Lovin the "Pinch Factor" in Santiago, Chile

Trip Start Aug 15, 2007
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Chile  , Región Metropolitana,
Sunday, August 1, 2010

For the Past four weeks my family and I have been crazily dashing from place to place... the kind of "normal" crazy that many expats live, a craziness that can get a traveler wondering why they live the kind of life they do.  To put it briefly we have spent the past few weeks wrapping up a year of teaching and closing up our home in Ankara, Turkey... shipping some of our stuff to Santiago, our new home... saying goodbye to friends and those that became family, skirting off to the U.S. to spend a spot of time with our biological family and a few friends... sifting through a locker of "treasured" stuff that we still had stored in MN... keeping half of it, while wondering why the hell we kept most of the stuff we did... it's funny how simplifying ones life of belongings brings you to the realization of the little importance most stuff really has, as the real treasures end up being the people in your life... anyway we ended up shipping a few of what survived the sifting, sending them off to Santiago... flew to Chicago for the day to pick up our Chilean Visas... spent a few more days shopping for items we either couldn't buy in Chile or were too expensive, as they ended up being U.S. imports... hopped an overnight flight to our new home in Santiago, Chile... after a long night of restless sleep we were picked up by some of the nicest people I think I have ever met... made it through customs with all of our stuff intact, hopped into a school van and were whisked off to the edge of the city where we were dropped off in a home of a vacationing and unknown colleague, so we would have a nice place to stay while our own home was being painted and cleaned up... the home is literally nestled into a bowl of beautiful mountain peaks.  
 Later that night we were brought out for a fine dining experience that included an endless display of beautiful Chilean seafood and wine, which I have readily become addicted to... next day we were brought to the school for a tour and given a handful of keys to our new classrooms... the next few days were packed with a whirlwind of shopping for life's "normal" belongings... lots of them, as we needed to create a new life of stuff that would allow us to live a "normal" life... started off with car shopping... ended up bying a Nissan X-trail, which we love... purchased a fridge, washing machine and dryer, couches, tables, blinds, dishes, towels and a pile of other seemingly important items that one needs to "start" a life... almost feel like a college student that  moved out of the house for the first time... quickly pulled a few things together to make our home, homey... and started teaching...
  I need to say that I love the three subjects I am teaching, Theory of Knowledge, Economics and  a thematic International Social Studies course filled with 16 students, all of them from different countries. Met my students... they are awesome... and yes as a seasoned teacher I realize I am still in the "honeymoon" period, yet I can tell that they are lovely kids and we will have a great year of laughing and learning...  most of my colleagues also seem golden, very talented staff that appear to be extremely student centered... and extremely active... I already have invites to join a group of trail runners that run the horse trails in the nearby foothills, a pack of mountain bikers that shoot up to the snow line every Thursday after school, a few hikers that are training for a summer decent up the highest peak in the America's... Aconcagwa with a height of 6,962 m or 22,841 ft up... and only a few hours from here... not sure if I am up for that one come December (the time of our Summer down here, as we sit about the same latitude as Sydney.) but maybe next year... to wrap it up my principals also seem pretty cool and supportive, yet not micromanaging and the school's Director, Dr. Don Bergman is considered by many to be one of the best in the International School field.  Needless to say finishing the first week of school was a relief, especially that it ended with a party for the new staff put on by the old.  The welcome party, which has become a long tradition here was at a staff's home about 20 minutes from ours... which is nestled up in one of the canyons that wind up into the mountains perched at the end of a dirt road, it was a perfect place to unwind and get to know our colleagues better.  The food was perfect, with a mix of local and international grub, the wine... quenchingly amazing, the staff were funny, friendly and quite musical with a pick up jam session that cast me deep into the Ozarks to a hoppin rockabilly beat... with a crackling fire as the backdrop, as we have entered into a South American winter and it is a bit chilly up near the snow line... Later that night I met the owner of the home, an avid mountain biker and hiker who invited Deb and I to head on up come spring for a hike in the Nature Sanctuary that sits right outside their cabinish home overlooking a rushing mountain stream.  This all being said, my family and I are currently cast into what we have dubbed "the pinch factor"... so far it all seems almost too perfect... so we continue to pinch each other.  Now this being said I know that a sense of reality always sets in and the human condition to want more or less overtakes... clouding and dusting ones existence with bits of pessimism or whatever other negativity drifts by... but we don't really give a shit at this point, for feeling the highs and floating on them is always a good thing to ride when the opportunity comes around... and we are planning on riding this one to the very end of it's run... 

After two weeks of living in our new bubble we decided to burst out and see a bit of Chile... woke up Saturday morning and headed for the coast to soak up some views of the ocean with a goal of finding a nearby sea lion colony. 
Santiago is a city with an enviable setting as it is surrounded by mountains... beautiful peaks that tower over 15,000 feet... and driving out can be a bit time consuming except that you can take a tunnel directly through one that separates the city from the rolling hills and fertile valleys that roll right up to the coast. After emerging from the tunnel we were cast into a landscape of forests dotted with towering pines and palms, clusters of avacado farms and manicured rows of grape vineyards winding around the wineries that fill the valley floor.  We stopped at one winery, bought a few bottles and deeply breathed in the fresh air and silence.  In a little better of an hour we found ourselves perched on the high hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean... endlessly stretching into the far away horizon.  A horizon that, in the next few years, we will be heading off into as we take a bit of time to explore Easter Island, the World's most remote spot of land on the planet.  
Driving the coast was exactly what we though it would be, with the crashing of the waves on a mostly rough and rocky coast filled with ancient lava flows and crumbling granite outcroppings.. with the occasional sandy beach nestled between.  We spent most of our day hiking along the coastal rocks, exploring the rooms found within the nooks and crannies along the oceans edge. We also hiked up and ran down a few of the massive sand dunes that spilled to the ocean's edge... the down being the most fun, with gravity pushing us while the sand did the opposite of trying to grip our quickly sinking feet...  After spilling down the sand we headed back to the beach for a tromp and a look see for the South American sea lions.   Aidan was the first to spot a few on a rocky island just off shore... we were impressed as the were various shades of tan and brown, blending in beautifully with their environment.  A little further down brought us to the main colony, with hundreds of them terracing a rocky cliff jutting out of the ocean.  It was pretty cool watching them push, jostle for good positions on the rocks and especially slide into the water where they would effortlessly bob and flip within the water... surfacing for a spell before disappearing back into their watery world.  

Heading back into the city and straight for the bowl of mountains, with which our home is nestled amongst was awesome... in many ways more beautiful than the coast. We feel privileged and damn lucky to be calling Santiago home... and maybe just maybe this old traveler might just let his roots dive a little deeper in the fertile soil that seems to run rich in this part of the World. 
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Joe Cota on

This is a nice introduction to the new world of the Cota family. I can not wait to visit in January. The process of change as the boys grow up has been fun to watch. I have not seen Todd and Deb grow older but rather have stayed almost younger with their many adventures. Though we don't see them for 10 months at a time, this observer can see them as having a positive family environment. I love them all deeply.


Suleimen on

Beautiful..seems like you got what you desired and what you, for sure, deserved...perfect man reached his perfect city! Happy for you and your family and I hope you stay happy until I come for a visit because when I come, I shall make you happIER ! :) Wish you and your family all the best because everyone knows you deserve it for who you are!

Tim Henkels on

Fantastic. Looks like everything is coming together perfectly. How are the boys liking it? Have they found the students to be friendly? Y, el espanol? Aprendes mucho? The new staff have arrived here, and are eager to dig their teeth into work. Had a fun night last night playing catch-phrase, a great little version of Taboo/Hot Potato that Kristin brought from home. You guys take care, and enjoy your pinch factor. Best, T and E

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