Yesterday marked one week that we’ve been in Puerto Varas. Each new day brings new connections, new insight, more spanish, and a delightful assortment of baked goods. It’s been a week and a day today, but it already feels like we’ve been here for months.
The dog that guards our property with a ferocious growl and a nubbin tail is acclimated to us, I think. We can creep past without so much as a look in our direction. I caught him lapping water out of his water bowl today, and soaking up the sun. I think I will try to pet him soon. We can be friends.
We noticed the other day that Amanda’s face looked abnormally tan. Strange, considering the highs are usually in the 50s here, and we walk everywhere in jackets. I found out why this might be. When I asked Luz, our grandmother/roommate, if tanning in the summer was a possibility here, she said yes, but to be extremely careful and apply sun screen. Well of course, I responded, that’s always a good idea, but I’m trying to be a bronzed goddess (my Spanish isn’t that advanced yet, so I think I responded with some more along the lines of, Si). She reiterated the need for sun screen, more forcefully this time, and added this little nugget of information: there’s a hole in the ozone layer in the part of the world, so the UV rays are especially dangerous. Ahhh, okay. That would explain the freak winter tanning incident.
We connected with a couch surfer yesterday, an American ex-pat who has been living in Chile for a little over a year now, following a five year stint in Tonga (or is it the Republic of Tonga? I don’t even know where this place is. I suppose I have google at my fingertips to learn a bit more, but let’s be real, once you switch tabs productivity decreases by 90%). He works full-time as a bicycle guide in the areas around Puerto Varas, but also volunteers at a school and has started a gardening workshop with the kids there. He needs volunteers to help, so I’m planning on getting dirty once a week and taking my vegetable scraps to his compost pile as soon as we can organize the schedule. Also, he is interested in introducing more workshops to the kids, and I bounced off my idea about the creative-writing program. He wholeheartedly approved. So, it looks like that will be getting off the ground far sooner than I ever anticipated! I’m thrilled, to the point where it felt like there was an active cauldron of joy inside my chest today, so I’m excited to see how this will unfold. If it doesn’t work out with his particular school, I know that this will come to fruition soon enough. The power of intention! Sheesh.
I feel as though I don’t have much to comment on regarding the culture here in Chile. That’s not to say that there’s nothing worth commenting on, but rather, coming to Chile was by no means shocking for me. Maybe I’m accustomed to harsher living conditions – Mexico, the jungles of Guatemala, the transient lifestyle of backpackers – but it feels to me like just a slight variation on life in the US. There are big differences to be sure, but the differences are ones i’m used to encountering. Chile is unique, but the feel is overwhelmingly Latin American. I’m sure that if this were my first encounter with Latin America, I’d have more to say.
One thing I can definitely proclaim is my surprise at being able to drink the tap water. Yep, been doing it for a week now, and no gut-wrenching diarrhea to speak of. Score!
I’ll highlight the finer aspects of Chilean culture as I learn more. But as far as gas trucks blaring songs at 7am each day, tuk-tuks roaming the roads like aimless chickens, or stout women slaving over open-air stoves in the pursuit of the perfect tortilla, there is none of that. Traffic is orderly and sensible. I feel like i could easily drive someplace if I need to and felt like learning stick shift. Fruit and veggies stalls exist, but most people shop at the local Lider (Chilean Wal-Mart). Cafe’s and restaurants are trendy and upscale at times, and prices are comparable to America.
I’m in the difficult process of learning slang right now. It’s not going well. Sometimes when the youth get together and talk, I actually am not sure if they’re speaking Spanish. It’s not always identifiable as a language I’ve heard before. I’ve got my work cut out for me.