November 5, 2011: Surprise circus

The daytime passed quietly. I’ve discovered that my new rule of Don’t try to do errands in Chile on a Sunday should really be expanded to Don’t try to do errands in Chile on a weekend at all. Many useful things, like the post office, close by early afternoon. Oh well! I got a variety of Useful Adult things done at home, though.

In the evening, I had planned to get dinner and drinks with M. and R. However, as evening approached, M. called and said that her boss (P.) had invited her to a cultural event of some sort; would I care to come along to that instead? Uh, sure, I replied, picturing something with chamber music and traditional costumes.

I ambled down to el centro in search of a bus. This was the first time I’d walked extensively through the city after dark — it’s a differently textured place, with a whole different set of smells. People spill from every doorway, and a new half of the city is lit up: restaurants, bars, and botillerías that were usually shuttered before.

Since few buses were running, P. swung by to grab me in her Jeep. As she drove, she explained exactly where we were going: to a cultural center to see el circo, Malabicirco. Circo? It was a familiar word but I couldn’t remember what it meant. As explanation, P. hummed a few bars of “Entry of the Gladiators” — oh, a circus! Really? Excellent.

The Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland ain’t nothing compared to driving through the Valpo hills in a Jeep — bumping over cobblestones, sudden screeching stops, rolling back down hills a few meters before the accelerator can kick in, bone-rattling tight turns, coughing engine, and hurtling across intersections. No giant snakes or skeletons, though, at least as far as I saw.

We finally arrived at the cultural center (a big dusty lot with a circus tent set up in the back), and wedged ourselves into the crowd. The show was already in progress, with a tall, beskirted bald man and a lady clown in a fabulous ruffled satin dress acting as ringleaders. There was a lot of humorous rapid commentary, of which I caught very little. An acquaintance from Spain said he had only understood about 40% of it, because the Spanish was highly dialectized, so I felt a bit better.

Aerial rope artist and his shadow.

During the second half of the show, they had some issues with the lights, so a few promising acts had to be cut short — high trapeze is not something you want to be doing in the dark. Still, every act was interlaced with humor, and there was enough physical comedy and sheer acrobatic skill that I really enjoyed the show, even though my Spanish lagged.

Trapeze-esque act (blurry, but you get the idea).

I also took some video of the show — see below. The video shows: (1) a clown who came onstage pregnant, and then gave birth to three hats, which cried loudly unless she was wearing or playing with them. (2) Two acrobats in a morning-after scenario, where the lady is trying desperately to sneak out and the man is convinced she should stay. (3) A silks artist endeavoring to be exotic, except that his music kept switching over to jolly folk music, or speeding up so fast that he could barely keep up, etc. Pleasingly silly.

Once the circus ended (around 2am), I prepared to leave, but P. informed us that there would be a live band performance later on; would we like to stay? Well, sure. We waited in the chill for a while, and then went back indoors for the band, Poder Guadaña, whose genre is evidently “hip-hop merengue cumbia techno reggae funk.” Nice energetic music; we danced on the floor for the whole time they played.

Once the band finished, we headed out into the night. I finally spotted a constellation I recognized: Orion! Except he was upside-down. What a strange feeling, to think about how far from home I must be for good ol’ Orion to be standing on his head.

Stunning lit-up city laid out below us. Jeez, Valpo, I understand that you're a great city. You don't need to awe me at every turn! (But please don't stop.)

We found a taxi and stacked ourselves into its backseat; it dropped me off at the bottom of my hill, where I queued for a colectivo to take me the rest of the way home (for safety). While waiting, I encountered the only Americans I’ve seen in Chile so far: a small pack of obnoxious young drunks, who got in line behind me. I suppose — with my back to them and my dark hair — I passed as chilena, because they talked as though no-one nearby could understand them. At first, they complained about how Chileans don’t know how to line up properly. Then, when they realized that they would have to wait for a second colectivo, they ran over to the first colectivo before it reached the line, and tried to board it before we could. When the driver wouldn’t let them, they returned to the line, but attempted to push past the other people who were waiting. When they failed, they scolded each other: “God, you’ve gotta be more assertive.” What buttheads. I hope that I never inadvertently act as rudely as them.

Anyways: one more jostling ride up the hill, and I was dropped off at my street around 4am. (I’ve been told that the norm for Chilean nightlife is to go out at 1am and not come home until 6am, but I feel way too old and tired to manage that.) Through the cold, fresh night once more, and then I dove into my cozy bed.

3 thoughts on “November 5, 2011: Surprise circus

  1. Similar to Spain. When I was there they thought it was very strange that we do things so early in the USA. Sometimes they don’t even eat dinner until 11 or 12 at night and it’s not uncommon to go out later than that. We were routinely getting home at dawn! Envious, I was!
    Also, I liked your observation of Orion! I hope to check out the southern skies someday…

    1. In theory, I like the idea, but in practice, I end up thinking, “It’s 2am and I’m tiiiiired and I want to sleep, or at least be at home reading or computing.” I ain’t as young as I once was. Mmm, Spain… I want to go to Spain. And I hope that you do have the chance for southern skies someday soon!

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