hills & drummers & paintings & cheek-kisses

it’s simple, even a little stupid, but among my favorite local features so far are the hills. Viña is basically built on a cliff: houses perch on incredibly steep inclines, and the downtown area sits on a plain at the bottom. this means a few things: driving, whether uphill or down, always feels a little perilous; lots of buildings look like they’re barely balancing upright, but are kept aloft by inventive architecture; and many, many things hide in the sharp peaks and dips.

a stroll down one of the steep roads to downtown Viña. the walls are painted all sorts of brilliant colors.

we drove yesterday to Quilpue, a town about a half hour from Viña, to have lunch with Diego’s family. the highways wind through more hills, sandy and cactus-covered, and every turn of the car brought a surprise–like, entire towns would appear in pockets where I’d only seen trees a moment before. amazing.

greenery in the sloping garden outside the apartment.
a view of Viña from the garden around Sarah and Diego’s building.

today, we went to Valparaiso for a parade, part of this weekend’s Carnaval Mil Tambores–Festival of a Thousand Drums. the atmosphere, the people, the music, the art: everything was amazing. children, youth and old people alike, in varying states of nudity, painted their faces & bodies; everyone danced in the road with troupes of garishly costumed drummers.


one of several groups in the parade.

unlike parades in the States, spectators didn’t stand behind barriers to give the performers space, but wove in and out of the drummers’ formation. I watched a dreadlocked clown cheekily imitate the leader of the drum troupe behind him; another face-painted mime navigated the edges of the crowd, grabbing people to dance with him.

the little girl in the middle was probably around 8 or 9, but she had some siiickkk moves. Sarah and I were super jealous.

I’ve seen, driving around, that both Viña and Valparaiso have incredible paintings on walls all over the city; Valparaiso, Sarah told me, is renowned for its graffiti. every single surface has something gorgeous & super weird on it. I’m going back tomorrow for a walking tour–after I configure my  phone and buy a Metrocard, my first solo Chilean errands.

one of Valparaiso’s many, many murals.

I’m totally blown away by everything I’ve experienced so far. aside from the sights, the people are incredibly kind and genuine. everyone here is so warm, and affection is a significant part of the culture: the customary greeting is a kiss on the right cheek, and personal space doesn’t exist in quite the same way. I love it, though I’m not yet used to it; I still flinch a bit if someone brushes my arm in passing, and I notice myself stiffening in surprise at momentary physical contact. in this, and in general, I hope to shed a lot of my anxiety in the coming days and weeks. I’m growing more confident speaking Spanish (until this evening, Sarah and Diego and I have stuck to a firm no-English rule, even in intense discussions of politics or religion), but it frustrates me that I can’t express myself quite as I would if I were speaking English. though I’m fairly at ease in one-on-one exchanges, I quickly get lost in a group conversation; I remain pretty much silent and ignorant unless someone explains to me what’s going on. I’m afraid I seem rude or aloof, while I actually just can’t keep up most of the time. again, though, Chileans are tremendously sweet about this–almost everyone I meet promises to talk slower to help me out.

so–here’s hoping this week brings improvement in that area, and in others! thank you for reading, my friends!

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