Leaving Santiago – Act I

The following story takes place over the course of 48hrs in Santiago and the Central Valley, Chile.

Main characters are:

  • Tall english man,
  • Mediterranean woman who everyone assumes will be fluent in Spanish,
  • a short dark haired junkie called Sebastian aka ‘Perro Danger’ or ‘The Guard Dog’,
  • two police officers
  • a short stubby tobacco farmer
  • San Francisco’s class of 2017

Act I

Once we picked up the car, the next thing to sort out was where to park it. Our AirBnB apartment did not offer parking for more than 4 hours. So we decide to leave it at an ‘estacionamento’; a public parking space next to one of Santiago’s busiest tube stations.

As we pull in looking for a space, a short man jumps in front of the car and guides us to a parking spot. He is wearing a dirty orange t-shirt and is smoking a spliff.  We jump out of the car, thank him and begin to head into the Italian quarter to grab a bite to eat but he starts talking to Andy at 1,000 miles an hour in incomprehensible Spanish. Andy looks at me perplexed, our man turns over to me and resumes his lecture only this time 995 words are in Spanish and 5 are in English.

‘La carro aqui, OK?’ I ask.

‘Si’ he says and then continues on for a good 2 minutes in Spanish.

‘I think he wants money’ I say to Andy.

‘Me llamo Sebastian’, he says, ‘Perro Danger’. He definitely wants money. ‘Tres Luca’.

‘Tres dollaros por la todo noche?’ I respond in very broken Spanish. ‘A manana la carro OK, aqui?’

‘Si’ he says confidently. ‘I am Guard Dog’

So we give him $3 USD and we walk away. I am still concerned about leaving the car overnight in a public space but Andy is confident that there is nothing of value in the car and we walk off.

The next day, during my morning run, I make sure to run past the estacionamente. The car still there, intact, no ticket. Confident in our ability to find a free parking space close to our apartment we leave the car there one more night and continue sightseeing Santiago. We take the hop on hop off bus and continue to impose our abysmal but confident in its delivery Spanish amongst the waiters and waitresses of Santiago.

As night 3 approaches we decide to go back to the estacionamente, find The Guard Dog and give him another $3 USD for him to watch over the car. Andy takes the money whilst I wait patiently on the other side of the street not wanting to be hit on by The Guard Dog’s friends again.

‘Did you pay him?’ I ask Andy as he walks back to where I am standing.

‘No. He’s not there. And neither is our rear windscreen’.

The Guard Dog’s friends tell us that the previous night ‘some people’ run over and broke the windscreen. They claim they were too scared to stop them. We both suspect that a disgruntled Guard Dog broke into our car the second night to make up for the $3 USD loss – he took a bag of almonds, a hand sanitiser, the in-car phone charger and the FM transmitter.

We decide not to call the police, drive back to the apartment and show the concierge the state of our car. He agrees to let us park there for the night and we carefully hand him 10,000 pesos for the privilege. Armed with all the cleaning equipment we could get our hands on from the flat we attack the task at hand. The windscreen has shattered into a billion pieces which have been scattered all over the car. The almonds can also be found all over the car. It takes us two hours to clean it.

The next morning, at the crack of dawn (earlier than the time we would usually wake up to go to work) we wrestle our way through Santiago’s thick morning traffic to find the mechanic who only 2 days earlier had serviced the car. We arrive promptly at 9am to be greeted by bewildered staff who do not understand why we are back so soon. We show them the state of the windscreen and explain that someone broke in.

‘Manana’ says the lead mechanic.

‘Por favor’ I say ‘hoy’. Please, today. ‘Por favor’.

We agree to come back at 6 but as we walk to a near by cafe with good coffee and wifi we are not sure if at 6 the car will be ready or what. We kill a good 4 hours at the cafe – surprisingly there’s a lot to be done. Blog updates, photo editing, more books to be read, Whats app messages to send. We kill more time by going to a local hardware store and casually stroll back to mechanics at 4pm. The car – now proudly christened Gellan (short for Magellan) – is sitting there ready. I jump with joy, hug the lead mechanic and go off to pay our bill (185,000 CLP / £220 GBP).

Before we leave, the mechanic asks for another hug.

To find out how the story concludes, read on here

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