Hiya! Last week I introduced my new travel series about Chile and this one will be the big one to look for. Pretty much never-ending content (don’t worry it won’t actually be never-ending!) because of my relationship with this country.
To recap, I was born in Montreal, Canada from a French Canadian mom and a Chilean dad. In 1990, when the dictatorship that ripped Chile apart for 17 years ended, my parents got married to ensure that our lives would continue as normal in Montreal. My grandparents from Chile even made it to Canada and were introduced to me, another grandchild in the list of many many grandchildren (my dad is the youngest of four).
Then a year later, in May 1991, when I was still one year old, my mother and I flew to Chile to both go meet my father’s family. This is largely a retelling of my mother’s memories, as, you may have guessed, I don’t remember much from that trip.
Apparently my grandparents were absolutely thrilled to have us there – I mean it probably goes without saying that for most parents of expats and then grandparents, having your children/grandchildren come visit you is just a gift!
So 90s right? This was in Santiago where we probably stayed with some family. I have a very very large family so basically everywhere we went there was someone we know.
In Santiago, my mother insisted on seeing La Moneda, the presidential palace, which apparently didn’t please my grandparents too much since it reminded them of horrible memories of the dictatorship. Chile has a long and beautiful history, but that part of it is dreadful and for the people of my grandparents and dad’s generations it still just reminds of awful times. And back then, it was still very very fresh!
Another little thing about Chile – there are stray dogs everywhere! And apparently as a child I didn’t find that weird, I just kept calling them over. ‘Here doggie doggie!’ …to everyone’s despair of course.
Told you there were also chickens and turkeys walking about! There probably are less nowadays – but I remember very clearly waking up a few years ago with a chicken in my window…you know, the usj!
I think my mother definitely had some problem completely understand the Chileans and getting used to their expressions – she said many weird words translated directly from the French (which I will not repeat here or she might kill me). And once, my grandparents said we were heading to ‘el parque’ so my mom told me ‘oh Camila come, we’re going to have fun at the park!’ but it ended up being a shopping mall. I can so imagine mini me being not too impressed at that!
My mom said she remembers distinctly the many family dinners. While I don’t properly remember myself, I can vouch, after the many other trips I have made, that there are always many many family dinners. First, because I have a huge family, it’s lunch and dinner with the cousins and the uncles and the aunts and the great aunts, etc. Second…well the Chileans just know how to do a good lunch! There is no having lunch in 30 minutes. Lunch has many courses and wine and fresh everything!
I think to tell you the truth people were also intrigued to see us both. I was the tiny little baby – the baby of the family’s baby and I was dressed basically like a cotton candy in my little pink raincoat. My mom was the intriguing
very white woman with the pale blue eyes and the freckles. I’m sure we charmed them completely! 😉
We travelled extensively, from the capital, to the coast to see the cities of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. We stopped by my aunt’s hometown LLoleo. Then we headed down south towards by father’s hometown of Nueva Imperial. We saw Temuco and Carahue (my grandmother’s hometown), before going even more south to Pucon. I think my mother was very impressed by that region, where my dad is from, because it’s the region of volcanoes. It can seem so foreign when you’ve never even seen one!
I definitely think that the nature of Chile is just very intriguing for someone from North America. The whole of Chile’s geography is amazing – from the desert to Patagonia, with the lakes, the Andes and the volcanoes in the middle. Below I’m photographed with the Araucaria tree (or Chilean pine) which is the national tree.
In my father’s hometown – Nueva Imperial – we finally saw his childhood home. A beautiful home that my grandmother had surrounded by roses. You know how I talked about safety last week? Well my mother was surprised that the houses were gated in Chile as well – even I don’t fully understand the slightly dangerous nature of this country sometimes, but again it’s a matter of feeling safe.
That’s where I met my cousin Camilo – yes we were born only a few months apart and it wasn’t meant that we had almost the same name. We were apparently super buddies – I mean look at us!
The poverty and the ways that street people harassed us really surprised my mom. Once we were standing in the street and a vendor put some peanuts in my hand – hm hello I was 1 year old so I decided to eat the treat! But then the vendor told my mom to pay. She apparently was so mad to have been swindled through her child and in a language she didn’t fully get – so she got mad at him in French Canadian and he then ran away. True story!
She was also told off for giving money to children who were begging for money – because once she did that all the other children started to harass her and my family members.
However, despite having some clear misunderstandings and culture shock – I think my mother loved that country and perhaps understood more where my father came from after travelling to see it for herself.
After some many adventures we flew back home to come back to be reunited with my dad – poor him being left behind! Hope you enjoyed the few little memories from our first trip to Chile! A guide to handling travel abroad from my one year old will shortly follow – you don’t want to miss that! And hopefully we’ll tackle my next visit in the coming weeks 🙂
I will leave you on this little video – which Camilo and myself apparently watched every night before going to sleep. You’re welcome, world.
What is a travel related lesson you could learn from your younger self?xx