And I’m back in Chile. Amazing. The culmination of goals I had set for myself, a pre-mid-life bucket list perhaps, after quitting my job in August. Thank you to all those people. You know who you are…who helped me get here.
There was the 1,500 nautical mile trip aboard the replica of the slave ship Amistad from Mass. to Puerto Rico. Then the double-handed sailing journey with my friend from Jersey City to Block Island, Rhode Island and back! Another sailboat delivery, and, a five-day solo backpacking trip through the Catskills.
My body took a beating, but survived. And on Saturday I arrived back in Santiago, a place I hadn’t visited since 2007.
I am here now to write about the amazing developments happening here in environmental conservation, adventure sports and mountains.
This will obviously include work on the development of a private conservation initiative on a 30,000 acre property in the Central Andes owned by my family and operated by my aunt called Parque Andino Juncal.
I lived here for nearly four years, and is the reason for this blog. It was a journey seen through unique eyes. My mother’s family had established themselves in Valparaiso from Australia in the early 1900s, and my father had written several books uncovering the sordid calculations of terror by the military dictatorship.
I was fascinated by the cultural changes and morphing of the people as the lingering shell of repression of cultural identity imposed by the 17-year dictatorship eroded away.
But I became jaded by the constant negativity by people in Santiago, a sense of constant profiteering by the country´s business class and frustration with my own goals.
And now Chile is post-Gothic, post-“buena Naty” (NSFW, look it up), post-Pokemon, post-massive student demonstrations and into the second, count it SECOND, term of Michelle Bachelet, the daughter of an assassinated military officer and the first woman president in Chile.
She will be inaugurated in March.
How much have things changed. How much does it matter? Will my constant analysis and tendency to focus on negative give way to seeking out what is positive? I think so.
And let me tell you of these positive things.
Within 24 hours of landing I was en route to nearby Cajon del Maipo to go rock climbing with nine nearly complete strangers. A few beers Saturday night turned into an invite to go climbing at 9 am Sunday morning. There would be eight Chileans and an American named Joshua.
The rock, called Piedra Rommel, was covered in climbers. The two 45-foot-high sandstone boulders along the river had some 20 routes coming off of them, ranging from the easiest to most difficult. There were women, men, children and adults clambering up and over this rock.
We set up camp nearby in the Mediterranean scrub brush, and proceeded to spend the Sunday afternoon drinking beer. Cries of successful summits, or agony as grip was lost and adrenalin surged in the moment of a fall, rang out past 8 p.m. That night I learned the art of grilling beef and pork, vegetables, potatos, and became close companions with the Chileans.
They were fountains of optimism, laughter, generosity and entrepreneurship. Oliver, a photographer, Pablo, a magician, Laucha, runs three small businesses, Valentina, works at an insurance company but wants to establish a program promoting healthy conversations around sex and sexuality. Is she serious? In conservative Chile? She was optimistic.
The next day was cliff jumping into a water hole, beer drinking and napping in hammocks or in the cool shade of a giant boulder next to a river.
And three days after I arrived it started it was over.
Now, I am off to Juncal for a busy week. I will spend three days with a glaciologist studying the curious life of a rock glacier at 10,000 feet. Then I will welcome a group of biologists from Bolivia, Argentina and elsewhere who have come to visit the park. There is also a change of park rangers to oversee and host of other tasks to get a better sense of how this park runs.
And then in a couple weeks, maybe a little (or a lot) of sailing in the most competitive and extravagant regatta in Chile, the Regata de Chiloe.
I’ll be posting regularly on Chile From Within with photos and video. Stay tuned.
Picking up on the what-its-like-to-live-and-survive-in-Chile-as-a-foreigner conversation over at Don Güill’s Chile blog C.hileno this is an incredible opportunity to feature the excellent short “docu-fiction” by up and coming documentary filmmaker and editor Anthony Rauld about life and love in Chile. Anthony’s newest documentary, created by Lauren Rosenfeld, is about life and water and a big gold mine called Pascua Lama in the Atacama Desert, “Watershed.”
Part II can be found on YouTube here.
Monocle magazine in its recent issue 8, Volume 1, declares that the architectural debate over the future of the burnt down Diego Portales building, a legacy to when gray architecture brought together Allende (who had it designed and built) and Pinochet (who placed the governing Junta’s offices within it). The gray days of fascism meet the gray facade of socialism. It’s a cute mention, but short. Im thinking they reacted to the letter to the editor posted by the architect of the phenomenally ugly building which ruined the Lastarria neighborhood, in El Mercurio late August. A copy of the discussion in El Mercurio about the debate over the future of the building can be found at the blog Plataforma Urbana here.
Los Detectives Salvajes by Roberto Bolano, and translated by Natasha Wimmer, has been named one of the ten best books of the year by the NY Times. NYC (James Wood) , in a review, is all over Bolano’s junk, as is the guy who commented to me about the cool yellow and black hardcover underneath my arm as I got on the train. On the day of its publication the article was the most emailed article of the NY Times website. Im reading it right now. Its cerebral, and he likes poets. Go Arturo. The book is a “clever autobiograhy” that seems to be about visceral realists roaming Mexico City, Paris, Barcelona, having sex and doing some mild drugs…and reading/writing/talking poetry. Was also in top five of WashPost..a fact which El Mercurio was so sharp as to pick up, despite that the relevance of a WashPost book review for fiction is significantly less than that of NYT. Dumbasses.
Speaking of the WashPost, Don Guill, writer of the Chile blog C.hileno, published a short article in the Spider (you know, like Google technology) blog section this past weekend. This time Sebastian Pinera, principal share owner of airline LanChile (which recently put in an order for like 30 or so Boeing’s, for $1.5 billion over 5 years) is serious about running for President of Chile. So serious that he even got himself a Facebook profile. Oh, digital life. What is next, a Second Life avatar? Not far fetched I’d argue. So, which do I highlight, the Washpost article, or Will’s blog entry?
I was in Penn Station killing time going from the ebony skin mags to other things and found ANOTHER story on Nomads of the Seas I think it was GQ, late in doing a story about the luxury fly-fishing operation in Patagonia. Read about the concept, heli-fishing, in Portfolio (April 2007) The service offers helicopter transport to remote lakes and streams in the Chilean Patagonia, as well as Jet Boat and Zodiac motoring. My draft blog entry was written and never finished like six months ago, when the specialty magazines (luxury/fishing) wrote about it and I checked out the spelling error plagued and khaki/ olive green themed website by Leo Prieto. The fancy, custom boat, for the fancy custom (or self-made?) clients cost $22 million dollars. The original crew are ex-military folks (are they ever ex-military?) including a former bodyguard for Pinochet. I think he is a different generation and was not a part of the real nasty stuff, just the regular nasty stuff.
The WashPost did another blog post, about call girl Maria Carolina , who donated a days worth of labor (about USD$5000)…all 27 hours of sex, to the Teleton, a famous charity telethon for disabled kids which mobilizes all of Chile around Mario Kreutzberger (famous host of Sabado Gigante and now producer of a movie called Testigos de Silencio about his Jewish heritage (google Elissa Strauss shortly)).
“I’ve already auctioned off the 27 hours of love,” Maria Carolina told Reuters on Wednesday, saying she had raised about $4,000. “One of my clients already paid. It seemed like a good deed to him.
It is normally a family affair. Check out the comments on the WashPost blog.
What they do in the Chilean press, instead of writing about the erratic leadership style and disapproval of Bachelet (November 34.2% approval, 44.2% disapproval), is publish first-person narratives about an author’s first time with a dildo, in this case, Sally Sea (diámetro: progresivo hasta 4 cm. en la base), provided to her by a gringa named Japi Jane the sex shop Sexy in the City in Santiago. Thank God for America.
Oh, and in the real basement of this commentary is news that El Mercurio has teamed up with el Instituto Chile-Norteamericano for translation services for an english language wire service contribution. What is most revealing is that once translated from Spanish to English, you realize the extents to how lame-culo El Mercurio is of its subject-friends, or the opposite for its enemies), like for example in business. Or maybe this is just the nature of the translators..who knows. Maybe I’m being unfair.
The way, way basement…always the best stuff, is that Stuart Copeland, drummer for The Police, made a sexist comment about the two female president’s of South America, Cristina Kirchner, recently elected Presi of Argentina, and our Michelle Bachelet of Chile, recently featured as a banner on the Columbia University Website.
The joke had to do with beer goggles…yikes…two beers for President Kirchner and four beers for President Bachelet. Sounds like a drunk comment from the dressing room. (remember that Sting song about the disappeared ones…he actually goes way back (to the ’80s) with Chile and human rights)
And if you got this far, I might as well as put in some real news, that Bachelet, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Lula of Brazil will have a meeting…It was to be this upcoming Tuesday, but apparently has been postponed by Lula for internal reasons, according to La Nacion (of Chile). This is truly an interesting meeting, basically because Chavez isn’t invited. I hope it happens. Also, follow the Wall Street Journal coverage of Chavez and Latin America…those writers are fucking crazy, I think. It also comes on the cusp of the voting for the Asamblea Constituyente, and the visit to the US by a bunch of representatives…wait..a visit the OAS and the UN by four conservative state representatives (crucial for voting) asking for intervention, and according to Evo Morales statements, help in rescuing their homeboy, ex-president Sanchez de Losada from a genocide charges in court. See this La Nacion article
Shit is going down in Bolivia…Hey look, Global Voices to the rescue, in a country where there is coverage by bloggers. READ THIS RUN DOWN OF BLOGS IN BOLIVIA DESCRIBING LA GRAN CAGADA QUE ESTA PASANDO ALLI.
I reduce (like in cooking) one editorial comment by WSJ this past week, on A20 of the Dec. 3rd edition, by Mary Anastasia O’Grady, titled…”
If a Democracy Falls in the Andes…
” But further south in Bolivia, where Chavez ally President Evo Morales has been trying to consolidate power in a similar fashion, democracy took an even more direct hit last week.
…Earlier this year on Bolivian radio, Mr. Morales said that he was taking Fidel Castro’s advice to avoid an armed uprising and instead “make transformations, democratic revolutions, what Chavez is doing.”
…So last week his government moved to resolve the problem by employing the military, the national police and paramilitaries to physically block elected members of the opposition from entering the constituent assembly in Sucre and the national legislature in La Paz — so that it could push through its centralizing agenda.”
…These events didn’t get much international attention, but they signal that the government has decided to accelerate its accumulation of power in La Paz through the use of force. It is said that Mr. Morales’s vice president, Alvaro Garcia Linera, is heading up this project and this doesn’t bode well for democracy. The upper-middle-class Marxist of European extraction from Cochabamba has a record of leading “armed struggle” in indigenous communities that goes back decades. All indications are that the tiger has not lost his taste for brute force.”
…mention of Ahmadinejad visit to La Paz.
“…Thirty years later Bolivia‘s potential to destabilize remains.”
…The U.S. ought to also be concerned about the tinder-box issue of poverty. Mr. Morales has used this misery — and his indigenous background — to rally support for his socialism….a retrograde experiment.”
…This then is the “democracy” of Mr. Morales and Mr. Garcia Linera. It’s hardly surprising. Their power came about illegitimately, with dynamite and road blocks that brought down two elected governments. In the short run, Bolivians may have no recourse. But a good first step from the international community would be a recognition that the democracy has been struck down, even if no one heard it fall.”