Early Wednesday morning, September 15th, we arrived in Chile. We took a comfortable flight direct from LA to Santiago via LATAM airlines (Formerly LAN), the official airbus of Chile. Having flown with LAN in the past on two occasions, I was excited to fly with them again. In comparison to most other airlines I’ve flown – always coach, alas – LAN is one of the best. The seats are roomier, their tech always works, and they are liberal with libations and chow. In fact, we were given three meals on the flight! In my opinion, there is nothing worse than being hungry on a plane.
After passing through customs and being questioned about the maple syrup in our luggage, we were greeted by my sister-in-law, Luz, and Mark’s childhood friend, Cristian C. (You’ll notice the “C” I put after his name. That is to distinguish him from another Cristian, Cristian U, Luz’s partner. It wouldn’t do to get the two mixed up in the telling of these stories – that would be plain awkward).
Thankfully, because I hadn’t slept a wink on the 13-hour overnight flight, they took us directly to Luz and Cristian U’s house. They live in a cozy ten-room house with three enclosed patios. They have one son, just a year older than our daughter, and a excitable dog named Rudolph who likes to hump his bed. Like many houses in Chile, this one was located behind 10-foot ivy-covered walls. A staffed gatehouse admitted residents and visitors alike to the sprawling complex of twenty or so houses and apartments. Think of them like duplexes, or more appropriately, multiplexes.
The houses are made of brick and red stucco and are almost entirely engulfed by greenery. The roof-line of the complex is staggered and unexpected. Some of the rooms of the houses appear to have been added onto the main structure at a later time. Nooks and pathways are tucked at random into the face of the complex. The drive is a combination of rounded paving stones and gravel. Trees overhang and lean into buildings – pathways for the gangs of wild cats that I’m told roam around the premises.
The great room. Oli is looking at the pictures of Spanish children’s books and her cousin is braiding rope on the floor – no doubt devising a toy for the dog.
Inside, most bedrooms are small because the great room, or family rooms are the center of the home. Kitchens are usually tucked out of sight behind a closed door with the utilities – or if not the entire kitchen, then parts of it like the refrigerator, microwave ovens or toasters are kept unseen. Bathrooms are either tub-less (a crime!) or contain a short deep tub that works best if your legs are less than 2 feet long. The patios of Luz and Cristian’s house are interesting features, two being open to the sky and home to several flowering trees, and one enclosed like a conservatory in an old English manor-house. Overall, the housing complex, and especially my sister-in-law’s house, feel quite cozy.
Upon arriving and stuffing my suitcase in a corner, I promptly fell into a 6-hour coma.