at pacificfive dot co dot uk

Sunday 18 May 2008

USS George Washington in Valparaiso

In the middle of the photo above you can see a large boat. This is the USS George Washington, a monster aircraft carrier carrying about 3400 troops and en-route for Japan. For the last few days, she's been sitting just offshore and it's been interesting to watch the small flotilla of boats going back and forth, ferrying men ashore and back again.

I've been rather stuck at home the last few days so I haven't been out to see what kind of havoc the sailors might have caused. As I haven't read or heard any reports of any mischief, it would appear they've behaved quite well. This is certainly different to my last experience of US sailors on shore leave from an aircraft carrier back in 2002 in Perth, when all they did was fight, destroy and cause various other problems. It was surprisingly entertaining to watch. From a distance.

3 years ago, another, even larger US aircraft carrier docked in Valparaiso-it carried over 6000 people. I was living in Buenos Aires at the time and I remember reading newspaper reports of upset punters, unable to get a prostitute in any of the major Argentine cities. They had all left to hit pay dirt for a few days in Valparaiso. This doesn't seem to have happened this time.

What I have noticed is that I've had quite a few more hits on this blog through google searches along the lines of 'Valparaiso brothel' and 'Valparaiso whorehouse' over the last few days. I guess these visitors left my blog a little disappointed when they didn't find the addresses they hoped for.

The USS George Washington leaves Valpo today.

EMOL has a special with lots of info about the carrier. There are also lots of photos here.

UPDATE: The Washington has finally left...15 hours behind schedule. The reason? The falta de tripulantes, as the Mercurio put it or a lack of crew members. Er. Good going, lads. Glad you had fun.

Thursday 15 May 2008

Arquitecto Harrington

So, continuing my not-very-comprehensive-and-marvelously-amateur-but-the-best-you're-going-to-find-online-in-English cataloging of Arquitecto Esteban Orlando Harrington works here in Valparaiso, here's another of his buildings that I had walked past many times without noticing his signature. Down in Plaza Bellavista, just up from La Intendencia is another large building. It's not as decorative as a couple of his other major buildings, just plain and functional. It now houses various businesses and offices, including a sede of the Universidad de Aconcagua.

Here are some photos.

Tuesday 13 May 2008

More Graffiti in Valparaiso: Faces

So here are more photos of graffiti in Valparaiso. I thought I'd got most of it but I was walking along Yungay yesterday and found a building covered in stuff I've not seen anywhere else in the city. I'm going to have to go back and photo all of it soon.

I took these photos a few weeks ago.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Graffiti in Valparaiso (and also in Santiago)

A few bits of graffiti I enjoyed:

"I'm watching you" (better before some muppet smashed the mirror).

"What do you do for your rights?"

The council gets in on the act:

And this, from Santiago:

Wanders, Walks and Tourism in Valparaiso

So I've had quite a fun time over the past few days. On May 1st, I went for a wander along Avenida Alemania.

Avenida Alemania is also known as Camino Cintura given that it runs right along the middle of the hills of Valparaiso. In general, below the Avenida is ok but above and as you start to get higher into the hills, the city becomes poorer and semi-slums appear. I say 'semi-slums' because I don't think they could be classed a real slums anymore. Sure, many of the areas are really poor but the vast majority are now connected to mains water and electricity and the roads are now paved. These are quite new developments-just a few years ago, these areas had none of these basic requirements. It's progress at the very least.

So the architecture along Av Alemania is quite interesting and sometimes plain wacky. Just up and along from Cerro Alegre, Germanic style is really popular. The Hospital Aleman is in the area and gothic mansions abound.

The road winds along and affords some spectacular views.

Cerro Concepcion with the Lutheran Church middle-right.

After 40 minutes or so from Cerro Alegre, you'll end up just next to the entrance to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda's house in Valparaiso at the top of Cerro Bellavista. From here I walked down the steepest street in Valpo, Subida Ferari and back along through El Plan. The weather was pretty great and it was nice to have a wander without any real destination in mind.

In the evening and pretty much all day on Friday as well I met up with two Belgian travel journalists, Debbie and David, who have the enviable job of staying in luxury hotels and resorts all over the world. This was their first trip to South America with Valpo being almost the very last stop on a 6 week tour of Buenos Aires, Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, San Pedro de Atacama and the Central Region of Chile.

Firstly, it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed showing them around the city and sampling the local brews (although David somehow became obsessed with the hydrochloric acid otherwise known as Cristal). I think they saw a side of the city that they wouldn't have normally seen if they'd just walked about on their own.

But what was especially interesting to hear were pretty much all my thoughts about the incompetence and lack of professionalism that surround South American tourism confirmed by people who actually judge these things for a living. Without going into great detail, it's basically that the people in charge on a national, regional and independent level are simply not providing the support or service required. Let's face it, they got in contact with me in the first place because there's no other English language information out there about Valparaiso.

From the Chilean tourist board that refused to give Debbie and David a couple of hours to show Santiago because Chile is 'not interested in the Belgian market' (because the internet is, obviously, limited to Belgium), the absurd reciprocity tax to the us$17,000 a week cruises with disinterested and occasionally arrogant staff, it's not the country that's the problem, it's the people working in it. Chile has everything to make it a fantastic tourist destination. It just needs to be managed and staffed by competent, intelligent and, above all, professional people.

During our conversations, what we always came back to was the difference in attitudes towards the customer (tourist) in South America and Asia. In Asian countries (and here I mean South-East Asia and China), the customer really is king. It doesn't matter if you're paying us$10 (me) or us$1000 a night for a room (lucky travel journalists not actually paying or people with lots of cash to spare), the staff will bend over backwards to help you with whatever you want. That's not the case in South America. There's a real lack of knowledge about what makes an 'experience'. You can have all the expensive toys you want on a trip but, at the end of the day, it's the people who make it all come together. They don't do a good job here, where it's assumed that expense and expense alone is the key to luxury.

I hope this changes over time but I don't think it will. It's such an ingrained part of the culture. You see it everywhere-expensive restaurants with untrained wait staff; tour guides who know nothing; surly or bored looking staff on organised tours etc. Training is simply not seen as important here. What is really required is to send higher level staff overseas to Thailand or somewhere similar so that they can see what makes great service. But this, of course, goes against the prevailing attitude that I just mentioned: training doesn't matter.

Debbie's travel blog can be found here.

And then on Saturday a friend and I went out for a pizza and drinks with fellow coastal blogger Allie. She, apparently, does stuff. I always enjoy meeting other bloggers. It's funny trying to get past the fact that they already know so much about you and sometimes you can't work out whether to mention these things or not. It's kind of like meeting an old friend you haven't seen for years-you know, when you don't have to go through all that weird getting to know you crap but can just get on with talking about this, that and whatever else. Anyway, for penniless, poverty-stricken EFL teachers, Allie and her friend Julie seemed quite happy living in Chile and it was a fun night out.

And now it's back to work dealing with maestros and other exciting things like that. Woo-hoo.