Mummy Diaries: Being a Mother and a Woman

What does it mean to be a mother?

Being a mother has been about letting go. Letting go of my waistline, and my ability to jump on trampolines or do any other kind of excessive movement without making some kind of embarrassing sound.  Sometimes it has meant losing my cool over something as small as the dishes, or letting go of all sense of sanity as I peruse my sons dirty nappies with the enthusiasm of a kid on Easter. It has meant letting go of a series of firsts (steps, words, haircuts, kindergarten …) until the time comes when my children just don´t need me anymore. It has also meant saying goodbye to me – the old me.  The me that would dash out the door on a Friday night without a second thought. Who would dance to the sweet sounds of something without thinking if it was appropriate music or not, or if I was dancing appropriately for someone with a family at home. The me that could go out and then spend all the following day wallowing in my own misery.

17760222_10155053230660097_952972021990707393_n

Being a mother hasn´t meant that I can´t go out, it has meant that my priorities have changed. Every time I walk out that door and away from my children, I do so incomplete, for I leave something behind. My children have a piece of my heart wherever I am, as well as a good portion of my brain given all the utterly useless thoughts I make over them.

I could never say I regret this life, because my bones ache and literally shake inside my skin if I contemplate a different life, but sometimes I do find an inner voice whispering about all the changes that have occurred since being a mother 3.6 years ago.

Perhaps the greatest change has been the transition from woman to mother. Obviously the second after I gave birth became pregnant I became a mother, that is obvious, but since when did I lose my womanhood to everyone else around me?

Blame it on the routine, the monotony of settled life if you will, but nothing had prepared me for this colossal change. My body and mind changed forever after I had my first son, and apparently so too did my sex appeal. Despite that one time when I was wolf whistled while pregnant, I feel almost completely invisible. I don´t just mean in a sexual attraction to others type of way – I feel it about myself too.

I find this feeling stifling and even upsetting at times. There are days when I try desperately to find the woman beneath.  The woman who has dreams and plans, independence and confidence, and who makes sex a priority because its a time that is personal and private, a moment shared with another adult that is so firmly rooted in the now that there is almost no room for any other thought.

Perhaps this is one of the biggest mistakes that new mums can make: being so overwhelmed and overcome by their child that they lose their identity a little bit.  This by no means suggests that I am linking a woman´s happiness to a man, or that women should forget about the man´s needs  – no. Instead what I am trying to say is that feeling like a woman – a confident woman – should not be forgotten as a priority too. Maybe we all have something different that makes us feel this way, but the what it is isn´t important, the result is.  And feeling good, confident, strong, sexy – surely that is something all women should feel, mummies included?

helen18.jpg

 

Mummy Diaries: Day in the Life Of

Floating … please take my hand James McAvoy … I mean Ewan McGregor – oh ok you´re both in my dream, I´ll accept that. Just please keep speaking Scottish. This is amazing … wait why are my children in the water too? And they´re drowning – this is a NIGHTMARE! Wake up, wake up! 

So much crying … that is real crying. Oh no, the baby is waking up. 5 more minutes! Wait please don´t leave me James! Not you too Ewan!!!! Noooooo!!!

I should get up. I´ll get up.  Does he not hear that noise?!

My boob feels so empty. It has no squish now.

Am I the only one who sees a kitchen full of dishes and thinks to DO THE DISHES!!!!

I´d love just one morning where I get breakfast in bed. And a sleep in. Hint hint hint hint hint HINT!

You´ll make it? Best husband ever!

I am so hungry. What is taking so long?!!!  Why he is going so slow – is he doing everything separately?! Just multitask OMG! 

What is the baby eating? I really do need to vacuum.

17546748_10155053275665097_1714331438267671292_o

During the Day

Son lets play!! Yes I´d love to play Thomas! Let the baby join in, Emilio. Emilio? Emilio! Emilio – EMILIO!!!!! Not the eyes Emilio!

Poor baby.

No don´t draw on the – be careful of the – don´t drop the – watch out!!

*sees red*

*cry a little bit*

I hate this sometimes.

I feel awful. I love my life – I am the luckiest person in the world.

I miss working. I miss cramming up my day with important stuff. I miss money!

Urgh I want to lose control! Give me wine! How much can you drink while breastfeeding again?

All that pumping and dumping seems like a lot of work.Will wait a bit longer. But I will lose control one day!

I just farted. Pretend it was the baby. Why does this keep happening now?!

Time to go shopping.  What to wear? Haven´t worn that in a while – wait can´t breastfeed in that. I´ll wear – wait, can´t do it discreetly in that one. Ah fuck it – no-ones looking at these flabbyflabs anymore!

IMG_2228

At the Shop

He doesn´t need a lollipop but thank you.  Yes my baby is fine, thank you. No he isn´t too big, just those gringo genes!! Yes he seems warm enough – another blanket would probably kill him but thank you for that. No lolly for the baby, but thank you.

Breastfeeding and walking – I am a mummy superstar! Self five

17796041_10155053231480097_281986781403751347_n

At the Nursery

I have to buy WHAT?

My son is two, he can´t possibly do that even with adult help. Oh I have to make THAT? 

Dinner

Hmm what can I bribe him with today?

This doesn´t end.

Is that a vein popping out of my head?

I really need a minute to myself

Oh poor darling.

Must.resist.urge.to.give.in

Gave in.

I am the worst mother ever. 

Did that count as a balanced meal?

Better put him in the bath now before the baby cries. Wait – baby is crying. Do it with baby crying or do it later?

Later. Oh man it is late!

Bedtime

Please don´t pick Thomas for the fourth consecutive night … yay Thomas!!!!  Better sing him the songs too.  Will he get too cold tonight? But it´s hot now – aaahhh Santiago has crazy weather!!  Ok, I´ll read another story. 

Cuddles are just the best ever. Look at that little face, those little eyelashes, his little nose … what is that in his hair? Better check he doesn´t need the potty.

Hurry up on that potty, son!

Aaaahhh cuddles!

Your cheek/against mine/that is/the most delicious thing.

Delicious. Scrumptious. Splendiferous. Roald Dahl – man I can´t wait to read those books again. I mean for the children and everything.

I could cuddle forever … and he´s asleep – RUN!!!  Now to check the baby.

IMG_2087

Some Time Later

FREEDOM!

Time to dig out all the adult treats!!!

Food, food – where is the food?!

Am I eating too much? I´ll never get rid of this floppy stomach.

Ah fuck it – I have TWO kids!!! Where did I hide that chocolate bar again?

Crying baby on TV.  God am I lactating? This is so embarrassing.

This scene between the child and her mother is making me well up. I´m so sensitive these days.

Aaaagh don´t wake up!!! Please, please, please.  I still need to take a shower!

My bed feels so good I think I might disappear into it … oh hello! Are we cuddling tonight?

Some time later (but not that long)

If we woke the baby up it is your turn.

On Date Night

Pushup bra oh yeah!

I wonder what the kids are doing.

Hmm what to say? I want to be funny. And sexy.

I hope the kids are ok. Should I call and check?

Gosh look at that couple. Were we ever like that? Do you know, I just can´t remember!

I want to have sex like a porn star. Lets do it!!!
I thinkI ate way too much. Wait I need to pee – AGAIN!

Did I take the meat out for tomorrow? Internet bill is due too!

I do love my husband.

I can´t stand my husband.

Lights Out

I do love my life.

helen09.jpg

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 🙂

12507598_10153820418775097_8620819462061645171_n

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.

14907058_10154570769320097_8281903122178649693_n

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.

14910534_10154570770215097_2598132697115321160_n

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).

Lunch Review: Quinoa Vegetarian Restaurant

You know it’s summer in Santiago when long lunches give way to even longer asados (barbeques).  Just like neighboring Argentina, Chile hasreputation as a haven for carnivores, so discovering Quinoa in trendy Vitacura was a relative shock.

It is a vegetarian restaurant.

It is also spacious, light, airy – all those things you long for when the days are hot and you require food that fills your belly but does not tip you over afterwards. It also embraces the theme of being a produce lover with pots of herbs on windowsills, fresh flowers on tables and a menu that shouts refinement and simplicity – in other words, the veges really shine here.

14915521_10154561132885097_5292202150969078428_n

We ordered a beetroot lasagne and the Mezze salad main. Both were delicious and around $7000 each.  Bread and dip were given at the start of the meal (love all the complimentary bread Chilean restaurants dole out!), and we both had natural juices (there’s quite a few juice options including detox).

Everything was excellent: the food, the staff, the decor … but the reason why we will return is actually for none of those. We will go back for the mindblowingly fantastic dessert, which was a chocoholic’s heaven so delicious that Luis, Emilio and I nearly hyperventilated eating.

14595776_10154561133455097_868550202930376369_n

The Nitty Gritty

Make a booking as it is always busy

Not much parking

Yes quinoa does feature prominently

Closed Sundays

Address: Luis Pasteur 5393, Vitacura

Visit the website for the menu here.

For more dining options, please visit here, here, here or here.

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.

418506_10150749559135097_1796578449_n
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!

13151941_10154080517845097_8830638346641726910_n.jpg

Your Guide to the Chilean Recluse Spider

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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!

Uber in Santiago

There is silence. Then there is madness. Then a quiet voice says, “we did this. We are doing this to ourselves.”

Last night Luis went to try take passengers from an event held in Huechuraba. He was joined by other taxistas hoping to find some work. Unfortunately, most of the taxi drivers left empty-handed as everyone used Uber. It was a bad night in general for work last night.

What is Uber? Is it really as “uber-cool” as everyone makes out? Uber is a smartphone app that provides transportation at the click of a button, and removes the need for cash as you pay via credit card.  The app is growing in popularity in Santiago, driven on by the justified and not-so justified paranoia of the city’s taxis.

While I appreciate the idea of Uber, I just don’t like it. Let us not forget that its in murky water overseas because it’s owners, Google and Goldman Sachs, (both huge billion dollar corporations) don’t pay tax. In Chile, people are turning to Uber because:

a) cars are airconditioned

b) cardoors are automatically locked upon entry

c) 6/10 vehicles are privately owned

d) 10% of drivers are women

e) offers: Uber Black (luxury), Uber X (economic), Uber SUV (6 people)

f) offers discounts and promotional rides

Sounds amazing so why do I have a problem?  I dont like the fact that Uber replaces the option to be self-employed – particularly in a world where industry conglomerates own it all – and that payment is handed out via a third party. I don’t like how Uber sells jobs by saying that you can earn up to four times the minimum wage because this selling point doesn’t really say much at all. I don’t like how Uber’s “wonderfulness” paints all other taxis in a negative light. For example, did you know that all new taxis have to be air conditioned by law? And that all taxis have doors that can be locked? That all new taxis must be new cars? Or that he statistics for car ownership is the same – if not higher – for regular street taxis? And – holy moly – women drive street taxis too!

I get that people have had bad experiences in taxis, and in an age where the sharing of information is so easy, it’s understandable that paranoia runs away with the facts a little bit. But let’s not forget that there are many good experiences to be had in a taxi. With Uber there is no room for negotiation because not only are you paying electronically but you are not even paying the driver himself. When I was molested on the metro near Los Dominicos, an amazing taxi driver found me distraught and took me home FOR FREE. When I found a good family run business I used them regularly and in return they offered me set prices. It doesn’t work like that with Uber. Without the control of the driver you are in the hands of a faceless machine, and mercy to its whims.

When people take Luis’ taxi, the money goes to us. It buys our food, pays our electricity, our gas bottles and our heater bill in winter. It buys Emilio clothes when he (finally) grows. It replacd our calefont pipe when we went without hot water for months (don’t get me started!).  Occasionally it allows us to go out to dinner, and buy birthday presents. The money goes directly back into the world around us, like when we buy our food at the feria.

So please consider this the next time that you need a taxi!! For every dishonest taxi driver there are ten honest more. If you need a good, decent taxi I can easily point you in the direction of a few.  Or try EasyTaxi or Safer Taxi – applications that give you convenience and peace of mind as well as the driver. Finally, it is worth remembering that from a psychological point of view, the taxi is one of the last places of equality left because the driver depends upon the passenger, and the passenger upon him. With Uber, the driver loses all rights of equality.

For airport transfers and trips around 10000 pesos: call Luis (and family): 91502396

For groups and day trips: RS TRANSIT