13 months since we left our home in Belgium and started travelling. We thought we would be in our new home and be running our business by now. (Can you hear my loud laugh?)
So we didn’t hit our time target and we do completely freak out at times, but in this post I want to tell you why we also feel so fortunate and what is going to happen next. Looking back, I’m grateful for all the beautiful places we’ve visited, the lovely people we’ve met and the friends we have made. We hold our hands up to the sky and give thanks to everything and everyone, but in this post I would like to highlight a few other reasons to be grateful for:
1. All that we learned
We feel confident enough to say that by now we know Chile. We know the regions, cities, villages and roads. I mean, speaking like some famous person I won’t mention right now, like Trump, we are so great at knowing Chile by now, I mean truly, it’s great. We have also become experts in understanding land for sale and what to consider when buying. For starters, we can cut through BS (that’s bullshit for the pure of vocabulary), we have learned the Chilean way of doing business, when ‘yes’ means ‘no’ and ‘perhaps’ means you’ll have to pay with your soul if you want a ‘real yes’. We also learned about water. In a place where there is an abundance of it, it’s still the most precious commodity around. Now, just walking around, our eyes can spot the plants that will grow on springs, so you can dig wells there. We’ve also learned about the destructive power of water and how to know by the signs of the land where it will swamp in winter and where rivers might flood. We now know about Chile’s native trees and plants. We can identify edible fruits, we know which height to pick berries at and have learned to use the medicinal properties of the plants around, for instance to cure a belly pain or instantly stop a wound from bleeding.
We learned about building with earth bags, how to find, collect and use clay, which plants to use at fences to keep cows out, on mulching, collecting rainwater, insulating and on the importance of preserving energy when you’re outside of the city.
2. All that we partied
Now those who know me know I like my parties, but there have been too many to mention. I’ll just tell you about the ones we have had in the last days. Spontaneous and heartwarming events. Last weekend we drove to Puerto Cisnes for the festival of the fried fish. It’s an annual event in which the town donates a house to a person that needs it. They organize a festival to get people to pull the house from the carpenter’s site over to the beach, then the house gets pulled over the (sea) water and on the third day of the festival, it gets pulled to the place the house is destined to be. All participants are rewarded with fried fish and there’s live music and BBQ’s on every day.
We couldn’t stay for the full festival, but we had a chance to grasp the atmosphere and it was so much fun. We had a flat tire driving there and Mark thought the only logical thing to do was to return, but we had picked up hitchhikers that had waited two days for a ride to this festival. Again, those who know us won’t be surprised, we changed the tire and just went for it and did not regret it.
We returned that evening, driving four hours after eating fish and dancing on the beach, because we were invited to a family BBQ the next day. We became friends with a man that we call the Don of La Junta. We gave him this nickname, because he’s respected and known by the people here and he owns so much land, it’s dazzling. We gathered with his family, old and young, in a plot of land that might span hundreds of hectares, under a lonely tree. We sat on tree trunks and haystacks. It took about 6 hours for the meat to be cooked ‘al palo’ (on the stick) and it was so delicious. In the meantime, it was just about letting the kids play, driving the 4X4 buggy around, listening to the stories of the old men around the fire and getting hungry enough to eat a whole calf with about 50 of us under the moonlight.
Today we went to see land and when we came back from walking the 7,5 hectares by a river (in fact, across where we camped and wrote about in the last post) we found the owner and his cowboys sitting around a fire, cooking some meat al palo again. We wanted to leave, but they wouldn’t have it. So there we sat around the fire with the cowboys, beers and wine, when we saw two condors flying above us.
Mark and I stood up, to get a better view of these magnificent birds and the men, to make our dazzling moment extra special, started the jeep parked close by to play some music to go with the scene: ‘El Condor pasa’ the Jaivas version and left the Jaivas music on. The whole scene with the music, the horses around, the ancient forest at the back, the Andes mountains surrounding us, the dogs lying by us and the men making jokes about the gringo and themselves was yet another experience we will treasure. And the meat was delicious! I can’t explain how this tastes better than anything store bought. It makes me feel sad, as I really want to be a vegetarian, but besides cooked potatoes, that was what they were offering us. I asked them if they didn’t miss eating greens. They answered the cow had eaten enough grass for them to go without it. There’s twisted logic in that, who am I to judge. The cows here are roaming free, drink water from the rivers, eat grass, young bamboo shoots and native berry bushes. They get walked around the valleys to greener fields when needed, they have a life, for whatever that counts. I still feel bad for eating animals though.
3. All that we experienced
We have gotten to the point of feeling like we are begging for land. What have we not done to reach our goals?! We have driven around enormous distances to speak to people, who know people or are people selling land. We have visited places for days and weeks in a row to find people and get them to show us land. We have crossed rivers on row boats, on rented fishing boats and dangling from hanging baskets to see land.
We have sat around for hours negotiating, getting people drunk to accept our money. Nothing has worked so far. At least we have had off the beaten track adventures and know people like us here. Maybe all of it had to happen for us to be accepted into the community. Maybe this was our baptism of faith and trust? (Can you hear me laughing again?)
So now what?
We have basked in the luxury of time and had the opportunity to truly rest our souls. This last year has broadened our horizons enough to allow us to comfortably settle back into routine for a while if we must and we have to leave Chile soon, as Mark will be an illegal immigrant in a few days.
Funny isn’t it? The gringo may soon be an illegal. Thank God he won’t be deported or be held detained in a closed center for illegals. God help those people. Whatever side you’re on regarding migrants, refugees and illegals, I won’t try to change your mind, nor hearts on this topic. I only know this: this year has thought me how hard it is to be a migrant and not to find a place to call home. I now also know what it feels like to love a person that doesn’t have citizenship and needs to actively prevent from becoming an illegal.
I thought we were free human beings, but now I know none of us truly are.
Don’t worry, I told you we feel fortunate, we have the luxury of a loving family, health, capital and skills. We’ll be alright, we just still don’t know whether we will definitely be staying or going. We will be crossing into Argentina tomorrow to get Mark out and in of the country in the next days, which is a legal way by the way, to give him more time in Chile. We might then come back to keep giving it a go in Patagonia, or we might go to my mother in Limache to get ready to leave to England. (Our original plan B) We still don’t know, because we still don’t want to give up, but we’ll tell you soon.
Love life friends, we are still loving it!