The International Writers Magazine: Chile Diary No 14
PLACE OF SAWDUST
Dermot Sullivan's South American
Diary No 14
dont know what the weather is like back home but here it
is the winter. I constantly marvel at the Santiaguino refusal
to comes to grips with the simplest concepts of drainage and watch
how the streets become rivers and the buses create tsunami as
they plough though them, soaking all the pedestrians walking on
They put down sawdust
at the entrance of buildings in an attempt to absorb the water and so
ones shoes end up looking filthy dirty. How can a first world
city function like this?
As well as keeping an eye on the television about the city underwater,
I have been watching the news about the recent earthquake. Chile is
the most earthquake-prone country on the planet and on the 13th of June
there was a major one in the north measuring 8.something on the Richter
scale. Fortunately the epi-centre was 100km underground so not many
people were killed. A lot of the villages in the north have the old-fashioned
adobe houses and naturally they didnt withstand the quake. Generally,
Chile has the highest standard of earthquake safety in the world but
the poor often live in glorified shacks
some of them arent
even that glorified.
Next month my parents and my brother will be coming down to visit me!
My sister is staying In England due to reason best known to her. My
father will probably place her under an asbo (anti-social behaviour
order) or have the house under lockdown to prevent any possible partying
antics. They will spend a little under a week in Buenos Aires (probably
one of the greatest cities in the world) and then they will head to
Santiago. We will most probably go north to the Atacama Desert as Santiago
is most unattractive in the winter.
There are certain things that Id like them to see whilst theyre
here. I want it to rain for a day so they can see that what I say is
true. Its great though when the rain clears you can see the majesty
of the mountains
followed swiftly by the sky filling up with
stinky toxic pollution so you cant see the mountains again. I
want to travel with them on a local bus (which are insane) so they can
see how awful they are! People come onto these buses and sing for money
or try and sell things (or just beg) and it would be good for them to
see this too. Most of all Id like there to be some sort of seismic
activity whilst theyre here. For my mothers sake I would
rather not a full-blown earthquake but at least a decent enough tremor,
preferably whilst theyre in my flat on the 24th floor! One can
really feel the movement the higher up you go. Its something theyd
never feel back home in England. Something around a 2 or a 3 on the
Richter scale would do the job nicely! Anything higher would just complicate
In all honesty I was a bit fed up of late, hence me my lack of writing.
I had started writing something where I was accusing my neighbours of
being Pinochets torturers but I felt that maybe I needed to get
out and about and experience a change of scene
in the end I just
ended up working more and didnt have time to write
still might be Pinochets torturers
Ill leave that
topic though for another time.
I tried to change my style of writing, trying to write in different
voices. I had been reading a lot of Fernando Pessoa and Philip K. Dick
and tried to create a Salvador Allende speaking with the voice of Mr.
T but the language of Eazy-E from N.W.A. but it didnt quite come
off (by the way, B.A. is renamed Mario in the Spanish version
of the A-Team! How many black American men are called Mario?
The show itself is called Los Magnificos). I think thats
a treat that can be saved for another time as well.
The best way to liven ones self up is to get out and about. I
have a new Canadian flatmate and they find the best way to bond is through
unfortunately this has led to me drinking like a student.
My body just cant purge itself of the booze the next day and I
suffer awfully. The plus-side is that beer aids language. I had people
come to me saying that they know me and that Ive talked to them
and Ive had no memory of it whatsoever! The
moral of this story is to be pissed all the time! Right now Im
on the wagon as this place is unhealthy enough as it is with the pollution.
This means that Im not practicing my Spanish, which seems to be
getting worse by the day. If anyone wants to learn Spanish then dont
come to Chile.
I went to a cool party that was held in a house that was about to be
demolished. It had the strange feeling of a teenage party; probably
in part also that 95% of Chileans live with their parents until they
get married. Through my Irish chums I met an extraordinarily attractive
girl who was half-American and half-Venezuelan and who had the gross
indecency to be leaving Chile forever. Anyhow, she made a good companion
for 24 hours.
The culmination of my time with her was trying to find a nightclub at
three in the morning on a Sunday (or Monday, depending how you view
time). It doesn't help that Santiago is bloody boring as well, but this
girl be a clever so-and-so managed to find a place. As we went in (no
entrance fee) I immediately noticed that a guy in front of me - dressed
as a woman. I cocked my head left 90º degrees and saw some other bloke
dressed the same way. I was in a gay club! It was a bit of a shock to
the system but it was a hell of a lot livelier than a normal Santiaguino
haunt. Actually, it was packed with straight available women but one
can never be sure what one might take home. Unfortunately I was with
an Irish guy as well who was straight off the boat and freaked out when
he saw that the chicks had dicks. We had to leave after 30 minutes as
he feared a bum-burglary. He had nothing to worry about but I must confess
avoiding the toilets in the establishment.
have noticed a new type of traveller (for want of a better word.
It could be an ex-patriot worker as well) of late. This traveller
comes in two halves: one is American, one if European. The American
will apologise for his/her nation and describe himself/herself as
anti-American. Personally, I find these people pathetic.
To describe yourself then as anti-American when you are American
is even more pathetic. Surely America has a lot more to offer than
its government? Would this same American judge me by Tony Blair?
It seems like a short-cut to thinking.
By far the worst
though of the two types is the European anti-American. I have met so
many of these idiots now its making me sick. These people spout
absolute hate about America, practically foaming at the mouth when they
do it. Often there will be an American in the room having to listen
to this crap. I wouldnt care if it were Donald Rumsfeld who were
being subjected to it, but the majority of the time its some young
Yank bird whos come to explore South America. The worst case I
saw was a lovely girl who had been born in Brazil to Peace Corp parents
and was heading north to Peru to do some charity work. I was trying
to chat to her but over my words was some random European Yank-hater
spitting venom on how America was the devil incarnate (that prize belongs
to Belgium) or some other nonsense. I was so embarrassed for this poor
girl, especially as she took it with such good grace. Contrary to popular
opinion I am not an anti-American, Im just anti-stupidity. If
the majority of Yanks happen to be really stupid then thats something
different. I would never pre-judge a nationality. Even my anti-Belgium
feeling is borne out of experience.
After defending Americans everywhere, I have to say I keep bumping into
American women in South America who keep testing my goodwill. Such prize
comments include: what do you think about inter-racial marriage?
I think that you should always stick to your own and American
prisons are a picnic. Id love to be sent to a prison in the U.S.
what can one say in the face of such utter stupidity? I have
found I am tolerant to Yank birds who are attractive, but if they are
truly repellant underneath their skin I tend to dislike them even more.
Such are my faults.
I have many ridiculous contradictory theories that I just love to share
with you all.
Spare a thought for me in your summer!
© Dermot Sullivan July 2005
email@example.com - To Be Continued in
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 2005
Back in harness
Chile Diary 13
Chile Diary 14
about Dermot in Chile in Hacktreks
all rights reserved