500 Words

Santiago, Chile.

Wine. Red. Terra Andina. Merlot-Syrah. A fly. Hovering around the glass. Swat. Afuera. Regresa. Repeat. Try not to kill. Keep swatting.

Earlier. Human Rights Museum. Tragedy, Hopelessness, Hope. Criticisms. Confusion. “Mentira.” ¿Es verdad? ¿No es verdad?

Days ago. Completed Waiting for Godot. Question everything. Laugh at it all.

Why so serious? The Joker echoes in my brain? But how can we laugh? All this tragedy?

-It’s how we cope.
-It’s how we belittle.
-It’s how we overcome.
-It’s how we forget.

Laundry hangs outside, the patio. Nitza’s house. We met yesterday. Starbucks. Chance. Invitation to stay. Share: thoughts, time, food… Pinochet vs. Lefties. She prefers the former. Bed. Showers. Her friend in prison. War crimes.

Like Isabel. Buenos Aires. Crying, saying goodbye. Remaining in touch, Facebook. Her husband, in prison, war crimes, would’ve killed us if we were alive and in Argentina 30 years ago.

How can one make sense of any of this? Processing, or beginning to. Still: a foreign country, in motion, navigating the side of the road with a thumb, plodding about in a second language. Marveling. Inebriating. Tiring. Waiting. Absorbing. Wringing out.

The internet here is strong. The infrastructure here is strong. The strength of the dictatorship. The economy. The backing of the mighty United States. The red. The white. The blue. Lots of red. Bodies in rivers. Batons to the heads of the bold. Torture. A group of soldiers stomps a teacher to death on the floor beneath the chalkboard of his classroom. September 11, 1973. Never forget.

Graffiti on all the street corners. Across the street: “Tu comodidad avala la pobreza.” The beating heart of the people. It bleeds. It continues to pump blood. Hasta la victoria siempre

Why write? I want to scream. I want to throw fire. I want to bite off ears, hurl rocks, spit in the face of every helmeted buffoon with a gun and a twisted notion of honor coinciding with murder.

Where are the badges for the peaceful? True, maybe we should not reward those who simply do what everyone ought to do. Like praising the man for not beating his wife. But now Chris Kyle is a box office boom and I am too confused, too deflated, too thoroughly neutralized by awe to even have the energy, the conviction, the clarity to be angry, to throw fire, to take a side.

Are there sides? Yes there are. Whose am I on? Give money away. Get some more. Give  a homeless man a coin. We talk. Approach a woman in a cafe. Ask for food. Receive cake, coffee. Wash the dishes. Later, buy carrots, onions, potatoes. Cook soup. Eat, chat. Nitza has never been to Human Rights Museum. Says she will go now.

Soon: Lima. Then Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver. The journey ends. Or does it? When does it end, begin? “La vida es un viaje” – so reads the title of a future blog post. We shall explore: time, arbitrary designations, meaning.

– Jesse

Sin Palabras/Without Words

Yo, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Yo, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

ESPAÑOL:

Por seis semanas, este viaje me ha dejado sin palabras, por falta de acceso a computadoras, por no saber agradecer al mundo y por no querer condenarlo. Estoy en Santiago de Chile, lleno de tristeza, de información, de gratitud, de confusión. Estoy sentado en el sol de primavera del hemisferio sur y, por primera vez en tres semanas, es un día de descanso total.

Mis dos compañeros de viaje, adjuntos al último mes de mi vida por casualidad y elección, comparten este día de serenidad exterior. Gonzalo es un argentino de 32 años, sentimientos nobles, discursos extendidos, miradas compasivas y una voz idónea para acompañar su bongó en cumbias minimalistas que yo prefiero ante las versiones ocupadas escuchadas en tantas radios estos últimos meses. Está trabajando en el jardín de esta casa de campo en las afueras de la gran capital. Onairam es un mexicano de 22 años, una simpatía inagotable, una predilección para los dulces, un nombre que alarga las conversaciones y unas rastas que dejan a los niños con la boca abierta y las manos traviesas. Onairam está aprovechando la cama después de un almuerzo enorme.

Onai, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Onai, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Sí, tenemos casa y cama. Así ha sido en Chile, una lluvia de bondad de la gente con que nos hemos topado. Hemos comido, conversado y quedado como tortugas felices en la arena caliente. Esta casa es especial para mí además porque Lila y Omar son los papás y abuelos de mi familia de San Diego, los mexicano-americano-chilenos con que viví y que he vuelto a visitar cada año hasta este.

Todo es bonito.

Pero daría una percepción engañosa de este viaje y de mi vida si no admitiera que entre tanta bondad y belleza me siento bastante trastornado. Siento que estoy disfrutando y estoy deprimido a la vez. Dudo de mis pensamientos, de mí mismo y de la sociedad. Veo mis convicciones derretirse como cubos de hielo en el mar. Intelectualmente, sé que los cambios sociales y políticos que anhelo son posibles, pero me parecen tan distantes e improbables. En Perú, saludaba en la calle y la gente me hacía caso omiso. Me sentía cada vez más como un extraterrestre o un intruso no querido en un lugar que atravesaba demasiado rápido como para poder lograr entenderlo. Los anuncios electorales en todos los edificios promueven partidos con nombres bonitos hechos tristes por la promesas rotas de una democracia en que casi nadie cree. El lado de la carretera es un basurero sin fin en casi todas las ciudades de la costa por las que pasamos. Y, sin embargo, los peruanos con los que tuvimos la oportunidad de conversar fueron maravillosos, interesantes, llenos de corazón y de pasión por sus trabajos. En Chile, un país mucho más parecido a los Estado Unidos en mil sentidos, la gente nos habla con interés y amor, pero demuestran una antipatía sorprendente hacia los inmigrantes colombianos. Por nuestra parte, en nuestros 9 días en Colombia conocimos un pueblo alegre y trabajador, fascinante y diverso. Ah, hay tanto que contar! Ojalá que pronto.

Quizás sean estas contradicciones ubicuas, tantas cosas bonitas increíbles y tantas realidades sombrías innegables, que me tienen fuera de quicio. Me he encomendado a la humanidad y se ha mostrado tan compleja que no sé lo que pensar. El optimismo desbordado y la desesperación afilada me parecen reacciones igualmente razonables ante estas experiencias. Los seres humanos queremos ser buenos, pero somos tontos. Queremos amar, pero desconfiamos. Compartir nos libera y el sistema nos enseña a poseer. Esto. E ir con prisa no me ha dejado el tiempo suficiente para reflexionar sobre tanta novedad. Y vivir en mi segundo idioma limita mi capacidad para expresarme y para entender plenamente a los demás. Vivo con una neblina ligera en la mente.

Así que les informo que el mundo está bonito y está jodido, como si no lo supieran ya. Tomo sol y tomo agua en el pasto suave, optimista y temeroso por el futuro de mi especie, optimista y temeroso por el futuro mío. Inseguro, curioso, sin más palabras.

– Adam
Santiago de Chile

Gonza, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

Gonza, en la cordillera cerca de Pasto, Colombia.

ENGLISH:

For six weeks, this trip has left me wordless, for lack of computer access, for not knowing how to thank the world, and for not wanting to condemn it. I’m in Santiago de Chile, full of sadness, information, gratitude, confusion. I’m sitting the southern hemisphere’s spring sun and, for the first time in three weeks, it’s a total rest day.

My two travel companions, bound to the last month of my life by coincidence and choice, are sharing this day of external serenity. Gonzalo’s a 32-year-old Argentine of noble sentiments, prolix discourse, compassionate looks, and the perfect voice to accompany his bongo on minamilist cumbias that I like much more than the busy ones that crowd the radio. He’s working in the garden of this country house just outside the capital. Onairam’s a 22-year-old Mexican of never-ending niceness, a love of sugary foods, a name that lengthens conversations, and dredlocks that leave Colombian kids with dropped jaws and tugging hands. Onairam’s taking advantage of the bed after an enormous lunch.

Yup, we’ve got a house and beds. That’s been Chile, a flood of goodness from the people we’ve encountered. We’ve eaten, conversed, and stayed (that was alliterative when I wrote this in Spanish) like happy, tired travelers (in Spanish, that was a simile about turtles that sounded embarassingly dumb to my pickier English ear). This house is especially special for me because Lila and Omar are the parents/grandparents of my San Diego family, the Mexicanamericanchileans I lived with and have visited every year until this one.

Everything is beautiful. Really.

But I’d be giving a misleading idea of this trip and my life if I didn’t admit that among such goodness and beauty I feel pretty damn torn up. I feel like I’m enjoying and depressed at the same time, and I can’t figure out how to put myself together. I doubt my thoughts, myself, and my fellow humans. I watch my convictions melt like ice cubes in an ocean. (That’s taken directly from The Shins, but there’s nothing wrong with mixed-authorship.) Intellectually, I know that the social and political changes I yearn for are possible, but they seem so distant and improbable. In Peru, I’d greet the people on the street and they’d ignore me. I spend a lot of time feeling like an alien, or someone misplaced by a tornado. I pass through countries too fast to do anything but be confused by them. Also in Peru, obtrusive and ubiquitous campaign posters/murals/billboards promote parties with beautiful names made ugly by the broken promises of a democracy almost no one believes in. The side of the highway is an endless strip of trash in almost every city we passed. And, nevertheless, the Peruvians we got a chance to talk to were awesome, fascinating, full of warm hearts and passion for their jobs. And in Chile, a country more like the U.S. in a thousand ways, people continue to show us interest, love, and plates full of food, while they say surprisingly ugly things about Colombian immigrants. All over Latin America, people generalize about ethnicities and nationalities in ways political correctness has taught us not to in the U.S. (For our part, in our 9 days in Colombia we encountered a hard-working and often joyful people, striking in its diversity and facial expressions. Ah, there’s so much to talk about.)

Maybe it’s these constant constant contradictions, so many incredibly beautiful experiences and undeniable somber realities, that have me out of rhythm. I’ve handed myself ove to humanity and found it so complicated that I don’t know whether it’s holding my hand or absent-mindedly lighting us both on fire. Boundless optimism and seat-slumping, tree-kicking desperation seem like equally reasonable responses to all this ridiculousness. Humans want to me good, but we’re so dumb. We want to love, but we don’t trust anyone. Sharing liberates us and the system teaches us to accumulate. All of this. And hurrying towards Argentina has left me with insufficient time to reflect on so much newness, so much chaos. And living in a second language leaves me a little dumber and a little foggier than I’d like every time I try to explain my crazy ideas or understand where someone else is coming from.

So I inform y’all that the world is beautiful and the world is fucked, as if you didn’t already know. There’s no rousing conclusion today. I sit in the sun, drink water in the soft grass, optimistic and scared for the future of my species, optimistic and scared for my future. Insecure, curious, without more words.

– Adam
Santiago de Chile