We started school two weeks ago. I am one of those moms who love having kids home in the summer…and then love sending them back to school in the fall. Because of our weird southern hemisphere/American school situation, we are still in the same grades following summer break, and our transition back into school has gone mercifully well.
We had one of the laziest summers I can remember — a few daily jobs for everyone, but largely a lot of relaxation and almost no travel. The highlight was my parents coming (remember Matt’s mom had come before Christmas, which was also wonderful).
At home with my kids in the summer, life feels so normal. We have a pool here, so that’s an added bonus, but we’re not out doing lots of uniquely “Chilean” things, really. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I live in a foreign country. I’ve had some interesting Chile moments lately, though.
1. Since Mary’s January birthday falls in the summer here, we wanted to take a belated treat to her class the first week back. She chose donuts, and I made plans to stop at our local, all-American Dunkin Donuts shop (they have locations all over Santiago), and take them in for her 9:30 snack time. Inexplicably, they had NO DONUTS. The donuts are made at some central location and transported to all of the shops in the area, and they didn’t have any yet and didn’t know why. At 9:30 in the morning. That seemed crazy to me, but in South America, maybe not so strange.
2. I proceeded to the nearby grocery store to see what I could find as a substitute. Oreo cakesters (why are those both so good and so gross?) and juice boxes would work, I guessed. I grabbed a couple of other things, and headed to the checkout, hoping I wasn’t going to be too late. Things seemed to be moving slowly (this was unexpected, because this is a very large, very modern grocery store and it was still summertime, which is very quiet in Santiago) and as I got to the front, I noticed that the cashier was WRITING DOWN the UPC for each item. The computers weren’t working, I gathered. The workers seemed a little tense, but got people through, and after they wrote down my numbers, I realized they weren’t charging people. What? They had no way to charge, since the computers were down, so they were giving the food away! Extraordinary. The store wasn’t very busy, as most people in that neighborhood would still have been on their month-long February vacation, but I still don’t see how they could just give the food away.
3. Later that week, Jon went to a big birthday party at a fancy club near here (click here if you’re curious — pretty posh) and seemed to have a good time. Birthday parties are pretty over-the-top around here. When he came home with his goody bag, we had to laugh, because it included this:
That’s cologne. For children. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think that even exists in the US. They love to smell good here (it’s a Latino stereotype, and it’s true) and even things like hand soap and floor cleaner typically have way too much fragrance for my taste.
4. Ben went to his first big party — a Bat Mitzvah, and came home mostly talking about how free-flowing the soda was (deprived much?). His friends danced, but he didn’t, partly because he was guarding his precious prize:It had broken under its own weight. He had dreams of eating the entire thing (shudder) but the ants, which I constantly battle here, had other ideas…
5. Finally, (this is pretty un-related, but the post is about me remembering things that were memorable about Chile, so bear with me) I had the supreme privilege of helping someone the other day. A family from church had a baby over the weekend. They don’t own a car, and a taxi would have been pretty expensive for them, so I got to pick up the new dad and take him to pick up his wife and baby at the hospital. There are several hospitals near the area where they live, but their medical coverage meant they needed to go to the public hospital on the other side of the city, about a 30 minute drive. Spending the morning with them made me feel very fortunate. Just having a vehicle is a huge blessing. For the record, these are bright, dignified people who do pretty well for themselves. They live simply, but the husband is in school and has a decent job. The differences between social classes are often stark here, and this sweet couple is far from the bottom. I wish I had taken their picture while I had them in my car, but here’s one I swiped from Facebook of the beautiful baby and his sweet papa (couldn’t find one of the mom, who I love):For me, life in Chile is kind of like life in general — sometimes strange, sometimes frustrating, rarely boring, and sometimes, magical and pretty great.