Thursday, September 2, 2010

Living slow in Valpo

Valparaiso is a city of contrasts - colours, smells, and most importantly elevation differences. A walk around town is usually a struggle, unless you are going downhill, of course. There are around 30 funiculeurs (lifts like the one in Quebec City) installed around the city - a system dating from the middle of the nineteenth century. Only a few remain in service, but they are nevertheless very popular with the people.We are getting to know our neighbourhood little by little. Our baker addresses us by our names, we meet aquaintances on the street and Anastasia gets presents of empanadas from the local homeless guy.There is a very special gas station next to our house - they play music on the loudspeakers exclusively after 11 pm, and exclusively jazz or some good classical music. We fall asleep listening to Bach...
There are a lot of graffitti in Valpo. Big, small, good and not so good, they cover almost every wall in the city. We have gone on a few ¨graffitti hunt¨ walks - it was like visiting a living art exhibition, with people, dogs and traffic contributing to the experience.Dogs deserve a special note: it seems that all street dogs are purebred here. It is a common thing to see a huge beautiful bloodhound, with shining fur, to be digging in a trash can or, more often, leasurly lying in the middle of the sidewalk, in the sun, meditating on a meatshop window in front of him. German sheppards, cocker spaniels and setters also abound, running around in jolly packs. All of them are friendly and not afraid of people at all. If you were to say a typical ¨pshhh¨ to a dog in Bolivia, it would tuck its tail between the legs and get out of your way in a flash. Not so here. The dog will probably just ignore you, or slightly wiggle its tail and try to lick your hand. Dogs are not used to being kicked here.Chile is a country of good wine that is cheap. You can get a decent bottle for around $3. We are progressively becoming aquainted with the selection of the good and not so good wines available in almost any shop.
One of the late mornings, after breakfast, sipping on a hot ¨ceylon blend¨ tea, we were thinking of all the funny questions we have been asked on the road (all of them many times over). Here are a few that immediatly came to mind:
-Is Canada an island? (Peru)
-Is it in Europe? (Peru)
- I though that it is always cold in Canada... (after an explanation that there is a hot summer) (Bolivia)
-Do you have to stay indoors in Canada the whole winter not to freeze to death? (Equador)
-What do you eat in the winter? (Colombia)
-You are never cold, because you are used to it in Canada, right? (asked in the -5 C morning on the Bolivian altiplano)
-Do you speak Spanish in Russia? (Equador)
-What language do you speak in Canada? It is something strange, you say ¨eh¨ a lot up there... (an American tourist in Chile)
We are very happy that we are living here now. We are resting from the road, reading interesting books, we eat good and make a little money selling our macrame bracelets. We are thinking of getting back on the road after the 18th of September - the 200 year anniversary of Chile. The party is promising to be huge, with a kite flying competition, bag racing, lots of wine and chicha all around, good food, music and lots of dancing. The celebrations will last four days!
Good times:)

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