24 January 2006

PEDAZOS (buyer beware: this is not a poem)

Chileans are the friendliest people I’ve ever met. That might sound trite, but their friendliness is profound.

Chile is most beautiful between 7 and 9 p.m., when in the country the line makes the fields and mountains a beautiful brown and green, and in the city the streets become alive and become serene at the same time.

In a small square in Bellavista, a wonderful, studenty, artsy area, a puppet theatre company set up and performed an hour-long show. One of the most creative live performances I’ve ever witnessed, though I don’t much know what it was about. About 100 Chileans gathered to watch, and they sat through the whole thing, appreciative and mesmerized.

The day we writers decide to hit Santiago and visit museums, it is, by coincidence, the one day of the year in which the museums are free till late from 6 p.m. Some great contemporary art out there. Also by coincidence, there is a book fair adjacent to El Museo de Belles Artes. I meet a really neat guy – a Chilean short-story writer named Lenin. We have a good chat. I buy his book, and from the same booth, a CD of readings by Roque Dalton!

Chilean dogs are the most cowering I’ve ever met. I really like them, though. Too many of them have only three legs.

When gringos suddenly think they’re lost on a local bus, everybody offers to help. Everybody cares.

Santiago is saturated with bookstores. Many Metro stations have pretty sophisticated book outlets too.

This is an amazing country. In spite of what the people here have been through, or perhaps because of it.


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