Wonderlust

I love taking photos, and anyone who is friends with me on Facebook or Instagram will know that! I really enjoy looking back because, as the years pass, it can be hard to remember the million and one sights and emotions that are experienced when you travel.  Here are my favorite travel shots I have taken – may they awaken the travel lust within you!

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On the way to Embalse el Yeso, in Cajon del Maipo, CHILE

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View from Frutillar, CHILE

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Valparaiso
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Shooting stars in the UFO capital of CHILE, Cochiguaz
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On the outskirts of Puerto Varas, CHILE
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Cute faces near Ovalle, CHILE

 

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The beauty of this shot couldn’t distract us from the unsavory conditions these people were living in, Chiloe, CHILE
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There was something about this little girl in Huanchaco, PERU, that made me want to photograph her. She had so much pinache for a toddler, and amongst the bustle of the wharf she just seemed to ooze character
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Religious progression in Lima’s Plaza de Armas, PERU
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This was taken in the famous cathedral in Lima’s Plaza de Armas. I had a really strange feeling the whole time I walked around – like I had to get out! This photos encapsulates exactly that. PERU
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From that same church in Lima, PERU. I like the blurry, dark quality in the photo.
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This is one of my favorite photos of all time. In Huanchaco, PERU, we stumbled upon a colorful parade full of school children. While they laughed and piroutted, this person was carrying on a normal conversation, decked out in finery, in front of a stunning backdrop.
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Making dosas in Cochin, INDIA
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After arguing with a local that these birds were not eagles but vultures, I snapped this. Orcha, INDIA
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One of my strongest memories of India is of the trains. Nothing shows you the real India like travelling on trains, especially alongside friendly locals who like to wiggle your toes while you sleep on the bunks. This is also the best place to drink chai and eat! INDIA
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Looking out over sprawling Mumbai, INDIA
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I wonder what these children are up to now. This was taken after our presence in Rola, Gujarat, emptied an entire school!! INDIA
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The holy city – Varanasi, INDIA.
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Cochin, INDIA
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A big walk around the spectacular village of Hampi, INDIA, brought this spectaular shot.
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Hill station near Ooty, INDIA
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Varkala, INDIA. The most beautiful spot to just stay and stay and stay …
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Jodhpur, one of my favorite cities in INDIA
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Watching the sunrise in Hampi, INDIA

 

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Annapurna Ciruit, NEPAL
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Detouring from the track, Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL
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Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL
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Honestly, I don’t remember too much from this day – the second to last of the ascent on the Annapurna Circuit, NEPAL. It was so intense and actually much more difficult than the final day walking up.

 

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Walking to the nothernmost point of NEW ZEALAND, Cape Reinga
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Having a rest, Cape Reina, NEW ZEALAND

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My home town, Kerikeri NEW ZEALAND, also the site of NZ’s oldest buildings!

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Cruising around the Hokianga and getting caught behind a cow traffic jam is a common occurence in rural NEW ZEALAND

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View from my house in Kerikeri, NEW ZEALAND

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Where my parents live and where Emilio was raised for his first 9 months, Totara North, NEW ZEALAND

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Stonehenge, ENGLAND. I like that this photo seems so dark, because there is something really strange about this place.

 

Spotlight On: Artist Hoda Madi

Continuing on with the Expat Spotlight series, this week I introduce you to artist Hoda Madi. Hoda hails from Iran and has lived all over the world, but has called Chile home since 2012. You might remember her from my previous blogs as a sponsor of Ojos Abiertos or as the mind behind the Art Expression programme for children. Here she explains a little bit more about her vision, her art and her passion for Chile.

Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed Hoda! Tell us a bit about you.

Hi! I moved here in 2012 after a conversation with a friend about Chile. I came over when my son was 15 for one month.  Three years later and we are still here, and my son is now at university in Santiago studying architecture.

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Why art?

As a dentist, I feel that I help people by reducing their pain, but if someone just buys a painting I don’t have that same feeling like I’ve done something good in the world.  Being an artist is not just a job. So I started the “Universe of Love” series, so that every time someone looks at a painting they’ve bought from me they know they’ve helped to do some good, somewhere.

What do you mean? Sounds intriguing!

It’s an idea that came to me in Chile. With each painting I try to send love back into the universe so I donate 20% of each painting sold to charity.

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Painting the Atacama desert

What charitities have you been involved with?

Besides Ojos Abiertos, there have been many. One time I gave 50% to the “Si Me Importa” event to rebuild after the 2010 earthquake.  I also regularly give to the Rotary Chile society, which they then put towards various projects.

What is your art style?

I do abstract paintings with acrylic as well as abstract detailed photography. I also like to incorporate the female form and sand from all over the world.

You love Chile, Hoda. How do you show that in your work?

As an amateur astronomer, the Atacama desert has always been my dream place to visit. I have been twice, and it was after a recent trip to the Atacama that I began the “Hidden Colors of the Desert” set. I took photos of abandoned mines –  because on first impression the desert is just sand and sky but there are really so many colors! Afterwards I express these photos into paintings, using sand from the Atacama.  The concept is a different way of seeing something. For example, if I look at photographs from the Hubble telescope and then look through my own telescope, I’m seeing a different expression of the same but through a different medium.

Photos from the Atacama

Why do you like to paint the desert?

Because there is a sense that everything is way bigger than our life as a human on Earth,  It’s the best place to be connected to the universe.

You give so much back.  Why?

Life is a funfair – we’re all sharing a free ride so why not help each other out along the journey?

I’ve already written about your work last year in Conchali. Are there any things that stand out from that time for you?

There are so many! There was a girl in prekinder that the teacher warned us not to push because she was always crying. In the first class we were all singing and dancing the song “Happy” while she sat in the corner alone.  She later came over wanting to take part. Next class she joined in singing with the others and with each class we saw her blossom before our eyes. The teacher told us when we finished how much she had changed.  There was also a boy in Kinder that I remember was so scared, always needing to go to the toilet because he was that stressed. He kept saying “I can’t paint! I can’t paint!!” and he’d draw a line and call us over to check it was ok.  After two sessions we couldn’t get him to stop talking or drawing!

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Sounds like you were doing something really special with those children!

We really were, and it wasn’t just the children either.  In our very first class I remember the teacher shaking her head, horrified by the dirty hands, saying “que desastre!” over and over again. But with each class she loosened up and was soon laughing and painting alongside the children. You could visibly see her relax and become more connected to the children, which made a huge difference with the class dynamics.  Art has the ability to show you another way – it can even make you money.  I wanted to show that to these children, that there was another way for them. I used to see it with my son. He’d come home from school banging the doors and hiding in his room, and he’d never talk to me. So I started to go to him with paper and a pencil and we’d just draw together, not talking, and he would calm down.

What is your favorite place in Santiago and in all of Chile?

In Santiago I love to go to either Barrio Paris y Londres, or Barrio Lastarria. In Chile, it’s all about the Atacama for me.  I can go over and over again and still feel like its my first time.  Pica is an oasis in the middle of the desert that you won’t believe exists in such a harsh landscape, and Pisagua is a small port right at the junction of desert and sea.  The desert slopes down into the town, and almost right to the waves.

What is your goal for 2016?

My goal is to take my Hidden Colors of the Desert work to Miami.  I am going to continue my work with my Art Expression program and I’ll also be going back as a volunteer with Universidad de Chile’s Clinica Cuidados Especiales. In 2015 I worked every week in Independencia with this initiative, as a dentist with special needs patients who come from all over Chile to receive care. This year I shall be working on a project based upon these encounters. I’ve already ordered the canvasses to begin, the idea being that I will paint the beautiful connections I see between patients and their families. It’s not a sad story – it’s not about painting sad art – it’s actually very much about beauty and love. When it’s finished I am going to invite the families of the patients to attend the exhibition, with money going back to help children in similar situations but who don’t have any support around them.

Can you tell us a bit about your time at this clinica?

It can be really difficult but it’s the only time I’ve ever really enjoyed my work as a dentist. The patients are just pure love, and there is a sense of beauty that cannot be described when you see how they are cared for by their families. I remember a time this one patient with Down Syndrome had to have his teeth seen to. He was so scared, shouting and crying and we couldn’t  calm him down. His sister – who had spent her life caring for him – held his hand and sang him his special song and he calmed down instantly. She kept singing the whole time I worked on his teeth. Another time a 12 year old with Crystal Skin disease [Epidermolysis bullosa] was so distressed that general anaesthetic was being considered. I stepped in at the last moment to talk to her. She immediately spotted my funny Spanish. “Why do you talk like that?” she asked me and so I told her that I knew what it was like to be scared, especially because I couldn’t talk properly. I asked her if she would let me see her teeth. She allowed me to and after a while she let me work on them, stopping every now and then when she felt scared or some pain. No-one could believe the change! We are friends now and she’s just like every other teenage girl following the latest trends!

You have so many unbelievable stories! Thanks so much Hoda and all the best for the year ahead. Any final words you want to end on today?

Yes. Don’t fight life. Enjoy it’s opportunies.

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You can follow Hoda on Facebook and check out her website here.

Querida Recoleta: Que Interesante!

Most visitors to Santiago stop by its famous market, La Vega, for a taste of the exotic and some cheap lunch options. Those that linger longer browse Patronato in search of budget clothing or unusual ingredients in one of its many Asian food stores. The adventurous head over to the General Cemetery to soak up history that seems to press down beneath gigantic mausoleums and cramped casket towers.  Few people really explore this area and quickly dash elsewhere in Chile, despite this being a suburb that holds the history of Santiago in its palm.

Recoleta was originally the Wild West of Santiago, known as La Chimba. The Incas lived here  (Avenida La Paz & Independencia was their ancient route north) and Mapuches too, and today there remains strong indigenous presence. The Mapocho river was an imposing barrier between the Spanish colony of Santiago and La Chimba, but it eventually became a stronghold for religious institutions such as the Domincan order, and wine-making. As more bridges were built traversing the river, Recoleta became an attractive spot for immigrants, most notably from Palestine and Asia, but this has continued right through to the current day with communities from Peru, the Domincan Republic and Haiti.

Some people have emailed me after reading my blog asking to see this “real Santiago” after having spent their time in the modern city. This is a place that is gritty and real – there are no glittering high rises here – but this is a suburb that many Santiaguinos have called home for centuries. There is nowhere more “real” than Recoleta!

Our transport and tour company, Miles & Smiles Santiago, are just getting established but one of the first places we wanted to show people was Recoleta. There is a lot more here than originally meets the eye and a heck of a lot of beauty too. Our tours go at your own pace, in a private vehicle seating up to four passengers, and costs 25,000 pesos per tour (so if four of you book it’s cheap as chips!). Luis leads each trip and not only is he qualified and fluent in English and Spanish, but he’s a history buff from Recoleta!!

Here are some of the places you will uncover:

There are also excellent places to eat at excellent prices, from Palestinan to Syrian, Peruvian to Chilean, and we will point out the best.

We want to show you Recoleta because it is an important place, not only in Santiago’s history, but in it’s present. No trip to Santiago is complete without delving a little deeper into it’s secrets, and you will be supporting local businesses along the way!

The Secret to Speaking Spanish

And so we have entered 2016!

Did you don your yellow knickers? Regardless, I am sure if you try to keep smiling then 2016 will be … full of smiles!!

Have you made any resolutions? Here is mine: speak Spanish! I think I speak ok but [the embarassing truth is that] I have a degree in Spanish  and I’m nowhere near fluent!

Gahh but speaking another language is not like how I’d imagined. I never picked it up on my first day here like I thought I would, and I don’t wake up every morning with the words flying off my tongue like a freckled Salma Hayek. In fact, most days its the exact opposite! Sometimes my suegra speaks to me and it feels like my head is underwater – are they words she’s using? It’s nothing to do with the fact we’re in Chile – land of the terrible Spanish (or  so everyone likes to point out) – but more to do with the fact that I’m just not that linguistically gifted. In other words – I ain’t got no skills.

The fault is no-one’s but my own. I will not go blaming Chile for having a dialect of Castellano that is so rapidly spoken and poetic that half of us just don’t get it. Most of the time a good “si pero porque piensas eso?” works well in most situations or, failing that, a quick subject change, but darn it there are times when you just need to understand the conversation. Like when someone is actually asking you to pass the salt and your asking why starts an even bigger conversation! Scratch that – you are highly unlikely to ever confuse the word sal because it’s such a staple item in the Chilean diet!

So my New Years Resolution is to speak only Spanish.  It’s really difficult to change the language of your relationship once it’s set, but now that I’m no longer working in Spanish I am pretty much living in Chile but speaking English every day! It’s just really hard telling the Mr. to do his blimmin dishes every half an hour in Spanish – I’m already frustrated let alone including grammatical conjugations in there!

Like I said, the problem is me. I just don’t like hearing myself speak Spanish. I don’t like the confusion when I misunderstand, or the constant corrections. I hate the completely blank look or the “no entendi” (with compulsory giggle) that accompanies each drawn out paragraph I utter – I deflate like a forgotten balloon at a birthday party each time. I have a very good accent it’s true, but only when I sing. I just can’t sing my way through Registro Civil, unfortunately.

I tell my English students that there is no secret to speaking another language except … speaking it. You must speak it to learn it. You can write perfect grammar to your heart’s content but if someone asks you something and you freeze up then you’re not really speaking it, are you? So my New Year’s Resolution is exactly that: to open my mouth and SPEAK SPANISH!!

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Me before I came to Chile: “speaking Spanish is a walk in the park!”

P.S.  Nearly forgot – Happy new year and Feliz Anio Nuevo!

Miles & Smiles Tours

 

 

Your Adventure, Your Way

 

At Miles & Smiles Santiago, our goal is simple: to provide a top quality service that is friendly and safe while assisting you to get the very most out of your time in Chile. How to do this? Firstly, we show you the real Chile, divulging secrets that only a native can know. Secondly, we support the community around us, keeping business local and always working with small businesses. Thirdly we continually give back, sending a percentage of our profits to help grassroot organizations and initiatives that are working to keep Chile clean, safe and beautiful. Our business takes social responsibility very seriously – just as much as we care about customer satisfaction – and so we pride ourselves as being accessible for everyone. Whether you are traveling with infants or teens, pets or strays, are a senior citizen, spring chicken, amateur photographer, wildlife lover, fond of the vino, or in need of additional assistance, we work to accommodate your needs – and everything in between!

Follow us!

Instagram + Facebook @milesandsmilesantiago

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC-_hMi8_csbbvRz8PvxbXRg

Logo: Designed by Siski Palmer Green

#locallyowned #supportingsmall #ethicaltourism

 

Transfers

THE VEHICLE:
Car is a Chevrolet Orlando with capacity for SIX. That’s four with luggage or 6 with hand luggage. It is your responsibility to assess whether this arrangement will work for you.

VANS + MINIBUS available with advance booking for tours.

Bike rack/ski chains/1 forward facing carseat (toddler)/1 rear-facing (infant)/booster car seats available upon request.

SANTIAGO – AIRPORT TRANSFERS 6am-12am*
Santiago centro CLP $19,000
Providencia CLP$20,000
Las Condes/La Reina/Ñuñoa//Lo Barnechea/Vitacura/La Reina/Puente Alto – Airport CLP$25,000.

AIRPORT – SANTIAGO TRANSFERS 12am-6am*
CLP $26,0)0

CITY TRANSFERS
* Santiago-Valparaiso transfer: CLP$65,000
* Santiago-Vina del Mar transfer: CLP$70,000

Tours

We offer a finely crafted selection of private tours that we believe showcase not only the best of Chile, but the REAL Chile too! Inquire about our options around: Santiago (including Recoleta!), Valparaiso, Wineries (Casablanca, Colchagua and Santiago), La Campana National Park, Aguas San Ramon, Rio Clarillo, Pacific Vistas Coastal Drive, Viña del Mar, Olmue + Alpaca Farm, Pomaire, Isla Negra, Cajon del Maipo and more.

 

Other Services

* House Hunting Santiagowe book the appointments and drive you to them. Translation and interpreting assistance available.

* Welcome Chile – it can be hard when you first arrive in a new city. We help you navigate your new neighborhood, assist you with setting up a bank account or BIP! card, and let you in on all the secrets only locals know.

* Metropolitana Region Driver and/without Car Rental Includes petrol and road tolls. Other regions available upon request.

 

How We Give Back

As part of our aim to be ethically responsible, we continually give back into the community. Whether by always giving business to small providers, planting trees, donating a percentage of our profit to good causes or by stepping up to support the people after a disaster, we are continually thinking of ways to be socially responsible.

Some ways we have done this:

  • Starting the volunteer organization, Organizacion Ojos Abiertos, that worked in a low income Santiago suburb doing art, dance and English tuition from kindergarten up
  • Setting up the Meals & Smiles venture to help new mums and families in need
  • Planting trees in the zones affected by the 2017 fires, as well as donating supplies
  • Maintaining small group tours to minimize our impact upon the environment
  • Always supporting local, small businesses
  • Reusing, recycling and upcycling wherever we can
  • Utilizing public transport, walking or biking whenever possible
  • Using vehicles that use the latest technology to reduce polluting emissions
  • Regular donations to various charities and initiatives

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Who We Are

We are a small family run business led by Luis (Chile) and Helen (New Zealand). Our aim is to share our favorite sights of this beautiful country that we call home, while providing quality customer service that is reliable and safe. We welcome families, pets and lovers of wine, nature, and good food.

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Reviews

“We booked Luis for a tour to the Cajon del Maipo. The tour was very good value and Luis was an excellent guide. He speaks fluent English and is knowledgeable about Santiago and the surrounding area. The road was difficult in places, but Luis drove very carefully. I highly recommend this service ”  – Chris Rowland, UK

My friend and I reserved a taxi transfer from Santiago Centro to the Airport at 5:00 AM through Miles and Smiles and could not have been more pleased. Even though it was super early, Luis was outside (bonus points for arriving early!) waiting for us when we came down to the street. He was very helpful with our bags and got us to the airport within 25 minutes. I was so impressed with the punctuality and service so early in the morning. I 100% recommend using this service for transfers, tours, anything. Very friendly and very reliable” – Louise Marchica, Chile

“Book an airport pick-up with these guys. Super busy airport and took me at least an hour to get through immigration but when I got through Aurelio was waiting for me with a smile Very reliable and kept in touch through-out my 26 hour journey!. Would recommend to others” – Rob Davey, Chile

“This is an excellent service. I needed to search for a house in Santiago, but did not have much time, because I still needed to work, and my wife was sick in hospital. Without the help of Luis and Helen, I am not sure how we would have done it. They were super helpful and very flexible. We sent them a list of properties that we were interested in, and they made all the calls and organised all the viewings. Then Luis provided the transport to get around and see them all. As Luis speaks excellent english and spanish, he was able to help with the coordination and communication whenever it was a problem. I had to cancel the first day and then re-schedlule, but they were able to manage it. They were always on time as agreed, and Luis was very knowledgable on how to get around Santiago. We also used them for some airport transfers. An excellent option if you need flexible transport and assistance to get stuff done”Paul Kay, Australia

“Muy buen servicio!! Fueron a recoger del aeropuerto a los tíos de mi soon to be husband y ellos quedaron muy felices con el servicio. Luis fue muy amable y les explicaba el paisaje mientras iban camino a Vina y les encanto tener esa información”Carli Ivonne, Chile

“PERFECT Service.  Picked up my family on time. which I’m sorry latin america, does not happen very often. safe driversstuck to speed limitno dramas was a taxi service and a wealth of local information of passing regions on their way to vina del mar from santiago airport.  Recommend to everybody”David Midgley, NZ

“Luis was a fantastic driver, we used his services for half a day in Santiago whilst needing to visit various medical clinics. He was very friendly, a safe driver and didn’t mind the long waits. Luis went out of his way talking about the city, buildings and places giving us an insight into Santiago, kind of like our own tour of the city. We would definitely recommend this service! Luis made what was quite a stressful day of rushing about very easy for us. Once again thank you so much!”Michael O’Leary, NZ

 

Our website was designed by Mukul Matey.  We highly recommend his services.

The Chile List 2015

As we approach the beginning of 2016, I thought I would look back at 2015 and compile (yet another) list of favorite experiences to try:

Best Place to Eat Ethnic: Pardeshi Tadka, Providencia

Best Place for Couples: Zully and Barrio Concha y Toro

Best Place to Explore: Downtown around Metro Santa Ana

Best Place to Eat Cheap: Club Palestino Restaurant, Recoleta

Best Place for Shopping: Av. Italia, Nunoa

Best Place to Take Photos: National Cemetery, Recoleta

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Best Place to Walk: Av. Independencia, Independencia

Best Place to Swim: Pool Antilen, Cerro San Cristobal

Best Park for Children: Parque Bicentenario de la Infancia, Recoleta

Best Park: Parque Bicentenario, Vitacura

Best Day Out for Families: Annual Open Day @ Aerodromo Vitacura

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Best City Lookout: Piramide Old Road, Huechuraba

Best Place to Take Visitors: Peumayen Restaurant, Bellavista

Best Visit for Artists: Bellavista

Best Place for Culture Shock: Patronato

Best Place to Buy Cheap: Zapadores Weekly Market, Recoleta

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Best Place to be Tattooed: LP Tattoo Studios, La Pintana

Best Taxis: Luis Diaz 91502396

Best Museum: Precolumbino, Plaza de Armas

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Best Food to Try: Mote con Huesillo

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Best Place to Buy Natural Food: Agricola Tinajacura

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Best Blog: You are reading it (ha. ha)

Further Afield:

Best Day Trip: Siete Tazas National Park

Best Place to Encounter History: Valle del Encanto, Ovalle

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Best Place for History: Huique

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Best Places for Birdwatching: Lago Rapel and Batuco Wetlands

Best Place to Eat: Santa Cruz

Best Thing to Eat: Curanto

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Best Place to See the Sea: Vina del Mar coastline and Antofogasta

Best Views: Zapallar and Quintay

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Best Place to Take Your Breath Away: Elqui Valley

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Best Place to Eat Seafood: Coquimbo

Best Surf Spot: Pichelemu

Best Family Holiday: Pucon

Best Trip to Go Back in Time: Sewell

Best Place to Shop: Pomaire

Best Holiday for Tourists: San Pedro de Atacama

Best Place to Swim: Arica

Best Place to Discover Mapuche Culture: Temuco

Best Place to Get Cold: Punta Arenas

Best Place for Photos: Los Lagos region

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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!

Musing about Machismo

We took Emilio to see the Christmas lights the other night. When we stopped to buy dogfood, a young woman leaving the store blew a huge stream of cigarette smoke into Emilio’s face, who was sitting atop Luis’ shoulders. There wasn’t time to react because an older woman, who I shall name Marisol, grabbed Luis’ arm.

“Help me! Those people are bad, really bad,” she said and pointed to two men watching us from the other side of the road in a white van.

I’m not sure if they really were or if she just needed an opening line. She continued talking incoherently, all the time stroking Luis’ arm and head. She was not all there, it was obvious to see, and her affection for Luis made me giggle.

Afterwards Luis was clearly rattled by the encounter. When we returned home after our walk Marisol appeared again. This time she launched herself at Luis and grabbed his face, while telling him our handsome he was. I laughed and Luis appeared quite shocked.

But afterwards I thought about it more. Was it funny to me because Luis was a man and the lady was crazy? If the roles had been reversed I would have been terrified and I would have looked to Luis to help me. What makes it more acceptable for a man to be molested?

This brings up the topic of gender roles, something that is ever-present in the news these days. SERNAM (Chile’s governmental Service for Women) reports that half of all women have reported domestic violence, with around 70 women killed each year by their partners – and those are just the reported statistics. A google search brings up countless more articles regarding violence against women, but interestingly I could find nothing about violence towards men. Does that mean it doesn’t exist here?

That in itself is interesting. The problem with living in a society with rigid gender roles is that anything that breaks the mould is laughed off or ignored. I am tired of women always being seen as the victim. I am also tired of the stereotype that men have to be “macho”.  Luis will never admit to being upset by an older woman inappropriately touching him, let alone admitting deeper emotions like fear. And as hard as it is for me to admit, I am also an example of judging by stereotype.

Now when I look back to that night I feel embarassed. I shouldn’t have thought it was funny. I shouldn’t have walked off thinking Luis “could handle it like a man.” But if I’d have said something Luis would have felt inmasculated. Marisol could have then lunged at me with a knife and I would have been completely helpless, forcing Luis to step in. This would then open that whole can of worms entitled “never hit a woman.” It’s like a circle, going round and round: damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

The New Zealand that I know battles these same issues, although its a bit more liberal in the cities. I come up against gender roles time and time again here in Santiago, however. I watch as my suegra does all the work in the home as well as working full-time. I watch as my sister-in-law fills up the glass of her husband. I have seen a plate of unaccepteable food being thrown against the wall by a guy. And it’s not just gender. Santiago is just swimming in rules. I am tired of living by endless societal norms that deem what is acceptable, but that have really nothing to do with being “chilean”. Luis and I are getting married in March and we don’t have any money to have a wedding. We will have a kiwi-style BYO barbeque that Luis is already stressing about but you know what? It’s time to make our own standards of what is right instead of just following the crowd.

And end of story.

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Trapped in the rat race. Instead of going up and down why not just crawl out the window and make your own path

Pardeshi Tadka: Indian Food in Santiago

I have found it!!!!!!

There’s REAL Indian food in Santiago!

Visit Pardeshi Tadka on Avenida Holanda 067 inside the little Galeria. The 0 in the address is actually super important (learnt this the hard way!) because it means it’s on the other side of Av. Providencia, closer to Costanera Centre.

Pardeshi is not five star dining.  It’s quick, cheap food served on a few tables inside a small shopping arcade – BUT if you know your Indian food and are searching for something that is authentic to what they really cook in India, then you won’t be disappointed.

There aren’t many tables and they were all full when we visited yesterday lunchtime, but we were quickly accomodated. I ordered the vegetarian lunch which came with rice, salad, drink and parathas, for 4.400 pesos. The moment it was placed in front of me my eyes watered. I could actually see the cumin seeds on the potatoes, the color was fantastic and the smell alone transported me back to my stay in India in 2009. Each bite brought back memories: on the train hurtling through the countryside, squished amongst hundreds of others eating street food in the outskirts of Mumbai, eating on the floor in rural Gujarat with family while listening to Bollywood songs. It was absolutely delicious – and cooked without a trace of packaged sauce. Luis ate a chicken dish in a red sauce that had a bit of heat; meat mains I think are around 5.400 pesos. It was so good even Emilio gobbled his up!

Service was excellent. The chef came out to speak with us and the waiter was very friendly, efficient and even spoke English when he heard me talking. There was none of this “bad customer service” that you resignedly come to expect in Santiago – quite the opposite. We even received chai tea which came in little styrofoam cups exactly the same as in India! I love chai and haven’t been able to replicate the flavour since, and so a sip of this brought out a few tears. Maybe all this sounds like an extreme reaction – I’m not Indian after all – but I spent half a year in that beautiful country and it seems like a world ago, especially now that my life has since changed so much . Nothing prepares you for a visit to India, but nothing prepares you for when you leave either. Your never quite the same once you’ve experienced having all five senses truly working. There is just no comparison with culture shock – Chile is so tame in comparison!!

This is not a sponsored post, either. I’m raving because I’m genuinely impressed. This is a must-visit for foodies!

Photos: Pardeshi Tadka

What It’s Really Like To Be An Expat

Before you become an expat you have a million thoughts. What will it be like? Will I make friends? Will it be safe? You might even think it will be amazing (much better than where you currently live), that you will master a second language in a day and quickly fill your Facebook feed with photos of you surrounded by exotic friends, each photo filled with outrageous smiles. You hear that it is very easy to live in Chile, so you arm yourself with a TEFL and think “yup, I’m good to go.” Then you head off into the sunset amidst family who think your an equal mixture of crazy and brave, especially when you tell them “See you but I won’t be back for a while!”

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Moving back to Chile … with everything I own!

Until you’re on the plane and you realize that Spanish spoken in real time is a lot different from those one-on-one classes you’d taken before you left. And then you get off and realize you have no clue what the signs are saying let alone what the customs official is bleating on about. And when you finally meet those hilarious, exotic friends you find that singing a few hundred Shakira or Daddy Yankee tunes won’t actually help the conversation progress very far.

Lets face reality: moving to any new country can feel like a slap in the gonads (or so I can imagine). The euphoria quickly depletes until all your left with is a suitcase filled with all the wrong things and an inability to use even the supermarket correctly (“I have to weigh the veges BEFORE I get to the checkout? I have to pay the packer? But what do I DO with all these plastic bags?!!”). You find that the amazing job you’d envisioned is actually quite demanding and filled with long commutes, rush hour rides and students that never do their homework. The shops are filled with things way to expensive to buy and only God can help you if you don’t want salt on your food.

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Me: having a bad day outside Registro Civil (jokes!)

There’s a cycle that all expats follow that can make you appear alot like you are in need of medication to friends and relatives who’ve never travelled. Your emotions will change like the wind, racing from overwhelming happiness to the worst depression known to mankind. One minute you will be skipping along, marvelling at mountains that they don’t make quite the same anywhere else, and the next you will be crying in the middle of Lider holding three different types of warm, boxed milk that you don’t quite understand the difference between but it must surely be important to warrant taking up a whole aisle!

The language will also take you on a rollercoaster ride. You may find that one day you speak perfectly only to discover that on the next you can’t even process greetings properly. New acquaintances will test you on your ability by speaking really fast nonsense to try catch you out in order to grandly state: “a ha! Chilean Spanish is SO [insert adjectives here]”.  But you will master the Spanish in Chile,  until the day you decide to visit the rest of Latin America and find they speak funny.

No matter how bleak it all seems to get, trust me you will not always be stuck watching How I Met Your Mother reruns accompanied by chocolate biscuits. That’s not to say that there won’t be things that will drive you absolutely bonkers (such as every single time you need to deal with beauracracy in Chile) but you will eventually settle into your new life comfortably, thinking less and less about all the things you miss until eventually they will be only an occasional thought. Through the good stuff and the bad, reach out to the expat community because they are going, or have gone, through the same.  English-speakers can join The Chile Experience while mums can use English Speaking Mums in Chile. Both have been invaluable to me during my several years here, especially the latter because there is nothing harder than being a first-time mother in a foreign culture. All the playdates for Emilio or friendships with expats that I have made, are via this amazing network.  While not everyone has the same experiences, there is an overwhelming sense of comraderie and support that can be especially helpful when you are struggling, whether with homesickness or with health.

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ESM playdate

It’s not always a picnic when you move to a new country, but it is a banquet! A delicious, diverse, overwhelming and (at times) scary feast that works all five senses like no other.  Travel is the best education but also the best medicine, just sometimes it has to get a little worse in order to get better.  You can do it!!

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Valparaiso