Posted by: Hours Per Mile | May 26, 2010

Chapter 3 — Santiago, Chile

December 29, 2006

We are in Santiago. Three days we’ll be here, being tourists, opening journals in crowded Plazas and studying maps on busy corners, lost and at a loss of what to do next. Upon arrival, and with not enough sleep under our belts, we shuffled out of the bus station, our hair piled in bundles on top of our heads, our fingers growing numb from carrying grocery bags full of boxed wine, salami, cheese and packets of soup left over from our camping bout with nature. It just doesn’t seem right to throw anything away, and besides, we might need that bad tasting soup some day.

Trusting our guidebook, Graham took charge and led us to a hostel called Casa Roja, the rest of us blindly following. Its courtyards and creaky hallways made of old hardwood are the salve much needed for our dilapidated, bus-weary spirits. We arrived too early for check-in time. Exhausted, we sank into cushioned seats underneath a big leaf tree whose shadows are the best I’ve seen in a long time, blowing and dappled with gold from the Sun nosing about. Pearl Jam filtered out of the kitchen’s radio, “I wish I was the full moon shining off a Camaro’s hood…”

We have ventured out. I just snapped a photo of Graham asleep on the ground next to a stray dog. Emma has found a bench amongst the obligatory host of pigeons. Gordo and I sit here on the steps to a pavilion, watching, breathing, writing. Absolutely nothing beckons for us to experience. Were we to sit in this park the entire day I would feel accomplished, my eyes watching the clockwork of humanity. Why are people so inclined to always be doing something? Be still. Be. Still. Think. Observe. Listen. Learn. Honestly I can say we will learn more by sitting here than by visiting any of the air-conditioned museums dotting this city. History is nice, but human nature makes history. So, here I sit, thinking, sweating.

It is most definitely a big city—Plaza Armas proves its beauty with palm trees, a fountain, the typical. People moving about, with destinations, single or in pairs. Sounds of pigeons and loud buses…we and the homeless guys appear to be the only ones lacking a purpose today, except ours is to just plain BE.

Later in the day, after our stomachs urged us to move, we wandered around, weaving through large throngs of people, kicking pebbles of cement down empty streets, on a search for ice cream. We moved like bored cats. My mind flew around above me spitting out little dialogue bubbles, the debate within me raging. This city appears to be missing something, something other than an ice cream shop. Or maybe that’s the clue. Santiago has yet to cater to my human cravings. My Argentine friend, Marcelo, says a human’s soul resides in the skin, operating in response to fleshly desires. I think that is only true for a city. A city with a soul provides for me, nourishes my appetite and entertains me. Buenos Aires has soul. Santiago…we can’t even find ice cream. Granted, certain pockets of café-lined streets displayed hunger, socializing, a need for interaction, but the rest of the city melted into a valley, bowl-like and languishing dead beneath the shadow of hazy mountains. The buildings were shells, they were sad, they were all locked up and unused. Where do the people live? Here?? I wonder what a Chilean would think if they read one tired tourist’s opinion of their capital…

Sometimes I like to think about the nature of my own soul. Is it somewhere, detached from me, locked up in a box in purgatory, waiting for judgment day? Or, is it in my body, in my brain, in my appendix, for you know, there is no bodily need for this organ. If it is the appendix then people should be more careful about getting it removed…anyway, I have a theory that a person’s soul runs through the veins of our entire being, carried by our blood, keeping us alive, inflating these bodies of ours with the breath of life supplied by the Holy Spirit. I realized this one night in college when I cut my palm by accident and watched as all that red timidly crept out of my body, and I felt a surge of warmth, of electricity at the sight of my own blood. It is with this very life-force that we are wiped clean. Jesus offered His blood for us, a man who knew no sin yet shouldered sin on our behalf, donating His soul to save ours. That should be evidence enough, that blood is the carrier of our soul, and most definitely not the appendix.

Eating on the cheap, carrying around TOO much food

Dog tired

Casa Roja


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