Whilst we sit in our cosy cabin in the middle of the Chilean countryside, with the rain falling outside and the fire going inside, it is a good time to reflect on our time here in Chile and generally about our trip. In a few days Kirstie will be going back to Wales and the States, and I will be moving on to Peru…
It has been great to leave the big cities of Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile to spend a few days marvelling at the beauty of the Chilean landscape. We are very near the volcano Villarica, which has shown its full power only last March. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villarrica_%28volcano%29) There is a German word ‘Ehrfurcht’ which is a combination of feeling fear and awe at once, and this perfectly describes the feeling we had when we drove half way up the mountain today, being surrounded by black lava sand and rocks. Although we very much feel its presence we have not seen the full mountain yet, but were told that before we leave there is a chance of clear weather.
We have marvelled not only at the beauty of the nature but also how nice people are here – and – how safe, clean and orderly everything is. One nice oddity of Chile is that the stray dogs are well taken care of. Already in Santiago de Chile and also here in the countryside we notice the many stray dogs and how friendly they are – apparently they all get vaccinated and also fed especially by locals. But many of them are also limping as they often get run over by cars when they chase them… The biggest impression one dog made on me was in Santiago de Chile. He waited with all the pedestrians at a red light and crossed at green with everyone else!
Being here in the countryside we are often wondering which continent we are on, at times it looks like we are in Wales, then in Austria or in the Jurassic areas of Switzerland…. Only when we go off the beaten track onto the dirt roads we see the poverty and simplicity of how some people live. And apparently the Mapuche, the indigenous people here, tend to hide away from the tourist areas. Unlike other indigenous tribes of South America they have fought fiercely for their independence and rights. But I feel that as a ‘visitor’ you only understand a very small layer of what is really going on. Yet the longer you are in a place and talk with the local people, the more you get a sense of what the concerns and problems are of the local population.
Kirstie and I both visited the Museum of Memory (http://www.museodelamemoria.cl/) in Santiago, a strong reminder of the repressive Pinochet and Military Junta era that has only ended at the end of last century here in Chile. What is underplayed in the Museum is how much the USA controlled and financed the whole coup against Allende…. And that is something we meet a lot on this trip. The history of this continent, the pain and suffering that was caused due to the power, intrigue and financial games of the West, starting with the colonization a few centuries ago. Some of our friends who are our age told us what it was like to live during the repressive era either on the Pinochet side (rich and privileged) or on the socialist side (under constant fear of abduction and family members being either in exile or abducted and killed.) Even though it is impressive that this Museum was built so soon after the repressive era and deals with these terrible truths, I also wonder how long it will take for the deeper layers of mistrust and fear to be transcended here…
Apart from that we were also very beautifully welcomed by the faculty of the DUOC University – Maria Francisca Silva Zautzik, who goes by the name Francisca is on dance faculty and Carlos Diaz Leon , who is head of the theatre department. DUOC is a university that gives less privileged students a chance of an academic career. (the education-divide between the poor and rich is a whole other story here… ).
Kirstie taught a three-day movement workshop and together we taught a two-day movement and dialogue workshop. The group was beautiful again, incredibly sensitive and attentive to each other and to their own capacity to listen and respond. At the end of the workshop we gathered in the beautiful small park at the university, with the sun setting over Santiago on one side, and a view into the Andes on the other.
After the workshop we gave a presentation about our work, and showed some of our other projects – a documentary by filmmaker Katrina McPherson about Kirstie’s work in dance https://vimeo.com/34894689 and my current project on the Why Women Need to Climb Mountains film and the German ‘evolve’ magazine. (see bio)
One other strong memory of the time here in Chile was one evening when we were invited to listen to a presentation of plays that some of the theatre students had written. The creative storytelling, the passion, heart and sincerity of the students were very moving and heartening – one could feel their connection to the South American land. There was a sense that a thoughtful generation of students are on the rise!
And one last thing that is worth mentioning: our trip from Buenos Aires to Santiago was breath taking. We had an early flight with very little cloud in the sky which meant that we could see the majesty of the Andes from above. It felt like watching a huge being that was extending its white paws up and down the continent…. When you see the eternal beauty of such mountains it makes you pause for a moment and lets you see our dramas and crisis in a much bigger context and at the same time it is also humbling to feel that we as humans have the capacity to destroy the unbelievable beauty that our planet has given us.