Ah sweet Chile, you have outdone yourself. Una aventura maravillosa.
There was a strike by the colectivo drivers today, which I passed on my way to class — a row of colectivos driving slowly, and then more colectivos interspersed with traffic, all beeping their horns loudly. After class, there had been talk of an expedition to the beach, but instead, we decided to go visit our classmate F., in her house in el campo (out in the country).
We took the train from Valpo to a town called Limache; I hadn’t known there was a train in this city, but am very excited by this fact! They are my favorite mode of transportation. It was fascinating to watch Valpo & Viña del Mar slowly turn into dusty towns, and then chaparral hills. At the train station in Limache, F.’s boyfriend Fr. came to pick us up. Since he had a pickup truck, some of had to pile into the open back of the truck — slightly perilous but thrilling, freeing, delightful.
After perhaps ten minutes of bouncing along in the wind, we arrived at the front gate of their property, which F. jumped out to open. At the risk of sounding trite, their home is magical: its walls built of brick and shale-like rock, with large, light-bearing windows and sparse, elegant decoration. It is surrounded by half-wild gardens and bright young trees, with a pen full of geese and the neighbors’ horses grazing nearby. Their house is located near the larger house of Fr.’s family, as well as a few sheds and Fr.’s carpentry workshop (in a structure which he and F. built themselves).
Since we hadn’t eaten since morning, F. prepared a wonderful lunch of pasta with homemade spinach-onion sauce, followed by strawberries & cream & coffee. Fr.’s mum dropped by and talked to us, and politely complimented our conversational Spanish. Then, we went to look at Fr.’s carpentry workshop, which smelled pleasantly of unusual varieties of sawdust. He told us about working with more traditional methods of carpentry, like mortise-joints. He also showed us “the only green wood” — a hardwood that is naturally tinted green, and smells like anise; I wish I knew what it was called.
Our hosts departed, to grocery-shop and to pick up another truckload of classmates. My Swiss compañera M. and I spread a blanket out on the grass, and sat in the sun and chatted. We discovered that we share a deep love of the Harry Potter books, among other things, and had a grand time geeking back and forth.
The truckload of people returned, with groceries. The males all decided to play with Fr.’s rifle, shooting at cans and cigarettes, while the females opted to go see the neighbors’ horses. (Not to reinforce stereotypes or anything.) The horses were completely uninterested in these curious humans. However, one of the neighbors, a tall, thin, shy-seeming young girl, convinced the horse to let us pet it, as she told us in very rapid Spanish about its bridle and trappings.
Soon after we returned, the preparations for dinner began. Marvelous F. & co. had purchased an astounding amount of carne, as well as superbly ripe avocados, tomatoes, bread, and so on. They set up a grill outside and cooked the meat in waves, so that there was perpetually something hot. All of us ate far more than was sensible, and as soon as we’d finished a plate, there was more to be eaten. We sat and and nibbled and talked (in multiple languages) until it was dark, and the unfamiliar constellations had bloomed in the clear country sky.
Finally, all of us piled back into the bed of the pickup truck to return to the train station, clumped together for warmth and trying to figure out if we knew any of the same songs. We parted from F. and Fr. with standard Chilean cheek-kisses, spend an hour drowsily talking on the train, and then went to our separate colectivos, taxis, and beds.