Life’s A Zoo!

Sometimes, our life really is a zoo. Whose isn’t, amirite? But this post is actually about our trip to the zoo…the Buin Zoo to be exact.

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Our whole family had never been to this zoo, which is the largest in Chile (even the 30-something Chilean who had spent the majority of his childhood living less than 20 miles from it).

Joaquin’s first and only zoo trip was when he was a wee little thing visiting the USA for the first time. I love the Brookfield Zoo, I have a lot of fun family memories from there, especially with my animal-loving cousins. That won’t be Joaquin’s last trip to Brookfield. However, now that we’re State-bound for sure, I want to pack in as many fun Chilean activities as possible for Joaquin (yeah, maybe for me too), before we head out next year.

We invited my sister-in-law and her daughter. My sister-in-law is now part of the Chilean police force, so she gets in for free at the zoo! Major perk alert! The entrance fee is 7,500 pesos for adults (roughly 14 dollars) 5,000 pesos for kids over 90cm and up to 14 years old, 4,000 pesos for adults over 60 and free for kids under 90cm (nice work Joaquin…another point for my case that he should stay the same age and size forever and ever). There are additional charges for the marine show (1,400 pesos p/p). It’s a 40 minute drive south from where we live in Ñuñoa, which is a pretty central comuna in Santiago.

The five of us were able to see almost all of the exhibits, and we all agreed that the marine show was our favorite part. No dolphins, but there were some pretty adorable sea lions. Joaquin had no vote as he slept through the whole thing. Joaquin was most excited about the fish tank at the beginning of the aquarium exhibit because it was the only thing at his eye level.

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He was also a big fan of “Baby Zoo”, or their petting zoo. We were eating ice cream and we couldn’t go in before we finished. I think this was more for our benefit than for the animals benefit, as the goats and sheep got nice and intimate with our stroller immediately as we entered, presumably looking for loose snacks (or toddlers).

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He looks like a little man in this picture, and it's scaring me. Stop growing!!

He looks like a little man in this picture, and it’s scaring me. Stop growing!!

A white tiger took a particular liking to us. All she was thinking was that we were lucky to have that thick glass separating us…you can see it in her eyes.

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We liked this zoo, but here are my notes. There is not a lot of shade, especially in the Africa section. It also states on their website that you can’t bring in food, but we saw plenty of families eating their packed lunches, and there are many picnic sections. I’m not sure why they’d say that…maybe for first time suckers like us who are rule-followers and ended up spending 60 dollars on a not-so-great lunch at their only restaurant. Bring your own lunch! Also, they rent out wagons for your kids, if you don’t want to bring a stroller in. And finally, bring lots of water, especially in the summer when it’s HOT. They were charging 1,300 pesos for a standard sized water bottle and there were no water fountains and I had run out of my own water. Lame-o.

We’re looking for new activities now that the weather is getting warmer and before we leave on February 10! (Official!)

Amy And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Smog

It refuses to rain in Chile. It has rained 0.0001mm this year in Santiago (seriously). There is a very serious drought north of Santiago in the area of La Serena, and Santiago is not doing much better.

Maybe some of you have thought about visiting Chile. Maybe you talked to a tour operator or travel agent or Google (obviously) about it, and maybe you saw photos of Santiago looking something incredible like this:

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So beautiful, so clean, so unrealistic.

Well folks, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but expectations are never quite reality:

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That’s more like it.

The above photo was taken this week. Santiago does have a beautiful backdrop…100 years ago before OVERPOPULATION AND TONS OF URBANIZATION TOOK OVER. So, your nice and beautiful ‘expectation’ photo was either taken 100 years ago or immediately after it rained and cleared the smog…probably the latter (even though it seems like they started building the Costanera Tower 1,000 years ago).

On Tuesday, the government declared a smog emergency for the first time since 1999. “You’re breathing dirt into your lungs, please don’t exercise outside” kind of emergency.

Even as I type, two of my coworkers are talking to each other (there seems to be an extended lunch break I’m unaware of on Fridays) about whose fault it is: El Niño or us humans. They’re like, 50/50 and I’m thinking, no losers, 5/95 is probably more accurate. Don’t blame the weather for overpopulation and poor choice of location for the largest city in Chile.  If you shrunk Santiago down, it would look like a Lego city trapped in a cereal bowl. The rain only clears out the crap temporarily, and then smog returns like an unwanted veneral disease within 8 hours and we’re back to where we started.

This week as one of my boredom projects at work, I went to the hardware store and bought an extra trash bin to dispose of recyclable products. After a few days, I honestly don’t think the general Chilean population really understands what is a “recyclable product,” because this is what I have found in the regular trash bin: empty bottles, milk cartons, paper plates and glass jars. This is what I have found my recycling trash bin: coffee grounds. Organic, yes. Recyclable, gross no. I guess my email should have been a little more specific. Andrés also informs me that Chileans don’t get recycling, it’s a new concept for them. After the coffee ground incident (twice), I’ll agree.

Smog is always worse in winter here (June-August). There is more factory activity, less vacations being taken, more cars being driven, and in this month’s case, a crap-ton of barbeques when there are soccer games for Copa America. I am assuming that this will be our last winter in Santiago for the time being, so we’ll just hold our breaths until September. Totally doable.