|There it was - right across the street!|
Even though we were in a Spanish-speaking country, I found it curious that nobody at all spoke any English, even the Pastor. Frequently these pastors study in the USA or with English-language books. But we were able to exchange pleasantries using our very poor Spanish with everyone and we felt quite welcome there. As the crowd thinned, one lady came over with her son, who was about 22 years old. His English was not perfect, but far exceeded our low abilities in the local language. For this talent we were very grateful. It was also helpful that his mother knew a few words. We did not really expect that anyone should speak English for us, but everyone always tried to help us communicate with gestures and a word or two as we tried to reciprocate in their language. After discussing where we were from and how long we would be in Viña, they said we really must visit nearby Valparaiso. We communicated that this was our plan for the balance of the day - to take the Metro over there and walk around a bit. After a small conference, they indicated they would like to take us on a personal tour of Valparaiso, if we did not mind. We were more than happy to accept, and we spent the next 2 hours with the father driving, the mother giving directions, and the son (Samuel) interpreting and acting as tour guide.
This was a great help to us, as we had no idea where to go or what to see. Several people had warned us about pickpockets and "snatch and run" thieves in the area. One friend had even been mugged there. This wonderful family took us to all the best viewpoints, stopped and waited for pictures, and explained the history and architecture of the city. Samuel's mother was an especially good resource, since she is an architect and teaches the history of architecture at Valparaiso University. Much fun was had by all!
|Samuel and his wonderful parents - we never got to know their names!|
|Feeling much better about life in general and Chile in particular!|
|On top of the world in Valparaiso!|
|The first church constructed in Valparaiso. The sailors could clearly see it when coming into port.|
We invited the family up to share our wine, cheese, salami, and bread, but they declined - needing to return home. Samuel, on the other hand, expressed a desire to learn more English terms from us and talk about going to school in the USA as an exchange student. His mother approved his plan and made sure he had enough money for the bus fare to return home. We came up to the apartment and talked for some time, researching programs on the internet. I was able to find dozens of programs for US citizens to study elsewhere, but it was much more difficult to find one for Chilean's to go abroad to study. If you know of any, be sure to leave the details in the comments section!
All in all it required only one family for part of one day to completely change our views about Chile. While the country is still relatively expensive, things do function properly here, and folks get along pretty well. Thanks to Samuel and his parents for a fresh perspective!