Fast Forward Santiago, Really Fast: from 1991 to 2009

I arrived in Santiago de Chile this morning to a different airport and entrance fees than in 1991.  Why charge an entrance fee of $132 is beyond me (yeah, yeah reciprocity; that’s what you call it when you don’t want to admit you are just as capitalistic as everyone else…).  And why not have it a surcharge on the price of the plane ticket and make me stand in another line after landing is WAY beyond me.  I thought Chile was more modern than that.  Maybe it is indeed a piece of Europe in South America after all…  After standing in line for about 20 minutes, at least I was able to use a credit card to pay – of course, in the line I had to listen to cheery, chatty tourists from my own country yap away when all I wanted was silence to slowly wake up (no coffee in me yet…).

It was neat to see a friend I had not seen in about 15 years who then drove me into the city proper on a highway I did not recognize, part of it going under the river.  We didn’t have to go through the city streets in order to make it to the opposite end of town where I used to live the 3 months I lived in Santiago way back or where he now lives.  A nice highway running by the river is a welcome change.  And, boy, was there change in store!  While Santiago was to me quite livable a city back in 1991 and not lacking in terms of places to go, eat, and shop, today’s Santiago is a much more modern and livable place than I remember.  Fast forward indeed 18 years!

I barely recognized parts of town that used to be my stomping grounds.  Yes, that is to be expected after 18 years but there was so little that actually was like I remembered to leave me floored.  Parts of town like Sanhattan and El Bosque are way more developed than they used to be by the building of centers of business.  Parque Arauco is similar inside but a whole new invention outside (though I recognize the McD’s I used to eat at after playing racquetball!).

Busy Av. Providencia was barely recognizable too!  Storefronts and restaurants of course change even just a few years apart.  A pedestrian alley here and a residential street there did look very familiar but so much has changed…   The building I used to work in is there (the company is not), the building I used to live in is there (though no longer an apart-hotel).  Sections of town like Bellavista or Calle Suecia are still there and still retain an air of what I remembered – whew!

All in all, the residential areas that I used to know still have that quiet air around them.  The people are still interesting but not obnoxious.  After eating at Eladio‘s in Calle Pio Nono in Bellavista, I can say the food is:  still excellent.   And after a good bottle, I can say the wine: still good.  I still would not mind living here after all this growth and change!

But the one constant that truly tells me I have come back is the mountains at the edge of the city.  Those mountains with the snowcapped tops that used to greet me every morning when I would wake up are still there and like will be there way after I am gone:  the Andes.  I have come “home” after all.

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