A few years ago I came across some pictures in one of the various Facebook groups for expats in Chile, and then discovered that I had gone missing. As I peered at the image of the grey shaggy haired dog and then at the thin-legged bird, I found myself transported back in time to when I was a child. For a split second I was seven years old, running through the grass beneath the English sunshine, with a book in my hand and smile on my face. It was one of those uncanny and profound moments that I still think of, and it can all be credited to Siski Green, a freelance illustrator and journalist.
Based in Concepcion but hailing from the UK, Siski moved with her family to Chile in search of a better quality of life, as well as for Chile´s volcanoes (her husband is a volcanologist). After becoming frustrated by the lack of ¨useful but pretty¨ options for gifts here, she decided to branch out and fill the gap herself. The response has been overwhelming. You can check out Siski´s Facebook page here or send her an email if you´d like to order for yourself one of these beautiful and unique gift options – they make great souvenirs or presents for family living overseas. I also reached out to Siski to design our Miles & Smiles logo and to paint the background image for our website, and I was very pleased with the result and the service.
How did you get into painting, Siski?
Personally, there is nothing better than spending time in nature to make me feel good about life. It doesn’t matter so much where – I love a little brook with moss-covered stones as much as I love admiring the view from the top of a craggy mountaintop – but what makes Chile so special is that it has a little of everything. Pink and yellow desert scenes, indigo and foamy-green ocean scenes, lush dark green moist woodland scenes, bright white and volcanic-black mountain scenes, so in terms of inspiration I couldn’t really ask for more. We figured we could give our family a better quality of life here, based on our idea that being near or in nature is a key factor in a ‘good’ life. The first couple of years were horrible, frankly, but when we moved out of the city [Concepcion] everything changed. Not a day goes past without me marveling at how lucky we are to live here, surrounded by hills, waking up in the morning to chickens clucking and the birds singing – it’s wonderful. But it’s not just about the natural surroundings – the people here are different. We were welcomed with open arms by our campo vecinos (neighbours).
How were you affected by the recent wildfires?
When the fires raged through our area earlier this year, everyone came together to help keep the flames away. We formed a WhatsApp group to communicate and everyone was on alert, helping to make fire breaks where necessary, or calling the bomberos (fire fighters) when the fires were getting close to buildings. Not one home was lost in our neighborhood. When I look around at the hills around our home – some of which bear the scars of the fires – I feel like hugging them, they’ve always made me feel safe and I wish we could have protected them more from the fires.
Where is your favorite place in Chile?
For living, there is nowhere I’d rather be than right where we are. Close to a smallish city but far enough away to see the Milky Way at night and with space to grow plants and trees. But there are times when I feel an overwhelming need to head to the beach – and I just love Cocholgue. It’s not one of the most popular beaches with locals, they head to Tome or Dichato, and that’s partly why I love it. It’s more rugged and wild, and the waves are too big to allow for swimming but because of that we can explore the rock pools in peace, build sand castles and play, “What’s the time, Mr. Wave?” with the ocean waves.
* If you are interested in taking a watercolour class yourself, why not send a message to Siski´s former teacher, Carola? You can find her website here.
The Expat Spotlight series introduces you to expats (like me!) who have made Chile their home. I specifically choose to highlight people who I think exemplify what it means to be an expat: those who embrace Chile and give something back. You can read other stories here:
Meet Hoda Madi and her incredible abstract artwork;
Meet Sarai and discover about her life in Puente Alto, as well as her small business selling handmade goods;
Meet Sujitra, who prepares the most delicious homemade Indian food;
Meet Sally Rose, author and longtime volunteer in low-income schools.