Santiago


We spent the next few days over the holiday working out the logistics of picking up our bikes. We visited the freight agent in Santiago the day after Christmas, and learned that our bikes had arrived on the day before. We had been given a tentative arrival date for the ship of January 5th. We had been told by the shipper in San Francisco that there would be some small warehouse charges at the destination. It turned out to be a fee of around $150 US plus the hefty 20% IVA tax. This fee includes a port charge, as well as the cost of unloading and "disconsolidating"--that is removing our two crates from the shipping container that they shared with other merchandise sent from the US. Once we reached the port, there was an additional fee of about $15 for the few days of storage and for the half-dozen men that helped us open the crates. The shipper told us the name of the almacen (warehouse) to contact in the port of San Antonio, and suggested that we hire a customs agent there to help with the paper work to get the bikes through customs. He also recommended that we leave the night before and spend the night in San Antonio so that we could get an early start. After checking the bus schedule and learning that the first bus leaves at 7:20, arriving in San Antonio around 9:15, we opted for the immersion course and chose to ignore both suggestions. In retrospect, for anyone who is not completely comfortable with their Spanish, the 40 or 50 dollar fee for the customs agent is probably a good bet. We found that in Chile, however, that there is little open before 9:00 AM, so spending a night in San Antonio is really unnecessary. In as much as its primary function is as a port, an extra day there lacked appeal.
The agent told us that the ship had definitely been unloaded, but to check back with him on the following day to verify that the crates had actually made it to the customs warehouse. The next morning he confirmed that they had arrived and he gave us the name of the warehouse (SAMM) where we could pick them up. We decided to head down first thing Monday morning, and spent the remainder of the weekend checking out Santiago, and making some contacts for the work on our project. One of these contacts, a group of indigenous activists called CONACIN turned out to be quite beneficial. There will be more on CONACIN on the film pages, and we also hope to provide a page of links (they have a great web site). We mentioned to them that we planned to spend the first few weeks here attending a language school and they were able to direct us to a school run by some friends of theirs. The school, Violeta Parra, is named after a famous Chilean singer / musician / folklorist from the 50s and 60s, who inspired Chile's New Music movement in the late sixties. We also checked with the University of  California's coordinator at the Catholic Pontifical University. The language classes there are perhaps the best, and are certainly more geared for academic purposes, but the schedule at Violeta Parra worked out better for us, and was actually considerably cheaper. The schools curriculum is geared more for the tourist, but there are classes at all levels. They also place a lot of emphasis on organized social activities, and since the majority of the school's students seem to be Europeans, it is a nice opportunity to practice the language.
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