Waking Up in Chile

From top to bottom in Chile, we’ve heard the same thing: the country has been a pressure cooker and the protests were bound to happen eventually. Decades of widening disparity between the rich and the poor had led to an inevitable boiling over of frustrations. The younger generation, the ones that didn’t grow up during the Pinochet dictatorship, are less afraid to take to the streets and demand social justice. 

Revolución en Chile.

The protests in Chile had been going on for just under a month by the time we landed. I’d been trawling social media and the news to see what the situation in the country was looking like as our trip approached (and, selfishly, how protests might affect our travel plans). Our initial apartment booking in downtown Santiago was canceled a couple weeks ahead of our trip, as the building was in the middle of the protest area and the landlord felt that it was unsafe. When we arrived at our newly booked apartment in Las Condes, an affluent neighbourhood just outside of the city centre, it was almost impossible to tell that there were protests happening a few kilometres away (aside from a few buildings that had proactively boarded up their windows). Our hostess advised against wandering into the downtown area, qualifying that “más que peligroso es feo” (“more than dangerous, it’s ugly”) – but ugly is subjective (and less concerning than dangerous!) so we did a little wandering anyway.

On a sunny Sunday, the crowds at Plaza Italia – the epicentre of the protests in the capital city (renamed Plaza de la Dignidad by activists)– were relatively quiet. A few hundred people chanted, cheered, banged pots with wooden spoons and waved the Chilean or Mapuche flag. Santiago, like every other Chilean city we traveled through, has been covered in graffiti.

We saw small rallies (more like gatherings than protests) in Punta Arenas (where the building next to our hotel had been burned down the week before) and Puerto Varas (where they had an impressive drum line). In San Pedro de Atacama trendy shops had window signs supporting the protests and signs declaring “no estamos en guerra” (“we are not at war”), a common rebuttal to President Piñera’s initial misguided response to the riots, claiming that the country was at war and criminalizing the millions of civilians protesting.

In Valparaíso, the seaside city famous for its vibrant street art, many murals had been altered to show people with bloody eyes, and countless bloody eyes have been painted around the country in reference to the hundreds of Chileans who have suffered eye trauma or been blinded and maimed by the police. Over twenty people have been killed, and thousands seriously injured. Last week, Amnesty International reported that Chilean military and the carabineros (national police) are violating human rights by intending “to injure demonstrators in order to discourage protest, even to the extent of using torture and sexual violence against protesters.” At the same time, the Valparaíso-based feminist collective LASTESIS has gone viral with their performance of “Un violador en tu camino” (“A Rapist in Your Way”) – decrying violence against women and the human rights violations happening in Chile. The song has now been performed all over the world (here’s an English explainer).

Blinded in Valparaíso.
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berkeley birthday

In contrast to the chilly October weekend that just passed, my twin brother and I celebrated our birthday last year in sunny California. Between hiking along the coastal beaches and under sequoia canopies, and roaming the hilly street of San Francisco, we spent a night and a day with most of our family in Berkeley.On our birthday-eve (not something we typically celebrate!), we wandered through town in time to hear the tower bells on campus, and back too late for the farmer’s market. Upon having our ID checked at Jupiter, we were challenged to a birthday beer race by our server (we lost, obviously). There were birthday candles floating in our stout which was a big enough win for me. We ate pizza and then my brothers and I fell asleep while watching Harry Potter in the motel room; a great way to ring in another trip around the sun.

Before driving across the bridge to San Francisco the next day, we had a late lunch at Chez Panisse Cafe. I will attribute the same-day reservation that my parents made to being a birthday miracle.

My mum had introduced me to the name Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse many years ago. When the assigned reading for my high school French class was Marcel Pagnol’s Marius & Fanny, the connection to the character named Panisse, in my mind, was the Californian restaurant. I thought it was an exciting coincidence at the time. (It’s not a coincidence, of course.)

The significance of Alice Waters’ influence on American cuisine is expansive – extending far outside of Californian kitchens, into farms, schools, and global communities. Many more skilled writers and cooks than I have described her impact in the industry and beyond. I’ll just add that it was a real treat to sit in the sunlit café on my birthday, with some wonderful people, eating delicious, simple food that was a testament to all the good things I had heard before getting there. Another birthday candle, this time in my persimmon pudding, was icing on the (birthday) cake. I can’t wait to go back.cali bday (1)
We left with one of Alice Waters’ cookbooks, with recipes ordered by season and ingredients. It’s almost encyclopedic, and wonderful to flip through for inspiration. The recipe I’m sharing is certainly not Continue reading

40 Hours in Montreal

Aside from the childhood landmarks –the penguins at the Biodome, my grandmother’s kitchen, the mountain, a family favourite souvlaki joint– I’ve realized that I don’t know Montreal all that well. It’s still a familiar place; most of our extended family and many friends call la belle province home, but despite years of visiting I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of the city.

With my twin and his boyfriend as our local guides, we had a jam-packed 40 hours exploring in the city. Le Plateau. Mile End. Le Vieux Port. There were some places of nostalgia, but mostly lots of new-to-me spots. We café crawled, bar hopped, and karaoked our hearts out. Continue reading

não falo português

imageimageimageWe were perhaps overly optimistic about picking up Portuguese as we explored the country. Not that it has hindered our travels in any real way — we tried to order espresso tonight and received port instead– but we’re working on it. We’ve been impressed by how many Portuguese polyglots we’ve encountered, and most people don’t seem to mind our silly Spanish/French pronunciation as we practice. From Madeira to the Douro we’ve felt very welcome.imageimage
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Dhaka, A While Ago

bangladesh1bangladeshIs it silly to blog about travels that happened ages ago? I’m going to hope not. maps(#tbt is all over my Instagram feed, does it exist in the blogosphere as well? Let’s pretend it does. Sidebar: apparently there are rules for #tbt! In case you didn’t know…)

A while ago, I went to Bangladesh. A while after that a friend asked me to guest post about that trip on her blog. It took me a while to write said post, and by then her blog was no longer. I’ve mentioned that trip here before briefly.bangladeshDSCN5247To continue my preamble: continue reading…