Our life here in Santiago is different than our life in Yakima, Washington. For many reasons–both obvious and not.
Monday-Friday we are all in “school.”
We get up around 7:00am and are out the door by 8:15am. Thank God this apartment came with a “normal” coffee machine. Chileans love their Nescafe; we, decidedly, do not. We have about a half mile walk to the kids’ jardin infantil “Tamborcito” and so we load up in our double stroller–which often becomes a triple stroller with one additional child sitting on the front. We get a lot of curious looks from Chileans everyday. Three children. Sometimes I “wear” Lennox but she always pulls her pudgy little baby arm out of the carrier and waves at all of the pour souls stuck in traffic (or tacos, as they say in Chile).
After we drop off the kids to their respective classes, we walk back about a half mile to our Spanish Immersion school, ECELA. We have conversation class from 9:00-10:45 and then grammar class from 11:00-12:45. The best instructors teach solely in Spanish using a wide variety of synonyms and pantomiming to make sure all of us understand the concepts. On Fridays we have only conversation which is from 9:00-12:45 with a small break. In our three weeks of school we’ve had several different teachers and now have a few favorites. We’re mulling over taking a few private lessons in the afternoons–if our brains don’t explode. Most of the time when we’re in school we feel wicked smart. Then we leave school and try and interact with Chileans. Ha! When people speak at normal speeds we can almost understand 30% of what they’re saying. Ok, maybe 35%. The entire process can be demoralizing. But then I recall that when we landed in Santiago four weeks ago–FOUR WEEKS!–I didn’t speak Spanish well enough to get out of the airport.
Language school is exhausting. Bone tired. Want to cry tired. Feeling desperate tired. I don’t remember the last time I used my brain in this way. And FOR SURE the last time I did use my brain this way my brain was much, much younger. I am concentrating so hard in school and when I’m doing day-to-day things like ordering a coffee. Getting a haircut or going grocery shopping requires not just an acute concentration on language but also on culture and custom. Everything is different. And yet, everything that really matters is the same. But sometimes it is very hard to recognize the latter.
We pick up the kids after lunch and head home for naps. The kids are as exhausted as we are. New environment, language, culture, food, teachers, friends…there is a lot to absorb here. I took a nap today that was simply delicious. I deserved it.
Too many days after naps (ver 4:30) we just play in the apartment because gearing up again and taking three small children out into the city just seems too hard. We do have a nice green space just a block from the apartment where the kids marvel at a huge fountain–our own mini Bellagio sin music.
We have found a good babysitter who watches the kids 2-3 times a week so we can have “date night” and explore the city. News flash–small children are not good tourists. We are also leaving them at school longer hours one day a week to have some adult time. This is good for everyone.
When Saturday morning rolls around we drag our bodies out of bed and sit on the couch and drink far too much coffee. We have language-culture-city hangovers. All we really want to do is relax (and check out) but we usually get out and about at least for part of the day.
Such is life in Santiago, Chile. Five more weeks of sabbatical!