africamuse's travels - this time to stay!


created: Monday October 26, 1998 19:54:02 GMT

Updated: Saturday, 1 December 2001

In 1997, I fell in love. With a man named Roberto who lived in Chile. This turned out to be one of the most significant steps of my life, simply because it turned my life upside down!

During a year of staying together in Santiago de Chile, it became clear to us that we would not be spending our lives together - I believe that we both walked away from the relationship with some sorrow and some pain and a great deal richer for the experience that we had shared.

The logistics of our relationship and its ending opened my world to me, a world of travel, of love of language, of teaching and learning, of experiencing, of friendships, of growing and growing up.

This webpage was created as I learned to love Chile as my home. It wasn't always easy, but I consider myself privileged to have experienced life in Santiago de Chile.

At the moment, this page is a work in progress, a place for me to explore my own feelings about what has been happening in my life for the past few months.

My life is changing so much right now, and the changes are so intense and sometimes so difficult, that I feel I should write about my experiences. I must admit, though, that my feelings are very confused.

It is great to be here, with Roberto. It is a wonderful thing to have a chance to live in another country, learn another language and be exposed to new cultural experiences.

But it is also very difficult to be forced to start all over again. And I don't mean start again like a school-leaver who has to decide on a career and find a job, I mean start ALL OVER AGAIN like a child who has to learn a language, learn social norms, make a first friend, etc.

Right now, this "exploration" will not be very sophisticated. In fact it is limited to a list of things I love about Santiago, and a list of things I miss.


  • Woolworths (the South African version)
  • Appletizer
  • Ginger beer
  • Schweppes Dry Lemon
  • Easily available fresh milk
  • Handy Andy
  • Domestos
  • Three-packs of pantyhose
  • Having my OWN money to pay for all of the above
  • Being able to pick up the phone and start talking English, with confidence


  • The Goethe Institute, which may quite possibly get me through this
  • Chirimoyas
  • Reserved parking spaces and preferential tills for pregnant women
  • The multi-level display windows, especially in furniture stores. Very impressive!
  • The Metro - quick, clean and safe


  • The numerous electonic 'clocks' that simply show the year - I noticed them when they read "1998" and, sure enough, they all changed to "1999" and have remained that way since January.

updated: Thursday December 10, 1998 12:04:24 GMT

Did I say "it is a wonderful thing to learn another language"? Right now I am not so sure that it is. It is so frustrating not to be able to express myself! I feel that I have learned so much Spanish, more than I ever thought I could in such a short time, and yet I have to learn at least twenty times what I have learned in order to have a normal conversation! It would be so nice to be able to say just one sentence without having to think so hard all the time.

The worst is the telephone. Talking directly with people is easier. Facial expressions, gestures, body language, even a little supplementary lipreading, all add a great deal to day to day communication. We take it for granted when it is a language we understand well. But, in Spanish, I need all the help I can get, and I am robbed of these tools on the telephone.

As you may have gathered, I am having a particularly negative week right now. I found a job, and was so excited about that. I really felt that I had achieved something, finding a job in so short a time, in a foreign country! So it had bad hours, worse pay, and was in a field I was not particularly interested in - so what? It was a job, it was going to help me get my visa, and it meant that I would be contributing a little, even though only a nominal amount, financially.

Unfortunately, I have had to admit defeat. Because I just cannot talk on the damn phone. Not well enough to conduct business anyway. I went in yesterday and told them I was leaving. I am generally not a quitter, and it hurt to admit to myself that I am just not able to cope yet, even in such a low-level job.

Right now, I am not sure what my plans are. I am definitely not going to try to get a job before our trip to Europe. I will probably go back to the Goethe Institute in January and complete Level Three of my basic Spanish classes. And when I get back from Europe? Who knows. Teaching English maybe, something I originally really did not want to do. It is an option which is starting to look a lot more attractive right now.

Meanwhile, despite my serious problems with the language, I am finding more and more things that I like about Chile. Go figure, huh? I am supremely happy with Roberto, I have made lots of friends, I have even found something closely resembling beef biltong! There are a number of little things which irk me (like the fact that you can't find reasonably-priced, good-quality pantyhose in three-packs), but there are also a whole lot of things I would miss if I left (like the Metro). On the balance? I think I am happy, although there are some moments when the world seems very hard.

updated: Monday February 01, 1999 22:34:12 GMT

I'm breaking two and a half months' silence on this page. December and the beginning of January were a difficult time for me. After finding and quitting a job, and with no Spanish classes to provide routine and purpose to my day, I went into a bit of a slump. I found myself in the grips of lethargy, and, when my January classes were cancelled because I was the only student registered for Level 3, I started to be depressed. I felt like my life (apart from my relationship) was not progressing in any particular direction, and I didn't feel able to force myself to confront the issues by writing about them here.

Luckily, I realised what was happening, and managed to pull myself out of it. I decided to repeat the final two weeks of Level 2, and I started Level 3 today. Next week I have an interview for a position as an English teacher in a language institute, and I also may have an opportunity to work as a tour guide in a museum in one of the houses of Pablo Neruda.

Neither of these are great jobs, and I have not yet decided if I will accept them, even if they are offered to me, but at least I feel as if I am doing something pro-active about my situation. In addition, I am voluntarily helping two non-profit organisations, La Leche League Chile and El Canelo de Nos, with their websites.

I do still feel a little lost - I am in a sort of limbo, and it doesn't help that I know I will possibly be leaving Chile in a year, if Roberto does his MBA in Europe. Then I will be confronted with a new country and a new language, and I will once again be jobless. And when he completes his MBA we will in all likelihood move somewhere else and the process will continue! Nevertheless, I hope that I am over the worst of adjusting to life in Chile.

updated: Thursday April 15, 1999 22:17:14 GMT

So much has happened since last I wrote. I spent an entire month in Cape Town, South Africa, in February/March, because my mother is very unwell. She had a heart attack (not her first) and has suffered serious permanent damage to her heart. Her quality of life has been drastically reduced, and it breaks my heart to see how she has become practically 'room-bound'. I originally intended to stay only 10 days, but I spent a month with her, a time that I think was good for both of us, and it was very difficult to leave.

Although it was wonderful to be back in a country where I knew how to behave at all times and understood what was going on, I was longing to get back to Roberto after a few weeks. I had arrived in South Africa with an empty suitcase, and returned with it stuffed full of purchases from Woolworths, including zillions of pairs of pantyhose, English books (some new, some that were my father's), those little plastic toothpick things with the dental floss on, candles and candlesticks, vanilla instant pudding, and all sorts of other goodies. (No biltong, though :()

I had to spend some hours in Sao Paolo airport in Brazil, where Portuguese was spoken, and it was so weird to feel relief when I arrived in Santiago, where people could understand me! Although I felt as if I had again left home, a part of me also felt that I had come home. And it was wonderful to see Roberto again.

Since I arrived back in Santiago (on 7 March) I have started the process of starting my own web design company. If you're interested, take a look at Page Presence. I even have my first client! I then found a part-time job, at a language institute about twenty five minutes walk from my apartment. I had been interviewed the day before I flew to South Africa, but of course I had lost the opportunity to work there. I was thrilled when they contacted me in March to see if I could attend their next training course. I have completed my training, passed my demo class, and I have been officially working there for more than a week now. And it's great! I had never realised how much I would enjoy teaching English. I have fun in class, my colleagues are great, and I am even going to get paid for it - at last, another paycheque, the first since August 1998.....

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how lucky I am. I have been lucky in finding Roberto. The time I have spent with him has been the most fulfilling I have ever experienced. Although things and circumstances have made me feel sad or depressed at times, I have never been so happy as I have since September. He is the most caring (both in terms of emotion and in terms of practical things), open, honest, communicative person I know.

But I am also lucky in so many other things. I think, if I had to leave now, would it have been worth it? Would it have been worth giving up my job, giving up everything I own, and coming here? Would I do it again? And the answer is a big YES. I have had so many new and exciting experiences here, some of which I may never have had, some of which I may not have had for years. These are some of the good things that have happened in my life since I moved here on 9 September 1998:

  • I have experienced love and sharing like I have never known before.
  • I have learned a new language, Spanish.
  • I have ridden a horse for the first time as an adult.
  • I have travelled to Miami, Disney World, Mendoza in Argentina, and through Chile, of course.
  • I have, for the first time, eaten Chilean, Japanese, Mexican (REAL Mexican, not Tex-Mex), Arabic, Spanish, Argentinian and Brazilian food.
  • I have met some wonderful people.
  • I have enjoyed the plazas and parks of Latin American city life.
  • I have seen, live, Creedence Clearwater Revival and will soon be seeing David Copperfield.
  • I have driven through the Andes.
  • I have experienced earth tremors! No big quakes yet, though.
  • I have discovered that I am GOOD at teaching English, and how much fun it is to teach people who are committed to learning.
  • I have attended Pesach, and experienced a beautiful bar-mitzvah.
  • I have discovered Chilean Pisco Sours (which I enjoy far more than the Peruvian ones) and Roberto's Margaritas, which are really good (the secret is to use Cointreau instead of Triple-Sec).
  • I have discovered the power of Pablo Neruda's poetry and visited two of his houses.
I will be adding to this list from time to time. I think it is important for me to remember how many good things have happened to me.

updated: Sunday April 25, 1999 13:13:42 GMT

Remembered a couple more:

  • I've been in real snow! Falling out of the sky snow!
  • I've ALMOST mastered the art of eating with chopsticks (what I lack in grace, I make up for in determination).
  • I've had the experience of having my leg in a cast (this is NOT a good thing, but it is something I have always been vaguely curious about).

updated: Sunday August 22, 1999

Damn, I hate it when I do edits and they disappear - especially when they are about difficult topics for which I struggle to find the right words.

About a month ago, I put an update on this page, which has since disappeared. The gist of it is that Roberto and I have decided to call a halt to our relationship. We are walking away from this with thousands of precious memories and, I think, as more fulfilled people than we were when we first met.

Roberto is shortly heading off for Switzerland, where he is about to begin a wonderfully exciting year studying for his MBA. In September, I am flying to Ireland for my last 'jaunt' before settling down to normal life in South Africa in December or January. Watch this web site for details!

My Chile pages

Useful Books from

Chile and Easter Island
Lonely Planet
Guide to Chile and Easter Island

Latin American Spanish Phrasebook
Lonely Planet
Latin American Spanish Phrasebook

Lonely Planet: Santiago de Chile
Lonely Planet:
Santiago de Chile

Travels in a Thin Country: A Journey Through Chile
Travels in a Thin Country:
A Journey Through Chile

Chile in Focus: A Guide to the People, Politics and Culture
Chile in Focus:
A Guide to the People,
Politics and Culture

The Chilean Kitchen: Authentic, Homestyle Foods, Regional Wines and Culinary Traditions of Chile
The Chilean Kitchen:
Authentic, Homestyle Foods,
Regional Wines and Culinary
Traditions of Chile

Pablo Neruda's Veinte Poemas de Amor Y Una Cancion Desesperada
Pablo Neruda's
Veinte Poemas de Amor Y Una Cancion Desesperada,
with the English translations
(Twenty Poems of Love and a Desperate Song)

Pablo Neruda's Separate Rose
Pablo Neruda's Separate Rose,
with English translations

Why Women Protest: Women's Movements in Chile
Why Women Protest:
Women's Movements in Chile

Quick travel:

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