Friday, October 30, 2009

Four Months Left and So Much to Do

There is something really special about endings. They give you a sense of closure: a sigh at the end of a novel, the final tear at the end of a breakup, the bittersweet tossing of the cap at graduations.

In these moments, you feel you are on the edge of something new. You are saying goodbye yes, but you are also saying hello. You hope with all your being that it will top what you have done, that your experiences will be better, that you will be better.

It also affects your relationships. You hold on a little tighter when your friends hug you. You start memorizing their details, devouring their uniqueness with your eyes, your ears, your nose, taking in all their information. You think, "After February, I may never see this persona again. Andres at the coffee shop. Jocelyn. Kanke. Lua. Pollo."

You realize while you were trying all the while to leave your mark on the world, the world was happily leaving its mark on you.

Chile has made me different. Its strangers have trained me to be more confident moving through the city. I am now capable of uncovering its secret language (and shoving my body into the smallest spaces on the metro).

Those who became my friends have given me even more.

Pollo once said to me, "If there's one thing I hope for you, it's that when someone asks you, 'what did you learn in Chile' you answer 'I learned to love again.'"

I have.

I love when I see a punk boy helping an older woman with a cart up a flight of stairs. I love when I see a young couple in their own world on the bus. I love when I see my friends loving and making mistakes and getting up again. In the honk of horn, I hear hello...or goodbye...or both.

Lua, my roommate said to me that she wondered whether it was even worth it to make friends here, knowing that she was going to be leaving.

I think it is. It may be temporary. But the effects of that friendship are permanent. It is imprinted on who you become. You may never see them again, but you feel them in how you give more, hug longer, love harder, and live with wilder abandon.

They are my invisible tattoos.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Internal Journey Continues...

I came across this blog today. I liked it.

He talks about people looking for miracles in inanimate objects:

"To me, the gathering of large numbers of people to view the semblance of a face on a window pane or a bulging burrito speaks to a great sense of powerlessness. Feeling so small and helpless in a world of chaos, competition and aggression, we seek the miraculous, desperately hoping that it will bless us in some way and ease our suffering.

It occurs to me that perhaps there’s a better way to go about this. Perhaps, instead of looking for the face of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary in inanimate objects, we should be looking for the face of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary in the face of every person who crosses our path.

If we were able to do this, perhaps we’d be less likely to be judgmental, resentful and angry towards others, in which case our lives might work more effectively.

In addition to attempting to see God in the face of everyone we meet, it might also help us to recognize the presence of God in everything we look upon, not just the faces of people or inanimate objects deformed by nature.

If we were able to recognize the presence of God in everything all around us — in animals, plants, insects, and objects — perhaps we’d treat them all with greater honor and respect, which would also likely lead to a life of greater harmony and balance.

Perhaps the miracle lies not in seeking God in odd and eccentric ways, but rather in seeking God in every moment and molecule all around us."

I wonder if he's ever read Rumi. That last line is Rumi all the way.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Being a Foreigner is Like Being Famous

My roommate and I were on the metro the other day, and this little boy heard us speaking English. He could tell we were obviously not from Chile. Maybe he recognized English from a class he'd taken.

He smiled at us. We smiled at him and said hello. He continued to stare at us until our paths separated. He shyly asked his mom how to say adios in English. He said a very whispered "Bye" and ran off. It was as if he'd seen a celebrity.

Being a foreigner also gives you more freedom. After all, you may never see these people again...and if you do, you'll only see them for another six months and then you REALLY won't see them again.

I went for a walk yesterday. Sunday's are the best days for walks because everyone is out with their families. I had my ipod on, and I began to dance to the music as I walked. I was having so much fun that I didn't care who was watching. I just smiled at everyone who stared and continued dancing. Most fun 45 minutes I've had on a walk in a long time!

Would I have done the same in the U.S.? Who knows? But now that I've tried it, I surely will when I get home.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The World is So Beautiful I Want to Eat It

My footprints in the sand and the Indian Ocean

Monday, October 19, 2009

Chile, I Love You

I grinned when I heard my first "sipo." It was in the airport parking lot, heading to the taxista's car with my luggage in tow. I shivered and put on my jacket. The sun was shining, but 7am was still cold, and it was still winter.

The Andes hovered in the distance, sentries guarding the city. They were old friends of mine, welcoming me back to familiar ground.

The old man driving talked like the country Chileans do, a slurred Spanish that makes them sound perpetually drunk. My rusty Spanish served me well enough, but the words came to me slowly, as if underwater. I could not volley back anything. My vocabulary was officially in a body bag.

We drove past graffiti and dry, yellow grass and shanties constructed on the other side of the Mapocho river. Stray dogs sniffed along the river bed. Litter was everywhere. A bank of smog obstructed the distance.

The smell of Santiago is the smell of diesel fuel. I breathed in cautiously, then full deep breaths. It had been too long.

I tried to remember which direction the traffic would be heading on the street where I lived. From 7am-9:30am it ran north. The rest of the day, it ran south. I grinned again. So complicated. So Chilean.

I wanted to hold on to every smell, every scene that swept by my window. The park near Providencia and Bellavista with the art statues. The bridges leading into Providencia--my favorite part of the city. The little corner stands with fruits and vegetables, scarves and earrings, water and snacks. And all the people. I forgot all the people. People begging for money and selling band aids for donations, people in the streets juggling; yo-yoing; throwing, spitting, swirling fire; chucking chinese sticks, knives, and bowling pins high into the air. Payasos and drummers. Dancers. Flag girls. A guy selling posters, selling palo santo (cedar wood), selling mote con huesillos (peaches and oats), selling honey-roasted nuts, selling churros con manjar.

My roommate had once said to me, "Santiago is all about the hustle. If you're sitting on a bus, chances are the person next to you is selling something." I couldn't have agreed more.

I wanted it all then. The greed overwhelmed me. I wanted to possess it. I wanted to make it mine forever.

I wanted to brand my memory, to have a tattoo of this place on my brain forever.

I arrived at the little house in La Reina, first opening the condominium gate with a satisfying "clack". Then through to the inner gate, locked with a master lock. Kanke's dachsund Ayoom was there. She jumped and wagged her tail which made her whole back end waggle, like a horizontal hula dancer.

I stuck my hands through the bars, unlocked the lock with my tiny key, and walked into our garden. The rose bushes had grown twice as tall.

I stopped to pet Ayoom. "Hey girl, long time no see," I whispered. We bonded for a moment, but I was too excited to stay long with her. I was almost, finally, home.

Then, I unlocked the top deadbolt. I remembed when Caitlin and I had first arrived a year ago how we had spent ten minutes playing with the lock because we'd both struggled to open it. The trick was turning the key twice instead of once. Then I turned the key in the bottom lock and opened the door. The light of morning shone through the windows of our living room, warming our normally cool house. The faint scent of kerosene wafted from the portable heater, mixing with the base notes of incense and palo santo.

I immediately felt a sense of calm and peace. The house was a little part of me, and I had missed it.

My room seemed smaller and emptier. There were no posters on the cold white cement walls. The old dog pee stain on the carpet (that then became a much large spot after I cleaned it) looked larger in the empty room. Same business-grade carpet covering the cement floor.

I still had my clothes in the closet, my clock on the desk, my big desk. It felt like I was receiving tiny messages or gifts from someone. "Take good care of yourself. Have fun. Here's some things you might need."

It was the star lamp I had purchased right before I left that made me think of Pollo. Of how he had come to pick me up at the bazaar where I'd bought the lamp. And even though all his friends had been there, he'd only had eyes for me.

Then Lua came out of her room. Kanke came downstairs, too. I pushed Pollo from my mind and spent my first day back in Santiago, laughing and telling stories and eating pan amasado (fresh bread) and avocados.

I was ready to breathe life back into my little corner of Santiago. All I needed was a place to sleep and a place to write, and here, in the little house in La Reina, I had both.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just a Little Hello

I'm back in Chile until February. I have no plans. I'm seeing Pollo again. I'm happy. I went to Australia. I'm writing a lot. Not sure what I'm doing with personal training.

Pictures, bigger thoughts, bigger ideas to come...

For now, just saying a little hello...