The Great SIM Card Hunt

Today is a public holiday in Chile, and so the geologists weren’t in.  Yesterday, as their computer was very slow, a couple of them decided to decorate a large cardboard box as a coffin as an office prank, and leave it (in an ominous fashion) in the field assistants’ office.  This morning, the field assistants promptly responded by writing the geologists’ names on the coffin, and leaving it for them to find.

Anyway, after all the fun and games this morning, it was time to find the SIM card again.  We first went to a small town called Nogales, but nowhere was open.  We did however see a large church procession with dancing and music going along one of the quiet streets.  Anyway, after that, it was back to La Calera, and, while most shops were shut, one telecoms place was open.  As luck would have it, they had the right sized SIM for my phone, so I bought it.  Good stuff.  Finally I could chat to some people back home – hooray.

Afterwards, we had some lunch back at the mine, followed by a bit of drill core examination.  Now I’m back in the office, sorting out plans for the weekend with the other intern (who is currently in Santiago, as he is based at a mine near the city, so has an apartment from which he commutes in each day).  He’s probably around this weekend, so we’ll be visiting an interesting bar if all goes well.  It’s quite famous, with a drink called terremoto (lit. “earthquake”) – allegedly because it’s difficult to stand up afterwards.  I’ll let you know on the weekend whether this is true or not.

Let’s Get to Work

Apologies for being away for a few days, it’s been difficult to get internet here.  So, what have I been up to?  On Monday morning, I was collected by my supervisor from the hotel, and we went to the main office in Santiago to sort out my work visa, and to meet people in the exploration division there.  After that, we headed to the mine.  It’s pretty big, and impressive, and is on the side of some big mountains (although they are small by Chilean standards).  I spent the afternoon meeting people, and having a safety meeting, before grabbing some dinner, and going to the house at the mine where I shall be living for the next few days.  All accommodation and food is provided, which is really handy! 

Yesterday was mainly spent going through papers talking about the geology of the mine, and the surrounding areas, and I had some meetings on the geology, and on safety.  My colleagues are all very nice, and the office is great too.  It’s a small building set aside from the main building, just for the exploration group here.

This morning, I met a few more people, I did some more reading, and am now waiting for someone to come up from Santiago who will show me how to go through some drill cores, so that ought to be fun.

Food For Thought

Ok readers, this is the last post of the day, I promise.  Yes I know I’ve written three, but hey, I’m on the other side of the bloomin’ planet, visiting a new country and continent, so I reckon it’s legit!

Anyway, while still unsure of what to do on the supper front, I was having a chat to my sister back in blighty, who suggested I got some fajitas.  Genius idea, especially as that reminded me that I’d seen a fajita restaurant at some point today.  I was dreading getting lost again, as I’d gone all over the place earlier, but luckily, it turned out that said restaurant was about three doors down from the hotel (is that handy or what?).  I walked down and perused the menu outside, reaching into my pocket to discover that I’d forgotten my dictionary! Alas alack and woe is me (to plagiarise a phrase)!  I popped back up to the room to recover the dictionary (getting an amused look from the chap on reception on the way).

Armed with the dictionary, I ventured into Fajita Express only to find that the word I wasn’t sure about wasn’t actually listed.  Nice.  Oh well, C’est la vie! ¡Es la vida! I decided to back myself, and order anyway (well why not?).

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On the drink front, I elected for the more conservative agua sin gas, and was asked if I would like any ice.  I replied in the affirmative, but only a little.  The waiter promptly came back with the bottle of water, and a small bowl, containing ice cubes (as well as a large pair of tongs) in order that I would be able to decide exactly how much ice I wanted in my drink.  I’ll be honest, I think that’s a brilliant idea. Admittedly, it doesn’t really apply to water, but I mean, who hasn’t had a drink full of ice, which, when the ice then melted, tasted super diluted?  By putting the ice in yourself, clearly, you can decide how much you add, and then tailor the drink to your own taste.  British establishments, please take note!

After all this excitement, it was time for the crowning glory of the evening.  The fajitas had arrived.  It was a marvellous sight to behold. Three tortillas, with three sauces (guacamole, sour cream, and some spicy sauce) to put on, and six toppings.  This was a very good move, and I thoroughly enjoyed eating it.

My scrummy supper.  Topping dish (in white), clockwise from top left: Refried beans, chicken, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, and rice.

My scrummy supper. Topping dish (in white), clockwise from top left: Refried beans, chicken, mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, and rice. Note tongs and ice bowl on right hand side.  (Click to enlarge)

Sadly, the inevitable happened, and soon the experience was over, and it was time to pay the bill (CLP 6300 – about £8).  The dictionary came into play here, to see if service was or was not included. Luckily, although I’m leaving Santiago tomorrow morning, I shall be back at this hotel for a few days in a fortnight (when I have scheduled leave from the mine), and so I’m sure I’ll be back.  This place also does takeaways by the way!

Fairytale of Santiago

So, I was alone.  Alone in a country where almost nobody speaks English.  Just me, with rusty GCSE Spanish.  Challenge accepted!  First of all, I caught up on emails etc. and then watched the Djokovic-Murray Wimbledon final, which was very exciting (and ended very nicely).  After that, it was time to venture out into Santiago.

My first plan was to find the British Embassy, then go exploring to get some postcards to send to various friends, write them, and then pop into the nearest correos and post them.  That was the plan, but as with most things, it didn’t really work (except for finding the embassy which is quite near the hotel – handy stuff).  The main issue was that when I eventually found the correos, it was closed (as it is Sunday today), and I’ve still not seen a post box anywhere!  Most shops are also shut, so it made hunting for postcards a bit of a mission.  I went into various corner shops, but none had any.  One bloke told me that I ought to try the underground station, but all the shops there were shut.  So that particular venture had to be abandoned sadly.  After the dismal failure of the postcard searching, I walked around randomly for a bit.  Even though it was Sunday, there were still quite a few people around. People of note include one bloke who decided to do acrobatics on pedestrian crossings while the cars were waiting (as you do), or the guy who decided that the pavement was definitely the best place to do some casual arc welding.

It’s winter here at the moment (although it feels warmer than most normal summer days in the UK: 15C), so all the trees have lost their leaves, or have a few brown ones still hanging on.  I say that, except there are some evergreens of course.  Well, when I say evergreens, I mean conifers.  And palm trees.  Yes, palm trees.  Right next to leafless deciduous ones.  It’s an unusual sight, especially when the background is primarily the snow capped Andes!

Confusing Trees

Confusing Trees (click to enlarge)

Anyway, I had a ramble around, and found a large shopping centre (which was open), so I had a look.  Inside was the shop I was least expecting to see.  Yes, there’s a Whittard’s here in Santiago (and therefore, I can declare it a Brit friendly city).  Anyway, I thought it was time for more exploring (hey, that’s what my job is anyway, practice makes perfect), so I walked some more. And got lost.  Not an ideal situation I admit, but luckily, I had the cunning plan of screenshotting Google Maps of the area near the hotel before I left, so I managed to locate myself (it did however allow me to see some rather nice leafy residential streets with high rise blocks of flats on).  After this minor misplacement of the self, I opted to go back to the shopping centre to buy a map of the city, before heading back to my room.

This evening has been pretty quiet, just doing some work for the placement in advance, and chatting to friends back home online.  I’m deciding what to do for dinner at the moment, but I’m still unsure. Hopefully I can find a Chilean restaurant that’s open, as I’m not going to go to the McDonald’s or Pizza Hut that are opposite, it’s just too tragic!

If you don’t know the paraphrased reference that is the title, click here for the (frankly superb) song from which it is derived.

The Eagle Has Landed

Well, what a long journey that was!  After getting on the plane, it became immediately obvious that there were no screens in the chairs. Yeah.  This also meant two things.  Firstly, I had no idea where I would be at any point, as there was no map to see, and secondly, there was no way to charge things on the journey.  In other words, there was nothing to do.  13.5 hours is quite a long time to do nothing.  Luckily, I spent the first hour making a long playlist on my iPod (6 years old, but still got a brilliant battery life), followed by another hour spent eating supper.  11.5 to go, so I spent most of that sleeping :D, it was pretty intermittent, but hey, it means I’m now less tired (which is ideal)!  I woke up somewhere over the Atlantic I think (distinct lack of any lights below), and the stars looked lovely.  The next time was over Brazil I think, with small towns dotted around.  The third and final time must have been over the Amazon Rainforest (as there was just pitch darkness below).

Then the sun began to rise.  At first, it was just a deep blue off to the East, but as time went on, the sky got brighter.  By a stroke of luck, it was just properly dawning as we flew over the Andes, and was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.  Snow capped mountains, looming up from below, silhouetted by a fiery sunrise.  I took some photos, but they definitely do not do it justice.  The Andes’ sheer scale is spectacular, as you cross them, they stretch for as far as the eye can see in all directions, and once you’re over, they just run in a line seemingly ad infinitum.  You can easily imagine people saying that they mark the edge of the world, the towering snowy peaks being impassable, with the possibility of the void on the other side, or more simply, Here Be Dragons.  If Tolkien ever saw this, there could be no doubt that they’re the Misty Mountains.  Atmospheric music here.

Dawn breaks over the Andes mountains.

Dawn breaks over the Andes mountains. (Click to enlarge)

Coming into land was interesting, as the airport was shrouded in a very thick blanket of fog, but all was well, and we touched down.  After passing through immigration and customs, I was picked up by my boss, who’s a lovely guy, and we chatted throughout the journey through downtown Santiago to the hotel, where he dropped me off.

I’ve texted EO, so hopefully she’s around today to meet up.  Ahora, es tiempo por un poco de desayuno.