14 October 2014

Last horray in Chi"lay"

Today is our last day in Chile. Our flight leaves at 8:40pm and we plan to get to the airport at 5:40.  Since we spent all day yesterday outside of Santiago I planned for us to stay in the city and see the major sights.  Our BNB check-out time is noon so I planned for us to stay there until the last minute.  We woke up for a late 10:30am breakfast.  Then spent the next hour and a half making sure we were completely packed, relaxed, and recharged (iPhones).  During that time I spoke to one of the Cubana staff members and she agreed to hold onto our small bags while we went downtown and said Rueben would be there to pick us up at 4:45.  

I fell asleep alone and woke up with 2 more people squeezed into my twin bed. 

At about 12:05 the kids and I were headed down the street toward the Manuel Montt metro station I asked the ticket lady where the Cerro San Cristobal was located and she told me to take go two stops to the Banqueado station, go up and follow the crowd.  After two stops we climbed the stairs and found a transit worker to point us in the right direction.  

As soon as we climbed the steps out of the station we found ourselves in the middle of what seemed to be a dancing chanting protest of some sort.  Almost all of the protesters were hippie- like 20- 30 somethings chanted, dancing, and waving huge flags in the streets.  There were definitely more than a hundred of them.  The police were calming posted around them observing, and a clean- up crew equipped with garbage cans and and brooms to sweep away every pamphlet and speck of dust that fell from the protesters vicinity. As the peaceful energetic protest moved so did the police and cleaners.  I asked to people what was going on.  According to them they were protesting to protect the indigenous' sacred lands, protect the natural wonders of Chile, and to promote peace. 

One block after the protest we found ourselves in the middle if a bicycle 
Marathon.  Like literally in the middle of it was bike whizzing past us in both directions.  Once given the signal to cross without getting run over by a 10- speed we crossed a graffiti over-dosed bridge.  

We followed the crowd and kept walking and walked.  Eventually I looked over and asked a friendly looking man if we were going I'm the right direction. He was with his two daughters and they too were on their way to be park, specifically the zoo inside the park. "I hope you don't mind but my daughter loves your hair and she wants to know if she can touch it?"  The daughter to who right lite up as soon as she realized her dad expressed her shy curiosity to me.  "Pues muchas gracias linda, si tú puedes tocar" (well thank you very much? Cute little girl! Yes you may touch my hair.  I bent over for her to touch and she wiggled and giggled with delight.  She was is excited she made me laugh out loud.  He dad looked at me with pure gratitude in his eyes, "thank you so much for letting her so that, where are you from?"  We chatted a bit more and said goodbye as dude got distracted an ice cream shop, causing us to fall behind as they made heir way to the zoo.  
At this point little dude started flipping out.  I'm not sure what happened to him but a soon as he got his Icey from the ice  cream shop e just got plain old mean.  He didn't want Zane to sit anywhere, then he wanted the Gatorade thanzane was drinking not the identical one that I bought for him.  Both Zane and I were very patient with his little crazy butt, but still were looking at each other like "what's wrong with little loco over there." 
Well sometime karma work swift and mercilessly.  With his Icey still in have we headed to the park just another block away.  As we approached I was so excited to see a man with a llama at the parks front gates.  "What kind of sheep is that mommy?" Asked Zane.  "That's not a sheep it's a camel!" Yelled Dude.  "Boys, there is not a sheep nor a camel it's a llama." " a what? That's not an real animal name! You making that up". As the debate continued amongst the boys the man summund me over to him and his snazzily dressed llama.  "$1000 pesos cada foto."  He announced. That'sess than $2 USD so I happily agreed.  First he lifted Zane into the llama for me to snap a pix and record a quick video.  Next up was dude, who also got a pic and video while I held his ice cream.  I was the last one to take a pic with this long neck sheep/ camel super star.  The llama-man offered us a free group pic with the 3 of us next to the llama. The kids stood on one side with me posing on the other side of the llama.  As the llama- man was about to take the picture the llama started moving his face closer and closer to mine.  As I backed up the llama moved closer.  Then he started to grunt.  "Uh señor, you llama is making a noise at me."  As I turned to relay this message to the llama-man.  The llama stretched his neck just a little bit more and ate Aaaaallllll of Dudes Icey that I was still holding in my hand.  He ate it so fast that as soon as I realized what was happening I was only left with the stick.  "Oh yes he's making that noise because he wants to eat your ice cream, he likes I've cream!" Zane saw what happened first and smirked the smirk of an older brother looking forward to his younger brother flipping out in full-on tantrum mode.  "Mommy!!!! The camel ate my ice cream!!?!" "Sí mi amor, I'm so sorry.  I wasn't looking and the llama ate it out of my hand." "Waaaaaaaaa!!!!!! The bad camel ate my ice cream!!! Bad camel!  Bad Camel!!! I hate cameeellllllssssss!!!!!" As dude hit nervous breakdown level 100. Zane and I did everything we could to stifle the hysteria of giggles trying to explode from our mouths.  My poor baby cried and cried.  I mean he cried the UGLY cry!  He was devastated.  I did all uncoils to calm him, including promising a new ice cream and a toy.  Finally he stopped crying, but not before I took a video of the break-down.  

The bad camel ate my icey video: http://youtu.be/OR4utkDq-FA

Once I calmed down dude it was my turn to reach near spazz-out levels.  Once dude was happy again with his new Icey, I noticed that inward running low on cash and would need to pay Rueben (the taxi driver) to take us back to the airport.  At parque San Cristobal ther was an ATM booth so i went there to take out money.... Only no money came out.  I was receiving and error message that "my financial institution" was not permitting the transaction.  Impossible, I called both my banks to inform them if my travel plans and no make sure my visa debit cards worked in Chile.  This is NOT the kind of message you want while traveling abroad with 2 young children.   I went to the park information booth and spoke with the very nice lady about what happened.  She tried to calm my worries, "the machine probably ran out of money. There are more ATMs down the block try those."  We walked down the street full speed asking more directions along the way until I found another ATM machine marked "banco de chile". I tried both cards in the machine and received the SAME ERROR message!!!!! Oh the horror!!!  How were we going to get to the airport with no money?!?!  Do I even have enough for the train ride home?!?!  Ok echo, just breath mama, every little thing's gonna be alright!"  I walked around a little more and found 2 more banco de chile machines and tried those.    Same freakin' error!!! OMG this can't be real!!!! As I paced back and forth trying to think of a solution a security officer approached me. "Is everything OK?" "Uh no! The machine says my bank in the US will not allow me to take out money but I called them before coming here to let then know is be in chile and that I plan to use the cards here and I'm here with 2 kids and I'm almost out of money..." I was speaking Spanish full speed like a lunatic and I think even he was having trouble keeping up with his own language being shot at him so quickly.  He looked at me calmly and laughed "oh these machines say that to everyone! They are the worst!  Go down stairs right there, there is a newer machine and that one should work." I thanked him and hoped and prayed to all the gods, Orishas, saints, and even good ole Zues that this man was right.  I bounced down the steps to where he pointed me to find two people successful taking money out of the machine.  Now if they can get out money so should I..... Right?  As soon as they left I popped in my preferred card and hit the same buttons as I previously did on the oth FOUR machines.  This time it worked and $20,000 Chilean pesos popped out!!! Don't get too excited that's just about $17 USD. I did the happy dance and decided to get another $40,000 just in case of a disaster I would have to go through another ATM wild goose chase.  

Now that I could breath again I could afford a lunch!  On the way back to the park I found an empanada store and bought 3 to go.  I'd seen the line to go on the funicular and figured we could eat while we waited in the long line.  It was the perfect snack for the line and it definitely made the time pass by faster.  The mother and 2 daughter behind us in the line, got our attention and asked where we were from, about our hair, and how we ended up in Chile, the edge of the earth. We chatted for a while, as usual it was all love.  

After another 15 minutes we were in the cable car climbing the mountain side.  The car itself was kind of unnerving and gave me visions of the cable car detaching from the train like track and tumbling down and smashing to pieces at the bottom.  Luckily nothing like that happened!  The view however was spectacular.  

Santiago is humongous and the view was well worth the wait.  The funicular had two stops the first was the zoo, which we no longer had time to go to due to the ATM disaster, and the final destination on top of Cerro San Cristobal where stands the beautiful statue of la virgen maria.  Atop the mountain were hundreds of families many Chilean and many Brazilian tourist. People were eating, dancing to salsa music, and hanging out.  It was a great great spot for a family day.  After looking down at the city through the mounted telescopes we decided to climb higher all the way to the statue.  Along the way they had an small amphitheater and garden terraces, this area was designated for prayer, meditation, and quiet reflection you could also light candles and make offering to the saints.  It was pretty awesome.   The kids and I climbed the through the gardens and up anothe small stair case until we arrived directly under maria.  We sat on the steps for a while talked, taking pix, and relaxing.  

Cerro San Cristobal http://youtu.be/v33kuSH68GM

Before we left the mountain we stopped by a gift shop to buy a gift for AlphaPoppa.  While there the vender talked our heads off about all the things he watches in the news at the USA.  His first gripe wa that the racism and police brutality that has been on the airways about cases like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown being unarmed and murdered in the streets of the US.  Waving his finger in the air he declared,"the racist white people in your country are lunatics.  They will do anything to make black people inferior but that will never happen! Blacks will never be an inferior race to anyone because it is not in their DNA.  They are great by nature even when facing the harshest conditions!!!" All I could say was Wow!  Many African-American fear international travel with the assumption that we will face harsher racism than at home, little do they know almost unanimously infind the opposite.  I'm was releaved that this opinionated man did not suggest that there was a superior race of people but also happy that he recognized the challenges and accomplishments of a people who have struggled since their forced arrival to this hemisphere.  Before leaving his store I couldn't resist buying a miniature llama to tease dude about the "bad camel" who stole his Icey.  We were rapidly ewr running out of time, remember we had to be back at the BNB to pick up our bags and catch our ride to the airport. 
One the walk back to the train station we stopped at a restaurant and ordered churr which was a big plate of French fries topped with sliced sausage and onions, topped with 2 sunny side up eggs.  I heard our tour guide in valparaiso  mention that this filling dish was popular amongst college students who didn't have much money for food.  It was a crazy combo and too much even for the three of us. 

I bought dude a pair of binoculars on too of the mountain and this is pretty much how he looked until we got onto the airplane. 

Everything after this moved pretty fast.  We paid the bill, walked to the metro station, went 2 stops, got off and walked back tonight BNB.  Reuben was there waiting with his taxi and our bags already in his trunk.  I quickly snatched our passports out of my small bag and off we went.  Within 20 minutes we were at the airport, super early, check in and ready to head back home.  

The flight home was another 9 hours. Unfortunately this time there wasn't enough space to spread out.  We all slept well despite our creative positioning.    As always our trips were right on point and perfecto.  Each and ever journey make me 1000xs more grateful that life has awarded me the opportunity and courage to share the world with my family and for those of you who take to the time to read this blog or watch our videos on YouTube.  I was luck enough to find my gift when I was 18 years old.  Now it is my life's journey to share that gift and basically give it away to those who are interested.  Thank you for letting me share my journeys with you <3

12 October 2014


Gladys is our bed and breakfast's housekeeper.  She was the first to greet us upon arrival and last night she waited up for us to make sure we got home safely.  Something that many may consider little or even a nuisance is the type of thing I love when staying with a host family or locally run bed and breakfast.  They take person responsibility for your safety, enjoyment, and give you the opportunity to see, hear, taste, feel, learn, experience the things that "tourist" don't have access to .  Local life, a cultural view point on life's purpose, unique customs, like the Chilean "onces" which I can best describe as a late family snack and tea and 11 pm, hence the name.  

After our busy day in valparaiso and Viña del mar.  We arrived home at about 10:30, meeting Gladys playing candy crush on the living room couch.  Her face lite up when entered and she was eager to hear about our day.  Did you have any difficulties?  Where my directions good? What did you eat? Are you hungry now? Oh, the boys are so precious let me get you some tea and bread now.  
We went to the room to wash our hands and faces and kick off our shoes.  Just as we were exiting our room Gladys was coming out of the kitchen with our "onces".  Gladys chatted with the boys and asked them questions about their day and life.  She was excited that they were able to communicate with her in Spanish.  
Gladys knows very littlebEnglish and has only the very basic education permitted for poor women growing up at a certain period of time.  At 62 years old most of her adult life was under the cruel dictator Pinochet.  He was a police state kinda guy and was known for making his rivals "disappear" such to the extent that this group of thousands of people who have never been found are known as "Los desaparecidos" (the disappeared people).  Those who fled the country to escape his iron fist rule were often the victims of car mysterious bombings in the country in which they sought refuge.  This was not really a time for women to get ahead and live their wildest dreams.
Gladys at 62 years old was sweet but there was no way you could miss her feistiness and limitless energy.  She's started working when she was 6.  She was a orphan by 5 and was raised by her elderly grandmother.  So like many children around the world who don't have the luxury of a free public education, or wealthy parents to pay $30,000+ USD for private schools she started working, at 6.... S-I-X!!!!  According to her she has always been stronger than everyone else, physically, mentally, and spiritually.  "Yes I am catholic.  But don't go to mass religiously.  I don't need that.  That's for the other people.  I have a faith that is unshakable and my trust and faith in life and GOD is all I've ever needed" I came into this world at a disadvantage and I have the things I've needed to raise beautiful children, grandchildren, and to always take care of my husband.  I have always wanted to see the world like you people who come here to visit.  But that was not meant for me when I think about it.  Instead I have it better.  I stay close to the ones I love and the world comes through these doors day by day, one by one, to come see me!  
By now the boys has already dismissed themselves and were in the room watching Spanish language cartoons laughing at its ridiculousness.  
We talked about US politics and things that she has seen in the news about America.  What seems to have been playing across the world is police brutality and racism still existing agains blacks.  She couldn't remember the names of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and the many others killed for looking "suspicious", but she knew their stories well and shuttered at the thought.  
She also asked me about this terrible terrible show about "a fat little pageant brat and her mother who allows her to be rude and disrespectful, like farting and burping all the time without correcting that disgusting behavior". They also ate very unhealthy food and she even saw them deep fry cookies!!  Uh, yea that would be honey-boo-boo.  How embarrassing right?! She was pretty sure from what she saw of the Americans who passed through the BNB that we really aren't all like honey boo boo's family... But just wanted to verify that with me.  She also wondered how that show was on TV? Were people actually watching it for them to still be on the air?  Believe me if it weren't for Dude coming to check on me and asking me to come to bed every 10 minutes, Gladys and I could have talked all night.  But we managed to squeeze all the good stuff into about an hour and a half.  We bid each other farewell because she would be gone by the time we woke in the morning.   

We took this pic as a last goodbye.

Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

Today was filled with so much it's hard to even know where to start.  I will do my best to start from the beginning without skipping stuff.  I'm known for putting up a post then 3 hours later I remember 4 important things that i'd failed to mention.  

I woke up around 5:30am, saw how early it was then went back to sleep until 9.  Breakfast is served between 7-11, so I was aiming for 9:30-9:45 breakfast.  I wanted to let the kids sleep as much as possible and if course to get my own rest.  Dude woke up right after me and we snuggled until 9:40.  I woke up Zane they washed the faces etc. and we headed to the main dining are for breakfast.  We had scrambled eggs, toast, with ham and cheese on a side plate to allow you to combine them all into some sort of breakfast sandwich.  Made an egg and cheese sandwich. Dude had ham and cheese, no egg, And Zane put it all between bread and wolfed it down.  I also had a small yogurt.  We all had hot chocolate, with real chocolate chunks drifting around the bottom of the cup, it was the realest hot chocolate ever, not the powdered stuff from back home.  

While at breakfast I asked our host how to get to Valparaiso the famous coastal city.  Muy facil! Take the train to the pajarito station bus terminal is as you exit the station, and a bus should be leaving every 15 minutes or so.  Alrighty then!  We got dressed for the pleasant 75 degree weather and hit the streets.  After 15 quick train stops we were at the bus terminal.  As soon as we approached on if the ticket counters the lady informed us it was leaving in 2 minutes, we quickly paid and just like that we were on the bus to valparaiso!!

This was our first chance to see the. countryside outside of Santiago's metropolitan area.  The hills came one after the other, sometimes interrupted by a pasture full of cows.  It's spring time here so I the hills you can see the leafless trees filling out with a majority of the branches still bare.  On the ground however there seems to be a full throttle explosion of a yellowish- orange flower that looks like marigolds.  I'm pretty sure they aren't marigolds but from a moving charter bus they can definitely pass.  The bus was equipped with cushioned seats, TV, and a bathroom.  This wasn't the typically hand me down school bus found in many parts of the Spanish speaking world.  We were very comfortable and enjoyed the scenery.  Dude took about 300 pictures... I think he'll be a nature paparazzi photographer when he grows up!   

Toll booth

The ride took one hour and 40 minutes.  We arrived in valparaiso with me knowing only a couple of places that i wanted to see.  Nobel prize winning poet Pablo Neruda's home and the many murals found around the city.  These are pix of the market place when you first enter the city. 

Old school electric buses from the 1959s that are a symbol of valparaiso.

How I was going to see the things I mentioned above? I didn't know.  Luckily as soon as we stepped off the bus tour companies were anxiously waiting for people like us.  I nice lady quickly whisked us away to her day tour booth and gave me a run down of her 5 hour tour through the city for $30 per person.   She offered us an immediate bilingual tour that unfortunately only had 2 seats, and another tour that would start 30 minutes later with 3 seats all in Spanish.  The tour language made jo difference to us, but saving $30 did!! They agreed to send us on the bilingual 2 seat availability tour with dude riding in my lap for free.  Our tour started with a minivan of 4 Peruvians and 9 Colombians.  What was supposed to be a bilingual tour turned into the Spanish your I preferred anyway.  
Our first stop was to see the sea lions at the port.  They were the biggest, fattest, slipperiest, cuties I'd ever seen!  We climbed on the huge rocks near the sea wall and enjoyed took usies and selfies with them in the background.

Our tour guide Christian came to get us and we had a quick conversation in English about why I'm a bilingual American and why I'm teaching the kids to speak Spanish.  Christian living in California for a whole and fully understood the advantage of being bilingual and asked that we speak to him in English to help him practice and keep the language fresh in his brain. 
Our next stop was the home of Pablo Neruda.  I studied his poetry as a Spanish major in college.  I never thought I'd actually get to see the view, city, and country that inspired his literary masterpieces.  

Our very funny tour guide Christian

Picture with a statue of Pablo Neruda

We didn't go into the home but we took pictures around it.  This quote by Neruda perfectly explains this city "valparaiso grabbed me, she subjected me to her will, to her absurdity: valparaiso is a mess, a cluster of crazy houses.  I don't think there is a better way to describe this city's informality and spontaneity.  It like houses were built in the crevasses of the mountains using a deck multi-colored playing cards.  It's seems once a house got old and frail they would just build its replacement on top of the dilapidated cliff- hanging structure.  What?! Now what would make a city like this ridiculous in any other part of the world to see this in a country known for its record setting earthquakes it just really seemed perhaps... Suicidal!  With its intriguing beauty and detail I could absolutely see the charm that took this dearly loved poet hostage. 

While waiting for the other to board the tour bus our guide introduced us to a couple of tourist who were passing by and who I assumed he just met within the last day or so.  2 Spanish speaking African-American from DC and California.  It's great meeting other travelers who belong to the under represented demographic of black travelers.  They were interested in why Chile and why with the kids?  You already know how those answers go... We are world travelers, explorers everywhere is on our list, but this time the time was right for Chile.  They seemed satisfied enough with that answer so we bid our farewells and headed to our next destination while they went to pay their respects to señor Neruda. 

Our next stop was lunch at a restaurant called cafe postales, post card cafe.  Let me tell you how perfect this was.  Last night I filled out the postcards and made sure to carry them with me in case I passed a post office during the day.  Post offices close at 1 pm on Saturdays so I missed my chance to send mine off.  Yes perfect part was that the restaurant sold postcards and stamps and had a drop box.  With our meal I purchased the last 12 stamps get had, put them on my 12 postcards and dropped them in the box for pick up on monday!  Woohoo my cards will be sent! Every thing was exact to get the job done, I always see things like this as a positive sign.  Our lunch was delicious and accompanied by popular old and new salsa merengue and bachata songs.  For lunch Zane had grilled fish and fries, dude had a plate of fries that he barely touched because he'd been eating pizza flavored Doritos during our stroll around Neruda's give store residence.  I asked for a typical
Chilean meal and was served pastel de choco.  Unlike it's name is was not a pastel or cake, it was a corn gumbo mix of yummy ingredience.  What I can only describe and a very corn kernally cream corn stew filled with ground beef, a hard boiled egg, a few olives, a tiny chicken wing and drum stick, all baked over in cheese.  It was creamy thick and GOOD! I ate it all leaving those 3 olives and chicken bones in my aftermath.  

Right across from the restaurant was an overlook spot to look over the extremely busy huge port.  According to Christian (our hilarious guide) the post was on of the biggest in South America until the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914.  After that it recuperated some but then was hit again 10 years ago when it became outdated compared to new high tech barges coming in.  The government had to privatize then port and the company bought in the cranes and tech power need to get it up and running again.   After lunch we drive around the city and looked at various landmarks, important building and statues.  The early post-colonial history of valparaiso consisted in many European settlers.  Each nationality had their own district.  The Italians had an area where street signs were in Italian even the architecture looked like Italy.  The Germans, British, and French did the same in their districts.  

Pastel de choclo

Our next stop was to the neighboring city Viña del mar this was more like a west palm beach than the crazy cliff-hanging valparaiso.  High rise condos over looking the Pacific Ocean, a casino, high end restaurants, etc. the driver let us out to see an old palace that was destroyed by the 2010 earth quake and another stop to get our feet wet in the very cold beach water.  

Pic of the flower clock in Viña del Mar.

By now it was about 6:30 pm and we still had a 1 hour 45 minute bus ride back to santiago.  Some of our new tour van friends decided to find a hotel and stay in viña del mar.  While the rest of us were dropped off at the bus station.  My original return ticket was from valparaiso to Santiago but then bus company had no problem changing it for me with extra costs.  By 7:20 we were on the bus back to Santiago.  

Here is a cute video about adjusting to close cultures.  To sum up the video the guy seated in front if me reclined his seat until he was almost in my lap.  Latino cultures are close, stranger touch you like you're family, it's just how it is. But I had to take a video of this funny moment to share with you all.  

Other than my new BFF sleeping in my lap? The ride was pretty uneventful,  we arrived at the same train station that we'd departed from and once again ran into the Peruvian family that was on the valparaiso tour with us.  We chatted for a long time.  They loved that i travel with the kids, that they are bilingual etc.  as more people boarded the train they joined in the conversation. "You're American?!" "How do you speak Spanish to well?!" "How do you get your hair like that?" "Can I touch it?!" "Your children are so good-looking" "you are beautiful".. Chiiiiile (that's the Ebonics "child" not the country we are visiting "chile")'you would have though I was Beyoncé traveling with two miniature Barack Obamas.  I don't take offense though.  I try to imagine my reaction if I saw once of those intriguing Asian women with the 30 plus necklaces  stretching  their necks to impossible lengths.  I'd be even worse then the curious (polite) crowd we encountered.  I'd ask to touch... "Can you out a ring in my neck" "how long do you wear it" "do you take them off to wash your neck!" "Uh, do you wash your neck" may questions would be numerous and invasive. For real.  But like these people it would be from curiosity not hatred, not to degrade or to confirm my superiority but our of sheer awe at the spectrum of existence across the human experience.  One lady was so happy to have her questioned answered that she kisses our cheeks (customary greeting and departure in Latin America) before getting of the train.  
As pointed out to me by a fellow black traveller who has experienced this same type of attention while traveling, "we are the only people on the planet with tightly curled hair.  Europeans, Asians, native Americans all have straight straight hair.  When they see our hair that literally defies gravity, they can help but want to touch it.  Our hair is truly something special."

We arrived at the BNB by 10ish.  The housekeeper Gladys was up waiting for us and quickly served us tea.  I sat and talked to her for over an hour, while the kids watch TV in the room.  Gladys deserves her own post to you will have to read my next entry to learn her story.