Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fantasilandia and Papa John's Take 2 and 3, Phone Adventures, and Human Tetris on the Metro

I have not updated in almost 2 weeks, and it has been in the back of my mind since then.  I've been meaning to update my blog, but I always found myself getting too distracted at home by Facebook or catching up on The Amazing Race, so I made it a point to get out of the house and take my laptop to Telepizza to write this now.  Sure, Telepizza tastes like cardboard.  But it's about half the price of Papa John's, and has free wifi and is across the street from my apartment rather than an entire block and a half away.

Sunday the 24th was my last chance to use a discount ticket to Fantasilandia, so I went with Donny and Colby.  We got a late start and arrived there around 2, but we got the most out of our trip there.  It was crowded but not overly crowded, and we got on the major rollercoasters, the extreme fall, Pirates of the Carribean, and a few other rides.

While we were walking around, I found two perfect illustrations of cultural differences between Chile and the States.  The first one is in the blatant ignorance of rules and policies.  Some people smoked cigarettes directly under signs that forbid smoking in lines, and at one point about 7 kids and an adult jumped over one of the railings to move up about 20 people in the line for a ride.  Luckily they did not end up in front of us, becuase if they did I would have been really upset.  It surprises me that no one bothered to say anything to them or to protest the situation.

The other cultural difference I found was in the form of a ride.  Here is a picture of it in action:

Do you notice anything special about it?  Take a few seconds to look before reading any further.

If you said to yourself "Those people have their arms wrapped around the bars," you are right.  If you also said to yourself, "It looks like those people are getting knocked out of their seats and are about a foot in the air," you are also right.  And if you also said to yourself, "Wait a second, that ride has no seatbelts or safety restraints to prevent people from flying into the air and crashing down to the ground and cracking their head open," you are also right.

After Colby, Donny, and I noticed this, we decided we had to do the adventurous thing and brave our lives on the ride.  After all, I got the extreme sports rider on my emergency medical insurance policy, so why not test it out if need be?  Seats were not marked, so people just sat down wherever there was space, and when the seats appeared to be full the ride operators would signal for a few more people to come aboard and then motion for some of us to squish togther to make room for the recently arrived.  This was perhaps in a sense safer, as we would be less likely to fall out of our seats if we were being squeezed by random strangers on each side.

Luckily, we all survived without any injuries.  On our way out, I enjoyed a churro filled with caramel, but each time I get one at that spot I can't help but think that it doesn't match up to the churros at Olvera Street in Los Angeles in terms of size or quality.

After my less-than-perfect experience at Papa John's, I have been back twice.  The first time was with Julie and Danielle (also from the TeachingChile group) after my trip to Fantasilandia, and we all enjoyed the comfort food of feeling at home.  The second time was after meeting a fellow Magic player that lived in Canada for 10 years and obviously speaks English and his girlfriend.  After enjoying the pizza we played Magic for about 3 hours in my apartment, and it was a cool experience just getting to make some new friends and getting to practice my Spanish even more.
In the past few days, I have come across a new challenge here: making a phone call to some phone numbers that requires you to select options from a menu.  It all came about when I got an email from LAN Airlines that they didn't receive payment for a reservation I made, even though they issued me an electronic boarding pass.  Since it wouldn't register for me to input my credit card information again and it said my reservation would expire the next day, I called the LAN customer service number in the States via Skype.

That was the start of the adventure.  You had to select from a menu, and Skype does not allow you to do so.  Usually numbers that you call will connect you to an operator if you do not select an option, but LAN simply loops the recording until you select an option.

So then I decided I would go to a call center here to make the call.  The first one I went to had a sign saying that you could not select options from a menu dialing from their phones, and my guess is that they were a pulse phone instead of a regular type.  I asked the woman working there if she could reccomend another place to go, and so I went where she suggested.

There I found the same situation, and the woman there told me to go to an internet cafe that was more modern, and there I would most likely be able to select options. 

So after going to one and finding out I wouldn't be able to select options there either.  I decided I would at least try to call my credit card company to see if they had any idea what was going on via Skype.  I sat down to use the computer, but the headseat wasn't working and I couldn't hear anything.  The woman told me to restart the program, and so I did.  Still nothing, so I asked her if I could move to another computer.

She moved me to another computer, but she didn't refresh the time.  She was going to charge me for 6 minutes of time I didn't even get to use, and I politely asked her to refresh the timer.  She just told me to use it and that not to worry about it, and I explained to her that I wasn't going to pay for time I didn't get to use and asked her once again to restart the timer.  This went back and forth about 3 times before I just got up and left frustratred.

After going to another call center, they advised me to make a call from a public phone here, and so I got a handful of change and put some in to make a call.  Once the phone recognized it was a toll free number, it would not make the call.

At this point, I was at my wit's end.  I gave Bruce a call to get some advice, and luckily he had the Chilean number for LAN that you could dial from either a cell phone or landline.  I didn't care if I was going to get charged a few thousand pesos to make a call from my cell phone, so I gave it a try.  It connected me to the options menu, and I was able to select an option.  After talking with someone, it turns out that my reservation went through successfully and that I received the email in error.  Whoops.

I called Bruce and thanked him for his help, and then he asked me if I actually tried dialing the options on the phones or if I just believed what the Chileans at each call center told me.  I admitted that I didn't test it out, and sheepishly realized that Chileans will sometimes make things up if they don't know the answer.  In the end, I might have been better off trying it out at the last 2 places than believing what they told me.

I find myself spending a good amount of time on the metros and buses here, and therefore with a fair amount of time to contemplate random things.  One morning I realized that I was caught in a game of Human Tetris.  This occurs any morning I try to get on the metro during rush hour.  Everyone tries to get on the metro, and you either fit in or you don´t.  If you are have a limb sticking out of the metro (like part of a Tetris piece over the line), you have the honor of getting the metro door closing on your limb.  In order to prevent this on my last metro ride during the morning rush hour, I literally had to hold my lunch bag over the head of a little old lady so that I would fit in without losing my lunch bag to the closing metro doors.  I stayed that way for the entire 4 metro stops until I got to my destination.  I would have taken a picture, but unfortunately I didn´t have my camera with me at the time. 

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