{20.9.14} Snapshots and Thoughts of Valparaíso

Fathers love quietly
A small boy with a bowl cut sits on his father’s suitcase, back against the telescoping handle. He eats a snack while his father squats in front of him, face at his level, and they talk quietly. Together, they wait for the bus.
spring has come and these flowers now bathe the roadsides
Mothers love watchingly
Paulina* watches adoringly as her Maxi makes his meandering way up the hill from school. He chats for a moment at the little store on the corner as he does every day. His tousled curls mosey on eventually, stopping every now and again to look about. I can’t get her to return to the topic of our meeting until he’s out of sight and around the corner in the final ascent to their house. 
(*Paulina is the Valparaíso coordinator for my study abroad program)
Grandmothers love constantly
Maria Alicia croons “Hola tesoro” over and over to Isabella, 10 hours away by bus but only a click away by Skype, giggling as her granddaughter bangs her tiny hands on the coffee table and sometime gives a 1-year-old’s gap-toothed smile and a laugh back. 
even graffiti has family time in Valpo
(look closely)
Mom power
As his mother strides with a steady and purposeful click-tap high-heeled stride, a little boy skip-trots at her side, pulled by her manicured hand. 
Blood, snarls and horror
Four dogs fight in the street in Cerro Alegre. Tourists stand motionless, agape, frozen, horrified. Their tour guide in a Where’s Waldo shirt tries to kick the dogs apart, helping the owner of one. A Brave Tourist, $300 super backpack in hand, uses it to separate the snarling bodies. Finally the fight is broken up. “Gather around me” says the tour guide. The tourists blink and shudder a bit, making their way dazedly towards his not-too-heavily-accented-in-English voice. 
I feel bad for the street dogs,
but also for the ones all locked up
Tall men
I think tall men stare at me walking down the street more than short men. Maybe it’s because they’re startled by a female face at eye level. Or maybe it’s because I only stare back at tall men. Hard to tell. I guess I would stare at me, too. 
As green grows on me
Every day I eat an avocado. Sometimes they are so ripe that they’re already sprouting. By the end of this I’ll have an avocado tree growing in my stomach and present as an international biohazard on my flight home to Wisconsin. 
Average tea consumption per day: 1.5 liters, courtesy of my handy dandy beer mug which inhabits its very own corner of the kitchen when (as is seldom the case) it is not in use. 
police horses catch a quick snack
The guy who pretty much just pounds at his guitar strings in front of the ice cream shop on Pedro Montt, always-empty container for change screwed onto the body. 
A linguistic vacuum
In Spanish, there is no word for ‘awkward’ in the more colloquial usage I am accustomed to. Does that mean everyone here is perfectly socially adept, or that what I might consider socially uncomfortable need not be so, or that gaping conversational silences go unnamed to their grave?
Cold hard thought
I haven’t yet found the words for “wonder” or “wish” in Spanish. So when I have imagined conversations in Spanish, I have to say “think” and “want” instead, and then the musing loses its magic. 
metro stop nearest to the university
Observation, no más
The woman on the metro next to me watches as I make my friendship bracelet. Sometimes I look up at her and we share a secret smile of mutual knowing. I want to give her the unfinished bracelet before getting off at my stop, because by now she must know how to do it and because I like that she is unafraid to watch and learn. But I don’t know how. Still haven’t finished the bracelet. 
Hair today, more tomorrow
I love chilean hair. Luscious. Large quantities. Long enough to sit on. Sometimes straight. Sometimes waving in the wind. Sometimes tightly bunched. Like in dreadlocks. Here they come in ones, woven into an otherwise freed mane. Sometimes in mullets. Sometimes having completely taken over the scalp real estate. I think I’m going to get one. In the US, I’m scared people are going to accost me for culturally appropriating (google “white people with dreadlocks” and be prepared for a deluge of anger and judgment), but here, everyone has them. And if I get a “drelo” (spanishism of dreadlocks), it’ll be too late by the time I make it back to the States to repent. 
the market (this one in a building instead of open-air)
gets going in the morning.
there is no attempt to hide the transportation involved.
Schooled by the feria
I thought I’d support some traveling vendors and buy conditioner from the market that comes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I thought I’d be safe with Pantene. But then this weird rash appeared on my neck, and it wasn’t from my sweater collar. And Maria Alicia was like “How could you be so silly as to buy conditioner from the market? Everyone knows they take out half the conditioner and put in other stuff, and that’s why it’s cheaper.” I guess that was everyone minus one, and that the other stuff was not hypoallergenic.
Cirque du Savannah
By the time I leave Chile, I am expecting to be my own circus. In the works right now: aerial dance, trapeze, yoga, juggling, skateboarding, hat tricks. Next up: anyone’s guess, although my friend says that everyone has an inner clown, it just sometimes takes some digging to find.
that time I provided audience participation in the
clown act at the circus convention
¡Dame un besito!
I keep on imagining my return to the US wherein I become such a cultural force of the besito (kiss on the cheek in greeting or parting) that everyone starts doing it. 



2 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for your thoughts. It's funny how rico manages to inhabit so many idea spaces seamlessly, and yet I want to wonder and wish in an undefined cloud that Spanish wants to define as thinking and wanting. I guess sometimes ambiguity is helpful, and sometimes frustrating. I probably should have taken some linguistics classes, this is so interesting.
    Well, it's a little awkward to ask people to take pictures of me hanging upside down at 9pm on a Tuesday night, but I'll see what I can do. 🙂


  2. Kat says:

    Lovely! Thank you for all of it.
    Some thoughts on words: me pongo a pensar for I wonder. It reminds me of a time I was sitting in a cafe in Argentina, journaling and thinking and thinking and journaling, and a man came over to me and said, “You're not Argentinian, are you?” I said, “No, how did you know?” He said, “You are thinking too hard to be Argentinian.” I guess I was wondering, really, and it looked unfamiliar to him as an attitude or activity. It reminds me too of my attempts to find children's books in Spanish in Latin America, and my frustration that they were so bludgeoningly didactic and unimaginative. Nothing that would inspire the wonderings of a child. I wonder if that's because they don't have a word for wonder.

    For I wish: quisiera — softened by being in the subjunctive, but I know what you mean about its being a little harder -edged than wish
    also for I wish: anhelo — I yearn for, though it seems to require something specific
    Esperar is for both wait and hope, which tinges the hope with sadness and its own form of hopelessness, given all the time spent waiting for things in lines, waiting for things to be better after the revolution, after the election, after the next election. I never spent more time waiting for things than in Nicaragua, which drowns the hope in waiting.
    A word missing in English: the multi-sensory, works-for-everything Swiss-army-knife-of-a-word: rico The rico sun on your arms, the rico dessert, the rico feeling of silk and velvet, a rico nap on a rainy afternoon, a rico kiss, a rico giggling baby in your arms, a rico plunge into cold water on a hot day or hot water on a cold day… We have no word with nearly the resonance because English is all about precision and each of those things would have its own unique adjective. For me, a Spanish adjective is loaded with more meaning because of all the weight it carries from its myriad uses and associations.
    I can't wait to see Cirque du Savannah — more pictures, please!

    Liked by 1 person

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