Sunday, July 28, 2013

Trail of a Lonesome Gringo (II): Home Again

Hasta luego means something like ‘until soon’, I said that over and over in my mind and probably aloud the last time I left.  White-washed streets as tranquil as tranquil gets, for streets anyhow; Clint Eastwood put me to sleep last night and believe me, he’s far more tender than you might think.  Some cop drama I’d seen before but hell at least I forgot me troubles, laddy; warm water, as always, like a womb, even if water spilled all down the shower curtain and made a flood in the tiny bathroom.  Too easy to flood, me says.  And when the shower curtain funnels it all down one little section where it’s not pulled into the actual shower, it pretty much guarantee maximum floodage.  Clean again, home again, alone but not stoned again.  Very fresh morning, overcast and crisp.  Kindly folk, like a country town but now quite country; rural-feeling, lots of space and little shops selling little things.  Hostel with a warm fire and a kindly, kindly old soul who I can throw Spanish to without worry.  She’s not the first, nor the last apparently, ‘cos then I went to the square (how I love the squares here), called in pretty much all the towns I’ve visited here, the plaza de armas.  It’s weird ‘cos it seems to mean the ‘weapons’ or ‘arms’ square.  Ironic or am I completely misinformed?  Paz is all they seem to harbour.  Peace.  Comfortability somewhat established I am unleashed feeling less ill than before, though the fact that I wake not hungry is slightly concerning.  Onwards and across.  The square, markets, local people and families wandering about on an empty-feeling Sunday.  Muesli with all sorts of things in it: sustenance.  I buy it immediately with some dried cranberries.  This cuerpa must be fed.  Soon it will come wanting...!  The dogs here are very sleepy.  Hungry like me.  All the dogs are very at home where they are; they aren’t phased by the gringo, or the locals, or anything much really.  Lots of pet shops here too; people seem to care about them—or at least they don’t mind their presence.  Eduardo is a man with a broom, sweeping away at the markets; he’s not a janitor though, he has a stall selling emu oil, t-shirts, a few knick-knacks.  He’s from the mountains though now, he says, he travels about selling stuff.  His enthusiasm and friendliness is a little disconcerting, which says more about me than him I think.  Broken Spanish and suddenly he’s drawing me a map to his town, up in the mountains, los Andes, way way out where there are more indigenous people.  Two hours across to a town named Ovalle, then up, up, way up to the mountains.  The mountains.  Montanas.  As we speak two or three people come to join, asking if he needs someone to translate; god knows how they know English, or why they’re so keen to help.  This friendliness is astounding.  Smiling, smiling, he jots his phone number down and says to call some time when I’m in Ovalle, or to visit the markets there where I will find him and he can show me around.  He has a daughter and a wife and lots of cute dogs.  He seems jittery and a bit nervous, but with a kind heart.  I thank him and wander off, no direction, just keeping track of where I came from.  A lady in the street.  Beggar?  She holds some herbs, starts ranting to me and gesturing towards the herbs; I think she’s a beggar and so grab a few coins out and she takes them but it’s not over; she pulls me to a door and grabs my hand, and I start to feel a bit worried—are we going inside?  Shit.  What do I do?  But no, she grabs my hand and starts reading it, babbling away in Spanish far too quick for me to understand much at all.  She keeps touching the herbs onto my hand and then, pulling a note out of her satchel, gesticulates with the note across my hand.  Eventually I realise that the reading has ended already; she wants more dosh to read more.  I tell her no, no entiendo bastante!  I don’t understand enough!  While she was reading I tried to feel her voice more than understand the words; she did seem to be doing something as all this was going on.  They’re common here.  Tarot readers, all that kind of thing.  I plan now to get a few readings, maybe record them or get the reader to write them down.  I leave the woman and stroll casually down the street, surely to the amusement of the locals.  Oftentimes I find myself heading down a street or road, stopping and turning back.  This is necessary when you have no idea where you are or what you’re doing, but to local people it must be a sure sign: this person is not from here.  Nonetheless, it must be done; otherwise, where do you go?  Continue into a wall just to prove to people you don’t know that you’re cool, know what’s going on?  Foolish either way, perhaps.  Stop, about turn, walk.  Markets, streets, shops, restaurants; but everything here seems smaller, more humble.  No one seems to be too concerned with themselves only.  Social.  Tranquil.  Even the supermarket is quieter, less commercial (complete paradox, I know).  Fruit, water, nuts, bread, juice.  Stuff to live.  Away and back again but I see the Japanese gardens and have to go in, carrying all my grocery bags, not the best choice but now that I’m here I have to go in.  Japanese gardens in the middle of a Chilean town.  Beautiful.  No words.  Zen.  Home again.

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