Went to a Brazilian bar tonight where one of my roommates, Priscilla, works to watch the Brazil-Chile game. Chile lost 6-1 – ouch. But man, my time here in Santiago sort of makes me want to switch to Brazilian citizenship. They’re the most uniformly friendly and open people I’ve ever met, no matter how well or poorly they know a language that you happen to know. I’ve only met a couple I haven’t liked, and they seem legitimately crazy so it’s not fair to judge. Seeing Brazilian hotties in Carnaval outfits in the middle of the Santiago winter is a trip, too. The bar had a samba band that played during the whole first half and sporadically throughout the game, then took over when the game finished. And it wasn’t just the random drunk fat guy who got up and danced and shouted – everyone in the place did. Good times were had by all. I wasn’t even drinking, but the atmosphere accomplished the same goal as insobriety…
There’s been a return of English speakers into my life since an American moved into my house. I’ve been hanging out with my roommates a lot this week since my Brazilian friends from the first two weeks left, and I’m enjoying it. I feel bad for speaking English again, but whatever – the vast majority of my life is still Spanish-only. So many of the interesting people I’ve met will only be here temporarily, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll probably not make lifelong friends here – at least I’ll get to meet a lot of bizarre and wonderful ones, though. It requires a lot of trust and openness to accept people into your life with open arms for one night or a couple weeks, but it hasn’t come back to bite me in the butt just yet.
My trip to the South was mixed. The 11- and 14-hour bus rides were grueling (children are the devil). We stopped first at Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, two port towns on the Pacific coast that are small and presumably beautiful in the summer. However, in winter there’s not a whole lot going on. Varas is really tourist-ed out, unfortunately, and more expensive – they had god damn North Face and Benetton stores alongside the fishermen’s huts. Montt is the main transportation hub and had an excellent crafts market that sold various knit/wood items for extremely cheap. We headed to Chiloe the next day, which is the second-largest island in Patagonia after Tierra del Fuego. One of the main draws of Chiloe is PENGUINS, but we couldn’t even see them – tours don’t start till September. The minute we arrived, the heavens opened and gifted us with buckets of water. And really, there’s not anything to do in Chiloe on a Sunday when it’s raining. We were the only ones in our beautiful, huge, oceanside hostel, so we curled up by the fireplace and watched “Frida” because it was the only movie not in German. Oh yeah – this area was settled by Germans, so it’s a strange mix of blond hair and Mapuche blood. The hostel owners seemed unusually worldly and intelligent for hostel owners in a bumfuck town in Chile. They had a ton of books around, are trilingual, and had a Pogues CD (??). I mean, it’s by no means a bad life – you get to meet a variety of likely-to-be-interesting people, you have a beautiful view, and it’s simple and slow. The lifestyle in the south has a certain allure. There’s not a whole lot going on, but that’s the point – it seems so healthy, so simple and hearty and clean. The air was like nectar, compared to Santiago’s – I got sick again immediately after I got back. I would like it, but it seems like choosing to move there is basically consigning yourself to global irrelevance and solitude. Maybe when I’m old, after I’ve Done Something with my Life.
On Monday, after realizing that everything was STILL closed because it was a goddamn holiday – which is the reason we went down in the first place, being tourists – we desperately walked around the town’s tourist agencies, looking for some sort of excursion. All were closed except for one mysterious pamphlet labelled “Taxi Tours,” and we called it last. We interrupted some dude eating breakfast, and he rolled up in a taxi and gruffly asked us where we wanted to go. He was an old man in a slouchy hat, a former Carabinero who made no attempt to temper his unintelligible southern Chilean Spanish for our benefit. If you think the Santiaguinos are hard to understand, the Southerners are even worse – they don’t really say words so much as suggest them. We saw one of Chiloe’s famous colonial churches, which was just that: an old church. The highlights were Fuerte Ahui, which is this old overgrown fort that you have to hike a km through the woods to get to (in the rain, in our instance). It was really, really gorgeous – it looked exactly like Ireland, with extreme greens, cold dampness and fog in the air, and angry-looking gray oceans. It felt like a part of the world that has never been fully dry. We then went to Mar Brava, which involved driving around this rocky outcrop on a very narrow unpaved road in this absurd taxi right next to the freezing and violent sea. The cabbie seemed completely unfazed, so I just accepted it. We pull up to the most dramatic terrain I’ve ever seen – enormous black, slick rocks jutting out over the sea, which crashed against them spectacularly. The cabbie got out and greeted a group of men with pickup trucks and dogs, some of whom were in wetsuits and were crazily plunging into said sea in order to harvest clams. It’s a job where you “gana mucha plata,” according to our “guide.” I knew that he was a 100% not legit tour guide when he told us to climb up these incredibly-dangerous looking rocks because our pictures would be better from up there, and didn’t even tell us to be careful. He was right. Unfortunately for my legions of readers, I took only film pictures, but my travel companion took digital and she’s gonna send them to me. Never fear. It was one of those moments, faced with the brutal intensity of nature, where you feel very connected with oneself as an animal and with the natural world around you. </gayness>
So now I am back in Santiago, spending too much money on booze, meeting business-analyst-surfer-hippies from New Zealand and Dutchmen with absurd sideburns and Chilean girlfriends, going to 80s-themed discotecas. And coughing up a lot of green shit. All is well.