somewhat unseccessfully practicing surf form on dry land
got up 5 times in approx 3 hours… not too bad for my first time
and for $10 for the afternoon, I think there’ll be more to come
I’ve been trying to live differently in Chile. At Wellesley, I live very much in the future. If I do this assignment now, I’ll learn for my future graduation or grade or whatever. If I work out now, I’ll be in shape for the Ultimate season. I spend very little time in the moment, as the moment is merely a vehicle to get to the future. This is a bit of an oversimplification, of course, but that’s the home base mindset. Here in Chile, I knew coming in that obsessively planning my life would work out quite poorly for me, that chileans are a much more go-with-the flow kind of people in general. And then, of course, classes turned out to be a lot less time consuming than I was accustomed to at Wellesley. And I suddenly didn’t have any responsibilities in on-campus organizations, and had to invent myself a social life. My life went from an existence bouncing between self-imposed “have-to’s” to a place where almost everything was optional. I didn’t have any responsibilities to anyone, no commitments and no structure. The result is that I have time to live in the moment, constructing my day as I begin to live it, instead of planning it out before I go to bed. To give you a sense of it, I’ll walk you through a typical day.
At Wellesley, I can adrenaline-jolt wake up to my alarm at 8:00am and walk into my class just as the second hand rounds the corner on 8:30 exactly. Here, I still wake up at 8, and then don’t make it to class until 10:05am. In between, I’ve developed a pretty nice 25-minute morning workout routine with abs and arms (you know, so that eventually I will be able to do interesting things in aerial dance, which requires lots of strength if you weigh 170lbs and are 6 feet tall). I make myself a half-liter of tea to rehydrate. Eat some instant oatmeal or a salad or an orange. I stretch. Chat with María Alicia as she bustles around tidying things up before heading off to work. Take a shower where half the time involves soap and the other half involves gazing down on Pedro Montt (street I live on) below come crawlingly to life. Valparaíso is magical in the morning. Sometimes it’s all foggy and it feels like el plan (the flat part in the center of the city) is enveloped in a great big hug from the hills, cozy in a blanket of clouds. It’s comfortably mysterious, with limited visibility and normally-brilliant colors blurred and muted. Other days, the wind whips around the apartment, whistling and cavorting with the seagulls, making the windows bend and the curtains fly out with the open windows. The palm fronds toss and plunge in the wind, on the brink of out-of-control. Wild.
Then, coins in hand for bus days, after a second check on house keys and a kiss on the cheek for María Alicia, I am out the door. I always walk with big strides on sun-and-wind days, there’s just so much energy in the air it’s catching. I haven’t left the building until I’ve skipped down 6 flights of stairs and exchanged a cheery greeting with the door people who take care of the building and are always friendly.
Class sometimes involves a lecture, or is cancelled, or there’s group work or presentations. This past Friday, I presented about trans* issues (transexual, transgender, transvestite people) to a room full of catholics. It was interesting. And then we talked about abortion, birth control and what kinds of sex should be considered sin. Great way to start the weekend, I’m telling you. It was the first time that I felt basically coherent giving a presentation in Spanish, and like I could talk fluently more or less. Victory! Even though I don’t think I changed anyone’s mind…. oh well. At least now I know just how conservative the catholic church is about sexuality. Exactly how conservative.
On Mondays, I usually go to my history tutor’s house. Her mother calls me beautiful and feeds me copious amounts of artichoke and empanada, and then I learn about chilean history for two hours, with a tea break in between where they entreat me to please put more honey in my tea. No need to ask twice.
On Fridays and Wednesdays I run straight from class to the house of my african drum teacher. He’s great, the kind of guy who just radiates warmth. It’s crazy the kind of connection you can create with someone after hours of interweaving rhythms together for hours. His house mates are good sports about putting up with me, ready to pound away, at 10:30 on a Friday morning for an hour and a half.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I spend the prime hours of my evening at trapeze/aerial dance class. We do like an hour of physical conditioning, highlights including jogging around on an enormous piece of burlap for 10 minutes and doing weird jumps, plank until you drop while Mario (teacher) yells “aprete el culo!” (in pretty language, flex your buttocks), 175 sit-ups of varying types, lots of groaning, 4 kinds of handstands, dripping with sweat, finally getting to get on the “aparatos” (tela and trapecio). We have a Facebook group for the class that is called “Mario no hay dolor”. Mario there is no pain. The day after I always spend a lot of time inspecting the callouses that have blistered and putting myself in weird positions to stretch the random hitherto unknown muscles I used the night before.
All these things that I do, they make me happy in the moment. I remember learning for the first time how to do improv acing at Camp Woodbrook probably a decade ago, and the only rule they gave us was to always say “yes”. At Wellesley, I spend a lot of time saying “no” to things that make me happy in the moment, like cozy movie nights with friends and eating at a relaxed pace. In this past week alone, I said “yes” to 12 hours of time on the beach for all the things that make me happy, like trapeze and surfing and African drumming. I’ve said “yes” to going to a history class, a radical feminist conference and a Marxist conference in three separate cities all in one day. I’ve said “yes” to so many conversations with María Alicia where we bare our souls and two hours later rouse ourselves contentedly and affectionately, ready to live on with a little bit lighter of a load. I’ve said “yes” to unplanned afternoon-long lunches, so many grill-outs and making friendship bracelets for people in my classes. I’ve said “yes” to people, and in letting other people play a bigger role, I’ve found that I myself am happier.