This is the third entry of an ongoing travel journal. Click here to read the first. February 25, 2017 I was starting to regret everything. I was regretting getting in the car with Ignacio, getting drunk on the plane, even getting on the plane at all and coming to the blistering heat of this city, […]
February 25, 2017
I was starting to regret everything. I was regretting getting in the car with Ignacio, getting drunk on the plane, even getting on the plane at all and coming to the blistering heat of this city, where every available surface is covered in graffiti and stray dogs own the streets, not to mention the language I can’t speak. I wished I had just paid for a taxi to my hostel and gone to sleep.
12 hours prior to being hungover and crammed in the backseat of some strange Chileno’s sedan, I met a fellow gringo named Sam at the airport bar in Atlanta during my layover. He was on the same flight to Chile to spend the next four months there in an effort to perfect his Spanish. We sat and talked for an hour or so of our adventures past and the excitement to come.
When the wheels touched the ground at 10 a.m. the next morning, I ran into Sam again in the Santiago airport. At the time, he was talking to a Chileno named Ignacio who he met on the plane. The three of us talked in Spanglish for a while, and Ignacio offered to show us around during the day and take us back to our respective hostels later on.
There was a little voice in the back of my head that was convinced that Ignacio was the French guy from Taken, and my father is not Liam Neeson, so I would certainly never be seen again. But I was with another American and I thought, hell, why not? Este es Chile, amigo.
We walked out of the airport into the stifling heat of the Chilean summer, and I got in the backseat of a sedan with suitcases tightly packed around me. Ignacio almost immediately got confused and turned around in the stop-and-go traffic and exhaust fumes of the narrow Santiago city streets.
With nothing in my body besides two hours of sleep, orange airplane marmalade, and four or five mini shots of Maker’s Mark, my stomach was rolling and my head was screaming – I felt like I was dying.This is when the regret kicked in.
Despite being lost, Ignacio maintained that everything was cool, todo es tranquilo, amigo, and before too long we were on the highway and drove forty minutes to his hometown, Melipilla, a small city south of Santiago that few foreigners visit on a trip to Chile.
By the time we got out of the car it was 2 p.m. and my last noteworthy meal was in Michigan 24 hours before. Necesité comida inmediatamente. We stopped at some hole-in-the-wall bar, where we sat on the back patio in the shade and were cooled off by a soft summer breeze. There we ate supremely succulent, fall-off-the-bone chicken legs and drank cold, dark cervezas.
With food and a few beers in my stomach, everything became beautiful. As Ignacio, Sam, and I puzzled Spanglish conversations together for hours, I remembered that this is why I had come to Chile, to sit with the locals in some small, obscure place and make each other laugh, in spite of the language barrier.
We walked the streets of Melipilla and before getting back in the car to go to Ignacio’s house, Sam and I both needed to use the bathroom. Ignacio said, “I stay here with car, you use bathroom.” But I still didn’t trust him. I wasn’t going to leave some strange Chileno alone with my luggage – I thought undoubtedly he would rob us blind and leave us stranded if we left him.
“No man, it’s cool,” I lied. “I don’t need the bathroom.” Ignacio read the situation like a book.
“Todo es tranquilo, amigo. I come with you.” To set my nerves at ease, he came and stood in the bathroom. I felt bad, but he wasn’t insulted because todo es tranquilo.
We got back in the car and he said, “OK, now we move, very quickly, muy rapido.” Move – as in move houses. Sam and I exchanged a look of, What the hell? Did we just get conned into helping this guy move?
But that wasn’t the case. What I have learned in my short amount of time here is that the Chileans are a relaxed, go with the flow, type of people. It is a sharp contrast to the uptight, rigidly scheduled culture of the Americanos. We were going to help him move, because we were with him, and that is what was happening at the time.
Several of Ignacio’s amigos and a moving truck convened at his house, and within eight hours of being in Chile, I helped a local move from one beautiful cottage in the Chilean countryside, to an even more beautiful cottage in the Chilean countryside, with apple trees and grapevines within an arm’s reach of his bedroom window.
We spent a few hours throwing a rugby ball around the front yard of his new house, and then he drove us back to our hostels Santiago, just like he said he would, because todo fue tranquilo. I arrived at my hostel at midnight, and passed out in the hot, thick air of a Chilean summer night.