Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Way of El Campo

I love the outdoors. There’s something peaceful about leaving behind civilization, technology, and mass transit. After spending two weeks timing the Transantiago subway, dodging dog poop, navigating traffic, and feeling isolated by buildings and houses lining street after street, I was ready for a weekend in the countryside. I even expected Marlen’s family’s farm to be much more rustic. When she said that the bathroom was outside, I was expecting an outhouse with questionable electricity. Instead, Los Robles struck a balance between wild tranquility and comfort.

I even felt more at ease in Talca. As much as I’ve enjoyed Santiago as a city, I’ve had difficulty characterizing it. I love the color of the houses and graffiti on various barrios. However, I’ve struggled to find a personifiable culture among the bricks, wood, and metal. In other words, what’s at the core of Chilean culture outside of the offering of a large city? Upon leaving the train station at Talca, I commented on how I liked the charm and authenticity of the smaller city. It felt different. It certainly wasn’t a city you’d find in the U.S., nor did its architecture feel like a historical European city. While there are thousands of cities like Talca all over the world and dozens in Chile, it still felt unique. The bus depot was full of tired looking people. Their faces showed the wear of a harder life. The wandering clown that entertained us briefly on our mini bus felt like an individual with a story to tell. I think it’s hard to see individuality in large, developed cities. Everyone always seems hurried. With nearly seven million people in Santiago, you aren’t likely to run into someone again.

Life in the campo can’t feel any more different than life in Santiago. Elana, thanks to an energetic horse, was able to talk to Raúl, the caballero for a while. She talked to him about life in the campo. Apparently, Raúl grew up in Los Robles and moved to Santiago. He moved back to el campo because he didn’t like life in Santiago. People stole. There was pollution. According to Raúl, none of these problems exist in el campo. People are friendly. If you need something, your neighbors are there to help you in el campo. Few people steal.

The views from el campo were incredible. We were fortunate that the skies were clear, especially on Sunday. We could see the snow-capped peaks of the pre-cordillera. The air was fresh and crisp. The scene was a far cry from Santiago. Horseback was a great way to see the landscape, although it was a bit stressful at times listening to Raúl’s rapid Spanish using words that I don’t even know in English. The experience reminded me a bit of my art history class in Spain. I struggled to understand the Spanish because I didn’t know the words in English. Additionally, I milked, well attempted to milk a cow for the first time. I was glad that I volunteered since the experience was not something that I would usually do, nor would I have the chance again for a long time.

As a group, we had a lot of good discussions. We all had a great chance to get to know Marlen better. She really has made our time in Chile great.

1 comment:

  1. qué lindooooooo, eres mi NO periodista favorito.