But lately, it feels like the universe wants me to go back home.
I had just spent two months with my family in the south. By the end, I was feeling pretty stir-crazy and ready to get back to my home in Pichilemu.
It took me two days to drive back up the 5. There was a lot of hubbub around the house and the town in general. Summertime is crazy, lots of people, tourists, parties. My roommate and best friend here, Josefa, was preparing for a 6-month trip to Brazil, so I was trying to see her before she abandoned me. But I was disciplined. I set up my desk and spent the first Monday and Tuesday working on an online course I really needed to get through.
At the end of one of these more productive days, around 5 p.m., I started to get restless. I grabbed my board and threw it into the car and drove toward the beach. Pichilemu was different from when I had left. All of these restaurants that had been closed all winter were now open. The town’s infrastructure has never been sufficient enough to accommodate the hordes of people that come from Santiago, so there was traffic. The land was brown and grayish, all the springtime wildflowers had gone.
When a lady cop waves me to the side of the road, I wasn’t thinking bad things. Two cops walk up to my window and ask for my documents. When I hand them over, they’re in full gotcha mode. “This car has class A, your license is class B.” They get very heavy, fast—they even tried to tell me my license was expired. (It wasn’t.)
They ask if I can follow them to the station. I agree to.
As I’m driving to the Police Commissary, I realize how stupid I’ve been. Why did I speak Spanish to them? Why didn’t I start crying back there? Why did I make it so easy?
I arrive at the police station and I know I need to make this hard for them. I cry. I go on monologues in English. But they are determined to fine me. Or so I thought.
I text Josefa. She responds: “Do they have the car?” At that point, I realize they wanted to confiscate my van. The cops explain that I’m going to have a “delito” and that I’ll go to court in front of an audience. (??!!??)
I manage to get them to bring the big boss out. I am speaking pretty gringo English at this point, hoping that they’ll get annoyed with me and leave. I’m refusing to sign any papers without a lawyer. I’m making a big fuss.
I’m expecting the police chief to tell tweedle dee and tweedle dum to let me go. This has happened to me before. Crying always works in Latin America. They just don’t really know how to respond to women crying in an office-type setting.
The Police Chief—who, in my memory at least, resembles a type of Beowolf monster because he has triangle teeth and his blubbery neck just kind of extends diagonally outwards from his tight turtleneck police uniform—is looking less and less like he is going to help me. Instead, (I’m understanding everything they are saying in Spanish), he accuses me of buying a fake license. How could she get a Chilean license if she can’t even speak Spanish?
I’ve been there for a few hours. They have typed up my police report at that point. They start telling me I can really just go home—with the car—if I sign the papers. They tell me it’ll just be a warning.
I agree and sign some papers that say I knew my rights and that I didn’t want to call my embassy (even though I did and had insisted on it earlier.)
I drove (straight) home. We celebrated that they hadn’t impounded the car.
But, as it turns out, I had pending criminal charges. When I went to pick up my license at the Fiscalía (didn’t know at the time, that means Prosecution), they told me everything.
Later, a lot of people would try to tell me that I was paying too much for a lawyer. That this was not a big deal. But once I showed them the police report, they got it. It’s a criminal offense in Chile to drive Class A cars, because they don’t want unqualified people transporting kids to school.
Good thing I have a good lawyer who got me more or less out of it. But it shook me and all of my plans to stay here. And now, every other day, I think about just going home with my tail.in.between.my.legs and getting that shitty startup job.
I guess I feel better now, but I still have all these doubts about staying. Every time I hit a snag, I’m like fuck it, I should really just fly back home and figure my shit out. I go back and forth a lot. I should at least give it a few months. I think.