Thursday, November 16
Today was not about seeing beautiful scenery or learning about history or politics or economics or geology.
Today was about people.
Specifically, today was about the people of Pargua, a community of about 800 on the north shore of the Chacao Channel separating Chiloé Island from the Chilean mainland. We spent a good part of the day in Pargua.
First we visited Sol del Pacifica school. OAT supports this school through the Grand Circle Foundation. Ten students attend, and there are two full-time teachers. In addition, they have an English teacher who comes one day each week, and our visit happened to coincide with hers.
The children were delightful. They came out to meet our bus and escorted us into the school. We went to the small lunch room, where we had tea and cookies made by the children’s parents. There we had a chance to talk with the English teacher about her work and her life as a teacher who visits a different school each day.
Then the children came and brought us to their classroom, where they showed us variously some of the things they are working on and answered our questions as well as possible in our broken Spanish and their broken English.
Finally the children gathered so we could take a picture of them, and after we all took our pictures I asked them if they could sing a song. (The music teacher in my past couldn’t help making an appearance.) The English teacher led them in a song — well more like a group chant or a dance. Then they asked us to sing a song, and I suggested “Head, Shoulders, Knee and Toes.” Surprisingly, only a few of us in the group knew the song, but we did it, and they we asked them to do it with us.
From there we went to what Pilar called a kindergarten but was more like a pre-school. There were about eight kids. As soon as I walked in a boy named Javier showed me a picture of una araña (a spider) in a book. I asked him if he was afraid of spiders (¿Tienes miedo?) and he said no. Then I pulled out my phone and asked him to be in a picture with me, and when he saw his face in the phone, I got the most delighted smile.
I got to talk with several of the other children, one of whom was playing a toy xylophone incessantly. Others were drawing pictures. I just wanted to spend all day with them, but we had to leave too soon.
Our next stop was at the home of the Andrade family. We met two of the Andrade children (cousins actually) at Sol del Pacifico. At their home we assembled in the quincho. This is a kind of large shed used for family gatherings on special occasions. (At the Haneck ranch a few days ago we also enjoyed our meal in their quincho.)
First we went out back and watched them prepare the curanto. They burn wood to heat rocks; then they remove the wood and use the rocks as the heat source for cooking. On top of the rocks they put a layer of mussels, then added potatoes, sausage, chicken, and a bread dough made from potatoes and flour. Then they cover the whole thing with branches of myrtle and a large sheet of polyurethane, and weigh it down with rocks and logs. It cooks like that for an hour.
While it was cooking, we went back into the quincho, and had a toast with cola de mono, a holiday drink that more or less resembled Bailey’s.
After they where we got introductions from three generations of the Andrade family, and then we introduced ourselves to them. Then we helped them prepare the rest of the lunch. I was part of a team that helped Aunt Gladys make more of the potato bread, which we then fried. Others chopped ingredients for pebre, a salsa kind of like pico de gallo. Others helped set the table.
Soon the curanto was ready, and they brought everything in and we ate lunch. It was all delicious!
After lunch they showed us some of the handiwork they do. A few of the women showed us how they spin wool into yarn and displayed various knitted crafts they made. Aunt Gladys put some onion peels into boiling water and used it to dye some of the thread.
Finally it was time to go. I didn’t expect to have such a special day as part of my vacation, but it was a day I will never forget.