The Way Of The Cross

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, July 12, 2009

Today, July 11, started very early and ended extremely late. Around 6:30am I awake to get ready for my adventure in Talca, a city about 1.5 hours north of Parral.  Chile is separated into 15 regions and I live in the 7th Region.  There are 4 Provinces:  Concepcion, Talca, Linares, and Parral.  I was invited by a friend of Elian's, to spend the day and sites see in Talca. He is the best friend of her cousin Victor.  His name is Sebastian; you may remember him from the photos from a previous blog about Victor’s birthday party.  Sebastian is a History and Geography professor in Talca and he wanted me to come see his city. 

The cost of a roundtrip bus ticket was $2,500 MIL pesos ($5 USD).  My bus was set to depart at 8:00am, and I arrive at the bus station about 5 minutes before the bus leaves.  There was no rush since the bus terminal was about 2 minutes away from the house.  I could have walked but Raul insisted on driving me. For a cold misty morning the terminal is brimming with enthusiastic and drowsy travelers leaving Parral for the weekend.  I hope we will all find adventure and much needed sunlight.   The song of vendors calling out their product, "Café , Mani, Alfrejoles” (coffee, peanuts, donuts), like the hotdog vendors at Wriggly Field. It was the soundtrack to a scene that I will never forget.

I arrive in Talca and Sebastian is there to meet me.  I hear my name (Nakia Ford) in a deep Latin voice and turn around to see Sebastian smiling with arms wide open.  With a kiss on the cheek and the huge of an OLD FRIEND, we head to the center of the city.   I was very nervous about what would transpire today.  Sebastian and I have been corresponding through email and for the most part we had been using the internet translator to communicate.  Today we were on our own armed only with enthusiasm and wit.  Luckily Sebastian knows a little English (and I do mean a little) and my Spanish comprehension has improved. 

We move on the Plaza de Armas, which is in the center of the city; I find out that every city in Chile has the same plaza (with the same name) they were set up by the Spanish as the central point of traffic.  The path through the Plaza leads to one of the city’s most cherished landmarks, San Pablo Catholic Church (Saint Paul).  I have a fondness for churches; from the biggest cathedral to the smallest temple God is always present no matter the size of the structure.

We sit, pray and take in the peaceful quiet.  The air is heavy with silence and it feels like even a whisper would be deafening.  We take a few photos and leave threw the rear exit.  As we round the side of the building we see a procession entering the front doors.  They are preparing a funeral.  What is it with me barely escaping funerals lately?  We walk a few blocks and take a Colectivo (taxi) to the Mountain of the Virgin. Nestled on a atop a hill the courtyard spreads out; looking to the left rests an aerial view of the city of Talca  As we enter the courtyard we are greeted by a large effigy of the Virgin Mary cradling the Baby Jesus.  Flowers and candles adorn her feet; gifts of gratitude and repentance from faithful patrons. There is a stone chapel to the left; stone pews indicate services are help here under the heavens.  I can imagine the echo of voices, from a small congregation, singing abundant praise with the sun on their face and the view of Talca in the background.  After a brief history lesson we take a few photos and walk down the long hill back to the city of Talca.  As we descend the city becomes larger and the sun pushes though the sadness of heavy clowns to light our way

It is around noon and we are both very hungry.  Sebastian knows of an old restaurant that is close.  We cross a bridge and Sebastian points out a lady that is walking up the hill with her shoes in her hands.  He says that when women pray for love or prosperity they walk, barefoot, up the mountain to the Virgin to pray.  If they (men and women) commit a grievous sin; you will see them crawling up the hill on their hands and knees.  Arriving at the feet of the Virgin scraped and stained in blood.

The meal was great and it was a welcomed rest from all the walking, but an hour and a half of talking and eating only put off the inevitable and it was time to start walking to Sebastian’s house because his grandmother was waiting to meet me.  Passing a beautiful view of the lake we see a rowing team practicing for a competition.   This scene belongs or a postcard or a brochure and I have the privilege of seeing it for free.  However less than 5 minutes we cross a bridge and I see a house that is built under a bridge.  "Los Povres”(pronounced Pove-rays: meaning THE POOR).  In the USA there is a saying that if you lose all your money “You will have to live under a bridge”, but I have never actually seen it with my own eyes.  It was sad, but I look up to see that the SUN (SON) shines even on the poor.  These people at least have a home, and I am sure in their Chilean Hearts they were thankful to have shelter.

Continuing on our journey we stop by the Universidad Autonoma De Chile; the school were Sebastian teaches.  He gave me a quick tour and, To Grandmother’s House We Went!!  Luz Hernandez was as full of life and light as her name (Luz – pronounced Looz: means LIGHT).  Even though her eyes were dim from you 86 years on the planet she said she was so happy to meet me and began to practice all the English she remembered from Secondary school (Junior High).  Then she sang for me in French; a song she learned as a child.  She offered me a beverage that she had made for special for occasions.  I asked what is was and she said Juice of Grape.  I assume the grapes she picks are 80 Proof; that concoction nearly made my left lung collapse and I think I went blind for at least 10 seconds.  Drinking potions like that she should see 20/20. She convinced Sebastian to sing a song we move to the sitting room and listened to the jazzy soulful sounds of a Brazilian ballad played on an acoustic guitar.  It was time to move on to the next destination so we tell Luz goodbye and she hugs me tight as if this would be our last meeting and she wanted to remember my heartbeat.  With a kiss she says, “God is your friend and may He protect you all your days.”  I needed no translations and could feel the tears welling in my throat as her little gnarled hands waved me goodbye.   “I like your grandmother.  She has a big heart.” I say to Sebastian in Spanish.  “She is my life, my best friend.”  He says in perfect English.  I could feel the weight of those words as he said them. 

We take a bus to the museum we were the only people there.  We take pictures and later a tour guide sees us, and Sebastian explains that he is a History teacher at the university and I am an English teacher from the USA teaching in Parral.  She takes us on a tour and the first room is a chaple.  The museum is sponsored but the Catholic University so there are a lot of religious artifacts here.  I feel that I have been in God’s presence all day going from church, to temple, to chapel.  We move on to the courtyard and she tell us that the owners of the house had many workers and the worked the field and raised Trigo (Tree-go: Wheat) and grapes for wine.  We visited the salon of the last owner and the Park/garden that her husband had build for her as a testament of his undying love for her.  The sun is setting in the garden and a shadow is cast on the pink Camellia blossoms.  The guide is closing for the day; we offer to pay the guide for her time but she says that is was her pleasure and talking with me was truly and educational event for her.

Riding back on the bus we talk about our day and we are happy that things worked out so well.  We get out at the bus terminal and walk to a supermarket to get some meat and cheese for Once (pronounce Own-say).  It is a meal that is more like a light dinner.  He says he will buy some ham and cheese.  He calls his grandmother and tells her I have about 3 hours until my bus and will be having Once at the house.  We go back to the house and I meet his uncle Antonio and his brother Maurico.  Again Luz hugs me as if she has not seen me in hears.  The table is set for tea with bowls of ground fish and herbs, chicken and mayonnaise, cheese, bread, and ham.  Luz said a prayer and the meal began.  Now I am Positive that Sebastian said he bought HAM but my highly trained pallet knows BOLOGNA when I taste it.  I have never had a Bologna and cheese sandwich with tea before but with good friends, soft music and a roaring fire this Poor Man’s Steak was Grade A. 

The time flies and it is time to go back to the station but this time we decide to take a taxi.  My heart was warm, my belly content, but my feet were begging for relief.  The bus was 15 minutes late and we sat and waited and joked about some events during the day.  When I saw the Salon Villa Prat bus round the corner I became sad, but knew that all things must come to an end.  I hug Sebastian and wave to him from the window inside the bus.  A few minutes later I was on the long dark road headed to Parral.

Sleep overtook me and the next thing I knew I was being awakened by the conductor saying that I had missed my stop at the terminal.  If I walked down the road to the right I would be back in Parral soon.  Left on a dark empty highway I head toward the lights and see a sign that said Parral with an arrow pointing down a well lit street.  I had been walking all day and the last thing I wanted to do was walk some more.  I call Raul, who had been waiting for me for, Lord knows how long, and try to tell him where I was but he could not understand I told him I would call back when I saw a proper street sign.  Block after block, past cow pastor and the rice factor I saw everything but a street sign.  Luckily I take pictures of everything, and I notice some graffiti I took pictures of a few weeks earlier.  Then I pass a grocery store that I went to with a few of my students.  Then I pass on of my student’s house.  I know where I am and call Raul back, but Eliana answers in a panic, “Nakia where are you!”  I tell her and she says she is on her way.  I continue to walk and within minutes I see a white car blazing down the street.  It is Andres, Eliana’s brother in law.  Eliana opens the door and tells me to get in.  I get in and she grabs me and holds on for dear life.  I tell them what happens and they are shocked by the story.  I asked where Raul is and apparently he had been calling me, but my ringer was on silent, and was so worried that something happened to me that he kept going to the bathroom from the nervousness.  I actually Scared The Crap Out of Him!!!

I return to the house (around 1:30am)to find Isabel (Eliana’s sister) Sergio (Isabel’s son) and Raul waiting for me.  Hugs and kisses for the Prodigal Daughter that found her way home.  I tell the story again, and was met with eyes full of shock, and fear for my life.  Andres in a police officer, and he and Raul were mad and said they were going to go to the bus company on Monday to file a complaint.  The more I told the story and funnier it got and before long we were all cracking jocks at my expense.  I was glad the mood of the atmosphere had changed.  Eliana told me to call Sebastian because he was worried to.  Eliana had called him when I did not return on time.  He was a little upset but glad that I was home safe.

With the house cleared of guests Eliana made me some tea and a little snack.  I could see the mixture of worry and relief in her I eyes and was sorry to cause so much trouble.  “Well with Nakia there is never a moment dull.  That was quite the experience.  Now you know never sleep on bus.”  She then told me that she fell asleep on the bus once and ended up in Santiago (4 hours away).  Then she laughed hysterically with her high pitched girlish giggle.

“God is your friend and may He protect you all your days.” The blessing of an 86 year old kind spirit; and I thank God for making her acquaintance for so many reasons.

Thank you for taking time to read my little story.  Until next time my friends; live each day as if it is your last, give thanks and count your blessings, and cherish the ones love and hold them close to your heart.

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