I’m so pleased I can communicate here in Chile. Dealing with flight cancellations, changes, rescheduling, hotel vouchers, food vouchers: all this would be so much more difficult if I didn’t speak Spanish. I’m grateful to the people who can help me in English when I’m exhausted and trying to do something complicated, but more often my Spanish is better than their English and we switch over fairly quickly.

It’s also incredibly nice to be in this otherworldly hotel. Soft clean sheets, hot running water and a bathtub, ample fluffy towels, meals, and transportation provided and arranged on my behalf. It takes all the adventure out of travelling, but on the day of my flight it’s reliability, not the unexpected, that I’m looking for. The sign in the lobby quotes my hotel’s room rate as $289 per night for a single. I’m in a double, with three meals and taxi service included. The airline might have spent a third of my ticket cost on this delay. Considering I checked my ticket online and I have yet another flight change in my connection to Sydney, I can hardly say I feel sorry for them. At the minimum, I feel relaxed about the whole situation. If another of my flights changes, it is out of my hands. As I sit in the hotel restaurant sipping fruit juice while my waiter brings me my steak of Chilean beef, I feel quite confident that the airline will continue to take care of me. I take a bite. The steak is tender and perfectly medium-rare, the tiny balls of fried mashed potatoes crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside. The veggies are lightly curried and served al dente. Yes, I’m in very good hands indeed. This feels so far removed from camping in the Peruvian Andes or exploring the Amazon on $5 a day. I don’t have a single peso on me, and yet I’m seated on a velvet and walnut chair, dining on steak in a hotel with marble floors.

In the afternoon I wandered the tourist sites nearest the hotel – a park leading to a lookout over the city and offering a view of the snow-capped Chilean Andes beyond, a craft market, and the imposing structures of the National Archives and City Library. Exploring the area, I was surprised at how different Chile feels from the more northern countries on the continent. The climate is cooler, reminding me of Vancouver. I’ve re-entered the world of seasons – I was surprised to find it still dark at 7am, as days are noticeably shorter here. The deciduous trees have lost their leaves, something I haven’t seen in over a year. the people are also different – there are more light-skinned people than I’m used to seeing, and my lighter hair and eyes don’t mark me as a tourist like they did in Peru and Ecuador. In fact, I find it disconcerting not being able to use appearance and visual clues to guess what language to use with somebody. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and stick to Spanish. The locals appear to do the same, as a couple of university students raising money for educational reforms assume I’m Chilean until my accent gives me away. I’ve decided that I like the city, though, on first view. My instincts tell me that I could live here contentedly, and maybe enven integrate more into the culture than I could elsewhere in Latin America. If I ever get tired of a world without winter, living in Chile will definitely be an option.

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