After dropping Mom and Dad off at the Airport in Santiago, in mid March, we made a quick dash up the coast to Coquimbo for Easter weekend. We had plans to see old friends from my grad-school days in Virginia, Alfredo and Ivka.
Back in grad school, when I was a young, and lonely bachelor, Alfredo and Ivka would invite me over for these wonderful meals at their home. Their table was always packed full of wonderfully prepared food, good friends, conversation, family and of course wine. Ivka is an amazing cook and makes some pretty incredible dishes. My favorite from back then was her pebre. An amazing onion, garlic and cilantro salsa with a lime base (these last three ingredients, I would later learn, from Ivka, make the base for much of Chilean cooking). At the time Florencia, their oldest daughter was around 3 years old. I have great memories of her dancing all the time with a big beautiful smile on her face.
We arrived just in time to sit down for Easter Lunch. Also at the table were Alfredo and Ivka’s two beautiful daughters, Flo and Esperanza, and Ivka’s Mom and Dad. The table, on their back patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean, was piled high with great food and, of course, wine. The next day we were invited to Ivka’s brother’s country home in the Elqui Valley for his birthday celebrations with extended family. He has a beautiful garden full of all the stuff that we wish we could grow back home.
Even after not seeing Alfredo and Ivka for ten years, or let alone bothering to stay in touch, Alex and I were welcomed like family. What was initially only going to be a few days quickly turned into a week and that week turned into two. We shared many more meals with the family and a few more of their friends. Ivka introduced us to some more of Chile’s amazing seafood and took us out of wonderful dinner at their favorite restaurant. She taught us how to cook some of her fabulous dishes and shared her routines with us. Alfredo fed us lots of wine and taught us a ton about Chilean wine. One thing we really miss about Chile is all the incredible and cheap wine. A bottle that goes for $15 in the states goes for $5 in Chile, why did we ever leave? Seeing and getting to know the beautiful, mature woman that Flo was quickly turning into was truly awesome. Also, it was lots of fun playing with and harassing the spirited Esperanza. Being in Coquimbo was an amazing opportunity for us to be apart of a real Chilean family, and not just look in from the outside. Something any traveler is lucky to experience.
Eventually, we actually hit the road and drove a few hours north to a small fishing village, but unfortunately that afternoon we received some sad news. Alex’s paternal grandmother had passed away. Alex needed to spend some time in Poland with her family. The next day I put Alex on a bus bound for Santiago to catch a flight to Europe for two weeks. It didn’t make sense for me continue to head north so Alfredo and Ivka were stuck with me. During my time there I took a few trips away from Coquimbo and tried not be a burden on the family. They not only put up with me, but made me feel very much at home while I was waiting for Alex to return.
After what was suppose to be only a few days, a week at most, but in the then was a month, we hit the road headed north. After spending 7 months on the road, Alfredo and Ivka gave us a wonderful break. A chance to be stationary, to build solid wonderful friendships, to recharge, and to prepare for the next step of our journey. We can’t thank Alfredo, Ivka, Flo or Espe enough. Thank you for making our time in Chile extra special and teaching us what it is like to be Chilean.