A beautiful church in Valparaiso.
I never finished the Chile story. I owe so many people posts on the recent uptick in challenges to DADT, but I will get to that. In short, the actions by the Virginia group are probably the right way to get attention to the problems with DADT, although I don;t think they are defensible as a legal challenge.
Now about Chile.
On the last night in Vina del Mar, I received word from Naval Personnel Command that I was one of the lucky recipients of more work. More work in the form of selection to Lieutenant Commander.
Woo hoo! It is often said that there are two terrible ranks in the Navy and they both wear gold. Note to self, ask Major John if it's true in the Army.
Anyway, upon receipt of this pleasant news, I decided to celebrate. Alas and alack, there was no one with which to share my good fortune. I managed to find one of my former unit mates and we set off for the nearest Argentinian restaurant.
Well dinner was great and then out into the early South American evening. The fleet was definitely in town and everywhere we looked we saw groups of eager sailors. Not just the usual running shoes / khaki wearing Americans, but Columbians, Ecuadorans, Chileans and Peruvians. A friendly club had a band out front playing Lynrd Skynrd (why does everyone outside the US think playing Sweet Home Alabama will attract Americans? Never mind that it did)
Note - Best rendition of SHA was by all girl Filipino band in Bahrain.
The club was open in the front and dungeon like in the middle. At the back was a dance floor and stage. Both empty, after all it was only 10pm. Finally a lone guitarist arrived to get the growing crowd going with some outstanding flamenco and classical renditions. Then the club music started and the party started to hit its stride.
Now, as Scoot will attest, I am not the best at selecting clubs. Please don't remind me of my past attempts at a New Years extravaganza. However, since I did not technically pick this spot, the event was perfect. At last some of my fellow selectees arrived and in true Navy tradition we ordered rounds and rounds for one another.
Pisco sours, whiskey, G&T. The Chileans pour two to three ounces of alcohol and then hand you the mixer.
Oh my head. No problem, I rationalized, I am walking - a few blocks from my hotel - and not obligated to anything tomorrow except getting back on a plane to the states. At last my meringe skills wore out and I slogged back to my room. All my charges were safely in and I could sleep!
Until just a few hours later.
A raucous noise raised me from my slumber. There was a lot of yelling and running up and down the hall on my seventh floor. Great, I mused, more dingbats from one of the ships waking a guy up.
I poked my head out of my room and was first hit by the distinct smell of smoke.
As I looked at the floor above from the inside curve of the hotel, I noticed the flames and smoke pouring from the eigth floor. The hotel was on fire.
No alarm, no power, no panic. Hotel staff were actively engaged in clearing the building and fighting the fire! I quickly assembled some critical gear and made ready to depart. A few times in and out of my room, until one of the staff insisted I depart. In Chile, I am told, all the firefighters (bomberos) are volunteers. In short order a host of vehicles arrived, along with top rate fire engines and the battle was joined.
We were ushered across the street to await the fate of our comrades and belongings. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The hotel was under control by noon with the upper three floors a total loss (mostly due to smoke and water). Oddly, the ground floor casino was open by 3pm that day!
The Chilean Navy, in their usual quick action, whisked us to their country club cabanas for a change of clothes, shower and lunch. Their hospitality was outstanding. And the view from the cabanas took in the whole curve of the Vina and Valparaiso coastline.
This set of exercises was probably the most rewarding and well conducted I have seen in my Navy career. It is important to note that UNITAS is the oldest Naval exercis in the world, having been started by the Brazilians and continuously executed for 47 years!
If you get a chance to go to Chile, for any reason. Do it. It is a nation of energy and excitement. You will find the best of many worlds with significant promise for the future.
And if you go, drink a Pisco Sour for me.