I’ve been busy with activities.
Other than teaching.
I went to Ayquina with a couple volunteers and my friend Niko and his family. It’s a crazy little event. Mind you, all of the Catholic Schools in Calama are shut Monday and Tuesday for it. It’s tradition for most everyone in Calama to trek the 60 miles to this tiny village of Ayquina, where there is an annual weekly celebration in honour of the Virgin Mary. And by trek, I mean walk. Luckily, I avoided that part. I managed to log a good 6 hours witnessing aforesaid event, which involved countless groups of elegantly dressed men and women performing synchronized dances, some or all of which harbor some sort of religious symbolism. In any event, there were angels and gargoyle-esque things and dudes who looked like they came from Mortal Kombat. However, we came early in the day and were well-worn out of the tireless dancing routines by lunchtime. The real bummer was that, other than one dedicated heinekin drinker, we witnessed zero drinking. “The party starts when the sun goes down” surely must have been the mantra, and we couldn’t hold out until dusk. It must be part of the ritual.
I also attended a funeral.
It was for the father of my mother’s brother’s wife. It was very interesting and emotional. We first went to the wake at the home. There was an open-casket, but I didn’t wander anywhere near. I wore a tie, but most people just wore normal clothing, except for the immediate family, who wore black. After a short time at the house, we followed the procession of cars to the main church of Calama, in the city centre. The diseased was an ex-police officer, and there were a number of police there. 6 or so of them stood military-style around the casket during the church service. They had big guns and twirled them around when they were ordered to do so. Finally, we went to the cemetary. The cemetaries look nothing like they do here. The caskets are placed in these simply-built small edifices, which are maybe 12 feet high. The caskets are placed in the edifices in grid-like fashion. Anyway, they slide the casket in and then there’s an enclosed space in front of the casket to place flowers, photos, and other items. While my family was calm, it got very emotional.
Okay, now for Chile’s Independence Day celebrations, or Dieciocho, as they call it. However, dieciocho (18 September) is a bit misleading, because unlike our 4th of July — celebrated solely on that day — “Dieciocho” festivities were celebrated from 16 Wednesday to 19 Sunday. At school on Wednesday, there were no classes. In the morning, there activities in the gym (notably, dancing the cueca). Then at 11 or so the students played games and prepared a barbeque in and around their classrooms (with some help from faculty, parents). I was invited to join 4G, a class of seniors. After the barbeque, students were free to leave. Then, for some reason, students had class on Thursday until lunchtime (with maybe a %50 attendance) and then Friday there was no school.
Okay, I gotta skip some stuff, but I spent tons of time drinking beer and vino de frutilla (wine with strawberries) and ChiCha (customary Dieciocho grape-based drink) and eating infinite barbequed meats and empanadas. We played lots of games, including one called “Sopa (Frog)” which is sorta like Cornhole or Bags. You get 6 copper coins and have to toss them from a certain distance onto this little platform, which has holes and a Frog with an open mouth and whatnot. I might have a picture. We also played Guesstures, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, sang karaoke, and danced danced danced. It was pretty awesome. Oh– and all the games were scored and were girls versus boys. And there were always stakes. Sometimes it was drinking, but later we got more creative with the “penitencia” hahaha.
After two heavy nights of aforementioned activities, we used Sunday to continue our patriotic duties at a friend’s home for another barbeque. Then, we went to the city park (Parque el Loa) for the Ramada. The Ramada is this fair-esque event which draws tens of thousands over the few days that it goes on. There are all sorts of food and drink and family activities.
Eventually, however, the partying ceased, and I was allowed to scamper home in time for Sunday Night Football.
Now that’s a weekend.