Here is a little collection of my first thoughts and/or experiences in Santiago after 4 days. Big disclaimer: these are not a good representation of Santiago as they are based only on a few days of jet-lagged dazed Santiago living – in the more modern part. Plus we’ve not done any touristy things yet, as it’s really tough to get out with Em in a perpetually under-slept cheery mood. But for fun, some things I’ve thought over the past days.
The “reciprocity” fee. Annoying. When you get off the plane in Chile, as one of around 5 specially chosen nationalities (Canadians, Americans, Australians, and a few others), you get the opportunity to line up and pay a “reciprocity” fee of a $132. They even take cash or card – how helpful. Of course, Achim doesn’t get this special treatment as a German. Bah, Canadians must really screw the Chileans with their visas. Cant we all just be friends?
People like kids. I know, I know, you cant help but think “Australians like kids! Canadians like kids!” But not like this – I swear. Every day (in my massive 4 days of experience) I am surprised by the child-friendliness of Chileans. It started right from the get-go. As soon as we walked off the plane, we encountered the customs line which was at least 1.5 hours long. Groaning, with an overtired and cranky child, we got into line. Promptly, we were plucked away to the family-fast-track line while all of the customs officers smiled at Em. When you walk into a store, you feel like people are more excited to see you because you have a child, rather than rolling eyes thinking “just spend your money and get that toddler out of here before they smear cheese on my walls.” In the grocery store yesterday, I even caught the 20-something guy restocking the veggies making funny faces and waving to Emily. And not in a creepy pervy way, in a genuine “your little girl is adorable” way.
Grocery stores are great. This is relative of course. Compared to Coles in St Kilda, or maybe Valumart in Tweed, the grocery store options are really fantastic. Fresh produce, massive variety of foods, cheese, bread – you can buy fresh ceviche and have a little snack while you shop. I was expecting the opposite. I have never ever seen a grocery cart contraption like the below, which was a blessing and a curse. Blessing in that Em LOVED shopping and didn’t fuss at all. Curse in that she must actually leave the car at the end of the shopping trip (insert massive, massive tantrum).
Malls. In the ‘newer’ end of town, people love their shopping malls. Apparently there are many massive malls where generally people do all their shopping – and the malls are open until 10pm. We even discovered a “Home Depot” (called something else here) in a shopping mall – go figure. Compared to Melbourne there is very little ‘street shopping’ in the new part of town- but it does exist in a few suburbs.
Cheap fantastic wine. Ok I did expect to get decent wine, but great wine for $12 a bottle is a girl’s dream, no? An Argentinean Chandon brut is around $15 – a bargain, and delicious. And I’ve only tried a few random wines…thousands more to try! Worth delaying baby #2 for that, no?
Air Pollution. I think you get used to it after being here a while. But the mountains (gorgeous, snowcapped Andes mountains) are literally a few kilometres away….and since we’ve been here (again, 4 days, so what do I know, really), I’ve not seen much of them. They’re a dark outline behind the city – covered in haze. The pollution does clear in the evening so you get a real view…but it makes me sad. I wish the government would do something about the pollution – this could be such an amazing city but there is that constant “will this do harm to my child’s lungs?” feeling sitting in the back of my mind. And this is summer – apparently its way worse in winter. I think I’ll have a few posts on that in the future!
Service service service. For a small tip, people pack and carry your groceries or pump your gas, and it’s common in Santiago for people to have cleaners, and full time nannys or housekeepers, etc. A full-time nanny/housekeeper costs about the same as a 2 days of childcare in Australia. It’s not just the ‘rich’ that get this service……it’s going to be a little too easy to get used to, me thinks.
Initial ramblings, and lots more to come when we settle in a bit more and have the chance to explore.