When I arrived at the Santiago de Chile airport to wait three hours for my flight to Montevideo, I’d already been underway from Edmonton for more than 15 hours. Eyes burning from lack of sleep, I thought the most I could hope for from this layover was an overpriced lunch and a nap on a hard chair with a view of the runway.
But I’d never been to Chile before, even for a few hours, so I couldn’t resist a little tour around the regional terminal before I found a place to flop. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Ruby Tuesday’s were all open for business, but, to my surprise, most of the other establishments appeared to be South American-owned.
I found a table at Vinum, a wine bar that featured Chilean varietals and snacks. The very busy sole server still took time to proudly show me the label on a bottle of Malbec before pouring me a glass. “I hope you don’t mind waiting about 10 minutes for your empanada,” she said. “That’s how long it takes to heat.” No microwaves in operation at this place so the empanada’s flaky crust gave way under my fork to reveal a filling of tangy melted cheese and mushrooms.
Fortified by the snack and the wine bar’s hospitality, I visited the Fundacion Artesanias de Chile, a fair trade artisans’ cooperative, located down a few stairs from the hustle- bustle of the main level. I browsed the baskets and blankets, pottery and tapestries in welcome quiet. Although I didn’t buy anything, the shopkeepers welcomed me to take home a few souvenir photos.
Time was passing quickly, so I thought I should track down the gate for my flight. But one more shop beckoned – Licantia, named for a local Indigenous group.
Attracted initially by its rainbow display of scarves and hats, I took a peek at a glass case filled with handmade jewellery. I imagined one of the necklaces- a piece made from woven copper strands and inset with lapis lazuli stones- sitting in the neckline of the dress I planned to wear on my first teaching day in Montevideo. “One of a kind,” said the sales clerk, as though I needed more encouragement. Five minutes later, my find was wrapped and bagged and secure in my carryon.
Having made over my layover in the Santiago airport from a forced timeout into part of my vacation, I settled in happily to wait for my flight to Montevideo.