HOLLLA PEOPLEEEEE. FELIZ NAVIDADDDDD/FELICES FIESTA (Which means happy holidays.. the more neutral term). I WANNA WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEARRRRRTTT..
You have no idea how long I've been waiting all year to say that and how often i've been singing it (just ask the poor people who have been hanging out with me the past few days!) . i can't believe it's almost the end of the year. mainly because it flew by so fasttt but also because i'm hanging out in a warm placeeeeee which is typically not the case when i'm in NYC (though I hear it's about 70 degrees there.. WATT??!)
I celebrated Christmas in Vina Del mar with Kendra, my friend from back home who now lives in Vina (though she will soon be relocating to Holland in a couple of weeks.. how exciting!), her sister Paulina, who was visiting from NYC, and her amazing novio, Gabriel, and his even more espectaculara familia. it's so nice to spend the Holidays with some familiar faces, especially since i missed out on Thanksgiving (this was way better!) AND THEY HAVE THE CUTEST DOG!!!!
Vina del Mar is right on the coast which means we had a wonderful outdoor Christmas dinner complete with ceviche, BBQed meats, grilled veggies, red wine, and coronas.. I THINK I CAN GET used to Christmas in the southern hemisphere! Plus i got to practice my spanish a bit which was good, but also super challenging since Chileans are known to have a very.. umm.. interesting take on spanish (PO) .. so i ended up using "no entiendo" and "repitito por favor" a million times.. but HEYYY. at least i'm trying!! Anddd i got a new camping towel after playing white elephant (how convenient!) and a bar of chocolate (always appreciated!)
But anyway.. backtracking a bit.. it's so nice to be in Chile and be back in the "first world" which basically means good WiFi, decent coffee, people who obey traffic laws and EXPENSIVE (mucho carro) prices. Getting the bus from San Pedro to Santiago cost a bajillion dollars ($80) and took foreverrrr (25 hours cus my bus broke down in the middle of the night).. i initially tried to bargain the cost down, which caused the lady selling me the ticket to look at me like i had 3847928374 heads (she wouldn't even budge for an extra snack when i asked!) but WHATEVS. que es vida. And I've been having a great timeee.. eating & exploring & feeling inspired by the beauty of the various cities I visited (Santiago, valparaiso, Vina del Mar)
I've absolutely fallen in love with great Chilean poet/politician and hostess with the mostest.. Pablo Neurda. To be perfectly honest.. I had no idea who the dude was before I arrived, which is terrible because he's basically my kindered spirit/literary soulmate (Chrissy Teigen will forever be my overall life's spirit animal) and accomplished sosoososos much.. on top of winning the Nobel Prize for literature (second Chilean to have done so), he was also a senator in the Chilean Communist party, which forced him to live in exile when communism was banned in Chile, and years later, a close advisor to Chile's socialist President, Salvador Allende. What really struck me about him though, aside from those outstanding accomplishments, was his down to earth demeanor and his ability to maintain a lightheartedness, in spite of being very passionate and involved in uber serious things. He once said, "A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn't play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly" which is something i firmly believe #nevergrowingup
Coincidentally as soon as I arrived in Santiago, the NYTimes published an article about his three different houses.. and while I wasn't planning on visiting, after reading the story, I decided to go visit his house in Santiago, La Chascona, named after his lover's wild hair, since I wasn't doing much anyway. And GOSH.. what a fantastic place. i know minimalism is all the rage--straight, clean lines, monochromatic colors, etc. etc (snooze) and his houses were pretty much the opposite of thattt.. it was a cluttered, organized chaos filled with beautiful, sentimental pieces that a passionate hoarder/traveler like myself could relate to.. every item had an interesting story behind... Whether it was a male figurehead put into one corner of the room to watch over his love on the opposite side, another female figurehead, who was staring into the ocean because that was her lovee; his dining table filled with bright, colorful glasses from mexico that he thought made water taste better; a huge train engine which was hauled using oxen and two jeeps at his Isla Negra house; a captain’s bar and a wall filled with nautical memorabilia like maps and compasses due to his love of the sea... he collected things in order to collect memories..
after my initial visit, i decided to venture out to see his two other homes, one in Valpariaso (La Sebastiana) and his favorite home in Isla Negra and they were just as amazing as his home in Santiago. AND THE VIEWS OF THE OCEAN. My God.. huge ceiling to floor windows facing the water. IT WAS SPECTACULAR. I spent one afternoon reading in front of his home, right next to the ocean (not his memoirs unfortunately because they're only in paperback and i have way too much stuff so i'm going to get Kate from back homeee to bring me his novel when she comes and visits so i can trade it in!)
Outside of all things Neruda, I had a really nice and relaxing time in Santiago and Valpo..
Santiago was also a good place to visit.. it's a big, capital city so nothing super special but I love big cities so I felt right at home... plus I got to meet up with a friend I made in Poland, Ignacio, who took me and some other people I brought along to an uber cool party at his friend's place.
Valpo was a charming, bohemian/artsy fartsy city with a ton of beautiful street art. i stayed at hostel voyage, based on elll mejor amigoooo Albert's recommendation and it was definitely a cozy place filled with fun people.. i chilllled a ton.. read a bit, watched greattttly terrible moviessss (seriously.. Muck was the best worst movie i've ever seen) drank cheap wine and enjoyed people's companny. everyone i met in Valpo was super creative and free spirited.. they could either play some sort of instrument or dance really well or cook wonderfully or take amazing photos.. none of which I'm able to do. it was a good place to relax.. its grungy facade and colorful artwork and amazing people really reminded me of Porto (which is one of my favorite cities in the entire world!!) i loved exploring the open air museum (el museo de cielo abierto) which was founded in 1969 when students of the Art Institute of the Universidad Católica began to paint their works on the walls of the houses. Then, the dictatoship happened but after1990, the idea transformed into a project when famous artists like Nemesio Antúnez and Mario Toral participated in “designing” the walls at the hill Bellavista.
It's been so amazing to delve a little bit more into the history & politics of Chile (they always go hand in hand) which is somethign i realized i haven't done as much since being in south america (mainly concentrating on its natural beauty) but it's been really fascinating to get people's opinions, especially regarding Salvador Allende and Pinochet. I visited the grave of Salvador Allende, the first democratically elected socialist president who was later killed in a military coup planned by his close adviser, Pinochet, who ended up ruling the country as a dictatorship till the 90s (he was BFFs with Margaret Thatcher and went to the Human Rights Museum which delved more deeply into the different military dictaroships throughout the 70s (sometiems backed up by the CIA.) I will say that as a US citizen who barely learned anything abotu Pinochet in school... most of what i heard was that he was a terrible dictator who commited henious acts (he did).. it was interesting to learn there was almost a 50/50 (!!!!) split amongst the CHilean population about whether he should be lauded or hated. While Allende tried to focus on building a middle class and empower his country by nationalizing businesses, a lot of people suffered (in part because the upper class would pay truckers not to deliver food), and while Pinochet violated a ton of human rights.. he built relationships with people overseas and brought stability that allowed international businesses to invest in Chile.. and made it the strongest economy in Latin America with small pubic deficit and low public debt.
ANYWAY. enough nerding out... i'm heading to Argentina manana, though i will be back in Chile later in January to do the W Trek !!!!!!!!! very excited to hang out in Buenos Aires and see another good friend, Rachael, whose coming to visit from the US :)
Hasta luego mis amigos
Brazos y besos