Friday, April 20, 2012

Stepping into the Chilean life...

This journey began almost a year ago but first, a little background.

My husband Greg works in the mining support industry. Essentially they make parts that mines use. He is an engineer by education and custom designs equipment parts for each individual site. Apparently, he's pretty good at what he does and his knowledge is in high demand. He has worked with the same company since college, but that company has been bought and sold 2-3 times during his tenure. Currently, the company he works for, ME-Elecmetal, has been Chilean owned since 2001. In 2009-10, they started a new division of grinding media and Greg was offered an opportunity to help start up this new division. Now instead of making mill liners, he makes the large steel balls that help break up the large rocks and filter out the good stuff. There is a running joke here about big steel balls... but I won't indulge it here.

Greg and I met and married in 1996. In the past 15 years, we've raised two boys, moved from Kansas City, where we met, to Minneapolis, MN and settled in Phoenix, AZ since 2000. We love it there. Almost 1 year ago, Greg was approached by his boss, Xen, about his willingness to move to Santiago, Chile to support the growing business there. His initial response was no. With (at the time) 15 and 13 year old boys, he didn't feel it would be fair to uproot them during these already tough years. He came home and shared the offer with me. Strangely enough, I wasn't immediately opposed to it. Maybe it's been the years of constant recruiting by head-hunters and various oversees offers that has nulled my senses, but regardless the reason, I felt that maybe this was something to consider. Which - by the way - is not at all like me. I'm not a risk-taker. I don't play the lottery, literally or figuratively speaking. I don't walk on open grates on the side walk - too risky. Statuesque is perfectly fine by me. So there it was. We were going to consider the move, thanks to me.

Now I think it is important that you understand at this point the timeline we were working with. We had less than one week. Yes, LESS THAN ONE WEEK to give his boss an answer as to whether or not we'd be willing. Xen would be meeting with the Chileans the following week and wanted to let them know that Greg would be interested if they wanted to pursue it. So Greg found out on a Wednesday, told me Thursday and we basically had to let Xen know by Sunday.

Step one was to pray. When all things big or small come along - prayer is always a good place to start. We were also working on a timeline. We all know that the Lord works on His schedule, not ours, so we felt that if we didn't get an answer by our deadline - than that would be our answer. But following the prayer, I felt immediate peace. I knew without a doubt that no matter which way our family decided to go, we'd be ok. It's good to know that with a solid surety as I've struggled many times along this path. Either way - and we're good.

Step two was to take it to the kids. They are old enough to have an input about a major change like this. We are the final say - but really when you make life-changing decisions that affect others, we felt like their thoughts were important. We really thought they'd be 100% against it. But they weren't. Weird. These boys are as routine as they come. We talked about the culture and people. We talked about the 1 year minimum commitment with the encouraged option for more, and they were both on board.

So we gave Xen the "go" to suggest us moving to Santiago. I think I thought somewhere in the back of my mind that maybe they wouldn't want us, even though Greg said that would not be the case. Within a week we were told that the Chileans were thrilled that we wanted to come and couldn't wait to have us there. Wow. This would really happen. That was July 2011.

Fast forward to now. I sit in an apart-hotel in downtown Santiago alone while Greg golfs near the beach. I don't mind hanging out in the room all day because venturing out means having to speak Spanish - and I don't speak Spanish. I toyed with the idea of getting some lunch from this little cafe/bistro across the street because I know they have an English menu, but I am worried about paying with pesos. I would use my credit card, but I worry it will red-flag because I didn't call to tell them I would be using it outside of Phoenix. They barely approved it in Vancouver and that is practically America.

Greg left me a stack of money on the table to use but there are coins and bills of all different colors. Meals cost in the millions here - and that scares me a little. Typical comida (lunch) is around 6.900 pesos which is roughly $14. First they use a period in place of a comma, so 6.900 is 6,900 Chilean pesos. And you have to order in Spanish and ask for the check in Spanish and pay in pesos - forget it! I'll heat up leftovers... Greg really wants me to venture out. He wants me to push my way in and get comfortable. I want to do that to, but my Spanish is sooooo limited.

I just learned fork - tenador. I learned "agua, no sin gas, por favor" meaning 'water no carbonation'. I can make statements - but when I do I open the flood gates. You say one thing in Spanish and suddenly they speak to you like you can understand, and I can't. I need to learn to say, "sorry buddy, that's all I've got. Just that one little phrase. You'll have to fill in the rest on your own." I wonder if there are any Spanish phrases that mean that. I can say, "no entiendo" meaning I do not understand. "Un poco espaniol" but that doesn't help if they are asking if I want my camaron (shrimp) grilled, fried or boiled. Nope. Not ready to go out alone just yet.

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