Published: November 10th 2008November 10th 2008
Photo - Holly Cobbold
Climbing to the top of a hill, we were all amazed by the green of the grass, the freshness in the air, and the view of the Andes cordillera in the distance. Half of us in the program (those that opted for a weekend trip planned for us to the countryside rather than the beach) spent that Halloween morning touring and exploring the sustainable organic farm we were to stay at. We yoked oxen, viewed the fields of fruits and veggies, made compost, watched the farm animals, and were all awed by the number of simple homemade contraptions that were there to help the process. I discovered later that there are only four workers on this farm, a seemingly small number for how large it is. I guess it is just so self-sustaining and so well-functioning that a lot of work on the part of humans isn’t necessary. We also ate fresh baked bread for all our meals, along with food mostly grown in their garden. A very good deal, I must say, in comparison to Lebu (the only other program-organized trip, on which, if you remember, I ate only stale bread for every meal).
We then tasted wines and
Photo - Rachel Ashby
toured a vineyard nearby. This was probably to prove how amazing Chilean wines are, but considering most of us aren’t of age to go wine tasting in the states, we didn’t have the experience to say how incredible it actually was. In any case, we blindly bought Chilean wines for our families in Concepcion, based on what everyone else told us. We watched the sun set behind the vineyard, ate a good meal back at the campo, lied in the grass beneath the stars making up constellations late into the night, and I simply enjoyed the complete silence and the darkness.
The next morning we all awoke early to a breakfast of hot bread and homemade marmalade, then went wandering in the woods with a small group of women to forage for mushrooms. We were at it for a while and the suckers were hard to come by, so whenever I spotted a bunch of spongy yellow fungi, it would make me quite excited. Those of us who finished early sat in a circle (practically all of women. There were only two guys who opted for this trip) and talked while peeling our findings. We then headed to the
Photo - Rachel Ashby
headquarters, where the women dry the mushrooms along with fruits, vegetables, and herbs they also collect. I watched this process after eating an incredible lunch of pasta mixed in a spicy sauce and with, of course, mushrooms. Meanwhile the non-vegetarians ate their meat as usual (I think we veggies were actually treated better than the others. We always ended up getting more variety and such fresh produce mixed into everything).
In the afternoon we bussed it to Salto de Laja, the same waterfall of the previous weekend. More crowded, but still as cool as ever. I spent this time wading at the top of the waterfall, sitting on rocks in the middle of the river and contemplating the movement of the water. On the way back to the campo we made a stop at a nearby cemetery, where families were celebrating the lives and mourning the deaths of those who no longer live in body. Upon our return to the campo we were welcomed with a performance of traditional Chilean music and an asado (barbecue). For the vegetarians, the cooks stuffed grilled bell peppers with the mushrooms we had collected and picked that day. I don’t tend to like
Photo - Kenny Guertin
mushrooms, but I must say these were certainly worth eating. After dinner we all went outside for a campfire to get warm, play guitar (our two tour guides knew how to play absolutely everything - even songs that they don’t like too much), and sing to each other and to the sky.
On Sunday morning we had our last breakfast and said goodbye to the farm. A sad thing to leave such pure peacefulness. But, we ended up spending the day on another farm, one that I, if possible, fell in love with even more. I don’t even know if one could call this place a farm. It was more of a very cute house, with an enormous garden/orchard where the front yard would be in relation to a typical house in the U.S. The señora of this household - an old happy woman of less than five feet - and her gorgeous pregnant daughter showed us through their front yard, a mix of legume, vegetable, and grain crops covering the ground with fruit trees interspersed throughout. These women are so knowledgeable not only about the land and their crops but also of the seasons, nutrition, herbs, and so
much more. Some of us napped under the trees with Señora Rosa Osses while others asked the daughter about the ways in which they live. I was thinking I wouldn’t mind living that way myself, only because when she was talking to us she gave off such a happy and healthy glow. (I discovered that the whole family - there are a lot more than just the two of them - lives a vegetarian lifestyle, and they only use their animals for dairy products and eggs. They told us that that morning, however, they had killed some chickens in our honor as guests. I think some of the meat eaters felt guilty a bit, but how could you resist such a well-raised chicken? I’m not being sarcastic. I would have eaten it too, I just haven’t eaten meat in so long that I don’t think I could stomach it).
I ate my best meal in Chile there, and perhaps it was one of the best meals of my life. We actually were constantly eating, trying different foods they gave us. First we manually ground toasted wheat ourselves, making a flour that is mixed with water and sugar and drunk
Mote con Huesillos
Photo - Rachel Ashby
out of a cup. It is eaten as a kind of cereal there and is so full of nutrients simply as it is. It amazed me then, as I realized how odd it is that in the cereals we buy from the supermarket, all the nutrients are first taken out from the grain through processing then added back afterwards in the form of manufactured vitamins mixed with sugar. Why does that make sense?? We also then put cooked wheat in the grinder and made a dough. The women then form it into oval-like pancakes and they’re eaten just like that - wholesome and delicious.
Soon after we sat down to eat our actual lunch. It was set up nicely on three long picnic tables, protected by the shade of the trees. The whole family helped bring out the food, which first consisted of homemade sopaipillas (best I’ve ever had), empanadas of soy and cheese, and pebre (a spicy cilantro sauce) to dip them in. There was also freshly made fruit juice and a wine that perhaps was also made at that house. They made us a salad of fresh beets (a thing sorely missed), tomatoes, lettuce and onions. Everyone
Photo - Rachel Ashby
ate their chicken and found it to be delicious, while the family and I ate what I at first thought was a kind of soy meat that had to have been bought. I found out after eating it, however, that they actually make it themselves, out of ground nuts, flour, and honey. Incredible, how creative, nutritious, and fresh everything was. I just gave up hope too soon of ever thinking that Chilean food could amaze me.
After lunch we let our bellies rest and enjoyed the pure content we felt after the wonderful meal. The family made us mote con huesillos, and I sat in the hammock and made friends with the family children. Just as I was getting a bit sleepy, it was time for us to hike up one of the tallest hills of the coastal range, whose path happened to begin right down the road. We trudged and trekked up the steep slopes, sometimes consisting of inclined grassy fields and other times of forest. We got over one section and there would be another we hadn’t previously seen. But we reached the top and forgot our pain. We faced east, with the valley stretching out for
Photo - Rachel Ashby
miles in front and to the sides of us, and with the Andes range clearly reaching from the far left of our view to the far right. For a long time I stared at the mountains, which looked like powerful gods that reached the sky, standing still in a line and protecting all of the valley before them.
We returned to the house, to eat more, of course. Señora Osses had made what they call tortillas, but to us is more like flat dense bread. Delicious with the home-made jams that came with it (I liked the jams so much I had to buy a jar of it afterwards). More mote con huesillos. More rest. And then we were made to leave.
But I didn’t want to leave. Overall this was my favorite trip by far, and I’m so incredibly glad that this was one of the trips our program planned. I’ve seen the beautiful pastures from a distance, through the window of a bus, but I didn’t know how I could organize a trip there. My mind was so at peace the entire time of my being there and my body was content. I discovered in some
Mama Osses at work
Photo - Rachel Ashby
people the potential for wonderful new friendships, and in my friends I found even deeper connections. I loved everyone I spent my time with, and everything that we did.
(I got the card of Rosa Osses and might even go intern there someday, haha)
¡Que divertida la vida!.....
This past weekend I stayed home, bonding with girlfriends and not doing much in terms of creative productivity. But Holly invited me to her hermano’s wedding, so of course I had to go! (I’d never been to a wedding even in the U.S.). It started yesterday at around eight p.m. at a country club next to the sea. There first was a ceremony outside, then talk, food and drink afterwards. Then we moved inside for a fancy dinner of meat, practiced much Spanish with Holly’s hilarious twin brothers and friends, and danced with the family and company. Until six in the morning. It may even be considered early for a wedding to end at this time. We danced and danced till we had to take off our shoes, ate some more (soup and croissants served at four in the morning), and experienced interesting Chilean traditions.
For example, at one point in the night everyone seemed really tired and there weren’t that many people on the dance floor. Understandable, in my opinion. But then all of a sudden someone threw out masks, necklaces, and ridiculous hats to the crowd, and everyone got out of their seats and started yelling and singing and dancing again. At the time, I was very confused. This morning I was told that this tends to happen, to liven up the mood whenever it needs livening.
Today I made California food. What does that mean? I have no idea, considering how California food can mean practically anything. What I ended up making was three pizzas: one of carmelized onions, walnuts and bleu cheese; another of pesto, cheese, and tomato; and another of garlic and veggies. I also made a salad of spinach, redleaf and hidroponic lettuce, strawberries, toasted walnuts, dried plums, goat cheese, avocado, apples, and cucumbers. When I was preparing everything they didn’t know what to make of it. Seeing as how Chilean pizzas consist maybe of tomato sauce, cheese, and two toppings, and their salads contain lettuce and sometimes a tomato, I wasn’t too surprised by their state of
Photo - Ariana Jacobs
surprise. But they were amazed by the different flavors all the same. In all honesty, I myself was amazed, because I’ve forgotten how good our food over there actually is. To tell you the truth, I think I made the meal as much for me as I did for them. And I’m sooooo glad I did. (It may sound like I hate Chilean food or something, but I don’t. It just consists of lots of meat and little variety or fresh foods. My papá in my house, however, cooks wonderful veggie food for me every day. I think I am just too spoiled with the food I’m used to eating every day in the homeland)
Flaites (FLY-tays)- Perhaps this could be the equivalent of our term “gangster.” Some people are flaite, others act flaite but really aren’t. If you play reggaeton music really loudly in the middle of the day you’re flaite, and the same goes for if you hang out shadily in groups in the Plaza Peru. My hermana from Lebu and her friends call everything flaite. Others never say it. I think that, whereas if something’s “gangster” then it can be cool, if something’s “flaite” I think
it means more like “sketchy.” An interesting word I still have much to learn about.
Pokemones - the “emo kids” of chile. I’ve just always wanted to know why they use that name.
I am now more fond of the term “gringo.” Why, you ask? Because every time I hear it now it makes me so proud of the American people. Most Chileans I’ve met are also proud of us, and everywhere I’ve gone I’ve been asked if I voted and if I’m excited. Many realize the implications, and are excited just the same. Indeed, we live in exciting times! Let's hope we can change things for the better!
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