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. .

Notes from the Street: Made In Recoleta

It is 5.30pm and I have been sitting on the grass at a Recoleta playground for the last 2.5 hours. It is one of those neighorhood spaces down a normal street and placed so smack-bang in front of people’s houses that residents must drive their cars through the playground to reach their driveways. There are a few exercise machines meant for the elderly but that get invariably commandeered by adventurous children. There are two swings, two slides and some trees interspersing a small grassy area.  In front there is the usual corner store that Emilio will forever associate with cheap icecreams and in the near distance there are cranes building yet another apartment block.

The first tme we came here I felt nervous and more than a little obvious, mainly as Emilio and I are both fair unlike the majority around us. For another, teenagers slumped in tight circles on the grass with loose cigarettes hanging from their mouths while on the roadside groups of men lingered, immersed in clouds of marijuana smoke. Today, for example, there is heavy metal blaring from somewhere nearby while the occupants of the shadowy house beside the park are doing little but standing outside with their beatup car and their fake Nike. The ground around me is littered with poop and ciggie butts and every so often a dog will come over to me, sniff my butt and then leave after confirming that, yes, I am here.

For all of these seemingly ugly features there is something special in this park, something which draws us back day after day, for hours at a time. And that reason is the children. Right now the air is filled with the sound of laughter and squealing as Emilio plays with the neighborhood residents. One of them is about three while the other is around 7 – the latter a mother-hen type who watches her sister like a hawk, reprimands her when she is naughty and comforts her when she falls. She also looks after Emilio and plays with him, pushes them both on the swing, giggles when he does and dusts his bottom off every time he gets (very) dirty.  There is a nurturing aspect to the children we have encountered here that I do not recall ever witnessing as the norm in New Zealand, or even when I take my charges to the park in other areas of Santiago. Of course, I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I just have never noticed it to this degree.  Everyone seems to be really looking out for each other, and I see this time and time again. I can’t even safely say that it’s because the girls are being shaped into the moulds of their mothers because I’ve noticed the same from the boys as well. I remember when Emilio attended the neighbour’s birthday party and decided to jump on the trampoline with the big kids. They were all so protective of the small fry amongst them that it really touched my heart, with one in particular going above and beyond to help him up every two seconds as he fell down. Alot.

These are good kids, despite some of them growing up in difficult situations. Recoleta is, after all, a barrio just like Conchali, if you will recall the encounters of Ojos Abiertos last year. Or perhaps you can remember the story of Jose, our neighbour, and his family.  Some of these children will spend much of their lives sleeping in the same room as their parents, bearing witness to acts that children shouldn’t otherwise see. Some of them will go on to make bad choices, made bad friends or head off in unwise directions. Some of them may copy their parents and follow a path of crime or other unsavoury activities, while others still will strive and achieve success.

Diego

I can’t remember if I have mentioned Diego before but I have certainly meant to. He is the adopted son of Jose, of the famous empanadas, and at a guess I’d place him around twelve years old. He is tall, skinny, softly spoken and has a shiny earring in one ear.  I cannot tell you where his birth parents are or how he is related to Jose, but I assume Diego has had some difficulty in his life. I admire Jose because not only has he transformed our street to have a strong sense of community, but he actually no longer lives next door to us (though he continues to work there every single day without fail).  When he and his wife were expecting a baby they moved to the countryside near Batuco, taking Diego and Maria with them (another cheer for the subsidio grant!).

Not all the kids we encounter here are angels but Diego has something special. He is caring, considerate, extremely intelligent and most of all he exudes a quality of gentleness. Every time he sees Emilio he hugs him or gives him a high five, and if the other kids are around with a toy or a lollipop he encourages them to share.  One of the children from next door is close in age to Emilio and about as similar to him as night and day.  I will call him Daniel and his mother is one of the daughters of Luisa. Daniel is not a happy toddler, in fact every time I see him he is either crying or bashing Emilio over the head with something. His mother, Ashley, is extremely aggressive and will never make eye contact if I encounter her a few metres away from her house.  I do not imagine that she has had an easy life either, and certainly she has made a few mistakes along the way. Daniel, according to Luisa, was one of them, as the whole street found out the night when her pregnancy was ever so discreetly announced. Luisa was screaming at her using every curse word and foul thing to say under the sun – right below our bedroom window – mainly because the lack of respect her pregnancy brought but also, I suspect, because the father is about as big a drug addict as you can get, does not work and therefore would not be able to contribute to the growing costs of pregnancy, birth and raising a child (even using the public system of healthcare and education).  The family were already strained enough, with a good twenty people sharing the small living spaces next door. That was all two years ago now and during that time Ashley has been kicked out of a rented room down the road, moved back in with her mum and given birth to Daniel. Daniel and Diego are as different as chalk and cheese but they originally started out in the same household. What a difference the guidance of Jose has made. I really, really hope that some compassionate teacher will see the potential Diego has and single him out, hopefully providing him with further positive mentors and options for his future. If he receives that, Diego will go a long way.

Being a mother here in Santiago has come with plenty of ups and downs but the general attitude towards my son has been overwhelmingly positive. Strangers will look out for Emilio and interact with him, sometimes in the most unlikely of situations. But what I really love is how warm and caring so many of the kids are, especially when I’m sitting on the grass, five months pregnant (and therefore slow to get up) and writing a blog entry, like today. If the future is in the hands of the children then the future of this city looks bright indeed.

Very bright indeed.

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Valparaiso art, but seemed fitting.

Note: the featured image for this blog was drawn by one of the students of Hoda and Georgina in Conchali last year, during the volunteer Art Expression classes organized by Ojos Abiertos.

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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Your Guide to the Chilean Recluse Spider

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Well hellooooooo summer!! So lovely of you to arrive in time for Christmas, with your 32 degrees of breezeless sunshine and endless blue skies. What’s that you say? It’s going to be a hot one this year?! Thanks so much!

I also take this moment to thank you in advance for the swarm of Chilean Recluse Spiders, locally known as the Araña de Rincón, that will likely start popping up on my bedroom walls.

There is nothing quite like settling down for bed with a quick vacuum and bed shake down. Or the quick “is my shoe empty” check that naturally comes first before rushing out the door late for an appointment. Summer is when all the delightful little eggs start hatching from their cocoons of dirty fluff (spotted happening live on my sons wall – lucky us!). I have lived in a recluse sanctuary for nearly three years now, and every summer its the same old story.  Spider on the shower curtain? Check. Spider crawling past head while reading Pride and Prejudice? Check. Spider crawling out of the bathroom sink? Check. Spider behind baby’s bed? Double check. Actually triple. Make that times twenty (his room is a breeding ground apparently).

Last year it got so bad I started having trouble sleeping and instead started prowling Emilio’s room in the middle of the night with a torch. Like a nutty person I know but it was honestly that bad. Thanks to the Chilean Recluse Spider we don’t have any other spiders in our house because they eat them all, just like all the moths. They are so hungry that the lady even tries to eat the male when they have sex. Delightful. Recluses are the defintion of hunters: they don’t even build webs to catch their unsuspecting prey, they just prowl about at night using 3 pairs of unusually positioned eyes (a beautiful characteristic – have a look). In winter they can go months without eating and their favorite places to hang out appears to be in our bathroom and in the corners of our walls (thank you Luis for never put up skirting boards). They love to hide in the corners where walls meet – especially the babies which are teeny tiny – and down the sides of beds. In fact one of the best tips I can tell you is to move your bed away from the wall!

I constantly read about this Rincon Test, where you bang about to see if the spider you have spotted runs away at lightning speed. In my experience this is just ridiculous because all spiders start to move once you wave a shoe above its head. They don’t always but its true that once they go, they really do GO! Once you have seen one you can recognize them easily: fat body, long legs, usually brown not black, uniquely placed eyes, violin shape. There is really no other similar spider that you are likely to find indoors in Santiago – particularly as they love urban environments and are believed to call 9 out of 10 Santiago homes, home. They don’t always move at night either – if they are hungry they will hunt, simple as that!

Here’s an interesting piece of information:

“Recluse spiders were the first spider group to be recognized as a causative agent of the disease state now known as necrotic arachnidism, and this condition, when caused by a recluse spider, is properly termed loxoscelism. Loxoscelism was first recognized in 1872 when Chilean physicians linked a peculiar skin lesion known as the ‘gangrenous spot of Chile’ “

Time to introduce the Arana Tigre, or Tiger Spider. This wee fella has a skinny, stripey body and really long legs with what looks like dotty joints.  There is no possible way to mistake the Tiger Spider for a Chilean Recluse Spider – none whatsover! This spider is also known as the Long-Legged Spider or Spitting Spider, thanks to a) it’s long legs and b) its method of hunting the Recluse by projectile sticky webs. The Tiger is the only known predator of the Chilean Recluse spider, which bizaarely is a distant cousin on the spider family tree.  Universidad de Chile found out something very interesting: only 50% of encounters between Recluse and Tiger spiders result in an attack and only 75% of Tiger Spiders receive the title of winner, something which puts the Tigers glowing reputation into doubt. They can’t bite humans though so its worth keeping them around if you find one. Here’s another interesting fact for the spider lovers: the Tiger has connected poison and silk glands thus making … poisonous silk!!!

Below are my Golden Rules so that you too can happily (lol) live alongside  Chilean Recluse Spiders. I am sure many of you are wonding how we can live like this, and even though I HATE them I do believe that they have a part to play.  I also personally prefer to deal with them this way rather than inhaling the aftermath of strong poisons, but for those of you who are suffering there is also the option of fumigation (something I probably would consider if I had a newborn baby and new mummy paranoia!).  I have also learnt that you can lay down sticky board traps that catch whatever crawls over them, and for the naturally inclined apparently spiders hate vinegar and diatomaceous earth.

The Golden Rules:

Shake bedding before jumping into bed

Vaccuum often

Move beds away from walls

Check towels, shoes and clothes before using

Don’t leave clothes on the floor

Check behind pillows and cushions

Don’t kill the good guys (Tiger Spiders)

If you believe that you have been bitten by a spider, please make your way promptly to the nearest hospital with (if at all possible) the spider in question. To keep track of the bite, you can draw around the infected area to monitor changes in size and shape. The antedote is believed to work up to the first six hours after contact, but before you panic, not all bites will result in a reaction.  Expect to be monitors for up to 72 hours and you may require hospitalization.

Emergency Numbers: Ambulance 131/Fire 132/ police 133

Edit: in the picture with my hand, the spider beside it is NOT whole. The body is not present, only the head.  As I am a New Zealander (and not an Australian!) these are not what I would call “small” spiders when fully grown either!

Notes from the Street: A Mother’s Honor

There was a bit of commotion outside last night.

Lately things have heated up. We’ve had a few fires which has resulted in fire sirens blaring down the road at 6am – one time going to help the neighbour directly in front of us. Then Banco Estado (by metro Einstein) was robbed at gunpoint by six guys who then stole a woman’s car for their getaway vehicle. There were two plainclothes police there at the time (they are everywhere but you never know it) who were able to call backup right away. Luis had been in the bank just moments before and watched the whole thing unfold. Scary stuff.

Last night Luisa was in the street yelling obscenities.  All the dogs were barking and the kids were crying. I’m pretty sure she was angry with her daughter Ashley, the mother of Antony.  A year ago a similar scene played out when Luisa found out about Ashley’s pregnancy.  They fought in the street for all the neighbours to hear, with Luisa screaming that she was “a slut … bringing shame on the family for sleeping with so many men.” The pregnancy was not welcome news and Ashley was kicked out of the family home.

It does sound harsh but I hate judging a book by its cover – surely there must be more to the story?

These days sex is everywhere but not too long ago Chile was pretty conservative. It has never had the wild and free reputation like that of Brazil or Colombia, and the roots of religion went deep.  Honour and family are words that seem to go hand in hand here (see A Mother’s Wisdom) and, when you don’t have much, keeping the family name intact becomes paramount.

Luisa also lives with more than twenty people in tiny, cramped conditions and in a house that constantly needs fixing. One of the things I discovered from Ojos Abiertos is that many children share the same room as their parents. Many of them grow up with a very adult view of sexuality because they witness the act of sex very young.  While this isn’t true of everyone, its big enough of a problem that the school specifically requested a sexual education talk for parents to combat exactly this. Most of the people living there do not have what you would call typical jobs either – some of the men rely on labouring jobs they source by word of mouth, and they sell drugs. The women seem to be constantly pregnant.  They are families brought together by extension, sharing what they have and live off minimum wage. They rarely leave the house, let alone Recoleta.  Every pregnancy means another mouth to feed and more space to go without. In this case, Ashley was not in a relationship with the father, and without the security of a marriage the future must have looked precarious. The father of Antony is not a nice man and meets every stereotypical requirement that you would expect: baggy pants, baseball cap, fake Adidas stripes, flash shoes, tendency to say “o’e!” I know that they all tried to rent a room a few blocks down but it has ended in disaster, so Ashley and her son are back with Luisa.  For now.  The whole thing is so sad.

This isn’t a situation that is  black and white. For all those people who say “why don’t they just get a job?” I ask you to think for a minute. These are people who come from difficult backgrounds – often with trauma – who cannot read or write well (if at all) and have little education.  The only world they have ever seen is the world that they are living.  I also ask where are the jobs for them?  They don’t have references or experience, and I honestly wonder who would hire someone who may need a lot of help.  It’s depressing especially when, for the most part, they are nice people, with children who have talents and abilities that just need a little nurtering and someone to show them new possiblities. This is why I greatly respect Jose: to have come from such difficulties and rise above them as an honest and hardworking example is beyond inspiring. You only know your strength when you are called to use it, after all.

I feel strongly about this subject, hence my blogs for education. It all starts with opening the eyes of the children. I don’t want them to turn to mind-numbing and mind-altering substances just to cope with life. In front of our house there is a small shrine to a young 20-something man whose throat was slit by his neighbour over a minor dispute one night they were using illicit substances. This story breaks my heart in so many ways: the fact that they were young, the fact that the murderer only spent a short time in jail, the fact that they are both someone’s children.  The line between sanity and insanity is minute, and easily broken by drugs, anger and unhappiness. I don’t want this story to keep repeating.

Support Local

  1. Eco-friendly solar-powered toys from Siempre Verde
  2. The Dipolomatic Association’s new cookbook “From Our Table to Yours” with recipes from 41 countries.  Proceeds go to various charities.  Contact Sonia
  3. The Chile Experience – a website with discounts and a Facebook page offering a huge network of support for the English-speaking community in Chile, run by the amazing Penny Ortega.  Contact Penny to become involved in the Experience as a corporate partner.
  4. Brod Bakery for homemade food
  5. Spices and herbs dried and packaged without losing any of their nutrition and goodness – Sabor con Sentido
  6. Fill up the Christmas Stocking with quality books (2000 pesos) on sale until Sunday at Espacio M near La Moneda
  7. Watercolor illustrations made to order by Siski
  8. Forget the turkey, order a happy chicken for your Christmas lunch from Agricola Tinajacura
  9. Personalised tours and private transport offered in English and Spanish. Call Luis Diaz (my hubby) 91502396. Also offer airport transfers. Carseat available.
  10. Like the horror genre? Have a read of local author Jorge Salgado-Reyes.
  11. Contact Sarai for handmade mandalas and anything knitted – great prezzie idea!
  12. Henna tattoos by Nikki Hecho con Amor – clothes for the little ones made with love.
  13. Follow the journey of Caro from Chile as she drives Alaska to Chile on Beluga Rolante
  14. Materials for Mapundungun learners: Kimeltuwe
  15. Support the Coffee Pending idea and get the movement going in Santiago
  16. Volunteer in public schools teaching English with Access Ingles
  17. Buy art from Iranian expat Hoda Madi
  18. Natural and additive-free foods ideal for babies by homegrown Smiley Kids
  19. For a handyman in English try Dial a Tradie

Coming Events:

 

  • Festival of India in Penalolen this Sunday – free entry
  • Santiago Community Church’s Christmas Bazzaar – Saturday 28th November

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  • The Nutcracker/Cascanueces performance in Teatro Municipal – free performance
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  • Kids Playing in English playdates – first one this Saturday 28th in Parque Araucano

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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!


 

 

A Story of Machismo & Chilean Men

The creative juices haven’t been flowing lately for me.  I actually spent all of last week in bed with a horrific cold that had me shivering and shaking like a praying mantis, which also saw me exclaim that I was dying and that Luis was quite simply the world’s worst boyfriend for expecting me to get up and cook for his family when I was at my worst.

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This last, coupled with the fact that Luis went to have some “words” with our neighbour Jose this morning, has got me thinking about what it means to date a Chilean man. On Friday night I babysat until 2am and when I came home found I had misplaced my keys. While waiting for Luis to let me in, Jose appeared in all his drunken glory and slurred his way through the usual greeting spiel that constitutes Chilean small talk. Luis witnessed this and thought Jose had been way too friendly, something which I then made worse by saying “he was so drunk at one point I thought he was going to kiss me!” He didn’t try to and I said this only because he was very touchey and his reactions were slow from being drunk, but Luis took this literally and went to speak with him today. He told me so casually, like he had just gone to buy marrequeta and asked how the weather was.

“So I asked Jose what happened on Friday night,” he began and I felt my insides turn cold.

“Whaaat?!”

“I asked him what he was doing on Friday night with you. He didn’t know what to say, just ‘no no no!'”

“Luis what on Earth are you talking about? Nothing happened!”

“Helen you told me he tried to kiss you.”

“No I didn’t I said he was so drunk that he seemed like he was about to!”

“Well I didn’t say anything about that. I just said that I saw him from the window and that he was inappropriate with you.”

Now if you date a Chilean you probably have heard something similar.  There is a chauvenistic thread running through many of the men which sees some labelled as machista. You probably don’t want to say this in response:

“Luis, we are not married and even if we were I am still not your property. I can do whatever I like and if I need your help I will ask for it.  Don’t go causing drama over nothing!”

Luis is actually the least machista man I have met here but jealousy rears its ugly head every now and then. My sister-in-law Berny and I often joke at parties that the only way to get attention from our men is to suddenly begin a conversation with another man, because they will instantly appear. Funnily enough, when we went to Jose’s the other month he offered me a beer. I hate alcohol and drink very rarely, and Luis saved me from social disgrace by saying I wasn’t allowed. Usually I never get offered alcohol at parties but its not considered that polite to decline something when offered (my father-in-law thinks I’m SO odd for always saying no to Chile’s famous wine!).  Jose nearly spat his out when he heard Luis and called him too machista.  However, despite all the advances in the social sphere, Chile still suffers in the field of women’s rights. Femicide is a big issue here and abortion is still illegal, and many girls who have been raped never speak out. This is a nation that, until a few years ago, was a man’s world.  Just take a read of Los Prisoneros “Corazones Rojos” a song so damning against the men that it was years ahead of its time:

Eres ciudadana de segunda clase, sin privilegios y sin honor
Porque yo doy la plata estás forzada
a rendirme honores y seguir mi humor
Búscate un trabajo, estudia algo, la mitad del sueldo y doble labor
Si te quejas allá está la puerta, no estás autorizada para dar opinión”

This song, like all Los Prisoneros songs, is excellent and if you really want to know Chile you should take a listen of their music.

Four years ago, when Luis and I were newly living together, we shared with an acquaintance of Luis’ called Carlos. Carlos was a single man who was stringing along an ex-girlfriend named Viviana. Every time he called she came running, usually to cook him lunch. One time he wasn’t happy with the food that he threw the plate against the wall and it smashed into a thousand pieces. I don’t have any idea what happened with their relationship, but I do know that he owed our neighbours money for drugs and he had to leave so fast from here that he left all his furniture behind.

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Emilio has been playing out the front the last few days with the children from next door. One of them, Antony, is a few months younger than him and his mother is the daughter of Luisa, the street’s main matriarch.  She is friendly enough and quite pretty (except for some of her tattoos) but she is the owner of the most awful voice I have ever heard. She is the woman responsible for the awful screeching we’ve heard out front over the last month during the night. They used to live further down the road but were kicked out of their room for causing trouble. Her partner is very flaite and is not that nice – Luis does not like him.  Together that pair cause the majority of the drama where we live and what is unfortunate is that their son Antony is learning from their behaviour all the time. He’s a little peleador and does not play well with other children – as we have been frequently warned – and the other day he took Emilio’s favorite toy he was playing with and then proceeded to hit him over the head with it. The mum did try to get him to share and she did bring Emilio some toys to play with, but while she expressed remorse Jose and his friends laughed and seemed to think that this display of aggression was acceptable. I asked Luis later if Antony’s behaviour would be considered a good characteristic in chorizo culture, and he thought so.  At the other end of the spectrum, Jose’s daughter is the most sweetest, adorable little girl who is as gentle and placid as a fly, so the contrast between the sexes is very pronounced.

I don’t think Luis has caused any lasting damage with Jose – in fact I’m sure that his proactive attitude lends him respect. You have to be assertive here or you won’t last.  Emilio was out the front playing again this afternoon, and what I love is how everyone – even the most unsavoury looking people – will look out for the children and keep them safe. A random guy even stopped to pull out all the stinging nettles around where they were playing!

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