One of my new favorite activities is striking up conversations with interesting people wherever I go. One day my friend and I were bored at the IES center, and everyone else was in class so we decided to go on an adventure. After sitting around on our computers for a bit, we decided to go to Plaza de Armas and walk around. Coincidentally, there is a photography mini-museum in the metro station at the Plaza, so we explored that for a bit and the went up to the actual plaza. We walked around for a while, passed an incredible amount of thrift shops, found a part of town we had never been to before, and then worked our way back to the Plaza. It was refreshing to get kind of lost and not worry where we were going. Just to go! Once we got back to Plaza de Armas, we meandered around the art stands. For some reason, a lot of painters always gather in this locale and try to sell their art. Also, there seems to be a lot of african-inspired art. I'm not sure if this is because there are very few black people in Chile, or what. Whatever the reason, it is very interesting.
We came across a man in a camouflage hoodie, dirty jeans, with one of the most content, smiling faces I've ever seen. He was a bearded man and was working on a very abstract painting at the time, but what caught our attention was one particular printed painting thing that was a woman sitting at a table, holding a glass of milk and resting her head on her other hand. Her head, though, was the head of a cow, and her breasts were the teats of a cows udder. It also seemed like there was an explosion of blood coming from behind her head. It was pretty strange and I didn't really get the message. We asked the artist what the painting was saying, and at first he just tried to explain to us the material upon which it was printed, but I made it clear that I really wanted to know the message of the piece and then he enthusiastically explained to us that it had to do with consumption: the cow is holding a glass of her own milk, and this reflective of society; it also had to do with eating meat, as the artist is a vegetarian and has been for about 15 years. He also showed us other pieces that were essentially landscapes, but everything was made of garbage. There was one with a bird standing on top of a hill and the bird is formed from a bunch of garbage all compressed together, and the hills, the river, etc. are all made of garbage. The best thing about this guy was how much he smiled. He asked us about ourselves, where we are from, why we are in Chile. And we asked him about his life. The entire time he was smiling. It was a great interaction and I enjoyed it a lot.
This weekend our entire group went to La Serena and Valle del Elqui. It was beautiful, and I had lots of beautiful interactions with people. It seemed like all the people from this area were super-amable (super nice). The women who worked at the restaurants and at the hotel were so nice, called us all "mi amor" or "mi niño" (my love, my child) and made us feel very at home. We went to Punto Chorro and I noticed these two men were taking pictures of me and filming me. I felt pretty creeped out until I noticed they also filmed and photographed my friends as well. I went up to the photographer and struck up a conversation with him, asking him if they were reporters. He said yes, and we proceeded to have a great conversation about Chile, the upcoming independence day, and politics. He also was super-amable and seemed genuinely interested in my experiences. It's kind of funny, whenever I speak with Chileans, they ask my why I would choose to come to Chile. When I explain to them, they then ask me what I think of people here. I tell them that people in general are nice and helpful.
As my mother put it so well, my universe is so big right now. And I love it!