1. LOVE AND HONOR OF FAMILY. As a mother of three children living in Chile, I feel like a protected and honored and sacred part of society. Every single time we’ve ridden the bus or metro, people give up their seats for me and our children, insisting that I sit down. I feel protected and special–set apart and watched over. Every day people reach out and touch our children, rub their hair, stop to admire them, help them onto or off the metro, ask about them. Very possibly it’s because we look oh so foreign, especially Lennox with her prized blonde hair (Chileans insist that even Carter is blond). But quite possibly also we are living in a culture where family–and children–are more important than anything else. And we have evidence of that everyday here.
2. CEVICHE. I could eat ceviche every day here. It is fantastic. From fancy restaurants to basic corner cafés, ceviche is good everywhere. Fresh seafood abounds.
3. PARKS. Chilean parks are impressive. They are filled with not only exciting and fun playground toys but also cool activities that I’ve never seen in our parks. Parque Forestal is our favorite park in Santiago. Not only do they have great playground toys, they also have two trampolines set up that you pay $1.50 to jump on for 15 minutes with a bunch of other little kids. They have pedal-powered go carts to rent and drive around the sandy paths of the park. They have an artist area complete with big wooden easels and paint and pictures or blank paper and kids sit down and quietly do art for a break. They have vendors selling all sorts of snacks and toys. It is a wonderland and most of the wonder is created by a unique entrepreneurial spirit–not the city.
4. LIVING DANGEROUSLY
It is apparent everywhere here that Chile is simply not a litigious society. We’ve come across city employees at the top of 10 foot ladders without (gasp!) helmets or harnesses or colleagues below insuring their safety. Every playground we’ve visited has awesome toys that are not to be found in the US ever–as in, no more or never before. Our international friends stare at us with open mouths when I tell them that new playgrounds in the US don’t have swing sets because they are too dangerous and schools and cities can’t afford the insurance. They have no response. It is, for them, a new level of American ridiculousness. I have to agree.
And it feels so oddly liberating to live someplace with such danger as crazy fun playground toys. The statistically ridiculous and plain old greed has made the U.S. too safe in innumerable ways.
We recently spent the weekend at Casa Chueca, a small lodge in the countryside run by an Austrian family. Besides the trampoline and swimming pool, both requiring high levels of insurance in the US, there were animals roaming all around including a pony and a mare and her foal. Tree houses and zip lines, ponds and rivers–all accessible, unstaffed, enjoy-but-be-smart activities. We loved it and enjoyed every single moment. It was very much like staying at a friend’s farm for the weekend.
Chile is spectacular and yet we’ve only experienced a teeny tiny bit of it. Travel–cultural capital–worth every difficult and joyful moment.