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: Santiago Teacher's Diary- From Our Archives

Dermot Sullivan's Chile Diary Number 15

The rain here in Santiago continue unabated. The poorer parts of town are completely submerged. The stupid thing is that there isn’t really that much rain (by British standards); it’s just that Chileans for reasons best known to themselves refuse to build a decent system of drains. Five millimetres of rain and they’re underwater.
They had to let the kids off school for two days last week in case they drowned en route to school or something … I feel sorry for all the homeless people who sleep under the bridges of the River Mopocho. They can’t last long in a heavy downpour.

I know it’s not even a fortnight since I last wrote but my schreibestlüst mojo has returned! I would have liked to have watched the Live Aid concert on the telly here but they didn’t show it. My mate reckons they’re saving up to buy the rights to Mel Gibson’s ‘The Passion Of The Christ’ or something. What a bunch of killjoys.

I spent the weekend before last outside of Santiago by the Pacific. The ocean air was very cleansing, though the weather drizzled most of the time I was there. I was in a cabin with an assortment of Europeans and the Irish Mafia that I am an associate member of here in Santiago. Not surprisingly it turned out to be rather boozy, so I fell off the wagon the first night but clambered back on it the second night with a stinking headache. I think I need a new social group, one without a bottle of booze glued to their hands (no matter how cheap the beer is). It’s a shame that one can’t go out to a pub and drink tea … actually, that’s not true, I do like getting drunk, it’s just the next day I can’t handle. My whole body hurts and I just can’t teach … not that I do anyway … it's that damn Kunstmann beer, brewed by those pesky German-speaking Chileans in the south! O sweet tasting cerveza, how you poison me so! You tempt me with the promise of being able to speak Spanish, only to give me a kicking in my guts the next day! A foul pox be upon you … until the next time I drink you


The Fruit Market
Partying hard can take its toll on one’s health, and Santiago is hard city to live in at the best of time (the third most polluted town in the world). When you go out the locals smoke about twenty fags in a night so you get a lungfull of smoke. One has to eat salad and fruit to combat premature death. Fortunately Chile's fruit crop rocks. They have loads of cool stuff, like chirimoya, guayava and other fruits I can't pronounce. The upside is that they make you feel good and wash out your body. The downside is that it's very hard to pull some bird whilst gulping down mango juice like a five year old! That's OK though because practically every bird I've come across has been barking. Even in my lessons I'm more like a psychiatrist than a teacher. Their ridiculously complicated lives make me laugh - it's amusing being surrounded by people who are more nuts than you are!

As you can see, I am in lighter mood than before. I had my haircut the other weekend and the guy wasn’t a complete butcher, which was a pleasant surprise. There are actually many hairdressers around where I live. They used to eye me jealously when I had my shoulder-length mane, peering through their windows, no doubt wishing to take my hair as ju-ju for their voodoo. We must protect ourselves against their evil.

I have been eating a lot of what are called alfajores. They are yummy mini-cake things made out of chocolate, some sort of cake mixture and a caramelised evaporated milk called manjar (also known as dulce de leche in other parts of Latin America). An alfajor can come in all shapes and sizes, with different types of chocolate or different flavours. I stumped upon one the other day that had rum in it. Alfajores are excellent to have with tea too. This is really just a continuation of my cake and tea addiction (one feeding off the other) that began when I renounced sugar in my tea for my First Holy Communion when I was seven. One needs something sweet to counter the bitterness (and vicë versa). Maybe I will open an alfajor shop in England … or even a company where I will pay poor Latin American women in London peanuts to make these things and then I will sell them at a major profit.

Theory du jour: Chileans have a very limited way of speaking Spanish. Very few of them read (books) and they never use the perfect tenses when talking. They have a huge amount of slang and expressions but as they don’t read they have a narrow vocabulary in which to express themselves. It could be argued that here is an organic version of Orwell’s Newspeak in action. Accent and language reflect environment and it’s probably due to the complete lack opportunity here that they speak in such a limited way … there is little do here in comparison with other cities with a population of five million. Chileans also being very cerebral dwell too much on themselves because there is bugger all else to do. Those with money go into psychoanalysis for the slightest of problems … the rest of people who need to go can afford it … this is the strangest place I’ve ever been … Japan next year is going to be a doddle after this! Anyhow, I reserve the right to change my theory at the drop of a hat … just like last time when I spoke up in the defence of Americans. This week there have been loads of Yank birds crawling out of the woodwork and they have sorely tested my tolerance … why do they talk so loudly? Their accents are like having your eardrum caressed with a cheesegrater as they sing the praises of George W. Bush.

As I write my parents and brother have arrived in Buenos Aires and next Friday they will fly to Santiago. We will probably go north … a time for doing as opposed to thinking, which is what I’m doing too much of at the moment. It will nice to be in the heat of the north instead of the cold winter rains. I shall write again upon my parents’ departure.
© Dermot Sullivan July 6th 2005
Next Diary September 2005

A Year in Santiago
Dermot Sullivan's Chile Diary
El Gringo - Diary Entry 2
Dermot begins teaching
Letter From Santiago No 3
Dermot Sullivan

Santiago Diary No 4
Dermot Sullivan

Santiago Diary No 5
The Naruda House

Chile Dog Nights
Dermot Sullivan No 6

A Week in Bolvia:
Dermot Sullivan's Diary No.7

Dermot Sullivan's Diary No 8

Chile Diary No 9
Dermot Sullivan explores

Chile Diary 10
Dermot goes North & South
Buenos Airies: Diary No 11
Dermot is back 2005

Chile Diary 12
Le Boca & Iguaca Falls

Chile Diary 13
Santiago - Politics and Religion
Dermot Sullivan

Chile Diary 14 - Sawdust
Dermot Sullivan
in winter

Chile Diary 16 1.10.05
Back to Life


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