When your Fiesta Clandestina goes wrong

Published: May 29th 2021
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This post is coming months late, because it's about summer, and summer ended here about 3 months ago, but I did really mean to post about our COVID-y Chilean summer vacation because well, it's all been part of this experience of being an expat, but mainly being in a pandemic wherein not everything fundamentally, makes sense, or goes even remotely as expected. I think when I last left you, we'd recently spent Christmas semi-locked in our house, after a return to weekend quarantines left us without the ability to leave Santiago. Well, a little after New Year's the government decided it would institute a "permiso de vacaciones", wherein regardless of your fase, it gave people the ability to travel to a single destination during the summer within the country. You had to stay in that region, and once you came back that was your one pass, but regardless it allowed people to get away (Chile, like a lot of other places has a phase system of restrictions based on the number of cases in your communa, essentially 1-5, 1 being full quarantine, 2 being weekend quarantines and no travel, 3 being semi opening and ability to travel between regions and 4
A good place to quarantineA good place to quarantineA good place to quarantine

But only if I can see your permiso
and 5 being essentially normal - go to https://www.gob.cl/coronavirus/pasoapaso/ if you want to learn about it). The wisdom of this pass may have been short sighted, as it probably just brought the cases from the capital out to the hinter regions of the country and set up for more restrictive measures in the Spring, but anyway, you play the hand that is dealt to you, so we got one.

Vitacura, where we live, was still in fase 2 with travel restrictions, so we decided to apply for the permiso and head for the coast for a communa in fase 3, meaning lighter restrictions and open on the weekend. Steph's parents were still in Chile, so we left for about 3 weeks, as we figured with them helping with the kids we could mix in a bit of vacation and work. My office was open, but in all honesty, no one was really going. We were very excited to get our first weekend out of the house since early December, and since Steph's parents had arrived from Canada. We arrived about a week after New Year's and we all took a deep breath...happy to be by the ocean, looking forward to a bit more freedom to move around and go to the beach on the weekend. Well this was to be somewhat short lived...the morning after we arrived, there was a great controversy. Videos from a couple of massive "fiesta clandestinas" over the New Year's had surfaced in the area we had come to (Cachagua/Zapallar), and were making front-line news all over the country. It started on twitter and was picked up super quickly by all the news outlets because of the nature of it...most of the kids at the party were sons/daughters of the elites of the country, and to be honest, hating the elites in this country is a sport...and probably rightly so, they're kinda jerks (please see my post about social unrest). It was videos of a packed house with tons of kids not wearing masks (max number of gathering was supposed to be 10), and to top it all off there was these whatsapp voice messages from some of the protagonists that ended up on national news about these greasy hookups...very soap opery...I don't know who that Pancho Correa is, but he sounds like a dirtbag.

I think this was one of a number of "fiestas clandestinas" in the area that night, and well, because technically all the rich kids should have been stuck back in Santiago based on the restrictions anyway, there was a huge outcry from the rest of the country. The more concerning thing was the rampant rumors of the number of attendees that were testing positive for COVID, and people who had attended were being told to quarantine, and slipping quarantines...all eyes were on this little beach town - I was like, holy sh*t man, all I want to do is have a god damn vacation...ugh...anyway, but now the Minsal (Chilean Health Department) was involved and we knew that restrictions they were a coming...and while our first weekend at the beach was libre, the next Monday (Minsal announces new/eased restrictions every Monday/Thursday) sure enough, Zapallar was on its way to fase 2...I think I remember the annoucement the sub minister answering a question to the reporters "if you want to know why there's a change there, you can ask those kids...and if anyone dies, you can ask them too" hoo boy. Look we were at least in a beautiful place, so not the worst right, but who wants to spend their weekends locked in the house at the beach because a bunch of stupid rich kids had a fiesta...and of course now we were side-eying everyone who looked a bit younger because we thought they were probably there, and probably had COVID. Good lord.

The other thing too, was that all of a sudden a legion of Minsal workers descended on the town and every where you freakin' turned they were asking for your permiso de vacaciones. They would cruise around the beach or the sea wall, with a couple armed military guys, and I would have to show them my RUT card (ID card), my permiso, and then my statement saying that before I left Santiago I had not had any COVID symptoms. (why are these men with guns asking me if I'm from here?) And plus we were with Steph's folks, and the system hadn't been set up with permisos for extranjeros, only Chileans, so they didn't even have them. So then I had to launch into the long story about them, and they had come, and the website didn't have the setup for foreigners who did not have RUTs etc etc etc. After a few weeks of
Cachagua SunsetCachagua SunsetCachagua Sunset

Alright alright
seeing these guys though, they actually recognized us, so it did become easier. It was pretty funny though to see whenever they caught some wealthy Chileno without a permiso, just how indignant that person would become. Again, the wealthy, the feeling amongst them generally is they are above everybody else.

So anyway, of the three weekends we were there, two weekends spent at the house. We were at two different places, and the second one had an amazing view so look, it wasn't such a bad place to spend the time, but still...what a ridiculous situation. It was also combined with some minor bad luck...the beach for a good portion was literally covered in dead jellyfish, I guess this happens every few years in Chile, so it did make going in the water a bit sketchy. Even the days where there weren't there were still a few in the water and I got some pretty bad stings...on my wrists was bad enough (I think the tentacles would get caught up in the wetsuit, and just sit there), that when we were waiting in line for the supermercado old women would point and be like "medusas medusas". We also ended up with a giant forest fire down the coast that blocked the sun for a few days, and look, the whole place spent a lot of the time smelling like poo. Horse poo, donkey poo, dog poo, penguin poo. Everywhere you went, there was animal poo...or dead jellyfish...ugh.

But what could you really expect from your COVID Summer Vacation right? And look, we were at the beach, and I did sneak in a few days off, and lots of ocean walks, time at the beach (even a number of days sin medusas), surfing, hiking, mountain biking and having fun with the kids. Even finally got my Chilean carbon asado down (Chileans do charcoal bbqing, but it's not briquettes, it's more this wood kinda stuff and there's a real skill to it - it takes time, but it's super fun and real delicious if you get it right...just not the best when everyone's hungry and you're blowing on these things to get them going - "when's dinner, the kids are hungry", "probably in another 2 hours, just have to warm these bad boys up!" and you really know it will probably be 3 hours). And cherry on top, we did not get COVID from any stupid rich kids...thank goodness for that!

That last weekend we left the Saturday to get back to Santiago, and it was an uneventful ride home, and was nice to be back in our house...but still in weekend quarantines. Poor Steph's parents, the week they left the Minsal finally announced that Vitacura was going to fase 3, so we were free again to travel without any passes and free to go out on the weekend with a police permiso, but those are the COVID breaks I guess...they had spent essentially every weekend in the house...but really, you just never know what the Chilean government (or any government) is going to do. They made it back to Canada safe and sound, and just in time as well before Trudeau initiated the $3000 hotel quarantines, and you know what, they got the full Chilean COVID experience as well. A little window into the yoyo of regulations that is life here (by March we were back in fase 2, and then back into fase 1 and borders essentially closed, by April), so it's something that I'm sure we'll all look back and chuckle at.

That's it for now, and I think my next post will be something like "Gringos Grinding for Pfizer", and I can get into the vaccination situation here in Chile, which thank goodness is going quite well. Still things are a bit touch and go here, but hopefully we are getting there


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