The city is great, folks. I encourage everyone in my life, anyone I’ve ever met, all friends current and old and not-yet-known, to come visit me. And potentially move in with me. And join me for a vegetarian asado. Here are some reasons why this might just be the ex-pat haven I’ve been craving my entire life:
1. There are Ashtanga Yoga classes. Back in 2011, I started a state-wide search for Ashtanga Yoga classes in Ohio. The nearest option was somewhere in Cincinnati, a breezy 5-hour commute one-way. No thanks. I was appalled, as well, that the liberal oasis of Oberlin didn’t even have any options. I was even willing to commute to Cleveland once weekly just for a chance to be instructed in the rigorous ways of the Primary Series, exorbitant gas prices and all. No dice. Here in Valparaiso, I walk out of my cerro and ten minutes into the center and there is a wafish, taut man with exceedingly short shorts and a yogi beard waiting for me with Om’s, chants, and a precise knowledge of the Primary Series. SCORE.
2. Vegetables are cheap. And every Wednesday and Saturday, there is an enormous farmer’s market on the other side of town that sells veggies by the kilo for ridiculously cheap prices. Furthermore, there’s a man in a turban outside the supermarket on my side of town that sells whole-grain bread and soy burgers. We frequently lock eyes and I give him a silent nod of appreciation. Not to mention the variety of other alternative characters selling soy-based products on the street whenever I walk anywhere. SCORE.
3. This view.
4. I do not need a car. Public transportation is good here – buses, taxis, etc – and walking distances to wherever I want to go are manageable on foot as well. It’s a biggish city, but it doesn’t feel like it. 15 minutes walking and you can get just about anywhere within the city center. (Some people roll around on bikes but let’s be real, apart from the 3-second downhill thrill of any ones of the cerro roads, that’s just crazy talk.) ECO SCORE.
5. There is a surplus of quaint, locally-owned coffee shops. This provides a revolving door of opportunities for me to escape from my daily life, hole up in a new (or frequently-visited) locale, sip super-strong coffee and immerse myself into writing projects. JITTERY SCORE.
6. The hilliness of the cerros is a natural work out. A recent Chilean acquaintance commented that the streets of the cerros in Valpo are so steep that by the end of your route you’re clawing your way up on all fours. This is pretty close to the truth. A natural byproduct of the terrain, however, is impeccable glutes. And damn fine hamstrings. MUSCULAR SCORE.
7. I am a $5 bus ride from Santiago. The capital of Chile sits about an hour and a half to the east — getting to and from the airport is cake, and daytrips to Santiago are easy and cheap (unless I spend a crapton of pesos on new clothes I don’t technically need)…..TRANSPORTATION SCORE.
8. Valparaiso attracts weirdos. I mean this in the best way possible. I consider myself among the weirdo ranks here, and I delight in all the colorful, oddly-shaved, sometimes-studded-and-leathered individuals I find wandering the streets here. There’s musicians, writers, poets, artists, students, sailors, businessmen, families, tourists, and more. Plus the punk scene is alive and well, which isn’t something I originally thought I’d care about, but whenever I see the punks roaming the streets it’s secretly thrilling, like a middle schooler wandering the halls of the high school and catching sight of all the cool seniors. Except these seniors have really pointy blue mohawks, clomp around in huge boots and maybe didn’t finish school or possibly participate in the underground anarchy network. DOUBLE SCORE WITH SPRINKLES ON TOP AND A SEPTUM PIERCING.
9. There’s a lot of opportunities for entrepreneurs and bilingual people. On top of that, Chile has one of the best economies of South America. It’s growing, and fast. This is a great place to be an entrepreneur, and Chile attracts a lot of people looking to invest in ecological, engineering and architectural projects all over the country. The Puerto Varas area was huge for that type of entrepreneurial migration. Though I’m not looking to start wind farms or invest in the salmon industry, there’s a certain sense here that “if you want to start it, you can do it”. Something like the American Dream drifting south, new laws and regulations are being implemented that both support and foster new ideas in the business world, making upstarts and new businesses way easier to create than ever before. Furthermore, with the amount of ex-pats starting and operating businesses all over the country (and indeed, in many other areas of Latin America), it keeps my eventual coffeeshop/cafe flame going strong. This would be the place to try it, too. MEGA OPPORTUNITY AND POTENTIALLY LUCRATIVE SCORE.
10. I feel freakin’ good here. There’s really no explanation behind it except I feel at home here, and called to here, in a way that I haven’t experienced before in other cities and places. That could change – maybe in three months, or maybe in 30 years – but regardless, I’m going to attempt to make it here as long as I can/want/am financially able to/it makes sense. For now, all I can really do is follow that which feels right and natural. And that is to continue on here in the lovely Valpo. Something awaits me here…or maybe I’ve already gone and found it.