I know I posted very recently, but we went on a paseo today in which we could not take many photos, and I feel like I have to write it down before the images fade in my mind.
Today, we visited La Isla Negra, which is one of Pablo Neruda’s houses, located on the Pacific coast. Pablo Neruda, in case you don’t know, is one of the most important Latin American writers ever. He won a Nobel Prize (although fellow Chilean Gabriela Mistral did it first!) in Literature and served as Chile’s ambassador in various posts. Neruda is one of my favorite writers. That says a lot, considering that I’m not one for poetry. Neruda and Mistral are major exceptions to that rule. I especially appreciate Neruda’s political poetry, in particular Canto general, an epic poem about which I wrote one of the few research papers I’ve ever actually enjoyed writing.
Sadly, we were not allowed to take photos of the interior of the house. That’s probably a good thing, since there were so many things to remember that I’d have taken a photo every step of the way. What I will say is that the house absolutely met my expectations for eccentricity. Read some of his poetry sometime, especially his surrealist works. I don’t understand it in English. The house corresponds with this. The decoration of the house, however, also connects to his poetic style: it’s deliberate. Everything has a point. Everything means something. Just like his poetry.
Many of the items might not seem like something a great artist would own, but according to the audio guide (none of the following information is my own knowledge!) they’re there for a reason. Many items belong in the house because they evoke the maritime theme present throughout- for instance, one set of windows has ships in a bottle perched along the panes, because they appear to be floating on the sea beyond. Other collectibles evoked certain memories of the poet, and others played to his inner child. An active inner child was very important to Neruda- and so, his childhood stuffed lamb remains perched above his bed. I loved getting this look into the life and creative process of one of my favorite artists.
Then it was off to lunch! I had my first pisco sour today.
The pisco sour is one of the major ways in which pisco is served in Chile. I consider this a real grown-up drink, and man, you have to be a grown-up to drink this. Once again, Chileans make their drinks muy fuerte. I took the entire lunch to finish just one, knowing that we still had stuff to do and a two-hour bus ride after lunch.
For lunch, we had fish. When you’re at a beachside restaurant, you order the fish. Trust me.
And before we headed home, we had a little more beach time.
Enough with pictures and poets and pescado.
As of Sunday, I will have completed three full weeks away from home, including that first day spent in an airport. In those two weeks, I have lived in three places: in a retreat house; with a family in Linares; and now with a family in Santiago, where I will remain until December.
Both of my host families, upon showing me around the house, have told me, “Estás en tu casa.” In English this means, “You are in your house.” But what does this really mean? In our program, we live with families, and we are supposed to be part of the family. But you don’t become part of the family overnight. You have to learn the family dynamic and figure out what role you play there. I think I did it in Linares, and now I have to do it again here in Santiago- but in some sense, it’s a bigger role, since I’m here for so much longer.
I do have the very good fortune of living with a family who hosted a good friend of mine about a year ago, and so she’s given me the inside scoop. However, I am not my friend. We will have different roles in this house, this home, this family. I’ve received a very warm welcome: a metro card, slippers, a calendar, a bathrobe, and an adaptor for my electronics were all provided for me upon my arrival. Besides that, my host dad has put together my snack every night for me to bring wherever the next day, and when he saw that I was missing my down key on my computer, he went and got me a new one, without my even asking or mentioning it.
Obviously, these are all very good things, and I’m so excited to get to know the family better. But when do you really feel like you’re home? When does tu casa turn into tu hogar? Is it when you come home and you know exactly where everything is? Is it when you’re not worried about getting in the shower when someone else might need it? Is it when you know how to say goodbye in more words than, “Chao! Que te vaya bien!”? Is it when you know how you’re supposed to say goodnight?
That’s when this starts to happen, when you would give anything not to have those questions and be back where you never had to learn any of it. But it’s also when I have to remember what I talked about here, in the sense that this is a learning experience. It’s a time for immense growth. It all takes time. It just cannot be figured out right away, no matter how well you plan or how many emails you send to your family ahead of time.
When I’ve had moments like that recently, where I start getting worried or anxious, I’ve really been clinging to this prayer by Santa Teresa de Ávila. The rhythm in Spanish is like a mantra:
Nada te turbe. Nada te espante. Todo se pasa. Dios no se muda. La paciencia todo lo alcanza. Quien a Dios tiene nada le falta. Solo Dios basta.
In English: Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. All things pass. God never changes. Patience achieves everything. They who have God lack nothing. God alone is enough.
With love and saludos,