SAU Buzz

Chile lives in my heart

by Sharon Adasme
Posted on Oct 04, 2018

My siblings and I are dual citizens of Chile and the United States. My mom is from Iowa; my dad is from Chile. From Sept. 12 through Sept. 21 we had the opportunity to go visit my Chilean family. I’ve only been to Chile once before, about five years ago.


My grandparents have six children, and my dad is the oldest. So five tiosy tias (uncles and aunts), all my 11 primos (cousins), and now some of my cousins have kids. Our family is the only one who doesn’t live in Graneros, which is about 80 kilometers south of Santiago. Although my Spanish is very broken and basic, there were enough relatives who spoke enough English or English speakers who could translate--or good ol’ Google Translate if you were really in a pinch. Even without words, we communicated through regalos (gifts), besos (kisses) on the cheek, and abrazos (hugs). Another form of universal communication was comida (food).


From the cafe to empanadasy sopapillas, and don’t forget about the completos, we ate traditional Chilean food or bought snacks from small tiendas (small shops sometimes connected to the back of a family’s house). My family has a small fridge that they keep milk in and maybe some unused produce, but mostly they go to a market every day or so to get vegetables and buy bread from a man who calls “Pan!” through the streets. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and we had at least 10 or 12 people eating at the table at once. Most of my family still live in Graneros, even with their own families. If they don’t live within Graneros limits, they don’t live too far. Entonces (so) there was always someone new coming, a kiss on the cheek (cultural greeting) and more plates and bowls brought out for them. And hardly anyone drank plain water; mostly we drank sodas or agua con gas (tonic or mineral water).


It was quite a fun hassle trying to travel all together. Rancagua is a city a little more than 13 kilometers from Graneros. The American side of my family are my parents, my two siblings, me, and my sister-in-law. So a car generally couldn’t fit us all (although, one day we fit eight people in a car to walk around the cerro [hill] near some small mountains). A bus was usually how we travelled, and even then, we added anywhere from six to nine people to an already crowded bus that took about 45 minutes to get to Rancagua. But it was so much fun, way better than public transportation here.


The Chilean peso was a little hard to get used to, though. When we went, the peso was about 670 to one American dollar. Which was a shock when I bought a backpack for 7,000 pesos. I couldn’t help but think $7,000. No, it was only about $10. Shopping is always fun in Chile because there are street vendors, and you can haggle or negotiate prices, or go to a store like you can here in America and pay exorbitant amounts for clothes or shoes. You have to be careful in the streets though, because there are so many people who are begging for money, or, even sadder, dogs that just roam and starve, and we wanted to pet them or feed them, but there are seriously so many that you can only do so much. So we always carried bread in our pockets for dogs we passed, or gave our snacks to the homeless man on the corner.


Bathrooms in Chile are “fun” as well. I’m not sure what it is, but the plumbing can’t really handle toilet paper. So each bathroom, or every stall if it’s in public, has a small waste basket and that’s where you throw the used toilet paper. It is definitely something you have to get used to, but when you do, it’s kinda second nature. I actually almost kept doing it by accident when I came back to my apartment, then I remembered I was in the United States and could just flush.


Despite the poverty or cultural quirks that Chile has, I would return in a heartbeat. The people are friendly, will want to give you the blankets off their bed to make sure you’re warm (there’s no insulation and it gets pretty cold in the night), or the scarf from around their neck, as well as any gift you can take home with you to remember them. Between my aunt, grandma, and cousin, I took home two coats, a scarf, two knit hats, a toy, socks, and pin buttons all as gifts. They are just a caring people who want to share what they have with you, even if it’s not a lot. And the fact that I am related to them made the trip that much sweeter.


I miss that place so so much, but don’t get me wrong, I am happy I came back to the United States. But the joke is we will return in another five years. I’d be down for that. Until then, nos vemos!