Hello folks back home.
As you welcome the first signs of spring, we are entering the Chilean September. The mornings here in the valley are sometimes foggy enough to wet the stone paths between buildings. S reports the fog can last all day where he is, down by the shore. (A New Jersey-ism of his.)
Blessedly, there are still days sunny enough to warm the water in the pool, although I no longer count on a daily swim. I’ve made enough progress that a lesson in stroke improvement would no longer be an utter waste of money.
The weather is inspiring S to push out the last 5 of the 16 chapters he needed to write this trip. We may well be ready to push on when my “paid for” days here run out: March 13. We need to leave the country by March 29, the day our 90-day visa expires. We’ll go south to return the casa rodante to Talca and will then head north by bus to warm up again. Probably going to Peru for a week or so of warm-ocean swimming.
More than a month of this trip remains. I’ve been struggling with depression the past few days; am glad to be feeling better today. I feel spread thin, like rolled-out pie dough. Yesterday, I ended up in La Ligua. I didn’t want to go to La Ligua. I wanted to go to Pichidanqui. (A difference of some 65 kilometres.) But the bus I caught didn’t go any further toward Pichidanqui than the stop by the highway. One might as well take a collectivo (multi-person taxi) from Quilimari for $500 pesos (about a dollar) than pay the extra $300 pesos to get dropped that far out from town by the bus.
I was expecting the bus to make its usual U-turn at the toll booth. No. And once past the toll booth, there was no point getting out before La Ligua as there is a fence between the two directions of the highway.
I thought my Spanish was doing a pretty good job of explaining to the bus driver my predicament. Good enough that he understood but not good enough, apparently, to garner me any sympathy. The bus driver was even more unhappy with me than I was with my situation. He was so angry when I refused to pay the fare difference to La Ligua that he physically handled me off his bus. He then hung around the bus terminal and glared at me with such regularity I feared he would interfere with me being able to get on the last bus of the day back to Pichidanqui.
Ok, we’re talking a mere $3 dollar (CDN) difference. I could have just paid it. But we’re also talking here about a woman with pie dough brain who has had someone who befriended her steal out of her purse, who is still paying (she has accidentally learned) in-season rates when others at the centre are enjoying shoulder season, who has been stood up by a taxi-driver who promised to pick her up (ok, at least that’s what I “understood”) at 8:30 pm after a mass that was, actually, scheduled for a day other than the one she had been told, and who can’t get a bus schedule because “it’s different every day.” The next time I sit beside someone from another country on the BC Ferry bus, I will understand why they are staring out the window. It’s not the scenery. They want to be left alone.
With the help of my buddy Jibbigo, I negotiated support from a security guard with a well-pressed uniform and a dignified manner who willingly supplied gallantry and helped get me safely back on the bus to Pichidanqui. From the highway-side bus stop, I walked the three miles to town to the one place in the valley with wifi.
I’d left the centre at 4 pm on a sunny afternoon. It was now after 7, windy and damp. The restaurant with wifi? Closed for the season.
Personally, I consider my happy mood on waking today something of a miracle.
Today I will go into town again (only as far a Quilimari) because I might have an appointment for a pedicure. (I have new sympathies for the foot ministrations offered travellers in the Odyssey and the Bible. Two months of sandals in desert conditions and I have feet like hooves.)
Might have an appointment? Yup, might. I went into town last week and stopped by the beauty salon, the one with the sign that said, promisingly, “pedicura.” It was 2 pm and they were closed for lunch. I was told to come back at 4. At 4, I was told to come back at 5, at 5 to come back at 5:20. By 5:30, I’d made friends with some boys that were part of a crowd who, like me, were hanging out on the stone wall by the church. Kids old enough to spell love Jibbigo and it usually takes no time at all for their younger siblings to get in on the fun. These two were absolute yammer-mouths, the younger one delighting me with the songs he’d been taught in English class. (To the tune of Frère Jacques: azul-blue, azul-blue, rojo-red, rojo-red. Good for you. I thought you’d join in.)
By 5:35, a sub-group of the crowd by the church, two moms with three boys all needing back to school brush cuts, figured out they were all waiting for the same door to open that I was. Through encounters like this, I am slowly getting to know quite a few folk in this valley. The doors finally open, the buzz cuts begin and I learn that, no, the pedicurist does not work Thursdays. I will need to come back.
Karhyn, mother of the singing 5-year-old, decides this is not good enough. The entire salon agrees. I should not come back. All they do here is paint your nails. For a proper pedicure, I should get an appointment with the podiatrist. She speaks English. Karhyn gets her on the phone.
Indeed, the podiatrist speaks English. About as well as I speak Spanish. Even in person we’d have trouble. Not only that, but she does not have an office. She wants to come to the retreat centre, a location most locals confuse with a set of cabins just outside of Guanguali that also has a pool but does not offer reiki.
By this time, my head is not singing, it’s ringing, and I politely decline further assistance. I don’t really need a pedicure. Really. I’m fine.
Karhyn wants to know what I am doing next. I tell her I am going across the street to buy vegetables which I will take to church at 7:30 and then go home. Perfect, she says. She, too, will be buying vegetables from her cousin across the street. And since she lives near here, I should bring my vegetables to her house and have tea. Do I like tea? Yes? Good. It’s settled.
It is helpful to know that if you are offered tea at 6:00 pm in Chile, it is tea in the British sense of tea. That is, it is a meal. In Chile, you will be eating a sandwich made with a round of bread baked that day in a wood fired oven and which you will assemble yourself from plates of ham, cheese, slices of skinned tomato and sweet onion, and avocado mashed with oil, lemon and salt. The tea cups will be the size of bowls. Ok, maybe this isn’t everywhere, but in this valley I’ve now had this meal three times, so I’m thinking I’m onto a trend.
While making tea, Karhyn tells she works from home as a dressmaker, is often lonely, and that it would be a wonderful diversion if I would allow her to make an appointment with the podiatrist to come to her house and give me a pedicure on Tuesday at 2:00. We agree we will confirm the arrangement by email.
I have yet to hear from her.
However, I need vegetables again, so I’ll be out on the road around 1:00 to wait for the bus. Wish me luck. If I get the same driver, I’m doomed.