It was important to me to be somewhere special on Jovani’s birthday. But by the time it rolled around we were fed up with our situation. We were fed up dealing with no internet, fleas, a mysterious rash, and rats! We were less than thrilled to be stuck where we were especially after I discovered that rats had gotten into the flour that I was going to use to bake Jovani’s birthday cake. Israel had reached his breaking point when he killed a rat in the living room at 4 a.m.
It was that morning when we discovered that our housesitting relief was coming a day earlier than expected, and would arrive that very afternoon! We were so thrilled, we scrambled to clean the house, wash the sheets, and come up with a plan to leave the very next day. Planning this day and age usually requires internet, but I had my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook and was sure that we could find a decent hotel in Santiago to stay for a night. We were looking for a hotel for a couple of reasons. I didn’t want to suddenly change our date of arrival with my sister-in-law, and we would be traveling on Jovani’s birthday. This was exactly the situation I had wanted to avoid.
Staying in a hotel is a big deal to our kids. We have only stayed in a hotel twice on this whole trip, and never while in South America. We stayed at hotels our very first night on the road in Mississippi and in Ohio while visiting my aunt. Our normal budget for lodging is no more than $30 per night. After the last icky place we stayed I splurged and found us an amazing $40 a night AirBnB that felt like heaven. I figured we could splurge again this time. I know that Santiago is much more expensive than Ecuador, but I figured we could find something for less than $100.
We all rested on the three hour bus ride to Santiago, we were exhausted from our two mile trek to the bus stop on the highway. We arrived at the bus station covered and dirt and grime from our journey down the dusty, dirt road of La Ballena. We were fully loaded with all of our stuff on our backs and fronts and ready to find a hotel.
I had seen a number of decent hotels listed in the guidebook, but Israel was adamant about not staying in downtown Santiago. Our views on this matter were quite different. I wanted to book a place by phone close to a subway station so we wouldn’t have to walk far and we would know the cost up front. Israel wanted to find a place in a nice suburb simply by walking around. Since he had battled the rats single-handedly I let him win this one.
So here we are, a family of sweaty, stinky, filthy backpackers, completely loaded with our equally dirty bags wandering the streets of a posh Santiago suburb, searching for a place to crash for the night. Israel asked around for directions, since with each passing block my patience was quickly fading.Finally we spotted the hotel. There was a doorman and a bellboy that quickly stripped us of our things.(Judah and Jovani were confused about relinquishing their bags to this stranger.) We certainly received stares as we arrived. Israel looked at me. I shot daggers at him. We are not doorman-bellboy-chandelier-hotel-goers. This place was obviously way outside our budget, but I wasn’t walking another minute.
As Israel handed the concierge our bank card Jovani asked, “Is this my birthday present?” “Yes sweetie, this is the nicest birthday present we have ever given you,” was my reply. I was half joking as I said this, but this sweet, grateful boy was truly thrilled with this gift. I am so proud of this boy as he turns seven years old. All of the birthday plans I had made for him completely changed in the blink of an eye and he just rolled with it. He didn’t complain once about all the walking we did on his special day, and even helped Judah with his backpack, carrying it on his front and his own on his back as we do. If any of you remember Jovani as a small child you will remember that he was my challenge. He has an explosive temper and was always erupting like a volcano. He has worked really hard over the years at self control and it is truly paying off. He is the most grateful child I know and constantly thanks us for bringing him on the best trip ever. I am so lucky to have this kid. He has so much to teach me.