‘Twas the night before Christmas eve’s eve… 1am in the morning. My flatmate ventured outside to put out rubbish and we discovered that the road had been blocked off and neighbours were drinking “Cola de Mono” and eating “Pan de Pascua”. The music (above) was playing in the street, young and old laughing and mingling. Clearly, Chileans know how to party.
Although I have an early start for work in the morning, I can’t help but get out there amongst it. Ideas of days just like this is why I wanted to come to South America in the first place.
“Hola chiquita hermosa. Bienvenido! ¿De dónde eres?”
Queti greeted me as I walked towards her. Before arming me with a drink that tasted like a mix between Baileys, Kahlua and a coffee milkshake (deliciousss).
A stereo powered by a long extension cord threaded through someone’s window echoed in the background. Kids cycling up and down on the street playing together in the protection of a hand-made wooden barrier blocking cars entering the one-way road. Everyone in t-shirts and singlets (besides this Wellingtonian of course, who compulsively brings a jacket when leaving the house, we really never do trust the weather in Wellington), the warm summer air filling the street amongst rich conversations.
A beautiful introduction to the Chilean Christmas, and an incredible impromptu experience getting to know my neighbours, Ignacio, Valentina, Egon, Francisca, Cata, and Marisol. Not only did I discover more about Chilean culture but I realised that I have reached a milestone with my Spanish. With no option of talking English, I held my end of the conversation and apart from one faux pa where I said it was “terrible” that a lady was turning 34 soon, I did ok. My grammar wasn’t close to perfect, but everyone understood me and were happy to bear with my errors – and I understood them!
I’ve come a long way from being the girl who was too afraid to use the money machine, and have a lot to thank to the kind and patient Santiagenians. Everyone has been more than happy to give me a chance to speak Spanish and quick to offer a drink of Pisco Sour, or in this case Cola de Mono, before even knowing me. Such a wonderful experience, and a great lesson to me on how I should’ve been treating foreigners learning English that I encountered back home.