As I awoke this morning I battled the in-line water heater for a minute before finally getting enough scalding hot water to wash. The temperature was about 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and the steam condensed on the window quickly as I shaved in my pre-caffeinated stupor.
Packing up my things, I headed down to Cafe Caribe for one more fine coffee con leche before loading up to head to Buenos Aries. Cafe Caribe is known as “coffee with legs” here in Santiago. The bright marble interior is lined with a nickel plated 4 foot tall bar and the waitresses are all wearing skin tight dresses cut as high as the least modest family friendly business could possibly allow.
The waitresses are by no means the most beautiful women one will find in Chile. Most are hardscrabble old dames more on the build of an aged cocktail waitress in an off-strip Las Vegas casino. There was one at the cafe this morning who was much younger than the others, an amply fleshed blonde with a round pretty face. She immediately took my coffee ticket, speaking rapidly in Spanish with a bashful look on her face. I merely smiled, having no idea what she was trying to say before muttering, “Si.”
Properly caffeinated, I took off for one more walk around the area. Plaza del Armas, the square reminiscent of the main one in Madrid, was a hotbed of commuting activity. The dark skies started to open up to a steely grey as the limestone edifices of 200 year old buildings gave way to the gleaming glass structures of more recent history. Shoe shine men seemed to have popped up everywhere, their polish smells wafting into a mix of bakery and coffee scents.
I smiled the whole time I walked. This is what I live for. The validation that “normal life” takes many forms throughout the world gives one confidence that an intrepid spirit will always find a way to survive.
The stray dogs playing in the street were barking as the cabrieros stood in parade on the north edge of the square. Horses and Belgian Malinois stood in their police “coats” as a discussion of daily tactics took place. Women sold everything from toilet paper to fresh squeezed orange juice from makeshift storefronts on shopping carts. The occasional old man would walk by in his professor like blazer with an alpaca scarf wrapped around his wrinkled neck, even less frequent but still present were the men who knew just enough “Ingles” to come and ask if I had a packet of cigarettes.
Those early morning moments where I let myself be bustled through an urban crowd, similar, but still so different from those that I was a part of, are the moments that I enjoy most on travel. All the restaurants and points of interest mean much less than the realization that life occurs in all forms all throughout the world.
It is why I travel, and now it is onto Argentina to see one more functioning civilization, and what it has to offer.