Day 1: 26th of January
Today starts at midnight, sharp. I’m strapped in my chair, the latter inclined at a 45degree angle. Beside me, David, and a few rows ahead, the rest of my family. This flight is our longest ever, 11.30h from the distant reaches of New Zealand to Santiago, the capital of Chile. The weird thing is that we’re going back in time, a day back actually. We left Auckland, New Zealand’s capital, on the 27th and arrive in Santiago on the 26th. As such, we leave on an afternoon, and arrive on another afternoon, which means this’ll be the longest day of our lives, 39 hours instead of 24.
Luckily, international flights are traditionally equipped with personal touch-screens, with movies and a couple of junk games. After 3 hours, I’m still watching the same movie, for the 7th time, because it keeps on stopping randomly and going back to the beginning. All the plane seems plagued with this. Finally I finish it, and decide I’ll occupy myself with a game or two before undergoing the painful experience that is sleeping in a plane. Unluckily, no longer am I on the game menu when my screen freezes, and all commands for it go dead. Just my luck. I decide, after 30mins of unsuccessful tries at repairing it, to light the crew call button. Normally I’d just resign myself, but for an 11 hour flight, losing my sole entertainment is not very nice (having emptied the battery of my laptop beforehand).
After a wait of barely 30 secs, a crew member comes right along. Amazing. Mustering my best Spanish, which is not that good anyway, I say, pointing to my screen:
“It doesn’t move -”
(Let’s do a convention, when I speak or read in Spanish, I’ll write it in italics. I’ll try to be faithful to my words, so don’t be surprised if my vocabulary when speaking takes a steep drop, you’ll be reading lots of ‘Can I have some of this?’ instead of ‘Can I have some fruit salad?’ for example, but I don’t pretend to be a Spanish pro.)
The crew member turns around, mutters an incomprehensible babble of words and disappears. Hoping it meant please wait, I wait for half an hour. No such luck. Following my Dad’s advice, I call again. This time nobody comes. After another wait of half an hour, at which point I’m flashing my light on and off, another crew member comes. This time I speak in English, and am interrupted by an ‘Ok.’ before the person goes away. Well, I tried all I could, and they’re probably working to repair it.
So now sleep. I tuck away my glasses, lean back, bend my knees against the chair in front of me, so that they are higher than my head, join my hands together, and loll my head to one side. It’s sort of comfortable, but that’s to be expected to change in five minutes when I’ll be stiff all over. 10 minutes later I try a different tactic, legs bent before me on the floor, my back half bent onto my chair. David’s still watching movies. In the end, I try so many different positions that I’ve got no idea which one sees me sleep. Still, I’ve got a rather positive hindsight of this, I’m definitely improving from the first plane to South Africa.
Obviously, I wake up after 20 minutes, go back to sleep, reawaken and so on, until at last the light in the plane is switched back on, and I realize it’s morning, sort of. My watch tells me it’s 3 o’clock, so I calculate the time I slept. It seems rather considerable until I realize it’s not 3 in the afternoon, but in the morning. Much less good…
As soon as I get back into my chair, I start feeling terrible, like if something was stuck in my stomach and my body was wondering whether to continue squeezing it through, or just sending it back up. Never before have I been sick in a plane, and only once in a boat, this feels exactly like the latter, except worse because it’s happening right now. An instinct concerning vomiting and bad food arises from the six months past. I stand up, directing myself to the bathroom. Last time I felt this, on my first days in Australia, I had felt so weak that I had fallen to the floor in front of my room, and after, had managed to unlock the door and get to my bed. This time I feel faint on my legs and give up, returning to my chair. I’ll use the vomiting bag if things got serious.
I’m panting now, my head on one side, praying for it to stop. That’s what I hate about sickness compared to physical pain, you can do nothing but wait, not even knowing how well your body is faring, or when it will stop. Breakfast comes by, which I pass. I mean to ask for a glass of coke, which is good for the stomach, but orange juice are the words that come out first. At last, after about 5 more minutes, it stops as abruptly as it came. No vomiting, nothing. What a relief! I call again for a breakfast, muddling myself up with Spanish. After all, I need to concentrate on a Spanish voice, which is hard over the groan of the plane engine and my blocked ears.
Very soon after, the plane dips down. Out of my window, I see sea and, afar, the South American continent. Then a city, which we fly past, followed by imposing mountains that dwarf the hills I had seen from my seat of New Zealand. These in turn make way to an intricate patterns of hills. Everything now is spotted, with shrubs separated from each other by brown soil. In New Zealand, it was simple, either you had no trees on the mountains, or only trees. Here, everywhere is full of shrubs, but that seems to be spread out among a huge area instead of concentrated in a panel of green. Just before landing, I spy a whole lot of land filled with garbage. This confuses me, am I looking at comparing with Europe? South Africa? India??
The customs pass by smoothly, and before long we’re looking to get a taxi. A booth proposes one for 18000. 18000??? Oh… Pesos have a value of about 1/800th of a Euro, or at least until the Euro falls more. My Dad realizes he forgot to ask money, and then we’re following a man to a minibus. At first, the scenery reminds me of South Africa, except cleaner and with a lot more space. Somebody, presumably the aid of the driver, takes some of our luggage, a little by force, and helps to put them into the booth. Then he tells my father, in Spanish, that he doesn’t work for the company. Why would he say that, I wonder? But already my father understands. He wants a tip. As we’ve just taken money, in wads of high value notes, this is not a very convenient time.
“Sorry, I’ve got no tip,” my Dad tells the awaiting man.
I’m looking out of the window, and the country seems rather beautiful, in its own personal way. The landscape itself reminds me of the Australian bushland, with its vast amounts of empty place, populated with faded green shrubs. On arrival to the city, the first impressions I get are that of a shabby place, a little bit like Delhi or Agra except cleaner obviously, with a big road and pavement, compared to the narrow dirt paths in India filled with dense crowds, strolling cows, and honking vehicles. All in all, Chile looks promising but I am still confused about which class of countries to compare it to.
We arrive before our hotel, which we had luckily planned. Our taxi driver opens the big wooden doors, and a young woman greets us with “Hi’s” and “Hello’s”. Her accent is rather good, but she switches to Spanish when my Dad says ‘hola’. I love hearing Spanish speak their own tongue. Spanish for me seems alive, full of vitality. This is probably just because I’m learning the language, compared to French and English, but it doesn’t stop Spanish, with a real Spanish accent and at a real Spanish speed, from charming me. While I’m guarding the bags, I spy a game room with pool and babyfoot (do you spell it like this?) Pool I’m used to seeing, but the other sparks memories from my camp in Spain, 4 years ago, as well as my grandparent’s summer house. I love this game, and am rather good in attack.
After a couple of games, we carry our heavy luggage up two flights of wooden stairs, into a completely bare room, at the exception of 3 bunker beds and a cupboard. My parents go out into the city, so as not to fall asleep, while we stay and ‘relax’. But the odd look outside of the window reminds me that outside is Chile, which I’ll soon be immersed in. My parents then come back, and I learn that their efforts to stay awake proved much harder than for us. Luckily they don’t have couches on the road, else I might have had to wait for them a long time. Then a dinner with chunks of salmon, first fish for months! The running water we weren’t sure if we could drink, so we bought bottles. It’s strange, bottles of water here cost around 900 pesos, or 600 if you then give back the plastic bottle.
During the day I was kept awake by a sort of haziness in my brain, that filtered my thoughts, evicting words like ‘tired’ but resisting organized thought. When I finally did sleep, close to ten o’clock, I woke up very soon, at two, feeling not rested, but unable to find sleep. This was the time I was used to waking in New Zealand. My parents were both awake, followed by at least one of my brothers. After unsuccessful tries to sleep, I took my laptop and began writing this. But I’m starting to feel tired again, so I better catch some sleep before I wake at ten tomorrow.
If there’s one thing I’m dreading, it’s school tomorrow, and the days after. I’ve got four tests from my school in France. Each time I finish one, two others are sent in its stead. Tests mean a lot of serious studying, willpower, and concentration, as I can never be sure what the next test will target. Sometimes I’m lucky, and that’s the chapter I studied, or sometimes I’m unlucky, and I’ve done the wrong order. Then I must catch up in a few days what the class did in a few weeks. And that’s for only one subject… Now you know what I did during the days just before and after New Year’s Eve.
As I said, I’ll be needing all my wits around me tomorrow, as my current state is half asleep. Good night!
Day 2: 27th
After not being able to sleep until 5 in the morning, I’m now woken up a bit after 10. I want to stay in bed, but feel hot and uncomfortable, and anyway, there’s free pancakes offered by our hostel every morning. I suppose it’s for the good cause, no? Two seconds to get dressed, then I’m going down. I’m really thirsty, but the only bottle we had has been finished by Amandine and finally David that also woke up in the night. We get to the kitchen, and the manager, a guy far taller than my Dad, is making round blobs of pancake. There’s one pancake up for grabs, which he says, and Eric pounces on it. As soon as he touches it, the manager says in English:
“That pancake is rubbish. But you touch it, you eat it. That’s the rule of the house.”
Eric, a bit sad, retreats to the eating hall, and we soon join him with hot pancakes. They’re not very nice, at least until David suggests they might be banana flavoured. They’re not, but at least it gives the weird taste a classification. For the sake of their name, I take two more, but get disgusted very quickly. Then I take my cutlery and go wash them in the kitchen sink. I’m used to this, and can clean rather quickly, though nowhere as fast as some professionals.
While I wash, a Malaysian comes in for pancakes. Currently, there’s one left, but as he’s about to take it the manager warns:
“No! Don’t take it!”
Obediently, the Malaysian pulls back his hand as the manager continues:
“Joke! Why wouldn’t you be able to take it?”
“Maybe you wanted it for yourself, or -”
“Na, you can have it.”
In an effort to regain a conversation, the Malaysian caresses the hostel dog, and says:
“He’s a little smelly…”
“So are you,” responds the manager, “but I don’t tell you that.” This shocks the Malaysian quite a bit, but the manager continues:
“No, the dog smells just as he normally does.”
I included this just to give you an idea of this man, he’s made fun of me once, of my Mum once, and of my Dad twice. Funny sense of humour? I’d say more ‘personal’ sense of humour. But I’m not complaining, it’s funnier than it is annoying.
Yesterday my Dad was cooking fish, as you know, when the manager came in and said:
“What is that smell? Who’s cooking fish?”
“Who was cooking fish,” my father replies.
“I hate the smell of fish, makes this place stink like mad. Just like cigarettes.”
Then I manage to write 3 emails, what with connection difficulties. The time I have left I use to update my blog, then…
Time to eat. We leave the hostel, walking towards a place my Dad had found beforehand. Houses don’t look so shabby any more, and anyway this is not the heart of Chile. Actually, the streets are quite empty, except for the occasional passer-by, and the whole city seems clean and pleasant. Not like India at all, more like Spain. The restaurant seems typically Spanish, if I didn’t know I was in Chile, nor the restaurant or the window view would betray anything. Still, we do feel like tourists, like anywhere we go. We surprise the waiter by speaking Spanish, and receive a sort of barbecue meal. Not bad. Still, I was expecting Chilean food to be really strange, a little like Mexican, and was actually really looking forward to exotic and spicy food. But then I got all the food bit wrong. We’ll see next time. As the whole family is so little hungry, due to time differences, we take a plate for 2-3 that reveals itself hard to finish for our ruined appetites.
Then we visit a little the city, which looks to be the same class as Europe, except for the heat. Soon we get back to our hostel, still tired. But now… Comes school…
I’m the only one studying today, the others are resting. 2H30 of SVT, straight. I take really long understanding and memorizing, still in a haze of tiredness. I’ll revise some more tonight, and take the test tomorrow. Then half an hour of physics, where I go over the lessons I had learnt in China. Straight after, dinner, composed of cereals and watermelon. Then I play a little babyfoot, finish my emails, and continue this blog. Now I’ll stop this, as I need to revise my SVT, then I’ll sleep. I hope I get over the time difference…
Filed under: Chili |