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I don’t care what you knowledgeable people who can speak Spanish and have lived here a long time say, I think Santiago is pretty awesome. Well, except for the smog. And the rude, non-existent customer service. OK, and that creepy dude who followed me around the supermarket yesterday… Yeah, that was weird.

But pollution, bad business practices and weirdos aside, I’m still very much enchanted with this town. In fact, even when something clearly ridiculous/awkward/creeptastical occurs (you know, like a bit of good-old fashioned racism), I’m still able to call on my inner anthropologist and chalk it up to “cultural differences.”

“Oh jeez!” I say to myself with my best Minnesota accent. “This place is so gosh-darn quirky!” Meanwhile, someone’s probably following me up and down the dairy aisle looking for an opportune moment to rob me after watching me take out money from an ATM. Yet there I am, probably too busy staring at all the Chilean men’s half Gheri-curl/half dread-locked/fully ridiculous mullets to even care. (Seriously, I’m talking about something as tragic as this, but with a lot more hair gel.)

Oh indeed, Santiago and I are still in our honeymoon phase. We still appreciate each other’s differences and are able to overlook what annoys one about the other and see only the good things. For instance, nevermind the fact that whenever I go jogging, afterwards I feel like I have lung cancer; instead, look at this f*cking sweet-ass public gym equipment in this park near my casa in Providencia!

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Seriously, who doesn’t love a city with a bunch of weird, primary-colored exercise equipment in it? And it doesn’t even look like any hobos have urinated on it! (I don’t count my own. Just kidding! Public urination is nothing to joke about. I wouldn’t want to piss anyone off. BOO-YAH!)

But I’m a realist, which means I understand that at some point this window of enchantment will probably expire. That is, one day I may not appreciate the quality of the mullets that surround me as much as I do now. Which is a shame because a friend of mine noted the other day that Chilean mullets aren’t the kind of you simply grow; they’re the kind you achieve. (By the way, I’m going to start sneak-photographing these amazing mullets for the Internet’s enjoyment.)

Moreover, judging from my experience living in Moscow a few years ago, where it took me probably just 48 hours to transform from a wide-eyed 22-year-old go-getter to a bitter curmudgeon willing to punch a babushka in the throat for pushing me off the tram with her cane, this honeymoon phase I’m having in Santiago could expire at any given moment.

Or maybe it won’t. If my new travel schedule goes as planned, it seems I only have two weeks left in Santiago before my broken Spanish, my useless pair of jorts and I set off for the frozen tundra of Patagonia. It’ll probably be touch-and-go until then. But as long as I keep my eye on the prize — that is learning enough Spanish to bike, raft, trek, horseback ride and climb the sh*t out of the below-posted picture — I’m thinking the next two weeks will go swimmingly, you know, unless I get murdered for getting caught mocking someone’s mullet.

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But while five weeks isn’t very long, I think a part of me will definitely miss this place. (Actually, that may be why I’ll miss this place.) But like I said, overall I like it here. (Then again, I still haven’t gotten murdered for mocking a mullet.) And I’m sure when I wake up somewhere in the south one morning a fortnight from now, it will be strange for my lungs not to breath in a a dangerous amount of poisonous particles. It will also be strange not to be surrounded by so many people. At least the horses’ haircuts will serve as vivid reminders of my short-lived home of Santiago. Seriously, Chilean men, in the great words of Wesley Willis (R.I.P.), CUT THE MULLET. That is all.

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