Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Home.


A quick note on how we exited the country.  We went back to the airport on Monday night slightly anxious with our documents allowing us to exit the country.  The man at border control had never seen the type of letters we had so there was much head scratching, sighing, reading and re-reading of the documents until he must have decided that it was just easier to let us leave the country so he stamped our passports and wished us a safe journey.




We’ve been home now for 24 hours and already we’re suffering from reverse culture shock.  The strangest thing is hearing and understanding conversations that happen around you.  One relaxing part about living in Valparaíso was that we weren’t distracted by overhearing people talking to each other.  Now that we’re back in our own country we have no choice but listen to some stranger on her mobile phone explain every detail of a recent operation or the couple in front of us at the supermarket complain about the government.  No longer are we able to float about the general populace in our own little bubble.


The girls are happily spending time with their cousins and enjoying being able to run around barefoot in the yard without fear of stepping in or on something.


As a family we’ve talked about what it means to us to have lived in Valparaíso for ten months.  We all agree that the random and spontaneous art is something that we will truly miss.  There were people that helped us along our journey in different ways.  Some with friendship and encouraging words, and others with information.  There were people who saw us as tourists and there were those that admired our adventure and offered praise for the opportunity we were giving Indiana and Truce.  With technology we will be able to keep in contact with all of the people who shared our time in Chile.  There were students both in the institute and those who would come to our house and share stories of their lives while learning a second language.

Drop in centre for homeless dogs - Santiago


You know your in Chile when… is a line we saw in another blog and it makes perfect sense to us.  We were amazed at pathways nearly two metres higher than the road with out hand rails, crumbling buildings with satellite TV dishes on them.  On our last day in Santiago we watched a llama wearing a traditional hat being led past our hotel.  It’s the juxtapositions that we will remember the most.


This is the first time we’ve written a blog and we were frequently amazed at the origin of our consistent readers.  Talluah and I would always joke and ask, “Who do we know in Switzerland?”
People have told us that they admire what we did and that one day they would like to do the same thing.  In life there will always be another bill to pay, a leak in the roof, a change at work, an important meeting next month or something else that can be used as an excuse to stop you from traveling.  They are just excuses. We tell everyone that we speak to: Pick a country, pick a date and go.



No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.
  

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Office for Naughty Tourists


We went to the Office for Naughty Tourists at 8:31, one minute after it opens and were given number F62.  Turn up one minute after opening time and you have to wait behind sixty other people.  The line moved quickly and we were soon called in.  The first thing the man behind the counter asked for was the girls’ birth certificates.  We knew we had them somewhere, just not on us.  We told him we didn’t have them but he said that we had to prove they are our children.


Of course they’re our children.  Who else would travel with them?

He went off to have a chat with his supervisor and came back and said that we didn’t need to show the certificates.  Then he looked into his computer and asked about my work visa.  He told me this was a good thing.  I had a visa so I could leave.  But I didn’t have a visa because several months ago we decided it wasn’t worth the US$250 to finalise it and during our final pack this week I threw it out.  Here is a valuable lesson in common sense (something I’m going to buy in the near future) don’t throw out any papers until after you leave the country.

The official pointed to Talluah and the girls and said they can leave but I can’t.  Indiana started crying and I was ready to find out how to fix this when he said he was just joking.  All of this was taking place in Spanish.  He continued with his magic computer, wrote letters of permission for Talluah and the girls and gave me a copy of my work visa with an extra stamp saying I was leaving.  The good news is that we weren’t charged for overstaying our visa with the condition that we don’t return to Chile within the next three months, or that we would have been charged if we’d overstayed by three months, or he’s retiring in three months…  The only thing that we understood was that we weren’t being charged and something about three months.  Either way we were grateful and are currently sitting in the airport filling in several hours waiting for check-in and seeing if we, or more specifically, if I can get through border control this time.  

Even though today is, hopefully, our last day this won’t be the last blog.  We have a few more things to talk about upon our return to Oz.


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Our last day in Chile... almost.


This blog entry was going to be called, We blinked and it was over but even on the last day plans can be altered.


Indiana had been asked to prepare a small speech on behalf of our family for the last day at school.  She’s gone from having an idea of Spanish colours and numbers to being confident enough to talk in front of two hundred of her peers in Spanish.  We are very proud of Truce and Indiana’s enthusiasm and energy they have given for our Chile adventure.  Sometimes it felt like this was their adventure and we were the chaperones.  They’ve been surrounded by a great social network and immersed in the language.






Truce and Indy enjoyed their last day with their classmates, a farewell party and presents.  We rarely got to see the girls in their classrooms and when the bell rang for the end of school we saw how respected and loved they are.  This was the first time the school had non-Spanish speaking students enrolled and Talluah and I are glad they agreed to it and took the time and patience while our girls learnt Spanish.
The children at the school are very loving and while the Pre-Kinder kids don’t quite understand that Truce is leaving for several years we saw tears from Indiana and her friends as they said goodbye for some time.  It’s hard to articulate but part of the reason we did this adventure was so our children learn that, in life, we make friends that we may not see for some time but they are still friends.  Some of our painful memories are connected to our best memories.


This was to be our final day and during the ride to the airport (which had been kindly organised by a student of mine) we talked about the last ten months.  We arrived at the airport and checked in our luggage and went to border control, showed our passports.
This is our advice to anyone travelling to Chile.  Don’t overstay on your tourist visa in Chile.  We thought, after some anecdotal research on the Internet, we could pay the fine at the airport and be on our merry way.  The customs officer told us that we had to go to an office in Santiago and sort out the paperwork before we could fly out. This was 21:00 on Friday night; our flight was three hours away.  The office doesn’t open till Monday.  We went to the LAN office, changed our flights, waited for 80% of our luggage to be taken off the aeroplane and arrived at a hotel at the stroke of midnight.  We’ve been forced to have a little holiday in Santiago while we wait to fix our visas on Monday.  It feels very surreal because we didn’t plan to be here and all the while we keep thinking I should be cramped on a plane somewhere over the ocean.
But we are taking it on the chin and using this weekend to explore Santiago, last time we were here we were very green and jet lagged.  Fingers crossed that our baggage that did make it home to Australia is safely waiting.  




Saturday, 19 November 2011

Eating Chile.

There are a lot of places to eat in Valparaíso ranging from Sports Bars to Silver Service.  In Australia, only the best restaurants offer complimentary bread on seating – In Valpo, any place that supplies cutlery also offers free bread and, usually, pebre or some other salsa.  Most eateries have a Menu del Día, which is a set menu with several choices of entrada, fondos y postre, (entrée, main, and dessert).  The price can range from CLP$2,500 to $8,500 per person depending on the view, overall quality of restaurant and food.  We’ve found that we can happily share two meals between the four of us and get to sample a variety of tastes.

Thanks to our great friend Boris from Chilean Cuisine Cooking Classes we know good quality, traditional Chilean food when we see it.    One of the things I’m looking forward to most when we return to Australia is cooking a few Chilean feasts for our family and friends. 


These are some of the restaurants close to our apartment that we have tried and recommend. 


Almacen Nacional on the corner of Uriola and Almirante Montt makes the most delicious handmade empanadas we have tasted since being in Valparaíso.  We have had the delight of attending this restaurant a few times and each time have enjoyed not only the great food and attentive service but also the cool, fun decor of the interior.  Highly recommended.


El Desayunador the permanent breakfast café at the end of Paseo Dimalow often has the best quality for the lowest price on our hill.  The coffee is strong and hot and the eggs are delicious.  They also make a pretty mean empanada. They aren’t always on the menu but if you happen to be going by and see them on the black board they are definitely worth stopping for. 


Viavia Café and accommodation is also on Paeso Dimolow and serves well cooked and nicely presented dishes inspired by Belgium flavours.   If you’re not interested in trying strictly Chilean food then this is the restaurant for you.  We have eaten at Viavia a few times and always had really lovely flavours.  The menu del día is always elegant and well priced.


Normas’s restaurant on Almirante Montt has a generous and delicious Menu del día.  With a huge selection for each of the three courses you are bound to find something for everyone.  The locals seem to know about this old gem but I’m not sure if the long stairs up to the slightly hidden restaurant does it any favours with the tourists.  Norma’s gets a big thumbs up from us, in all aspects from the soft fresh bread as an amuse to the friendly and prompt service.




Friday, 18 November 2011

Mote con huesillo.

This is a very traditional summer drink made from dried peaches (huesillo), cooked husked wheat (mote), honey, cinnamon and sometimes prunes.


It is served in a tall glass for those who want to drink at the stand…




…or a plastic cup for gringos who want to move a polite distance away from the huesillo vender so as not to offend if the drink isn’t what one expected.


The one that we tried was too sweet and too warm and there seemed to be a very strong taste of prunes.



Thursday, 17 November 2011

Down to single figures

Truce was having troubles understanding how long until we returned to Australia.  We drew a calendar for November and each morning Truce crosses off the previous day. Weeks, months, days are a bit tricky for a four year old to fully comprehend.




Now that we’re down to our final week in Chile we’re calculating and rationing our rate of consumption and deciding what items we can do without.  There are certain things that we don’t want to have to buy in these last days:  washing powder, a 32 pack of toilet paper, five litres of oil, two litres of ice-cream – perhaps the last one is okay.





The girls are going through things they’ve acquired here and are going to give the larger articles to their friends at school.   We’re going to take as much of their school work home that we possibly can and to help with their Spanish we’ve organised the language books the girls would be using next year.



Our main priority is to find a set of bathroom scales so we can weigh our bags and avoid any surprises at the airport.

Dome complete with cat flap.





Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Round and round again.


We’ve commented a few times on the level of litter we see around Valparaíso, particularly in sensitive areas like the beach.  In this era of greenwashing and eco friendly lifestyles we have some thumbs up for the people of Valpo.
Many of the soft drink bottles are sold in reusable glass bottles.  It’s quite intriguing watching people purchase a Coke and drink it on the spot because the shopkeeper wants the bottle back.  It’s also possible to buy drinks in reusable plastic bottles. 
At the fruit markets a lot of the produce is moved around on homemade carts.  The timber is from old pallets and the wheels are the bearings from machines.  Reusing is greener than recycling and these trolleys add to the charm of the markets as they rattle down street.






Sunday, 13 November 2011

Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.


Henry Thoreau said that, with all costs considered, it was quicker to walk to your destination then work for the train fare and catch the train.  Henry did not have any children when he said this.


We started our walk to Viña at Avenida Argentina near Metro station Baron.  Most of the scenery we had seen before but always at the sonic speed that micros cruise at.  It was good to be able to look at some of the ocean front houses.






The girls plodded along at a good pace and survived on their rations of biscuits, cup cakes and water.  By the time we reached station Recreo, we agreed that we had walked far enough and it was time to catch a train back home.