My last day in Santiago, the last day in Chile, and instead of going out on a crazy spree by cramming it all in at once I was sitting on my friend’s bed watching National Geographic specials. For hours. She was sleeping well past noon just like her brother and his girlfriend. Her parents had gone out to shop for a birthday present for a niece, but when I was asked if I wanted to go I said no because I thought we’d soon be heading out anyway. Instead, Nicole slept off a couple of days of playing tour guide and drinking the part, and I caught up on some familiar programming.
It wasn’t exactly a waste of time, though. As I’ve written before, I spent a lot of time just relaxing in the countryside, which was what I needed. This short rest on the bed was also necessary. I didn’t exactly want to show up to work exhausted after a three day weekend, but come back feeling refreshed and clean. Our plan had been to head out to San Cristóbal Hill and maybe sneak in another touristy thing, but with an overcast day and hangovers looming, I was on my own. The other problem was I had no money and couldn’t get any. I brought no Chilean pesos with me and was unable to take money out of the ATM the only time I tried to in the countryside, so I couldn’t just go out and explore much on my own.
Yet after a couple of hours of TV I was itching to make the most of my time, so just as Nic0le was getting ready to shower up I went out for a walk around the block. Just as I got downstairs the sun began to poke through the clouds and it heated up a bit. October is a weird time in Santiago, just like in Buenos Aires. You can’t really predict the weather well, and it can quickly go from sunny and hot to rainy and cold. I took a right on Vespucio and walked a few blocks, quickly at first with my usual Buenos Aires pace. I had to think about walking slower until my legs would do so.
In the Las Condes neighborhood, surrounded by high rises and beautiful houses, I took a leisurely Monday (holiday) stroll by myself. It could have been like any other day alone in Buenos Aires when I go for a walk alone, but this felt different not only in location, but in knowing that I wasn’t really alone. A few blocks down and I turned on Errazuriz, and was stunned by how quickly it went from city to neighborhood in the suburbs. It was quiet and calm, with just a few cars going by and random people walking by on the sidewalk. I took in the neighborhood, it’s groomed streets and comfortable-looking houses. I was looking for a plaza which my friend suggested I walk to, but wasn’t really heading towards it and after a while decided to head back for lunch.
To go back a different way I went down Malaga, passing English Tudors and the Algerian Embassy. There was nothing wrong with the walk and I probably should have gone even longer. To cap it off, before crossing the street I stopped as a bus was coming, and the driver actually stopped and let me pass. This was definitely not Buenos Aires. Back at the apartment, we had a final lunch together, and as usual the food was excellent. I felt so grateful and didn’t know how my simple gift of alfajores and continual “thank you’s” could truly capture just how much it all meant. Some ice cream, my treat, would just have to suffice, for the time being anyway.
A quick trip to the park with the dogs and soon Nicole was driving me to the airport, where I quietly got back on the plane to Buenos Aires to call an end to the trip. Landing around midnight, I was surprised to find that now, after already leaving the country, border control was giving me a hard time. The woman said she believed me and understood that I had citizenship, but didn’t know what to make of my papers. She went to find a supervisor while I stood in line and everyone looked at me like I was a criminal. I thought that maybe I’d get thrown into the Customs jail and have to make a late night call to a friend or the Embassy, but she eventually came back and said it was OK, then gave me a new 90 day stamp. My taxi driver thought himself a professor and gave me a lesson on the Falklands War and current situation as he drove about 10 kilometers an hour until I actually had to ask him to drive faster, probably the only time in my life I’ll have to ask a cabbie to do so. But I made it home in one piece.
The trip to Chile was short for sure, but it was helpful in so many ways. I realized once again that I need to travel to keep me happy, and that it helps bridge gaps in so many aspects of life. I don’t know when I’ll be able to get back to Chile, but then again, the last time I left I don’t think I had any thoughts of going back so quickly. At least now I know that when I do go back, I’ll have a special place with some friends waiting for me.