21st Century
The Future
World Travel
Books & Film
New Original Fiction
Opinion & Lifestyle
News Analysis
Film Space
Movies in depth
Kid's Books
Dreamscapes Two
More Original Fiction
Lifestyles Archive
Politics & Living

The International Writers Magazine
: Dermots Chile Diary No 10

North & South
Dermot Sullivan

I 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 father’s former study. Now it’s 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 chilly … it’s 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 in it!

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 isn’t 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 can’t really talk about that … it hurts 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? It’s bloody freezing! It’s 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 … maybe one day I will buy some land there and build a place of my own … I would have to do it though with money earned from Britain though.

After all of this I finally left Chile. I hadn’t 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 don’t keep money in my wallet … 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 didn’t 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 don’t want to listen to other people’s 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 noise.

It took me a while to readjust to being back home. I’m 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. It’s a little difficult to put my finger on … it’s something I’ll be pondering over for a long time, but I don’t think I’m any different to people who’ve 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 hasn’t bothered me at all since I’ve been home. The lack of light though after coming from the Chilean summer has been difficult to take. I don’t 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 I’d 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 I’ll do a bit of travelling before then. I wish everyone a happy 2005!
© Dermot Sullivan Jan 11th 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

Diary No 8: Mendoza
Chile Diary No 9
Dermot Sullivan

Chile Diary 10
North & South
Chile Diary 11

More Travel here


© Hackwriters 1999-2005 all rights reserved