All is well here in Santiago, though quiet for the time being. Today, Monday, December 8th, is el Día de la Inmaculada Concepción|Day of the Immaculate Conception and is observed as a national holiday. Chile, being a country rooted in Catholicism, observes all of the most prominent holidays associated with the religion. I took advantage of the long weekend by surfing in Concón as a last hurrah with JR and two friends from Spain, then heading to Linares, Chile to meet JC’s family and relax and see the town. It was a much needed weekend to fuel me for the next week and half before my Christmas break! The past few weeks have felt slower than my earlier time here, as many of my friends have headed off to travel, and I was knocked down by a cold for a few days. I’m back at it though, and ready to soak up the remaining first half of my time before taking a break to head north.
I’m learning to be more tranquila|calm (or quiet). I tend to get very antsy when I’m not doing something, so finding time to just sit and relax is difficult. I’m always thinking, planning, getting excited for something. My scratchpad on Expedia, my history on Hostelworld, and the calendars and lists scribbled in the back of my notebook are testament to my constant search of things to do. Spending time in Linares was a great break: it gave me the chance to sleep, talk plenty in Spanish, share meals with JC’s family, get to know her many cousins who were home for the weekend, and above all, just relax. JC and her dad took me on a tour of the city, and we took a trip to Yerbas Buenas: a small town just north of Linares that is the geographical center of the country. The architecture is distinctly Spanish, and the town holds a lot of history throughout the time of the war for Chilean Independence. Also evident in the regions of both Yerbas Buenas and Linares is the impact of the 2010 earthquake: adobe style houses left crumbling and uninhabitable – some reduced to rubble. JC was explaining to me the impact of the earthquake, and I couldn’t wrap my mind around the severity of it initially. It was devastating in the strongest sense of the word. Many owners lacked the money and time to rebuild, and the adobe style is impractical with the frequency of earthquakes in the region. It’s heartbreaking to see, as the historical portions of the city are dissipating right alongside the flourishing modern stores. There is a beautiful cathedral in Linares that was so severely damaged by the earthquake that it has since been abandoned: the repairs would cost too much and the risk of more damage by an earthquake is just too great. The town’s residents, however, have recovered well, and rebuilt what they can. Most have their roots sunk deeply in Linares, and there is a very small-town feel to the city. The residents are friendly, walk slowly, and greet each other like old friends.
To JC and your family: thank you so much for having me! I had a ton of fun and am happy to have made such great friends. Also, JC’s cat just had kittens a few weeks ago, which was an added bonus to get to play with them during my visit!
As I write this, I’m sitting outside on the balcony of my apartment. It’s a breezy 70 or so and the sun won’t set until almost 9pm. My view encompasses the Andes staunchly guarding the Argentinian border in the East, and the sun casting shadows through the skyscrapers of Santiago Centro to the West. There is plenty that I still struggle to acclimate with, but as a whole I’m learning to fall into step with life in the city. I understand the metro and the micros|city buses, am trying really hard to become a night person (though I still need to work on that), have greatly expanded my Chilean slang vocabulary (me tinca|I think), and finally I have started to remember to kiss everyone who enters the room. I can express my thoughts, my feelings, my doubts, and ask for help when I need it. I’ve become a much better listener. I’ve learned to focus on body language as a compliment to speech. I can navigate the city without my GPS at my fingertips, and have learned the layout of the neighborhoods I frequent. I know how to ask for directions, and how to remember and follow them. I’m more resourceful and independent. My time here in Chile consists of more than just my work in the lab or the places I check off of my bucket list: it has given me the chance to see what I’m made of and grow freely.