Saturday, October 16, 2010

On leaving Coyhaique, a tale from Puerto Varas

One of many things I hadn't considered in recent times, what with the miners on the brain, and also, hey MamaJ is in town, which means we're both out of town, is how the earthquake affected populations other than the affected populations. By which I mean other than people whose homes or livelyhoods were damaged or destroyed.

Tonight we were eating dinner in a lackluster pizza restaurant in Puerto Varas, like you do. We just wanted something small and simple, nothing over the top, garlic drizzled or particularly hearty, and micro-thin pizza seemed just the ticket. We were talking to our server, a woman in her late 20s about some misbehaving children running amok in the restaurant, which is pretty unusual in Chile. Chalk it up to there being inattentive parents all over the world, or people with bigger fish to fry than whether their children fall down off a wall they were climbing up (really).

So we got to talking to the woman, and everyone started asking where everyone was from. It turns out that she's from Coyhaique, a town on the Carretera Austral in a singularly gorgeous part of Chile that anyone would be lucky to live in, except for the cold in the winter (she said).

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and here's a picture of a giant mate I took in Coyhaique when I was there a while ago, but there are no pics of Puerto Varas because my card reader is in my upper right hand desk drawer and I am nowhere nearby.

In fact, it was the cold (plus the earthquake) that drove her out, she said. By the time two months had passed from the date of the earthquake, a cubic meter of wood was up to 28,000 CLP. I don't know how long a cubic meter of wood lasts for cooking and heating, but 28,000 CLP is around sixty dollars, and it's a pretty big chunk of change. Wood prices rose as southern Chile was being rebuilt, and all the wood was slated towards construction, rather than heating. And heating costs rose. And so one day she took a bus to Puerto Varas and took a job at a pizza place where there's microthin pizza and children climbing the walls.

"So you came to the north," I said, which is funny because Puerto Varas is in the south of Chile, but Coyhaique is further south. Yes, she said. In Coyhaique you don't make any more money than in Puerto Varas, but in Puerto Varas you can live well on 250,000 CLP (around five hundred dollars, 172,000 is the minimum wage), she said. I didn't know how well she meant by well, but I'm certainly not going to argue with someone who left her home because of heating costs. I don't know how often she gets home, but I hope she gets to go when it's not too cold. And I hope she gets to eat all the pizza she wants.

2 comments:

travelojos said...

That is an awesome pic of Mate. I can't think of any other non-commercial statues etc. that honor a particular type of drink (tea or coffee etc.). But I suppose it wouldn't be too much trouble to find enough guys willing to erect one for beer.

Also--like you--I find that most of the interesting info I learn about the places I visit comes from chatting up the waiters/waitresses etc.

Sharon said...

There's this awesome pizza place in Puerto Varas that is run by this awesome sicilian guy. They have the best eggplant pizza ever. I just wish I remembered the name of the place.