Foodlays Chinese Food

image

Chinese Food Interesting Tidbits

Chinese food follows the basic principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which uses food as a way to treat disease, recover from injury and improve overall general wellbeing. There are five flavors that form the basis of dishes, of which taste is considered the most important factor and the soul of the food.   These are: salty, sweet, spicy, sour and bitter. The most dominant flavor you taste in a dish depends on the region you are in, therefore each plate can reveal to you an area´s geography, history and geography.

Spice expels wind and cold from the body.  It is popular in Central and Southern China. notably Hunan and Sichuan cuisine.

Salty food should be eaten sparingly and is for dissolving ¨stagnation¨.  This food is popular in the North of China, because there is a lack of fresh vegetables in winter so food is preserved using salt.

Sweet flavors can improve your mood and health while also cutting through the greasiness of some dishes.  Dishes that are predominately sweet originate from the East of China.

The sour taste is popular in the South, and is a very important part of TCM. It helps with digestion, quenches thirst and can also reduce a dish´s greasiness or fish flavor. Sour foods are common in the South where people are generally poor, and who pickle most of their foods to avoid wastage.

Bitterness is a component in many dishes alongside other flavors.  It is used to make dishes seem fresher and to satiate your appetite.

The North of China produces a lot of wheat, and so the people eat things like dumplings, wheat noodles and steamed or stuffed buns.  In the South they rarely eat wheat and instead rely upon rice products, of which they use in every meal.

18274862_10155166353845097_8360708400392285977_n

The quantity of fruit and vegetables eaten in China is double that of the Western diet, and they use dozens of varieties that are unknown outside of China, including many types of weed-like plants that have not been translated into English.  Food is eaten seasonally, in order to balance one´s yin, yang, dryness or dampness (TCM components). Bones are an important element of dishes, so fish is usually not served filleted, while the appearance of a dish is often symbolic, using shapes, colors and textures to represent traditions, holidays and superstitions.

 

Traditionally, food is served to be shared, placed in the middle of the table, which in restaurants is usually a turntable to promote the communal nature of eating.

Enter Foodlays, a large restaurant located near to La Vega in Santiago.

 

In my opinion, the food at I Ching in Independencia had bigger portions and nicer food but a few dishes really stood out, particularly the Spicy Eggplant plate as well as most of the noodle dishes.

The Nitty Gritty:

Disabled/pushchair access in lifts

Customer carparking (ask the guard at the entrance)

Outdoor patio, which we used as a kids playground when we were there (we didn´t see any smokers)

Most vegetable dishes options contain meat so ask before you order if you are vegetarian. 

Address: Los Artesanos 681, 3rd floor, Recoleta. Metro Patronato or Cal y Canto.

 

Note: A glance at the Facebook page for this restaurant shows a few bad reviews due to the presence of shark fin soup. I did not see this option on the menu when I was there. This post has not been sponsored.

 

 


If you like this post, check out:

I Ching Chinese Restaurant

Rico Saigon Vietnamese Food

Notes From The Street: Marta´s Story

¨The drugs were always there. They were there for my father when we had nothing to eat. They were there for my mother, when my father was in jail.  They were there for my sister after she was raped. And they were there for me, as I looked after my family and vowed that I would always rise up – raise my family up – so that nothing could hurt me.

I fell pregnant when I was 20, to a man I always thought was the greatest guy ever. He was so good looking then, and he was tough. No-one wanted to fight him – plus he was skilled with the knife. We met at a friends house when I was sixteen and I was just blown away by him. His charisma, his green eyes, the way he didn´t care what anyone thought.  I felt lucky that he chose me.

33215242500_fb1e5c59cd_o

After the baby came he moved in with my family.  He went to work, I stayed with the baby and took care of my nephews.  But then one day he didn´t go to work. And everything changed.  He took to dealing drugs from our home, which was nothing unusual for me as I knew all about drugs – I´d grown up with them. But the coke messed him up, it really did.  Every day was the same. I couldn´t stand it. I couldn´t stand him. We would fight in front of our children – we had two by then – because there was no where else we could go to fight.  He´d hit me and I´d hit him back. But I always stayed because I didn´t know how I´d be able to support myself and our children without the income he brought him from drugs. I was also a sucker for those green eyes.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0012.JPG

In the end it wasn´t a decision I had to make. He stabbed someone one night after a soccer match, got arrested and I never saw him again. I don´t think of him. I took over his job dealing the drugs, not because I love drugs but because I needed the money. It became something I was good at doing and to be honest I enjoyed the power

I met Pablo three years later. He is a quiet guy, someone that let me be go about my business. We had a lot of fun together. He also worked, which I liked. We have three children together and we live in the same place where I lived with Daniel, though we have bigger rooms because I´m the boss.

I am the boss. I bring in the most money and people are afraid of our family because there are a lot of us and we´ve been here a long time. There are fifteen adults living here and we have everything we need to defend ourselves in a situation. Situations do happen but I´m not afraid. Things do happen in front of the children because we can´t shelter them, though we do try to protect them. They are growing up the same way I did, though more stable because this time around there is always food on the table. They all go to school too. My sisters all work, and most of the men too, though there are a few bad eggs in every family that sponge off the rest of us. I don´t like the man my eldest daughter chose and I was not happy when she fell pregnant because of the strain it would put on me to feed an extra mouth, but I am surprised by how she has matured since her daughter was born.

I am proud of how I have built my family up. I am proud of how strong our name is. I live for the little things, for my children, my grandchildren and my nieces and nephews. I save for months to throw the best birthday parties and I love any excuse for a party.  I love watching soccer and I support Colo Colo. Sometimes I wish things were different – I have so many scars, seen so many horrific things – but I´m not bitter.

DCIM100MEDIADJI_0041.JPG

I am strong.¨

 

Notes from The Street is a series of interviews conducted with various people I have met during my time here. My aim is to humanize a different world to what expats normally encounter, but a Santiago one that thousands live none the less. For more stories try:

Jose´s Story

Santiago´s Children & Maria

Luis´Story

Jose & Pasarlo Chancho

Manuel & the Taxi Pirata

Luisa and being a mother

Luis, and the role of education

Diego

 

Ghosts of the Past: Exploring the General Cemetery

Those of you who have used our business, Miles & Smiles, may have noticed that we offer a tour named after my blog, Querida Recoleta. It was important to me to have an option that was a little different to all the usual options offered by agencies, particularly if it showcases how so many people in Santiago live.

It also includes a visit to the General Cemetery, which is probably my favorite place in Santiago.  Where else can you go to immerse yourself in history, take some great photos and walk or bike to your hearts content, sometimes to the sound of nothing but your breath and the distant hum of engines.  I like to go here to look at the architecture, read the names and think about all the people that came before me and called this place home.  I don´t find it to be morbid or unsettling – in fact I find it to be a calm, peaceful place to go when I need to step away and reflect.

16265707_10154865691530097_3340147037423072724_n

It is also almost alive with history.  This is the oldest cemetery in Chile where you can find 11 generations buried with enough skeletons to cover 117 football pitches. It was born in the 19th century beside hospitals and medical institutions so that bodies could be quickly taken away and looked after; before 1821, bodies were buried under ground which is today underneath the city pavement.

Patio 29 is where you can find all the unmarked graves of the disappeared, many of whom were abandoned in the Mapocho river, and close examination of tombstones will reveal the deaths that occurred during various epidemics (one particular area is dedicated to the lives lost during the 1887 cholera epidemic, which claimed 100,000).

 

16265847_1879666558978822_975462346326619979_n16298371_1879666888978789_7128883267629715041_n16387105_10154865705335097_8598363132845400201_n16388090_10154865671650097_3037402257504194392_n16388101_10154865681590097_3839583982934558637_n16388368_10154865681400097_7615815725340126383_n16406480_10154865678360097_2470126571988296717_n16426007_1879666738978804_3742633246887315744_n31936218143_89d76f0082_o (1)32847738975_7887f231a5_o

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.

10012589_10153037106400097_4953791479634533823_n
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.

Lunch Review: I-Ching Chinese Restaurant

As you may have gathered from my frequent blogs about food, I’m a bit of fiend when it comes to eating out, especially when it’s something exotic and flavourful like Indian cuisine. But there is an area where Luis and I are equally clueless and that’s – Chinese cooking. We have both only ever eaten a Chinese takeaway, usually accompanied by chips and a soggy wantan.  Here in Santiago, the Chinese restaurant was one of the first “exotic” foods to really take off, brought here by some of the many first-generation families from Asia of which Recoleta, in particular, has many. To Luis’ friends and family, a meal from one of these elaborately decorated establishments is the pinnacle of exoticism and worthy of a special occasion, despite bearing almost no resemblance to what is actually eaten across China and Asia. Since being in Chile I have been lucky enough to meet from all walks of life, including from Taiwan, a country I honestly know nothing about except for the fact that it’s the birthplace of my friend, Amy (who you may remember from Pasteleria Lalaleelu).  Amy really knows her food and she speaks Chinese, so who better than to initiate Luis and I into the wonders of Chinese food?

Last weekend we headed in a group to I-Ching, a huge second-storey restaurant that Luis and I have driven past a hundred times as it’s near our house. The place is BIG and almost forbiddingly so, with a water feature and an army of staff who direct you upon entering. This is important: Chinese patrons are always directed to the right which is characterized by large circular tables, while everyone else is directed to the left, which has smaller rectangular tables and Spanish-speaking staff. On the left you will find the usual recognizable menu (it’s massive) including all the usual dishes such as chop suey, spring rolls and even sushi. But it’s on the right-hand side where you must request to be seated, and it was a promising sign that when we entered this entire space was filled with Chinese diners. In this area there are three menus. There is a dim sum menu, featuring small dishes that are most commonly eaten in Hong Kong, there is the original menu (Chinese and Spanish with pictures) and there is a newer, smaller menu that has been on offer since August (Chinese only, pictures).  Given that patrons occupying this side are Chinese-speaking, the serving staff speak Chinese and very little Spanish so expect to point to what you want!

We left it to Amy to order for the table, and many of the dishes that we tried were seasonal and not on the menu, because like many cuisines, Chinese food is regional and based around seasonal ingredients.  Tea (free) was poured for each guest and frequently refilled; hot tea is what is usually drunk with a meal because it cuts through the oil in the food.  Dishes were brought rapidly from the kitchen and placed in quick succession on the rotating raised plate in the middle of our table, the idea being that food is shared between all.

And the food?

YUM!  It’s always a good sign when the chef is actually from China and that the place is packed with people who know the food.

“From my point of view, I-Ching changed their flavour after the chef came back from vacation in August, it was my favorite chinese restaurant, but since then they have changed some of the chinese chefs.  They have to improve to reach the standard they used to be,” Amy tell us.  Her other favorite Chinese restaurant is called Sheng Xing, which is a bit cheaper than I-Ching, and is located downtown.

“Both restaurants are good for certain dishes, they sometimes have similar plates for example duck, but the one in Av. España does a better job, while I-Ching does better fish.  There are other Chinese restaurants with different styles, but I-Ching and Sheng Xing are the styles that I personally like more.”

The restaurant has some other bonus points. It’s pretty loud and spacious inside so children can make noise without really being heard, plus there’s an indoor play area to rival all others (suitable from age 3+). Car parking is free for the restaurant.

Overall, highly recommended!!!

For four, Amy recommends ordering a stirfry noodle or rice, a vegetable, a meat plate and several dim sums. Expect to pay between $10,000-$15,000 per person depending on what you order. 

14233264_10154416188255097_5615492478229562996_n
Duck
14263987_10154416189015097_7559758477126994079_n
Mindblowingly delicious fish
14322318_10154416188745097_7713671101999610300_n
Seasonal Chinese vegetable similar to spinach – name unknown in English!
14333631_10154416188250097_122976564307091510_n
Pork 3 ways (requested dish, normally sold separately)
14344057_10154416188225097_7748928819008771465_n
Tofu

I-Ching address: Av. Independencia 1928, Independencia (closest metro is Einstein, 2.9km)

Sheng Xing address: Av. Espana 101-107, Santiago Centro (metro Union Latinoamericana)

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.
11134030_10153271951010097_5910490170635060532_n
Emilio five days before going into hospital.
1554507_10153239582255097_5283287174145827809_n
Emilio five days in to his hospital stay and finally lucid.
11996909_10153581519775097_405966360298248440_n
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.

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.

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.

10885018_10153025952230097_6907831747527083131_n

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.

Chile: A Poem

In Chile there are condors, cold waters on the shores

There are vines reaching wide and tales of ominous folklore.

There are rocks that don’t know rain beneath a canopy of stars

that shine from one corner to another, 2653 miles apart.

Volcanoes gaze over lakes, themselves watched by a mountain range

that stretches like wispy hair across a map tainted with bloodstains.

How lush is Chile’s country! It’s bursting from the seams

with melons the size of children, and daily bread, eggs and cream.

 

Santiago is a bloated whale beached in the sea between,

the spawn of Chinese Whispers and born of its many dreams.

The mountains bleeding snow, watching from the start

above people erecting fences, just barbed-wire tips apart.