When we got there at 10:00am, the children were just getting up. They dashed into the living room to greet me joyously, “Tia, tia!” Aunty. They looked like they’d grown a lot since August, especially Alfonso. He was much taller and string-bean skinny.
Marisol and Arturo had promised to drive me around to look for an apartment. I was anxious to get started, but first, they insisted on breakfast. I’d had ham and cheese just two hours before on the plane, but we ate more ham, with brown bread, which I had never seen in Chile, and there was tea and cake to finish it off.
They had bought a newspaper so that we could go through the classifieds. After breakfast, Marisol scanned the paper and called out information to Arturo as he phoned the apartment owners. We eliminated several before we ever left their house because the owners wanted a six-month lease or a guarantor, or they refused to rent to a foreigner.
They drove me all over the city to look at different areas, not an easy feat because Santiago is very spread out, but they insisted on checking out all possibilities. Barrio Brasil…”Not for you!” It looked fine to me, but they wouldn’t even let me consider it. We got lost in Providencia and never located the hotel that I had found on Craigslist. Other hotels were too expensive. Most apartments were too expensive or required a long lease.
In between our searches, we went back to their house for lunch. I offered to buy them lunch out, but they wouldn’t hear of it. So back we went, even though it was all the way across town.
After lunch, we were back on the hunt. In the end, I rented the first apartment that I had seen, the one owned by the entrepreneur from Craigslist, Señor Adolfo.
We contacted Sr. Adolfo and, under Marisol and Arturo’s watchful eyes, I signed a lease that evening. We drove back to their house at 9:00pm to pick up my bags. Alfonso, excited to see me again, ran in circles around the living room, occasionally using the sofa as a trampoline. He begged me to spend the night, even offered to let me have his bed while he slept on the sofa.
Exhausted, but anxious to be in my own place, I had to refuse his offer. I was afraid that we might have a repeat performance of his historic hissy fit, but he finally settled down and let me go with only a kiss on the cheek.
It was almost 11:00pm when Arturo and Marisol made one more trip across town that night, to drop me off at my new apartment. It was perfect. Tiny, 350 square feet, with an orange, two-seater naugahyde sofa and matching ottoman, called a “poof.” A spotted fake cowhide rug adorned the living room floor, and beaded strings hung from the ceiling around the kitchenette. A saggy, queen-sized mattress filled the bedroom.
It also had a closet big enough to step into and a sliver of a balcony that I could stand on if I didn’t move at all. The apartment was near a Metro station and a Lider supermarket, with lots of restaurants nearby. It was at the back of the building, facing east, with a breathtaking view of the Andes Mountains.
I could hear honking horns, passing conversations, and sirens, all the things that I was used to from living in New York. Home, sweet Santiago home.