The location: Santiago, Chile, 10-15 hours flying time for most of the guests
The wedding party:
- John and me, parents of Erika
- Ann, mother of Israel
- Hazel and Ron, my parents
- Marcia, John’s mom
- David and Sandra, Israel’s brother and sister
- Gina, Erika’s Chilean host mom
Random things we learned:
- It takes three cabs to transport ten people anywhere
- Parking garages in Santiago are not open on Sunday
- Eggplant lasagna can be amazingly wonderful
- Tours consisting primarily of photographers take a long time to get anywhere
More on that soon. But now, on to the story.
Part One: Gathering the Guests
The first guests to arrive in Chile were my parents, on Thursday morning. About the time that they were arriving in Chile, John, his mom, and I were leaving for Chile. Thursday flights went smoothly, except for a brief snafu over seating on the 9 hour flight from Dallas to Santiago. That ended up with us getting bulkhead seats all in a row, much better seats than we initially were supposed to have. Leg room– hooray!!
Off the plane in Santiago we changed money and went through immigration. Going through customs were were a bit slowed by my dried fruit (it had to be inspected, of all things). At one point people in line near us gestured for us to look upward, and there in an upstairs glass-walled hallway looking down and waving wildly were Erika, David, Ann and Sandra. David, Ann, and Sandra had arrived in Chile only half an hour or so ahead of us, and Erika had come to meet us all. By the time we got through our immigration line, they had arranged for a minivan with a driver to shuttle us to our hotel in downtown Santiago.
Check-in was not the speediest thing. We were glad for Erika’s Spanish since people there did not speak English, and our little hotel (actually a tiny apartment complex) is one of many businesses in a huge building. But once the apartment manager/housekeeper showed up, Erika was able to help us through. Once in our various rooms (5 total) we discovered that they were well-equipped and clean and looked exactly like the internet pictures.
We checked out the cute little pool on the roof, and took a few pictures of the view around us. Then we had just a little time to unpack before it was time to leave to visit Gina (Erika’s host mom) for lunch. We were tired enough that it felt difficult to think of leaving so soon after our all-night flights. But we felt honored to have been invited.
We began with a short walk to the subway, then 15 minutes or so riding the subway, including a line change. Then it was time for a 15 minute walk to the house. It was a perfect, sunny 70 degree day with little breeze. You could not have picked a nicer day for walking. Her host mom lives in a charming little house in a lovely neighborhood. We saw an aloe vera plant that — no joke– was big enough that it would overflow the bed of a pickup truck. The houses are gated, with charming doors and shutters, and pretty wrought-iron bars on windows–security like we saw in Ethiopia, but with more character and nicer materials.
David is a professional photographer, and Sandra and John and I all enjoy taking pictures, so at any given moment during the trip, chances were good that someone was taking pictures.The dinner party was no exception. On arriving at Gina’s, we were embraced and kissed and set into the living room with drinks to talk. Gina doesn’t speak much English, and Erika and one other guest were the only ones who spoke both languages. So conversation was halting, but we did ok.
Gina had several relatives and friends there to visit with us and help cook and serve us a lovely dinner out on the covered patio. The patio is amazing, with grapes and lemons and olives growing all around, along with white and yellow trumpet flowers. Just lovely.
Lunch was 3 courses: first sliced tomatoes and cucumbers and bread and fritatta-like lettuce/egg ‘pancakes’. Next came eggplant/sausage lasagna, seasoned very mildly, and absolutely delicious, served with a different bread. Gina promised me the recipe and I seriously think we need to try growing eggplant again this year. Finally there was a lovely fruit platter — actually one for each end of our big table. There were 14 people counting her friends and relatives, though one young lady devoted herself strictly to serving.
Erika sat at one end of the table– boy, she is learning lots of Spanish!!– and the translator/friend served to help conversation along at the other end. It was really fun. Topics ranged from Venezualan coffee to eggplant to politics. Gina, her host mom, is just gold, the sweetest lady you can imagine, and I felt so blessed to know she has been watching over Erika.
Despite the language barriers, conversation continued long after lunch, and we were all having such fun visiting and sitting around in the hammock that it was hard to leave. But there was still the walk and the subway ride back. Eventually around 5 PM we had to tear ourselves away.
People were getting tired, I think, and the group had stragglers on the walk back. Six of our group had only slept on the airplane. John had felt extremely exhausted during our little time in the hotel room before lunch, but he rallied admirably when we were out and about and joked and laughed and enjoyed the afternoon. Sandra was most tired by the end of the walk/subway home, though she was gamely hanging in there.
At one point the subway was so full that only half of us could get on before doors shut– we were smashed in like utter sardines– and so we had to regroup at the next subway stop. Luckily we had time to communicate before the doors shut, and we did a good job of keeping our partial groups together, and reconnecting at the next stop. The subways, though crowded at rush hour, feel safe and very clean, much like in Korea.
Back at the hotel we enjoyed short naps and a bit of rest/downtime. Then it was time to get ready for our 8PM dinner reservations in Patio Bella Vista, at a place called ‘Como Agua para Chocolate’.