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Thursday, September 25, 2003

 
Chilean Fall
Today I got out my wool jacket from Chile. It's starting to get cooler here, you see. The trees haven't really started changing, but long sleeves are definitely far more pleasant for me now than short sleeves. I love my Chilean jacket. It is mostly black, with the front and back of the upper chest/shoulders woven in pretty fall-colored stripey patterns. It's not too heavy, not too light, a good autumn weight, and as I discovered in Chile, if you layer it with a sweatshirt or sweater, it can last pretty far into winter without feeling like too little.

It smells like Chile. It's been a little more than two full years since I was there, and it still has its own spicy, warm, downtown Santiago bazaar smell. As much as six months after I got back to the US from Chile, I was still finding little folded up city bus tickets. Every day, I would take a bus at least once, somewhere. To get to La Católica, I took the bus from my house at the corner of Irrarazaval and Diagonal Oriente to the nearest Metro stop, 15 minutes down Irarrázaval. I knew it was time to hit the button to get the bus to stop when we were in sight of the Peugot dealership, because the bus always went about a block or so past where you hit the button. Then I took the Metro the rest of the way, getting off directly in front of campus. Or I might take the bus downtown with Jessica to go shopping at the bazaar, or to get long-distance bus tickets to go to Argentina, or to the Council offices to print out a paper for class.

I remember seeing movies for just US$2, almost every week. There are still movies that I can't remember the names of in English. I saved all the ticket stubs. There was, of course, the continuing effort to find the perfect flavor combination of gelato before going into the theater, because in Chile, you can't get just one scoop, and asking for both to be the same flavor gets you stared at. Once, we went to the supermarket (not the Unimarc, the other one I can't remember the name of now), and bought one of every flavor of filled chocolate bar to conduct a scientific study. And I have been forever disappointed at not being able to find leche cultivada in the US, nor can I easily find true peach nectar.

My Chilean jacket holds many memories in its weave. Memories of Santiago and micros; of Puerto Montt and Chiloé; of Arica and Iquique; of coffee and medialunas while wandering the downtown streets of Mendoza; of Mt. Aconcagua; of the 32 switchback pass through the Andes; of gringo spotting in Cuzco; of the tiny hostel town in the high valley in Peru, seeing the mist coming through the mountains from the balcony at breakfast; of Machu Picchu in the rain; of llama and vicuñas and Lago Chungara, the highest lake in the world, (yes, higher than Titicaca). The jacket wasn't there for all of these things; I didn't buy it until later in my time there, but it holds all my memories nonetheless. I may not have found my life in Chile terribly easy, but I came back with the most invaluable experience of my life to date, and I am always happy to remember it.

Tomorrow, my class will be talking about national parks in the US. I will take some of my pictures from other national parks with me. While I hope my students like looking at the pictures, I think I'm going to get the most enjoyment out of looking through the albums tonight.

To remembrance.

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