We landed in Santiago just after 8 pm on Sunday the 6th. The three ATMs in the arrival hall were not working, ugh, but luckily I still had a few dollars and 50 Argentine pesos, and converted them. Hopped on the Bus Azul to Pajaritos station, then line 1 of the Metro to Santa Lucia, a neighborhood just east of downtown. As much as I appreciated SABF friends taking me from and to the airport, it felt good to be self-reliant, and back on public transit (the ride into town cost less than $3). My hosts had offered a choice: hotel or apartment, and I took the latter. Walked a couple of blocks up Avenida Santa Lucia to number 282. After a bit of confusion, Pablo the building concierge greeted me and escorted me to apartment 41. “Wow,” I said, as Pablo flipped on the lights in a huge, well-appointed two-bedroom apartment. It was way too big for a small gringo, but it was a great choice.
As happens frequently in Latin America, I whispered “thanks, Don Miguel” (he was my first Spanish teacher; see earlier posts for the nice story) as Pablo walked me through the apartment, explaining how everything worked in his language. Rodrigo, who owned the flat, e-mailed me that he was providing some breakfast fixings; it was late and I was tired, and rather than heading out for a light meal I buttered four slices of toast and fell into deep sleep.
After four busy mornings it felt good to wake up past seven, make coffee, and potter about the apartment, admiring the view of the park across the street, built on Cerro (hill) Santa Lucia. Unlike the new accommodation website AirBnB, which has profiles of host and guest, I could only infer a few things about Rodrigo from the furnishings and stuff in the kitchen. A picture of a soccer team was the sole photo. There were a lot of masks from tribes around the world, an interesting range of books (from Isabel Allende to American self-improvement volumes), and in the kitchen a small jar of Kama Sutra chocolate body paint!
About 9:30 I left the apartment, hopped on the Metro south to the San Joaquín campus of Universidad Católica. It was my tenth annual visit, and it was good to be back. Met my longtime UC host Andrés Ibañez, who with a bunch of his B-school colleagues was watching a Chilean gymnast narrowly miss winning a bronze medal, which would have been their first of the XXX Olympiad. Bummer.
At 11:30 my autumn teaching term began, with a presentation on airline marketing to an undergraduate class. At one we headed to a simple lunch and a good catch-up, then hopped on the Metro back to the apartment. Did some work, took a short nap, and at six walked a few blocks to the older, original UC campus to deliver a talk on airline advertising to a lively group of MBA students. It felt good to be back in the classroom. Met my MBA host, Hernán Palacios, for a caloric Italian dinner at Squidritto, very near the apartment. He and Andrés brought me up to speed on the Chilean economy and nation – one that I admire greatly; it is a well-managed place, with strong growth that has lifted living standards over the more than four decades that I have visited.
Tuesday morning and early afternoon was a repeat, with a pricing lecture in San Joaquín, another quick lunch, short nap, and some work. At three I walked downtown, around La Moneda, the presidential palace, then onto the Metro to Costanera Center, a brand-new shopping mall that perfectly shows Chile’s rising living standards. Several Chileans suggested I see it – it was the largest in Latin America, beneath the still-rising skyscraper that will be the tallest on the continent. All the global brands were there, neatly arranged. Check and done.
Headed back to “my neighborhood,” to a crafts market, in search of a traditional Andean sweater for Jack (there was no way I’d find such a traditional garment in the mall!). Found two possibilities quickly, in a small stall belonging to Carolina, a friendly young woman. Prices were so low ($12-25) that I could not in good conscience bargain. Snapped iPhone pictures, and told her I would return Wednesday after e-mailing them to Jack.
Then I set out on a mission. Santiago is full of street dogs, many of which look hungry and almost all forlorn. The need to execute the mission became clear when I saw this table outside the MBA classroom the day before, then the stenciled message earlier Tuesday:
As I did in 2011 in nearby Valparaíso, I bought three pounds of dog food. And right outside the Unimarc supermarket on Avenida Portugal I met the first hungry friends. They were standing next to a couple of young people who had simple wares arrayed on the sidewalk. I think at first I surprised them, and in another Gracías, Don Miguel moment I had a nice conversation with them. As I walked away, the young woman said in English, “You are nice people.” Maybe just a small rebalancing of an image of the U.S. (and its people) that is often just so awful — two days earlier a racist gunman opened fire in a Sikh temple.
At 8:30 I met Tomás Gonzales for dinner. It was a nice bit of serendipity – when I arrived Santiago on Sunday evening I had a Facebook message from him, asking if I was heading to Chile. We met at Patagonia, a rustic gastropub I visit every year. We had a great yak and a nice meal. He was working for LAN and enjoying his first five months in the airline business.
I was back on the San Joaquín campus Wednesday morning, distributing the last of the dog food, then into an undergrad class. Sr. Palacios was the host, but he had a conflict, so I introduced myself and launched in. The students clearly seemed relaxed without a teacher, and the class was the liveliest of the four. Toward the end, admiring the crucifix that is found in all UC classrooms, I announced to laughter and applause that “Jesus is my co-pilot.” His leadership by example and lessons on strong values are things every B-school student should learn, regardless of faith.
Two students walked me back to the Metro. One hopped on and rode with me back into the center. Marcelo told me a bit about his life. His father was a veterinarian and they had lived in the U.S. for awhile, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was a pleasant ride, punctuated by the unpleasant experience of pepper spray in the Baquedano station; Marcelo said it was a student protest. We parted at the Tobalaba station.
I flagged a cab, and got taken for a ride; whether or not the elderly driver truly did not recognize my destination, clearly spoken in his language and shown on my iPhone, we took a looping route. But we got there, there being the apartment of young Chilean friends Felipe and Cota Recart, and their 11-month-old son Simón. Cota was big pregnant on my last visit, and it was great fun to see them as doting parents. The lad was a smiling, happy baby, and I think he took a liking to Rob el Gringo, as I have long been known to Cota’s family. We had a great lunch and good catch-up. Felipe headed back to work on his bike, I took the Metro into the center, bought the sweater Jack chose, hopped the Metro and bus to the airport, and flew home to Texas.