You can get yourself clean, you can have a good meal
The storm starts on a Wednesday. When my classes let out it is only sprinkling so I decide to walk home. Twenty-five minutes later, it was still only sprinkling but my pants are now skintight. On a narrow stretch of sidewalk, a man runs toward me, yelling. I am scared but he passes without incident. A bus passes moments later, showering me with gutter water. When I get home, the power is out. Class is canceled for the rest of the week. Pauli takes me to the grocery store with the best view in the country. The streets are empty, save for pairs of blonde-haired tourists. After we buy candles, a friend who owns a car picks us up and takes us to Playa Ancha to see the waves. On the way home, we drive through the cerros to see how much of the city is without electricity. A police officer in a green trench coat diverts traffic away from the beach. We eat once by candlelight: toasted pan with butter and honey, a gas-station variety pack of manjar-filled wafer cookies, black tea steeped with orange peel and cinnamon. Outside, it rains lightly. The next day I wake up early, shower and then walk to a café to use the Internet. The cashier looks at my wet hair with wide eyes. I look at photos of the storm on my phone. A wave crashes up onto the highway and over a micro; water rushes into a carpeted hallway at the Sheraton Hotel in Viña, then recedes; a section of tiled ground plummets down and out of site as construction workers make repairs nearby. The upstairs neighbors tweet at the power company until our lights come back on.
One weekend we travel to Santiago and meet up with Max, a childhood friend of mine. We are at the Estación Central and he is at the Estación Central but we cannot find each other. In time we realize that there are two central stations. We climb San Cristobal. At the top there is a 70-foot tall statue of the Virgin Mary and a stand selling mote con huesillos. Later, we walk along the Mapocho River. The water is brown. Max’s phone reports that we have walked fourteen miles in total. For dinner, we get pizzas. One per person. The restaurant has heating lamps and free agua sin gas in full size glasses and a bathroom with toilet paper and small white plates full of spices that you can sprinkle on top of the pizza. The next day we walk fourteen miles more. We are awed by the quiet, the men sweeping the streets early in the morning, the highway that is closed to automobiles for four hours every Sunday morning, the absence of dogs.
The next time the upstairs neighbors bake bread, I ask for the recipe. One kilo of flour, yeast, warm water, salt, and sugar, I am told. The oven has no temperature controls and the kitchen no measuring cups. I make oatmeal cookies with friends instead. There is no baking powder at the store so we don’t use any. Joanna advises me to flip the cookies over half way through baking and I do. They are crisp on both sides and gone before the night is over.
On the first warm day I run into Sofia on Calle Almirante Montt. We buy warm bread at Patio Volantin as an excuse to talk to someone there and find out what exactly Patio Volantin is, but the man at the door talks in a hushed voice and tells us a meeting is session so we take our bread and leave. We continue up Ecuador and pass Sitio Eriazo: a junkyard-turned-community space where stylish thirty-somethings are cooking slices of vegan pizza in a wood stove. A slice is 500 pesos, less than a dollar. We each eat two. We’re not sure what this place is, either. The table where we sit has a jacket hung over the back of a small metal chair. The jacket’s owner returns and offers us sips of mate from her mug. She wears burgundy tights and a brown velvet tunic. A Werner Herzog documentary about caves in the south of France is projected onto a dirty sheet.
Recent accomplishments include: running to Viña del Mar, cooking a meal for Pauli and JP, befriending the owner of the sweater store.