Getting to South America was an uneventful trip, except for the beginning and the end. My 10:30 pm bus to New York City got in a little early, but I ended up wandering around for a bit finding the Metro and then taking more time changing my mind about how to best get to the airport. All said, I finally got to the terminal less than an hour before my flight. I asked the closest desk person for directions. "Where are you going?" "Panama city." "I think they already said that flight was bording-- when's your flight?" "In less than an hour." Her eyes got really wide, so I tried to act sheepish. She made a quick call, and then directed me. The woman called out to me as I approached. "You're the last one! Get your bag up here before they kick me off."
But it all worked. 22 hours of travel from Boston, and I touched down in Santiago. I was apparently the only flier from the US-- no one else went to pay the "reciprocity fee" that Chile makes us pay because we make them pay it. The moment I came out of the baggage area, a nice man asked me where I was going. "I'm looking for an internet cafe." He ushered me out, "Not possible here; you have to go to the city center", and then over to the ATM when I said I didn't have pesos yet. "Get 100.000 out." (That's about $200) I did. He held out his hand, "That's for me, I help you." Nooooo. I explained that I knew there was a bus that could take me to the city for $3. "The same, the same, that's 60 (thousand) pesos." Nooooo. More like 6. The bus I wanted drove by as he tried to usher me to the taxis. No, thanks. He tries another tact: "I help you. The tip is up to you." I only had 20.000 peso notes. No, thanks.
Now I'm in a nice Internet Cafe in beautiful Santiago, Chile, a city which appears to love its food. From the plane, the area looked gorgeous: jagged sillouette mountains, cupping fog-hidden valleys. A river shone like a tangled ball of gold yarn toward the sea. Santiago is in a big flat valley, surrounded by fields, with the Andes never far away. I'll post pictures after I take some. My couchsurf didn't respond, so I'm headed to the Happy House Hostel.