It was quite the effort to make it happen, but it did. Our friend Veronica from Calgary has family in Chile, and we were offered the chance to stay with them for a few days. Sounded perfect so we took them up on it. Trouble was, we had to arrange this in Argentina, by phone, with people who spoke no English at all and spoke Spanish very quickly. From the bus depot in Mendoza we called once, spent about 10 minutes trying to arrange a meeting point in complete confusion, then resigned to call again. We found a lady in the terminal who offered to help us, and after her call to the family we were able to sort out some details: how to get there, where to get off, and what time to meet. It was a nerve-racking time, but when we stepped off the bus in Villa Alemana it all seemed okay. The first person we met was a shopkeeper named Carlos who actually lived on Main & 49th in Vancouver for a few years. So we had a good chat with him until I spotted a lady on the street who looked right. I went up to her and said Hola! and voila! it was Margarita - Veronica´s auntie.
She walked us to her family´s home a few blocks away and we met her son Javier, his wife Marie and their two children (los niños) Javiera, 6, and Benjamin, 2.
We also met her other son Fabian, his girlfriend Oli, and the family pets: Dolly the Cocker, two budgies and a couple of bunnies. We were immediately welcomed in, and felt the instant warmth from these people. It was a nice moment. After a nap to recover some of the lost sleep from the bus trip, we were invited to "tea" and had a simple meal and some interesting conversation. It was really amazing that we were able to all communicate with one another considering our low-level of Spanish and only Javier speaks a little English. Good fun all around - lots of laughing and smiles, arms in the air and exagerated facial expressions. That night, we were taken on an impromptu car-ride with Javier and Marie to Viña del Mar 20 minutes away. They were more than eager to show us around and make friends with "the Canadians" and at one point even asked us bluntly if we liked them! Of course we did! We went to the beach and watched the huge breakers roll in, visited the feria artesanal on the boardwalk and stopped for pictures and bebidas (drinks). By midnight it was back to Villa Alemana and a pleasant Buenos Noches for all.
Over the next five days, this would be our home in Chile and our relationships kept developing until it felt like we were all very comfortable around each other and even los niños were no longer too shy (of me, "Alto Dave" especially).
The reception of total strangers who, only a day before had called in a foreign tongue to ask about staying in their home, was amazing. What could have been a "lonely" visit to Chile has turned into an experience we will never forget.