Travels in a Thin Country

While I wish our trip had just ended, the reality is we got home on July 4th… but things were crazed and complicated on our arrival (New puppy + my 2 night stay in the hospital for back issues) so it has taken me until today to finally be able to write about our adventures in Chile.

As anyone who read my previous post knows, I was terrified of how Sam would be on the airplane. We started things off slow with a quick flight from Oakland to LA. We used his car seat and had a ton of toys (new and old) at the ready. As the plane barreled down the runway, I told Sam that he was going to fly like a birdy. For the next ten minutes, all Sam would say is “I fly like a birdy in the sky” while smiling. He loved this idea, and it kept him happy for a long time. As the flight got to the 45th minute, Sam got restless, so I pulled out the iPad and the headphones his therapists had been helping him acclimate to, and loaded up his favorite videos.

Sam the Anti-Preemie watchs his iPad

Watching a Bruno Mars music video on the airplace

He watched videos until we were told to put the iPad away.

When the plane landed, Sam did great. He didn’t even seem to notice the change in the air pressure. I was feeling way more confident for the travel to come.

We spent on night in LA. It was nice, because we were able to visit with my grandfather and his girlfriend (I love saying my grandpa has a girlfriend!). Despite Irene’s best efforts to ruin the visit by throwing a 2.5 hour temper tantrum, it was a good time. I don’t get to see my grandpa as much as I would like, so any time I get with him, even if the soundtrack of the visit is a screaming 7 year old, is enjoyable. After we ate, the whole group of us, my parents included, headed to our hotel near the airport to rest up. Irene’s temper tantrum continued at the hotel for another 2 hours and then she finally passed out and the rest of us could get some sleep.

Our two flights to Chile were pretty easy. The first leg was 6.5 hours from Los Angeles to Panama City. Peter, Sam and I sat together and Irene sat with my parents. She watched the little TV the entire flight and managed to keep her cool and not throw a fit. The Panama airport was a bit of a zoo and really hot (we were in the tropics). Luckily we landed at the gate next to where we needed to go, so we didn’t have that far to walk.

On the next flight, we were broken into groups of two. Peter sat with Irene and I sat with Sam. Since this was the overnight flight, we hoped everyone would sleep. One of the kids obliged:

Sam the Anti-Preemie sleeping on the plane

Sam passed out on the Copa Airlines flight from Panama City to Santiago


The other was shused multiple times by people sitting around her who were tired of her crying and whining. (This will become a theme).

Customs was a breeze, our apartments in Santiago were fantastic, and more than that, our visit with our friends and family were perfect. Yes, Irene threw a fit daily, but we still had a great time. We ate, we drank pisco sours and wine, and we socialized until we couldn’t eat, drink or socialize any more… well, at least until the following day. Sam was amazing at all of these events. We would be in a house with 20 people, all jabbering away in Spanish and cooing over Sam and hugging him and he just smiled and had a great time. In some ways, I think he took to everything better than I did. I was exhausted!

Here are a few images from out time in Santiago:

  • Irene and Abeulita Chela
  • Sam and mommy - exhausted but smiling
  • This is pretty much the face Irene made most of the trip
  • Sleeping Sam channeling his inner model

From there, we drove north to visit Rodrigo, who was an AFS student that lived with my family in 1986. I am always overjoyed to see Rodrigo, as I think of him as my brother. I couldn’t wait for him to meet Sam and for Irene to have people to play with. Rodrigo has three kids all around Irene’s age. This might have been her favorite part of the trip. She had kids to play with, dogs to pet… and most of all a trampoline to jump on. And boy did she jump. 3 straight days from sun up till way after dark. And this whole time, Irene was immersed in spanish and she held her own.

But Irene wasn’t the only kid to thrive in Quillota – Sam really blossomed there too. He really liked Rodrigo’s youngest, Jaun-P. At times I found myself hiding around a corner and watching my son in disbelief as he interacted and played with Jaun-P. He liked Jaun-P so much, he even followed him into the trampoline (something he has been afraid of every time his occupational therapist tries to get him to use one). The three days were a blur of happy kids and really amazing changes in Sam.

Just a few images from Quillota:

  • Sam in the trampoline
  • Sam and Juan-P with the iPad
  • More of Sam and Juan-P bonding with the iPad
  • Sam, Vicente and Juan-P in the trampoline
  • Melissa and Irene take a turn in the trampoline
  • Sam doing his favorite thing in Chile, driving
  • Irene, night, arty trampoline shot
  • The vista from Rodrigo\'s avocado farm
  • Picking oranges from Rodrigo\'s orange trees
  • Pan amasado in an adobe oven

After Quillota, we began our trek down to the south, visiting Concepcion, Villarica, and Puerto Varas (and a few places in between). The weather was not the best for this week of the trip, but we were expecting that. Traveling in Chile at the start of winter and heading south means you will see rain. In reality, it didn’t bother us that much. Days when it really rained we hung out by the fire in our hotel or found an artesina (hand made goods market) to wander around in. We did have one day where everything cleared up, giving us amazing views of the volcanoes.

From the trip south:

  • Family portrait in Concepcion (with a prehistoric whale skeleton as a backdrop)
  • Melissa and Tutu with after their big purse purchase
  • Irene in a wood flower shop in Pucon
  • Gratuitious Volcano Shot (Volcan Osorno)
  • Yayo and Sam driving
  • King crab in Puerto Varas
  • What happened when Sam got to close to the king crab
  • Sam the man, eating while working the iPhone

Would I do this trip again with both kids… not sure. I didn’t get much time to rest and relax and came home so exhausted that my back went out putting me in the hospital for two days and in my bed for a week and a half after that. But seeing both of the kids with the family there it is hard to think I would ever go back without them… or be allowed to!

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