Archive for September, 2011

September 30, 2011

La Sebastiana

This afternoon I took a little jaunt to Valparaíso to visit the second home of the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. I hopped on a micro and we climbed up, up into Cerro Bellavista. The driver was very amiable and said that he “might be able to manage advising me on the location of Neruda’s house and driving the bus at the same time…” He let me off literally two three houses away from La Sebastiana. That is the name that Neruda gave his home to pay homage to the original owner who died before the house was completely finished.

Neruda owned on the top two floors and the terrace on the roof, while his friends occupied the first two floors. When he was first searching for an a place to live he gave this criteria:

“I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaíso a little house to live and write quietly. It must have some conditions. It can’t be located too high or too low. It should be solitary but not in excess, with hopefully invisible neighbors. They should not be seen or heard. The house should be unique but not uncomfortable. With many wings, but strong. Neither too big, nor too small. Far from everything but close to transportation. Independent, but close to commerce. Besides that it has to be very cheap. Do you think I would find a house like that in Valparaíso?”

Pretty particular eh?

Funny thing though, on the top floor is a map of the Americas that fills the entire wall. I’m not sure when it was made and I’m kicking myself now for not looking, but Chile was amazingly accurate. North America on the other hand, almost completely wrong. I say almost because the general shape was correct, though majorly distorted; Cuba was the size of all of the southeastern states. And also the great lakes where in the correct position. Other than that, California was an island, Illinois was in the middle of the country, and Canada was touching Mexico. I wonder what would happen if we swapped out a 4th grade classroom map with one of those…

In my opinion this home wasn’t as special as Isla Negra, but it never was supposed to be. Neruda certainly put his mark on everything, but this house was a working house instead of an escape. That being said, there is nothing like the view of the port and all of the colorful houses of Valparaíso. Just seeing that vista every morning is inspiration enough.

September 26, 2011

Zhegamos a Argentina, viste?

Spanish is Spanish no matter where you are right? Pues… accents! I was just plain shocked at the difference in accents between Viña and Mendoza. I have come to terms with the fact that Chileans speak as quickly as a jet planes, use a slew of slang, and don’t ever finish their words. Now Argentinians on the other hand (from Mendoza in particular) speak as if they are singing. So melodious! Of course the accent has its idiosyncrasies, like replacing ll’s with zh’s and using filler words like “che” or “viste”, but it is so much easier to understand and converse.

This week was a free week with no class, so I headed with a group of friends to Mendoza, Argentina. We left on Wednesday morning from Viña and got back Sunday afternoon. It was a wonderful city and I definitely want to return.

The first night we had some AMAZING steak and plenty of malbec to accompany it. We needed the protein for a strenuous next day. I know I said I would never do it again, but… the bicycles return. About thirty minutes outside of Mendoza is a town called Maipú which is FULL of vineyards. A certain Mr. Hugo rents bicycles there so that adventuresome folks can traipse along from bodega to bodega. That is exactly what we did. We tasted wine, olive oil, pestos, jams, liquors and chocolates all day. We even had lunch in a beer garden!

The next day was my favorite day by far because we went on a cabalgata (trail ride). My horse was named Alasam, and he was such a trooper scaling the hills. There were huge rocks on the trail and they didn’t phase him one bit. (no pun intended) I did see a shoe back at the barn area though and boy were they thin, about as thin as a dime. The rocks do take their toll. Anyway we rode through “Altas Montañas” and enjoyed the breathtaking views and the presence of our trusty steeds.

With my map in hand, I set off to explore Mendoza the next morning; I was determined on visiting as many plazas, churches, and museums as my feet would take me. Here are a few of my favorite places:

This was a comic book exposition from the 60’s. They enlarged the photos to be the size of the wall and filled this gallery with them. Originally I went in just to see the prints, but to my surprise about 15 minutes after I arrived, a crowd of people came in and started dancing the tango. What a gorgeous dance!

This plaza was full of a whole bunch of vendors selling antique silver, brass, and gold pieces.

Sweet, swirling onion rings. This space exposition was outside in Plaza Alemeda.Home sweet home. This is Plaza Chile where I stopped to give my feet a rest and eat some delicious, of-questionable-origin street food.

The church of San Martin. I love popping my head into the churches around the city. With all of the hustle and bustle of the city, churches are welcomed escapes for a chance to breathe and take it all in.

Returning back to Viña we took the road through the Andes at the pass called “Los Libertadores”. At every turn I’d pull out my camera to take a picture, but it is just one of those places that you have to be there to fully appreciate it. I don’t think I will ever get used to the mountains. They are just so immense and always in view, that I am constantly in awe. Don’t worry Mendoza, I’ll be back!

P.S. Tomorrow is September 27th, the comet Elenin (Planet X) will be aligned with the sun and the earth. Everyone here is predicting a massive earthquake. We’ll see…