Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Chile Diary......Chapter 3

Departmentos, Deco and Dolor

Apartments in Chile are generally small. That’s alright. I mean, accommodation has to be available to everyone, and according to their pockets. And Chile isn’t a country that comes under the category -rich. Like India, they have a big divide between the rich and the poor, with the latter making up the majority of the population. What I find truly unnecessary in the small apartments are the big, over-stuffed sofas and beds, bulky dining table, crockery cabinet and often useless pieces of furniture placed or pushed into every nook and corner. It eats into floor space making it difficult to make the smallest of manoeuvres in the room. It almost seems that they’re psyching themselves into believing that the house is big. This, however, is how it is only in the old apartments. The newer ones are done up with practical aesthetics in place.

The guesthouse on 3 Poniente between 8 and 9 Norte, where I am at present, must be just about 750 sq ft. But it houses furniture for a place twice its size. I can’t move quickly for fear of banging into something and hurting myself. And just to make doubly sure the furnishings have dwarfed the house, they’ve put up nine oils on three walls ( the fourth wall, thankfully, is one big glass window) three of these canvases measure 16” by 20” approx and one is about 30” by 24” approx. The other five are in the range of 14” by 16”. And all have heavy frames, mostly in black. So blame the furniture and the decor if the house seems small. This is the living cum dining room that should be about 10’ by 20’ approx. It also has a big refrigerator standing against one wall. Claustrophobic!

Well, one has to adjust and adapt according to the need of the hour, and that’s what the past few weeks in Chile have been about....adjusting and adapting. It hasn’t been easy for me because it is accompanied by fear. There are too many things of an extreme nature to deal with all at the same time. Foreign country, alien culture, no knowledge of language; different time zone; different climate; different flavours in food; lack of creature comforts like maids coming in 24x7; cut-downs on self-indulgence at beauty parlours; no home tongue TV shows; no Indian news channels; no telephonic communications with friends and relatives in India (too expensive); no internet if you’re not staying in your apartment (which I haven’t been doing for a while); no hot water at times so cold showers, which aren’t really good for my bones; no stress relieving conversations with friends; no economic independence; no mobility; too much of solitude knowing that I have no options to change the situation; none of the things I was used to, like my books for meditation, my TV devotional programmes, my dictionary, my maid Lolita, my doctor; my freedom!

The psychological challenges are a part of all these tangibles and intangibles. But the toughest has been dealing with this ‘on edge’ nervous situation. My whole body tenses when a tremor shakes the place, and this has been a continuous pattern day and night, since the big one on Saturday, 27th Feb. When will it end? I’m so tired of living with fear. Fear of another massive earthquake. Fear triggered by the knowledge of my own physical limitations of movement and mobility. Fear of injuring myself and not being able to get the medical attention I need. Fear of adding more expense on the kids. Fear of becoming more dependent than I already am. Fear of losing my passport. Fear of being isolated on alien soil. Fear of not ever being able to live without fear again. But the spirit pushes against its own simmering doubts and fears. I look to God to give me courage and strength; to hold my hand and lead me, for I trust Him.

It may seem that life has become one big black thunder cloud, hovering over us threatening to burst. But in all truth there have been so many things I have been thanking God for every day. So many little things I’m grateful for especially the facilities of daily use that we take for granted.

I’m thankful for running water in the taps in the guesthouse (our apartment’s has been cut off for some days, so that damaged water pipes can be repaired) for hot water whenever I can get it, for gas which is available to us here in this temporary accommodation (we still haven’t got gas supply at our apartment, as of 10th March 2010) for fresh, hot, home food on our table, and of course for a cup of hot ginger tea with milk in the morning and hot green tea in the evening, for drinking water, for shelter, for warm beds, for provisions, for finance to procure our basic needs, for a laptop to record all my rambling thoughts, and health, medicines, even this over-stuffed old house...yes I’m grateful for this house on the second level, for wonderful children, for compatriots who allowed us to stay at their home, for company bosses who lent us their casa and company Guest House; for a pub owner who gave us shelter, protection and warm hospitality even as he dealt with his losses...for so much of thoughtfulness that we have encountered in many things big and small.

I’m also thankful that relief has been a good ‘hopping friend,’ coming in to grant us spells to recuperate bit by bit, helping us to gather courage and hold on to hope. God has been good. God has been gracious.

Yes, I am grateful.



  1. I do not know if I could be in a country that was so unfamiliar to me and be happy. I haven't quite figured out yet if you have moved to Chile permanently or are you just visiting?

  2. I'm only visiting Marlene...an extended visit! I'm sure you'd love Vina Del Mar. It's a beautiful city. One can't be unhappy forever in Vina...:)BTW, I returned to India today morning.