by Ken Santarelli, Single, Newcomer to Chile from America.
Greetings, I’m Ken Santarelli, a guest blogger on Escape America Now.
I’m 29 years old, and I’ve lived here in Chile for almost 7 months.
I’m originally from Lancaster, California (near Los Angeles) where I’ve lived most of my life. Prior to moving to Chile, I was living in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2015, I decided to start looking for a new country when I was concerned about who would win the election in 2016.
Donald Trump was my candidate, but, even after he was elected, it didn’t appear that he was going to be able to do enough to get the US back on the right track, so I continued my search.
First I looked at Norway, where my mother was originally from, but didn’t like the nearly 50% taxation. After taking a few random quizzes online, “What Country Should I Move To,” I was given the result of either Germany or Italy on most of them. Some further research on these countries cause me to dig a bit deeper into my Libertarian politics, and I determined that these countries weren’t the answer for me. Eventually, my search was concluded with Chile being my choice.
This website, along with Dr. Cobin’s book, “Life In Chile,” have been invaluable resources for me on this journey. Today I’m going to share an experience which, I hope, will be useful in helping you chose your friends wisely in Chile.
For several years, in California, I was apart of an association of churches that was founded in the 1960s as a result of the “Jesus Movement.” Later, I ended up being apart of a different denomination, which doesn’t have any congregations in Chile. However, when I learned that this other association of churches had a congregation near where I was living, I decided to start attending there, and I made many good friends there.
One person, in particular, I became friends with, was the worship leader and youth pastor of this church. I was 28 and he was 27. I wrongly assumed that because this person was in a position of leadership within a church apart of an association that I trusted, that he should be an individual above reproach. Sadly this wasn’t the case. This person and I bumped heads a number of times, which should have thrown up red flags, but normally we recovered shortly after and became friendly once again.
An example of this was one Friday night at church, we were having a time of fellowship after our weekly prayer meeting. This person asked if I was married. I said, “No.” This was followed by me sharing how my ex-girlfriend broke up with me immediately following my mother’s funeral 2 years earlier. Afterward, he said, in front of everybody in the church, “So, since then you’ve been gay?” This shocked me, and seemed completely inappropriate. I remember when I attended the college in California that was affiliated with this church, this type of joking was absolutely frowned upon and you received a strong rebuking if anybody heard you talking like that.
Many times after that, this individual kept making remarks like, “You’re a girl,” or, “You’re gay.” I tried to let it slide as a cultural difference. So one time, I responded in a similar manner, “Ah, maybe you’re gay.” To which he responded, “I’m married with a child.” I then said, “Yeah, that’s a nice cover.” He blew a fuse and became angry with me, revealing a great double standard in his mindset.
Sometime later, I took a trip to Puerto Montt with some other friends from the church. After I returned, I couldn’t help but sense jealousy from this individual. So, he suggested that I travel with him and his wife to Valdivia. Of course, he expected me to pay all expenses.
Here in Chile, ordering nutritional supplements from the US is a big hassle. You are required to show a prescription, even for non-prescription items, in order to obtain a health certificate from Aduana. I will share another article about this in the near future.
One of the biggest selling points this person made about this trip was that they knew a doctor in Valdivia, who was a family friend, that would be willing to write a prescription for my supplements.
We decided that we were going to take the trip. He said, “Let’s travel at night, that way we arrive early in the morning, and have the whole day.” I, instead, suggested that we travel during the day because, to me, enjoying the scenery along the way is one of the major highlights of road trips. He agreed, and we decided we were going to leave on a Sunday, immediately after church.
The day came, and after church, he and his wife said they they needed to take care of something, and they’d stop by my apartment at 2pm to pick me up. I waited and waited and waited and waited, and finally they showed up at 8pm. They said that they came late, because they figured it would be better to travel at night, so their baby would sleep, which he didn’t. Their statement about us leaving at 2pm was a blatant lie, because I later found out they shared with other people at church that we would be leaving at 8pm.
On this trip, their baby cried at the top of his lungs a good portion of the way. Though I paid for everything on this trip, they wouldn’t let me have the AC on, not even just to circulate the air, nor have the window down, nor did he allow me to charge my phone, nor was I allowed to listen to my own music in my headphones. Instead, he said that I needed to listen his music. Over and over again, we listened to mostly the same four songs. “Praise Him” by The Royal Royal, “Breath Away” by Phil Wickham, “Never Gonna Stop Singing” by Jesus Culture, and “King Of My Heart” by John Mark McMillan, along with a handful of other songs, but primarily those four, over and over again. These songs are now on my list of songs I never want to hear ever again. I’m not even a fan of Contemporary Worship, I prefer traditional hymns and Gospel music.
When we arrived, I was wore out from trying to sleep in an uncomfortable car and being roasted alive, all while listening to the same four songs between bouts of their child’s ear-piercing screams.
They showed me to my room, which was at this person’s mother-in-law’s house. I laid down for a little while, and fell asleep. Less than two hours later, they became angry with me for “sleeping all day.”
Later, this person and I start talking about where else to visit while we were in the area. This brief discussion culminated in deciding to take a three day boating tour through the fjords of the Patagonia. His wife and child would stay in Valdivia at her mother’s house. While I enjoyed the majestic scenery on this Navimag ferry tour, this person started complaining that the trip was “fome” (a Chilean slang meaning lame or boring) after the first day. Eventually, we arrived at Puerto Natales. Originally, we had planned to take a bus to Punta Arenas the day we arrived. We were scheduled to arrive at noon, but we didn’t get off the boat until 9pm due to some problem with the dock.
There was a hotel right next to the port, but he didn’t want to go there because he thought it would be too expensive. In reality, that wouldn’t have mattered, because I was the one footing the bill for everything. Instead, he insisted we walk around Puerto Natales and knock on the doors of every hostel we could find, while I dragged around my suitcase on rollers. Finally, on what seemed like the twelfth or thirteenth try, we found a place.
The next day, we woke up early, and he suggested that we rent a car.
After exploring two options, I decided not to, because it was very expensive, and options were limited for vehicles with automatic transmissions. I don’t know how to drive stick, and I wasn’t going to use my card for a vehicle he would be driving. I said that we should just take a bus. Well, he took my cell phone from me, and wouldn’t return it, as he was looking up more places to rent cars. He said, “We’re going to try a few more places to rent a car.” I told him that I was going to the bus station, and I wouldn’t be paying to rent a car. Finally, he relented, and came to the bus station. I then enabled my screen lock password feature on my phone.
When we arrived in Punta Arenas, we stayed at a hostel near the water.
We visited a local mall known as “Zona Franca” which was supposed to sell goods at a cheaper price, due to Punta Arenas being a free port.
There was a store that sold chocolates, cookies, and beverages, including alcoholic beverages. As we were browsing, he said to me, “Want to get one of these cans of Jack Daniels and Coke?” I said, “Sure.” Additionally, I purchased a few jars of special Patagonian honey, three for myself, and three for friends. I bought some Pink Himalayan Salt, which I love for the mineral content. I also bought other types of souvenirs for friends. (Notice how I say that I was the one who bought it.)
We returned back to our room at the hostel. We opened the cans of our Jack Daniels and Coke. We were lounging in the beds, relaxing after having walked around all day. I drank mine. He took one sip and didn’t like it, so he poured his in my face as I was lying down. I didn’t think much of that at first. Afterward, he opened one of my jars of honey and poured it in my face and in my beard. Then he took my salt grinder, and started grinding chunks of salt over my face. I got off the bed to take a shower after this, being covered in Jack and Coke, honey, and salt. I laid back down afterward, with my stomach aching from the alcohol and honey, and my face aching from the salt.
He said, “Get up, we need to get gifts for some other people.” (Keep in mind, I would be the one paying for these “gifts.”) I wouldn’t get up because I was feeling sick. He twisted my arm behind my back, demanding I get up and go with him back to Zona Franca. He did it again, while video calling somebody else from the church, thinking that torturing me was funny. Afterward, he body slammed me with his elbow down, bruising my ribs. Then he punched me in the head a few times, kept pulling the hair on my arms, pulling my beard, and trying to twist my toes. Then, he got a disposable razor from the bathroom and tried to shave my beard. I kept pushing him back, but he persisted, while laughing hysterically. I said, “If you mess up my beard, I’ll never speak to you again.” He said, “Yeah, it’s okay.”
Finally after he quit, I fell asleep. Then, out of the blue, he smothered my face with a pillow for snoring too loudly.
We had planned to depart via airplane the next day. When I woke up, I jokingly said, “For all that you did, I’m booking another three day ‘fome’ boat ride back instead of the flight.” To this he responded, “I have a family. You don’t, your parents are dead, you’re all alone without responsibilities.” We returned to Zona Franca to buy a few more souvenirs for friends, which, of course, I paid for. When we went to check out of the hostel, he packed everything in my suitcase. As I was walking to the bathroom, I found all my dirty clothes from the few days in Punta Arenas, in the trash. I said to him, “Why did you put my clothes in the trash?” He said, “We don’t have room to take them back, but that’s not a problem for you, just buy more.” I then fished my clothes out of the trash, and he pushed me aside, saying, “No, don’t get them out, we don’t have room, and I’ve been spitting in the trash.” Well, regardless, I recovered my clothes.
We boarded the flight to Puerto Montt, where we had planned to stay overnight before taking a bus back to Valdivia. I was trying to film videos from the air with my cell phone, but he kept shaking me to mess up my video. When we arrived in the airport, I began looking on my phone for a place to stay. Meanwhile, he keeps saying, let’s just take an Uber downtown and walk around, then we can see where we want to stay. I said, “We need a plan, we can’t just aimlessly wander the streets hoping we find a place. Don’t you know anything about traveling?” He responded, “Yeah, I can handle myself, because I’m a surviver. You…you’re nothing without your debit card.”
The place we ultimately ended up staying at was an old house that had been converted into a hostel. It had a very rickety staircase, which I feared wouldn’t support me. He brought up my suitcase. However, then next day, when we went to leave I explained to him that I thought it was a bad idea for me to carry the heavy suitcase down, and I asked him to carry it down for me. His response was “I’m not your slave.”
and kept shoving me back toward the room while calling me “guatón flojo” (which means “lazy fat guy”). I got around him and went down the stairs. He followed me down, without grabbing my suitcase, and made a big scene in front of the owner and a several other guests. He said, “Go back upstairs and get your suitcase.” Then he began faking a Spain accent, which he knew I wouldn’t be able to understand. I told him I didn’t know what he was saying, then the hostel owner relayed that he said, “You’re fat and you need the exercise.”
I became very irritated and walked out the front door, to breathe for a moment. He came outside as well and I said, “For these stunts you pulled, you can travel back to Valdivia yourself. I’m catching my own bus back. You could have been more gracious since I paid for everything.” Then he said, “Hey, I never asked to go on this trip with you,” then he started guilt tripping me about stranding him because he doesn’t have any money to get back. Like the pushover that I am, we took a bus together back to Valdivia. While we were on the bus, I asked, “When do I get to see that doctor?” He said, “We can’t go now.
We have to leave tonight. You decided to go on this trip instead.”
We arrived back in Valdivia, and reunited with his wife and son. Of course, we had to wait until nighttime before we left, because they wanted their baby to sleep during the trip back home. Once again, this wasn’t the case. On the return trip, not only was he screaming a good portion of the trip, he was also vomiting. So, this time, not only was I roasted alive inside their car, I had the privilege of basking in the aroma of bile. I opened the window at one point, and a few minutes later, he rolled up the window with my fingers there.
When I got together the next day with my other friends, I said, “I brought back some souvenirs.” I went to open my suitcase, and I found that the person I traveled with, at some point, removed all the items I had purchased at Zona Franca and either kept them, or gave them to people at church, saying that HE bought them. I later sent him a message asking what happened to the jars of honey I bought for myself.
He said, “Don’t you remember? You ate your honey in Punta Arenas.” As if it were a willful action on my part. I found out later that he had given my other two jars of honey away.
Another one of my good friends at church informed me that this person had told them, “Don’t believe anything that Ken tells you. Only believe what I say. Ken is a liar.” Additionally, this guy had the key clicker to open the parking gate at my apartment building, and when I asked a friend to get to get it back from him, he claimed he had lost it. This means I get to pay a nice replacement fee when I decide to move.
The lesson to be learned here, when you read Dr. Cobin’s book, take very seriously the parts where he talks about lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Don’t let your guard down, even around a pastor of church which is apart of an association that you trust. This isn’t to say that everyone you meet is bad. While I made the decision not to return to that church, I had the privilege of meeting some very loyal and faithful friends, whom I still spend a lot of time with to this day. These loyal and faithful friends and I have taken trips together to various places, like day trips to San Antonio and Santiago, and even week-long trips to Puerto Montt and Easter Island.
So, chose your friends wisely. Don’t let people use you for your money. You will know who the real ones are, because they’ll stick by you and help you even in your times of difficulty.