I’ve said adios to my amigos and packed up my stuff. Yet… here I am… still in Chile. And Santiago is now under lockdown. I’d planned to move to Ecuador in late March, but then a pesky pandemic got in the way.
I know what you’re thinking. Boo hoo. Spoilt expat brat.
Expat privilege under Santiago’s lockdown
We’re very lucky compared to others here. Our apartment is large, we have plenty of food and there’s a shared communal garden we can use if no one else is around.
Compared to other countries, the Santiago lockdown hasn’t been hard on us. Yes, we live in an apartment, and I don’t recommend apartment living to anyone with three preschoolers. Like anyone, I’d love to see my friends again.
Sure, I’m stressed about our house move which could be cancelled at the last minute if the lockdown drags on. I’ll be staying in Chile until Ecuador open its borders, but I’ll be leaving Santiago as I can’t find suitable housing for my kids here in the city. I’m not sure where we’re heading yet.
But on the plus side, the online delivery system of small retailers is awesome. Despite Santiago’s lockdown, there’s pretty much nothing you can’t get through a Whatsapp message and a bank transfer. Albeit sometimes with a wait.
We’ve been in lockdown on and off since February. Even when we can go out, we don’t. With children it’s too stressful. Old ladies that want to ruffle my kids’ hair, and others that tell us off for going out. I went out for a job in early March (when there was no quarantine) and was honked at and had fingers waved at me accusingly. I jogged back home and haven’t left since.
While the statistics perhaps don’t tell the full truth, they’re still pretty scary. Yes, Chile has higher infection rates than most of Latin America. Perhaps this is because they’re testing more and they’re reporting more deaths. Still…
The issue in Santiago seems to be that people are still going out despite the lockdown. For the most part it’s not because people are ignorant, selfish or stupid, they’re just poor. They can’t work from home, they can’t afford food delivery costs, they can’t do online banking because they don’t have a computer, a phone or internet.
I’ve seen harrowing photos of kids sleeping rough, people from countries facing real hardship begging to go back home. Thankfully, there are inspirational stories of people helping. ‘Chile Comparte’ is a group of organisations coordinating relief, community kitchens offering free meals have been set up, and volunteers are going door to door to help.
There are also reports of people who don’t need to go out, breaking Santiago’s lockdown laws. A clandestine gym, nightclub and house parties for a start. Oh, and did I mention helicopter escapes to the beach?
In my apartment, they’ve really stepped up. Food deliveries must be left at the main entrance, there’s a Whatsapp neighborhood loop for sharing essential information, a screen partition to protect concierge staff and anyone entering the building has to have their temperature taken. Every residence is different though.
There’s a grey area in between what’s legal and what’s not, what right and what’s not. Under Santiago’s current lockdown rules, you can leave your residence with a permit up to five times per week. So what happens if you’re a dog owner and your pooch needs to pee on day six? And are you allowed to go out with your children? Who looks after the kids of essential workers?
We’re OK and so is Chile (just)
If you’re reading this because you’re planning a move to Chile, then I’d recommend you wait a while. Most flights are cancelled anyway, so good luck to you getting in. However, if you really do have to move now, then rest assured the country hasn’t fallen to pieces. Yes, the poor are really, really suffering under Santiago’s strict lockdown.
But I’m OK and I’m grateful to be here.