It now costs $160 to enter Chile as a US citizen. Reciprocity fee. If you think about it, that’s really just like a two-day pass to Disneyland, but it’s valid for the life of your passport.
We arrived to the airport at 6:10 am and our travel buddies (the Loeffler family) arrived shortly thereafter. The first hiccup was my missing bag, all my clothes and some camping gear. They said it would could be delivered by 2pm the next day (which ended up being true) however I couldn’t help but wonder at the time what my underwear would have smelled like after 20 days of travel.
And so it began. Rarely is one hiccup not followed shortly by another — we couldn’t rent our car until 9:30. This was because “that’s when the guy who could check the car for damage would get to work.” The other two guys who were at the desk and able to process the payment apparently couldn’t do anything but tell me to continue waiting. It blew my mind. Thankfully there was a play structure in the airport just down the hall from the rental desk that kept the kids busy for a while.
For the first two nights of our travels we planned on staying with my host family from when I took a semester abroad ten years ago. When the 17 year-old car-checking expert arrived and we were finally able to leave the airport, we drove to my family’s subdivision to find nobody home. We weren’t surprised since we were so late and my mom said she had to pick up my sister from the airport (arriving from a trip to Cairo) at 10:00am. So we went out to grab some lunch at a nearby supermarket and had a makeshift picnic on a little patch of grass behing the market’s loading bay. The day so far was setting quite the precident for flexibility — the sign of a good vacation to be sure.
We then headed back to the house and asked a neighbor if this was actually the correct house. She said “yes, I do believe a Gloria and Leo live there.” So I went through an open side yard gate to explore around back of the house. The things I found back there were not at all what I would have expected to see in my family’s back yard. So I concluded that we and the friendly neighbor must have been mistaken about the house. A stroll around the block led me to a super helpful neighbor who tried to use her cell phone to call my host mom. She didn’t really know how to use her phone though so we walked around the block again to find a third neighbor (the charm) who knew how to call my mom. My host dad picked up and told us that we were on the wrong street within the sub-division. We had the correct house number but the wrong street. Thank goodness for helpful neighbors and teamwork. We got ourselves settled in the house and after some short naps went out to walk around the town’s plaza and find some dinner.
Though we had the same instructions, we and our friends ended up at different plazas. Therefore, much of our time was spent looking for them and trying to find an ATM that wasn’t out of money or that worked with my card. After 30 minutes and six attempts I realized that I had brought an expired card with us to Chile, so the chances of it working plummeted drastically. Thankfully we are travelling with friends who brought a Discover card that isn’t accepted anywhere you want to be. Nothing to worry about though, because with our plastic combined we will be able to pay for our vacation.
While waiting for our friends in the plaza, Graham wanted to play with his trains (we’ve learned that bringing along some familiar toys helps G cope with the constant change of travel) so I fetched them from the trunk and he played contentedly right there next to the vendors. Mind you, all towns in Chile have central plazas with a church and a government building. Leading up to the holidays these plazas are full of vendors selling some hand-made some made in China items to holiday shoppers. So as G played, the people walking by were either looking at us as oddballs or asking how much we were selling the tracks for. Thanks to the lack of shoes, and the sticky yogurt residue on Graham’s face, which was now dust-encrusted due to his crawling around the airport floor and now the dirty plaza bricks, he looked like a little street urchin that some kind vendors were allowing to play with their wares. It was a proud moment as a parent.
After a truly mediocre dinner at a grimy sports bar we headed back to the house, showered and hit the sack hoping for a smoother tomorrow.