Ready to roll! (As soon as the rain stops…)

After five years in New Delhi, this girl is ready to get back on a bike and enjoy some nature.

Here in Santiago, we live just a couple blocks from urban bike trails that stretch across the city, connecting riverside parks in 11 neighborhoods. On Sunday mornings, about 40 kilometers of roads are blocked off to cars and opened to cyclists.

A July 2016 article in The Guardian traces “Santiago’s two-wheeled revolution.” It’s full of interesting anecdotes about grassroots efforts to promote a cycling culture that breaks down social barriers. This little blurb confirmed my belief that I was going to love biking here:

Geographically and climatically, Santiago is kind to those on bikes. The city is backed by some of the highest mountains in the world but is surprisingly and mercifully flat, rising from an altitude of 475 metres in the west to around 700 metres in well-heeled Las Condes and Vitacura. Only in the eastern extremes, where the city extends its tentacles into the foothills of the Andes, does the going get tough. It is a dry city too, with around 280mm of rainfall a year – less than half of London’s total. For a third of the year between November and February it hardly rains a drop.

Check out this screenshot of the Mapocho42K project, a bike path along the Mapocho River. Can’t you feel the wind in your hair?

After a couple months of chilly weather, Santiago is emerging from winter. It’s time to get back in the saddle.

Life is simply too busy (and traffic is too daunting) for weekday excursions, so we had planned to shop for bikes last weekend. Then Tony got sick and spent the whole day Saturday in bed. Sunday, most bike shops were closed. So we were determined to get it done today! We had heard about “bike street,” a strip of bike shops in central Santiago (and we even saw the shuttered stores when we went to the 2Cellos concert last week). The plan for today was to visit “bike street,” although Tony and I both felt nervous about the language barrier. A quick google search revealed a Trek bike shop just a couple miles away. We decided to check it out first.

With our bike rack in the trunk, we drove to Echard Bike Center and found everything we needed. The family-owned shop featured friendly knowledgable staff, including Jean Claude, who had raced mountain bikes in California years ago and spoke beautiful English. Tony and I both found bikes we loved, and we pimped them out with computers, water bottle racks, kickstands and Kryptonite U-locks. We had brought bike lights and helmets from the States.


A worker rolls out Tony’s sweet blue ride.

Good thing Tony was kitted out and ready to go! (Just kidding … it’s only a mannequin. But don’t you think Tony needs tattoo sleeves?)

The guys let me pose like I know how to fix a bike. I do not.

Por qué Trek? Because it’s awesome!

Drumroll, please… Ta da! You can’t really tell from this photo, but parts of the frame are dark purple with sparkles. I love her.

Unfortunately, it started to rain about the time we got home with our bikes, but as soon as the skies clear, you know where we’ll be!

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Soaring over Santiago at Costanera Center

Wherever we go in the world, there’s an irresistible urge to climb to the highest point for a bird’s-eye view. I started to make a little collage of all the sky-high places we’ve visited, but there were too many! Check out this small sample.

Here in Santiago, I’m guessing the surrounding mountains hold the key to ultimate panorama photos. I’ll let you know when I finally get out of town to check them out.

In the meantime, we rode to the top of Latin America’s tallest building Monday afternoon. The 300-meter-high Gran Torre Santiago, a 15-minute walk from our house in the Providencia neighborhood, is one of four skyscrapers comprising Costanera Center. It offers a 53-second elevator ride to the observation deck on the 62nd floor.

Compared to other skyscrapers we’ve visited, this one was a bit … well … short. However, the 360° view of Santiago really helped me understand the city’s layout. On land, we frequently seem to drive circuitous routes to get from Point A to Point B. Now I realize we are navigating around those gorgeous hills.

From the observation deck, we could pinpoint some neighborhood landmarks but couldn’t identify our apartment building. Later, I compared my photos with our apartment’s location on google maps and found it.

Providencia cools off in the building’s shadow.

Compulsory cheesy selfie with our new friends, Pi, Laura, and Sara.

A half-hearted attempt to research the building revealed few interesting facts other than how the financial crisis of 2008 stalled construction for 10 months. But a poster at the observation deck said construction of the Gran Torre Santiago involved 6,000 workers, 350,000 square meters of concrete, and 105,000 metric tons of steel.

The Skyscraper Center websites describes the building this way:

Torre Costanera’s design comes from it’s close proximity to the Andes, and the need to distinguish the tower against this dramatic backdrop. It has prompted a simple and clear form. Rising from the northwest corner of the development next to the Mapocho River, the glass-clad tower has a slightly tapered, slender form that culminates in a sculptural latticed crown. The four corners are indented to accentuate its slenderness. The glass surface of the tower strikes a delicate balance between transparency and reflectivity. At the top of the tower is a dramatic steel and glass structure, providing a unique and elegant silhouette. This is a 21st century building, both technically and aesthetically. It is designed with state-of-the-art structural and mechanical systems, including a highly advanced outrigger system to account for Santiago’s high level of seismic activity. The cooling tower draws its entire water supply from the adjacent San Carlos canal.

A visit to the 105th tallest building in the world? Check! Cross that off my bucket list.

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La Vega Central offers up Chile’s bountiful harvest

For the first couple months we were in Chile, I thought disfruta was Spanish for fruit. You see it on posters and billboards everywhere, so I just figured these were people who loved their fresh produce. I now know disfruta means “enjoy,” so it makes more sense how often it featured in ads for restaurants, concerts, and festivals.

I was right about one thing, though. Chileans love their produce, and for good reason. This stuff is top notch. Many locals and expats have told me La Vega Central is the best place to get the freshest fruits and vegetables for the best prices in Santiago. I heard about the market even before we moved here, but the recommendation almost always came with a disclaimer: Hold on to your bag because the crowds are insane!

Shopping mobs + insecurity about haggling in Spanish = anxiety. So as much as I wanted to get my hands on those big juicy strawberries, I chose instead to buy the overpriced underripe fruit at the supermarket.

Finally, my Spanish-speaking friend Sarah and her Chilean friend Ariel invited me along to explore the market. Although some stalls were closed for Monday’s Columbus Day holiday, there was still plenty of mouth-watering produce for the picking. Best of all, we didn’t encounter the nightmarish crowds of weekend lore.

Right off the bat, I saw an old man selling pumpkin on the sidewalk and felt myself drawn to the bright orange glowing in the sunlight. I snapped a photo, and he promptly barked at me, so I apologized and bought some pumpkin. (Back home, I roasted it with some other chopped veggies and ate them over couscous with goat cheese. Yum!)

Ariel taught me how to ask first before taking photos, which allowed me to connect a bit with the vendors. Puedo sacarta una foto, por favor? Everyone responded with a kind smile, and some even posed.



I found my precious strawberries and bought a whole kilo for less than $2. It’s not customary to haggle here, Ariel explained.

I also bought these beautiful little potatoes, which Ariel had never seen. We found out they were from Peru. (Tony cooked the potatoes for me, and I’m sad to say they tasted pretty much like soil and had a strange gag-inducing texture.)

Sarah found celery almost as tall as she is.

Pretending to choose tomatoes.

There was so much more than just fruit and veggies. At one point, a vendor walked past us pushing a trolley towering with toilet paper while I stood next to drums of cat food and dog food, waiting for Ariel to sample almonds at a nut shop. I saw ladies selecting fresh fish from a tray of crushed ice next to a stall hawking spices and tea. Refrigerated meat cases held every cut of every animal you could imagine. Some tiny shops were bursting with a little bit of everything, including the ubiquitous cats.

I liked this cool sign.

But the same stall had a creepy display of naked Barbies and baby dolls. I asked Ariel about it, and he said, “I have no idea!” I was relieved to hear it wasn’t a cultural thing.

Sure it was a holiday and less crowded than usual, but we were all impressed by the cleanliness of the market. Even the public restroom was pleasant with TP, running water, and soap.

Now that I understand the lay of the land, speak a few useful Spanish phrases, know to pay the posted prices, and realize the power of a smile, I feel less intimidated about shopping at La Vega. It’s still much more intense and time-consuming than a trip to my local supermarket, but it is worth an occasional visit.

A few more shots from our recon mission…




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2Cellos: 2Good2Be4Gotten

When our new friends here in Santiago get excited about the nightlife, Tony and I can only nod supportively. We’re unlikely to ever see the other side of midnight again. And yet, this extrovert’s need for belonging sometimes leads to unexpected choices, like saying “yes!” to a cello concert.
Starting at 9 p.m.
On a Wednesday.

The invitation came from one of Tony’s colleagues, Michelle, who is one of our favorite peeps here. We just couldn’t say no.

Tony and I arrived at Teatro Caupolican about 10 minutes early. The line snaked down the block. Surely these were people waiting to buy tickets, I thought. I confidently pulled Tony out of the line and up to another entrance, where we were told to get back in the line. Slowly, we inched our way inside and up to our seats, which were the equivalent of plastic folding chairs bolted to the concrete floor. The concert had already started. Gentle classical music wafted up from the stage, where Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser sat in the spotlight with their cellos.

Michelle and her posse soon appeared, although we didn’t get a chance to say more than a quick hello before the concert took a turn for the crazy.

I had seen this YouTube video of the duo – known as 2Cellos – and expected their music to be a little edgy.

But I hadn’t properly researched them. I was unprepared for the crowd to rush the stage at the first notes of “You Shook Me All Night Long,” and I hadn’t anticipated the strobe lights or strap-on electric cello that enabled Hauser to continue rocking out while he danced across the stage in blinking red devil horns. One lady tossed her cardigan on the stage, which Šulić grabbed and swung overhead sexily. Tame for a rock concert, maybe, but I would bet few cellists can claim such displays of adulation.

When the house lights came up between songs, we could see the 4,500-seat theater was packed.

Fans waved their phones the way we used to wave lighters, almost in a trance to the beat of the music. Women screamed and shouted, “I love you!” At one point, there was a chant that reverberated through the crowd. “What are they saying?” I asked my seat mate, Kristen. She didn’t know either, but we soon discovered it was a plea for a particular song, and the cellists responded. The crowd went wild.

2Cellos interspersed their playlist with a few classical pieces, but they mostly stuck with rock favorites by AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Guns N’ Roses, U2, Nirvana and Sting.

I had wrongly assumed the two guys were brothers. According to a November 2014 interview in The Strad, the two Croatian cellists met when they were about 14.

“When we were in Croatia, the people following our careers considered us to be big rivals,” says Hauser. “We were always great friends though – as soon as we met we felt a strong kind of camaraderie. There’s still some rivalry, but in a healthy way: we push each other to be better and better. On stage we make each other play to a higher standard.”

The duo’s website, 2Cellos, says their 2011 YouTube rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal” opened the door to fame. They scored a record deal with Sony MasterWorks and an invitation to tour with Sir Elton John, who says in a video testimonial: “I was absolutely astonished! I said, oh my God, I’ve never seen cello players play like this. I’ve never seen cello players rock out. And I said, God, I’ve got to have them in my band straight away.”

The show was incredible, totally worth staying out late on a school night.

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Making Michigan memories in a blink

When we were lounging lakeside back in June, we bemoaned our brief summer break. Accustomed to about eight weeks of downtime in Michigan, we resented having to go back to work in just one month. Our school in India wrapped up June 1, but we had to report to our new jobs in Chile on July 3.

“No fair!” we cried. “We’ll just come back in September when we have a week off!”

Well, that was a stupid plan. I made it even stupider by screwing up the flight reservations. I must have been using last year’s school calendar when I booked the tickets for Sept. 24-30. In fact, the break was a week earlier. When I realized my mistake, I phoned the airline, cried and pleaded, and got the fee waived. However, I still had to pay the difference in the fare, which was about $700 total … and we had to wait till Saturday night to leave Santiago … and our flight back to Chile had two stops. Awesome.

That meant we had a total of four full days in Michigan at the rate of about $700 per day, counting airfare and car rental. Kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, it turned out September was a wonderful time to be there. Trees were just starting the transformation from green to scarlet. The lake was still warm enough for a swim, and the weather was perfect. With school in session, our neighborhood was practically deserted. Sitting on the deck with my coffee in the morning, I watched the ducks frolicking in the lake and listened to the chattering of birds in the willow tree. Maybe it was worth the money?

We didn’t have internet or phone service at the lake, so we spent a little time each day using the free wifi at McDonald’s. That was the only way to contact my sister Kate to make plans for the day.

Tony enjoyed pottering around the house, but I spent most of my time hanging out with Kate and 3-year-old Jack. His big brothers were in school, so he got a lot of attention.



We had a little fashion shoot with Chilean vests, hats and flags.


It might not have been the most fiscally responsible choice to fly home for less than a week, but it was lovely nonetheless.

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Dieciocho – celebrating Chile (and saving my sanity)

Returning staff at our school have patiently endured new teachers’ whining and crying for the last couple months. They nodded their heads and made empathetic sounds when we griped about banking woes, moaned about school systems, expressed profound confusion about daily-life decisions, and otherwise shook our fists at the heavens with utter frustration. “It will all be OK by Dieciocho,” they said.

I had no idea what dieciocho was, but I heard that message so often, it began to bring me comfort.

Then suddenly Dieciocho arrived. Turns out, dieciocho is Spanish for 18, and on Sept. 18, Chile celebrates Independence Day. According to About.Education:

On September 18, 1810, Chile broke from Spanish rule, declaring their independence (although they still were theoretically loyal to King Ferdinand VII of Spain, then a captive of the French). This declaration eventually led to over a decade of violence and warring which did not end until the last royalist stronghold fell in 1826.

Dieciocho is just one day in a festive season called Fiestras Patrias, when Chileans celebrate Chile with rodeos, barbecues, and parties. All over town, people dance the cueca, Chile’s national dance: Ladies in flouncy dresses wave handkerchiefs coyly while bobbing to the music, tempting the huasas (Chile’s version of cowboys) to stomp their boots and spin their spurs. In a public square, you might see an organ grinder performing with a chinchinero, who uses long drumsticks to beat the huge drum on his back while straps attached to his feet clang the cymbals.

I experienced Dieciocho in a few different ways.

First, our school’s Fiesta Huasa offered up a taste of all things Chilean: food, drinks, games, dances, music, and demonstrations of horsemanship. I even accepted a sip of some potent drink from a cow horn, handed down to me from a high school janitor, who was proudly decked out in his finest huasa gear and parading around on his beautiful horse.

My friend, Craig, and I volunteered at the guinea pig game without really knowing what it was. We soon learned it was very popular! Kids lined the perimeter of the large booth to buy numbered tickets. Inside, boxes formed a big ring with their openings facing inward. A worker dressed as a mime with a small whistle in his mouth placed a guinea pig under a cover in the middle of the circle. After lots of whistling and dramatic gestures, he lifted the cover, and the crowd went wild. At first, the guinea pig just sat there, soaking up all the attention. Then he scurried for cover in one of the numbered boxes. The child with that number on her ticket won a prize. It lasted less than a minute. And then we started over, selling tickets again (color-coded, so no cheating). I had heard that more traditional parties actually give the guinea pig away as the prize, so I was pretty relieved to see kids instead choosing from boxed toys like baby dolls and cars.



For more Dieciocho fun, I checked out Chile Lindo, a big party in a park near our neighborhood. I ate my first choripán, a chorizo sandwich. Yum!
I didn’t take any food porn photos, but it looked a bit like this, courtesy of Joan Nova’s flickr page.

Photos from Chile Lindo.



Nido students also sang and danced in a Dieciocho assembly, which was pretty adorable.

Here’s a chinchinero at the assembly.

On the Friday before the weeklong Dieciocho break, Nido’s foreign teachers threw a huge party for the Chilean staff, complete with piles of barbecue, gallons of pisco sours (a delicious and toxic Chilean cocktail), and a show featuring skits and songs performed by teachers. In a tradition bordering on hazing, new teachers were told we would be dancing the cueca. We practiced a couple times, but when I saw the video it looked like I had never seen the dance before. Still, it was surprisingly fun.

My dress collar kept blowing up in my face, and it was really cold, so I kept my jeans on. Go ahead and judge.

Fun newbie friends.

So, finally, Dieciocho had arrived. We thought it would never get here. And you know what? Those wise returning teachers were right. By the time we left school after that party, I could honestly say I had turned a corner. Without realizing it, I was coping without crying. I was solving problems without complaining to seven people first. The hot tears of frustration and that tight knot of anxiety in my throat? Not completely gone, but not constantly present either. So that’s something.

I’m sitting in the Buffalo airport on my way back to Chile, and I’m actually looking forward to getting home. Yeah, home. It’s about time.

Viva Chile!

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Snacks for Snakey: Instinct or kitty kindness?

Our cat, Ella, has a ridiculous number of toys, but she has a soft spot for “Snakey.” Every morning, we emerge from the bedroom to find Snakey facedown in Ella’s food or water.

Lately, Snakey has been getting some company and enjoying a little more variety. Ella used to shove his torn little face into her bowl of kibble or dunk him in the water dish, but now she occasionally lets him play with her egg carton “enrichment toy,” a DIY food dispenser that is supposed to stimulate bored cats. She even drags her other toys to the party.

Perplexed over Ella’s weird behavior, I did a little research. Apparently, this is not uncommon. Here’s the scoop from Dr. Arnold Plotnick, a New York vet with an informative blog called Cat Man Do.

Transporting non-food items, such as toys, to the food or water bowl is a common behavior seen in indoor cats. The reason why they do this isn’t clear, although several explanations have been suggested. Cats often put their toys away in a “safe” place after playing with them, and cats look upon their food area as a secure part of their territory. This behavior is similar to cats in the wild who often take their prey back to their nest area to hide it from potential predators. Your cat simply might be storing his toy in a secure area to be played with later. (When my cat, Mittens, is finished playing with her fuzzy mice, she likes to store them behind a large flowerpot in the corner of my living room.)

He also speculates that it could be a nurturing behavior.

Another possible explanation is that this is a manifestation of gathering/collecting behavior. For example, cats will transport the toy to the water bowl in the same way that a queen will return wandering kittens back to the nest, or move kittens from one place to another by the nape of the neck.

That’s my favorite explanation. I love imagining Ella, gently holding Snakey’s google-eyed head in her mouth and thinking, “It’s OK baby. I’ll take you back to the nest and get you a little snack.”

Doesn’t this look like a cat with a deep sense of empathy? (Check out the Prisma app for your own photo fun.)

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Taking the “h” out of whine: a visit to Emiliana Organic Winery

There has been a lot of venting and fussing as we slowly settle in to a new life here in Santiago.

Yesterday, I thought of that old annoying phrase said by unsympathetic listeners: “Would you like a little cheese with that whine?” And then I thought, “Yes, yes I would!” I have been drowning my frustrations in delicious Chilean wine since we landed in this country, and I couldn’t wait to check out the many wineries.

For my first visit to Chilean wine country, I joined in the celebration of fellow newbie Anna’s birthday. We organized a school van and driver for the hour-plus ride to the Emiliana organic winery in the Casablanca Valley on Saturday. (Tony had to attend IB training at school, so he couldn’t go.)

Damp, cold weather has marked the tail end of Santiago’s winter, and this day was no exception. I encountered a little drizzle on my walk to Starbucks, where we were meeting the van, but I had piled on the layers and actually felt too warm during the van ride. (When did you ever know me to feel too warm?)

Stepping out of the van at Emiliana, we stopped to check out the alpacas in a large pen. “Look!” said another guest. “A baby was just born minutes ago!” Sure enough, mama alpaca’s legs were streaked with blood, and next to her sat a wee damp cria (that’s the name for a baby alpaca, google just told me). Kind of nasty, kind of adorable.

At the end of our tour, Brie got this great shot of the gangly little thing nuzzling with his mom.

The birthday girl and a friendly alpaca.

At the winery, we were herded inside to prepare for the tour. We had the option of choosing cheese or chocolate to accompany our wine tasting. Hard call since those are two of my favorite food groups. I went with cheese.

We met Ramon, an articulate tour guide who kept the English- and Spanish-speaking guests engaged and interested. He explained that Jose Guilisasti’s family founded the winery in 1986, but Jose had a vision to take the vineyard in a new direction. Of course he wanted the organization to be profitable, said Ramon, but he aimed to do so with sustainable eco-friendly practices and social responsibility. It took five years to convert to growing grapes organically and another five years for the wines to turn a profit, he said.


Jose died in 2014, but his legacy lives on. Ramon described some of the practices that enable Emiliana farmers to produce grapes without herbicides or pesticides: Chickens roam free to control insects. Cow manure and other organic material is used to make compost. Rows of grass and flowering plants between the vines attract ladybugs and other useful critters while serving as snacks for grazing alpacas and sheep, who, in turn, provide the “black gold” that returns nutrients to the soil. The farm takes advantage of modern technology, such as drip irrigation and nutrient management plans that identify acreage in need of compost or other interventions.

Ramon also shared some of Emiliana’s impressive initiatives to provide a better quality of life to its workers. Training in micro-enterprise allows the winery’s 300 workers to grow olives, harvest wool, maintain bees, and otherwise produce the raw materials for products they can sell for their own profit. Workers learn organic farming practices and receive a small garden plot where they can grow their own vegetables. The company also offers assistance with health care, housing, and technical education.



This yellow flower is called “ruda” in Spanish, but we couldn’t find an English translation. Can you name it? Ramon says ladybugs love the stuff.

Garden plots for the workers.

After the tour, we all filed into a nearby building and tromped upstairs to a long table set for the wine tasting. Each placemat held a glass of water, a tray of either cheese or chocolate for the pairings, and four glasses of wine:
* 2015 Adobe Reserva Rosé
* 2015 Novas Gran Reserva Chardonnay
* 2014 Novas Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon
* 2012 Coyam (a blend of six grapes)

I’ve been reading up on Emiliana and its wines a bit, and I keep giggling at some of the reviews. I know it’s a cliché to mock wine-tasting commentaries, but “pencil lead” and “wet dog fur” were two descriptions used in positive reviews of the Coyam. Ick! I most definitely didn’t notice those scents or flavors, and in fact, the Coyam was my favorite of the day.

Our wine guide took this picture and cut out Margo. Sorry!



A few of us purchased wine, olive oil, and honey before boarding our van for the short ride to House – Casa del Vino, a restaurant operated by the neighboring Tiraziš winery.

I ordered fig-and-ricotta red ravioli, which was paired with Mancura Brut Rosé. When the dish arrived, I worried momentarily that it seemed a bit gimmicky: fuchsia ravioli in a cotton-candy-colored cream sauce, dusted with crushed pistachios, and paired with pink bubbly … really? It was straight out of Barbie’s dream house. I meant to snap a photo, but then I took a bite and forgot everything else. My mouth has not been that happy in a long, long time. I sopped up the extra sauce with warm crusty bread and raised a glass to Anna.


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Settling in Santiago part 2: looking for a silver lining in the cloud of exhaustion

How is it possible to feel overwhelmed at the pace of life while also feeling like nothing is getting done? Since I last posted, I’ve enjoyed a few fun outings with new friends, received our shipment from India, and started school. However, daily life is a series of baby steps and barely recognizable accomplishments as we navigate so much newness.

Tuesday, Tony and I left school with plans to meet a handyman at our house and hang curtain rods. (Three weeks after moving in to our apartment, we still don’t have curtains in our master bedroom, so we’re still sleeping on a trundle bed in a guest bedroom.) The handyman cancelled at the last minute, which seems to happen more often than not here.

OK. Change of plans: We checked out a supermarket near school called Lider, which is owned by Wal-Mart. The underground parking was nearly empty, so we wondered whether the store was even open. Not only was it open, it was amazing. It pretty much WAS Wal-Mart. Not that I love Wal-Mart … but … after living in India for five years with no convenient supermarket option, this was Nirvana. We took our time, strolling down every aisle, realizing – with the help of google translate on my phone – that we could find just about any ingredient we needed for just about any recipe. We bought cheese and wine and avocados and fresh bread and a rotisserie chicken and a pork roast and some school supplies … oh man, I could go on and on. We knew to weigh our produce and get it priced in the produce section, and we knew to do the same for bread in the bakery section. At checkout, we had actually remembered to bring in the cloth shopping bags (which we usually forget in the trunk of our car) and I knew how much to tip the woman who bagged our groceries (one of a gajillion little learnings on this steep curve). We pulled out of the parking lot, consulted with google maps, and got right on the highway. We went grocery shopping and got home without screwing up dramatically or getting lost! We were buoyed by a sense of success.

So, try to understand our state of mind if that made us happy. You can only assume that we are generally not that successful. Daily life is riddled with mind-numbing frustrations and inconveniences that we haven’t figured out how to handle. My eyes continuously brim with tears that I somehow keep from spilling over.

That said, here are some things that have marginally improved our quality of life in recent weeks:

* We have searched and searched for adaptors for the oversized Indian plugs on our microwave, coffee maker, electric kettle, portable heaters, and back-up UPS batteries for our computers. Obviously, we haven’t been able to use any of those things since we gleefully unpacked them. Finally, Tony snipped off all the plugs and rewired them with Chilean plugs! I actually stood in front of the coffee maker and watched it brew the first pot of coffee, just in case it caught on fire. So far, so good!

* I paid some bills! Oh sure, you may think that’s mundane and not worth mentioning. Try moving to a country where you don’t speak the language, don’t receive any actual bills and suddenly get inundated with people saying, “What? You haven’t paid your bills yet?!” I had a major freakout yesterday when I got a text message from my mobile phone company saying: “Your plan will expire tonight if you don’t pay your bill.” Except it was in Spanish. And then someone reminded me that we have to pay the rent before the 5th or we’ll get slammed with late fees. And then there’s the gas, water and electricity bills, not to mention the “gastos communes,” which are fees for apartment dwellers that cover the concierge, groundskeeping, janitorial services in the common areas, and so on. Fortunately, it seems almost everything can be paid online. My good friend google translate helped me figure out the phone company’s website, and then I paid the rent from my Chilean bank website (which involves a LOT of steps, including using a little clicker that looks like a garage door opener and gives you a code to enter online). Our concierge says the other bills haven’t arrived, and I nodded and pretended to understand when he rattled on about something, which I decided to believe was, “When the bills arrive, I will deliver them to your apartment.” We’ll see. So, whew!

* Tony and I joined a couple newbies for a hike up Cerro San Cristobal July 17. Just a 5-minute taxi ride from our house brought us to the trail head, where we met Jen and Sarah. We trekked up for about 45 minutes, a 300-meter increase in elevation, to the 14-meter statue of the Virgin Mary on the summit. The statue towers over an amphitheatre, where Pope John Paul II said mass and blessed the city in 1987. A nook at the statue’s base features racks of candles and a wall of offerings and prayer requests. A small chapel sits a few steps further down the hill, flanked by a few gift shops and snack stands. I couldn’t find much information on the chapel, but these guys have a nice summary (and a pretty fun travel blog): Cleared and Ready for Takeoff.

Even on this overcast day, the views were exhilarating.









* Our shipment from India arrived! The moving company delivered everything on Saturday, July 23, and we had unpacked all 138 boxes by the end of the weekend. “Unpacked” is different from “put away,” of course. I will use the metaphor that Tony uses when I put on pantyhose: 20 pounds of potatoes in a 10-pound sack. That’s what our apartment feels like right now. Too much stuff and not enough space, so it sits in piles around the perimeter of each room. However, it’s such a treat to enjoy a home-cooked meal at the dining room table instead of eating a peanut-butter sandwich while sitting on the toilet seat (or standing in the kitchen). We cuddle with Ella on the sofa each evening, and we’re slowly digging through the mountains of clothes to complement the limited wardrobe we brought in our suitcases. Even in this state of chaos, our stuff brings a sense of comfort.

The kitchen boxes towered on the balcony and overflowed out into the hallway. And this kitchen is puny. Whenever we try to do anything in the kitchen at the same time, Tony mutters, “It’s like we live on a boat.”

Ella mostly hid in the closet, but she came out to explore when the movers took a lunch break.



This is where we’re sleeping till we get curtains in the master bedroom. Yes, it’s a trundle bed.

The only casualty of the move: a big terracotta elephant I bought at a street market in Delhi. I really loved him.

Furniture unpacked and reassembled. So grateful for places to sit!

Cross your fingers that we experience ongoing successes that outweigh the oppressive sense of failure permeating most of our days… Wow, that was intense. Oppressive sense of failure? Really? Well … frankly… yeah. That pretty much sums it up. But – and it’s a big but – we learn something new every day. That’s the silver lining, for now. Stay tuned.

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All’s good in the ‘hood: Exploring Providencia

After camping in our empty apartment for four days, I knew I had to get out. I jumped at the chance to explore our neighborhood with fellow newbies living in Providencia and returning teacher, Colleen (you might know her as the “pot lender”).

We walked and walked and walked all afternoon, pausing for a rooftop beer and later meeting up with Tony and Colleen’s husband, Brad, for dinner in the totally walkable neighborhood of Barrio Bellavista. I was shaking with excitement over how easy it was to walk everywhere (to be fair, it got pretty cold by late afternoon, so I might have been shivering). Colleen pointed out her favorite restaurants, outdoor markets, specialty shops and bars along the way. We did catch a taxi to nearby Vitacura, where we checked out Parque Bicentenario, a huge beautiful urban park, and then popped into Hotel Noi for a peek at its rooftop pool bar. Later, we lucked out and got a table at Uncle Fletch, a bustling burger joint. After dinner, we stumbled upon a contemporary art gallery, where they served us free wine to sip while perusing the paintings and sculptures. Too pooped to walk another step, Tony and I taxi-ed home, eager to explore some more another day.

I wish I had taken more photos, but it was a rather dreary overcast day.




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Adventures in Teaching and Travel