Monday, July 23, 2012

get out of town

parque mahuida de la reina
i almost didn't go snowboarding on monday. my alarm went off early and i felt lousy. but then i thought of kristel, mike, mike, and meg - and every other santianguino - celebrating the national holiday at el colorado without me. it was too much to bear. i threw on warm clothes, stuffed a few things in my backpack, and booked it to the metro. it was closed. so i flagged down a taxi:

t: where to?
cc: ummm...

realizing i'd left all the information at my apartment, i stumbled through an explanation until the champ of a driver figured out what i was talking about. i made it to the shuttle just in time and immediately began persuading meg that she would probably prefer snowboarding to skiing. fortunately, i was right, the day was fab and, by its end, we were planning a post-finals trip to the mountains for next (north american) winter. winding down the mountain at sunset, i dozed off, listening to the easy cadence of brazilian portuguese emerging from the back of the bus. what a great way to start the week.

when i got to work on friday, gabriela popped her head in my office: there's a big celebration at the law school so nobody's really working today. you are welcome to stay, but i'm leaving at noon. i'd been meaning to find a time when i could visit the museo de la memoria y los derechos humanos without time or social pressure. so i hopped on the metro after lunch and tried to prepare myself. part of post-pinochet transitional justice, the museum has a similar flavor to a holocaust museum. by the time i made it to the second floor - which honored victims and people who spoke out against disappearances and torture - i was a wreck. i crumbled onto a bench in front of a photo collage forming the words nunca más and started to ball. that's when a museum employee approached me quietly:

e: excuse me, miss. the museum is closed. 
cc: (wiping my face before getting up to face him). oh, ok. thanks. 

then, like a police officer making sure you're sober enough to get home, he started a casual convo:

e: first time here?
cc: (whimpering, despite myself). ye-es.
e: where are you from?
cc: the u.s.
e: how long have you been in chile?
cc: (regaining some composure). t-two months.
e: oh, that's great! and how do you find chile?

i looked at his face for a hint of humor. i mean, he was escorting me - a helpless mass of heartache - out of a museum about a 17-year dictatorship that produced over 3,000 victims of torture and extrajudicial killings. but when i only saw sincerity so i made a quick recovery:

high five, cactus!
cc: it's lovely. i really like it.

none of the staff seemed phased by my long face and tear-streaked cheeks. then i realized: i'm in a museum about a 17-year dictatorship that produced over 3,000 victims of torture and extrajudicial killings. i'm not the first person to have this response. one of the most unsettling parts of being in chile has been observing and processing a people and place that is only two decades removed from an oppressive government with which the u.s. was closely linked. as i emerged from the museum and inhaled the crisp, evening air, i took in the bustling market across the street: kids playing tag, teens testing out ollies on their skateboards, and grown folk haggling over the price of fruit. and it hit me: life goes on. because it has to.

on saturday afternoon, meg and i met at tobalaba metro to transfer to the purple line, then catch a bus from simón bolivar station. it was well worth it because parque mahuida, set in the foothills of the andes, was siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiic! i creeped on the extreme playground, envying kids in the bounce house and on the ziplines, before grabbing an empanada for the road and setting out on the trail to cerro de la cruz. the hiking was more than a little rigorous and the views were incredible. along the way, we stumbled across a rugby game, made friends with other hikers, a stray pup, and a troop of boy scouts. it reminded me very much of griffith park in la and was everything i could hope for in a saturday afternoon adventure.
la playa, isla negra
parque mahuida
today, kristel, mike, marie, meg, sarah, and i ventured to isla negra to see pablo neruda's third - and favorite - house. but first, we dined at a place along the main road just two doors down from the bus stop. the food was excellent, the staff congenial, and the large screen playing 1980's hits, unbelievable. we almost missed pn's house altogether. but i'm glad we didn't because pablo and i really connect in all things nautical. mom, you would have flipped out in the seashell room. i've never seen anything like it. but the best part of our sunday adventure was climbing across the rocks, singing under the cover of waves crashing, and watching the sunset before making our way back to santiago.

i've enjoyed most of my time in santiago in the city center - providencia, bellavista, lastarria, barrio brasil. but this week i found the best parts on my way out of town.

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