Tuesday, 31 January 2017

A trip to the hairdresser.

Pablo Neruda’s ode to Valparaíso speaks about the city with its uncombed hair and not having time to dress.  We walked down our sleepy paseo where we lived five years ago and found that it has been to the hairdressers and put on a new outfit, in short, a makeover.

The house we lived in has been renovated into a hotel including a basement restaurant and an extra storey.  One of the wait staff took us into the lobby so we could see some of the changes they’d made.  As for our paseo that we walked up every day taking the girls to school, it has gone from having one little hotel and restaurant to now almost ten restaurants or hotels.  We wonder how many little communities will give way to make room for more accommodation style premises.  We think that the cruise ships returning to the harbour has increased the number of tourists and therefore the number of business opportunities.  As former, semi-quasi locals we helped some British tourists with directions and tips for a day trip.  They told us that there are now direct flights from the UK to Santiago.  This too may increase the amount of tourists coming here. 

Sylvia, who used to live across the paseo from us, is no longer there and her house is a restaurant.  Hugo, our ascensore driver, stopped working three years ago.  Some of our favourite art has graffiti on it, our beloved sandwich bar is no longer open AND prices have gone up.  The trolley bus has gone from 200CLP to 290CLP, about 60 cents.

However, the bikes of Plaza Victoria are still there in all their artisan, homemade, is that a crack in the welding, glory.  The choice of bikes is endless including family ones, some with working brakes and some with a second seat hanging off the back.  Depp was a bit tentative about taking his own bike out so the kids went for the deluxe model, which actually reminds me of the bamboo taxi Gilligan used on his island.  One little girl was calling out permiso (excuse me) instead of going around people.  She stopped just near us and I gave her a push to get her started again.  She then called out permiso and two men moved aside for her and she ran into one of them.  They gave her a push to help her on her way but she ran straight into the garden edge.  Later she ploughed into another boy on a bike.  Luckily for her there wasn’t a practical exam before hiring the bikes.

During 2011, we were rescued many times by Karen the real estate agent.  For no real reason we never learnt her last name nor made an effort to keep in touch.  We walked into the office today where she worked on the off chance she was still there.  We stood at the door and the second she saw us she remembered us.  As always, Karen spoke slowly for us and pronounced the often silent “s”.  We spent some time catching up and this time exchanged email addresses.

Today’s game was, Is that new?  We headed up to the girls’ school, which was closed for the summer holidays, so they could only look at it from the street.  Along the way we tried to recall which murals were on which wall and what was new.  We stopped at the library for a little reminiscing and a welcome baño break then set off exploring once more.  Ten minutes later Depp needed to go to the toilet again.  Public toilet hunting in Valparaíso is a difficult job and keeping children hydrated is very important.  I ushered Depp into a café where they told me that the cheapest thing I could buy was a drink for 1500CLP.  I looked at this man with wonder.  My good sir, I thought, drinking is the reason my son needs to use your toilet.  This was adding fuel to the fire, or should I say fluids to the child.  With a little bit of sympathy and negotiating I talked him down to 500CLP.  As we left I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I went too.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Awake at the crack of noon.

Indiana stumbled out of bed at 11am and Truce took one look and said, "You look dismantled Indy".  Possibly the best description I've ever heard for a jet lagged teen.

We've gone over our ground rules with the kids again about our Don't lean on anything rule and don't step on things that may look like they're covering a hole (the title needs work), especially for Depp as this is his first time here.  He wanted to know why and we explained some of the reasons.  Excavation work and pot holes often appear and can be covered in some manner or left exposed.

One thing we loved doing in Valpo was catching the trolley buses.  In the last five years they have replaced some of the older buses with newer ones.  We felt like Valpo snobs as we lurked in the shadows pretending to tie our shoelaces while one of the modern buses passed and waited until one of the original ones appeared.  Even though we sat in authentic bus with its well worn seats, we did notice the introduction of a touch on system for Metro cards.

Sopaipillas are a tasty on the go snack of fried bread.  While these may not be endorsed by Weight Watchers they are certainly worth a try.

Depp will be five in a few months and we're not entirely sure he understands what it means to be in a different country.  We asked him what differences he has seen in Chile.  His response, "Well for one thing, the buses drive with the door open."


Sunday, 29 January 2017

After a 36 hour day.

Five years ago we lived in Valparaiso for a year (see our Chilean blog here).  So our journey begins returning to Valpo for a few days to refresh the girls' memories of their time here.

Australia and Mexico are the only two countries whose citizens have to pay a reciprocity fee to enter Chile via the airport.  Australians pay US$117 whereas Mexico only pays $23.  As a family of five, $117 x 5 plus the exchange rate is (fingers come out) 5 lots of 100 is 500, 5 lots of 17 is… more money than we wanted to pay.  Perhaps our government needs to drop this reciprocity fee so that Chile will drop theirs.

After the flight from Australia we were apprehensive about spending two hours on a bus to Valparaíso and agreed that a shuttle would be a lovely treat.  As we left the Santiago airport we were greeted by a plethora of taxi drivers.  Some had very official taxi signs, hand printed onto pieces of cardboard while others had laminated their signs with sticky tape, fancy.  We know from past experience that the average Chilean taxi cannot hold a family of five and their luggage, so we went in search of Harper family sized vehicle.  One man told us he had such a vehicle and once we had agreed on a price he directed us to his “van”.  A five seater SUV is not a van, not even if you rearrange the letters.  It may be a svu or a vsu or even a vus but not a van.  The laws of physics were changed so that our luggage fitted into the boot and our crew were squished into the back seat.  Luckily Depp is only small. 


Saturday, 28 January 2017

Time travellers you say.

Imagine if you will an Australian family of five surrounded by suitcase and a crowd of onlookers.
"Where are you going?" asks the crowd.
"We are travelling to the 9th of July," replies the family
"Not when," says the crowd, "where are you going?"
"This is not a typo friends.  We are embarking on a journey to the 9th of July."

Perplexed looks.

The people mutter and mumble to themselves until one asks, "Are you time travellers?"

"It's a town in rural Argentina called the 9th of July."

Ladies and gentlemen, for your viewing pleasure, the Harper family are going to live in Nueve de Julio for the 2017 school year for adventure, language and cultural experiences.