Flight SA 224 to Sau Paulo. Not my final destination but it does have a ring to it. I’m en Route to Santiago, Chile, to pursue a random dream of going to live there for a year. No hablo Espanol, I’ve never been there before, I know no-one aside from an acquaintance or two from last year’s Colorado Ski season, I don’t have a job or a place to live. Looking good.
After boarding the first of my two flights, I sit in my pre-booked seat with muchos leg room at an emergency exit and I find out my travelling neighbour is a Brazilian national. He seems nice. If he were South African he would check the ‘coloured’ box when filling out forms, but he’s not so he’s just, Brazilian. ‘Do you speak Portuguese?’ ‘No’. ‘I don’t speak English’ he says somehow. And that concludes our conversation for another few hours. It does cross my mind that this is exactly what my life is going to entail for the next year. It’s more than likely I’ll be teaching business English to adults in Chile so this guy could actually be good practice. This scares me as I sit there and draw a blank on how I would conduct a lesson with him. However, by the end of our nine hour flight I manage to find out that he had visited Mozambique, he drives trains for a living, lives about an eight hour drive from Sau Paolo, and since we had landed at midnight- was sleeping the night before continuing his journey home.
As I wait to catch my connecting flight to what will be my new home, I meet a Zambian guy who used to live there. He hopes I wasn’t intending on making any money teaching English in Santiago. This should be fun. Luckily I’ve sold my car for back up. Although the above mentioned facts about my trip are true; the lack of Spanish knowledge, friends, job and home- these are not what frighten me. What scares me most is what kind of teacher I’m going to make. Will I even like the trade? I don’t back my patience too much. I’m going in blind and I’m at peace with that.
Hello Chile. I immediately become aware that this is a place where people speak faster than I’ve ever heard in my life. I realise that over the past few months I managed to successfully block out the fact that my adventure is in an English free zone, pretty much. I suppose that’s why I’m here essentially. To teach them. I think I definitely blocked that out too. It’s not your average first day in a new city. I took a bit of a walk around but then I needed a nap and to start organising this new life of mine. The last thing I want is to blow all my car money on a good time before securing some kind of income. Finding these institutes should be interesting, I’m not a city girl, or a Spanish one, so may luck and a good sense of direction be on my side!
My hostel is right across from the metro station, Bellas Artes, right in the centre of town. Throughout the day Chileans exit the station and disperse in different directions. Watching them makes me realise how much I stand out. Maybe I shouldn’t have re-highlighted my hair before I left. I was warned about being blonde in such a place, but it took actually walking through the streets for myself to realise how… Swedish I look. The chat a man attempted to start with me when I sat down on a bench didn’t help either. If I know one sentence in Spanish (for now), its ‘I don’t speak Spanish!’ This guy obviously doesn’t understand exactly what that means and we tried to have a conversation none-the-less. He carried on and I stared back blankly and when that wasn’t enough Id face my hands upwards and shrug. I used what I had learnt from my Coffee Break Spanish and said stuff like ‘Hermano, Hermana, Ijo, Ija’ (brother, sister, son, daughter). I now know that he is one of 11 siblings and has no sons or daughters.
It’s nearing the end of my first day in Latin America, I’ve been waiting 7 hours to check into my actual room and I’m not smelling my best. But, I’m in the land of siestas and late nights. So that right there is what you’ll find me doing later.
A couple days into my new life and I have made a few observations:
1) A Chilean is yet to be rude to me. Somehow they all seem good natured. If they cannot speak a word of English they will still go to the ends of the earth to help me.
2) Going out at 2am and coming home at 7 is considered an average night out.
3) Other countries can learn a thing or two about Chile’s inter-city bus system. Tickets are cheap, seats recline almost entirely and leg room is impressive. Buses leave to all destinations from all destinations almost every hour. It’s incredible.
4) Toilet paper is to be thrown in the bin. This might take some getting used to. Doing things the ‘normal’ way will clog the sewage system.
5) I made a comment about there being an abundance of pregnant women. Turns out abortions are illegal; fair enough. But there also needs to be permission from both parents to take the child out the country. Not an ideal situation to get yourself into.
6) There are ‘coffee with legs’ cafes that resemble strip clubs but serve only the finest coffee, no alcohol.
Watch this space for other random observations.