Arrival in Concepcion

My trip to Concepcion started off so well. It wasn’t raining in Valdivia. It was fairly warm. I walked to the bus station, after having some breakfast. I knew where I was going. And Valdivia has the nicest bus station I have seen – ever. It was an entirely pleasant experience waiting for the bus – with my cup of coffee, of course. Thank heavens I finally learned what “que sabor?” meant. (what flavor?)

The bus ride was completely uneventful. Until I got to Concepcion. That’s when the fun started. The bus station didn’t say Concepcion. Eventually some helpful Chilenas assured me that I was, in fact, in Concepcion.

They did inform me that I was not in the exact place that Google Maps assured me that I would be. I had planned to walk only about 15 minutes to my destination. Instead, I was much further away and they insisted that I could not walk the distance. Logisticians hate it when they are wrong (BTW). So I was fairly unhappy. But, the ladies wanted to help me. They first suggested that I try a micro (the city bus). I protest – there is no way I’m going to try to navigate the bus, with all my bags, in a new city. Not going to happen.

So, she suggests taking a collectivo to my destination. A collectivo, you ask? No, I’ve not talked about them before. They are another form of public transport. They are cars, not buses. They go to more places on a standard route but only take 3-4 people at a time. So they are slightly more expensive than the bus but much less cheaper than a taxi. It’s quite ingenious, actually, if you know how to use the system.

Being in a new city, and with my Spanish not being great (yet), I was fairy terrified. Because I know you need to know where you are going (which I don’t) and I know that understanding more Spanish than I know is very helpful. But, I wanted to be brave. I literally walked out of and back into the bus station four times (and waited for the collectivo for 7-8 minutes) before I finally decided I should just take a taxi. Fortunately, I am in a small (and safe) city and no one bothers me. All that indecisiveness in a bigger city surely would have caused me to become a target for some nefarious individual.

Fortunately, there are many taxi drivers waiting to take you wherever you want to go. At this point, I’m not even trying to speak, I’m just pointing to the address. So sad – and frustrating. But – I do demand to know the cost before I get into the taxi. Even if I know I’m going to pay whatever he wants. I’m relieved to hear that he asks for slightly less than the very helpful police officer (who had overheard my plight, and came up to talk to me) said that the taxi drivers would ask for.

The trunk of his car does not open, so my bags end up in the backseat and I am in the front. We are laughing the entire way, because really, what else can one do at this point?

He was really cute (literally and figuratively). I have no idea what his name was, but he tried hard to make conversation. Though I missed a lot of what he said, I did understand that he asked where I was from, if I enjoyed traveling by myself, if I had a boyfriend and why I didn’t have a boyfriend. Beyond that, there were just so many words I didn’t know. He must have really been interested because he never gave up trying to talk and found my frustrations (with a bit of swearing in Spanish and English) amusing. This is the point at which I realize, without a doubt, that “getting by” and “having an actual conversation” are two totally different things.

Oh well. I was very happy that he got me to where I needed to go, and he was such a sweetheart about it (though I am certain he would have liked to see this gringa again!). A kiss on the cheek and a hug (typical Chilean greeting) was all he was going to get.

The concierge is lovely, gets me into the apartment, and even tells me that the nearest grocery store is only two blocks away. My hostess is away at her mother’s birthday party for the weekend, so I am on my own. I am tired, and ready for my adventurous day to be over. I want nothing more than to sit at home with a glass of wine and some good food.

At the store, I go for wine, cheese, mushrooms and avocado to go with my quinoa. As I’m perusing the avocados, the wine slips and hits the floor. Oh my, will this day never end? Heaven bless the Chilenos who come up to me and immediately say, “tranquila” and “no te preocupes” over and over again until I leave the area. No one seems bothered by this other than me. Everyone seems more concerned that I’m upset than that I dropped a bottle of wine.

Finally, I leave and get another bottle of wine. I’m so glad I did.

Back at the apartment, I discover that there are no wine glasses or cutting knives. But this is fine. At this point in my Chilean adventure, I have learned to carry my own cutting knife, measuring cup and even a small pan to cook eggs. Yes, really. I’m not kidding. As much as I love Chile, there seem to be a few things universally understood – that knives do not need to sharp, that measuring cups are superfluous and that pans with the non-stick completely gone are still good.

I pour myself some wine and attempt to cook. The stove appears to be self-lighting, but will not light – with or without matches. Hence, I cannot make dinner. So I sit and write to you now, with wine and cheese as my sole source of sustenance after a very long day. Only me! 😉 THIS is how my day ends.

I hope you are laughing, because it’s been that kind of an afternoon.

I will share that on further reflection, the afternoon could have been far worse. I did find the place I was staying. It is a lovely apartment. I am safe, warm and dry. I also met some very friendly people, all trying their best to assist me, every step of the way. From the ladies at the bus station, the police officer, my cute taxi driver, and the concierge to the people in the grocery store – everyone wanted to help. How different would my day have been without them! So tomorrow, I will resume my adventure and explore another city. Until next time!





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