Sometimes I forget where I am or what I’m doing. Not that I am actually confused or have one of those moments where I wake up and forget where I am (even though it has happened a few times). It’s more that I don’t actively think about and appreciate the fact that I’m in a foreign country seeing and doing incredible things. I don’t even notice that sometimes I’m just going through the motions as I get caught up in planning, snapping pictures, thinking about what’s going on back at home, etc.
When we arrived in Santiago over a week ago, I was still under this spell. We grabbed a cab from the airport to our apartment in the center of the city. We were pleasantly surprised with our little studio (especially because it had a huge patio with a city view) and settled in. Later that night with two bottles of wine in tow, we sat out on this patio and gazed out at the city. I don’t know if it was the wine or the view of Santiago but it hit me. I’M IN SANTIAGO, CHILE.
In my 4 years at International TEFL Academy, I talked about teaching English in Chile, a lot. I helped many students find work in Santiago and can think of about 3 or 4 people who found jobs teaching here right before I left Chicago. I got to thinking about how I would explain to other people how to find work, how to get a visa, etc. in Chile even though I’d never been there. Now, here I am less than a year later staring out at this massive city. It was the first time in a long time that I fully conceptualized where in the world I was (even though I tried in my last post, it never really sank in).
My goal for the next couple of days was to be fully present in Santiago and bring myself back to appreciating where I am and what I’m doing. We mainly spent our time in Santiago doing the following:
Exploring La Vega: a huge market (mainly fruits and veggies). This place was an amazing experience for sensory overload, culture thrown in your face, and to save a lot of money on healthy fruits and vegetables! Many of the vendors would strike up conversations with us and ask us where we are from – they were so friendly. I love going to markets so much more than the grocery store.
Taking a Free Walking Tour: the tour took us to the main points of interest around the center of the city, Bella Vista, and Lastarria.
Plaza de Armas
La Moneda Palace
Pisco Sours in Lastarria
Eating in Mercado Central: the fish market. We were told the restaurants along the perimeter are much cheaper than those in the center so we tried Paila Blanca (a recommendation from our tour guide). It was great to try some local dishes but probably not the greatest idea to order 2 scalding soups when it’s over 80 degrees outside!
Paila Marina – filled with shellfish
Chupe de Jaiba – cheesy crab goodness
Finding cool spots in Santiago ourselves:
Ciudad Vieja Sanducheria in the Bella Vista neighborhood had delicious, fresh, AND vegetarian sandwiches!
Terremoto at La Nona – white wine, sorbet, pisco, and grenadine
Just some random buildings that caught our eye
Hiking up to Santa Lucía
Drinking wine on our patio: the views from our own apartment were just amazing that we didn’t feel like we needed to really go anywhere else!
(There is quite a bit more to do in Santiago but we are coming back in about two weeks with our friends Nina and Zach (AH!) so we just decided to take it easy).
Dan and I agreed that we really love Santiago. The summer weather is perfect (sunny, no humidity), the vibe is great, it feels safe, and of course there is plenty to do. I attribute most of my positive feelings about Santiago and our time here towards my desire to be present and appreciative of the fact that I’m here!
I’ll admit that keeping up this mentality was difficult to do. There were days when I’d wake up, drink my coffee, check Instagram, and not really think about the fact that I didn’t have anything to worry about that day. Or the fact that I am currently living in Santiago, Chile. Being truly appreciative of your situation is challenging when you are living through something similar day in and day out (travel, work, no matter what it is). Practicing the art (yes, I believe it is an art) of grounding myself and being thankful for where I am and what I have will not only help me enjoy this trip more, but help me enjoy the day to day and “normal” life when I’m not living out my dream in South America.