Monday, January 4, 2010

On loving Chile and the freakish chagual

A friend of mine, a famous podcaster, crafter and all around seamonster about town recently asked me to record a piece for her. I was alternately flattered and freaked out, overly confident and very nervous. I still haven't done it, so I guess now I'm just procrastinating a bit. The topic of the podcast is loving another country.

I have tomes to say on the subject, but the crux of it is that I think love has to be mutual. I feel (for the most part) that Chile loves me. I have felt supported, coddled, challenged, helped, moved and otherwise kept awake here, and this I value tremendously, and it helps me to love it back.

Last night a bunch of friends were over and we played a game where I read them unlikely-sounding town names along the length of Chile from a map I'd hung up to plan an upcoming trip on a very cool little train, and they would tell me if the town was in the north or south, what region, any special details about it, etc. I still don't have that kind of encyclopediac knowledge of this country, though it's something I work on from time to time. But there are always surprises.

Like this plant, the puya chilensis, which we call chagual (cha WAHL), which I always thought looked like a huge broad asparagus. It shoots 15 feet up from the middle of a scraggly, wig-like cactus, and up sprouts this unlikely looking thing that looks like it may well have been invented by a six-year old, or perhaps a college-age student working on a nasty cough syrup addiction.

chagual, faro, sebastian

It's surprising in and of itself, but last weekend my friends goaded me into sliding down a small coastal hill to get a better look, and that's where I could see it up close and nearly expletived out loud.

Look at this thing!

chagual 3

And if that's not enough to make a girl love a country, well, I don't know what is.


kyle said...

Eileen, when are we doing our blogger meet up? Just say the word and I will help you start organizing!

I definitely have never felt coddled by this country. Between the accident and getting assaulted a couple of times, quite the opposite, I mostly feel like Chile is trying to break me down so I can build myself back up stronger than ever.

Greg Wesson said...

I think love has to be mutual.

Sage words. If only I had them prior to embarking on most... actually, all... of my previous relationships.

I'm not sure I love England, my adopted country, and I don't think England loves me (judging by the suspicious looks her border guards give me on re-entering the country). I do think, however, that both of us see some mutual benefit in our relationship until some other sexier immigrant comes along for her, or some other sexier country comes along for me.


Eileen said...

Kyle, anytime before the 9th of Feb works great for me. Have we decided where it's going to be? Will surely be fun. As for Chile coddling me, you have to know (and my mother, who reads this blog can substantiate) that we're not a very gentle family. So maybe Chile just gives me a kind of love I can understand. Also, our love has deepened in recent years. It wasn't always this way. I think there are peaks and valleys. Also, my getting hit by a car was like a love tap in comparison to yours. Though owie splat, igual.

Greg, thanks for commenting. And on the sage words, you and me both, buddy, you and me both! Sexier immigrants and sexier countries will always come along, but if you really want it to work out, it will. Have we gone too far with the analogy?

Greg Wesson said...

Have we gone too far with the analogy?

Nah, that was just the right amount.

Still Life in Southeast Asia said...

I love that plant. Thanks for the photo. It makes me miss those beautiful walks.