The International Writers Magazine: Dermots Chile Diary No
am writing you from the depths of the cold of the English winter.
I am in the abandoned north wing of the house, in my fathers
former study. Now its just full of boxes and board games
from the 1980s that nobody wanted to play even then. Outside the
weather has changed and what has been a mild winter has turned
its been a while since I wrote and in the
meantime I have traversed continents.
Before I returned
to England for Christmas I too a quick trip to the south of Chile. I
went to an island called Chiloé. It is quite distinct from the
mainland. They have their own style of housing that are made from wooden
pegs and some of them are on stilts above the sea (palafitos). They
eat a lot of fish (many of men make their livelihood from fishing) and
have a dish called curanto that has every type of fish under the sun
Probably the most interesting part of their culture is the mythology.
There are so many different figures, including Pincoya, a mermaid who
does a dance on the waves. If she faces the sea at the end of the dance
then the fisherman will have plenty of fish, but if she faces toward
land then there will be shortages. The best of all is an ugly gnome
called Trauco. He seduces women with his irresistible repugnance! Basically
if the father isnt known they blame Trauco, which seemed to somehow
satisfy returning sailors when they discovered their wives knocked up.
The worst thing that happened to me there was that some thieving tramposo
gobshite stole my lovely new digital camera when I was asleep on the
bus down there. I cant really talk about that
too much. I bought a new camera on Amazon the other day, but it was
£100 that could have better spent on travelling. In the end I
bought a disposable camera in Chiloé. The island is famous for
its Jesuit churches so I wanted to get few photos of them.
I was supposed to go to Mendoza in Argentina just before I flew to England.
Both my flatmate and I craved the meat that we scoffed when we there
last. However, my flatmate had met some bird the weekend previously
and lost his mind in a fit of lust and disappeared up north for some
more sweet loving. It seemed that he hungered for a different type of
meat! Actually the bird in question was pretty much el sexo
encarnada so all was forgiven. A student of mine and her husband took
pity on me being left behind in Santiago all by myself and took me to
their seaside retreat for the weekend. Chileans are a very hospitable
people. One good thing was that I finally got to go swimming in the
Pacific! Guess what? Its bloody freezing! Its not like the
Atlantic at all! Still, it was great to be able to cool down in the
summer (and simultaneously get burnt by the sun). The Chilean coast
is very attractive
there is something very enjoyable to stare
out over the largest ocean in the world. I think if I had gone in a
straight line I would have ended up in South Africa
day I will buy some land there and build a place of my own
would have to do it though with money earned from Britain though.
After all of this I finally left Chile. I hadnt been home in ten
months. I lost my wallet either in Santiago or Atlanta, which is very
annoying because I never lose anything and then within a fortnight I
lost my camera and my wallet. At least I dont keep money in my
only credit cards and my Chilean cédula (identification
card). The former were easily cancelled but I think the latter may cause
me a headache.
I arrived in the small hours of Christmas Eve (after spending twelve
hours in Atlanta Airport). It never really struck home before, but I
noticed that Americans have a penchant for dressing in appallingly ill-fitting
sportswear. Why do they feel such a compulsion to dress as pikey chavs?
It really is most unappealing. I have to say though that the people
who worked in the airport were very friendly, as opposed to the Homeland
Security people who were not to helpful when I asked if I could retrace
my steps in order to find my wallet. I know that British Customs and
Excise have a reputation for unpleasantness, but I will do my utmost
to avoid flying via America during the Bush presidency. This time I
will go via Buenos Aires.
I was greeted at Gatwick airport by my mother and brother. I met my
sister and father back at the house. I was then banished to the hairdressers
as they didnt dig hair down to my shoulders.
I went to the pub later that evening with my father before we went to
Christmas mass. It freaked me out a bit as everywhere around me I could
hear people speaking English. Normally I dont want to listen to
other peoples conversations. In Chile I can just tune out as people
around me gabber in Spanish. I had to move to an empty part of the pub
as it was hurting my ears.
I think I may be a bit sensitive to
It took me a while to readjust to being back home. Im finally
getting to grips with it (just in time to leave!). I fell into the old
trap of having an idea of what home was like in my head whilst I was
away and then it not necessarily conforming to reality. Its a
little difficult to put my finger on
its something Ill
be pondering over for a long time, but I dont think Im any
different to people whove been in a different culture for a while
and then return home. There were little differences all around me but
maybe the thing that has changed is myself.
On Boxing Day I took place in a cross-country run in a local village.
I thought it would be harder than it was but I found it a pleasurable
change to be in the dry English cold in the countryside. The run was
very muddy and I was very concerned about losing my shoes in it, but
apart from that it was great to look out on the green hills and the
frost that was on ground nearby. Santiago is normally so dry and arid
so I appreciated the change. In fact, the cold hasnt bothered
me at all since Ive been home. The lack of light though after
coming from the Chilean summer has been difficult to take. I dont
think my bodyclock has ever adjusted to British time!
I did pop up to London during my stay and that was great. It was wonderful
to be surrounded with dozens of languages and sights and sounds and
life! Santiago can be very dull. Despite it being the financial capital
of South America it is not really that exposed to the outside world
and can be very conservative. If I could make £250,000 a year
then Id definitely live in London, but nobody seems prepared to
pay me that.
I leave England on the 12th of January. The academic year starts in
March so Ill do a bit of travelling before then. I wish everyone
a happy 2005!
© Dermot Sullivan Jan 11th 2005
Year in Santiago
Dermot Sullivan's Chile Diary
Gringo - Diary Entry 2
From Santiago No 3
Diary No 4
Diary No 5
The Naruda House
Dermot Sullivan No 6
Week in Bolvia:
Dermot Sullivan's Diary No.7
No 8: Mendoza
Diary No 9
North & South
Chile Diary 11
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