I just spent $79,700 for lunch. I have the receipt to prove it. There were only eleven of us (twelve counting Oliver, aged 7 months). We ate in a well-known seafood restaurant in Santiago’s Mercado Central in the heart of town. It’s popular with tourists, so I had expected to pay ten or fifteen dollars a plate. But $79,700? After the sticker shock wore off, I calmed down enough to calculate the conversion rate from Chilean pesos (the symbol is $) to American dollars (the symbol is also $). I had enough money in the bank to handle the bill: $120.79 USD. That ‘s about 660 Chilean pesos ($) to 1 American dollar ($). You should my wad of bills! Even our first excursion to the grocery store cost us $33,070. We carried out three small bags full.
Our lunch guests were the dynamic leadership team of El Oasis, CMF-Globalscope’s Santiago campus ministry. They’re why we’re here. Santiago has been on our bucket list for years, ever since El Oasis opened 14 years ago. We had to keep postponing our visit; Chile is such a long way from the States you have to really want to get here. It didn’t seem so far from New Zealand; we had originally planned an Auckland-Santiago journey, but then we returned for a second stay in Australia instead. Still, since we were already south of the equator (“in the neighborhood,” as daughter Candy puts it), it still made sense to cross the Pacific to Chile.
This trip took some effort. Pride goeth before a fall, the adage says. I’ve boasted too often of late that we seem to be handling jet lag better in our old age than we did when we were younger.
That was before our Melbourne-Sydney-Santiago flights. We left home for the Melbourne airport at 6:45 am Tuesday to catch our 9:15 flight to Sydney (delayed an hour), then rushed through the Sydney terminals (domestic and international) to board our to Santiago, 12 hours away, arriving around 11:25 am the same day (we had crossed the International Date Line). Santiago (on a Saturday, say) is one day and 14 hours behind Melbourne (where it’s Sunday). I’m writing this at 7:27am today; it’s 9:27 pm tomorrow back where we started.
See why we’re jet lagged?
It was Einstein, wasn’t it, who proved that time is relative? That must be true. I seldom know what time it is where our relatives live.
El Oasis is one of the first and strongest of CMF’s ministries to university students. Team leader is Phil Linkous (from Georgia), who arrived here in 2010. A few years later he married Eli (Elizabeth), a native Chilean whose grandfather was a German who, foreseeing the coming Holocaust, emigrated to Chile. Phil and Eli’s son is Oliver, the seven-month-old entertainer who joined us for the team lunch Friday.
Other team members are Brent Vokes (from Georgia), Stephanie Stillman (also from Georgia), Sarah Herrington (yet another Georgian), Aldo Ossa (a Chilean) married to Steph Ossa (from Illinois), Greg Klass (Kentucky) and his wife Eli (from Chile). A remarkable group.
We met with the team our first morning here. No formal program, just questions-and-answers. These ancient travelers are a curiosity to El Oasis’ young adults. Their questions ranged over several topics:
*How have you kept your marriage going for so long? *What have you learned that could help us in our ministries? *What possessed you to give up your house and cars and belongings to live out of suitcases for a couple of years? *What do you plan to do when you finally settle down again?
What impressed us was their sincerity and their patience as the old folks did what old folks do: tell stories and give advice. Remember Rochefoucauld’s wry observation? “Old people love to give good advice; it compensates them for their inability to set a bad example.” We’re there, I’m afraid.
The next night we accepted their invitation to attend their weekly “event” with their university students. This one was built around the televised FIFA World Cup (Soccer) Qualification. Unfortunately, host team Argentina did not treat guest team Chile hospitably. Score: 1-0, Argentina. Still, everybody had a great time.
The program highlighted pre-game snacks, a devotional talk and group singing (all in Spanish, of course), the game, barbecued sausage—and homemade brownies! We counted about 70 in attendance.
Naturally we did the usual touristy things on Friday and Saturday: strolled through the famous downtown fish market,
walked around the central city square, where saw the magnificent sculptured tribute to the Machupes, the indigenous people who were eventually overrun by the invaders from Europe. We rode the funicular up San Cristobal Hill, caught the cable car down the other side, then went to the city’s largest, ultramodern multistoried shopping mall (you should see the prices in Chilean pesos here!).
You can’t visit this modern city without noting its abiding ties to its Catholic heritage, from the centuries-old but still active churches like the Santiago Metropolitan Cathedral to this modern cross atop San Cristobal Hill.
From our eleventh story apartment in Providencia District we see the effects of automotive-based smog. Santiago, like major cities everywhere, fights heavy air pollution. Each morning greets us with a clear view of the city and nearby Andes. But once people wake up and their cars and trucks jammed the streets and spewed exhaust, the haze takes over, reducing visibility and making us eager for night to fall when the vehicles are be put to bed. In the morning, then, we can once again see the mountains.
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