Thursday, 30 December 2010

The end of 2010

Well Christmas has come and gone quicker than a blink of an eye here in Chile. No frenzied commercial countdown nor extra bank holidays just because 25 December happened to fall on a Saturday. On Monday 27 it was business very much as usual here in Santiago which is maybe just as well, considering our still precarious situation. However things are now looking up and are indeed beginning to move forward at a swift pace. On Monday DH signed the contract for our new apartment which was a moment we thought might never happen at one point. Thus we take possession from 1 January, though of course need to co-ordinate the delivery of our long-awaited container-full of personal effects which have been lying in storage since 5 November. Herein lies a potential problem: the removal company had been slow to respond to our emails and phone calls, originally stating that the earliest date on which they could deliver was 12 January. After another email exchange and phone call to the (very amenable) boss we have now been told they could do it on 5 January after all, two days before the children and I are scheduled to leave for a trip home, thus just giving us enough time to find our winter woollies and pack them ready for the Big Freeze in Europe. Fine, anything at this point would be better than continuing in this limbo of no real home and not being able to get our hands on our things... Oh, and our visas arrived today. Could this be a turning point for us? Out with the old, in with the new...Let's hope so. Happy New Year!

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The night(mare) before Christmas

A week ago things were not looking good. DD2 came down with a bug which manifested itself as a raging fever and lasted four long days and nights. As we were all stuck indoors while the sun shone outside, cabin fever soon took a firm grip. Plenty of shopping still needed to be done plus DD1 was of course climbing the walls, quite literally often. We were still officially homeless in Santiago and we had no idea what we would do for Christmas Day itself...
Then gradually some form of order resumed as DD2 slowly fought off her illness and we received the unexpected but very welcome news that we had been officially chosen as suitable tenants for an apartment we liked. Thus most of our problems seem to be over... Of course, we are still waiting for our visas, residency documents and all-important tax codes but have been assured that these will arrive soon. All in due course, no rush, we've only been here for three months.
After being snowed under with work deadlines, DH finally managed to organise himself such that he could look after the children a little while I got on with the important business of perusing the shops, markets and numerous street-sellers. It has been interesting watching the locals, many of whom seem to have done their Christmas shopping mainly in the last few days. So much more festive... Wrapping the presents in the sun was certainly a novelty. We have a tree at last too, of sorts: actually it's the terrace plant decked out with all DD1's colourful creations, strategically placed by the terrace window so Father Christmas can have easy access. Deciding what to leave out for Father Christmas and his reindeer was a bit of a puzzle at first, since here there are no mince pies or Christmas cake or any of the usual indulgent winter goodies. DD1 suggested an avocado (one of her favourite things and ubiquitous here) for FC, with a glass of chilled white wine and a carrot for the weary animals. Luckily DH managed to persuade her a few cherries might be quicker to grab as FC has a busy night ahead of him...
As for tomorrow, we've been invited to our American friends' for Christmas lunch so at least we'll have company. Though of course it won't be roast turkey so it still doesn't feel quite right. But I'm not complaining... Merry Christmas!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Do they know it's Christmas?

I am beginning to feel as if someone is cheating me out of a proper Christmas this year. Actually I was fine about the good weather until I realised that it just doesn't feel like Christmas or even December for that matter. Three years ago DD2 arrived three weeks before Christmas as an early and wonderful present for us all and since then we have always begun our festive season the day afterwards, putting up the tree and singing carols and so on. Here however Christmas decorations seem to be few and far between, which probably has something to do with the fact that it's summer. The days are so long that there is hardly time to switch on and admire lights as the sky glows even as I write with red and yellow sunsets well after sundown. In the supermarket the Christmas section is a small rectangular area next to the buckets and spades. Out and about one sees the odd fake tree adorning windows with a few baubles and sometimes some tinsel, but nothing on the scale of what one remembers back in the northern hemisphere. Although we haven't yet got a tree (partly because our decorations are still in storage and are thus inaccessible until we have somewhere to move into) we have tried to get into the spirit of things but with limited success. The children are busy colouring in the numbered stars on their Advent calendars which we printed off from the computer. We are still listening to carols even though it feels incongruous with the climatic conditions outside. Last week we even saw a rather hot-looking Father Christmas in full traditional costume posing for photos with children under the huge (fake) tree based at the busy marketplace of Estacion Central. We had been wondering if the Chilean version of Father Christmas might be clad in lighter gear but apparently not: the same kindly old man with a white beard and dressed for a harsh winter smiles down, his image omnipresent in the bigger and better-organised shopping malls. If anything what is most notable is that like many other areas of life Christmas in Chile has been directly imported from the USA, albeit without the glitz. Last Sunday one of the major department stores organised a festive parade down the Alameda, Santiago's main thoroughfare, to herald the last couple of weeks before Christmas. Like everyone else we went along to jostle for a fleeting glimpse of what was promised to be an amazing spectacle. After a long wait in blazing sunshine we were treated to a series of inflatable characters making their way down the street, including Father Christmas, King Kong, Godzilla, Popeye, a Smurf, Spongebob and Elmo from Sesame Street. Oh, and a turkey in Thanksgiving garb. At least those were the ones we recognised... Didn't matter to the girls though, they loved it.

Monday, 6 December 2010

A show and a party, all in one day

Strangely enough I am now feeling much more philosophical about our current lack of a permanent home. Of course I would be delighted if we were to find the right place and move this side of Christmas but am no longer tearing my hair out about it. Two of the deadlines for doing so have come and gone (1 December and DD2's birthday two days later) so now it's just a question of whenever...
Last week DD2's birthday happened to coincide with DD1's end-of-term show for the parents. Oddly this was scheduled for 8am, apparently to enable those who work to catch it before clocking in for the day but it was a rude awakening for some of us, especially considering the bun fight on the metro one has to contend with to travel across Santiago at 7am (DH has kindly been shouldering the morning leg of the school run thus far). DD2 quite enjoyed the novelty of getting up early for the first hour or two; by the time the show was over and we still had to haul ourselves back across town on unbelievably busy metros and pick up her birthday cake before going home, she was beginning to lose her cool. Luckily she had a nap while I rushed around getting things organised for her party later that day and of course it had all been worth it to watch DD1 cavorting around a stage holding an enormous toffee warning everyone of the detrimental effects of eating too many sweets... Not quite the traditional nativity play or carol service but it was never going to be.
Throwing a party, even that of a three-year-old, is always exciting, fun, stressful and exhausting in equal measure, and this was no exception. Househunting in fact had had to take a backseat for a few days as I did all the frantic preparations for this huge social event and milestone in DD2's life. In the end once the food was done and laid out it was plain sailing as three-year-olds do not need much to keep themselves amused. If anything I was busier making sure DD1 and the other older child there didn't get too fed up as the average age was between two and three... I still can't believe DD2 is three already and thus in theory past the first phase of development. However she herself told me with some surprise that in fact she is still a baby, for now, although also a big girl...