It´s Rush Hour & I´m On The Metro

It’s 7pm and the platform is packed. People are waiting anxiously, inching forward alarmingly close to the edge with eyes peeled to the left. The train sounds in the near distance and they ready themselves at the same time as the metro guards spread their arms and shout to stay back. There is only one word to describe what comes next: battle.  The doors open and there is a swarm of commuters descending from the carriage … while fighting the ferocious onslaught of those trying to get on. There’s pushing and shoving, people shouting “weon” and once inside (if you make it that is) there is no room to even lift a finger and all manner of things pressed into your bottom.

The metro has a bad reputation amongst locals and foreigners here but it’s fair to say that in (most) countries travel during rush hour is a hectic and trying time. It’s true that the above picture is commonplace and it’s also true that it’s near impossible to find a space if you are disabled, with children or with a pushchair. People are already stressed by the time they arrive on the platform thanks to Santiago’s long working day, and just waiting to use your ticket/Bip card can take half an hour in some stations (looking at you Tobalaba!).

Last night we had to use the metro at exactly that time –  and with Emilio. Sometimes there is just no other option. The yellow line was extraordinarily busy. No-one offered us a seat, which is rare because someone usually does.  In their defense they probably couldn’t see us over the sea of bobbing heads … and also because they were all taken by middle aged ladies (the WORST culprits for doing the usual eye-avoiding/I’m asleep/I-can-see-you-but-don’t-care-trick). Some people motioned for us to sit down when one of the not-that-old ladies vacated but by then we were getting off at the next stop. At Santa Ana the swarm pushed into Emilio so much that he got very scared but the people around us pushed back to move everyone away from us. When we arrived at Los Heroes it would have been impossible for us to disembark if it hadn’t been for all the people who helped part a path for us and shouted to be careful of the guagua. On the platform it was madness but everyone that saw us gave us a wide berth.

This is something that I think often goes overlooked. For every person pushing, there are five more who will try and help and this goes for the buses and taxis too!. I have found the men to be more helpful than the women (generally), that people nearly always give me a seat without prompting outside of the rush hour, and that often the most helpful people to Luis or myself are the most unsavoury looking men. I also have to point out there has been immense improvement since I was here in 2012. During rush hour there are trains every minute, there are lots of people working to help you, and the Ruta Verde/Roja help make the trip a lot faster. It’s also worth pointing out that in a country where (most) things are privatized, the metro line is state-run – I’m sure TranSantiago would love to have a piece of that pie too because it must be a goldmine of income! The lines are constantly being repaired, lifts are being put in, carriages have been designated as preferential, and drivers are well-trained (its no easy feat to get the job either). A week or so ago, I lost my balance on the metro (darn dizziness!) and then had a full-blown panic attack.  I cannot speak highly enough of the young guard  who calmed me down, offered to call me an ambulance and then walked me across the station to wait for Luis to rescue me – and he spoke English! I dread to think how much worse it would have been if he wasn’t there, or not as easy to find.

The pressure on the metro during rush hour is intense and I really hope that that improves with all the new lines being put in. Do you know what I wish you could get here? Those badges that show if you need a seat or extra help – there are alot of disabilities that make no outward change to your appearance. For me, it’s very difficult for me to stand on something that is moving or even using stairs – made doubly worse if I’m holding Emilio! It really makes me feel for those amongst us who really need assistence. I don’t think Santiago provides well for the disabled (or am I wrong) and the ultimate day would be when they set aside a whole carriage for those of us with pushchairs or wheelchairs. Sure would help me avoid dirty looks when I have to use the lift!

Being a Minimalist Mummy in Chile

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Nature is the best gift for your child

Last year I read a book that I really loved. It was called “Thrive” and it was written by The Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington. It spoke about disconnecting from technology and the importance of being present in the moment.  Decluttering my life has been one area that I have really concentrated on, from downsizing my friend list to using my time effectively. I have also removed all the clutter from my home (especially as its tiny!) and donated everything we do not use. This is called “minimalism” and it has been the best decision I have ever made since becoming a mother. These are my suggestions to becoming a Minimalist Mother but in no way am I telling you how to raise your child!!

Guide to Becoming a Minimalist Mother

1) Do not be lured into the “must buy” trap and instead try borrowing before you buy.

2) Buy second hand everything! From breastpump to bassinet, everything for Emilio was used except for a new mattress for the bassinet.

3) Throw the baby books out the window. Watch only calm birth videos (no One Born Every Minute)  before the big day as preparation for how not-scary labour is,  or read the work of renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin. All the books, all the conflicting advice … it all made me feel terrified!

4) Toys and books – are they really interested? Don’t buy alot, and don’t buy anything with gadgets. Keep it simple and let their imaginaton grow. All those black and white special books for newborns was a waste of time.

5) Special bags for nappies? Special toys for brain development? Special clothes? Don’t overcomplicate something that we have been doing for generations. These are all things that companies pitch you to buy their product. Just use a normal bag you know?!

6) Don’t automatically give your child a dummy for no reason because you start a habit that they may be perfectly capable of working out on their own.

7) We co-slept for the first three weeks and then Emilio moved into a bassinet beside me. He began sleeping in a full-size bed at 9 months, and sleeping in his own room in a bed at 1 year and 2 months. He never used a cot and the only reason he now has a toddler bed is because his room is about the same size as most walk-in wardrobes. What I’m saying is work out what works for you, and don’t do things just because everyone else is.

8) Feeding. We say in NZ “food before one is just for fun.” Don’t stress if they don’t like potatoes or if their tastes change – that’s normal. Just lead by example and eat your veges and soon they will follow suit – especially if you don’t offer other choices and limit snacking between meals.

9) Donate all toys and books that your child is not interested in.  There are plenty of organizations that will put them to better use. Plus kids are not interested clutter

10) Do not feel bad about requesting what you need as presents

12) Rotating toys and books is a great idea to keep toys interesting.

13) Buy what is age-appropriate for your child unless they show an interest. So don’t buy toys for big kids if your child is a tot unless you want it to collect dust.

14) Designate certain areas for toys or reading. This helps keep areas tidy and children love order (deep down – you will be surprised).

15) Try making your own toys! Emilio had no interest at all in toys with lots of lights and buttons, but he did enjoy a bowl of pegs and my keys.  When he got older I made him a busy board with locks and latches, and I attached two wheels on something so that he could spin them to his hearts content (he was obsessed!). I also liked looking up Montessori Busy Basket ideas.  Other ideas: a bowl of rice or pasta, water and ice cubes (supervise), water bottle or container filled with things they can push inside.

16) We did reusable cloths as baby wipes and just washed them when they were dirty. We had no changing table, just a mat on the floor.

17) Lay your baby under a tree – they will be amazed by the leaves and branches.

18) Stick to a routine especially at night time but don’t freak out if it breaks from time to time.

19) Enjoy time away from your child regularly for sanity of mind

20) Do not overwhelm your child with toys. We do one special present for Christmas and birthdays, and a special Family Fun Day.

21) Same goes with clothes. Just what they need. Especially when they are babies – who really cares about the label or what the tshirt says when its covered with food or saliva or spit? Or worse?!

22) Emilio loved chewing on watermelon when he was teething and wasn’t much interested in any other remedy. Think outside the box if nothing else is working!

23) We never really used a highchair! He ate on a mat on the floor and when he was older he sat on his own little table, and now he sits at the big table with us. We also only used the sling until Emilio was 9 months, when we got our first pushchair.

24) Make your baby food! Put aside a day to do lots of cooking then freeze. When they get older, just make sure there are always leftovers so you are always prepared in an emergency!

My Must Buys for Baby:

  1. Co-sleeper
  2. play mat
  3. Moby wrap
  4. Bibs that cover as much as possible
  5. reusable cloths
  6. Toys: blocks, a wooden walker, a rattle
  7. Books: Dear Zoo, Hungry Caterpillar

For the Toddler:

  1. Giraffes Can’t Dance
  2. Train Set
  3. Shape sorters
  4. Ball
  5. Thomas the Tank soundtrack (a choir of children singing lovely songs)
  6. A special mug or plate – helps them
  7. Anything that makes music – Emilio LOVES the harmonica
  8. Paper and pencils!
  9. Pushchair

More Information

Read: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore

Stores: Donde Estas Pudu (handmade and organic supplies), Kindertop (Hape and wooden toys in Chile)

 

Different play areas I made for Emilio with everything easy for him to reach, and roated toys in his tray.