Every year since 2009, around this time of year, I think of a particular day when I was living and working in Chile. Since this year marks the 10th anniversary of the CBC Radio 3 Podcast, I thought this would be a good time to write about it.
Tl;dr – I lived in Chile for a year. I got into a car accident with my dog. A lot of songs from the CBC podcasts of that time remind me of that year. I made a playlist here.
The truck fishtailed on the muddy curve until it was perpendicular to the road. When the mud ended, the truck stopped violently and rolled. I saw the ground come towards the passenger side window. The glass exploded between my arm and the dirt road, made hard by a salt water solution used to suppress dust. The sky flashed into view, then the ground again. We stopped, but the engine roared. I reached up to turn off the engine. I undid my seatbelt and fell against my door. I stood up and helped the driver climb up out of his window. I followed him and the two of us helped the passenger in the back climb out. The truck was on its side, the tires spun. We climbed down to the ground. Everyone seemed okay. Then I remembered my dog was sitting behind me with her head out the window.
About a year earlier, I remember sitting unhappily at my desk job in Markham when I got a call from an old friend and we had a quick conversation about a job opportunity, this was the gist of it:
“Hey, want to move to Chile?”
“Yes. Yes I do.”
My wife and I didn’t need to discuss it for very long. As we packed up our lives in Canada, Octoberman’s Run From Safety was our mantra as we embarked on the adventure of a lifetime. “As long as we run from safety, we’ll find some way out of here, maybe.”
Panicked, I looked at around the truck, looking for signs of my dog, believing she was crushed beneath it. I didn’t see her. I scanned the horizon and I spotted her, about 500 m away running full speed away from us. I chased after her, calling out, but she kept running. I felt terrible for having to use my angry voice to get her to stop. When I caught up to her, she was shaking, her snout was bloody and every breath she took was accompanied by a spurt of blood.
We moved to La Serena, an ocean side town in northern Chile. I was working on a mining exploration project a few hours north in Vallenar looking for gold and copper. The local English radio station, Play FM, played a lot retro alternative music that I grew up with, particularly a lot of Morrissey (which was fine by me).
But what kept me in touch with things back home was the CBC Radio 3 Podcast. I had the weekly podcasts, the R3-30 countdown hosted by Craig Norris and the Radio 3 show hosted by Grant Lawrence, downloaded onto my iPod and I’d listen to them on the hours upon hours I spent driving. There are so many songs from that time that I associate with the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert, and sparse but beautiful vistas.
I took my knife and cut one of sleeves off and wrapped it around my dog’s snout to stop the bleeding. I picked her up and headed back to the scene of the accident. Luckily we were with another group that found us pretty quickly. We drove back to town, me and the two other human passengers were taken to the hospital. I left my dog in the charge of my neighbour’s teenaged daughter as she tried to find a vet in a small town on a Sunday night. While waiting to see the doctor, I fielded the girl’s frantic calls as she couldn’t find a vet. We had a Border Collie when I was a teen and she died alone, at 14, during a thunderstorm, being kept for overnight for observation. I thought she was literally scared to death. I was afraid I might not be able to say goodbye again.