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Andes Mountains (on the road to El Volcan)
near San Alfonso, Chile; Apr 29, 2005

help! lost again

Our future kids are doomed. The person who has the worst sense of direction in the whole world somehow managed to marry the runner-up for this dubious distinction (though which one of us is which is a constant subject of debate). As a result, we've asked a *lot* of people all over the world for directions and fortunately for us, the people of Chile were over-the-top nice in terms of helping us out. Here are some examples:

the nice folks at our guesthouse, the Garivalpo:
Lorena, Micaela (the little one), Susan, and Uberlinda

- On our first day in Valparaiso, we decided to check out an acsensor near our guesthouse (an ascensor is the same as a funicular, a diagonal railway that gets you up a steep hill – Valparaiso has tons of ‘em). We stopped in the foyer of our guest house and helplessly tried to orient our city map. The owner approached us and tried to point us in the right direction and finally in broken English, said, “Oh – I’ll just walk you there since I need to do something that way too!” Perhaps she sensed we would never get there on our own. When we got in sight of the thing, she pointed to it, waved goodbye cheerfully, and headed right back in the direction of the hotel. She didn’t have a nearby errand at all.

- We were driving around Quintero, a coastal town, in the fading (or rather, completely gone) light. Lost as usual. We rolled down the window and asked a random couple for directions. They began giving us directions in great detail, which is excellent for the directionally-challenged likes of us. The language barrier, however, was giving us a bit of trouble and the next thing we know, they were trying to get in the car to just take us there. (And in case you think we were naively about to get robbed or something, this was a forty-something couple, having a relaxing evening stroll.) They had simply decided that really the best thing was for them to show us the way personally (never mind that they’d have a very long hike back). We didn’t let them, of course, but we’ve no doubt that they gladly would have.

- The plan today was to blast through Santiago on our way from north to south. Yea, right. We became hopelessly lost trying to negotiate Chile’s capital. Eventually, we just pulled over in a side street behind a taxi cab to regroup. While we were standing next to the car, pouring over the map trying to get oriented, the taxi driver came over and asked if we needed some help. By pointing to our big map of Chile, we managed to convey that we were trying to get to San Jose de Maipo. “Ah…,” he said, and launched into an overwhelmingly long list of directions, all in lightning-speed Spanish. It was “easy,” he said, but seeing the look of fear on our faces, he decided to draw a detailed map. We thanked him profusely and got back in the car. Just then, he picked up a fare and yelled back at us, “follow me!” So we did. We have the distinct impression that he wasn’t going the best route for the person in the back of his cab, but it worked out pretty well for us. Finally, at about the 7th place where we had to turn, he pointed wildly out his window to the final turn to San Jose de Maipo. Phew. Not only did he get us to our destination before dark, but he probably prevented a serious domestic argument.

We’ve met locals in quite a few countries. Sometimes they’re mean or indifferent, and sometimes they’re really nice. The Chileans have been especially wonderful; so much so that we’ve resolved to change the way we treat travelers when we return home. Not that we treated them badly, of course, but now we’re going to go out of our way to help them. For a traveler, it can often make the difference between a good day and a bad day, and it certainly reflects positively on one’s country as a whole. So kudos to the Chileans – we’ll never forget your kindness and we’ll do our best to pass it on!

© 2004-2012 susan & grace, all rights reserved

-- comments from readers --


As I said to Mei yesterday during an about-face en route to our parked car in San Francisco: My sense of direction is great - never off by more than 180 degrees!

Thanks for sharing!

--Tom B. (San Francisco, CA, USA); Sep 5, 2005