Beyond knowing that I would be living and working in Santiago, I really didn’t know what to expect when I got here two Sundays ago. Santiago is a huge city of 7 million people (1 of 3 Chileans live here in the city) and even though it is far more developed, richer, and supposedly safer than other South American cities, there is still a tremendous geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic range represented here.
Fortunately my start here was easy. You could even call it “cushy.” I am doing a home-stay with a wonderful Chilean woman who lives in a part of Santiago called Las Condes. She’s in her mid 50’s and has two adult children who no longer live with her, so she opens up their two old rooms in her gorgeous, 7th floor apartment, to host foreign students. The apartment would easily qualify as a very nice place to live in a wealthy part of any US city–it is large, well furnished, nicely decorated, and it has a balcony that offers a wonderful view of the city, as you can see here:
There’s also a pool down below, with a grassy area for sunbathing alongside. As you can see, my life here isn’t too rough–a far cry from my busy inpatient medicine or surgery days in Boston, that’s for sure:
There’s currently one other foreign student here, a college student from Luxembourg who is studying Spanish Language at Universidad Catolica–the same university through which my exchange is organized. Shes really nice and it’s fun to have another person to go out and explore with. Spanish will be her fifth language, not including pig latin.
In summary, Las Condes, Santiago is basically Los Angeles, California. I guess I need to be more specific…its like one of the wealthy parts of LA. There are wide streets full of expensive cars, several malls nearby, plenty of sushi restaurants, and people live in a mixture of apartment buildings and large houses. Without cues like street signs in Spanish and volcanoes visible in the distance, one would be hard pressed to identify this as non-US:
While I am living in a nice ritzy area, I am working in the opposite. I travel 90 minutes each way (two subway trains and a collectivo, basically a taxi) to get to the Consultario San Alberto in the Puente Alto community of Santiago. Puente Alto, home to a mere 750,000 people, is the poorest neighborhood in Santiago, and one of the poorest in the country. Again, think Los Angeles CA, although not Malibu or Brentwood this time.
It’s getting late, so let’s leave the discussion of how things have been going at the consultario for my next post.