Lunch today, coffee and an empanada,
because I was preparing for a day of sitting
on a bus and not really eating anything, just
peanuts, and skittles.
Sitting here instead,
Blue jeans rolled up to thighs, gray worn t-shirt
I’ve been wearing for days.
The empanada came wrapped in butcher paper,
then dropped in a plastic bag.
The bag fogs, immediately,
The empanada microwaved before sale.
21st century convenience, supposedly.
Sometimes I wonder,
Is this wandering and drinking bad coffee some glimpse of Kerouac’s life?
I’m no Jack.
He would probably be across the border in Argentina.
Part of a mate circle.
Hitching his way down long dusty Ruta 40.
I’m here in Santiago
the definition of South American city urbanity
In a country so American I feel like I’m home already.
And that’s not just been-gone-for-so-long homesickness talking.
Chile and Argentina, completely different countries.
They share the third largest border in the world.
They can’t even agree on power socket designs.
Us, we all feel a pull towards one over the other.
Chile weighs in being more American, Argentina more Latin.
Chileans speak a Spanish that they don’t have time for,
Words are shortened, squished-together, dropped.
When Chileans ask, “Where are you from?”
You say, “Soy Americano” because to say “Los Estados Unidos” is too drawn out
and they lost interest halfway through
and don’t care enough to understand.
They like to talk.
They put their own special pronunciation on everything.
They pull up a chair when you’re sitting alone in a bakery,
Pretty nice people.
Argentineans gather a group of friends, or strangers,
passing around a gourd of mate tea around the circle,
refilling from a bottomless thermos of hot water as the gourd empties.
I haven’t seen Chileans pass around much more than a bottle of Coke Zero.
At border crossings between the two countries:
Coming into Chile they confiscate our food;
Coming into Argentina we’re plied with goat sandwiches and wine,
and a bed if it’s that time of day.
There are other sides to the differences.
Argentina’s economy tanked, Chile’s didn’t.
So Argentineans drive rustbuckets, Chileans drive brand new Fords.
The list goes on.
These are just generalities to set the scene.
I don’t know that I would come back to Chile to live, later,
But there’s a comfort to being here now,
Walking among people so similar.
We can joke and make fun about how the Chileans are so damn cold compared to the Argentineans.
But on a one-to-one level it’s not true.
I’ve loved my time here.
Some time biking, some time with a friend, some time not moving getting work done.
Trip end is coming up.
There’s talk about sadness revolving around that.
A finale always brings change.
But change brings its own opportunities.
I’m looking forward to the upcoming chapters.
You are definitely ON THE ROAD!
Go Sam Go!
I sent it on to Miriam, who enjoyed reading your account. She spent a semester in Santiago (2005) and got your entry on Chile/Argentina while in Seville, Spain. Another comparison. But Valparaiso is where I want to go. The scenery is worthy of paintings. And ports and seasides touches me. Best of luck with the next step.
Great to hear from you, Tove! Valparaiso was a great place to spend some time, lots going on there. Hope all is well with you all!
this was beautifully written.