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.

Uber in Santiago

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

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

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

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

a) cars are airconditioned

b) cardoors are automatically locked upon entry

c) 6/10 vehicles are privately owned

d) 10% of drivers are women

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

f) offers discounts and promotional rides

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

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

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

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

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

For groups and day trips: RS TRANSIT