One month today since we skidded into Lautaro on a freezing dark morning, hopeful, still wet behind the ears and desperately nodding and saying si to a taxi driver who had taken us under his wing. We stood for ten minutes at the bus shelter in the dark and rain and our young faces suffered the first bout of repetitive smile syndrome for good impressions. Now our grins have worn in and are a matter of habit. I don’t like to imagine the twisted abstract quality that my smile has adopted since I last tried it in the mirror and I try not to glance at Beth when I know she will be sporting her’s.
It’s Chilean independence day today. I really can’t believe the amount of foodstuff everyone ends up eating despite their best intentions. Each family actually buys a whole cow and slots it into the freezer like it’s no biggy. I’ve attended the equivalent of two Chilean style Barbecues a day for the last three days and that is no joking matter. Also there was a parade yesterday with so many fire-engines, horses, sombreros and school kids. I watched it all go passed, fatigued by the patriotism but impressed all the same. We went to Las Remadas the other day. It’s like a load of barn shed things made of fir trees that are adorned by Chilean flags and everyone dances Cumbria and Cueca drinking piscola and Chisha (dunno how to spell it but it’s a drink that spills a slow sweet burn into your belly) We did not over-indulge in this practice but ended up at a party full of all the firemen in Lautaro, a little confused but otherwise intact. We got back at three but the tradition here is to stay out till 8 or 9am. We not got that sort of stamina. People kept trying to teach us Cueca and I’m sure there was a film crew there at the opening of the Ramadas. We tentatively watch Lautaro TV when it’s on, waiting for the laughing and ridiculing.
Needless to say the situps have gone up to 100 a day in the absence of Capoeira and Airboxing this week. Dangerous times for my health.
The language thing is doing my head in big time. SO HARD to know what people are on about and now I’m at the stage where there are some potential friends in the mix we are having to rely on a heightened level of good humor. I have about three complete conversations that I can have with every new person that I meet but as soon as I actually want to say anything we have to resort to the dictionary and endless corrections until the topic matter has been shredded to muddy little pieces and we are left to smile sympathetically at each other. That’s where capoeira saves my life.
Wildlife in these parts is rude and realistic. There are many horses and cows that poo during parades and then a little guy with dustpan and brush smartly smears the dung away, accompanied by the brass sounds of the military band. There are evil creatures either in my bed or room that are eating us up bit by bit everynight and amazon is determined not to let me order a natural repellent because this town doesn’t exist in one way or another on it’s records. I go for walks in the park and these birds sit in the shrubs shouting to themselves like sleeping drunks and you take one step to close they take off in a waking panic, screaming slightly off sync from one another. I want to say “shhh” to them but they wouldn’t hear. I tried to explore today but something here holds you in. I wanted to go up a hill that has been calling me but there is always something along the way that stops me. Train track or river or gang of youths. Then when I did get to the foot of the hill today I say that it’s whole exterior was fashioning a frizzy mop of brambles and when I put my foot down on some dubious grass a big section of it shook and I jumped off quickly. The further south you go in Lautaro the more dogs there are. In the north there is 3 per street and in the south it’s about ten. They look so hardy and set in their ways. Beth thinks they are cute. You get these really little ones that look like lost pets and smile stupidly then the really big ones under piles or ridiculous fur.
This post seems a bit negative reading back but I’m actually doing pretty well here. We are settled in and making friends, spending time with the family and getting better at teaching. It’s got to the stage now where I would be well annoyed if someone said I had to go home. It’s a bit gritty here but it’s where I live and learn. Have to build a life and I feel like it’s going okay.
Loads of love