Thursday, June 5, 2014

Leaving the Magic of Valparaiso

The streets here are made of grit and promise. This city loves everyone, but will never bother to learn your name. Your eyes are wide with the never ending colors, but your nose and shoes will never let you forget the dog poo filled streets. One house will be covered in a professional mural full of bright yellows and blues, while the house to the right may have burnt down, and no one ever bothered to rebuild it. There is not a single breath of concrete untouched by graffiti. The tag could be from the local juvenile writing cornbread everywhere, or a famous graffiti artist contributing their signature.

I ended up staying in Valparaiso by accident, looking for a place to stay while waiting for my sister to arrive in Santiago. In Santiago, I found three people who were interested in seeing Valparaiso. We arrived late on Monday night, and quickly found out our hostel was overbooked. However, we were informed, since there was four of us, we could rent the apartment upstairs. The apartment was lime green, came with a fully equipped kitchen, cable tv, and blacony overlooking the water. Life was too easy, and we stayed there for half the week. We didn't do much more than walk around the city, watch sports, cook, eat, and indulge in the local brew.

I had two English flatmates, and one American. Mike Howarth was a very straight forward English fellow who always had things under control, but never got overly excited. He was also stuck in the Santiago area, waiting for a package containing parts for his bicycle, so he could continue biking from Ushuaia, Argentina to Colombia. His adventures put mine to shame, but you should see for yourself at Then there was Kalpesh, who ended his job to travel and go to the world cup. Kalpesh had an intriguingly smart mind, that was always asking questions. He had the amazing ability to make you feel like you were the most interesting person he ever met. Plus both guys had great accents. Finally there was Jake, a last minute, morning of, addition. Jake is a 19 year old vegetarian who has come from the states to study in Buenos Aires. He had an endless database of facts, but lacked a little street sense. We always seemed to be either lending him money, feeding him, or helping him fix something.

Eventually my crew left, and I was forced to vacate the apartment. My next place was a small hostel with a loft dorm room, Lunar Sunrisa. The people at this hostel shined brighter than its purple and blue walls. For the majority of my stay, I spent my days shifting between cafes, drinking tea, while reading, the local poet, Pablo Neruda's poems. I fell hard for this city. I was living in San Francisco, Sausalito, and Cusco all at the same time. I stopped noticing the smell of the streets, and only saw the endless colors. The city sucked me in, and I was quickly sinking into the cracks with no intentions of leaving.

I found myself volunteering in the hills that had been burned in the devastating fire from over a month ago. I naively agreed to go to an advanced yoga class focused on flexibility. The teacher was Chilean, but studied in India, and seemed a little high during our lesson. I quickly realized how out of my element I was, when the instructor began standing on top of people. Outside of the enthusiastic yoga instructor, my favorite eccentric local Chileans included two musicians I shared a bottle of wine with in down town Valparaiso. Pascuala Ilabaca, was beautiful, covered from head to toe in bright red. She talked of her travels, her time in India, her adventures in yoga, her love of music, and her home, Valparaiso. Then there was Rafael. I have never seen so much passion. Ever syllable was as if it was his last breath. He was there with his producer, and they were about to leave to create a documentary of Rafael's musical adventures, as he travels with a grand piano through the Amazon. They truly embodied their city.

My incredible life in Valparaiso came to a trembling halt when my little sister, Tess, showed up. Tess was not all that enthused about how I had sunken into the city. For some reason, she didn't want to just drink tea and read poetry all day long.


  1. That's a riot! I so want to go to Valparaiso! Will you take me, huh, please!!!?? I promise I'll let you drink and read anything you want all day long LOL!

  2. Lovely as usual. The pictures (great, also as usual) do a nice job of showing more of the city, its personality and colors and the reason why you felt like staying. I totally get it. I can't wait for the next installment!