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A little insight into the life of Free Spirit - a melting pot of our thoughts, beliefs, suggestions & ideas to inspire you on your path as you journey through life.



Finally. I'm here. In Santiago.  

 

My first welcome sign as I pass through passport control is a $120 entry fee for Australians & Mexicans.  Everyone else is free.  I must admit I'm a little bit smug (and so so grateful) to choose my British passport to handover while I hear the other Aussies grimace..

 

I collect the trusty backpack from the belt and I'm through the gates, already regretting my choice of luggage as I'm no more than 20 paces before it starts weighing me down.. I battle on and pick a fat, kind looking local to ask in my very limited Spanish "Cual Es la bus por la Ciudad?" ...He points and gestures that he's taking the same bus.. he talks fast, arms flapping, and somehow I understand that I must give my bags to the attendent and take a ticket, which I must keep to then retrieve my bag.  Ok cool.  We get on the bus, he points at my purse and again talking rapidly and arms flapping, gestures that I should be wary of pick pockets.  Ok got it.  He talks in Spanish to me the whole trip.  We start with the basics.. name, age, where I'm from.. slowly things come back to me.. brothers or sisters?  Work?.. I manage to muddle something of an answer together for each that he seems content with.  It gets more complicated.. and then I don't know.  I don't know anything and suddenly the flapping of arms method doesn't work on me and we stare blankly at each other.

 

This is going to be hard.

 

I've learnt Spanish in classrooms for 3 separate years in my life, I speak quite a bit of French and a little Italian.. so I have, I think, a good basic grasp on this melodic Latino language, however I quickly realise I'm going to need a lot more..  the Duo Lingo app, feeding me fun phrases such as "Los caballos Bebe leche" (the horse drinks milk") suddenly seems very useless as the suited up 80 year old taxi driver is now my new amigo to converse with.  But he's very patient with me, and we have a slow, basic chat before he drops me with my bag, pecks me on the cheek (?!) and waves me goodbye. 



I smile.  Of all the "arriving in a strange country and making ones way to first hostel" experiences I've had, this was definitely the most charming.

 

The guys owning the hostel are nice and to my relief speak a little English, however the rest of the guests hanging out there do not.  Wow.  This could be very lonely.  It's not. It's ok. But I'm fully aware to get the most out of my trip I will need to up my game.  After all you can't build much of a connection with someone who you can only get as far as "how many brothers and sisters do you have".  But this is what I wanted, to be forced to learn and speak Spanish, and this is exactly what I've got.

 

I find a free walking tour of the city (in English) to get my bearings and naturally make a few English speaking friends.  Their Spanish seems somewhat more advanced than mine, although many have been travelling here for 3 months and it's only my first day so I don't give myself a hard time.

I love Santiago.  It's a beautiful city.  Tree lined streets, sunny plazas, stunning architecture.. chic little cobbled streets with wine bars and restaurants, green parks filled with activity; friends hanging out, couples smooching, and from what I can see, quite a lot of old men dressed to the nines in full suits.  After the tour we explore the nightlife of Bella Vista, I find a new passion for Pisco Sours and hence I sleep very well that night.

 

 

The next day I take a day tour to Cajon Del Maipo,  a mountain, lake and wine region.  My pick up is at 6am by Herman.  El no habla ingles.  

Nada. 

Ok.  I see it as another great opportunity to expand my linguistics.  The other 7 people who joined were in fact all Brazilian with almost as little Spanish as myself, but between us we communicate little by little.  After seeing such awesome AWESOME scenery we end up at some natural hot springs with the most stunning backdrop!  

I head for the quietest pool, with no one else in so I can greedily have a few moments of bliss all to my self, but Herman stops me.. I don't understand what he's saying.. the fast talking and flapping of arms don't help much, but he's smiling so I just smile and nod as I ease myself into the water... Shhhhiiiiiiiii!!!  My brain catches up with my body and I jump out with a squeal.. much to Hermans amusement.  It's the hottest of the pools, as he was trying to tell me.. so now I have learned, and will not forget, the word for hot; Caliente.  Which apparently is very similar to the word for Horny.  Note to self.  Use with care.

 After an hour of soaking up the minerals and surroundings, We return to the car and find a spread of wine, bread, meats & cheeses that Herman is serving.  Perfect.



In broken Spanish we talk about food in each country and this time my Duo Lingo knowledge comes in handy!  I'm able to ask if they eat horse in Chile.  Yes they do.  And of course they find it hilarious when I tell them we eat kangaroo in Australia.

 

It's no deep conversation but it's a start and I'm pleased with my little bit of progress.

 

That night I ask the waitress in the cafe what she thinks is best... she brings me the BEST ceviche I've ever had! (Sorry Xavier, Santi, Seb, Christian & anyone else has made it for me! .. afterwards I ask for the dessert menu but I obviously get it wrong because she looks at me blankly.. I remember the word for cake, hoping that will make sense to her.. she smiles and nods.  Great.  Then a few minutes later returns with a HUGE slice of cake the size of my head.  I don't have the heart or language skills to explain the mistake so I give in.  I eat the cake.  Ah well some things you just have to let go...

My next destination is Mendoza in Argentina.  I take the jaw dropping mountainous bus ride across the Andes and arrive later that afternoon to the famous wine region.  Much to my disappointment the sky is covered in a thick grey blanket of cloud and the rain sets in for the next 4 days.  My vision of cycling from winery to winery in the autumn sunshine is quickly dispersed, but instead I find a super friendly, family run hostel full of new friends of every nationality.  Chilean, Argentina, Spanish, German, American, French.. we communicate in both English & Spanish and as the Malbec flows I think my Spanish does too!  Some of the guys tease me when I get it really wrong, and I tease them back when they get their English wrong.. it might not be the most structured way to learn but I think it's effective!

 

We have a wine filled Easter weekend, but all good things must come to an end and we all decide it's time to move on, find the sunshine and go our separate ways.  Such is life travelling this big wide world!  

 

Im a bit sad to say goodbye but so so grateful for my first week exploring this new continent...

 

The road to speaking fluent Spanish is sure going to be a long one, however the acceptance, patience and sense of humour of both the locals and tourists so far has been so warm, I can already feel it's the start of new doors opening... a new language...and a new vision of life.



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