Posts Tagged ‘tango’

Santiago de Chile

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

My Santiago story came in two installments. Like slices of bread around an Easter Island filling and with about as much substance. Both were flying visits.

The first slice after crossing the Pacific Ocean from Auckland lasted just under 24 hours. Santiago has an efficient airport bus service which got me to four blocks from my hostel in about 40 minutes. I joined a free walking city tour in the afternoon. Felippe our guide was a passionate guy full of interesting information about the history and current affairs of Santiago. He struck me at first as angry young man full of the socialist ideals of the students who protest regularly in the city. They protest about the cost of education and the vast inequalities between the rich and poor in Chilean society. The kind of things students all over the world protest about. It turned out he’s an actor as well as a tour guide. Was it passion or was it performance?

Santiago felt much more vibrant and alive than Auckland or anywhere else in New Zealand. That shouldn’t really be surprising; the population of the city is more than twice that of the whole of New Zealand. Next morning the bus whisked me back to the airport for the flight half way back across the Pacific to Easter Island. It seems a bit crazy to have to fly past the place and then back to it but that’s the way the airline routes work.

Five days later LAN plucked me out of one time zone and plonked me back down in another in Santiago. They wouldn’t let me check my rucksack all the way from Easter Island to Lima even though my stopover in Santiago was only twelve hours. Sleeping on a bench at Melbourne airport was pretty uncomfortable and Santiago airport had looked pretty hard and spartan on my first visit. So I repeated the bus ride into the city, stayed in the same hostel again and took the bus back to the airport the next morning. There was no time in this slice to do anything other than eat and sleep. The return ride took a different route than usual because of a student protest somewhere along one of the main routes through the city – the surprisingly named Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins. Felippe had explained how a city with otherwise standard Spanish street names had a main street named after an Irish guy.

Thirty six hours in Santiago is nowhere near enough time in the city, never mind Chile. As Arnie said, “I’ll be back”.

As always, there are some photos at Flickr, in my Santiago de Chile set.

There are millions of people who do a lot more flying and time zone hopping than me. After jumping backwards and forwards between five different zones in quick succession I feel a little like Sam in the TV show Quantum Leap. I’m going to enjoy being in only one zone for the next three weeks. Sam was always hoping his next leap would be the one to take him home. My next leap will take me back to Buenos Aires. I hope I won’t have entirely forgotten how to tango when I get there. Before then I will scratch the surface of another country – Peru.

More Beijing tango

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

After Tuesday night’s successful foray into Beijing tango I decided to have another outing. It’s not like Buenos Aires with a choice of half a dozen or more milongas on a weeknight, but there actually is some tango somewhere most nights of the week. On Thursday night it was the “Tango at it’s core” milonga organised by Beijing Tango and held above the Sino-Chu wine bar. Their website hadn’t been updated for a while but a phone call confirmed it was on.

I went with Dawn and Phillip. We got there for the last hour. There were only four couples and a couple of spare leaders when we arrived, dancing to traditional music organised in tandas. The standard of dancing was a little higher than on Tuesday, not that it mattered much to me. I’m so out of practice that I brought the average well down. Another couple and a single follower arrived after us. Amazingly Dawn knew the lone follower. It’s a small world!  Unlike on Tuesday night, most of the dancers there were foreigners, although all seemed to be resident in Beijing.

It was another fun night and I was tempted to go to a third milonga on Friday night. Instead I ended up at a couchsurfing meeting/meal and afterwards a jazz/swing club. The music was good and there were dancers there, but they were doing lindy hop or east coast swing so I just watched and listened. Nevertheless it was a good night out.

Milonga in Beijing

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Qantas and Dragonair did a perfectly fine job of moving me from Bangkok to Beijing via Hong Kong. Taxis and tube played their part too and 14 hours after setting off from my hostel I met my couchsurfing hosts for the next few days.

Beijing airport had a slightly cold, clinical, unfriendly feel to it. My hosts on the other hand are very friendly and helpful. My first surfing experience through the couchsurfing website is off to a great start and looks like it will be very successful indeed. Despite the late hour of my arrival we ate dinner and chatted for a couple of hours. I’m staying with a couple. Phillip’s not a dancer but Dawn is. And she was up for trying a milonga.

Next morning Dawn accompanied me to the railway station and helped me buy a ticket for Xi’an. Without her help I doubt I’d have managed it. There is no concession to foreigners here. Everything is in Mandarin. Very few people I’ve encountered speak any English. And presumably not any French, Spanish, German etc. either. Anyway, I’ll be heading for Xi’an a couple of days later than I would have liked and in a soft rather than hard sleeper but at least I’ll be heading there.

Getting around Beijing is easy enough on the subway. The buses are probably not so easy because of the language issue. Walking is possible but it’s a large city so not always practical.

After the railway station I hit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is a vast space enclosed by symbolic gates and crowd control barriers. Towards the southern end of the square is the Mao Zedung memorial hall. Close to the centre is the Monument to the Peoples’ Heroes and at the northern end the National Flag. Across the road to the north is the Gate of Heavenly Peace; the entrance to the Forbidden City. East and West of the square are huge concrete buildings housing the National Museum of China and the Great Hall of People. The square was not very busy and only a very small percentage of the visitors were foreigners. For over five centuries the Forbidden City was the preserve of emperors, concubines and courtiers. Riff raff were not allowed. Maybe that explains why the huge spaces felt austere and unwelcoming. Or maybe there just weren’t enough people there to make the now uninhabited city feel vibrant and alive.

After a day of traipsing around and riding the subway a milonga was just what I needed to perk me up. ATERtango run a milonga every Tuesday night at 8:30pm. Dawn is primarily a swing dancer but there is no swing dancing in Beijing. She was game for some Argentine tango though and accompanied me to the milonga. We arrived towards the end of a class. There were about 15 people there, with girls outnumbering the guys about two to one. A few more people arrived after the class finished which improved the balance. I was very rusty – only one milonga and no classes in almost six months has not improved my dancing – but I also had novelty value as the only obvious foreigner in the room. The people were friendly, the music was traditional and in tandas, and I had a good time. Dawn enjoyed it too.