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!