I should have been sleeping but I couldn’t. Instead, I was lying in bed with racing thoughts, none of them particularly comforting or helpful. Why was I even stressed out? No idea.
It was hot in the room. I got up and opened the window. I’d normally keep it closed it because it’s surprisingly bright and noisy on the 21st floor of one of Santiago’s many apartment towers but it didn’t matter tonight because I wasn’t sleeping in the first place and I was supposed to be up in… Fuck. Three hours.
No matter how hard you try, there’s no way to get a proper night’s sleep when you have to be up at 5 a.m., unless it’s part of your daily routine—and I can assure you it’s not part of mine. In fact, none of us are morning people. We always claim we should sleep earlier but we never do.
At 8 p.m., Feng started a load of laundry. At 9 p.m., I was buying groceries. At 11 p.m., Mark was still working on learning the lyrics of the entire Queen discography. I took a shower at midnight then considered assembling dinner. When I set up the alarm on my phone, Samsung informed me it would dutifully ring and vibrate four hours later.
Yeah, the idea of a good night’s sleep was just that, an idea, a failure waiting to happen.
In our defence, we had to complete the usual “leaving tomorrow” process, i.e. pack again, print out booking confirmations, throw away used supplies, wash everything that can be washed, etc.
Still, I should be sleeping now. I’m a lot of things but I’m sure not an insomniac.
I downed my bottle of water. Who cares if I go to sleep with a full bladder? I’ll be up anyway in…
Shit. Two hours.
What’s wrong with me? Sad? Nope. Everything is going well and considering the situation in Chile, I’m not disappointed to leave Santiago. Hungry? Absolutely not. I had empanadas and a delicious apple pie. Scared? Not really… Of what?
I think I’m feeling uneasy.
On a very selfish level, Santiago has always been my shelter in South America. I’m not sure how and when exactly it got promoted to this status but it’s my haven. It feels cozy to be nested between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. In the summer, it’s always hot and sunny, you don’t even have to check the weather. People are friendly and straightforward, I can walk anywhere, life is convenient enough. Santiago has everything I need.
Not anymore. Not right now, anyway.
How can things change so fast?
And this is what really makes me uneasy—Chile, yet another country where neoliberalism swallowed people’s dreams, ideas and hope for decent, simple life. What the fuck is this economic growth we purse? Does it translate into something for regular people or is it just a bunch of numbers countries tout to see who has the biggest one? Who cares about those left behind? Why are we always competing?
I’m not sleeping deeply when my alarm rings. It’s still pitch dark outside. The taxi we booked the night before is 15 minutes earlier than planned and it’s stressing me out because we’re not ready yet—we will be at 5:30 am as agreed, we just don’t have the courtesy to be downstairs even earlier just for show.
In fact, none of us feel particularly courteous at 5 a.m. Oh, we are model passengers, we buenos días and buckle our seat belts but we also doze off—so much for conversation.
The sun will be rising soon. Meanwhile, there are travellers sleeping on the floor at Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport—doesn’t sound very comforting (or comfortable for that matter), what flight was cancelled? Oh, Córdoba, good thing we swore we would never go back there.
“How long is the flight, already?” I ask Feng.
I sigh with relief. Four hours of sleep!
“Huh? So there’s a two hours difference between Lima and Santiago but none between Santiago and São Paulo?”
There’s a long queue to check in with Sky Airlines. Why is everyone more awake than us? Brazilians I can see, they tend to be morning people, but Argentineans? They eat dinner when the world is asleep, they can’t be cheery at 5 a.m.!
When it’s finally our turn, the agent repeats our names a dozen of times for absolutely no reason, butchering them a bit more at every attempt.
“Canadienses” I reply tersely. I mean she has our Canadian passports in her hand and why it is relevant to issue boarding passes?
Security is fast and so is la migración. I only have the time to marvel at the number of tattoos the PDI agent has—don’t listen to your mom, kids, even if you have “carpe diem” inked on your neck, you can still find a job with the Policía de Investigaciones de Chile!
Gate E08. Damn, it’s in the new wing, a 12-minute walk according to the signs.
The airport feels huge and empty but for a handful of people sitting on the floor, eating fries. Fries, really? Then I look closer and realize they are all McDonald’s employees in uniform. Okay, makes more sense.
We board, buckle up and take off. It’s very bumpy across the Andes. I’m holding Mark’s hand, then Feng holds both of our hands.
We fall asleep.
When I open my eyes four hours later, I see a jungle of trees and skyscrapers. It’s green on one side, grey on the other, repeat.
Brazil, here we come!