Since my last entry things have slowed down considerably...students taking one of the la Chile campuses in protest was just the beginning of a long month of student activism all over Chile and a lot of free time for me. The class I had with the other California students ended a while ago, and because the geography department has been on strike for almost four weeks now, I haven't gone to my two most important classes. Two smaller classes in different departments has gone on (Surprise, the economics department isn't joining in), but they've been poorly attended and together only make up 3 hours of actual class a week. It isn't quite Santa Cruz.
The foreign students, with our fixed plane tickets home, don't have a winter break to sacrifice to the cause and thus I've been a traitor to my classmates and have figured out alternative work with my professors, who seem to just kind of make up an arbitrary assignment for me and call it a final. For one class I have to translate an article written in terrible English by a Chilean into what I am sure will be subpar Spanish so that the rest of the class can read it when the strike ends, then talk about it with the professor and my classmate from UCLA for half an hour. I definitely don't mind the break as I'm planning a week-long trip to the Atacama desert in the north, but I also feel a little shafted academically. As they say in Chile, "Es lo que hay" (it is what it is).
At the same time, I'm a little impressed by the perseverance of some of the students: both high schools and universities in several of the major cities of Chile have been causing a racket because the new education law proposed is just as "state hands-off" as the one it's replacing, and emphasizes privatization instead of public funds going towards education. I didn't go to the bigger protest (they deport foreigners that participate or could be mistaken for participants or are in the vicinitiy and look liberal), but got a taste of it when I was walking from my house towards downtown: I stopped in a park to watch a smallish group of art students from the Catholic University parading around with huge papier-mache figures criticizing the state's focus on profit instead of equality in the University system when hundreds of students that had been protesting in Plaza Italia nearby started running towards us, trying to scatter into side streets as some of the carabinero (police) riot squads chased after in cars, trying to round them up. I followed them, trying to look nonchalant, until I could duck into a supermarket, but not before I got a nasty whiff of tear gas. They're generous with the tear gas here.
Luckily, to entertain me a little while I'm at loose ends, world futbol season is here, and the TV in our house is constantly trained to the current game. Chilean passion for futbol (el opiato del pueblo, according to a housemate, though I don't know if he knows it's Marx), even though their teams have a reputation for losing constantly, is almost as incomprehensible as the vocabulary they use watching the games. Argentina's goalie is apparently un patón weon flaite viejo (an old, gangster bastard duck), and I finally had to ask my housemates why they kept mentioning The Clockwork Orange (La Naranja Mecánica) to find out it's the nickname of team Holland, which as my Dutch housemate constantly points out, is doing pretty well. A bunch of people from my house went to a cheap bar nearby to watch the Chilean final between Colo-Colo, Santiago's darling, and a team from Viña del Mar, a city on the coast to the west. The game was terrible (Colo-Colo was on the defensive the entire team), and I was perched on the edge of a table next to a chain-smoker, but I learned some of the Colo-Colo cheers and got a taste of futbolmania.
Depending on the profes of my two Geography classes, I think I'm down academically by next week. Before I come back the 14, I'm planning on going to San Pedro de Atacama, a small, kinda touristy town in the north that everyone raves about, then maybe stopping at some Nacional Park-type places on the way back, time-permitting. Then the challenge of fitting everything into my bags.
Set off some fireworks for me! I somehow think setting something on fire here in honor of US independence wouldn't be the way to go in improving US foreign relations.
Also, I uploaded a bunch of pictures to my flikr account so they aren't taking up space on my roomie's computer. They aren't all my pictures, and a lot of them have people you don't know or wouldn't be that interesting out of context, but you can take a look at www.flikr.com/photos/ssugar if you'd like.