Chile, Day 1

Everything here is fabulous. The only but(t)s are the ones spinning to Salsa beats.

Rewind to Saturday. With a subtle bump, our Iberia airplane sets onto the runway and slows down until it finally comes to a stall in front of the airport building. People are clapping when we touch down. I didn’t know people still did that, clapping when an airplane touches down. Apart from the people clapping on the recording Ryanair plays when their airplanes land. But I felt excited on that day anyway, so I joined in. A little later, we were welcomed by several Chileans holding a Chilean flag. Someone voiced that we must unmistakably look British as they started waving at us the moment they saw us. So much for sticking out.

We were then shown onto a bus that took us to the Viña del Mar veiled by the early morning mist. Beautiful. The descent into the city centre revealed a gorgeous view of thousands of houses scattered over the hills leading to the dark blue Pacific Ocean reflecting the already bright sun. On the bus, we were equipped with University-branded cinch bags containing informational material that I thought would also make a very good fashion accessory for any East Londoners. First common ground with the Chileans and we hadn’t even arrived at our destination. My host mum who welcomed me in front of Viña’s public library, where we all were welcomed by our host parents, seemed like a person I would get along with. Friendly, warm, forgiving for my lack of proficiency in Spanish and laid back. Also very relaxed, unlike me in that moment.

Fast forward a few hours. It had become evening and I was knackered. Knackered from the hours I spent with my lovely host parents. I had mostly been on the receiving end of our conversations and it was intense. With almost no knowledge of Spanish whatsoever, I could still catch the gist of a lot of what they said. Whenever I got lost completely, they would tell me one or two words I typed into my dictionary which got me back on track. It’s impressive really, how our brains somehow figure out language. Somehow, they must recognise words that sound similar to words in other languages we know and then narrow the results down by matching them with intonation and inflection of the speaker’s voice and their gestures – and all that within instants.

This is story 1/5 of my Chile short stories. Read Chile, Day 4 now.

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