All you’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Dinosaurs in Chile

If you come to my house at 8pm each night, you will see three heads huddled over a hard-backed book with several ripped and sellotaped pages thanks to overeager small fingers.  You will likely hear my youngest son babble with excitement at certain pages, while the turning of (the majority of) others prompts my oldest to recite something like the following with perfect diction:

¨That’s Micropachycephalosaurus,¨  He will say (and I’m checking closely – he’s right!), ¨He’s really small and he eats plants and his name is the longest!¨

Sometimes I cannot believe how wondrous children are, the way their brains soak up information like ever-expanding sponges, and the remarkable ability they have to remember intricately the things that interest them (and seemingly not hear other things, like when its time to brush their teeth, tidy their toys away or leave me alone because I’m on the toilet!).  Children have that beautiful ability to find something amazing in the smallest things, like in a pile of freshly-fallen autumn leaves or a great big muddy puddle, and with so many of us in a constant battle against the dreaded clock, we could all take a leaf or two from their book.

But I digress because while this post could easily be about the wisdom of children (!), it is actually about the focus of my kids’ obsessions, specifically dinosaurs in Chile. Did you know Chile is some kind of palaeontological paradise?!  Honestly, it’s amazing so keep reading.

I encourage E’s love of dinosaurs. I think it’s wonderful that he can name 45 species, and it opens up a great discussion around geography, life/death, the circle of life, and the place humans – and all creatures – occupy in the grand scheme of things. I also love that it is his interest that is making me learn so much more about this amazing country, as well as the history of Earth itself, and I am incredibly excited to see where this goes.

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Let’s Begin! The Incredible Truth about Dinosaurs in Chile

(Paraphrased from this article in the Scientific American)

What once walked these lands? Mapusaurus was a carnivorous predator over 10 metres long that likely hunted in packs, and was named in honour of the Mapuche people. Two types of sauropods in the same family of Diplodocus have been discovered in Chile, as well as the footprints of the predator Giganotosaurus, bigger than T-Rex and the 2nd largest meat-eating dinosaur discovered anywhere in the world (beat only by Spinosaurus).  Carnotaurus (you may remember him from the Dinosaur movie and the soon-to-be-released, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) once lived in Calama, while Coelurosaur remains have been found at the site at Pichasca (Limari Valley).

It's Take Your Dogto Work Day

Right at the bottom of South America is one of the most important sites in South America for fossils. Here you can find the El Puesto excavation site, a place where the dirt crumbles underfoot beside hundreds of fossils. You might find a piece of rib cage here, a femur tip there, while further down whole skeletons have been uncovered.  This zone famously contains a 7km field of hadrosaur (duck-billed herbivore) remains that indicate they were partially burned in a bizarre wildfire. This site, along with others in the area such as Las Chinas and Cerro Guido, provides an unprecedented view into the world of 72-66 million years ago, a time which previously little was known.  What has been discovered in this area is gobsmacking. Titanosaurid sauropods, unique flowers (some perfectly preserved and 72 million years old – a feat considering the fragile nature of the petals), the oldest fossilized leaves in South America (including oak, lenga, and coihue), 40 types of plants, marine creatures, pollen, wood … A few steps to the left and you may come across marine reptiles, a few spots over you may uncover land mammals of the Cenozoic period.  Did you know that the forests of the Cretaceous period that once flourished in Antarctica were almost the same as the forests you can see today in modern day, Valdivia? 

Here scientists have also been able to study the effects of climate change during the end of the Cretacious period, including the 25m fall of the sea level over under a million years which allowed a bridge to form between South America and Antarctica.  Experts have noted that these bridges were important areas of evolution, giving rise to the new notion that climate change is the unique catalyst of new species.

Sites such as these are being studied by international teams funded mostly by Chile’s National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICYT).

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Introducing the Amazing, Chilesaurus, also known as the Missing Link

Chilesaurus diegosuarezi is its official name, but most of us will probably remember this unusual dinosaur because of the fact it was discovered in Chile – and the fact that this herbivore is so bizarre that it has been named the missing link between the evolution between herbivores and carnivores.

It’s a befuddling creature from the Jurassic period, the size of a small horse which once populated Patagonia 145 million years ago. It is also one of the most important paleontological finds in history, believe it or not, with four almost complete and 8 partially complete skeletons discovered. In 2004 seven-year-old Diego Suarezi discovered the bones while out with his geologist parents near General Carerra Lake, close to the site of breathtaking Marble Caves.  What is interesting about Chilesaurus is that it is a theropod, part of the same family as Carnetaurus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, but bizarrely vegetarian.  It had a beak, for starters, and flat teeth for plant-eating – curioser still it had fingers rather than claws, while still bearing the famous short arms of carnivores.

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Where to Get your Dino Fix in Chile

Until E fell in love with those Cretaceous critters, I had no idea there were so many dino-related excursions in Santiago.  There really is something universal about dinosaurs that kids love, isn’t there?

If you are happy to make a day of it, you can drive/bus/train out to Buin Zoo, a wonderfully-kept zoo about 45minutes from the city centre.  Unlike the widely criticized National Zoo over on Cerro San Cristobal, Buin Zoo has large enclosures, well-maintained grounds and excellent facilities for the whole family.  We love a trip here, although on our most recent trip we didn’t see a whole lot as we barely left the Dino Zoo.  Yes, fellow parents of the dino-obsessed, there really are a place where you can take your child to see life-sized models, and although it’s small, your child will absolutely love it.  Expect to see all the classics AND a giant sandpit to hunt for fossils in!

Closer to home and Santiago has two events on a limited run. The Santiago Planetarium has a showing of Dinosaurios al Atardecer, which explores the history of dinosaurs around the world (Spanish only) followed by a fun group activity.  I was pleasantly surprised by the Planetarium – it isn’t London or New York but it’s fun and E loved it (M did not so sit near the door if you go with small children in case you need to make a swift exit) and the activity was enjoyable for the whole family (we had a hard time getting Luis to leave).  There is a small toy shop with dinosaur/space related trinkets and it wasn’t expensive.  The Planetarium is just a short work from Estacion Central metro station right beside the Universidad de Santiago (USACH) but it has its own entrance.  This film runs until July 1st. NOTE: Do take care of your belongings around this metro station as it is extremely busy and be aware that this metro stop does not have a lift or escalator.

At the other end of town within the gorgeous Parque Araucano park (beside Parque Arauco Mall) you can find Big Bang Park + Chilesaurus, an indoor dinosaur extravaganza that is set to stay until September.  This is the perfect place to take your child to see huge replicas of their favourite dinosaur, including a dino dig and other fun activities. Star of the show is the moving, lifelike Chilesaurus, who your child will love.  Well worth it!

Further afield, in the 6th region to be exact, is the Route of Dinosaur Footprints (Ruta de las Huellas de Dinosaurios). At around 100km from Santiago and 70km from its nearest city (San Fernando), this is an endeavour for the obsessed or the adventurous but no matter who you are you will be left amazed by the visible footprints left by dinosaurs some 150 million years ago. Standing here, it is hard to imagine that the mountains you see before you used to be sea and that the 500 or so footprints dotted about are visible only due to the ash left by volcanic eruptions all those millions of years before.  The 2010 earthquake, one of the largest in world history, actually unearthed even more footprints, and the result is a spectacular journey back in time to a Chile that was very, very different. Promaucaes Outdoor leads guided tours around the area, lasting about three hours (around CLP$10,000), and the trip can be easily combined with a visit to the Termas del Flaco hot springs.  NOTE: both the tour and the hot springs operate only between October and May as the area is inaccessible in winter; you also will need to bring cash.

The Monumento Natural La Pichasca is the culmination of a gorgeous drive over azure reservoirs and past miles of grape-laden hills in the Limari Valley, just on the outskirts of the mining town, Ovalle (45 min from La Serena).  Here the fossils of ginormous Titanosaurus’ have been unearthed (not displayed in the park), as well as petrified forest, pre-Colombian cave paintings  NOTE: Pichasca is a long way from anything, so check opening times before you leave.  It also gets hot and sunny so pack plenty of water – enjoy!

So you Want a Dinosaur Birthday?

Eventosaurio, a small outfit inspired by their own kids’ love of dinosaurs, is all you need to make an original birthday party children will remember.  What child doesn’t want to meet a real, walking baby t-rex?  If you book Eventosaurio to your event, Rexy (and his handlers) will come for a visit – there’s no need to be scared because Rexy is fed beforehand and is only keen to play! You will learn all about dinosaurs during some fun activities before Rexy is unleashed on the partygoers (cue screams!) for some fun and games. Eventosaurio is not a cheap birthday rental and Rexy has some big dimensions, therefore needs quite a bit of space to move around, but if your child is dino-crazy like mine, their ecstatic faces make it all worth it.

Follow them on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Hope you enjoyed this dino-tastic article! If you are new to my blog, please feel free to have a nosey through – I may get a bit honest at times but hopefully you find something that strikes a chord. If you want to read about some other fun facts about Chile, have a read of this article, or for ideas about what to do with kids in Santiago take a look here. As always, if you liked what you read please give it a ´like´ and don’t forget to subscribe to my feed to keep up to date with new posts. I am always looking for new content, so if you have an idea for a story please send me an email to helen@queridarecoleta.com

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Open Day at the Aerodromo de Vitacura

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Each Spring a wonderful event happens: the annual open day at the Club de Planeadores (Aerodromo) de Vitacura.  Normally a private spot for pilots, it transforms every November into an all-day extravaganza for the whole family.  From helicopters you can hop into and explore, gliders, small planes and stands featuring all of Chile´s armed forces, the free event caters to all aviation fanatics from about 10am until around 6pm. This year there were hourly shows and even helicopter rides on offer too, from $20,000 for 20 minutes in the sky.

We really enjoyed learning about the SSOT Project (Sistema Satelital de Observacion de la Tierra) which is operated by the Chilean Air Force (Fuerza Aerea de Chile).  The project has put a satellite developed by ASTRIUM (France) into the atmosphere above Chile to monitor and (eventually) predict trends across the areas most pertinent to Chile, namely, volcanic activity, seismic activity, forest fires and land mapping.  Find out more here.

Tip: there isn´t much shade so come prepared with hats and sunblock, and this year none of the food trucks sold water (only soft drinks).

 

The Nitty Gritty

Address: Santa Maria 6299, Vitacura, Santiago

Website here


More Family Fun ideas:

Museo Interactivo Mirador (MIM);

Museo Aeronautico y del Espacio;

Museo Artequin;

Museo Ferroviario;

Parque de la Infancia;

Santiago with Kids (review)

Mummy Diaries: The Truth

  1. First thing first: you will NEVER be as tired as you are with your first newborn. The good news it that they WILL eventually start sleeping, and so will you.
  2. It’s not over once baby is out. You still have to pop out the placenta. And the contractions keep on coming. After-birth contractions are PAINFUL, constant and get worse with each baby. But by day 3 they will be a thing of the past. Massaging your tummy and a hot water bottle really help.
  3. When you breastfeed for the first time it can be pretty different to how you expect. It might not come naturally, be painful or make you feel icky, but honestly not everyone does it like a pro first time – in fact, nearly all of us suffer in the beginning. The trick is to just get your boob in their mouth anyway you can and aim for your whole nipple to be in there. It hurts like a b**** those first few days but there are things you can do to help with the pain. Cabbage leaves for engorgement, soaking nipples in warm water with a little salt if you’re bleeding, lanolin creams (or even olive oil), and nipple shields are a godsend!
  4. When your milk comes in around day 3 or 4, your boobs will swell up to become ginormous, achey rocks and EVERYTHING will get covered in milk. You may even get flu-like symptoms. Don’t panic! Everything will calm down soon (but if it doesn’t check with your doctor or midwife).
  5. Babies love to be with their mummy especially in those first few weeks. Although it feels like you might never get a break I repeat to you that IT DOES GET BETTER!
  6. When you leave the house, bubs will really enjoy emptying his/her bowel. Over everything. And then again. Take a few extra outfits just in case!
  7. When you breastfeed in public it can feel like everyone is watching but trust me, they really aren’t. Just tune out, focus on baby and do what you have to do. Bubs will probably choke, vomit and you may squirt everywhere in a few directions but hey – at least they’re not crying!
  8. When bubs does cry nothing soothes them like cuddles and booby. Seriously, you will never spend so much time sitting down, laying down or even standing up, with your knockers out. Just remember to pop them  back in when the doorbell rings.
  9. You will find yourself eagerly analysing bubs’ poop. The colour, consistency, the smell … Oh my gosh why is it green today? What is THAT?! And what on earth does diarrhea look like in a breastfed baby??? So many questions …
  10. Feeding time. What is the point of spending all of my valuable time preparing deliciously runny baby food concoctions if they just refuse the spoon, spit it out or play with it? Like seriously!
  11. I.am.completely.over.sterilizing.everything.
  12. You’ve just given baby a lovely (not)relaxing bath. They are now all snuggly and clean in their pj’s.  It’s looking good for bedtime. And then the explosion happens. I don’t quite know how something so small and innocent looking can unleash so much poo that it ends up in their HAIR! How does that happen?!
  13. You will eagerly devour mummy blogs, What To Expect books, buy everything the magazine tells you to buy, sing songs to your tummy etc while waiting for your firstborn. Then you will delight in reading your newborn endless stories they are not the slightest bit interested in and probably take too many photos. With your second all of that is a thing of the past. Dirty old hand-me-downs and a couple of snaps will suffice!
  14. You will eagerly fill in the first bits of the Baby Record Book. And then you stop. Who has time to remember to write in it when all they do is CRY?!
  15. Showering becomes a few quick minutes while they watch you from the bouncer chair.
  16. Everyone will love to look at your baby. Touch your baby. Tell you that baby is cold. Or that something is wrong. Get ready to adopt ninja abilities because people will try to randomly take your child from your arms or pushchair.
  17. People have no idea how much time or effort it takes to get baby to go to sleep, hence why they think nothing of waking your baby up once they are FINALLY asleep!
  18. Gone are the days of lunchtime banquets and four course dinners. Lunch is a quick spaghetti bolognese. Every day. Spice it up with different pasta shapes. IF you have the energy, that is.
  19. Your child is a loving, delightful angel it really is true … until the day they start at kindergarten. Yep, those days are long gone.
  20. You think a 2 year old can have a tantrum? Wait until they turn 3! Literally everything you say they will either disagree with, cry over or not want. Henceforth you become a jedi knight, mastering the art of suggestion, until it reaches bedtime, when all hell breaks loose. EMILIO NO MORE IT’S BEDTIME I’M NOT TELLING YOU AGAIN!!!
  21. If you’re pregnant and reading this, I bet you are stressing about the birth and you haven’t even THOUGHT about feeding solids or potty training yet. Well you should! Birth is a piece of pie compared to the sheer stress and panic that these two things cause. Good luck and get ready to learn a whole lot of stuff about your child’s sphincter!
  22. Your toddler WILL amaze you every single day (especially when asleep and inert). It’s just miraculous how they soak everything up like a little sponge. They will amaze you with their stories. Their imaginative games. Their songs. Their ability to remember whole passages from books by heart. And their ability to instinctively know that the F-word is naughty and that they shouldn’t mention it in company, right Emilio? Oh wait ….
  23. We have a saying in NZ and OZ  about things being “shits and giggles”. Life with your children really is a series of alternations between the two. But pooz you can just wipe up and forget about (maybe soak and scrub a bit first) and as for giggles, there really is NOTHING that will prepare you for your baby’s first laugh which is literally like a burst of sunshine. And that is honestly how life will be from now on: a bit shitty at times with bursts of pure happiness. NOTHING will prepare you for the love you will feel for your children whether they are first-born, second-born or number 5 (or even higher!). It is true when they say that once a mother, always a mother and it really is worth every stinky, sticky and wet moment 🙂

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Family Fun: Parque Fluvial Renato Poblete

What is one of the easiest ways to make your child happy, get them to sleep well and that can be done easily with a newborn? 

Easy. A park visit.  And no trip to the park would be complete without a delicious picnic.

Emilio just loves a picnic, thanks to one of my childhood books about picnicking on the moon called “Whatever Next”. There really is nothing simpler or better fun than packing up a blanket, hitting the supermarket for goodies or even baking a few treats, before searching for the perfect spot to unwrap it all and indulge.

Our usual spot is the Parque Bicentenario in Vitacura because it’s only ten minutes away from our house by car, plus it has birds and fish to feed (and Mestizo, one of my favorite restaurants here).  In summer they put out sun umbrellas and loungers that are free to use, which is great because the sun in this city is fierce. However it does have a few down sides, like it can be hard to find a park and the grass always seems to be sodden wet and full of bees (and Mestizo staff can be snobby too).  So when a friend recommended Parque Fluvial Renato Poblete we decided to give it a try.

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This park only opened in January last year but I had never heard of it.  Why is that??  The place is FANTASTIC! My friend described it as “crisp” which I think is a pretty good summation because it still has that nice feel of being new … so crisp in other words.  It’s a big park – some 20 hectares according to Wikipedia – and it’s divided into two sections. The first is focused around a lagoon area where you can rent paddle boats (including life jackets) and the second follows the Mapocho river.

It’s pretty lovely and wonderful to walk around in. It’s filled with bridges that succeed in transporting you out of Santiago and into somewhere much more romantic.

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The downside is that because the park is so new, all the plants have a long way to grow still so shade is scarce.  We did find a spot to linger in and it was glorious just to be so close to the water.  Being from NZ I am used to having the sea in close proximity at all times so I often feel claustrophobic and stifled in Santiago. If you feel like that too then you will definitely enjoy this park, just remember the sunscreen and hat!

The Nitty Gritty

Entry is FREE

Disabled/pushchair access

Sights: 2x football fields, amphitheater, statue/sculptures, fountains

Snacks sold at entrance

For more information visit the Quinta Normal official site here.

Or visit this excellent site (Spanish).

Family Fun: Museo Interactivo Mirador

Do you know what has been on the To Do List forever? The Museo Interactivo Mirador, otherwise known as the MIM. Have you heard of it? You probably have, as it always tags along on any list regarding children’s activities in Santiago. But let me tell you, any place that goes by an abbreviation as cool as The MIM is going to pack a huge punch because this museum really delivers.

It knocks the socks off all the other museums in Chile, to be completely honest.

First of all, the parking is free AND there’s a guard whom you’re not expected to tip (both firsts in Santiago!). Secondly it’s located inside an immacutely maintained park that is chocka with things to see. And third upon entering you will discover that this museum takes it’s customers seriously because there is disabled and pushchair access to everything (ramps and a lift), lots of loos and benches, plus there is so much staff that you couldn’t get lost even if you tried.

Entering the museum is like stepping into a madhouse … and every child’s fantasy. There are knobs and levers and buttons to push at every turn, glowing lights and loud noises. Areas are divided to cover all the scientific spectrum, from Nutricion & Life and Electromagnetism, to Art & Science and Robotics. While my 3 year old and 34 year old had a ball, there is also a sensory section for wee ones too, which is thoughtfully sectioned off from where all the bigger kids play. We loved the watery wonders inside the Sala Fluidos where you can play with giant bubbles, and the Sala Tierra where you can make a tsunami and watch an earthquake knock down a (tiny) building. There is even a 3D cinema.

I’m sure you are wondering what the catch is. There aren’t really any, only a couple of grievances that can’t really be helped. Tickets are not that cheap particularly as children 2 and over pay, although the effort put into this place is surely worth the cost. It’s also quite a way from downtown Santiago, being located in La Granja, and you need to walk 8 blocks from the nearest metro station (Estacion Mirador).  You also need to share the museum with hundreds of overenthusiastic children, none of whom are the slightest bit interested in the well signposted explanations regarding each exhibit (in fact if you have a newborn like us, or if you’re a bit of a germaphobe, take some sanitizer or baby wipes as there are a lot of hands touching everything before you).  The museum is also GINORMOUS. After almost four hours we still only explored the first floor and saw almost none of the surrounding park so plan it as a day visit.And whatever you do, do NOT leave without first venturing through the multicolored “jellyfish” outside (I have no remembrance of what it really is but it is amazing).

Verdict: A fantastic trip for the whole family even if you don’t speak Spanish, and one of the best museums I’ve ever been to.  Really world class.

The Nitty Gritty:

Children (2+): $2.700

Adults: $3.900

Discount for senior citizens and students (ID required)

Shop selling science kits etc on site

Two food options

Lockers to leave your stuff

Information available in Spanish only.

Wednesday has half price entry!

Children below age 14 must enter with an adult.

Click here for the website.

For more Family Fun Day ideas please click here and here or here. .

Family Fun: Museo Aeronautico y Del Espacio

Spend five minutes with our son and you soon learn that he LOVES anything that lives in the sky, from cranes to planes to helicopters and even leaves! Naturally, we want to encourage his interests but fun excursions involving gruas are a little on thin ground and we still have some time to wait for the Vitacura Aerodromo Open Day that occurs once a year (Spring, I’m pretty sure). But lo and behold – on our way to the midwife in Talagante we passed this GEM of a place: Museo Aeronautico y Del Espacio, right next door to the Air Force. There are honestly not enough words to rave about this place, particularly if you are looking for something the whole family will enjoy … on a budget! Well, you won’t spend a penny here as its all free!  This colossal building has two floors of replicas, models, exhibits and educational displays featuring ALL things that occupy the sky (even Superman!), and an outdoor area brimming with real-life planes and helicopters. There’s even a plane to go inside and a play area, and kids get free stickers. The people working are super friendly which is also a bonus. The only negative is that it’s out of the way unless you have a car but I must stress that this place is well worth it, particularly if you have plane-crazy kids, or its holidays and they are driving you up the wall.

NOTE: there IS access to the second floor displays via lift. You need to ask at reception for the key. The lift is located in the left hand exhibits when you enter, and is available to all elderly, disabled and pregnant visitors.

Address:

Avenida Pedro Aguirre Cerda Nº 5.000 (Ex camino Melipilla), Los Cerrillos Santiago de Chile.
Public Transport:

Transantiago

  • 108 La Florida Maipú y viceversa
  • 109 Renca – Maipú y viceversa
  • 113 Moneda Ciudad Satélite y viceversa
  • 115 Moneda – El Abrazo y viceversa

Buses Bupesa

  • Terminal San Borja-Peñaflor/Talagante (por Pedro Aguirre Cerda)

Family Fun: Museo Artequin & Ferroviario

After finding out that I was actually 18 weeks pregnant (not 13!) and that we are expecting a boy (also in September!), we decided to splurge on a family fun day.  It’s been the longest time since we have been out as a family, what with Luis spending all his time either working or waiting in police stations. We decided to have lunch at New Horizons near metro Bellas Artes, not because its delicious or anything but because it is close, cheap, filling and spicy. We all enjoyed it but lets be honest – it ain’t got nothing on Pardeshi Tadka!!  The price each was $3,900 which included a drink, salad, rice, naan bread and curry (same sauce, meat or veg).

We then decided to visit the Artequin Museum. It’s hard to find much information about what exactly this place IS on it’s website but it looked geared towards children so we checked it out. First off the building, made in France, is like a giant ice cream, much like the Kremlin in Russia. The view from in front of it alone was worth walking to see and it made Emilio really excited for some reason. Inside, our tickets cost $1000 each and we were guided to watch a short documentary about the paintings in the museum. The museum basically houses replicas of the world’s greatest artworks.

This museum is great if you have kids interested in art and expression. There are fun guided tours for groups and upstairs you can take part in art workshops. Emilio coloured in a bag and enjoyed himself, but this was definately for above his age group.

Next we walked across the road and into Quinta Normal park to visit the Museo Ferroviario.  Tickets cost only $800 pesos each and, considering how excited Emilio got, they were a bargain well spent. The museum is set entirely outdoors and consists of real, stationary trains from Chile’s past. Some of them you can even climb up into.  A visit won’t take long but if you have a train-mad child like we do then this is a place worth visiting!  Seriously, it didn’t matter that these trains lacked faces or sported the wrong colours, to Emilio he was seeing the real Percy, Gordon, Thomas and even Bertie the bus!

Verdict: highly recommended delight set in a park that becomes just GORGEOUS in autumn!

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Family Fun Day

Selva Viva, Parque Araucano (Metro Manquehue)

Honestly? I freaked at paying almost 10,000 per adult to take Emilio to see some wildlife at Selva Viva … but thank goodness I did! It’s actually well worth the price, considering that the costs required to heat the place up (jungles are humid) would not be small. When you enter you watch a brief video and remove your layers (because you will sweat), and then you head out into the selva. There’s a canopy of trees, birds flying overhead, and turtles plodding over the path. Within moments the guide is explaining everything you never knew about snakes while draping a colossal python across your shoulders. This is why the place is worth the coin: you can hold and touch everything instead of having to fork out extra. So you can let a rainbow lorikeet scamper up your shoulders, stroke a toucan, hold a hermit crab and even enjoy the delightful clinging of a blue and gold macaw as it settles down on your head (!). The place is big and you can learn alot about the world’s jungles and conservation, especially for young ones with mind’s like sponges. I highly recommend a trip particularly for those who have children at that age where they constantly ask “why?” but we took at Emilio at 1.5 and he loved it (particularly the crabs but definately not the snake!)

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Granja Aventura, La Reina (colectivos run from the metro into the park, car parking is at extra cost).

We went to this farm on the same day that a fellow English-Speaking Mum shared her dreadful experience there. Basically her husband had his leg broken by an escaping horse, and not only were the park ill-equipped during such an event, they actually offered little compassion and assistence! Regardless, we still took Emilio as a present for his 2nd birthday because when you live in one of Santiago’s busier suburbs you start to crave nature like nicotine. So off we trotted and I have to say that we all really enjoyed ourselves. There are some fantastic playgrounds carved out of trees with things like tree huts and flying foxes, but all are aimed at much bigger children. We brought a picnic which we ate in one of the picnic areas admist the smell of animal poop, but it was actually really pleasant. There were lots of animals there and lots of staff cleaning out cages and preparing new spaces. In all, I didn’t have an issue with the price and thought it was a great place to visit for a few hours, especially having a child who has only ever seen a real cow several times. BUT I would advise caution around the animals (most of the areas are unattended) and around the playgrounds, which are very ambitious.

My World, La Reina

We took Emilio here as it is a place constantly mentioned on FB by other mums, and because an indoor playarea sounds like a great place to visit during the winter months to burn up some energy (so that Mummy and Daddy can rest better). I do not recommend visiting at the end of a birthday party because … holy smokes! Emilio had fun but it was difficult for him trying to play amongst such a mix of big and small kids. The toys were mostly broken and dirty considering it was so costly to enter, but the thought was good. All in all worthwhile if you live in the area but not worth a special trip.

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Parque Bicentenario, Vitacura

I love this park! It’s immaculately maintained and in summr they put out deckchairs so that you can lounge beneath umbrellas in the scorching sun. You can feed giant carp, black swans, flamingoes and ducks at the lake, an area which attracts a whole host of other birdlife that I can’t name. There’s water fountains, a cafe, a giant chess set, a horticultural centre, climbing frames and playgrounds. The restaurant, Mestizo, is one of Santiago’s best in my opinion. It’s in a great setting, service is good, you can let your kids play in the grass (if you sit outside) and the food is delicious. It is a little pricey but well worth it – I recommend choosing the octopus starter and the chocolate volcano for dessert!

Aerodromo de Planes, Vitacura

Ok so I know that you have to be a member to visit, but every year this Glider’s Club opens its doors for free to the public. We went this year and it was AWESOME – especially if you have a child that loves things that move. There was a show by robot planes, alongside flying helicopters/planes/gliders. There was a playground, food trucks, music and also grounded helicopters that you could enter and play around in. Highly worth a visit for Family Fun Day (what we call it in our house!) plus its NOT loud so you don’t need to stress about earmuffs etc.

Museo Ferroviario

See my blog here.  Also details our visit to Museo Artequin

Museo de los Carabineros

This is an excellent museum located off of Bilbao, right next door to the Police training school. I had never heard of it before and was pleasantly surprised because it is filled to the brim with engaging displays. Basically, this museum traces the history of organized crimewatching in Santiago, all the way to the start of Spanish colonization.  Alot of effort has been put into making this place interesting and relevant and, while it is definately not for young children, small effort has been made to keep them entertained with games and interactive displays.

Universidad de Santiago Planetarium

Visit the website for more information about current showings.

Parque de la Infancia, Recoleta (Metro Cerro Blanco/Cementerios)

Follow the link to the blog – it is so good it gets it’s own blog!


 

 

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.

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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!

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

Mummy Diaries: When You Do It Different

“You WHAT?!!”

The force behind these two little words had the power to do two things. The first was to make me physically move away from Alejandra, my colleague, and the second was to make me doubt every single thing I trusted about myself.

“Yes. I still breastfeed Emilio.” I replied hesitantly.

“But how old is he?”

“He’s a year and a half.”

Now Alejandra’s mouth was hanging so far open that I could count every silver filling.

“But why? What about his health? You do know breastmilk is not good after so many months … ayayay”

Now my mouth was hanging open in shock. Alejandra continued to talk, telling me the all the bad effects of extended breastfeeding, upon his bones to his ability to be independent and his inability to be comforted unless there was a boob around. Suddenly I had a shocking thought: was I terrible mother for still breastfeeding?

Time for me to back up and admit that the road to breastfeeding hasn’t been easy. Like all mums, I wanted what was best for my new family and that just happened to be breastfeeding (especially as New Zealand supports it quite strongly these days). I’d had an all natural pregnancy and birth, and it seemed like the most natural next step. The reality, however, was a little bit different because …

I hated it. Every single moment of it. I gave birth peacefully in a pool in a rural hospital in the middle of nowhere, that basically consisted of a couple of rooms and a few nurses. After an exhausting birth I lay with my newborn son barely able to open my eyes, trying to get him to latch. He wouldn’t. My boob was twisted and turned every such way to get inside Emilio’s mouth but he just screamed. When he finally latched it felt like I was dying. Bizaarely, the famous contractions that plague the early days of breastfeeding were not an issue because I seemed to be in a constant state of that pain except when I breastfed. It was everything else. I didn’t feel that “bond” some mums rave about, I didn’t lie there in raptures gazing into my son’s eyes and saying the moment was the happiest of my life. In fact it was the opposite. I felt bloody awful. It just didn’t feel right to do it. It felt icky and unnatural, and when he let go my nipples were bloody and raw.

A few hours later and we were back at home. Getting him to latch on became an ordeal that was physically and emotionally tormenting. I started avoiding his calls for milk until the last minute, and then I’d cry the whole time he fed. By this time I was so stressed and exhausted that when I’d try to sleep it would be impossible, and I’d just lay there and stare at Emilio, terrified something would happen before I’d had a chance to finally enjoy the moment.  I wanted to quit but I didn’t, partly because a part of me wasn’t quite ready to give up, but mainly because my midwife was unrelenting. I was on my last ounce of effort when a friend told me about her success with nipple shields, and the moment that I attached that plastic condom to my boob was the moment the world finally calmed.  Emilio stopped his unrelenting screaming and latched on, and I could finally – for the first time in a week- relax.

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My one and only breastfeeding picture! Emilio at 12 weeks, using the shield.

I later found out that Emilio had had a tongue tie, that stretched enough on its own to breastfeed properly by the time he was 8 months old. Our difficult journey has nothing to do with why I continue to breastfeed, and I’ve never had a goal in mind to reach. Emilio is now two years old and we are still going because it works for us, and I tend to believe most of the hype around its benefits.

Here in Chile, where I have been since Emilio was 9 months, this decision has caused nothing but grief. From a mother-in-law who constantly insinuates that he is not eating properly to family members who tell me I am raising a son to be “mamite” and “mamon“, and nurses and nutritionists who tell me Emilio’s health is being adversely affected (and who needs sugary juices instead!) to friends who regard breastfeeding as something “for the poor.”  Or opinions such as Alejandra’s, which at the time were so disapproving and negative that I wanted to quit my job.

When Emilio was smaller I breastfed everywhere  discreetly, including the metro and even restaurants (what’s better – the sound of screaming or bad jokes when you eat?), but now the looks have started. The raised eyebrow. The pursing of the lips. The “your still breastfeeding?!”question  – even from complete strangers.  Now I disappear to sit upon toilet seats or in abandoned corners of the room to avoid hearing veryone negative opinions.  Because its just so personal isn’t it, this decision to use our boobs or not? I don’t get the fascination –  when I feed Emilio it’s not like you see nipples flying about!!

My doctor thinks I should stop but it doesn’t feel right. I certainly don’t want to do it because someone else thinks I should, particularly when in my culture its considered to be normal.  But in saying that, the decision when to stop or how long to feed – if at all – has so many influencing factors (which given my own difficulties, I know all too well). Without that nipple shield I would have almost certainly stopped.  I also didn’t have to think about work or sharing feedings with someone.

But I am not a breastfeeding nazi. It doesn’t bother me one iota if someone chooses to use the boob or the bottle.  Why should it? I know how much I love my son, and I know that other mums feel the exact same way about their own children. Why on earth does it bother other people so much? But the big question is why are so many profesionals telling me its bad for my son? Does breastfeeding now honestly paint me as a bad mummy in the eyes of others? Does that matter? Or does it matter more how Emilio, and Luis, see me?  Something to ponder over the festive weekend I think – particularly as the recent earth wobble helps give life some perspective!

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Emilio at 9 weeks, in his Chile outfit
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Emilio at age 2, ready for las Fiestas Patrias.

Please share your story if you have one – this blog is merely my own experience and is not a statement about Chile as a whole