Friday, April 20, 2012

Finding a house

Getting here was quite the journey. The past year has been filled with unknowns. We are the second family to head to Chile after a very unsuccessful first try. Nobody likes to count that time, so we are often referred to as the guinea pigs. This time they are doing whatever they can to make it successful for both the company and our family.

Greg and I started our journey Friday leaving Phoenix for a 3.5 hour flight to Atlanta, a 3 hour layover in Atlanta and then a 9.5 hour flight to Santiago, Chile. Thank goodness for first class in the states and business class for the international flight. 9.5 hours on a plane would be unbearable without that large reclining seat. Luckily the flight to Santiago leaves at like 10pm and arrives in Chile the next morning. So most of the time is spent sleeping (or at least trying to sleep).

When we arrived in Santiago, I don’t know what I expected really. I’ve been in Mexico many, many times and love it there. However, the places I go in Mexico are really Americanized. Lots of English signs. Chile – well, it’s Spanish. Lots and lots of Spanish. It’s weird. For example, I was at the mall the other day, and I look around and it looks like I’m at a mall at home. There is a Ruby Tuesdays, McDonalds, Subway and even a PF Changs going in. The places and the people all look the same, so maybe that is why I forget that they speak Spanish. I walk by a table and assume to hear them speaking English. When they do not – it’s a little discombobulating.

Our main purpose for this trip was to find housing, solidify schooling, obtain visas and set up bank accounts. I will be here for 10 days and Greg will stay for 3 weeks to begin working here. After that he’ll come home for about a month as we prepare to move. The housing market here is crazy. The influx of foreigners and earthquakes has driven the cost of housing sky-high. Apparently, it’s less bothersome to experience an earthquake in a house than in an upper floor apartment.

We are in the market to rent. We also would love something furnished. We’ve agreed to stay for 1 year with the company pushing for 2-3. We will make a decision after we’ve been here 6 months and have a good feel for it.

We are also looking in a specific area of Chile, Lo Barnechea. It’s close to the only school in the area where we’d like our kids to go. It is an international school with all native English speaking teachers. They are the only school in the area that runs on the same calendar year as the states. That is a big deal for us. Our oldest will be a junior in high school and with graduation/college around the corner we are not willing to tinker around with his credits. Nido de Aguilas is a great school. They have students from 52 different countries. We visited the school and love the people, the campus and the curriculum. We really think it will be a great fit for our kids. I know that they will grow and excel there.

We found 2 houses in that area for rent that were furnished. So we looked at 6 total, 4 unfurnished and the two furnished. The first furnished house was amazing. It had 5 bedrooms over 4 floors. The rooms were huge, the kitchen was huge (not typical here in Chile), the yard was huge. The only problem was the price tag. It was equivalent to $5,000 dollars monthly with an average $1,000 monthly in utilities. Yikes! It also had 10 foot walls topped with 2 feet of electric wire surrounding the house. It makes you feel safe – but not safe. Does that make sense? If I am in an area where I need 10 foot walls and electric fencing to keep thieves out – yeah… not so comfortable with that. I also can’t imagine that it would be very easy to get to know your neighbors.

The other furnish house was a pain to schedule an appointment to look at it, but it was well worth the wait. It’s about 15 minutes from the school and about as far from downtown Santiago (and Greg’s office) as you can physically get. It is in a nice, new neighborhood resting on the side of the Andes mountains. It is a quiet, quaint little home. It has 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths, with an additional small bedroom and full bath for the servant. Live-in servants is an idea I am not so keen on. I would LOVE to have someone come in once a week and do the chores I hate, but living with us day-in and day-out. No thanks. The rental process here is so different, but we submitted a contract and it was accepted by the owner. Starting June 15th this little beauty is ours! One major hurdle down – a million more to go!

A few notes about the house - It is furnished so most of the things you see in the photos stay. There is an apartment sized washer/dryer, but you'll notice that it is outside. Yes, it's covered by a roof-type structure, but it's outside right next to the kitchen and servant's room. Customs here are much different. The house also doesn't have screens in the windows. The photo out the back window upstairs showing the neighborhood, Santiago valley and the Andes mountains has a safety screen which keeps kids from falling out, but there is no need for screens as there are not many bugs. They don't have any predatory animals either, only a few friendly tarantulas. I guess it is common to find them and keep them as pets... Yikes! I guess it is good to know we don't have to worry about mountain lions or bears. I will have to learn to live with hairy spiders.

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