06.23.2019 - 07.03.2019
Santiago, Chile 6/23-6/24/19
On my way to the first stop of my trip, lessons begin immediately as I go through security at the Ontario Airport, calling back to the TSA officer who was checking and rechecking my combination flashlight-external battery pack that had an area for a knife blade, which I had removed the night before. “It’s a flashlight!!! . . . its a FLASHLIGHT sir . . . no, it did have a blade. Used to. No blade. No, I took it off. . . . . it’s a FLASHLIGHT!” Finally making it through, TSA guy then casually asking me about my husband motioning to my man-deflector ring. Security boys laughed at me as I walked away, saying “You made it!!” I laughed back, said “Yeah, AND I got to keep my flashlight!!!” They started joking, telling me “Run, run!! Quick before he calls you back!”
Realization that new planes have adjusted for new technology. First plane having USB ports near the screen instead of on an armrest or under the seat, a combination holder/stand for your cellphone to mount in front of you should you want to stream a movie from their smart phone app. Second plane having a interactive touch screen next to their USB charging port. Watching so many movies en route and excited to let my movie list grow.
Arrival in Santiago, quick find for the ATM and the Centropuerto bus, understanding the Metro quickly, and thinking as I jumble along on the bus and then the metro that most of the excitement and “travel jitters” are gone. Still there but lessened when coming to a new area where I must decipher transport. I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
Top of San Cristobal, muggy air and tourists abound along with locals to and from prayer areas and city overlook areas. The pino empenada I ordered, unsure of what was within. Munching on olives, beef, and boiled eggs as I walked around the old church, music piping through my earphones. Pleasantly surprised by the flavors and later finding out it was a traditional Chilean dish.
My first funicular ride in Santiago, directed to purchase tickets “through the castle”. Walking past the llama (or possibly an alpaca) and ignoring the men on the side trying to upsell tour tickets. About to board, stepping up creaky wooden stairs, then seeing the pink of the sky through bare trees as the funicular ascended.
Random discovery of the bridge with the locks. An exhale while standing on the bridge, seeing the smog clear slightly in front of the Andes mountain.
Leonardo, my Santiago AirBNB host, excited to teach me of Chilean culture and writers and poets, sharing their political past and social past, explaining the disparity between “the wealthy side” and “the poor side” of town, how the two do not cross lines. Nighttime, taking me to the top of a nearby apartment building and our own so I could see the beautiful lights and he could motion, explain the neighborhoods and the history of Santiago. Seeing him get more excited as he realized what a receptive audience he had. Sending me a PDF book to read to by a Chilean author so that I may understand the voice of the country.
Easter Island 6/25 - 6/28/19
Coming across the first moai. Excitement rising in my chest. The moai simple and stationary, no fanfare. Realizing how accessible the statues are, how they may be taken for granted. Learning through the museum there are nearly a thousand of them and not about 10 are female. Seeing one of the rare female moais in the museum, wondering whoo she was and struck by the sculpted shape of her face.
Being instructed on how to peel fish skin and scales of a cooked fish in one motion, success debatable. Receiving many disproving looks from the family in my Easter Island stay as I said I was finished, unsure if it was because I did not eat the head of the fish. The pain of a single fish scale becoming stubbornly lodged in the back of my throat. Trying to cough it up and wash it down for some time. Fish bones gathered from each person at the table to be given to the cats outside. In my room some time later, finally successfully gargling the fish scale off the back of my throat.
The Rapa Nui quarry with the red rock and bits of unfinished work. Deep green grass, intense blue sky, wind chill with a bright sun. Sound of ocean waves in the distance. As I walked the path, looking back behind me and curious how the landscape would have looked with more trees, how it would have looked before the unintentional deforestation.
Driving to a remote area for stargazing, finding a high elevation with strong wind and clear sky. Hesitant to step outside oof the car because of spray dogs and wild horses wandering the island, aware of how much I would startle in the dark night if a creature randomly approached in the dark, no matter how tame they were. So many stars in the sky, s vibrant, slowly dissipating away before I realized a thin cloud was rolling in. Moving on as rain began, sitting on the edge of the island later with waves crashing on the volcanic rock, working on my travel journal as the local radio station played quiet Spanish songs. No cars coming or going, darkness, and vibrant stars slowly reappearing as the cloud moved on.
The larger Rapa Nui quarry where bodies oof the moai were formed, the land littered with both completed and incomplete sculpted heads and bodies, some standing, some flattened. The area almost empty, wandering alone for the most part, very grateful for arriving in the “off season”. Wonderful breeze, still hot in the sun, perfection in the shade from the mountain. Seeing the Giant, wondering if they knew how much he would weight and so he was abandoned or was he a show piece? The kneeling moai, wondering if the tales about him are true, a man who fell to his death with legs buckled beneath him, appearing to be kneeling as opposed to being crushed. Aware of the amount oof questions historians must have for this place, these ancient people.
Aka Kakenga and another lava tube exploration, sitting by the larger “window” overlooking the ocean and crashing waves, seeing the mist rain coming down despite the sun shining back towards me in the distance, wishing that Heather was with me because I know how much she’d love crawling on the rocks and exploring the edge of this little island with me.
Making poorly formed shadow puppets with my hand and head lamp in the lava tube.
Walking back from the lava tube, stuck in the rain, wet clothing and accepting it. Coming across multiple destroyed bits of lava rock, aware that they were broken down bits of moairs and past bits of history but not being able to recognize any bits. Suddenly coming across a face, a nose, eyes. Inhaling sharply, asking out loud “Are you a moai?” A face either way. Someone. A bit of soul someone attempted to capture in stone, a person to remember. No fence, no blockage, no signs showing me that I could not step closer. So I stepped closer. I may have dared a small touch on the nose. I appreciated this creation, this person, took a moment to wonder about who they were, and then moved on in the rain to find my car down the muddy, rocky slope.
A cappachino in a coffee shop with a thatched roof, a treat from my parents who knew I was sick with a sore throat, feeling tired, them wishing me well and wanting me to have a good start to my day. The gesture worked, a delicious foam, a small cafe with questionable free WiFi, a smiling lady who asked me to sit in Spanish, her look of satisfaction seeing I had eaten all of my breakfast, indicating that she wanted me to return again, assuring me that she opens at 7 AM sharp every day.
White sand of Anakena Beach, rare palm trees, moai on the shore. Bare toes in the cold water of the ocean, appreciating the feel of the sand. Seeing tourists with green gas hats, bathing suits, and others with multiple sweaters and fleece jackets. Remembering it was 70 degrees, confused on how some could walk around in the sun with so many layers.
Receiving pictures of sunflowers from my baby who is thinking of me and knows how much brightness sunflowers bring to me.
Simple food including papaya juice and slices of avocado filling me up, making me happy.
Sitting at the table under the awning, outside of the kitchen. Vinyl tablecloth and roosters crowing, concrete beneath me and brick beside me. A baby gecko climbing along the brick wall, underneath the open window where my host of limited English sat inside having a cup of coffee. “Ah!” I exclaim, excited to see the baby gecko. She looks at me and I motion, indicating what was bringing me such delight. “Ah” she responds in turn, cranking her neck out of the open window, leaning down and blowing forcefully the way one might for a small spider or a fly. Blown off the wall, my friend scurried away. Host gave me a reassuring look and sad something in Spanish that I took to be “There you go, you’re ok now. I took care of it.”
Cesar the prisoner and his generous offer to give me a tour of the island.
Sunrise on the eastern shore on my last morning on the island, a slow pace while the sky was still dark and dotted with stars. A slow swerving drive as I followed the curves of the road and avoided the wild horses and dogs in the street. Inadvertently at the same bit of shore where I had stargazed previously. Watching the sky slowly lighten, turn pink through the clouds. Rapa Nui radio again, alternating seamlessly between modern music, 80’s, traditional Rapa Nui songs with recognizable words like Hanga Roa, Make-Make, and Rapa Nui. Soft static but I didn’t mind. Finishing my postcards to family and friends by the sea, licking the large stamps and arranging them on the postcards, feeling tired but happy.
Valparaiso 6/28 - 7/1/19
First night with Rocio and Jorge, a full conversation with Google Translate where we discussed so many topics, drank tea, and pinched of a chunk of hardened brown sugar to sweeten the drink. Discussions of California and the US and healthcare policies.
My rooom, mustard yellow and bright and cheery, thick wooden frames on the windows, tidbits from all over the world decorating the space. An Ecuador Mitad de Mundo woven adornment hanging near the bathroom. The multiple thick blankets on the bed giving so much warmth and a feeling of home. Feeling comfortable and happy in this room where the heater falls from the wall and the ceiling leaks when it rains, loving waking up to the morning light.
Sitting at the table with the three roommates, looking through Tinder photos and laughing as one considers her upcoming date, using Google Translate again to discuss kids and childbirth, the Hungarian roommate’s intense fear of pregnant women and wanting too not be in close proximity, her blunt style of communication. I appreciated her and the flow of the conversation.
The city streets with layered murals, so many hills and colorful buildings, dotted with windows all over, appreciating the views and the unique homes with slants that appear unnatural and one has a hard time understanding how the structure does not slide down the hill.
The night of the Hungarian meal with everyone using our forks to jump in on the food in the center of the table. Jorge wanting another cup of tea but no more tea bags, everyone laughing and handing over the Indiana Chair tea bags from our mugs so that he may have the most flavor. The chocolate tart with the thick crust, the orange “salsa”, more conversation about life and adventures, Catterina showing me her family photos, the look on her face eager to communicate and to share, her wanting to know about me and my family, wanting to know who I am as a person. Still eternally grateful for Google Translate.
My mocha with chunk chocolate in the bottom of the glass, my limon tart with chocolate dribble on the plate, a kitty mural outside of the cafe, a strong WiFi connection allowing me to message friends and upload images of me trip, feeling excited to “be connected” as the barista with a thick dreadlock rat tail alternated between asking me about my travels and light strumming the ukulele, singing softly from behind the counter as he waited for more customers.
La Serena 7/1 - 7/3/19
Marisol and Patricio, in love, him motioning to her with a booming heart, telling me that having children has rejuvenated her, referring to her as his beautiful wife. Feeling welcomed in like family, him referring to me like a daughter, can feel how excited they are to show caring and love.
The walk to La Recova, the marketplace with delicious little bits all over made of papaya and mango and local honey, homemade artwork and woooden pieces with bits of seed pods or painted metal, small tote bags imprinted with commemorations of the Eclipse Chile 2019 event. Live music and activity around me, wishing I had more time, understanding some visitors were from a cruise stop off, thinking about how previously I had never heard of La Serena. Grateful to be there.
The travel to La Higuera in the north the day of the eclipse, my nervousness that we might be going too far, Patricio and Marisol putting my mind at ease with an eclipse map and showing me that they were taking me near the exact center so that we could have the maximum time, realizing that we were driving an extra hour for an extra ten seconds but knowing it was worth it.
The eclipse. The excitement, the celebration. Feeling of unity. Cheering, both me and the people around me. A universal awe. Patricio describing his heart racing, indicating goosebumps on his arm. Saying he wants to cry. He is amazed. He is moved. Running and laughing to the car as we pack quickly and jump in, headed towards the highway before the onslaught of vehicles behind me plug up the road. We all leave with smiles.
Drive home from the eclipse, all in awe, me driving and Patricio uses translation on his phone to say “It is an amazing thing we have experienced here today Sarah”. Them both giving me hugs and kisses on the cheek when I left in the morning, telling me to be careful, giving me directions again, telling me they love me, giving a goodbye gift to remember my time in La Serena.
The pisco sours offered by Patricio: blueberry, lemon, and mango. A toast along with his Jack Daniels whiskey which he said he chose to warm him after the cold from the eclipse.