The Santiago List 2017

Santiago – a city that is appearing in magazines and soaring up city polls everywhere. A stable place broken only by strikes, car horns, taxi/Uber strife and the odd delinquent. The restaurant scene is thriving, bursting forth as one of the top food destinations in South America with a growing ethnic scene that can rival overseas capital cities. Here is the list of places to see this year:

FOOD

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Cafe: Wonderland Cafe  (Barrio Lastarria)

Quirky and shabby chic would probably be the best words to describe Wonderland. Located in the best barrio for cafes, this addition deserves a mention just for its Drink Me: dessert and drink in one (chocolate is best). It also serves up a pretty decent brunch, that includes baked beans, sourdough bread and bacon.

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Cakes:  Pasteleria Lalaleelu (Ñuñoa)

Yet again, Lalaleelu takes the number one spot for cakes in the city. This tiny, family run establishment thrives, firstly because of its amazing customer service and secondly (its a tie) because of its quality tortas and pasteles that blend fine dining, french pastry techniques and casual. Order the Diablo or the Jeezy Limon.

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Casual: Tiramisu (Las Condes)

A few years ago, Tiramisu was the place to go. It´s star has faded a bit since then, but it still remains a good option for those needing something fast, casual, tasty and filling in a nice setting. The pizzas, pastas and breads are all good, as are the desserts, and the service is extremely professional. It is a great option for families and is not expensive.

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Ethnic Restaurant: Rico Saigon (Recoleta)

The restaurant doesn´t have the wow factor that its neighbour, Vietnam Discovery, does, but the food wins by leaps and bounds in the taste stakes. This is genuine, home cooked Vietnamese food – in fact you could easily think you are sitting in Mai´s dining room (you are).

Fine Dining Restaurant: 99 Restaurant (Providencia)

This restaurant is winning in every way. It´s been named one of the 25 best restaurants in Latin America and is frequently lauded by the dining out community, though it has yet to become common knowledge. Excellent value, service and food – make your booking before it really reaches its stride.

Food Delivery: La Paloma Saludables (Santiago)

Organic fruit, vegetables, Weleda products, vegan options, and things such as almond flour and coconut oil – all delivered to your door. Friendly service and they have a refrigerated van.

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Photo: Agricola Tinajacura

Free Range: Agricola Tinajacura (La Reina)

The physical store is in La Reina, but Tinajacura deliver to all of Santiago. This family run business sells free range eggs and meat from happy chickens, and antibiotic-free lamb.

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Home Cooked: South Indian Flavours (Las Condes)

Ingredients brought from India combined with lengthy fermentation techniques and prepared from scratch using the best fresh vegetables and meat from Tinajacura, this is the best option for Indian food, south Indian style, for you to enjoy in your own home.

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Romantic: Zully (Barrio Concha y Toro)

Visually, Zully is a restaurant that cannot be beaten, nestled in a sector with the power to transport you back in time. Its steps are laden with rose petals, there are expansive flower arrangements on each table and the themed rooms are dimly lit, quiet and private – perfect for eye gazing. The food is impressive – visibly stunning – and the restaurant frequently has deals.

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Touristic: Peumayen (Bellavista)

Peumayen is a beautiful restaurant. The service is amazing, waiters are bilingual and professional and the food … the food is so good. It might not be for everyone given that it combines various indigenous foods and amalgamates them into a fine dining experience (that means ingredients like horse, testicles etc).

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Vegan: Vegan Bunker (Ñuñoa)

This place is my go-to for a quick bite to eat that is healthy and cheap – bonus points for being vegan. They always have a filling set menu but the real highlight is the cake display – so good!

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Vegetarian: El Huerto (Providencia)/ Quinoa (Vitacura)

This was a difficult toss up. On the one hand, El Huerto has huge portions that are delicious and spread across various cuisines, but it also has average service and a below average seating arrangement. Quinoa, on the other hand, has a relaxed and calm setting with good service and excellent food but the menu is smaller and portions are definitely so.  Varanasi (Vitacura) is another excellent option for vegetarians but it is not strictly veg-only – the menu contains meat, chicken and fish, as well as gluten free and vegan meals.

 

SIGHTS

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Bahai Temple (Peñalolen)

Joining temples in India, Australia, Uganda, Germany, Panama, Samoa and North America (among others), this center of religious worship welcomes all creeds and provides a relaxing, tranquil setting to commune with oneself or a higher power. The temple is awe-inspiring, perfect for photographers, but it is also incredibly romantic.

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Costanera Center Observation Deck (Las Condes)

A jarring addition to the Santiago skyline, this behemoth skyscraper reaches upward with phallic splendor, providing the most impressive views of the city and leaving the mighty Cerro San Cristobal hill far below. It isn´t cheap to ride up but it takes just two minutes and the vista is worth it, particularly during sunset.

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General Cemetery (Recoleta)

This is the oldest cemetery in Chile and one of the biggest in South America, this is a colossal place to lose yourself amongst the tombs of history.  The skeletons contained would fit into 117 football fields and date back 11 generations. Come here to walk or bike, and lost yourself in silence.

DAY TRIPS

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Salinas Salt Flats and Reserve

Just outside of Cahuil, near to Bucalemu and Pichelemu, are the salt flats of Salinas. This beautiful setting makes for a pleasant walk, particularly for the bird watchers among you, and can be enjoyed by families. Best combined with the beaches.

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La Campana National Park

You can hike, bike, horseride or casually walk to your hearts content in this biosphere reserve, once traversed by Charles Darwin.  This remarkable park is home to a dazzling array of flora and fauna, including the Giant Hummingbird and the majestic Chilean Palm, which is sadly endangered.

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Photo: Trish Shaw

Embalse el Yeso (Cajon del Maipo)

The Maipo Canyon is like a detox for the soul – particularly after the city.  One of the best ways to escape it all is to detour to the Embalse el Yeso, a huge reservoir that supplies water to Santiago.  The drive is scenic and you would be hard pressed to find a better spot to experience the mountains.

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Casas del Bosque (Casablanca Valley)

This winery has been named the best Chilean Wine Producer at the International Wine & Spirits Competition in London for the last two years, and it´s restaurant, Tanino, has been named as one of the best twenty winery restaurants. Aside from the wine (click the link for more information), the winery makes for a lovely day out, perhaps for hiking or bike riding.

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Valparaiso

The hills are perfect for walkers, art lovers, amateur photographers or those seeking a bit of culture, while the flat city and the port are for those looking to immerse themselves in history. For centuries, Valpo was the most happening place in Chile, port of entry and departure, and throughout the course of time has been plagued by pirates, been a center for the South American slave trade and attracted innumerable artists – all of which have left their mark upon this incredible UNESCO heritage spot.

 

Where are your favorite spots? Share them in the comments so I can check them out!

Cover Photo: Trish Shaw

La Campana National Park

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If  I could recommend two places for people to visit, Valparaiso would be at the top of the list, followed closely by this place: La Campana National Park.

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I don´t know why this place spoke to me so much, but speak to me it did.. Perhaps it is because its a world biosphere reserve, designated so by UNESCO.  Across the 8000 hectares of the park, you can lose yourself amongst one of the world´s last remaining Chilean Palm forests which, in one of the great travesties of the world, is sadly on the verge of extinction thanks to over exploitation and the encroaching environment of man. This tree is truly a thing of beauty, despite being labelled as ¨a very ugly tree¨ by Charles Darwin, who ascended the looming Cerro La Campana in 1834.  The sap from the tree is made into Palm Wine as well as Palm Honey, the latter of which is hugely popular  and involves felling the tree and then draining out the sap over several months (yielding around 300 litres of honey). This is now strictly regulated under Chilean law given the tree´s endangered status. In addition to wine and honey, the tree´s leaves can be utilized for basket making and the seeds eaten. No-one knows for certain just how old the trees can grow, but many of the trees in La Campana are hundreds of years old, and up to 40 meters tall. The greatest concentration of Palm trees can be found in the Palmar de Ochoa, a sight which honestly took my breath away as for a minute I almost thought I saw a dinosaur nibbling at the top fronds.

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The park is also home to some 320 native and endemic trees and plants, which are pointed out to you by helpful signs. Various Chilean cacti are among them, which are interesting enough on their own. There are 180 different species of Chilean cacti, with the greatest diversity located in the region of Coquimbo, to the north. These are some of the most resistant and unique cacti in the world, with some routinely growing under snow and as high as 2200m above sea level.  In fact, the Austrocactus philippi plant is so accustomed to cooler weather that it cannot cope with temperatures higher than 25 degrees celsius and is particularly rare, found only in one location in the world.

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Walking around the park honestly made my spirit soar. Plants to look out for include persea lingue, litharea caustica, chusquea culeou, Chilean wineberry, radal, lignum vitae, peumo, boldo, and many others. The stillness – especially after all the noise of Recoleta – was like a metaphorical hug for the soul and was broken only by the sound of the wind rustling the palms and the scuffling of animal feet on the ground. What else might you see in the park? Try chinchillas, foxes, vizcachas, owls, Chilean mockingbirds, diucas, giant hummingbirds, eagles and more.

The Nitty Gritty:

There are several entrances. We visited the section closest to Ochoa (Palma de Ochoa), with the highest concentration of Palm trees. .You enter in with the car and there are short and longer walks to do, including La Cascada trail which leads you to the 30m waterfall.  The vegetation is divided into four parts: sclerophyll forest, laurifolio higrophyle forest, spiny thickets, and low altitude thicket. It is not pushchair friendly but there are various resting points, as well camping facilities. Shade is limited and temperatures are dry and hot in summer, and average 11 degrees celsius in winter. Payment to CONAF is required upon entry and ID is necessary. Good shoes recommended as the ground is spiky. Take plenty of water.

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).

Welcome Baby M!

Luis, Emilio and I are super pleased to announce the arrival of baby M, born Sunday 25th September 2016 in Talagante, Chile.

An intense natural birth with the world-famous in Chile Talagante midwives. I can’t recommend Rosa and Eliana enough. For a holistic approach to birth, please send them a Whatsapp message:

Secretary (for appointments): 56 9 9796 4143

Rosa Maria (lead midwife): 56 9 8428 4658

Eliana (midwife): 56 9 4277 8258

*detailed post coming soon*

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.

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. .

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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