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Fiestas Patrias, Part 2

¡Hola todos, otra vez!
I must say, when I said in the previous post that I would probably write another sometime this week, I didn’t think it would be this soon. But today’s events, and pictures, are just begging to be shared.

So on Tuesday, after finally finishing the previous post in the morning, I was planning on visiting some museums, in order to make the most of my days off from school. I even made a list and everything. But then my host mom informed that it’s a work holiday too, which means nothing would be open. And sure enough, once I actually started checking the hours of all the museums I was interested in visiting, they were all closed the 18th and the 19th. This put a serious crimp in my plans, and after finding that out, I pretty much set about moping around in my room and watching tv shows. Very effective problem solving, I know. But after lunch (my host mom made homemade cheese empanadas. I ate 5), my host brother Seba (Benja is with his dad until Wednesday) invited me to play PS3. He had bought it the day before, though his mom only let him do it if he bought her a TV that cost half as much as the PS3. Needless to say, he went through with it. He now has zero money, a fact that he spent half of the day lamenting. The other half he spend excited out of his mind about finally having a PS3. But this post is not about a gaming console. While we were playing, Gloria came in and said that the Santibanez (the grandmother had come up from Talca for las Fiestas Patrias) were going to a fonda to celebrate el Dieciocho and told Seba to get ready, which he didn’t. She asked me if I would like to go with them, and at first I was tempted to say no, for a very stupid reason (Champions League soccer!). But after some thinking I realized that this was an amazing opportunity, and that soccer could wait. So I told them I would very much like to accompany them and went downstairs to get changed. By the time I got upstairs … Seba still hadn’t changed. We ended up playing for another half hour before leaving, which was really fun actually, though quite frustrating for Gloria (though I must say, it took her another ten minutes to get ready after Seba and I had turned off the PS3. Mothers are the same everywhere, I guess).

We went to the fonda in Parque Padre Hurtado, which had actually only been recently renamed thus. It used to be called Parque Intercomunal de la Reina, which is how Gloria and her friend Tia (Tia is what children here call adults that they know, or are friends of their parents, it literally means aunt) Anni, whom we picked up on our way into the parque. I think Anni and Gloria work there, because we didn’t have to pay anything to enter or park the car (and I know for a fact that the usual entrance fee is 4000 because on Monday some girls from IFSA went there), and they seemed to know a lot of the other people working there. Also, both of them were joking about being rompefilas (something akin to people who ditch in lines). We arrived around 4:30, and Seba and I split off from the women (Gloria, Anni and la Cuca, the grandmother), but not before Gloria gave Seba 3000 pesos to spend (he didn’t have any money of his own, after all, remember?). This would come into play very soon. But first we walked through a series of exhibitions by the Chilean Armed Forces. Each branch had their own tent, filled with things pertaining to that branch. In the carabinero’s tent there was a table with examples of various illegal substances. In the Military School’s tent there was a Humvee with a machine gun. In the Army’s tent there was an Armored Personal Carrier and other military equipment. And so on. Seba and Benja had already been there last week (this particular fonda  had opened quite a while ago), and Seba had already told me that he had asked as many questions as he could about the military, which he, being twelve, wants to join when he grows up. But he had forgotten to ask if they accepted asthmatics (which he is) at the Military School. I reminded him that he wanted to ask, and watching him screw up the courage to ask was almost heartbreaking, as was the relief when one soldier told him an unequivocal yes, and his attempt to rationalize the response of the second soldier he asked, who told him that he couldn’t answer that question because he didn’t know exactly, but that asthma could be very dangerous.

After this, we walked around searching for somewhere where he could spend the money (his words) his mother had given him. We walked past several small outdoor restaurants selling empanadas, choripanes and anticucho (meat on a stick), but it all looked too expensive. Then, however, we stumbled (though drawn by the magnificent aroma is more like it) upon a stall selling Argentinean chocolates. I don’t really know what’s so special about Argentinean chocolates, but it seemed to be a big deal because it was rather pricey. We eventually bought 6000 pesos worth of chocolate and proceeded to stuff our faces until we both felt quite sick. But wonderful at the same time, if that makes sense. The chocolate also made us quite thirsty, and so we decided to go looking for his mom, to ask her for the keys to the car, where we had left a lunch box with some drinks.

We didn’t find her for a while, but this allowed us to see quite about of the fonda, which was simply huge. We eventually found our way to a rodeo type area that was absolutely packed with people (as you can see in the pictures). We watched a horse show that reflect the history and traditions of Chile for a bit (Cuca would later tell us that it they were dancing the cueca on horseback), but ultimately made our way back to the place we had left the car. Along the way we were able to admire the humongous number of attractions and games on offer, from inflatable castles and obstacle courses to zip lines to carnival games.

After reuniting with Gloria, Anni and la Cuca, we proceeded to try to find a place to eat. We sat down at one of the small outdoor restaurants, though not before receiving some kind of discount (we got 5 anticuchos for 5000, even though they actually cost 3000 pesos each) – again, I think Gloria and Anni knew some of the people working there (especially because we had to shake some hands before leaving). The service, however, turned out to be terrible. Our French fries arrived on time, but we had to ask about our anticuchos no less than five times. And once they finally arrived, they were still almost completely raw, so we sent them back to the grill, which of course meant we had to wait even longer. In order to pass the time, Anni ordered a terremoto (literally “earthquake”) – a traditional Chilean drink that consists of pineapple ice-cream and pipeño, an extremely sweet fermented wine – which she then proceeded to share around the table. After eating our anticuchos, which were delicious if still a bit suspect (la Cuca collected the pieces that were still very raw in a plastic bag. I thought she was going to throw them away, but when we got home later, she put the bag in the fridge and told me, oh we can cook this later. Very resourceful, my host grandmother), Gloria and Anni went to stage type area to dance the cueca. There were so many people dancing, it was amazing. It seems as if almost every Chilean knows their national dance, which is just plain awesome. Seba, at this point, wanted, being twelve, to go home and play PS3, but after some cajoling (read: bribing – his mom promised to help him move the TVs around if he danced with her) consented to dance with his mom. And he can actually dance really well too, like Benja. So can Gloria, by the way. And Anni. She and Gloria danced maybe 7 rounds. Oh and the grandmother too.  Like I said, everybody. I danced with Gloria once and la Cuca once, but when I say dancing, I mean stomping my feet and trying desperately to follow the movements of my partner, while at the same time frantically avoiding the twirling and stomping of the other Chileans around me. It was quite exhilarating. Seba took a few pictures of me with my camera, which unfortunately didn’t turn out that great because it was already rather dark and I was moving fairly quickly. But they exist! They’re proof!

By this time it was past 8, and Seba was getting antsy, as his PS3 playing time was slipping away. His mom promised only one more dance, but I told him we probably wouldn’t leave for a while. You were right, he told me mournfully, as we watched Anni and Gloria dance for a third time.

At the end, as we were getting into the car to leave, la Cuca said, “Lo pasamos super bien. We had a really, really good time.” And I couldn’t help but agree with her.

And now, while that would be a perfect place, literary technique wise, to end the piece, that’s not quite where the story ended. Because as it turns out, Gloria and Anni decided to go back after dropping Seba, la Cuca and me off back home. Anni was just a slight bit tipsy from her terremoto, which made the trip home even more hilarious, and inadvertently made a Simon Says joke (in Spanish), which both found absolutely hysterical. Then Gloria turned on the radio, and they sang along to the music. They were both very excited to head back. Seba was just excited to be able to play video games without his mother hovering around.

And I was so, so glad I had decided to forego watching soccer.

Enjoy the pictures!

Chao, that’s it for now! I hope you enjoyed my story as much as I enjoyed my evening! I may write a part three later this week, we’ll see!
Until next time!

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