Rainy Days and Sunday Can't Get Me Down

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Flag of Chile  ,
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Today, July 5th, started as most days do, with a lot of rain. The sky was swollen with clouds, and stained with the melancholy.  The sun is hidden behind a curtain of mist and gray.  A day like today is made for one thing; SLEEP.  Not even this old bear can hibernate all day so I get up in time for lunch.  With my belly full needed to get out of the house and seize the day.  Luckily Raul invites me to ride along with him to Eliana's brother , Jaun’s, house, out in the country.  Jaun has a twin brother, Sergio, and they could not be more different.  Jaun is the younger of the two and is very reserved while Sergio is a funny character.    The road to Jaun’s home was narrow and unpaved.  I don’t know what was scarier, dodging cavernous pot holes, driving though what seemed like the Rio Grande, or nearly killing a flock of wild turkeys that had congregated in the middle of the road.

We finally arrive slightly whiplashed and with turkey feathers in my hair.  We are greeted by Jaun, his son Alfonso (Punchie) and the family dog Vinccinso (sounds like Vin-chin-so).  From the yard I feel like I am in an episode of Gun Smoke or Bonanza.  I was expecting to see Huss or Ms. Kitty, instead I meet a gang of chickens and more turkeys.  When entered, the home is deceptively large and modern.  There is a stove that is used for cooking and heating the house, and is fueled by wood.  The smell and the warmth of burning pine (Pino in Spanish – Sounds like pee-no) seems to wrap the home in a cozy country quilt.  Next, Punchie shows me his cat Simon.  The peculiar thing about this crazy kitty is he has two different color eyes.  The left is blue and the right is green.  I had never seen that before in a cat and it just added to Simon’s charm.

Punchie and Jaun give me a tour of the home and in every room there are photographs of either Punchie as a baby or Jaun’s dearly departed father.  Every time I visit one of Elian’s Siblings (there are 8 in total) there are pictures of their father (Sergio Hernand).  As the patriarch of this brood it would seem that he is much loved and remembered.  Not because he is dead, but because he  is the gleam in his children’s eyes.    I can see why they would love their father.  In every picture he is smiling; bringing color to every black and white photo.  He lived life to the fullest I am sure, I regret that he is the one Chileno I will never meet.  I will get to know him every day through his children and he lives again in their eyes and in every smile.

The tour does not end with the house we move on the shed where the animal feed, fertilizer, seeds for planting and tracker are stored.  With much delight Jaun tries to explain how the farm works.  I saw his disposition transform from shy younger brother, to that of an excited child showing off his new Christmas toys.   With the change in demeanor more of Juan’s comical personality begins to emerge. 

The tour ends with a visit to Abuelita’s (Eliana’s mother) house.  Normally, Mary Linda (Abuelita – translated Mary Linda means: Beautiful Mary) lives at the house in Parral with us but on the weekends she visits one of her other 3 children that live in Parral.  She has a house build just a few minutes’ walk from Jaun’s backdoor.  The house is small but very spacious.  I have never seen anything like Chilean this homes.  You think you are walking into a hut and the next thing you know the room just grows; like walking through the wardrobe to Narnia.  With a mega watt smile Jaun shows me his father’s diploma for agriculture. That is when I learned a new word Orgullo which means pride or proud.  He says this word, pointing to his father’s photo, and then pressing his hand to his own chest.  His father was a farmer and he is proud to live the life of this great man.  Many sons would run away at the thought of walking in their father’s shoes; the tired earth soiled boots of a farmer.   To Juan it is a privilege to be counted among the many men that toils the Chilean soil.

Back to the car and off to Chillan (pronounced Chee-john), a city 7 times larger than Parral, and it is claimed to be Eliana’s favorite city.  Why you might ask, because it has a MALL!!  It is around 6:00pm and the streets are dark and rainy and we fly at warp speed.  I would like to say that Raul is the worst driver ON THE PLANET, but that would not be true.  I would have to say he is the BEST driver.  By now we should have been in about 175 accidents and killed at least 26 kids, 17 cyclists, 15 old ladies, 10 dogs and 8 chickens.  However somehow by the GRACE OF GOD (I pray every time I get in the car with Raul) we have left this town without a scratch.  It is funny they always want me to sit in the front seat because it is a place of honor, however, seeing my life flash before my eyes on a daily basis in an honor I could do without.  Truthfully I think Eliana feels happier and safer in the backseat; she’s not fooling anybody.

Going from Parral to Chillan is like going from Mayberry to the South side of Chicago.  If I were Ant Bea, I would be really impressed by the Bright Lights, the hustle and bustle of motorists, and the gaggle of people lining the streets.  All I thought was "OH Lord, more people for Raul to almost hit!"  Every month they make this trip to Chillan to pay a Cuota (pronounced Quota).  It is a tax they have to pay for the things that they by.  They place where they pay this tax is THE MALL.  You pay your taxes and the go shopping HOW CRAZY IS THAT!!  While Eliana pays the Cuota, Raul shows me around the mall.  I have seen a hundred malls in my lifetime and this one in no different.  I was starting to get bored but I saw how excited Raul was to show me this beautiful mall that I could not suck the wind out of his sails.  I stopped looking through the eyes of a tourist, rather, from the eyes of the guide.

Things started to look brighter after I met Alicia, the cutest little girl in Chillan.  I was taking picture, just to pass the time, and there she was all 1 and a half feet of your running down the hall laughing at her sister.  As is common for most toddlers her arms were moving faster than her legs, but the look of determination on her face would rival any Olympic track star.  Like any good Chileno Alicia was very friendly and did not mind posing for a picture. 

Our final stop was to a JUMBO store.  It is similar to Super Duper Wal-Mart.  We shop for about 20 minutes and my belly was screaming to be fed.  I was thinking, “If Raul had actually hit one of those turkeys I would have at least had a  little snack by now.“  Luckily I was not the only hungry soul in our group so we go to a nearby buffet for a Churasco (pronounced Chew-ras-co).  It is their version of a Philly Steak.  A mound of carved fried DELICOUSNESS on a Soft Lightly Toasted Bun, and topped with buttery cheese that must have been churned by ANGELS and left in a manger.  I could have eaten 3 of them but I settled for one.  I count it as a gift from Santa Alicia.

As we enter return to Parral there is a sign to welcome us home:  Bienvenidos Aquí, Se Vive Orgullo De Ser Parralinos.  Welcome, Here lives ; Proud To Be Parralinos (The translation is kinds funky).  At the end of the day it is good to be surrounded by good people that are proud who they are, and where they are from; even if it is a small dot on a very big map. 

Until next time my friends, take some time to find the beauty in your own backyard.  Sometimes it’s not where you are going.  It’s where you are!!

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