End of Days in Chile

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Author: Pete

Location: Santiago, Chile
[33° 27′ 0″ S,  70° 40′ 0″ W]

Snow coming down on our casita in the Andes, a welcomed, if unusual occurrence.  Makes for good, moody, moving away weather.  We’ve been having send-offs, despedidas, fare-well dinners, goodbye parties.  We’ve been feeling stuck, wrapped in emotions of excitement mixed with trepidation for what’s to come and nostalgia for what we’ll be leaving.

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A few weeks ago blue skies, clear roads, and warm days made for an easy autumn.  The leaves changing color in the low Chilean trees gave the taste of fall at home, if not the leaf piles, cider, and pumpkins of the midwest.  Amazing that four years flowed by, almost like a sluice cutting through the rock.

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Getting ready to leave our little house in the mountains.  The process of packing started months ago, cataloguing all of our worldly belongings and starting to ship, sell, donate, and throw away stuff.  It’s pretty incredible how much crap two frugal, minimalistic people with a tiny house can accumulate.  It’s mostly gear.  I blame it on the gear.

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Come our despedidas.  So fun and also so hard to say goodbye to our good friends.  I think being abroad makes you closer to those around you.  You’re all dealing with the same hardships and excitement, crests and troughs as your friends.  Makes for close connections.

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Despedidas involve a lot of wine generally, which we are happy to partake in.  Trying to get our fair share in before heading off to rum territory again.

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The boys have different styles of going away parties.  When the snow rolled in, I went up with Jhan, Sergio, Oscar, and Casey to be the first on the mountain.  Chairlifts bedamned!  We brought skins and avalanche gear because of the copious fresh powder.

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The flat light of the heavy snow made mountain and sky look the same dull shade of light gray.  With a little swirl from wind and a touch of altitude it was enough to give us all a little sense of vertigo.

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Two hours up to the top of Andes Express we hunkered down for a quick respite and a bite to eat before reaping the benefits of our climb.  Quite a colorful crew.  In this type of environment, all the bling is necessary to see each other through the heavy snow.

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What goes up must come down (unless, of course, you go up at 11 km/s, then you escape Earth’s gravity).  Since we skinned up at well below escape velocity, we obligingly came back down… through glorious powder.

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Well, it was glorious for most of the time.  Thigh-deep pow is great when you have the angle to drag you through it.  Once the grade evened out, we found ourselves underpowered and friction dragging us to a halt even on slight downhills.  It’s a little obnoxious poling downhill.   But a good time was had by all.

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Wrapped up the year with a week of reviewing for exams.  A few of my nerdier classes felt compelled to bring in drinks and munchies to throw a party and thank the powers that be that their math profé was leaving them in peace.  All foolin’ aside, I’ll miss my students.  They’re an eclectic, curious, and talented group.

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Pash loves to get all cute-sy with her little 8th graders as well.

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Got to shake off the seriousness and nostalgia of leaving with the last concert by A Lo Gringo.  After ten years, Marko, Peter Barnett, Rico, and Jorge were calling it a wrap due to some international moves.  There was an incredible showing by friends, colleagues, parents, and even a few students who snuck in.

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I was honored to be asked to perform with the band for their last gig.  In stark contrast to my usual ballady style, we went with something completely different and hit ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys.  We only ran through it twice earlier in the week, and it went off pretty well.  Only one glitch.  When Jorge asked me to sing it originally I said, “There’s no singing!  Just screaming!”, to which he replied, “Yes!”, and laughed his contagious belly laugh.

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Thank you to A Lo Gringo for all the fantastic music, fun, friendship, and ‘wena onda’ that they’ve brought in the last ten years!

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Cuasimodo Festival, Chile

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Author: Pete

Location: Lo Barnechea, Santiago, Chile

On the Sunday after Easter, Chilean Catholic priests used to ride on horseback to bring the church to the infirm who couldn’t come to church on Easter Sunday.  Carrying valuable silver and gold objects, the priests were easy targets for bandits who would often relieve them of the weight, proving there have always been heartless bastards on the earth.  Huasos, Chilean cowboys, volunteered to ride along with the priests as muscle to ward off the bandits along the way.  The Cuasimodo Festival commemorates this history.

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On the Sunday morning after Easter, hundreds of chilenos gather on their silk-covered horses in their brush guard chaps, spurs, ponchos, and head scarves and take to the street of Lo Barnechea to protect the priests from the banditos.

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They gallop fast through the streets shouting, “Viva!  El Rey Jesu’ Cristo!  Viva!”  God himself won’t save you should you wander into their paths!  Watch yourself gringo!

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Young and old alike ride.  You don’t have to be very old to frighten off banditos, apparently.

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The older ones partake in the tradition of drinking ‘chicha’ along the way to cut the dust.  Now it comes in the form of Cristal, the local beer of choice.

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Great excuse to get together with the gringoes and soak up some chileno culture before we’re outta here!

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A Farewell Song for Chile

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Author:  Pete
Location:
 Santiago, Chile

 

Wrote and recorded a song about the mountains and friendships in our time in Chile.  Wrote and recorded the son and set it to video of an ice climbing trip.  Check out the final product.  The back story and such are below.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebAMFLl13kw 


 

Wrote this during/about an ice climbing trip with my friends Sergio and Casey. I knew it would be my last trip to Cerro Plomo, and it was a touch bittersweet.  Preparing to leave Chile, and all the great friends who have become family, has been difficult indeed.  It’s the way of the expat life.  It’s one of the difficult parts in this path we’ve chosen.  So I guess the song is lamenting the loss of the mountains when we move, but really, my mountains and my friends are one and the same.

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So I wrote the song roughly on the trip and then fleshed it out at home.  Sergio and Casey recorded it with me in the Blackbox Theater Studio at the International School Nido de Aguilas, where we work, with copious help from the Fine Arts Academy tech director, Juan E Vidal.  He also mixed the music for us.  We didn’t give him much to work with.  It was the end of the year and everyone was scattered.

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Neither Sergio nor Casey had seen or heard the song, and they blindly recorded four takes with me.  Thanks for the musicianship, friendship, and adventurous spirit fellas.

Set it to video of the three of us ice climbing on Cerro Plomo, but the song is really about the way exploration of the mountains makes connections.

 

 

Plomo Icefalls Song

[VERSE]

East through the foothills and up through the bends,

Packed in the Pik-Up, let’s go my friend,

Climb on… climb on….

Trade in the weight of our worries all week,

For these packs and these paths, it’s off to the peaks,

Climb on… climb on….

 

With our sunburned lips and our frost-nipped toes,

Got a flask full of coffee and a tent in the snow,

Climb on… Climb on….

Up and chasing shadows well before dawn,

Catchin’ up with ourselves we gotta slow things down,

Climb on… Climb on….

 

[BRIDGE]

Down in the city smog we lose our way,

So we’ll climb until we can see again,

We’re no mountain men with heroes’ goals,

We’re pilgrims out to save our souls,

 

[VERSE]

Sunrise breaks we’ve been climbing for hours,

Boots baptized in the spindrift showers,

Climb on… Climb on….

Beautiful life that you and I live,

18,000 feet of perspective,

Climb on… Climb on….

 

[BRIDGE]

The cold and snow we ain’t here to find,

We climb to seek what’s deep inside,

Though we’ll find no air on this rocky crest,

We breathe in life with every breath.

 

 Audio:

 

Chords:

Verse:  C  Am  F  G

Bridge:  Am  C  Am  F  G