Wine, Vines, and Rides – Hitting the Vineyard!

I recently spent a fantastic day at the Casas del Bosque winery, in the Casablanca Valley.  I could have easily spent the whole evening there, and probably the following day too if there had been a room option.  I had an hours wine tasting in the morning, where we tried four wines (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Noir) before sitting down to lunch on the terrace and then a bike ride.

Chile has a fantastic, internationally acclaimed wine scene and the Casablanca Valley is right up there for producing quality wines.  The reason why the grapes grow so well there is because of the climate: the dry summers combined with the cool currents brought by the winds via the sea and the Andes mountains.  In fact, the climate is so perfect for grapes that many producers can forego pesticides entirely and are organic (look at Emiliana, Bodegas RE, Attilio & Mochi – all within the Casablanca Valley). The sea and the mountains also make a kind of natural boundary, protecting the vine crops from pests such as phylloxera. This parasite feeds on vine roots, and during the 19th century it destroyed vineyards on a grand scale across the Americas, Europe and Australia.  This has meant that Chile is the only place that grows grapes on its own rootstocks, rather than being grafted onto pest resistant rootstocks like the rest of the world.  Chile is also the only country that produces the Carmenere grape variety, which was wiped out worldwide due to phylloxera.  Vines were originally brought by the Spanish during the 16th century, although today the wine scene more closely resembles that of France due to cuttings brought here of French varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Malbec.

Of the red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere are the most noted, with a low concentration of tannins and a full spicy and fruity taste, while Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the most important white varieties with a fullness that is often remarked upon.

The Tasting

The tasting was led by an exceptionally well-spoken sommelier, who encouraged us to pick out the different ingredients, aromas, and drew our attention to the colors.  We started with the Sauvignon Blanc, considered Chile´s best, which contained hints of jalapeño, grapefruit, freshly cut grass, pear and apple. We were told that this wine is best paired with fish, shellfish, crustaceans and even Ceviche.

Next came the Chardonnay, my personal favorite.  I could just taste the caramel, apple, lemon pie, mango, bananas, melon and pineapple.  This was a very easy wine to drink and my glass was not quite enough (purchased a bottle though!). This wine is good with shellfish, full-bodied fish, salads and fresh cheese.

Probably the most lauded wine produced by Casas del Bosque – and certainly the one most enjoyed by our tasting group – is the Syrah.  The Syrah grape thrives in the valley´s cool climate, and we spent a while dissecting the flavors, including lavender, raspberry, cinnamon, walnut, herbs, bay leaf and pepper. This wine goes well with smoked cheeses and red meats.

We finished with the Pinot Noir, which to me was very complex and deep, with notes of leather, almond, plum, vanilla, strawberries wild mushrooms and truffle. This variety is very well known and considered to be emblematic of the Casas del Bosque winery.  It pairs very well with quail, duck, chicken, turkey, beef stews,, pasta, full-bodied fish and cheeses that are moderately ripe.

The Lunch

Attentive service, tranquil setting (we were on the terrace), delicious and fresh food – I was actually surprised at a) how good the restaurant was and b) how relatively inexpensive it was for the quality received.  Star of the show was the Chilean Soul (Alma de Chile) dessert.  The Kids Menu was very good value and included the dessert, it was big but my son (3.6) ate it all!  What I also liked was that it wasn´t chips and chicken nuggets – there were meat kebabs, chips and salad.

Activities and Grounds

We rented some bikes and explored the winery by bike, which was an excellent decision because the grounds are stunning. It is also fairly flat for those of you who are like me and not very athletically inclined, but there are advanced trail options too. We also rode to the lagoon, which was nice (you can also choose the picnic option there). We didn´t see too much wildlife, which is a shame as Luis usually spots tarantulas and even snakes when taking tour groups, but we did see a lot of birds.

The grounds are well maintained.  There are several toilets, lots of seating areas and even sun beds for those who need to sleep off the wine!!

Suitable for Families

We went with a toddler and a baby in a pushchair (you need good wheels to navigate outside of the winery). People were courteous and no-one blinked an eye during the tasting or lunch. There is also a children´s playground, conveniently located beside the sun beds!!

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Miles and Smiles offer tailormade and carefully crafted tours for individuals up to larger groups which includes premium tours and tastings. Or you can make your own way there by car.  Check out the Casas del Bosque webpage here.

 

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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Fantastic Food, Fabulous Ferias!

Santiago is the heart of this nation – all foods end up here – and nowhere is this more obvious than the ubiquitous feria, or market.

The feria is my favorite thing to do here in Chile because there is no other place where you can delve right into the culture and discover what it really means  to be a local. They are a lifeforce for the people in the suburbs who use them everyday (except Monday) to stock up on  almost everything they might need, from fruit and vegetables to medicine, fresh fish or clothing. Stallholders begin in the wee hours, receiving deliveries and then setting up their spot for the day, of which aesthetics are key. Effort is put in to ensure their produce looks fresh and better than the neighbor’s offering, with everything from fake grass, realms of hanging garlic to delicious preparations of ceviche (seafood marinated in lemon juice) or pebre (a spicy tomato salsa mix) made to show off their ingredients to the max.

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NZD$20 (not including packaged items)

Food plays a key part in Chilean life. The indigenous of both northern and central Chile had a diet rich in potatoes, quinoa and meat from sources such as pudues, alpacas and llamas, well before the arrival of the Conquistadores. The Spanish then brought with them domestic livestock and ingredients that today make up traditional comida chilena, the very best of which is known as comida casera (homemade food).  Many of the dishes are simply prepared, which reflects Chile’s peasant past.  Dishes include the cilantro-heavy cazuela stew or lentejas (lentils),  while the hugely popular Corn Pie (Pastel de Choclo) mixes both meat and chicken. Beans (porotos) are so frequently consumed and traditional that there is a saying – “mas chileno que los porotos!”

Chile is also blessed to have the Humboldt Current drifting past it’s Pacific Ocean coastline, which brings a huge variety of sea dwelling creatures up from Antarctica. All year round you can enjoy seafood in delicious dishes, my favorites of which are Chupe de Jaivas and crab/prawn empanadas.  You know it must be good if it has been immortalized in poetry, which Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda actually did in his Caldillo de Congrio (Kingclip Chowder) poem.

I also find the feria to be a place where you can see real artisans at work, from the man who quickly wraps up the carton of eggs to the elderly gentlemen who will rapidly explain the medicinal or culinary uses of strange ingredients. Remember to shop around for the best prices (cheapest in the centre), watch your belongings, take small change (no big notes!) and use a portable shopper to cart your purchases (not just for nanas!).  Finally, stallholders will give you about a million small plastic bags for your purchases so it can be a good idea to take along a reusable bag or simply place things directly in your trolley – and therefore baffling them all!

Ask the locals where the day’s feria is when you are in the suburbs – they will likely be able to tell you! For a unique Santiago experience head to the bustling La Vega market in Recoleta wbere you can try comida chilena in La Vega Chica, or go for huge portions in the Tirso Molina.

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).

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.

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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.

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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.

Open Letter to Hospital Roberto del Rio

(I wrote this at Emilio’s bedside in hospital last year, and misplaced it until recently)

Dear Hospital Roberto del Rio,

When my 19month old Chilean son stopped breathing on Tuesday I did not think about the distinctions between public/private, Chilean/extranjero – I did not even think forward enough to put my shoes on. To see my son’s lips turn blue, eyes rolled back in his head and his small body convulse with seizures drove all thoughts from my mind except “save my baby.” Roberto del Rio is the closest hospital to my house and considered one of the best for pediatric care, and as we rode there in a stranger’s car I had no idea of the trial that was just beginning.

I have no real qualms about the care we received in Urgencia  – my son was saved not once but twice and all manner of exams were organized quickly. However when he was transferred to the children’s ward two things happened that was troubling, upsetting and concerning.  The first is that my position as a New Zealander with limited Spanish resulted in a condescending attitude being shown towards me by staff with a complete lack of communication on their part.  I was told that I should not be there if I couldn’t speak fluent Spanish, medicines were adminstered without my knowledge or consent, exam results were never explained and intimate details about my son’s case and our family were relayed to the other patients in the ward. Important questions were even directed to them. I was laughed at during my attempts to communicate (by the doctor no less) and those who did speak fluent English did not disclose this information. I felt abandoned, stressed and worried because I felt my son was not being laughed and instead of feeling support around me, all I felt was attack.  From a medical standpoint, the lack of interaction and interest shown is particularly concerning as vital information about my son’s symptoms were ignored or unheard by medical staff, meaning that they did not have a clear picture of my son’s condition.

The second concern is how my son was treated. He was confined to the cot – his place of rest – during his stay, and received all medical treatments and examinations in it. Twice a day he was left alone for testing for up to an hour and a half. He was not permitted to see his parents at the same time, which in our case is particularly troubling given then the father speaks English and could act as a translator.  My son very quickly began to exhibit signs of severe psychological stress and trauma: screaming, violent behahavior to himself, difficulty sleeping, self harm whenever he was left alone or saw a staff member coming. Staff members made derogatory remarks about him to co-workers and other patients in the ward, spoke harshly to him during testing and monitoring, and at times handled him very roughly (including forcefully administering a blood test that caused him great pain). Each time he was forced to be without me contributed greatly to his mounting terror.

I am disgusted that we should suffer such care and psychological harm in a place of care by the very people who take oaths to protect us. That my personal status as a non-chilean should have any bearing upon the care given to a baby is deplorable. To hear Chileans around me say that I must “suck it up or my son will be punished” goes against the core of biomedicine and of human rights in general. We are just two of many who have suffered at the hands of the system and will continue to suffer unless urgent attention is given to rectifying what I believe to be despicable breaches of ethical conduct.

Yours Sincerely,

Helen Cordery

UPDATE: After concluding our week-long stay at Roberto del Rio, and after having unnescessary tests performed, wrong medicines administered and various conflicting information and advice handed out, we returned home. Over the next few months we lived with a severely traumatised child. He could not sleep alone or eat properly,  developed a morbid fear of strange people and things and lost weight.  It took a very long time for our family to settle back into a normal routine and now, a year on, our son is still terrified of any medical situation.

Roberto del Rio Acceptable Practice Examples:

  1. Urgencia doctors exhibited professionalism
  2. One excellent female doctor in the ward that we saw on the Thursday morning
  3. Quick exams performed in Urgencia
  4. One friendly tecnical assistant during our ward stay.

 

List of Grievances:

  1. Lack of translation, interest in translation or attempts at communicating with me, despite being our son’s carer
  2. One nurse hurt Emilio while administering a blood test and made no apology
  3. One nurse reprimanded us for not getting appropriately attired before bringing our technically-dead son to the hospital
  4. Spinal exam performed without anaesthetic
  5. Three doctors did not disclose to me that they could speak fluent English in the ward, even when I was visually struggling to communicate vital information
  6. The Declaration of our rights was partially translated into English but most of it was not
  7. All exams were administered when Emilio was in his cot
  8. Despite being told our twice-daily seperaion would last 10-20 minutes, one time it lasted 1.5 hours.
  9. Conflicting information from nurses
  10. Nurses talked about our case to other patients in the room, sometimes negatively
  11. Staff directed all questions to other patients in the room instead of to me
  12. At no time was information given to us about our son’s condition, his test results or his medicines
  13. One doctor laughed at me while attempting to speak
  14. Repeated remarks made about my son being “too scared” and that it was “the mother’s fault.”
  15. No attempt to ease his pain
  16. No nappy cream administered or offered despite having diarrhoea that was acidic. His entire bottom was bleeding and leaking green pus.
  17. No help when Emilio vomited and could not breathe in front of the staff
  18. When I needed help I had to repeatedly ask.
  19. Each concern I raised was met with “no entiendo nada”
  20. I was shouted at  allowing vomit to get on the cot sheets
  21. I was kicked awake by a tecnica while sitting on my suitcase
  22. Conflicting medical advice given
  23. Dietary advice given that is not in accordance with common international practices, such as WHO.
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Emilio five days before going into hospital.
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Emilio five days in to his hospital stay and finally lucid.
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Emilio  five months after his hospital visit

 

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.

Mummy Diaries: When It Doesn´t Work

Tomorrow is Mothers Day! On my street there is a party amosphere in the air and next door Jose’s family have prepared a lavish display of bouquets and ubiquetous roses to sell to our unprepared neighbours.   I have no doubt that the usual empanadas and ceviche delights will make an appearance later, or that they will sell like hot cakes.

In Santiago, any cause for celebration (and sales) are clutched at with fervour. Easter is the same, so was Dia del Nino, a holiday followed with gusto and which I’d never even heard about before coming here.

I don’t like the forced and commercial aspects of manufactured days such as Mothers Day, but I do like the idea of taking a moment to thank and honour loved ones.  Particularly mothers who, thanks to ridiculous societal expectations, often feel like they do 1001 things without much notice. Men have an equal role in the household of course, but it’s safe to say that their a difference between the male and female modus operandi.

Luis avoids birthdays, dreads Christmas and shuns all other “special days”. He really doesn’t have to – saying thank you does not have to come with expensive gifts or a diminished bank balance. Although this day is dedicated to all the hardworking mamas out there (YOU!), I’m about to break protocol and say gracias to the daddy in our household. It is thanks to Luis’ business-savvy ideas and hard slogs at night in the taxi that I have been fortunate enough to work part-time over the past year and be at home with Emilio after my studies concluded.  This is the same hardworking individual who has been robbed at knifepoint and threatened in front of the barrel of a gun over the years – driving a taxi is not a picnic. Thanks to Luis we own two houses and I have been able to discover areas of Chile that are rarely seen by expats, let alone tourists.

The last three months have been a time of unbearable tension in our home, and not really through any fault of ours, either. In a nutshell, we bought a car to rent out as a taxi (as we have done three other times before), of which we needed to buy the rights seperately. Thanks to Santiago’s congestion and pollution problem, there is now a limit to how many taxis can be officially on the road so it is now no longer possible to buy new taxi permission. The normal practice now is to thus buy the papers secondhand.  Luis took out a bank loan to do this, of CLP$9 million. This seems like a lot, but once rented out the taxi basically pays for itself and creates quite a good income (or it did before Uber!). Luis found rights that matched our model of car , met with the owner and went with her to the notaria in San Miguel.  Once there, the notary checked all the documents, said all was hunky dory and cleared Luis to pay the woman. Luis did so. But one month later the notary had gone silent and nothing had been processed. Luis was livid and concerned as that meant that nothing had been transferred into his name and so therefore the car was sitting in the yard … and still a car. The bank loan still needed to be paid.  A lawyer advised us to speak to the head notary himself and demand compensation for our loss of business but, while the man admitted the mistake, he laughed at the thought of handing out money. Another months laters and Luis was positively shitting himself, especially as the police called to say that actually the ID and some of the documents were as fake as Kim Kardashians face  and that he was actually number 5 on the list of taxistas previously scammed.  Thanks to the ridiculous delay in transferring titles, all camera footage at the notary and the bank had been deleted and the notary worker who had authorised the documents had up and vanished.  All the while this was happening the bank was hounding us to make repayments on the loan that we now couldn’t possibly afford …

Luis has since been in and out of the police, hassling them and making statements. An investigation has been launched and the police are finally taking it seriously, particularly due to the grave implications the notary’s involvement infers.  Around the same time two of our cars needed to have extensive repairs done after being crashed by careless drivers, while all our other bills mounted. It’s been a time of unprecedented stress, especially as it came at the same time as 1) my recovery from last year’s attack 2) the quiet time for my work and 3) the awful sickness that my finally falling pregnant heralded (think vomiting blood every ten minutes). To add further difficulty, Luis had just started university as well.

We have fought and cried and despaired and hated the sight of each other and had long absences … but still we survive. We have been together only five years but in that time we have lived through two long distance relationships, travelled together, lived apart, lived together, and also suffered together when our son became gravely ill.  We are together still because we genuinely enjoy each others company and balance the other’s faults out. There’s no-one else I want to be with and I am so thankful that he is the father of my children. I honestly respect and love him, and it breaks my heart to see him struggle.

We are not going to stay in Chile, in fact once we are able we will head out on a new adventure. But through it all and no matter what I will stand by Luis during successes and mistakes, through happiness and hardships. No importa that tomorrow is the Dia de la Mama, I would not be a mother without Luis and I am thankful for every moment that we have.

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Our Miles & Smiles venture has helped enormously as we have been able to do something with the car, so I would like to take this moment to personally thank each and every customer who has booked with us, recommended us or shared our information, particularly the community of English Speaking Mum’s who have so far been our biggest client group.  We have also been overwhelmed by the generosity shown by friends, Facebook acquaintances and certain family members who have reached out during this tumultous time. Another GRACIAS goes to all those English Speaking Mums (them again!) who have helped me on the job hunt, either by taking a chance on me, referring me or continuously booking my services in childcare. Much appreciated everyone!! I’d also like to point out that we are still so very, very fortunate compared to many in Santiago and, although Ojos Abiertos has not been active so far this year, any opportunities that you can think of that we can get involved with to give back please don’t be silent and we will do our bit to do our bit, even if that’s rallying the troops or blogging about a cause.

Pasteleria Lalaleelu

If you live in Nunoa then you are SO much luckier than I am.

No, no, no – it has nothing to do with any of those reasons you are probably conjuring up right now. It’s actually because you live in close vicinity to this place: Pasteleria Lalaleelu!!

Run by Young and Amy, a husband and wife team from South Korea and Taiwan respectively, this is a shop that knows it’s cakes and takes them seriously. The couple met in Australia while studying French Cuisine and the French’s reputation for excellence, refinery and delicious pastries are evident the moment you step inside this small but chic shop located just steps away from Metro Santa Isabel.  They opened when Amy was pregnant with baby Andres with the idea that everything on offer would be suitable for children, families and pregnant women.  They use no colourings and offer plenty of sugar-free and also dairy-free options for the vegans. No corners are cut either – everything is prepared from scratch on the premises using seasonal ingredients.  See that Raspberry Tart?  That vibrant, rocking red is all from the fruit which Young has the skills to masterfully display.

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The shop itself is small and simple but one of it’s highlights is Amy and Young themselves who man the store every day. They talk to everyone and when I visit they seem to know every customer. The serving staff greet everyone with huge smiles and, to be sure, everyone leaves happy. This is a place where the atmosphere is genuine and where families are welcome, just take a deeper look at the shop name, a mix of Amy and Young’s last names and Lala, the nickname of Andres.

But the reason to visit any cake shop is surely for it’s cakes and Lalaleelu does not disappoint. Highlights for me include the Jezy Limon, Torta de Limon and the so-good-I-want-to-marry-it, Devil’s Cake. For those stuck at the counter struggling to decide between winter fruits and chocolate, why not try them all by splurging on the Cake Testing option? There are also a variety of drinks, breads and other pastries to try.

Young is a master of his craft who serves a dazzling array that places Lalaleelu at the top of their game. Nunoans you have a good reason to smile with food of this quality on your doorstep. Definately worth a special trip.

Website: http://www.lalaleelu.cl

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pasteler%C3%ADa-Lala-Leelu-761747433852311/?fref=ts

Phone: (2) 2980 7252

Address: Santa Isabel 0106, Nunoa (Metro Santa Isabel)

Opening Hours: Thursday, Friday & Saturday 11am-20.00

 

* Pasteleria Lalaleelu also offer custom-made cakes *

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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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