The Good and The Ugly

The day is dark.

The sun has shone but it was a cold, muddy kind of sunlight today, almost as if it is feeling the pangs of a hangover from too much chicha, which I’m sure most of Chile will sympathize with. Outside my window there is a lone tree that I like to stare at whenever I feel like i want to escape the city, because it is fairly easy to ignore the various black power lines that run around it. That is what I am doing now, watching that tree sway in the breeze like it is my lifeline to a much simpler world.


It’s hard to live in a foreign land and not get the blues from time to time. I don’t miss New Zealand but sometimes I am overcome by such feelings of melancholy that the only thing that shakes me out of the dumps is a human-sized chocolate bar, a nap and back to back episodes of How I Met Your Mother.

In times like this, Chile only has to exist and I get riled up. Going to get my carnet (ID card) saw me transform into some kind of fiery beast, especially after we queued for an age to get a number only to be rejected as we weren’t ready with passport photocopies.

“jhojlodfijioasdofno!!” I snarled at the inconvenience and the woman responded by saying:

“The instructions are on the sign!” She then turned, lifted up a fallen-down, wrong way up sign and then placed it back on the floor, still facing the wrong way.  I’m pretty sure horns erupted from my skull at that moment.

There are so many times Chile gets me worked up. Like when I spent 6000 pesos for a curry and was given .. six prawns with a drizzle of sauce and a lettuce leaf. Or the time my Dad spent forever in the line waiting to check in for a flight to the UK, only to get the counter and find they had sold his seat to someone else and it was HIS FAULT (story coming soon!).  Or the time my Mum posted me a really old camera using DHL, and when it arrived they wanted almost $300 in handling fees (it wasn’t even tax and duties that put the price up!). Or the time Emilio was hospitalized and the tecnical assistant made me cry for not speaking enough Spanish, therefore meaning I “had no right to be with him.”  Finding a job here is also enough to make me scream. I am now pretty much unemployed and up to my eyes in debt – but I’m foreign so must be rich right (don’t you hate that?!)

As a mother, there are certain other aspects that drive me up the wall and around most of the garden too. Here is an example. Dieciocho, an important day for many Chileans, took us to Luis’ dad’s house for a family BBQ. Emilio cried the whole time and when he was finally happy playing with a ball, the adults took it off him and began to play some kind of ball wrestling that Emilio tried desperately to join. When he began inconsoleable grizzling with a fever, my suggestion that it was time for me to take him home was met with uncomfortable silence.

“But why can’t he stay here? He’s fine!” They all said while Emilio screamed and tried to run away. But I stood my ground and took him home anyway, which was a good thing because he got worse and worse throughout the night and ended up back in Roberto del Rio hospital. This has got to be my biggest pet peeve about having a son with a Chilean: they parent differently to how I am accustomed to. In my experience, the evening is not a time for children to be settling down for bed, instead it’s like a normal time of day. Luis’ parents often turn up randomly at 7pm and want to take him out, and if I say but he sleeps at 8 they just look at Luis. If I say bring him back at 8pm they say “ok 8pm … mas o menos” and return at 11pm. When Emilio is out and starts to cry because he’s tired, people tell me he’s very mamon and needs less sleep.

They also allow Emilio to do anything he wants. If he throws a stone at a person, they laugh. If he hits, they don’t say anything.  Emilio is a very strong-willed boy who also does not like to be touched, and whenever he gets hurt and comes to me, they crowd around and try to pull him away, and then get shocked when he starts screaming. “Manioso … regalon … mamite … agresivo … violento” I am given a rich list of unsatisfactory charactersitics each time which makes me retreat from them like a scared turtle.  Emilio is two and doesn’t talk, and so he resorts to other more extreme ways to communicate.  He also regresses every time someone tries to force him to do something to the time he was in hospital, which appears to have left a permanent scar on him (he started a particular squeal there that he uses whenever he is really scared).

I know they love him and 99% of the time I remember this. 99% of the time I appreciate all the good they have done and are doing, and I am so thankful they are in Emilio’s life. But on days like today – when I’m sick and tired and miserable – that tiny 1% finds its way out.  That goes for Chile too.  I adore this country and it is the only place in the world I have ever travelled to and felt completely and utterly at home. My skin cleared up, my hair shone and I lost weight after just 3 weeks in Santiago, of all places.  I felt at peace amongst Santiago’s ordered chaos.  I don’t want to leave but I don’t have to like everything (and same goes for anywhere including NZ). It bothers me when Chileans get riled up about a complaint about their country, because they usually a) deny its a problem and b) Chile is obviously perfect. Nowhere is perfect (I agree though that there are plenty of gringos who like to moan about everything!)  I hope whoever is reading this blog knows how much I love this country. What other place in the world gets together under the flag so proudly and so happily as Chile during las Fiestas Patrias? This is truly a marvellous place.  As always, let me know your experiences!

Delicious food over Las Fiestas Patrias
Emilio is in some of his too-big Huaso outfit
Empanadas de pino are synonimous with Dieciocho

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