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Being homesick is a feeling like no other. A strange feeling of unpleasantness comes over you. Living away from the sights, smells, and noises you are accustomed to leaves you feeling like you don’t belong.
I have been an expat for a big part of my life, yet I always feel a pull to Chile, the long skinny country in the last corner of the earth. I have been living in London for five years with my American husband and our son, and despite Chile not having a large community here in the UK, I find London is scattered with little bits of Chile among the busy streets, even if it’s only me who sees the similiarities.
Those hidden reminders of Chile in every corner of the city always bring a smile to my face. Getting on the Tube one day I was transported back to riding the subway in Santiago all those years ago. Seeing children walking to school in their matching uniforms reminds me of being rushed off to school by my mother and adjusting my tie before heading out the door. Sitting down to have a cup of tea and cake on a cold winter day reminds me of being in my grandmother’s house and the warmth of the kitchen after baking all afternoon. On a recent family walk in leafy Richmond, I came across a small statue in honour of our founding father Bernardo O’Higgins. I always knew it was there, but not planning to come across it brightened up my day.
Chile has been in the news quite a bit lately, with the devastating earthquake in February, our long-awaited appearance at the World Cup in South Africa and most recently with the rescue of the miners. These events really made me realise just how much I miss my home, my people, my foods (even if I am thousands of miles away) and helps refuel my national pride even more.
I have a pretty good group of Chilean friends here and we tend to have dinners and barbeques. Nothing like a barbeque among friends and familiar accents. When my husband and I are craving a little something special like Chilean “empanadas”, we head over to El Vergel. You won’t find any other Chilean restaurants in London, but this small, quaint café does the trick. Just the smell of fresh baked bread brings tears to my eyes. The restaurant serves South American cuisine, but it is Chilean through and through.
I write about life as a new parent, being an expat and bringing up my son bilingually on my blog Mummy’s Busy World. I may not be in Chile, but London never fails to deliver a little piece of home to me in its own special way.
Do you know any more hidden Chilean gems in London? Let us know in the comments below.