Hiking in our Backyard

This week we realized one of the only benefits to the school bus arriving at 6:50 a.m.:   John and I headed out on a hike at 7 a.m.  Knowing we didn’t want to get stuck in morning traffic, we decide to try a hike right in our “gated community” (hate writing that term).  We thought it might not be a great hike but would be good to check out.

Turns out the hike was amazing.  Most of hike was off trail but at the top of the mountain were beautiful meadows.  We saw many birds, some bunnies and a few lizards.  It will be interesting to see how the terrain changes as we progress into Spring soon.

Santiago is a hotbed of outdoor adventure sports.  And, hiking is taken very seriously around here.  At Nido de Aguilas Madie is taking an after-school activity called climbing and trekking.  And, I just learned that there is a parent hiking group that selects a new trail every other week and meets for a two to four hour hike.

The resources for hiking are amazing too.  You can find great Web sites that map out hundreds of trail options such as Andeshandbook.org and Fundacion Sendero de Chile.  The project Sendero de Chile is attempting to connect and create a major trail system all across the Chilean territory stretching from North to South.  

And, all of this is just hiking in Santiago.  Also popular are mountain biking, skiing (see skiing in August), and more extreme adventures across the country.  Obviously trekking in Patagonia should be amazing.

I came across a great blog post from Madador Trips which talks about Reserva Ecológica Contrafuertes Cordillerano in Santiago.  I really want to check this one out. It says there is an incredible waterfall at the end.

John and I enjoyed out trip so much we took the kids back this morning.  We decided it would make for a great weekend activity.  We can try and see how many hikes we can do before we head home.  This one was literally in our backyard.  In fact, we took this picture that shows our house just to the left off the golf course.

View of Av. Golf Los Lomas 9956

We ended up hiking for two hours and the kids did great.

We tried to keep on the lookout for animals.  Madie and Jack made up signs we could use to alert each other to any animal sighting as we stayed quiet looking for rabbits.

After about an hour we made it to the top and had a little snack.

You could see all around Santiago, including the city.  We tried to see if we could find the W hotel in El Golf downtown, the hotel we stayed at when we came to visit our first time.

Looking out with the City of Santiago in the distance.

After two hours, we made it back to the bottom.  Kids were proud of the long hike they accomplished.  What a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Soccer in South America

They call soccer “futbol” in South America.  In South America futbol is very big because they have some of the best teams in the world like Brazil.

Universidad CatolicaUniversidad de Chile and Colo-Colo are the main teams in Santiago.  We are going to support Universidad de Chile.  I have not been to a game yet but I really want to go to a game.

On Tuesday and Thursday I have Futbol at Nido de Aguilas.  Most days after school I play soccer with one of my friends and some people I don’t know.  Everyone is very good.

Pick up futbol game at Nido

Sick in Santiago (part two)

Even with our success at Clinica Alemana, we still needed a new nebulizer for Jack.  The following day I head out in search of the medical supply store. Now, even the most basic interactions are challenging in a country where no one speaks English. Add driving and a medical supply store and you know things are not going to go smoothly. As I make it to the highway, a bit panicky about the aggressive driving approach of Chileans, I realize that the gas light is on in our rental car. Not only am I the one stuck roaming Santiago for a medical supply store, John left me a car with no gas. He could have at least mentioned the car needed gas 🙂

In chile, you can’t fill up your own tank of gas (not that I would be able to do it, nor would I know if our rental is diseal or gasoline -both are options here). You must pull up, communicate with the attendant, understand what the amount is he says to you (most purchases I simply hand over the largest denomination I have in my wallet and trust in honesty) and then tip him appropriately.

As I get off the highway and contemplate the task ahead, I give myself a pep talk and scroll through my small phrase book for an “automobile” section and find how to say, “fill it up.” I manage to make my way through the whole awkward interaction, and leaving I’m incredibly proud of myself for such a relatively easy task.  I find I’m often congratulating myself for relatively easy tasks.

My success at the gas tank ushers in a series of successes.  I find the medical supply store and get the nebulizer. I had left nothing to chance.  I had brought our old nebulizer that we burned to be sure I could show what I needed.  I find my way back to Lo Barnechea, the area we live in Santiago. I stop at the Papa John’s Pizza shop and successfully order a pizza ( thanks to big pictures on the menu board and knowing the words “solamente” and “queso”) and I even manage to get to the pharmacy and find the cold medicine Jack needed.   Feeling like a rock star, I head home.



Redding Made it!

Our dog Redding, who is 13 years old, arrived this morning to our house in Santiago.  We debated and debated about whether to bring him or leave him with my mom in Florida.  We decided to bring him but I was incredibly nervous about him making the trip.  He was picked up in Cocoa Beach Florida yesterday, driven in a car to Miami and then put on an overnight LAN flight to Santiago.

We are so happy to have him here.  He is a bit confused, but otherwise doing fine.

Sick in Santiago (part one)

It is flu season in Santiago and the entire family got hit.  Monday afternoon, Jack’s nebulizer came out because his asthma always flares up when he is sick. We plugged it in to give him a treatment, started a movie and next thing you know, the machine is ON FIRE, billowing smoke across the living room. We absent-mindedly plugged it in with only an adaptor and not a converter! Good news: we didn’t burn the house down. Bad news: we had to find a way to get Jack his medicine and buy a new nebulizer in Santiago Chile.

We had the name of an asthma specialist John had visited at Clinica Alemana as we were contemplating the decision of moving to Santiago. John called her office and they explained they had medical equipment at the clinic and he should come down to the clinic. What luck!  Relieved, John headed to the clinic to purchase a new nebulizer.

John returned a short time later empty-handed. Turns out, they literally meant the equipment was at the clinic – they said to bring Jack in and they could give him his treatment at the clinic. So we all loaded into the car and headed out.

No one in the clinic spoke English (no surprise). I muddled my way through with the receptionist saying “Mi Hermoso,” “Daniella,” (the name of the nurse we were supposed to ask for) and pointed to Jack and sat down.  We were basically in a fancy ER that looked more like a high-end doctor’s office than an emergency room. They had a woman selling espresso, football on the television and we sat among all the beautiful Chilean mothers decked out in the right boots and fashionable dark winter layers. After more than an hour,  the nurse came into the waiting room and we were ushered back into an exam room.

The kind nurse greeted us with no English. She took Jack’s temperature and shared the reading in Celsius  in Spanish. We all stared at one another with polite smiles but no ability to credibly exchange information and she left the room.

Next came in our lovely English-speaking nurse the doctor had suggested we visit. She  asked us for the vial of medicine to give Jack his treatment. We never thought to actually BRING the medicine to a hospital. A hospital has medicine. But, they literally intended for John to bring Jack AND his medicine. So the doctor explained they don’t have the same medicine in Chile and they could use “the equivalent.”

What exactly do you do with that information as a parent? Do you say, “Yes, please do give my sick seven-year old (who is allergic to everything) a random steroid that I have never heard of.” And, as you are making that insane statement, do so in a new language where miscommunication is inevitable. But, there was no better option, so we tried it, and thankfully, all was fine.

Next, the nurse came back in and said that Jack should go ahead and start taking his “stronger steroid” given his medical history. This “stronger steroid” is a medicine I try to avoid at all costs, but I also know that when he is very sick, he should take it. We nod and agree to do it. Once again, they don’t have the exact “stronger steroid” but they have one that is given in only two doses, equivalent of ten doses in the States. Do we say, “sure, give my sick seven-year old this even stronger version of the “stronger steroid?” Assuming of course that it was not a mistranslation. But, there was no better option, so we tried it, and thankfully, all was fine.

As we were ready to leave, I claimed the visit a success and Jack stopped me to say, “not quite yet mom, we still need to figure out how to pay.”  It cracked me up.  Truly every step has its challenges.  And, he was right, American Express has put a hold on my card because they believe our purchases in Chile might be fraud. I have called three times to get it resolved, they have even sent me a new card, insisting my card does not have a hold. But once again, I can tell by the expression of the cashier, that it is not approved.  Thankfully my ATM card worked and we head home.

Three great things.

First, it rained all last week which translates to snow in the mountains.  The snow-capped mountains that surround us in every direction are now incredibly beautiful.

Snow-capped mountains around Santiago.

Second great thing.  We found Maple Syrup (which unfortunately cost us the equivalent of $30) and baking soda which allowed for us to make pancakes this morning.  They were delicious.

Baking Soda + Maple Syrup = Happy Kids

Third great thing:  We finally bought our cars and returned our rental car.  While the cost of cars in Chile was hard to digest, we are pleased to be done with this painful task.  We found two used cars – a Hyundai Sonata and a Subaru Tribeca (which has four-wheel drive for ski adventures).  Of course,  if we were back in Atlanta, we could have bought this car instead of the Tribeca.

John buying the Subaru

Our New Cars in the Garage

Becoming Eagles

We are beginning our third week at Nido de Aguilas . The school is about the size of three football fields, which is considerably larger than TCS.  Back in Atlanta, every grade had two classes. Here, every grade has five or six. I’ve been put in 4C, and Jack is in 2D. There are people from all over the world in my class. I have a few boys from Chile. A girl from Denmark. And a girl who has just moved here from Turkey. My brother has even more countries represented in his class. There is a boy from Australia.There is a girl from Boston, a boy from Asia and a kid from Paraguay. My teacher is from Ecuador, but speaks perfect English. All the classes are in English, but I have Spanish class every day.

My mom has absolutely no idea what to give us for breakfast, let alone what to pack in our lunches, so we’ve been getting hot lunch at the school cafeteria. It is normally not that good. For instance, one day there was this weird fried meat and I couldn’t tell if it was chicken or fish. And for dessert there was blueberry-flavored foam. But the Pizza Fridays I can live with. A slice of pizza is 1000 pesos which is  equivalent to two dollars in the States.

We wear uniforms at Nido. It is a little disappointing because I don’t get to do any back-to-school shopping, but then again, they are not the scratchy skirt and collared shirt that you would expect from a uniform. We actually get to wear sweatpants and t-shirts that say  “Nido de Aguilas” across the front. They are very strict though. You’re not allowed to wear any non-Nido sweatshirts and if you have any non-Nido clothes on, you need to cover them with something “Nido” and you can’t take them off. There is also a swim suit you have to wear for swimming (Nido has its own gigantic swimming pool).

Jack looks hilarious in his swimsuit!

We started after school activities last week. Nido has everything from introductory golf to cooking. I’m taking Climbing and Trekking on Mondays. Introductory Golf on Tuesdays. Art Reinforcement on Wednesdays. And Girl Scouts on Thursdays. Nido doesn’t have options for Fridays. (I don’t exactly know why.) I was a little disappointed to learn that Girl Scouts don’t sell cookies here. I’m going to need to ask my friends back in the states to mail me some Thin Mints.

At recess, instead of your teacher choosing a playground and sitting down to watch you play and make sure you don’t get hurt, they just say, “it is recess time, go explore the school.” You are allowed to go to the art room, to the library,or you can play on the playground. You can also use recess as time to catch up with your friends in other classes (not that I have many of those yet). And at the end of the school day, instead of waiting for your mom or dad to arrive, they just say, “Goodbye Madie.” and let you leave. You can play soccer with your friends (which Jack does every day) while waiting for your mom or dad to arrive. Nobody escorts you to and from the buses either.

I take the bus every morning. It picks me up right outside the giant gate to my house. (I think it might crash if it went down our 20-foot almost vertical driveway). The only bad part about school is that the bus picks me up at 6:53 a.m. and school starts at 7:45. Back in Atlanta, we were not even our of beds until 7:45. My mom tried to take a picture of us getting on the bus the first morning, but it barely came out it was so dark out.

You can see my backpack as I gets on the bus.

I was really, really sad to leave TCS, but I think we may have found something that is (almost) better!

I’m no longer worried about the ants

We have ants in our entryway. This stream of small ants that are defiantly traipsing through our entryway because it is warm inside and cold outside. I decided to talk to our gardener Pablo to see what he might suggest to get rid of them.

Pablo and I have difficulty communicating. I speak very little Spanish. He speaks absolutely no English. I gestured for him to come with me to the entryway and pointed to the ants. Through a series of hand gestures and spanish words, I understood “Raid” and realized he suggested I buy a can of Raid and spray it along the exterior of the front door. Makes sense. He continues…..the only bit I piece together from what follows is “Bedside Table,” and “Raid.” I think Pablo explained I should also get a can of Raid for my bedside table. Sounds very odd. Surely I must have missed something in the translation.

The next day I share my funny misunderstanding with Leonora. Leonora goes on to explain that Pablo wasn’t telling me to put Raid in my bedside table but telling me I should spray the Raid around my bedside…….Hmmmmmmmm

Leonora goes on to tell me of a spider in Chile called the Corner Spider. Let me quote from Wikipedia:

The Chilean recluse spider is a venomous spider, Loxosceles laeta, of the family Sicariidae (formerly of the family Loxoscelidae). In Spanish, it (and other South American recluse spiders) is known as araña de rincón, or “corner spider”; in Portuguese, as aranha-marrom or “brown spider”. This spider is considered by many to be the most dangerous of the recluse spiders, and its bite is known to frequently result in severe systemic reactions, including death.

Wow. So much for worrying around about ants in my entryway.

According to Leonora, while the corner spider stays away from people, they will bite when threatened. She recommended we don’t put our beds up against the corners of the room and we should be sure to shake out the sheets before getting into bed. She also suggested shaking hanging towels in the bathroom or shoes in a closet. She shared a story of her husband getting bit and having to go immediately to the emergency room. Apparently he was lucky because in his case they caught the spider and I should try and catch the spider if ever bitten.

Right. Catch the spider. Sure.

Oh, and tarantulas, they are all over Chile too, but those don’t bite and are harmless. I guess the Rose Tarantulas are commonly imported to the United States to be sold in pet stores as pets.

Needless to say I have become TOTALLY FREAKED OUT about this idea. People assure me that they are mainly out in spring and mostly in wooden houses. I don’t love the wood trim quiet as much as I used to.

Bohemian Lemonade?

We went downtown to Barrio Bellavista to have lunch on Sunday. Barrio Bellevista is a wonderful Bohemian neighborhood with lots of restaurants, shops and seems to always be a buzz with people. The energy comes from a number of colleges around the area creating an artistic and intellectual energy. The neighborhood has demonstrated this character since poet Pablo Neruda was a student and his house is a famous landmark in the area. I also understand this is one of the fun areas to go out at night if you are still young 🙂

A smaller enclave of Barrio Bellavista is Patio Bellavista which is a more touristy group of shops and restaurants. In fact, like many “bohemian” areas in big cities, Patio Bellavista seems to cross over into the more unauthentic tourist trap, but as tourists, we really love it.

Madie in the central square at Patio Bellavista

The tourist factor has probably also lead to an increase in security in the area. Our friends have warned me that I need to always be careful with my purse. While I’m always careful, I was surprised to see how far they take it at Patio Bellavista. I first thought these giant lanyards might be for college kids to carry an oversized cocktail around their neck. I learned that they are actually used to strap your purse around the table, preventing a thief from running away with it.

Straps provided at restaurants at Patio Bellavista to secure your handbag to the table.

As for dining out, We continue to struggle with translating an average menu to figure out what the kids will eat. Everything is just a bit different, no matter how similar if appears to be at first glance. Our latest example of this was our order of lemonade by Jack. We were so pleased when the waiter acknowledged that they had lemonade…until we received it.

Turns out what we ordered translated to a shot glass full of lemon juice and two packets of sugar. We all had a great laugh! And, in the spirit of “going with it” we asked for a glass of ice and managed to create our own lemonade.

Lemonade Santiago-style

Skiing in August

Madie skiing at Valle Nevado.

We should have bought a car today. We really needed to do that. But when we heard that people in the office were organizing a day trip to go skiing, we figured that was much better than buying a car. Friday night we met at the Mall of Sport (Yes, an entire mall based on sports) and purchased a bunch of ski gear and went to bed early for the 6 am wake up.

The drive up to the ski resort, Valle Nevado in our hired bus, was terrifying. I can not even imagine trying to wind the treacherous turns with snow or any ice at all. You feel like your fate is held with the random driver who is at the wheel and any slight distraction or just soil and rock erosion will land you tumbling down the mountain. We learned that despite first impressions, very few accidents happen. After a rather nervous hour of driving, we made it to the ski resort at the top.

Our only experience skiing has been in Lake Tahoe Nevada. This was quite different in that there is not a tree in sight. The runs were amazing, it felt almost empty and there was not a cloud in the sky. I can’t imagine a better day for skiing. And, how great to think that it is only a 90 minute drive from our house.