Three weeks and change in Santiago, Chile. My roller coaster disposition continues to take me to new highs and lows, just as it always has. One would think that by now I’d be used to the feeling of my stomach bottoming out or my head in the clouds, but every day brings a new curve in the tracks. Even one simple fact, like that I’ve already eaten up nearly a month of my time here, can be a drop or a climb, depending on when you ask me.
Last night I left my host family’s house at 12:30 am. Destination? A carrete that boasted the unlikely theme of Popeye, the ancient cartoon character with upsetting forearms and the apparent superhuman ability to obtain energy from canned spinach. I scrambled into the three-door car, nearly spilling a water bottle full of piscola. After a second of the mild discomfort that goes along with introducing oneself, I was like part of the family. ‘The family’ referring to two gay guys several years older than I, and my friend from the metro. No one spoke English. The guy who I was sitting next to started talking to me a mile a minute, jabbering about this and that, TV shows, movies. After ten minutes or so he said something along the lines of, “wait, you can understand me, right? tell me to talk slower if you don’t. we chilenos can be a handful.”
I guess I should back up. The story of how exactly I got to Club Burbujas is too good to not share with the internet.
About a week ago I was I was reading my book on the way home when a camera’s flash shattered the banality of the metro car. Without a doubt, it was targeted at me. It’s hard to say exactly what I felt upon realizing I was the star of this random act of documentation. Offended, definitely. I thought it might have something to do with me looking like a gringa. Curious, definitely. Despite the weirdness, I was at least a little bit flattered that someone thought I was worth capturing on film.
It took me several metro stops to get up the courage to ask what, exactly, the deal was. When I finally sat down next to her, my Spanish sounded awkward and foreign, even to my own ears. I asked her why she was taking photos, and she responded with something general about ‘la gente linda.’ I took a breath and asked, more directly, why she took a photo of me. Although I can’t remember what she said, I do remember that she handed me the small Polaroid that her camera had spit out moments before. In it I look remarkably tranquil. My backpack is slung over the front half of my body, my fat book is laying wide open, my hair and my beanie blend together in a mass of shadow above my face. The picture is now tucked safely in a folder with my other paper memories of Santiago so far. Bus tickets, receipts, the occasional sketch.
We both stayed on the metro until the end of the line. While I had to cut things short because my micro was about to round the corner, we at least had time to exchange Facebook information and a friendly farewell.
Less than a week later, here I am, recovering from my first all nighter since I-don’t-know-when. The party turned out to be a little bit less than riveting (Facebook is a great liar when it comes to attendance) so we left around 3 am and went to her house. For the next five hours I drank piscola and listened to the unique collection of modismos that make up the Chilean dialect. Every once in a while I would offer my two cents, absolutely butchering the thoughts I was trying to express, but I consider it a start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, weon. Despite my terrible grammar and funny accent, it would appear that I have made myself a few new friends.
As for where I’ll find myself next, I can’t quite say. What I do know is that anything, even the innocuous flash of a camera, can be the start to a beautiful, unlikely adventure.