As those of you who have me as a Facebook friend are already aware, I finally became a victim of the inevitable pick-pocket on Saturday whilst on the metro. My wallet was snatched out of the bag I was wearing across my shoulder without me feeling a thing – so it was ‘bye bye’ bank card, health insurance, driver’s licence, RUT card (essentially my Chilean national insurance/ID), University card, Bip card, $35.000 in cash, and keys to both mine and Dave’s apartments. Up until that point, I had never had a bad run-in whilst being in Santiago (I’ve never even had anything stolen during my 20+ years living in Liverpool!), so it’s always a little upsetting when something negative happens that rattles your confidence in a place a little. But as a friend of mine pointed out, you get people like this everywhere, so it’s not good enough reason to go off a people as a whole.
(Ok, so perhaps that’s paraphrasing a little too much. What our British-Chinese George really said was: “Unfortunately she looks like a gringa, and everyone thinks that gringas are rich. I never get attacked or robbed the 6.5 years I lived here. I guess because according to to racial stereotyping, I must be a baddie, poor or know kung fu. But robberies happen everywhere so you shouldn’t fall out of love with Chileans; c***s can be found everywhere (but mainly concentrated in metros and estate agencies)” )
Indeed, most of the Chileans I have interacted with whilst being here have been nothing short of friendly, helpful, interested and interesting. So, because we should always be able to balance out the bad with something good (akin to the Chernobyl reactor blowing up on the day I was born), I thought I’d share a few random acts of kindness I’ve experienced in recent times. 🙂
1) Lemon pie
Simple. There was left over pudding after a meeting in the ESO office, and one of our lovely caretaker-esque people came into the student office to give us first choice. A perfect accompaniment to the last cup of coffee of the day. 🙂
2) Open bag
I was walking home from the office one evening with my iPod on. I get a tap on my shoulder to find a guy a little younger than me, who must have been trying to call out to me, telling me that the zip had come undone on my rucksack and was showing the contents. Extra pick-pocketing avoided!
3) Sun cream
One of the sweeter ones. Whilst we were up on holiday in San Pedro, it was scorching hot (as you would imagine it would be in the desert). Naturally I had slathered myself in the usual factor 50 sun cream before venturing outside. As we were on our way to book our bus tickets back to Santiago, some random older guy in worker’s overalls said something to me as we passed him along the lines of saying that it’s good I was wearing my hat due to the fairness of my skin. On our way back out again, he called to us and told us to wait a minute. He then disappeared into the cab of his truck for a few seconds, and re-emerged brandishing a large bottle of his own sun cream and offered it to me. Even the locals are concerned about the delicate English rose frazzling underneath the Chilean sun!
4) 4 a.m. breakkie
Also in San Pedro. In our hostel, we were given breakfast every morning. On one of the days we were going to go see a geyser field at sunrise, which involved a VERY early start – getting picked up by the tour bus at around 4:30am! Obviously breakfast doesn’t usually start until about 8am, so we thought we’d go ask if we could take some bread and cheese off them the night before so we could eat before we left in the morning. They told us with regret that it wasn’t possible because they have their bread delivered freshly every morning and we’d be gone before that happened. So we thought “no problem, we’ll just have to get something from a local shop to nibble on”. But as we were on our way out of the door a little later on, we bumped into the people whom we’d asked on their way to our room to find us. They offered to let us into the dining room when we were ready at 4am so that we could at least have the yogurt, juice and coffee that the breakfast also consisted of. We gladly accepted, and thus avoided early morning starvation. 🙂
The first (and currently only!) time I met my neighbour to the left of my apartment on my floor was when my sister and I were leaving to go out one day to find my doorstep covered in grapes. Not an entirely normal situation. The neighbour’s door was open, and eventually she reappeared laughing at the influx of fruit on the floor. Turns out my neighbour is an adorable 70-something year old lady called Iliana who had just done her shopping and accidentally left some remnants. So after we were talking to her for 5 minutes or so with the usual explanation of how I’m fairly new to Chile and I’m here for a year working, blah blah blah, she tells us to wait where we are and disappears back inside her apartment. She reappears a few minutes later carrying a plate with the source of the fruity doormat – a huge bunch of purple grapes. She hands me the plate, saying: “Grapes from the south, for you! Very delicious!” , and hands it to me as a welcome gift. How adorable!
The day I moved in, I told the porter on the desk in the main foyer of my building that I’d be willing to rent out the car parking space that came with my apartment as I obviously have no need for it. The next day, I get a phone call off a resident two floors above me asking if I would be willing to rent it to him. Of course I say yes, and we agree on a price. Again, I go through the usual explanation of why a small, white girl is living in Santiago. When he came to give me the rent for the first two months, he also came brandishing a bottle of Carmenere red wine that, he tells me, was homemade by a good friend of his. He passed it to me and said: “Welcome to Chile!” 🙂
So yes, bad things are statistically bound to happen living in a city of over 7 million people, and with me being so obviously non-local. But as we can see, the good experiences interacting with the Chilean people currently (and hopefully always will) outweigh the bad. And that’s an inbalance I think I can live with! 🙂
Hasta la proxima,
(P.S. If the culprit in question is, for some obscure reason, reading this… I hope you catch the ‘flu I currently have. Pretty sure I sneezed on that wallet once or twice. Enjoy!)