Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The People of Santiago

The conference has not started yet, so we went to the Plaza de Armas in downtown Santiago, where people and pigeons gather. Supposedly, the siesta (3 hour lunch hour) does not exist anymore in Chile. But there were a lot of people there that early Monday afternoon. Some were playing chess, strolling, feeding the pigeons, people watching.

We were struck by the number of people who seemed to be just sitting there, soaking up the sunshine and atmosphere. It was sunny and cool, a perfect day to sit outside. Perhaps they were still on lunch break? Or they really didn’t have urgent tasks to do? Unlike Hong Kong, the people here do not seem to be in a hurry.

There was a big crowd outside the beautiful cathedral watching a busker. He was just talking to the crowd and not doing anything particularly interesting at that moment. But the crowd seemed enthusiastic. There are a lot of elegant buildings such as this cathedral in Santiago. But there are also some boring modern glass towers such as this one behind the cathedral.

We then walked to the garden at Santa Lucia. And were surprised there were at least 2 police officers at each gate, taking down the names of people who entered the garden. It seemed to be for statistical purpose rather than security, since they were not asking for identification, and the officers did not seem to be in high alert.

The garden has many interesting fountains, sculptures, stairs, flowers, vegetation, ..., and people enjoying each other. The people here are warm, friendly, and wonderfully expressive.

Towards dusk, we went up the small hill in Santa Lucia. There we found this band of youths playing the guita and singing. Not knowing Spanish, I couldn’t understand what they were singing. But the mood was magical. Soft singing, accompanied by light guita music, set against the golden-orange setting sun in a clear blue sky. It was so soothing we didn’t want to leave.

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