Santiago is a built up, modern city with everything you would expect to see in a capitol city. There is a metro system that extends to the outskirts, a bus system that runs within the center and surrounding areas, and tons of modern stores and amenities. There might not be a ton to do in this city, but it is clearly a city on the rise. It even has the second tallest skyscraper in South America and is working on building the tallest.
Some things are simple yet surprising to me. It was hard the first couple of days, and still is in a way, to put toilet paper in the toilet bowl. After months of training myself to put toilet paper in the basket, it's now somewhat foreign to put it back in the bowl, even though I've been doing it my whole life.
Drinking tap water, which I will avoid at all costs in Ecuador, is OK here, and it was almost like tasting the forbidden fruit the first time I did it here. Walking around in the street I feel perfectly safe, even though it's a big city with pickpockets. However, pick pocketing is the least of your worries in Ecuador sometimes, so it doesn't seem to phase me that much. I find myself looking at people in the street sometime and wondering if they would try to rob me, but here I don't have that issue.
It could be because I'm with friends and I'm told that it's pretty safe. But I can also just feel more at ease. I guess it's hard to explain. But it is definitely a vacation in the sense that I'm not on edge in the way that I have been in Ecuador for a time. The bus system in Ecuador isn't my favorite way to get around for obvious reasons, but I do it and though at times it's uncomfortable, it's just something you have to do. Here, however, I feel fine on the metro and buses.
The people are most definitely friendly here, and even though it takes some time to cut through their tough dialect and country-specific words, they're great to talk to. For some reason, however, they have a pessimistic view of their country and city. They are convinced that Santiago is the most dangerous city in the continent, which it isn't. They are convinced that they are poor, which they aren't.
If living in Ecuador has taught me one thing, it's that there is probably always another place that is worse off. Chile might seem 3rd World to some, but to me it's top notch. And at times Ecuador seems 3rd World, but if I were to travel to some other parts of the world I know that I would think of it as much better off. There's no doubt in my mind about that.
Chile is a huge country and I'm only going to be barely scratching the surface while I'm here, but these are just some of the impressions that I've gotten in the few days that I've been here. I'd love to be able to head down to Patagonia and up to the Atacames Desert, but the country is 30 hours from top to bottom by car, and there's no way I have the time or money for that. But for now, I've seen a part of the country and have an idea of what it is like. And the differences between these two South American countries, in my mind, are vast.