Tuesday, February 07, 2006

These are the people in the neighborhood.

Hey pa, where you going with that ax? It´s now evident to me that whe I travel, I prefer settling in one place and staying there for a decent period of time, getting to know the streets, the people, the lifestyle. Traveling from place to place seems to only encouagre meeting more expats and english speakers. During this trip to Chile, for the last 4 weeks, I have been staying with Rocio Westfall, her family and friends. It´s quite a cast of characters, and it´s fun to describe them . . .so here goes.

Rocio is the queen. Her home is perched like a palace at the top of plaza esperanza (faith) in the Recreo neighborhood. Though she coordinates the international programs for University of Valparaiso, she also is currently hosting 8 people in her home. Her daughters, Jamie 23 and Mollie 21, her parents, Fernando and Acension, professors, Veronica and Frank, a student who just got out of the hospital from Salmonella poisening, jonathan, and little old me. She is a strong, beautiful independent woman, recently divorced with interests in yoga, martial arts, and exchanging ideas. She has inspired me to re concieve the concept of home, and an open door. Í´m very comfortable here.

When I fisrt came to visit, 3 weeks ago, before I decided to move in, I met frank sitting at teh round dinner table. Upon Rocio´s intro that I was a teacher from New York City, he immediately told me about his ¨25 year old attracttive neice who is a teacher and lives in Queens, you gotta meet her¨. Later he complimented me for trying to speak spanish with Rocio´s fast talking nephew Phillipe. He´s usually quick with a compliment or an arresting fact about the destruction of the environment or how our diet is quickly killing us (like that cows milk contains 3% puss). I admire the bleeding heart liberal attitude that he carries through his working environment, 70% right wing repulican christian Furman University of South Carolina.

JAne is Frank´s wife but she doesn´t live in the house with us. . . hmmmm. She is motivated to immerse herself in Spanish so she lives with a Spanish only house. When she comes over, though, she is happy to engage in English. A retired teacher, She is here with Frank and spearheading a project to help a shelter for sexually abused children. We had a couple of meetings over the last week, I´ve taken notes and started a blog. You can read about the project at sonrisasdelmar.blogspot.com

Linda is Jane´s friend from Greenville, though she was born and raised in Cambridge , England. A drummer, traveler and veteran teacher as well, she lives down the street from Jane with an enormous German Shepard called Rocky. She has also come to Chile to work on her Spanish. Linda hosts the meetings for the shelter, usually Rocky barks when we arrive.

Veronica is the other teacher from Furman university. She was born in Rural Mississippi in the mid 40s and has lived all around the south for her entire life. Even after hiking la Campana, a 9 hour hike to the top of an 2800 meter peak, the aqua net hair spray continued holding her little blow out perfectly. She is extremely formal, and quite conservative though she has traveled extensively through Americas, Europe and Asia. She is worldy yet simple. We had a 5 hour walk together to an antique fair the first week I was here, and I enjoyed her company immensly. It´s amazing to see her and Frank work together because they´re quite different.

Fernando and Ascension are Rocio´s parents. Every morning at 630, Fernando gets up, puts on a little cuban hat and goes out to rund errands. When he comes home, he enjoys telling stories of avation, flying both commerically for LAN airlines, and for the Chilean airforce. He eats large portions of food, enjoys growing mangos and ginger at his home in La ponte.

Ascension seemed cold toward me at first, but that{s probably becasue I was sorta cold toward her. One day I gave her a hello kiss (normal here) when she came in, and she lighted up saying, sobre tiempe (it{t about time!) Now she has brightened up and seems to like correcting my spanish. Ironically, this makes me less likely to speak around her becuase I don{t like being corrected. However, she used to be a school teacher, and I think she likes that I do that too.

Mollie is the 21 year old soft spoken daughter of Rocio. She was working full time for coordinating Furman U activities as the assistant to Frank and Veronica, until she got the chicken pox. Since then she{s been home, in bed, listening to Los Mutantes (70s psychedelic Brazilian music. . . that I like) and playing Jenga with whoever is around. . . often her boyfriend Phillipe. Finally, she left the house today, but as she was putting on her sweater, the scab came off the chicken pock on her forehead. She no longer looks hindu, with a red dot between the eyes.

Jamie is a little older than Mollie, but is even more soft spoken. She paints and the house is covered with murals. On my bedroom wall, there is a Jester riding a unicycle on a tightrope with a scared cat watching! She also does canvases, tonight we went to a gallery to see some of her stuff, but it was closed. She runs a yoga class out in the front yard a few times a week, though sometimes her boyfriend, Boris, runs it. When I first got here, she generously took me to a converted pornography movie theatre (that becomes an art cinema on the weekend). There was this neat mini movie animation of George Bush leading sheep through the streets of NY.

This family is counter culture. I like it here.

more later.


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