We arrived in Santiago, Chile on Saturday morning a few minutes after 8:00 am. (Can you believe we were in a plane for almost 12 hours with no time change? Santiago is in the same time zone as Cincinnati!) The last half hour of the trip, Arturo was almost bouncing in his seat he was so excited to finally be coming home after more than 13 years away. Neither of us had gotten much sleep during our red-eye flight, but we each managed to get a few hours – enough to get us through the day.
Arturo’s father was waiting for us as we exited customs, and it was wonderful to finally meet him. He’s a kind, funny, generous man, and our first few days with him have been great. Arturo is loving every second. When we’re at home in Ohio, Arturo and his father talk quite frequently and even use video chat every few weeks, but that’s not the same as physically walking next to someone or giving someone a giant hug. It’s been great.
Arturo Sr. and Arturo Jr. in front of Parque Forestal, a large park in the center of Santiago. It has the feel of New York’s Central Park, although it’s not nearly as big.
We’ve spent almost all of our time so far either working or visiting Arturo’s family. Arturo is working remotely for part of our visit to save as many vacation days as he can for the adoption trip, so Monday and Tuesday of this week have been somewhat normal workdays for him, except he’s working from a desk in his father’s law office rather than from his cubicle in the Kroger tech center. Our weekend and evening times have been spent with family.
Arturo peeking over his laptop at me while working
Arturo’s father in his office
Saturday evening, I finally met Arturo’s grandmother, whom he constantly talks about. She’s the sweetest lady! We brought photos of Shawna and Seth, and she spent over an hour looking at the photos of our children and going through the photos on my phone.
Arturo’s grandmother (Abuelita Fanny), one of Arturo’s uncles (Enrique Sr.), and Arturo listening with rapt attention to a story Arturo Sr. was telling over “once.” (Like British tea, “once” is the Chilean meal at about 5:00 when the family eats a small meal of sandwiches and fingerfoods. Dinner comes much later, around 9:00.)
Arturo Sr. in the middle of his story – I think this one was about a tarantula – and Enrique Jr.
Since our arrival, I’ve also met several more of Arturo’s siblings. Arturo’s younger sister Alicia is married to an American and lives in the US, so we see her quite regularly and spend the holidays with her. But I had never met Carola and Fanky, Arturo’s stepsister and stepbrother, or Gus and Jopi, Arturo’s halfbrother and halfsister. Sunday afternoon and evening, Arturo’s stepmother, Pamela, treated the whole group to an amazing selection of homecooked Chilean goodness. Oh my it was delicious.
L to R: Arturo Jr, Arturo Sr, Jopi, Pamela, Gus, Marcela (Fanky’s wife), and Fanky. Carola unfortunately wasn’t able to come due to an emergency in her husband’s family. We’re hoping she and her family will be able to join us this weekend.
Arturo & Gus, wearing his uniform. Gus is a 4th year cadet in the Chilean Naval Academy (3rd in his class!!), and he had to leave at the end of the evening to return to school.
Los Tres Hermanos (The Three Brothers): Arturo, Gus, Fanky
Arturo Sr with his two sons, together for the first time in 13 years
While most of our time has been spent working or with family, we’ve still found time for a few quick jaunts around Santiago. This seems to be a city much like New York in the sense that most of its citizens get around by metro and public transit, and those who do drive face wretched traffic. We’ve done almost all our travel in the city so far by bus, metro, or walking. Walking is my personal favorite, as it provides ample photo-taking opportunities.
Arturo has often described to me the mountains surrounding the city of Santiago, and they are true to their description. In downtown, where we’re staying and where Arturo’s father has his law office, the mountains are obscured from view by the tall buildings. But venture out into the more residential areas, like the neighborhoods where Pamela, Abuelita Fanny, and Fanky and Marcela live, and the mountains completely surround you. These are the Andes, towering snow-covered beasts nothing like the Appalachian mountains I’m used to from my hometown in West Virginia. These mountains floor me every time. There’s even an ancient volcano clearly visible to the northeast, with the characteristic volcano-like hole in the top, but I haven’t yet been able to get a good photo of it. (Don’t worry – the trip is still young. I’ll get a good photo of the volcano yet! lol)
The flora here also amazes me. It’s a crazy mix of temperate deciduous and evergreen trees (like we see all over in Ohio), desert plants (one of the plants used as a “bush” here is a plant I recognize from the desert section of Cincinnati’s Krohn Conservatory), and tropical palm trees. It seems so hard to comprehend that these plants can all coexist in the same place!
One of the more unusual, desert-type plants
In our walks, we’re making sure to visit some of the places Arturo remembers most clearly from his childhood. His dad lived for many years in this first-floor apartment:
This building is across the street from Parque Forestal, where the first photo in this post was taken.
and Arturo has often told me of the ballets he saw at the Teatro Municipal, which were his first introduction to classical music.
Santiago’s Municipal Theatre, Teatro Municipal
A café is just down the street from the theater, and these next two photos are specifically for Arturo’s mother. She would take Arturo and Alicia to this café after concerts and ballet performances, and she once worked in the brick building just next door.
Arturo’s maternal grandfather was a well-known radio and television personality in Chile from the 1940s until he died in 1985. At that time, this building was the US Embassy in Santiago, and one of his radio programs, a culturally focused program, was recorded and broadcast from the embassy each week.
The former US Embassy in Chile, now the Chilean Chamber of Commerce
Arturo’s father got us a hotel room for our first few nights in Santiago as a welcome gift and also to help us rest and relax after the long flight. (So thoughtful of him!) Our hotel was directly across the street from this park, Cerro Santa Lucia. Sunday morning after breakfast but before meeting Arturo Sr for the day, we took a few minutes to wander through.
Cerro Santa Lucia
A closeup of the fountain statues in front of the park
The park is full of little trails and stairways to explore. We didn’t have time to go down all of them, but I wish we had!
This is perhaps one of our last “family vacation photos” as a family of two.
Meeting Arturo’s family has definitely been my favorite part of this trip so far, but I must say the food is a close second. I love every Chilean dish Arturo has ever made for me or that we’ve ever eaten in the (very few) Chilean restaurants in the US, so I’ve been looking forward to the food for quite some time. It has not disappointed.
Breakfast on Sunday: empanadas
Arturo’s lunch on Saturday: steamed fish and shrimp. (My lunch on Saturday was a type of Chilean stewed beef, which Arturo Sr. also had, and it was INCREDIBLE. Unfortunately, the photo didn’t really turn out. You’ll just have to use your imagination for that one.)
Lunch today: a completo, which is a Chilean-style hotdog topped with relish, finely diced tomatoes, and mayonnaise. Yum!
I’ve also loved the little vignettes all over the city – a beautiful doorway here or a majestic building there. It’s a camera bug’s paradise.
This Coke truck cracks me up! It’s the cutest little delivery truck I’ve ever seen. Love it!
We’ve been in Chile less than 4 days, and this place and the people I’ve met have already captured my heart. I can’t believe Arturo was away for so long, and I can guarantee you it won’t be anywhere NEAR 13 years before we come back again, next time with two lovely children in tow. We have almost two weeks left here before we return to the US, and I intend to savor (and probably photograph) every moment.