Living in Santiago

When I started this blog, its intended purpose was to serve as my travel blog. Since selling my motorcycle in early June, my traveling has wound down and I began making my way to Santiago, Chile. I had seen almost everything I wanted to see in South America, my camera barely working,  but I still wasn’t quite ready to return to the USA.
Always in the back of my mind as I traveled through Latin America was the thought of looking for a place that I might want to live… at least for a while. My criteria weren’t too strict; the place would have to have potable water, friendly people, be moderately safe, and have prospects for employment. After getting to know many places, I narrowed my list down to three cities; Bogotá, Colombia, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Santiago, Chile.

I can’t put my finger on that one single thing that pointed me to Santiago. To be honest, my first impressions of Santiago were not favorable. In fact, I didn’t even mention it in my blog! When I arrived the first time in February, I wasn’t planning to spend much time there (‘Patagonia or Bust’ would have been an appropriate sticker to have had) and it was really, really hot and there was a lot of smog.  I wandered around a little, caught some live music in the closest plaza, but wasn’t really turned on to the city.

It wasn’t until I returned to Santiago at the end of March that I got to know and appreciate the city. I arrived to start training as a motorcycle tour guide, first staying in the up-scale neighborhood of Las Condes, later moving hotels to stay in downtown Santiago. Although Las Condes is a nice neighborhood, it wasn’t really appealing to me—it is more of a yuppie crowd. Downtown Santiago seemed a lot more ‘real’—the kind of place where people work and live without a lot of pretense. I ended up making some friends and got to know the city a little better. An added bonus to the downtown area, there are plenty of parks, plazas, museums, and cafes in which to relax and escape the bustle of city life.
With the motorcycle tour, I departed Santiago heading toward Cuzco, Peru, but had to return about a month later, heading back through on the way to pickup my motorcycle in Buenos Aires. To break up the trip, I spent a few more days in the city, getting to know it even better. All-in-all, I actually spent more time in Buenos Aires during my travels than in Santiago, but I found that the people in Buenos Aires were a little more ‘closed’ and it wasn’t so easy to meet and get to know locals.

So, when my travels started winding down and I sold the motorcycle, picked up a bike, and I headed back to Santiago—almost finished with travels but still not ready to return to the USA, find a job, and return to the ‘same old.’ The tourist visa for Chile gave me 3 months to stay. Staying in a hostel was affordable, but staying in a bunk bed while sharing a room with 7 other folks wasn’t something I wanted to do—I wanted to ‘live’ in the city. I looked around and found a room for rent in an apartment located directly in downtown, I can literally look at the Chilean president’s office (La Moneda) from the front entrance. The price was about the same as a hostel, but allowed me to have a private room and a lot more peace and quiet. I am the fifth person in the apartment, 3 guys from Chile and one girl from Brazil. The three guys work in various areas in Santiago and the girl is studying in an exchange program. Even though there are a lot of people, it never seems like it because it’s rare that everyone’s home at the same time.  There’s a place for my bicycle and I can get almost everywhere within the city via my bike or the metro, with the closest stop being within a block.
Now that I’m living in Santiago with my own place to stay, I’m on the hunt for a job—either teaching English or working as a mechanical engineer. My plan is to enjoy my time here, knowing that I can always return to the USA and find an engineering job—but I would like to find something here that allows me to stay for a longer period of time.