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Eventually, I got my work done in Santiago and I was able to slip away to the south of Chile. Picking a place to go in a country that's ... miles long is not an easy task, but I selected the lake region, as it was supposed to be Chile's "Switzerland". The only problem was deciding where to go exactly in the patchwork of lakes, i.e. where to tell the bus company to sell me a ticket to. As usual, I put this decision off until the very last minute. I mean, I thought about it. After giving presentations on CPI software products and at the end of conversations on the virtues of our approach to language learning, I would say, by the way, where would you go if you had a few days free in Chile? Most people, said the lakes, and a couple wrote down destinations for me. Trouble was, no one wrote down the same destination. But I collated these and decided, on the metro on my way to buy the ticket, pulling maps and slips of scribblings from my bag trying not to lose them on the train, to go not to Pto. Montt, the main city in the south part of the region, but to Villarica, a town a little closer to Santiago.
The bus companies were located up an escalator by the metro, and my decision on arriving at the top of the escalator was furthered when I found that buses to Pto. Montt departed at 8 or 9 and got there 14 hours later, whereas I could leave at 10 to get to Villarica and arrive at 8:45 in the morning, in time to organize an excursion when I got there. So as to have the energy to do that, I booked myself in Ejecutivo class, which meant I had to pay $15 on top of the normal $10 fare in order to have a semi-cama, or 1/2 bed. I wasn't sure what that was exactly, but it sounded like a good deal at the time. Half-bed, it turned out, meant seats that reclined about 30 degrees with foot supports that swung out, and headphones for the TV they played at night. But in the morning, about 6:00 a.m., they woke us up with music over the intercom and followed that up with TV that was mostly advertisements, so as it turned out, I was not a satisfied customer on arrival in Villarica. I decided to return on a normal bus when it came time.
Meanwhile, after getting my ticket in Santiago, I scooted back down the elevator and onto the metro so as to emerge at a certain street corner at the appointed hour to meet Jeremy for lunch. He wasn't there, so I called him from a pay phone and reached him on his cellular phone. He was on his way, caught in traffic, and he cruised by and took me out for a send-off of gambas on tortalini in a classy Italian restaurant, a very tasteful experience in Santiago cuisine.
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