Fireworks burst from the top of the tall cell tower in the middle of Santiago as people screamed Happy New Years in Spanish. I stood on top of the roof of the apartment I had rented on www.airbnb.com with new friends amazed at how life had opened to me. I was supposed to be in an airport at that moment, figuring that I didn't know anyone in S. America I had booked the cheaper flight that would cause me to spend New Years in customs. But then the man that had rented the apartment to me, Raul, had invited me to join him and his friends to bring in the New Year from the rooftop.
As luck would have it, I was able to change my flight from Rio and make it to Santiago just in time for the fireworks. When I walked into the apartment, I found that Raul had left me wine, food, and champagne to start my trip. On the rooftop I met his other renters hailing from Australia and Taiwan. Together we toasted travel, new friendships, and luck by eating 12 grapes and making a wish for the year with each one we tasted. We lifted our glasses of champagne and I never felt more at peace in a new city.
The next day, Raul went beyond kindness when he invited me for lunch and brought me on a tour of his beautiful city. Here once again, my dream was greater than I could've imagined. Santiago is filled with European architecture, parks, wonderful artistic neighborhoods like Belle Artes, Belle Italia, and Belle Vista. We climbed the hill of Santa Lucia where the battle between the Spanish conquerers and the native Mapuchi took place many centuries ago. At the top of the hill we looked across this massive city to the Andes to the East and the ocean ( which can't be seen) to the west.
As we walked and talked, sharing ice cream (a huge part of Santiago culture) Raul spoke of how he lives his life - going after his dreams, envisioning his life, and making it all better by giving the most that he can to everything and everyone he comes in contact with. We spoke of the syncronicity of life and how when you allow life to open to you amazing things happen.
When he took me to Chile's capital building, he explained that a few years ago, Chile sent a few men to Chicago to study with American economists. These men, called the Chicago Boys, returned to Chile and since then Chile's economy has thrived. Funny, do you think Chile could send back the Chicago boys to us?
In Belles Artes, I sat in little cafes drinking fresh juice smoothies and people watching. Okay, Chilean men are pretty good looking too. In Belle Italia barrio, I shopped in funky antique shops and home decor stores that were laid out in between car repair shops. In Plaza des Armes I went to church in the cathedral where the priests chanted as incense gave the church a surreal look.
In the modern part of the city, Providencia, I shopped in the tallest building in S. America which just opened a few months ago and walked along the river park. I stopped for juice in a little cafe and spoke with a kind older gentleman who scolded me for not speaking Spanish.
But as beautiful as this city was, it was my friendship with Raul that made this dream come true dear to my heart. If you are ever in Santiago, rent his apartment www.chile4rent.com. Visiting him is worth more than the city itself.