A peaceful end to the weekend before the start of Block 7.
I went running in Parque Bustamante just west of my house. Paula had told me that many streets are closed off on Sundays to traffic, so running is ideal on those days. One of the streets parallel to the highway (the Alameda) was closed off, for example. I saw so many rollerskaters, runners, and bikers happily spending their Sundays. Plus kickboxing dancers and a woman doing tai chi in the park. It seems that Chileans are all moderately active and healthy. I have yet to see really any extremely heavy or thin people, no terribly weak or body builder people either. Practically everyone falls in the middle of the bell curve; take a note, America.
As I said in the last post, I visited the GAM and its design store, which were pretty quiet – and FREE – to visit on Sundays. The open exhibits had modern American (North and South) art and Chilean indigenous art.
I returned home for lunch with Paula and Roberto, and we ate a classic Chilean dish, empanadas. The vegetarian empanada had cheese and mushrooms, the classic meat empanada had beef, onions, and a boiled egg. I ate both, obviously. Paula called me a true chilena for liking and finishing my empanadas, then roasted Roberto for not finishing the other half of hers. She called him out and said he probably ate an empanada while returning home with the others (and they’re bastante hefty), which is why he was full after eating only one. He denied it vehemently. All fun and games.
The news was on while we were eating, and most of the highlights were crimes, specifically thefts in pharmacies and shootings. Paula lamented that stealing/robbery is not punished severely enough here – thieves are caught, put in jail for a very brief period, then steal again upon release. She said that in Providencia, cars are often robbed or stolen – never houses or people, just cars, oddly. As for the shootings, she blames it all on the Bolivians and Venezuelans and Haitians entering the country. Haitians in particular, Roberto and her said, come to Chile to make a better life for themselves, but with so little money upon arrival and usually no proper education, they really can’t succeed. So then they get involved in unsavory practices to earn more cash, hence shootings. We had been talking about shootings since they were both very impressed by the turnout at the marches this past Saturday in the U.S., and I mentioned that not only are school shootings a problem, but also white policemen shooting African Americans for no reason is also a big issue. Racism in general. Paula responded that there really isn’t that level of racism in Chile, though just 10 years ago, it was very rare to see someone with dark skin in Chile. Now it’s common. As for the police? She said they’re wimps (another roast). They know which neighborhoods have problems with drugs and the like, so they avoid them altogether.
Also on the news were pictures of Chilean diplomats meeting with Bolivian diplomats. Decades ago, in war against Bolivia and Peru, Chile won a substantial amount of land to the north. Since then, Peru and Bolivia demanded access to the coast so they could conduct business in ports. Chile granted port access, and so Bolivia, for instance, has a direct highway to the coast and doesn’t have to pay anything to use it. However, Bolivians want more – they want access to the land surrounding the highway. “It would be like the U.S. giving Texas or California back to Mexico…it just won’t happen,” Paula said. And the Peruvians certainly don’t want Chile to give the land to Bolivia, either, because they also used to have rights to that land. Paula, in her typical roasting fashion, went on to say that Bolivia has no money anyway and wouldn’t use the land productively in any case. She’s savage in the best kind of way.
The real excitement came during the evening. Paula and Roberto brought me to their son-in-law’s father’s birthday party. Located in Maipu, about a half hour from home, the house was in a nice gated neighborhood. The family was having a big barbecue and I could barely keep track of all the people around me. I could not give you the name of any of them besides the birthday boy, Jorge, and I have no idea how all these people were related to him. Nevertheless, I had a great time talking with some of the younger folks at the party, all in their 20s and curious about what I was doing there. It was definitely good for me to practice my Spanish for over three hours surrounded by solely fast Spanish speakers. They tried to teach me some chilenismos, but I didn’t follow very well. I did hear Paula say several of the ones I had already heard about, including “Cachaí?” which is like “Comprendes? Get it?” and “Mish!” which is supposed to be like “Mira tú! Look at you!”
One of the younger guys was a drummer in a band, so we went with some of the others to hear him play on his drum kit. He let me play a few dinky beats before I gladly handed the sticks over to him and he SLAYED it. Going back downstairs, one of the dads had taken out a guitar and Roberto and Jorge and him had a grand old time singing songs together loudly. We stayed until 10:30, after pisco sours, cake, and lots of classic Latin exuberance. Upon leaving, everyone had to say goodbye to everyone, just as everyone has to greet everyone upon arrival. So, just as I had done 3 hours earlier, I gave every single person at the party a kiss on the cheek and farewell.
The ride home was funny. Roberto was jamming to a classic American rock CD – it must be a mix of top songs. Somehow we got onto the topic of religion, and I mentioned that my parents are Episcopalian and their church has a gay priest.
Paula: “Can he marry?”
Me: “Yeah, it’s permitted in the Episcopal Church.”
Paula: “Not in the Catholic Church, though.”
Sarah: “Well, priests also can’t be homosexual in the Catholic Church.”
Paula: “But they are! They’re homosexuals and pedophiles!”
Paula’s roasts of literally anything and everything kill me. She’s definitely going to start roasting me in time.
Today was the first day of class, and it was just long. I had been spoiled by the calm streets of the weekend, so running and walking to class this morning felt far more crowded. Class was pretty uneventful, simply housekeeping. We ate packed lunches from our host moms and then went on a 2-hour tour of the historic center. It was a long time for a tour that didn’t go that far nor stopped at many places. Oh well. On the way, we stopped for copihues, a very strange beverage. It’s supposed to be a refreshing drink, consisting of wheat and peaches. The juice is very sweet, kind of like sweet tea or even the juice you find in canned fruit, and the wheat is a literal pile of barley flakes at the bottom of the cup. Plus a giant preserved peach floating in it. It wasn’t bad, wasn’t something I’d buy again.
Admittedly I don’t remember much of the tour details since I was hot and also the traffic made it difficult to hear Isa. We passed by the Basílica de la Merced, which has a “miracle” statue of the Crucifixion. Apparently the church was entirely destroyed by an earthquake, but this statue remained standing – only Christ’s crown of thorns fell from his head to hang around his neck. Isa noted that architecture in Santiago has become very basic because of the earthquakes; the city has a sort of motto, “Development, Construction, Re-Construction.”
We also passed through Plaza de las Armas and El Palacio de la Moneda, where the president lives. Isa mentioned that the guards outside of the palace switch shifts every 48 hours, and when they do, there’s a big procession of the fresh guards with music that marches the streets to report to duty. When Michael Jackson visited Santiago, they supposedly played his music. There are also many statues outside of the palace, and there’s been a grand controversy about putting a statue of Pinochet there, for he was technically elected president from 1980-1988. Isa said it’s a conflict between “legitimidad y legalidad.”
The rest of day was calm and uneventful. Shout-out to Steve for roasting people in our March Madness pool on the phone with me. We are currently ranked 1st (him) and 3rd (me) in the pool. But we have crappy luck, so we’ll probably still lose. Love to all from here in Santiago!