After a VERY long flight from Atlanta, I arrived in Santiago. I came in two days in advance of my presentations to rest and to make sure that I did a bit of site seeing. I hired a tour guide to who have me a 4 hour tour of the city. That is one of the most effective ways to use a short amount of time...a personal tour guide.
As we toured Santiago, I tried to place it into my schema and relate it to other places I had been. It is a city of 6.5 million. It's divided into neighborhoods (reminiscent of Paris). It is influenced by German, Yugoslav and British cultures. It is a melding pot of religions of the world. It was very comfortable and familiar. The one thing that struck me was that there was no one "thing" that typified Santiago. I was looking for the equivalent of a Roman Colosseum, a Paris Eiffel Tower, a Statue of Liberty....an iconic landmark that I would see and say, "Yes, that's what I think of when I think of Santiago." I never found it.
I'll tell you what I did find. More than any other country I've been to (save the United States), I was impressed with the diversity of Santiago. I couldn't look at people passing on the street and find unifying physical characteristics that unified the Santiagans. You know what I mean if you've traveled....there are distinct physical characteristics in some places. I can point out a Croatian or a Bosnian. The Chileans were different. It was an interesting melting pot that I did not anticipate.
While I never found my iconic landmark, what I will remember most about Chile is the people. I was treated with kindness by everyone I met. I also have a renewed understanding that people all around the world are so much more alike than we are different. I traveled closer to Antarctica than I've ever been before, and I found the place to be oddly familiar.
I wish that we could all seek to find our points of sameness rather than fight over our differences. At heart I'm still an idealist in this respect.
If ever I have the chance to go to Chile again, I will take the opportunity to visit Easter Island and the far southern reaches of Chile. I hope to some day make it to Machu Picchu in Peru. I desire to go to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. I'm interested in the Aztec, Inca and Mayan cultures of Central and South America. This was my first time ever to South America, and it was a nice experience.
Here are a few photos of my city tour.