Wednesday, July 16, 2008

on being sequestrated (in a friendly way)

Given the vast number of people that were taken and later disappeared during a very dark period in this country's history, and the recent release of French/Colombian citizen and politician kidnappee Ingrid Bettancourt, it is surely in poor taste to speak of Chilean kidnapping in jest.

But so I shall. Chileans have this tendency to secret you away for longer than you were thinking of, or impede your leaving at the time you planned on. It's motivated by togetherness and hospitality (I believe), but to an independent woman of my age, it can feel alot like being a caged animal. I have fallen victim to the kindakidnapping on a number of occasions, and there are now friends I will not go anywhere with unless I clearly have a way to get out, or a very empty calendar for the coming days. A friend of mine was recently invited on a day hike which turned into an overnight in the mountains. With (suspiciously) an extra tent, extra base layer, extra sleepingbag. Extra everything. Kidnapped, at 14,000 feet, no way out.

The other day I went over to see a friend who's recovering from a bike accident (discussion of bicyclist-motorist relations and also on the genius that is worker's comp that covers your comings and goings to work at a later date). I had about two hours to spare, and at the two hour mark, made my move to go. But so far? All alone? We're all (two more people) leaving soon. So I sat. tick tick tick. And then I made my move to go again. But don't go yet, they said. We have to leave in a minute. And then the visitee's wife appeared with a tray of coca cola and cookies. Darnit. Undone by high fructose corn syrup (only here it's still sugar). And then I had to stay for that. Which, by the way, does anyone really like those wafer cookies? But when someone is being hospitable, your job is to let them. And so I did.

By the time I got out of there, 3.5 hours had elapsed, and I was just feeling lucky that the sun hadn't set while I was in the house, because surely pillows and spare mattresses would be pulled out of storage and I'd still be raring to go over breakfast of Nescafe and white bread with jam from a bag. Chileans are nothing if not hospitable.

4 comments:

trotamundos said...

I think that you do some bad comparisons. The politic chilean detentions in dictatorship times are very diferent to colombian kidnaping because in Chile people are killed or totured as a way of destroy the oposition. In contrast, in Colombia people are kidnapped to get something in return: money or release of prisoners.

I think your comparison between kidnapping and chilean hospitality is quite unfortunate. Is offensive to people who suffered a kidnaping or torture that use that word so lightly. And is certainly offensive to your chilean friends that you compares his kindness with a kidnapper.

In many parts of the world, if you visit someone, they give you what is good for them. In my experience, even in the most humble homes, people strive to make you feel welcome, giving you something that might not be tasty for you, but that people could mean a great effort.

"Chileans have this tendency to secret you away for longer than you were thinking of, or impede your leaving at the time you planned on...". I think that chilean people don't schedule the end of meetings with his friends, becouse in the free time they want be free. And, I think that you must not to blame for the kindness of people when you are unable to communicate your schedules.

In this times many people forget the simple and essentials things in life, running from one side to another, chasing what?

Naughty Butterfly said...

The true essence of the peoples is in their hospitality.

Eileen said...

absolutely. And people are absolutely hospitable. But cultural norms about allowing people to leave at exactly the moment they wish to go, not an hour later, not a day later make it hard sometimes to let Chileans love you how they want to.

Eileen said...

Exactly. I have made a hideous comparison. It's terrible. Which is why I mention that it's not a good comparison from the outset.

I am letting you in on a very particular culture, that of this particular gringa, living in Chile. Among other friends with a similar cultural background, we find surprise camping trips and general feelings of "false imprisonment," which is tortious, i.e. illegal where we are from, to be unfun.

I love living in Chile, and I love my friends. But in the end, where you cut your teeth is where you're from, and it affects your perspective. That's what you'll read about here. Nothing more, and nothing less.

I published your comment though we don't see eye-to-eye because my readers probably wonder what Chileans would think of what I have to say. But I won't not write about my truths because they are uncomfortable, unfortunate, or unpleasant for you.

And btw, have we met?