Since I usually talk about all the things I like about Chile, I thought I might focus this week on some of the things I actually do miss. So I’ve also included pictures of some of the people with whom I am privileged to called friends.
The thing I miss more than anything while I’m in Chile? Central heat. Oh, how I miss central heat! I miss thermostats. I miss the sound that the heat makes as it comes on with just the touch of a button. I miss 72 degrees in winter (yes, I’m that person). Central heat generally just does not exist in Chile. They live without it altogether, have wooden stoves (mostly in the south) or use space heaters.
What does this mean in reality? Well, I took my trusty room thermometer with me to Chile last August, just because I was curious about the temperature inside. It was soooooo cold in the mornings. Getting out of bed was a serious challenge. The only two places I ever felt really warm were the shower and Starbucks (oh yes, I succumbed, if nothing else for the heat!). The lowest I ever saw the temperature? 14 Celsius. This roughly translates to 57 Fahrenheit. The average temperature when I woke up in the morning? 15-16 Celsius (about 60 Fahrenheit) I was positively shocked to discover that people lived this way. It was crazy! I finally got a space heater when I moved into the apartment in which I currently live. And that brought the temperature all the way up to a toasty 18 Celsius (almost 65 Fahrenheit).
This was definitely the most difficult challenge thus far. Language and cultural barriers don’t compare to the cold. This next year, I’m better prepared. I’ve got a fluffy, snuggly bathrobe and fluffy slippers with hard rubber soles to keep me warm(er). But think of me the next time you turn up your thermostat to whatever temperature you desire.
What else do I miss? Hummus, definitely hummus, and all types of Mediterranean food. It’s simply not readily available. I can find it, if I look really hard. But I cannot just go to the store or a nearby restaurant and find it. Fruits and vegetables may be easily found (and cheap) at the feria, but finding other things so common in the U.S. can be difficult here.
Doing everything online. I can order anything online in the U.S. It may be possible here as well, but it’s not common and I’m not that brave yet. I have found that when things are not that common, they usually become difficult or don’t go very well. And I would rather not deal with the hassle of an online order going wrong than just doing without or figuring out another way.
This is the reason I return to the U.S. with empty suitcases, and fill them up with all my Amazon purchases and other things. I bring back coffee, shampoo, face and body lotion, contact lenses and hair color. I also sometimes miss being able to get whatever I want, whenever I want it. I have gone out several times on a Sunday evening, looking for a place to go to dinner, only to find that the vast majority of restaurants are closed. There are also very seldom operating hours posted on restaurants or stores, so I am not sure when they will be open anyway. This has been frustrating.
I remind myself to take these things in stride, as all part of the cultural experience. I have lived in enough different places in the world, and traveled to many more. I know that every culture is different, and that some things are not necessarily good or bad. They are just different.
Perhaps central heat is not common, but my understanding is that it is simply too expensive (for whatever reason) to heat buildings. So we have four blankets on the bed, and space heaters in the room, and it means we go outside more during the winter because the sun usually makes it warmer outside than inside!
Perhaps I cannot find hummus, or some of my other international favorites. But this simply reminds me of the incredible diversity in the U.S., and how the waves of different immigrants over the centuries have given us the most amazing types of food in the world. Besides, it means I have to branch out and find my new favorite foods in Chile. Have I told you how much I love their version of chicken soup?? Cazuela de ave has squash, potatoes, corn on the cob, rice, green beans and either a full chicken breast or wings and thigh. Chicken noodle soup cannot hold a candle to a good cazuela. (Internet pics below)
Perhaps I cannot have anything I want whenever I want it. But this has taught me a couple of things. First, I have learned to find another way. I have learned that my first instinct is not a Target run, and guess what? The world doesn’t end. I have also learned what items are really important to me, and how to plan my U.S. trips really well so I bring everything back with me!
I have learned that I should always be prepared to eat at home. This has the added benefit of being able to drink as much wine as I want, because eating at home is inevitably healthier. And I notice the difference in my waistline.
So, yes, there are definitely things I miss. But I have also gained perspective, been forced to live outside my comfort zone and grown in many ways. Love and hugs till next time,