A Taste Of Home – Part II

Following on from Part I of this two part special, it’s time to tackle the Indian meal I had last week.  Indian restaurants are very difficult to track down in Santiago, but luckily there was one about a ten minute walk from my hotel, and so that seemed the easiest place to go.

It’s situated on Av. de 11 Septiembre, which is the same road as my hotel, but it’s much further down.  I’m by Pedro de Valdivia metro station, whereas this one is nearer Tobalaba (two stops on line one to the East).

I opted for the set menu, for about £6.00 or so.  With that you got a starter of cheese balls, with a main course of “Chicken Curry”, rice, and naan bread.  Quite what type of curry “chicken curry” was, I wasn’t certain, and I ended up having a bi lingual chat with the waiter (with me resolutely sticking to Spanish, while he opted for English). Unfortunately I also got a menu primarily in English, but fortunately it wasn’t a shambolic Google Translate job (unlike one incident I recall in a hotel in Bayeux, where the English menu offered “roofing tile” for pudding.  I still don’t know what that could have been – if you’re ever in the Bayeux area, definitely check out the tapestry)!


Anyway, I enjoyed my chicken curry very much, although again, it’s not as good as curry in the UK!

High As A Kite

Firstly, the title here is not a reference to the apparent psychological state of a shady and rather unsavoury bloke in the loos of the bar JD and I went to on Friday night (although admittedly, it could well be).  It is instead referring to my high altitude medical test that I had this morning.

“What did it involve?” I hear you cry.  Well, surprisingly, it didn’t actually involve any running on a treadmill, or breathing air with less oxygen.  Therefore, quite how I was actually tested for altitude remains something of a mystery to me.  I had an ECG done, an X-Ray, blood tests, and a brief test of my eyesight, but nothing that seemed obviously useful with respect to altitude.  The only part of the experience that was relevant was a piece of paper with advice for dealing with altitude written on it.

Anyway, that was how I spent this morning, before heading back to the mine with my boss, to arrive just in time for lunch.  This is the final shift here before my little excursion to live in the Atacama Desert, and I’ve got a few things planned (like visiting the actual mine part of the mine – i.e. where they extract the ore, rather than just the bits around it).  This shift only lasts ten days, as Thursday week is a national holiday (so I’m finishing on Wednesday week instead).

Special Edition: How To Make The Perfect Cup Of Tea

In amongst this plethora of posts about expat life in Chile, I thought it would make a change to inject a touch of the familiar back into the blog.  What better way to do this than talk about tea.  I must put a disclaimer in at this point, and say that it probably won’t make you a perfect cup of tea, not least because the term is a subjective one anyway.  So really, this post is about how I make tea (assuming that I have the time, energy, and inclination to do it properly, which I’m afraid is usually not the case – I know, I’m the worst Englishman ever, don’t judge me).  With that in mind, the most accurate title for this entry would be “How I Should Make A Cup Of Tea If I Want To Do It Properly”, but I’m sure you’ll all agree, that it’s not quite as catchy as the title I opted for (not that it is that catchy anyway).

Anyway, pointless and irrelevant preamble aside, let’s get on with it.  In true Blue Peter style, I am of course drinking “one I made earlier” as I write this.

For this exercise, you will need the following items:

1. Tea leaves (not bags, and it has to come from Camellia sinensis).  Herbal “tea” isn’t tea (an analogy would be saying your glass of wine was a type of beer). “Ooo, I love this delicious wine beer” sounds rather silly doesn’t it?  Anyway, all flippancy aside, you get my point.

2. A kettle.  Electric is easiest, but if you have a metal one, and want to boil it over a wooden fire, then that’s equally fine. 

You at the back!  Yes, you! Don’t you dare even think about using a microwave!

3. A teapot

4. A mug (or a cup and saucer, I don’t really care, but it depends on number 8 – see below)

5. A tea cosy (optional)

6. A jug of cold milk/bowl of white sugar (granulated or lumps) – brown sugar is for coffee (also optional)

7. A supply of water (not optional, but it being free of contaminants is highly recommended)

8. Biscuits (optional, but your best bet would be rich teas, digestives, hob nobsor ginger nuts).  If you go for biscuits, the cup and saucer arrangement is better, as the saucer can hold your biscuit as well as the cup of tea.

9. A tea strainer (to catch all the leaves, unless you like eating them/plan to “tell someone’s fortune” – although we know that’s a load of old cobbler’s – and yes, that apostrophe is deliberate, I checked)

Right, shopping list out of the way, what do you do with all this stuff?


1. Empty the kettle, and add new water.  Then boil the water.

2. Put boiling water into the teapot.  The teapot has to have no tea in it at this stage.

3. Boil kettle for a second time.

4. Empty hot water from the teapot, and add tea leaves to it.  The number of teaspoons of tea leaves you need to add is one per person, and one “for the pot”.  (i.e. n+1 spoons where n = number of people for you Mathmos out there).

5. Add boiling water to pot, and leave to brew (length of time varies according to how strong you want your tea, but don’t leave it too long, as you don’t want it to stew).

6. Putting the strainer over your cup, pour the tea in.

7. Add milk/sugar to taste.  I know I’m provoking a huge row of monumental proportions here, but it’s definitely better to add milk afterwards (as then you can control how milky your tea is.  If you add it before, and you put too much in, then you’re stuck).

8. Put tea cosy over pot (if applicable).

9. Enjoy your nice cup of tea.

I can’t advise on biscuit dunking techniques I’m afraid, as I’m rather lacking in those skills.

Anyway, that’s my guide on how to make nice tea :).

Yo Ho, Yo Ho, the Expat Life for Me!

In an earlier post, I promised that I’d write an entry about some realities of being an geologist expat abroad. Admittedly, my stint is only a few months long, so it’s not especially representative of what it’s like to live for a few years, but it’s something to write about.

It’s easy to take a lot of things from home for granted, and the old saying of “you only miss it once it’s gone” is quite true, such as hearing this everyday (a rough calculation for how many times I’ve heard it gives an estimate of around >5,000 times in my life so far)! Luckily while I was in Santiago recently, I popped into Whittard’s, and bought 50 teabags of Assamese tea, so that ought to tide me over for the next fortnight! There’s no milk at the mine, but beggars can’t be choosers! I’ve already mentioned the tea aspect, but what else would I bring with me, were I packing once more?

First of all, I’d definitely have packed my short wave radio. The internet at work blocks lots of stuff, including online radio (I foolishly assumed that this would not have been the case, hence why I didn’t pack said radio), and so a short wave radio would be super handy, as it would enable me to listen to the World Service (I’d die for the Shipping Forecast right now – theme tune, and one such forecast).

Secondly, (applicable only to geologists I’m afraid), I’d have brought my DHZ with me. To those of you unfamiliar with this acronym, it stands for Deer, Howie, and Zussman (not the initials of my friends to whom I often refer – makes a change eh?), who are the authors of a rather helpful book. Essentially it is a guide to minerals (the clue is in the title “An Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals“), and in geology, it’s difficult to live without it. Those Collins Gem “Rocks and Minerals” books (or those of a similar nature) are nice to read, but geologically, they’re pretty worthless. Yes, emerald and topaz look nice, but let’s be honest, how many rocks have you actually seen with emeralds in? Exactly. They have a tendency to omit the more common minerals, such as plagioclase, k-spar, or biotite for example (all of which are likely to be knocking about your granite kitchen work top), and useful information (such as how the extinction angle relates to the % Albite : % Anorthite in your plag crystal – ok, admittedly I’m not looking at any thin sections here, but DHZ does have lots of stuff about hand specimen appearance, as well as details on paragenesis). DHZ has all the useful information on the important minerals, and so to say it’s handy is rather a large understatement.

To the geologists reading this, imagine trying a GSB/C2/O9 practical that lasts for 3 months, when the nearest copy of DHZ is 8,000 miles away. Not a nice thought right? Does it make your skin crawl? Yes, I thought it might! Clever me for not bringing it is all I can say (although I’ve managed to get a copy of the pdf of the C2 handout – not easy when university sites for some reason are blocked on the company internet – don’t ask why, as nobody knows), so that’ll do the job….ish! To those of you who are not geologists, an appropriate analogy is to imagine yourself as a vicar, and attempting to write a sermon without a copy of the Bible. Fortunately, there’s a book that is a bit like DHZ that they use in Chile, which isn’t bad, although it’s written in Spanish (obviously), so reading it takes quite a while!

Another couple of books I’d love to have brought with me (which only those of you with whom I was at school are likely to know) are Caminos 1, 2, and 3. These were the textbooks with which I was taught Spanish from First Form, to GCSE (in Fifth Form), and so, now that I’m in a Spanish speaking country, having these to hand to do some swotting would be rather good.

The other aspect you need to contend with when living abroad is sorting out everyday chores. The SIM card problem has been resolved, but what about more boring things, such as laundry? There is no laundry at the mine, as very few people actually live here. Neither is there laundry at the hotel. Luckily if you Google “Lavanderías en Santiago” you get a list of places you can go to. Not the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but if you run out of clothes (as I shall in a couple of weeks), there’s not a lot of choice!

Back to Santiago

First off, my form has been found, so I’m not going to be an illegal immigrant. Wooo!

Anyway, enough of that nonsense.  Last night I returned to Santiago for my free weekend, and it’s going really well so far.  After I arrived, I met up with JD, who’s the other intern based in Chile (although he’s at a different mine), and we went over to an Irish bar for supper near his flat.  We had fajitas and cheesy chips (good combination, you should try it some time), and had a good chat before heading home.

Today has been very busy.  I got up, and left my hotel at about 9:45. First I bought some postcards, and then went to a nearby shopping centre, to get a nice cup of tea.

Ahhh, lovely!

Ahhh, lovely!

I wrote the cards (to my family, TKC, PC, and LB), and got them all posted off at the nearby Correos.  After that, I topped up my phone with more internet, and then decided to go and see what Barrio Bellavista was like, having been recommended to go there.  I decided to get the Santiago version of an Oyster Card (called a tarjeta bip! – presumably because of the beep noise the machine makes when you scan it), and took the metro to Baquedano station.

El Metro

El Metro

I found the Patio Bellavista quite easily, which is a small area, with lots of shops and bars/restaurants.  I had some lunch, grabbed some cash from the ATM, and bought a large Chilean flag as a souvenir.  Then I went halfway up San Cristobal hill to Santiago Zoo to see what they had.

At the bottom of the hill.  Because llama.

At the bottom of the hill, in Bellavista. Because llama.

It was quite interesting.  In addition to the usual elephants/lions/giraffes/penguins/etc., they had some native Chilean animals (such as flamingos).  However, what I thought was great, was the fact that they had bog standard mute swans, and guinea fowl (for the latter, luckily I wasn’t hungry, as I’d just had lunch).

Yes, those are just normal swans.

Yes, those are just normal swans.

There was quite a good view from the zoo too.

Santiago from halfway up San Cristobal hill.

Santiago from halfway up San Cristobal hill.

Afterwards, I took the metro to Tobalaba station, which is past my hotel, as I wanted to walk back through all the various small shopping centres that pepper the area.

On the way back to the hotel from Tobalaba station.

On the way back to the hotel from Tobalaba station.

There was a huge amount of variety, and several were themed.  A couple consisted mainly of normal shops, that people use for everyday chores (e.g. cobblers, greengrocers, etc.).

Normal, small, local shopping  centre.

Normal, small, local shopping centre.

I came across a couple that were several floors high, but the floor was a helix, so it wound up and up.  Theme wise, there was a LOT of variation, including electronics, computer games, and… well, what made me think I was in Soho in the 1970s… (no photos of THAT I’m afraid haha)!  The electronics ones reminded me of the similar ones in Mong Kok in Hong Kong, with all the tiny shops selling cameras etc.

Oooooo spirals!

Oooooo spirals!

Anyway, I’m now back in my room, and will be meeting up with JD shortly to go back to Bellavista for the evening.

Well This is Awkward!

Good news everyone!  My passport and work visa have arrived!  Unfortunately, that’s where the good news stops.  Essentially my work visa is valid for a month, after which it gets renewed (and then renewed again each month until I go home).  While in itself that’s quite simple, with no hassle at all, there is a minor problem.

When you enter Chile as a tourist, you have to fill in a tourist immigration form.  When applying for the work permit, your passport and this gets sent off.  Finally, you need this form to leave Chile, as it’s a record of your arrival and departure from the country.  All in all, this piece of paper is quite handy, and not something you want to lose.  Except that’s the problem.  Someone has lost it.  I last saw it as I handed it and my passport over 10 days ago in Santiago (both of which were needed for the work visa application, ergo, it cannot possibly be in my possession), and now my passport has returned without it.  Nice!

What does this mean?  Well, that’s anyone’s guess.  Maybe I can’t renew my work visa?  Maybe I’m soon to be an illegal immigrant?  Maybe I’m stuck in Chile forever, having to adopt a secret new identity, living in a cave in Tierra del Fuego?  Who knows!  I asked what happens if they don’t find it, the answer I got was “I don’t know”!  I promised myself I wouldn’t write this in my blog, but #YOLO! (hehehehe).

Solamente Hablo En Español

Righty ho readers and reader-esses, I’m firmly out of the anglosphere now.  I’ll admit, it’s pretty daunting, however slowly but surely, my Spanish is forced to emerge from the deep recesses of my mind (although at a pace that would make a snail look like Usain Bolt).  It’s quite enjoyable in a way, in spite of my typical eloquence being hindered somewhat, and I am adapting.   Being an expat is very exciting, but rather daunting at first (especially when you don’t know anyone and are pretty poor at the local lingo), however I am loving it!  Of course, there are a few things that I miss from Britain, but overall, there’s nothing I’d rather be doing at the moment.  It is very interesting to experience this, as I’ve only seen it from the other side (as a local seeing foreign expats in Britain).  In due course (i.e. when I get back to Santiago), I’ll write an entry about generic expat-y stuff (including stuff I wish I’d brought but didn’t), as well as differences I’ve noticed between Castellano spoken in Spain, and the local Chilean variant of Spanish but at the moment, I’m a wee bit busy (because ¡¡¡¡GEOLOGÍA!!!!).

Anyway, what has today involved?  First of all, I went to breakfast with the field assistants, who are lovely people, and are extremely kind, before going to the office to check emails and to swat up on copper minerals (as I know nothing about them so far, save for their names).  Then we went to the drill core analysis place, and spent a couple of hours looking at a newly done core, and the assistants showed me example of what several copper bearing minerals looked like (such as chalcopyrite and bornite).  After that, it was time for lunch.  What special Chilean food did I have today I hear you ask?  The answer (obviously) is vegetable soup, bangers and mash, and jelly.  (I am in Chile, not the local pub, I promise).  I’ve been drinking a lot of tea while I’m here (at every meal), although it’s not quite the same as tea in the UK.  It looks like tea, but doesn’t really taste like it (sorry Té Club, it’s nothing personal)!.  Even so, the fact that it wasn’t available at lunch was painful.


Mine food!

Lunch having been eaten, I was very kindly bought some snacks from the kiosk at the canteen by the field assistants, before heading back to the office to check my emails etc.  Shortly (i.e. after I’ve written this) we shall be heading back to the core place in order to spend some more time looking at the rocks.

¡Hasta luego mis amigos!