Monday, April 14, 2008

My weekend in the Chilean Countryside

OK so not a full weekend - only a Sunday, but it was one of the best days of my life! When I got home I realized it happened exactly three years to the day after my Japanese O-hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Coincidence? I think not. From this ay forward I will celebrate April 13 as a special day!

Eduardo and his wonderful wife Carol picked me up at about 11 am in his blue Volkswagen Golf which he will be the first to tell you is a car to be driven only by very wonderful handsome men. This is one of the reasons I love Lazo so much. He is humble. Also he is full of shit.

So we set out on the road. Carol doesn't speak (much) english and so Eduardo translated the conversation but mostly we just enjoyed the driving. We wound up into the Andes and passed through a couple of small towns where I finally realized I AM IN SOUTH AMERICA!!! When you are in a big city like Santiago where most people speak at least a couple of words of English and everything is really international it's easy to brush it off but driving through these little towns was like running into a brick wall - I AM IN SOUTH AMERICA! Well duh.

We passed by small farms with llama (!!!) and tuna stands. Tuna is a cactus fruit and it is sweet and juicy and delicious. I also kept seeing signs by the road with "aceituna" for sale and finally looked it up on my translator and aceituna is olive. They grow OLIVES and sell them fresh at roadside stands!! Eventually we pulled into a roadside bodegacita (I probably have that wrong but basically it was a roadside stand). Lazo told me here we would wait for Carol's parents who own the house where we were going. Also his two daughters were with his in-laws.

After we purchased and ate horse jerky (!!!) and freshly baked bread the rest of our party arrived and the girls ran out of the car with kid-drawings for me which about made me cry at that point. Said drawings are now posted at my desk and I fear I will actually frame them when I get home. Where is that? Everyone welcomed me with open arms and cries of "Mucho gusto!" and I really felt so much at home.

I've written about Eduardo before. With Eduardo there is that kind of special very deep connection that I don't feel even with people I consider my friends. I can be 100% myself with him and he accepts that and appreciates it or maybe not but he puts up with it and the odd thing is that his wife and daughters and in-laws did too. I mean I was polite (I only said "fuck" once in response to a terrifying driving maneuver and Carol was the only other person in the car and she agreed with me) but I was me and they didn't mind at all.

On a side note this is what tears me up about my job. I travel which is great but when you spend any time in a place you are likely to make connections with people - people you might never see again. People you meet and adore and then they are gone because you get on a plane and go back to your life. And they are always there in your heart but they aren't there because they live on another continent where Christmas happens in summer or some weird shit like that.

So we got to this place out in the country. Out in the Chilean country. Where it is rough. Not like anything I have seen in the US except out west. But it was heaven on earth after spending the past 3 months worth of weekends kind of trapped in my neighborhood in Santiago. No TV. No internet. Lazo has the best music collection in the world and brought it on his laptop which he hooked up to the stereo and set the speakers outside and we sat on the covered patio and listened to music and talked and watched the girls play and ate the most delicious meat. I got full very fast and might just regret that forever. When the afternoon was very unfortunately beginning to be over I got on my knees and hugged everyone's legs and cried and begged them to leave me there. OK. Not really but that is what I wanted to do.

Lazo's father-in-law suggested since I had never seen it that we drive back to Santiago via Vina del Mar which is a coastal resort. It would only take us maybe one hour total out of our way. We set out again. This time Belen, Lazo's youngest daughter, sat in the backseat of the VW with me and promptly fell asleep and I kept asking if I needed to move her because she was all crumpled over and I don't understand how all the circulation in her body didn't stop.

We got to Vina del Mar about 25 minutes before sunset and drove on a tiny bit more to (oh crap I have the name written down but it's in the briefcase and I do not want to look in there right now). We parked which was a surprise to me since I did not know the plan and y'all, I was down the stairs and on the beach just as fast as I could kick the birkenstocks off while in a dead run. Ok not really but that is what my heart felt like seeing sand and ocean for the first time in 3 years. The girls and I got onto the beach and I just had to put my feet in the water of the Pacific like a gringa loca. It was COLD! If it hadn't been so cold I swear I would have gone in to my neck fully dressed but it was ICY!

When we got that out of our systems we went up to a patio coffee shop and ordered coffee and empanadas and sat and watched the sun set. It was just spectacular.

After I got on my knees and cried and begged to be left there (yeah - kidding again but not really) we said our goodbyes to the passengers in the other vehicle. I knew I would be forced to do the fucking cheek kiss thing all day but really I didn't mind. It was family. When we said goodbye I thanked them profusely and told them how much it meant to me that they had included me and went to do the cheek kiss thing and as I always do just because I am North American and when we cheek kiss it is instinctive to hug as well I hugged them all and I thought they were not going to let go! Each and every one of them hugged me like I can't remember being hugged.

And then we (fucking) set out again in our seperate vehicles for the drive back into Santiago. Eduardo and Carol in front, me and (this time) 6 year old Ignacia in back. Ignacia immediately fell asleep and the whole time I watched her neck bent over and worried that she was going to die from lack of circulation. The view from the mountains looking into the valleys took my breath away. I would like to get a rental car in the next couple of weeks and share it with Sam but I'm really afraid all I would do is drive all night and get to the office delirious every day. I could look at the views here forever. I understand why so many US people choose to retire here.

We finally got to my neighborhood . . . my street . . . in front of my apartment. I really did NOT want to get out fo the car. I gave Ignacia (still sleeping) a kiss on the forehead and Carol got out to let me out of the 2 door stud-mobile. She wrapped her arms around me and wouldn't let go forever and then fucking Lazo had to get out and kiss and hug me like the little girl he is. He does hug like he has 18 foot long arms and this is the thing I love about him only second to his extreme humility.

So I got out of Santiago. I ate delicious meat cooked by an expert. I rode in a VW Golf which is evidently the sex machine of South America if you buy into Lazo's story which actually I don't. I saw stuff I could not ever have imagined seeing. I relaxed. In a full 24 hour period I did not once work. OK it was only 20 hours but hey close enough. I made skin to skin contact with the Pacific ocean for the first time in 25 years. I listened to Eric Clapton while watching the Andes change with the light. I learned my colors in spanish with a four year old and a six year old. I drank really crappy instant coffee by the ocean with people I will love forever just because they welcomed me and gave me excellent hugs.

Below is the link to the shutterfly album for the day. I couldn't post them all here. If you need a password use serenity.

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