...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year!

I´ve got a lot of stuff to say here, so I´ll take a page out of Ryan´s book (or a webpage out of his blog, whatever) and separate it into sections for your reading enjoyment.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Patagonia
I don´t want to sound like a broken record here, but Patagonia was gives Rapa Nui a run for its money for the title of Most Beautiful Place I´ve Ever Been. On the 26th I headed up to Puerto Natales and, inspired by the Rough Guide to South America and Julia´s blog, realized: why limit myself to exploring Chilean Patagonia? So, the 27th I signed up for a tour to Glacier Perito Moreno in Argentina´s Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Perito Moreno is one of the world´s most important glaciers, and one of the few advancing glaciers left in the world. It´s huge, of course: the ice walls extend something like 150 meters below the surface of the water, and 50 meters above. The glacier is an eery, electric ice-blue color, and huge chunks of it are continously breaking off, hitting the iced-over water below with thunderous booms. More than anything, the sound reminded me of those fireworks that, after the initial firework boom, have a kind of static-y crinkling of lights. Chunks of ice dozens of meters high would break off of the front of the glacier with that boom, then thousands of littler pieces of ice would create that crinkling static sound as they tumbled down the ice and cracked the surface of the river below. The most amazing thing happened while I was there: a huge, jagged piece of the ice wall broke off--it must have been at least 30 meters high--and fell into the water below. When it fell, it dislodged a mammoth part of the glacier below the water, which emerged from the river like Ursula the Sea Witch at the end of The Little Mermaid, sea-monster huge and so blue that you´d swear someone took a few gallons of blue food-coloring to it. It was incredible, one of the most amazing things I´ve ever seen.

The next day, the 28th, I went on a one-day tour of Parque Nacional las Torres del Paine, Chile´s most famous national park. The day was a little cloudy so we couldn´t fully appreciate the views of the peaks of the mountains, but what we did see was incredible and otherwordly. I think the Rough Guide to Chile describes the park as being made up of something like ´´witches´ caves and dragons´lairs,´´ and while that might be a little too flowery, I see the reasoning: the mountains really did look like something out of a fairytale or fantasy--Narnia, or something like that. When I come back to Chile (I don´t know when, but I know I´m coming back), I´m going to make it a priority to do the park up right and spend several days there.

Doing Everything One Last Time
My last few days are going by incredibly quickly, and I feel like I have to squeeze everything in one last time: tea with the Acuñas, hanging out with Daniela, lunch at Ronald´s house, hanging out with a book and a cup of hot chocolate at Color Cafe, taking my favorite micro through the hills of Valparaíso and Viña, and of course spending time with my host family and especially my little host sisters. The good part of all that is that it means my days are filled with people, places, and things I care about--I can´t let myself sleep ´til 11:30 when there´s so much to do. Friday, for instance, was a great day: I called my family and wished my little brother a happy birthday (he´s 18 now; I can´t believe it), then met Ronald and walked with him to his house for lunch. Daniela and I met in Viña and walked around for a little, then went back into Valparaíso for a tango and modern dance performance that was being given as a part of Carnaval Cultural, Valparaíso´s annual end-of-year cultural festival. She gave me a beautiful good-bye gift: a poem that she wrote, matted and framed. I know I´ll always keep it.

Jessica´s Last Excellent Adventure
After leaving the theater Friday evening, I went to the bus terminal in Valparaíso to buy my bus tickets for my last hurrah: a solo trip through Argentina and Uruguay, starting tomorrow. I´m heading to Mendoza, spending a day there, catching a night bus to Buenos Aires, spending two days there, then taking the ferry to Montevideo, Uruguay, spending two days there, then ferrying it back across the Rio de la Plata to catch a bus from Buenos Aires back to Valparaíso. It´ll be whirlwind and comprises about 50 hours of bus travel in 8 days, but I´m really excited. Tentative plans are to sit in plazas and cafes and read a lot, tour some wineries, go to the park, watch some tango dancing, eat a lot of good steak and Italian food, and drink a lot of good wine. In other words, pasarlo la raja no más po.

Ringing in the New Year
Every New Year, Valparaíso and, recently, Viña del Mar put on a huge fireworks display that´s broadcast all over Latin America. Thousands of people from Santiago and the surrounding areas have flooded into Valpo and Viña in the last few days. People started staking out their viewing spots a week in advance--Avenida España, the main artery between the two cities, is lined with pitched tents. Luckily, we had a great view from our apartmente balcony and didn´t have to go anywhere. Ambar, Carlos, Ambar´s dad Antonio and her uncle Moy San and I had a nice midnight dinner and shared multiple champagne toasts as we watched the fireworks from the balcony. Walking around Valpo this morning, the streets are littered with popped balloons, streamers, confetti, and broken glass.

It´s a Small World, After All
After church, I usually go to Color Cafe up on Cerro Concepción to read over a cup of hot chocolate. The Cafe was closed this morning since it was New Years, so I went to Cafe Riquet, an older place in Plaza Anibal Pinto. While I was there, I ran into Celia, a girl from Lewis & Clark! She´s an international student and/or TCK, and she came out to Valparaíso for New Year´s from Santiago, where she lives. What a coincidence!

Okay, that´s all for now. I hope everyone had a good New Year´s and Christmas, and is enjoying winter break!