Sunday, 31 October 2010

The mystery of the disappearing mountains

It's been a week of mixed fortunes: getting used to the school run and making some friends, but also three out of the four of us going down with savage colds as the weather veers between powerful sunshine and cold winds... All this has taken place amid increasingly frantic househunting, pretty much done single-handedly so far while DH has been busy with a conference. At least my Spanish is coming along in leaps and bounds, especially the vocabulary associated with houses, buildings, apartments and rooms as I sift through the classifieds, sending off emails and making faltering telephone calls to various baffled estate agents around Santiago. Squeezing in the viewings into the slim margin of time after school and before we have headed back to our current location has required some careful planning and negotiating, but after taking both children backwards and forwards across town and back twice in one day I decided not to repeat the mistake. DH has been kind enough to try and make it along to the viewings in between his important work commitments so that as well as getting the benefit of his opinion I can actually have a good look around myself without running after DD2 all the time on unfamiliar territory, a particularly important point when faced with low balconies on the twelfth floor and other unexpected delights... It has been a steep learning curve and in less than a week I have narrowed down the area, description and orientation to an ideal, though whether we shall actually find it or not is another matter...
Today also saw DD1 attend her first children's party, something we'd all been looking forward to more than usual given the novelty of the situation. I don't think I'll be feeling the same next time, though the children thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the pandemonium, chaos, din and amusements on offer at Chuck E Cheese, a US import with machines apparently offering all sorts of entertainment but which in reality only issued paper tickets with which you could then "buy" something of your choice from the shop. Still, it was worth it to socialise with DD1's new classmates and of course meet their parents who were very friendly, welcoming and hospitable with as much pizza and soft drinks on offer as one could stomach... Even more appealing than this was the location of the venue, obviously on the outskirts of town nearer the better-heeled communities and set amongst a literally breathtaking spectacle of snowcapped mountains looming larger than ever after the rain of yesterday had cleared away some of the omnipresent city smog.

Monday, 25 October 2010

New girl again

Despite some initial reservations on my part the new school seems to be working for us so far. DD1 loves it and has already begun to settle in amongst her mainly Chilean classmates. On her first day she was treated like a celebrity as the other children marvelled at how well she spoke English (she is one of the very few native English speakers in a bilingual Spanish/English school). The advantage for her of course is that she should be able to pick up Spanish easily and quickly from her peers. She was most excited about the uniform, a colourful and very practical tracksuit for this age group, though from the beginning of the next school year she'll have to wear a more formal and traditional outfit including a shirt and tie... Only downsides are an absurdly early start (07.45) and fighting our way there and back on two metros each way during rush hour with DD2 in tow. However we are trying to live with it for now as we are only here in the centre for another couple of weeks... if we manage to find somewhere to move to which is in the vicinity of the school... Next task, and not an easy one.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

One month in

Well the buoyant mood has certainly been helping those of us new to these parts as we have had a good few days, though I'm beginning to sense a slight comedown effect. Last Friday DD1 had her evaluation at her prospective new school which went well and we were offered a place. Today after meeting the head and spending some more time at the school we have now met her new teacher, seen her classmates and procured her new school uniform, ready for her to start tomorrow morning...DD2 wants to know when she'll be going too. I am now experiencing very mixed feelings: I am delighted DD1 will finally be back in an exciting school environment, surrounded by children her age and engaging in stimulating, fun-filled activities rather than accompanying me on whatever errands I need to get done. However, DD2 and I will miss her great company and forever interesting observations as we have spent the last three months as an inseparable unit, first in our previous home then on this wonderful adventure. Also, being here means that we have had to choose an educational path that we hadn't planned to take back home, which leads to the inevitable questions about whether we have done the right thing, whether we are depriving our children of being in a more familiar environment and whether they'll thank us for this or not in the long run. At the moment even though the one month mark has passed and Chile seems less alien than it did a few weeks ago, I still cannot possibly imagine living here forever... Time will tell, DH assures me, it's too early to say, just enjoy being here and don't worry too much about what lies ahead. I wish it were that easy...

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Witnessing history

It was just past midnight last night when Concerned Husband summoned me back to the living room to witness the first of the trapped Chilean miners being lifted to safety in the scarily narrow but evidently robust rescue capsule. For a moment there was the usual silence one would associate with that time on a Tuesday night, then suddenly a roar emerged, first low then growing louder, not from the television we were watching but from outside our windows. This was followed by cheering, whooping, whistling, car horn beeping, bell-ringing and more...a nation rejoiced, under the scrutiny of the entire world. Now tonight the last miner has been rescued and the jubilation continues on the streets outside. Not that I've had the chance to join in, though, as of course the children are asleep in their beds, but at least one gets a sense of what is going on by the intermittent cheers.
A month has not passed since our arrival in Chile yet we have already celebrated two singular events: the bicentenary of Chile's independence on 18 September and now the release of the miners who had been trapped for over two months 700m underground and who had previously not been expected to be freed this side of Christmas. Quite a feat by anyone's standards. I did catch sight of a newspaper headline today accusing President PiƱera of creating a reality show of the miners' plight but I think that's a little unkind. The world media has seen to that. I have never seen or experienced such national pride manifested with such just cause. I feel optimistic to be in this country.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Is there anyone out there?

DD1's 6th birthday last week was a strange affair. Of course, we still don't really know anyone so couldn't organise a party after only being here for two weeks. To compensate for the lack of family and friends around to make a fuss of the birthday girl we went rather over the top with presents, which certainly put a few smiles on her face and ours. However the problem remained of how to celebrate the occasion in a new country, without really speaking the language and without knowing our way around the city... Dear Husband was working until late in the evening but was kind enough to take the morning off to spend with us. After skyping both sets of grandparents at breakfast and cafe con leche with tiny croissants, we set off for a walk around the centre, stumbling upon an English bookshop and watching the Chilean people get on with their daily business in and around Plaza de Armas. DD1 was sporting her new alpaca jumper while DD2 was grumpily refusing to walk anywhere...thank goodness we kept the trusty pushchair, without which the ample distances in Santiago would be impossible to cover. After more wandering and observing (what else does one do in a foreign city?) we ended up in Crazy Pollo, the eatery on the corner of our road which Dear Husband apparently adopted as his own while we were still on the other side of the world. After initially raising their eyebrows on our arrival (the presence of two young children meant the restaurant was a no-go area for any smokers among their potential clients) we were ushered in as long as it would be "rapido". Of course, we agreed, hungry for whatever was on offer and oblivious to the fact that DD2 would of course take forever over every mouthful of her sausages...
The celebrations continued the next day after Dear Husband got home from work (early) and I had managed to locate where to find a chocolate cake, candles and some balloons. DD1 is already looking forward to her 7th birthday when she'll be speaking fluent Spanish and will be surrounded by Spanish-speaking and maybe some English-speaking friends...

Monday, 4 October 2010

Chilly in Chile

It's amazing what a difference a week can make when one has moved to a new country. Everything which seemed so new has now become reassuringly familiar and the children and I find ourselves referring to our temporary accommodation and neighbourhood as "home", though in reality it still feels like nothing of the sort. However we've certainly made progress as we now know where to turn for basic household needs and can even venture further afield if we feel like it without getting lost (though that's happened too).
DD2 is well and truly over her bug and back to her usual loveable self (tantrums included). We have found a school we like for DD1 and have begun the formal admissions process so await being called in to the school for interviews and evaluation (parents too apparently). Last week we even made it along to an English playgroup run by a remarkably kind and welcoming group of women at Santiago Community Church in Providencia. It was like suddenly watching television or listening to the radio in one's own language again after having had one's reception disturbed or interrupted. If anything the time was too short and I had a thousand more questions to ask but will just have to wait until the next meeting. It was comforting to know I wasn't alone and that lots of others had passed this way before...and had come out the other side.
As for the weather, it has been lovely and is now a tiny bit grey again. Not that that's a problem, we're used to plenty of grey. Gives you the chance to imagine life back home and again appreciate the incredible light quality here. All in all then, a positive verdict with lots of things to marvel at, though I do feel very far away from home.