At long last I am finally on my way to Bolivia, having flown to Santiago in Chile three days ago. This venture seems to have been a long time in the planning stages but actually it’s been less than a year since I decided to return to South America. It’s certainly a different trip this time. For the first time in a long time I’m travelling alone and that has it’s challenges. The first day in Santiago I had all the last minute panic thoughts of “how on earth am I going to last 3 months when I can’t understand what anyone is saying beyond “Hola” and “Como estas”. The first morning I woke up and realised I was in a house where English was barely understood and my espanol was muy puco. I wanted to crawl back under the covers and stay there for the whole day (or week). But I’m pleased to say I did get out of bed and day by day my Spanish is improving. Thanks in no small part to my Chilean friend Carmen and her 17 yr old daughters my language skills have steadily improved. And it’s amazing what topics of conversation you can have with a friend even when you don’t have many words in common.
I’ve had a lovely 3 days re-uniting with friends here. Being included in market trips,
preschool pickups for grandchildren, and dinners with extended family have all helped to make me feel welcome and my Spanish is improving rapidly. It’s amazing also how much you can learn by being part of small children’s play. It seems that boys and dogs and dinosaurs play the same no matter which country they are in.
I’m staying near San Bernardo, one of the suburbs of Santiago. It’s not one of the more salubrious suburbs but it’s still quite a shock to be surrounded by the constant noise of traffic 24 hrs a day, cars, cars and more cars, and then trucks, buses, bikes and every other imaginable form of transport (even a horse and cart yesterday), and with that the huge numbers of people every where. Despite having a couple of previous trips here it’s still a huge culture shock. The delightful part of Chile is the warmth of the Chileans. The greetings with a kiss on the cheek from the youngest child to the oldest adult, and the willingness to communicate even when there’s very little common language is wonderful.
So,I’ve got a couple more days to enjoy Santiago before flying to Bolivia on Thursday. It will be 3 flights from Santiago – a couple of hrs to Iquique, another hour to Santa Cruz in Bolivia, and then 1/2 hr on a smaller plane to Sucre. I’m excited about finally getting to Bolivia but also somewhat nervous with thoughts of what the next 3 months will bring.