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No it wasn’t the love poems of the famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda that helped me kinda fall back in love with stuff. It was his homes. If you ever find yourself in Chile, visit Neruda’s homes. He has three and Nellu and I have seen two of them. (Pablo Neruda, for those reading who do not know him, was one of the most influential poets of the twentieth centuries. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971.)

I know I am a self-declared stuff-hater (seriously I am still trying to figure out how to dump more stuff so I don’t have to lug it around) but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing and visiting all the items that Neruda, an avid collector, had amassed over his very full life.

Neruda's house La Chascona in Santiago, Chile

For a second I thought, I too could be a collector, and then Nellu reminded me of the emotional distress I experienced moving out of our small one-bedroom apartment. Whatever, a girl can dream.

Neruda himself had a similar internal contraction. He had a fascination with the sea but didn’t actually like the ocean. That didn’t stop him from accumulating ship’s mastheads, boat lighting fixtures, seashells and other nautical items. In fact his house in Santiago, La Chascona, was fashioned partly after a boat (his dining room) and a lighthouse (his living room) and La Sebastiana, his Valparaiso home, had panoramic views of the harbor and Pacific Ocean. (We couldn’t take pictures inside the homes but you can take a virtual tour of La Chascona here.)

The view from Neruda's La Sebastiana

But even beyond the nautical theme, Neruda collected everything from colored glass containers to one-off comical items. These include the fake whiskey bottle that reveals cigarette holders inside and the giant shoe in his library, which he used to entertain his scores of friends. And his houses were filled to the brink with his collections (very tastefully not like a hoarder). It seems like he gathered collections in a similar way he gathered friends.

Pablo Neruda collected colorful glass bottles among other things

In doing research for this blog post, I came across the biography Pablo Neruda: A Passion for Life in which author Adam Feinstein writes, “It was that joy of being alive which made him such a life-enhancing poet, and it was his generosity in wanting to ‘share’ this joy which gained him so many loyal friends…” You got that sense from touring his homes.

Also interestingly, it turns out that Neruda was a real womanizer, even having an affair with his third wife’s niece toward the end of his life. But that makes perfect sense – it had to take a real charmer for me to fall back in love with stuff.

~ Molly


The one thing I was truly prepared for, during this adventure, was my discovery and experience of local food and beverages. One would even say I was looking forward to it, especially when I decided to start the ball rolling by ordering and eating a Cambodian baked tarantula for my last day at work :

Mota & I finishing off the Cambodian baked tarantula (Camera operation by Greg Z.)

Having arrived in Chile, the notion that locals eat certain foods has come into question. The first such item is called a terremoto. The name alone invokes something terrifying and earth shattering, as it translates from Spanish to earthquake. Does this remind you of an earthquake ??

Double earthquakes?? (Photo by Jack Zalium)

It is a combination of pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine more akin to moonshine), a scoop of pineapple ice cream & a splash of red wine served in a plastic cup. It is called earthquake because of how it makes you feel; shaky when you attempt to stand up. We tried this drink on an early Thursday afternoon and thankfully we never sat down. “Happy hour” would definitely be the description of the attitude of most of the patrons of the bar, yet from all our people-watching, it would appear only tourists, local inebriates and pre 20-year olds were the only ones actually buying and drinking it.

It was better than expected and my experience with ţuică probably gives me a bit of an advantage. It is definitely strong and more than two at once, experienced drinker or not, could likely lead to some sort of distress. It was the second item that I had while in Chile, that made me really question whether or not the locals actually ate or drank any of these creations.

The second item of intrigue is called a “mote con huesillo” :

Chileans drink this?? (Photo by Jack Zalium)

It was initially described by one of our hosts (Megan) as a smoothie-like drink equivalent to dumping a can of peaches onto barley in a plastic cup. At one point she even described it as “peach oatmeal”.  I have to note that I am not a fan of peaches and canned peaches seem even less appetizing, so I was not looking forward to this. It would be our reward for walking to and climbing Cerro San Cristobal. Sure enough, when we reached the top all the vendors there were ready with this concoction, sadly lacking any alcohol.

It is not a bad drink. The syrup & cinnamon juice mixes well with the barley. The problem lays with the peaches. This drink can be made with dried peaches, but in our case, it had two whole peaches complete with pits. The juice and wheat were quite complementary and very enjoyable (if you like really sweet things). I did notice that Molly was not diving into the peach as I had. She commented that it was not enjoyable, as it was a bit fleshy. In typical Nellu-form, I tried to encourage her by saying that it wasn’t fleshy at all and going into a diatribe about how it wasn’t anything like human flesh. You can just imagine the results…..

It was during this endeavor that I kept thinking to myself that this drink was seemingly created in a surplus of wheat and government issued canned peaches and an attempt was made to make money on it (and get some laughs) by convincing the tourists that the locals “love” to drink this. So far my theory has not paid off, as every Chilean I have asked has sworn that they and others drink it, especially in the summer. We shall see….

I want to let you in on some of the inside jokes that have emerged from our weeks in South America. I realize that as inside jokes, some of my explanations will fall flat but I’ll do my best. It’s part of the fun of traveling with someone. Travel jokes emerge and amazingly they stand the test of time. I mean, the ones from my junior-year trip to London with some of my college friends are still crystal clear in my memory: “Get out of the water.” “You stupid, woman.” “Cheers, !@#&!@face.” Any of those ring a bell, Ladies? (Oh, I wish I could dig up a picture right now!)

Here are some of the jokes that have found their way into our daily conversation so far:

The first: “We’re here for the tour” emerged from our trip to Plaza de Mayo and La Casa Rosada. We’d heard that you could get tours of La Casa Rosada, the Argentinian White House (except its pink). And that these tours were so good, you got to walk through our equivalent of the Oval Office. Except when we got there on Sunday May 1st, it appeared to be closed and deserted. (Who knew May Day holiday was big in Argentina!?) We spent a few minutes walking around the building saying to each other in our dumbest American tourist voices, “We’re here for the tour,” before abandoning mission.

Even little Jimmy McMillian was excited for the tour. Photo by Nellu.

Now since we really don’t do a lot of tours, this expression carries with it a little irony. But I like to use it now when we’re arriving somewhere for the first time and feeling incredibly out-of-place. I also like to use it when we do every day stuff like go to the post office (“we’re here for the tour”) or grocery store. Nellu’s even nice enough to let out a little laugh when I say it. Sometimes he chimes in.

The second inside joke is inspired by one of our favorite comedians, Lewis Black. (Warning: If you don’t like when people swear, don’t watch this video. You won’t like it.)

Now this one comes in handy a lot. Nellu routinely asks me if I would like to go see the big f-ing thing.

La Floralis Genérica, Buenos Aires…a really big f-ing thing

We also routine climb big f-ing things, most recently the Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago. It’s a big hill in the northern part of the city where you can see great views of the buildings and I’m sure on some days when the smog settles, the Andes Mountains. Oh and of course, we hiked up the San Cristobal to see another big f-ing thing: La Virgen de La Inmaculada Concepción. (Pictures to come!)

Quite the applicable phrase…

Update: I’ve thought of three more, which I realize means that we’ve been traveling together for way too long. But here they are…

1) “You bring me to the nicest places.” This is what Nellu says to me in a faux ladies voice (Think: Kids in the Hall) every time we’re in the slightest of sketchy places. I’ve started to retaliate by saying, “No, you brought me.”

2) “Bruce Willis (or movie star X) speaks Spanish sooo well.” This is what we like to say when we’re watching US movies that have clearly been dubbed into Spanish. The flip side  is that we’ve watched an abnormal amount of bad movies that haven’t been dubbed over just to get our English fix.

3)  “It’s like Romania with palm trees, ” or “It’s just like the Champs-Élysées.” This is our attempt to compare what we’re seeing with what we know. The first time I ever said, “It’s like Romania with palm trees” is when we arrived in Sao Paulo. Nellu likes to say, “It’s like the Champs-Elysees” often which is funny for us because he’s never been to Paris.

~ Molly

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