Pablo is Watching

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Flag of Chile  , Maule,
Friday, July 10, 2009

Wednesday July 8th was my day off, and I was ready for a day of rest. Working with children is a full body workout.  At the end of the day I feel like I have run 6 miles and completed 10 hours and Tae-Bo and Palates.  I woke up around 9:00am but did not leave my room until about noon.  I hear a tap on my door from Mary, the housekeeper, telling me to get up so I can eat lunch.    "Kania, Jit Up (Ka-nee-ah)!" , she says in a high pitched sing-songie voice.   She tries to say “Get up,” but it never really works out.  Plus she always inverts my name. I think it's cute because I am the only English that she has almost learned. I get up and take a shower and get ready for the day.  On this day I took a tour of the city.  Two of the senior girls (Class 4A) Ana Karen and Javiera, will show me the city.  If you look for Parral on the map of Chile you will need a really good map or really good eyes.  I have learned that there are 50 thousand people on Parral.  I don’t know where they are hiding because every time I leave the house I see the same people.  Maybe they are in the house trying to stay warm.  Or maybe they have embellished the number and included livestock in their calculations and that would account for the large number.

Lunch was a creative assortment of meat and vegetables.  There was a Chilean Salad with brown beans, rice and onions of a bed of crisp lettuce, drizzled in oil and lemon juice.  To accompany the salad was a roasted chicken leg.  The contradiction and hot and cold served together was a surprising treat to arouse the pallet.  The main course was a hearty bowl of puréed Lentil Soup.  On a chilled winter day this was the perfect meal the fill the stomach and warms not only the body but the soul.

I spend a little time on the net talking to friends and finding out what is going on in the rest of the world.  Time passes quickly and before I knew it my tour guides had arrived to collect me up, and we head out on the cold mean streets of Parral.

I forgot to tell you about Pablo Neruda.  He is a Chilean poet that won the Nobel Prize for literature.  He was born in Parral and as a result there are pictures of him EVERYWHERE!!  Schools and streets are named after him; all around there are monuments of him.  He is the Chilean “Big Brother” because you get the feeling that he is watching you.  As we walk down the streets there are lots of dogs and posters of Pablo.

First we go to the Marcado (pronounced:  Mar-ca-doe).  It is their traditional place to buy and sell goods.  You can get anything from fresh seafood to espuelas (pronounced: Ace-p-way-la:  the traditional spurs worn by male Cueca Dancers).  We walk around and I talk to the girls about their plans for the winter vacation and where they plan to go to college next year.  I see familiar and non familiar faces smiling and waving “Hola!”

We walk by the Bombero Station (Fire Station) and the girls said we should stop in and see if they will let us look around.  There is an off duty fireman there, Oscar, and he said he would be happy to show me around.  It has become common from me to hear the word Peruana (sounds like Pair-u-ana) which is someone from Peru.  Most people think I am from Peru because my skin is so dark.  We walk through the Fire Station and Oscar shows us two antique fire engines and the brand new engine they purchased last year.  The side of the truck read, Cuerpo Bomberos Parral (means The Body of the Firemen of Parral).  Symbolizing the truck and the bodies of the firemen are one in the same.  We are then lead to a conference room.  The walls are decorated with photos of Bomberos that lost their lives in the line of duty.  I could actually feel the heartbeat of every man on that wall.  The room warms with service and pride.   With a kiss on the cheek, we thank Oscar and move on to the next stop in this one horse town.  At one time I think that horse pulled the fire wagon.

We go to San Francisco (Saint Francis) Catholic Church; one of 2  Catholic churches in Parral.  The idea was to take lots of pictures and maybe talk to a priest about the history of the church.  Unfortunately there was a funeral in progress; not wanting to be party crashers we took a quick picture of old Saint Frank and left.  Plus we were getting dirty looks from some family members and I didn’t want to cause an international incident over a photo.   

We have walked up an appetite and it was time to make a stop at the local hang out for all the cool kidsBakan, is the name of the little café and it means COOL.  I was excited to eat another Churasco.  Do you remember the Chilean Philly Steak I told you about in the last blog?  Well Bakan is supposed to serve the best.  After brief conversation with the girls our meal arrives.  I can’t believe it the entire plate is covered with sandwich.  “Why didn’t you tell me it was this big?” I asked the girls.  “We thought you knew”, was their reply.  With serving sizes this big Bakan was cool with me!!  Delicious at is was I could not eat the whole thing and took the rest home.

We move on to the Library, and there are more pictures of Pablo Neruda; paranoia telling me that he is following me.  I even think I saw him wink at me. We meet the librarian as he was coming downstairs and he offers to give us a tour.  All the books in the library are in one room behind a desk.  I could not help but think that this librarian would lose his mind if had to work in a library in Chicago.  There were artifacts such as ancient herb grinding tools, old telephones and antique cameras.  We were in luck, they were having an art class and the art teacher and students stopped to answer questions and take a few photos.  Again I was asked if I were from Peru.  I am sure if I went to Peru they would ask if I were from Bolivia. I venture on to see more of the library.  More is code for the other two rooms.  One of the rooms served as the town’s radio station and they were on air when we arrived.  It was cool the watch the DJ Do His THANG. 

After eating pounds of Churasco, walking many blocks, and seeing every variation of Pablo Neruda’s portrait, it was time to say farewell to my Compañeros (which is companions in Spanish).  I thank them for a very lovely day, and I jump in a Colectivo (pronounced Collect-ee-vo) which is what they call taxis.  The day was long and truly fascinating.  The sun has set on the city of Saint Pablo, and for just 500 pesos ($1 USD) I ride home and reflect on the events of the day.  The temperature has dropped and the clarity of the day is as crisp as the night air.  When I arrive to the house I head straight for the Esufa (the stove used to heat the house) and warm my frozen limbs.  Parral is a lot like this old stove; it is small but fueled with happiness, pride and love the warmth can be felt throughout the entire house.

Until next time my friends, take some time to investigate your own neighborhood.  You never know what hidden treasures you might find. 

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