Chile

 Blending in nicely 

Blending in nicely 

Last month in Santiago, Chile, Francisco "Pancho" Campos, 27, married Tammy Teixiera, 21. Four weeks later, Tammy accepted my request through an expat exchange network to host me on a futon in their one bedroom apartment. A few days after that - a couple days shy of their one month wedding anniversary - I showed up at their doorstep from Sydney.

 Celebrating Chilean Independence with the newlyweds, Tammy and Pancho

Celebrating Chilean Independence with the newlyweds, Tammy and Pancho

Tammy greeted me in Portuguese like an old childhood friend. Between a lot of Brazilian pot roast and even more Google translate, Tammy told me her story of growing up on an island near Rio de Janeiro where, two years ago, she met a vacationing Pancho, whom she ultimately left home to join in Santiago. Pancho asked me what I did for work in the States- I awkwardly left it vague, trying to steer clear of finance talk with a nice Chilean guy who was probably just looking to make conversation. Pancho looked confused by my answer. When asked the same question, he began to explain to me his work at a foreign exchange trading firm, and the clients he works with: "have you ever heard of Gold-man Sachs?"

For five days, the Chilean and Brazilian newlyweds unfolded their futon and added an extra seat at their small kitchen counter, taught their visiting Gringo how to use the subway, shared wedding cake leftovers and everything else they could share in apartment 401. Before I left, we joined Pancho's family at a Chilean Independence Day "fonda" in a town outside the city- a festive Chilean take on a Midwestern country fair. Standing room-only crowds gathered by the racetrack to watch kids games that included catch the wild chicken and later, the more difficult contest to catch the baby pig. 

 Opening ceremonies at the Fonda, before horse races, pig chases, and cow rides 

Opening ceremonies at the Fonda, before horse races, pig chases, and cow rides 

I had come to Chile to meet Arturo, a friend of a friend and fellow squash fanatic. We we were introduced by email after I graduated college, and I kept his  offer to visit and train in Santiago in a folder since then. Almost exactly three years to the day after that email, I made my way from Tammy and Pancho's apartment and toward the suburbs of Santiago to find him.

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Arturo is in his late forties and speaks perfect English, with a Columbia business degree and successful financial trading firm that he started from scratch. And yet most impressive is his wonderful wife and family. I slept under the glow-in-the-dark stars and a poster of Tin Tin in 7 year old Arturo Jr.'s room, sharing the bathroom and it's world atlas shower curtain with little Arturo and his youngest brother, one year old Joaquin. My third roomate was five year old Violetta next door, who eagerly taught me Spanish and offered to share all of her Gobstoppers candy with me. Arturo had it all. 

He loved helping me train for my upcoming tournament in Brazil. We played at his local club which was set against the Andes. I wanted to hear more about his world but he preferred talking more about mine- peppering in questions about the tour, the other players, my goals as a twenty-something year old rookie wandering with my racquet and bags. 

After one morning session, we sat alone in drying sweat and silence next to the empty courts. Out of the silence, Arturo looked over to me and watched as I unwrapped a dirty brace from my puffy left ankle. "I would give give up everything to be 26 years old again. Everything."

 The view from the top of Santa Lucia Hill in downtown Santiago, with The Andes not too far behind 

The view from the top of Santa Lucia Hill in downtown Santiago, with The Andes not too far behind 

 Chilean Independece Day: let there be meat

Chilean Independece Day: let there be meat

 A festive soundtrack to the morning commute in Santiago 

A festive soundtrack to the morning commute in Santiago 

 Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile