15 May 2011

Discovery

Life sometimes unfolds in serendipitous ways. My off-the-cuff decision to spend a summer in Montréal to learn French turned out to be a key factor in my eventual moving there. And now, the other such immersion stay I've undertaken, in Argentina and Chile, leads into an extended stay in the latter.

Thanks to a work assignment requiring an on-site project manager, the Chilean capital will host me for about five months starting in June, and the knowledge of having volunteered for this opportunity fills me to equal measure with excitement and anxiousness. After all, while I feel comfortable with the topics of the workday, I have spent far less time assessing life outside the office at the foot of the Andes than I did in Montréal before deciding to move there.

Fortunately, my assignment currently gives me the opportunity to spend a week in Santiago before actually settling in, with an aim to get to know both the people and project I'll be working for, as well as the city itself. And so far, I am impressed. Shiny glass + steel office buildings, filled with smartly dressed professionals sipping their cortados while tapping on their iPads, enormous shopping malls with every convenience one could wish for, an efficient subway far more modern than Montréals, and streets that feel both quiet and clean for Latin American standards make this seem a very liveable city. My forays have helped tick off some key checkboxes (Functioning ATM: check. - Locall cell phone: check. - Dry cleaner: check. - Alfajores con dulce de leche: check. ) although some others (public indoor pool: fail. - Fresh non-UHT milk: fail. - Affordable supplies of Swiss chocolate: fail.) will likely mean a temporary change of lifestyle. All of this is part of the deal, as will be living through a (mild) Southern Hemisphere winter during my assignment, before returning to Canada just in time for their cold season.

Going through my "city discovery" to-do list this weekend, I was surprised by the degree of routine I appear to have developed. After London and Montréal, this is the third city I will make "mine" in just over two years, and in the process I seem to have learned to cover my bases. But I've also added reference points: Santiago sports the diverse neighbourhoods and large parks of Montréal, and the stunning snow-capped backdrop of Zurich. And yet it is far away from both of these places, and the friends I have made in them. Moving to Chile means leaving two homes and two social networks behind, so it is comforting to know that my sojourn will be interrupted by several "home visits", as well as hopefully some friends making the trip to Santiago. This way, the next few months will hopefully let me live the best of three worlds!

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