“Wow, kinda a dump,” I thought as I peer out of the the taxi window. It’s just after 6:00 am and we are driving into central Santiago from the airport. To be fair, it is dark out and the streetlights cast an unnerving glow unto the old buildings and empty streets.
We finally made it to Santiago, Chile! Our first destination of our 3 months stint in South America.
D and I sit in the back of the taxi heading to our rental. The driver doesn’t speak an ounce of English, but he’s nice and we manage to chat through broken Spanish. Not bad! But it is too early. We don’t get to check-in until later in the morning. We ask for a breakfast spot recommendation to pass the time, but he tells us nothing is open this early. So we continue to find our building.
“I think this is it.” D points to a building. I look out the window to see what he’s pointing at, and see a run down building. Its windowless first floor is instead a series of roll-up garage doors, colorful with layers of graffiti. The concrete is spalding at the upper floors and the grey paint peels off in crumbly strips.
I really hope it’s not. Didn’t we vet the airBnB’s rental options extensively and spent hours looking at pictures?!
It turns out our building is a few over. It has a real gated door and no graffiti on its walls. But there are a couple of bums sleeping out on the sidewalk. We gingerly walk around them and step into the building. It has a real foyer and (tiny) lobby with a security desk. The security guard lets us stay in the lobby even though we don’t have a room to check into yet. We sit on the tiled floor in a corner with our luggage and wait, tired from the long flight and nervous from being in a new city.
After a while, we decide to go out and explore and maybe find some breakfast. The sleeping bums are gone, thank goodness. We walk down a deserted pedestrian walkway. It’s quiet and dark and smells a little. Our only company are a couple of raggedy stray dogs and we remind each other not to draw attention or touch.
And everywhere we go, we’re met with closed garage doors, sealing any livelihood behind their heavy metal exterior.
We only make it around the block before we head back, forgoing any ideas of breakfast. We go back inside our lobby and huddle in the corner again. I’m determined not to move until we are able to check in. I have a brief moment of panic.
“Omg, I’m not a traveler!! What if I hate it here, and I’m not meant for dirty streets and bums and all of this?! What if I’m just meant for a clean Orange County lifestyle?! And we have a whole month here! What if I never learn to love it?”
I sulk in the corner until the cleaning lady needs to mop the floor. So begrudgingly, I leave the safety of the lobby and once again, step out into the street.
This time, the sun is shining high in the sky. The streets are filled with people. Men smartly dressed in business suits with briefcases making the morning commute. Young women in dresses and heels, click-clacking their way to the office. Mothers holding the hands of their children on the way to school. Janitors sweeping the streets clean of trash. Vendors setting up their street stands of produce, clothing, and other knickknacks.
We walk on and on, through the bustling streets. The previous dark barren streets are now unrecognizable as the formidable garage doors are lifted to reveal bright colorful shops. The sun fills the streets with warmth, and something else warm radiates through me as well. Even though our luggage is getting heavier and heavier to carry, my heart begins to feels lighter. The dark gloom that befell over me earlier is lifted and I find myself enjoying the vibrant streets.
Slowly, I break out into a smile.
I think I may like it here after all. :)
This post is part of the #sundaytraveler series. Check out this post The Other Palaces of Vienna: The Hofburg and The Belvedere by Pack Me To (@packmeto), and don’t forget to support all the other participating blogs (links at the bottom of post)!