The message of Passover remains as powerful as ever. Freedom is won not on the battlefield but in the classroom and the home. Teach your children the history of freedom if you want them never to lose it.Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks
So, these last couple of weeks have been such a crazy emotional rush I am not even sure how to begin writing about them. Based on my previous post, you all know that Santiago has not been the easiest of cities for me. I’m not sure if it’s the city itself, the neighborhood we happen to be living in, the fact that the initial first month rush/honeymoon period is over, or a combination of all three, but this month really threw me for a loop.
I tried to work my way into Santiago, I did a walking tour of the Yungai neighborhood with our Spanish teacher, Sergio, which was really cool. There is a lot of cool graffiti and interesting up-and-coming spots, as well as museums. All the homes are from when the rich mine owners lived in that area over a hundred years ago. We also went to this barber shop, that is the second oldest continually run barber shop in the world. In the back, the seventh generation owners have opened up a European-inspired/French-influenced restaurant. We ate there and it was really good!
I also went to Pablo Neruda‘s house, called La Chascona after his mistress, with my friend Alex. I had no idea about how the dictatorship here really affected all aspects of cultural life and the cultural touchstone that Pablo Neruda was to this country. (Most of my exposure to him is through the musical, Rent… Bohemian Rhapsody) Also had no idea he was a diplomat who traveled all around the world before airplanes were a legit thing and who openly lived with his mistress for many years. But his poetry is beautiful; I used one of his quotes in my previous posts. I also hiked up with our group to San Cristobal Hill to watch the sunset, and there were great views of the entire city from the top! We also went to La Piojera, which is a bar that makes a famous drink called the Terremoto (or earthquake in Spanish). I’m not going to lie, I found it pretty disgusting. It’s pineapple ice cream, jug wine (think Franzia but worse) and some other liqueurs. Click the link for some more context on what it’s all about!
Two weekends ago, I completed my goal of doing something that scared the crap out of me in every country. For our tracks weekend, we did white water rafting, which included jumping off a cliff (ok, it was only about 15 feet in the air, but this was still something I never thought I’d do!). It’s kind of wild how things I never would have dreamed of a few months ago are now things I just casually do on the weekends. Just goes to show, everything is a matter of perspective. I never, ever did outdoors-y things before coming on Remote Year. In the last month, I’ve hiked Machu Picchu, camped outside (for the first time ever), gone white water rafting, cliff jumped, and done numerous other hiking adventures. What’s that saying about not teaching an old dog new tricks? P.S. The water was absolutely frigid and old me would have felt the water and absolutely not have gone in. But new me is all about the EFF it attitude (most of the time). Check out some action shots of the rafting and cliff jumping.
That night we had a night out celebrating two girls on our trips’ 30th birthdays. We sang karaoke, which included some Queen, some Disney, some GREASE! (boys v. girls summer nights, anyone?) It was awesome and everyone was into it. Have I mentioned how much I love this group of people? We did go out to a another bar afterwards and, in the spirit of true honesty, I will write that I had some experiences with some local men that were pretty upsetting. I am frankly more upset about how I handled myself in those situations and tried to play it off like it was no big deal. I had a strong physical reaction afterwards. But, you live and you learn, and hopefully I will be more prepared if (and hopefully not when) this kind of thing happens again.
Anyway, that Sunday, I organized a wine tour through the Casablanca Valley with Uncorked tours. This was awesome. We had a great guide, Vivi, and a really fun group of 15 people. We went to three different wineries that were more boutique/off the beaten path– La Recoba, House Morandé and Loma Larga. La Recoba is this very interesting winery that’s kind of breaking all the rules. We had this rosé that was incredible and was not made in the classic way. I am afraid of writing down what they told us for fear of upsetting all the wine lovers and being sacrilegious. (They also make their wine in shipping containers!!) At House Morandé, we ate lunch with a wine pairing. I’m still thinking about this meal. It was so so so so good. And Loma Larga was just a beautiful peaceful place surrounded by nature of all different kinds. We also had a lot of fun singing and dancing on the bus there and back. Here are some highlights from that day:
Now to the highlight of the trip so far for me. Sarah, the other Jewish girl on the trip, and I decided we wanted to throw a Passover seder for our group. We honestly couldn’t have dreamt of what transpired. Sarah and I trekked all over Santiago to try to find some classic Passover foods. We had a bit of trouble, but eventually got gefilte fish, brisket, and matzo using our Jewish networking (and Jewish radar! I approached numerous people and had to ask in Spanish whether they were Jewish and if they knew where to get Jewish food!). I went back to a kosher mart again across town on a second day to find matzo meal, grape juice, a seder plate(!) and other fun things. I also decided to make a Remote Year Polaris Haggadah, and Alex, our resident graphic designer, general life badass, and amazing friend, agreed to help make it pretty. It turned out AWESOME, if I do say so myself. I think we might have a business here, no joke.
The way people turned up and turned out was insane. From Alex giving hours of her time to helping make the Haggadah amazing, to my friend Abby, who had never met a Jewish person before me, helping be my sous chef all day in preparation for the meal, to the countless others who helped set up, clean up, and everything. Then the seder itself. Most of our group (I’m not joking, like 30 people) showed up. People were curious, they were engaged, they listened to me and Sarah lead with so much attention. And for most of them, this was their first ever Seder, or anything Jewish! They even sang Dayenu. The youngest in our group, Harry, read the Four Questions. Then, everyone searched for the Afikomen! Sarah also had this genius idea of creating a Family Feud type game for Jewish knowledge as a fun competition to also educate people. Everyone was SO into the game. Honestly, this night left me pretty speechless. The open-mindedness and generosity of the people in this group is frankly overwhelming. It is my favorite all-time holiday memory of my all-time favorite holiday (save the Passovers when my grandparents were still alive) and will be hard to top. Passover has always been my favorite because of its message of inclusivity, of learning, of questioning, of freedom from bondage, and the fact that you are supposed to share this with all people, regardless of where they come from or their abilities. I wish I could post videos to this blog so you could get a taste of the amazing spirit that went on, but here are some pictures. (Hopefully my friend Abby will be posting a video of the night soon on her Youtube channel and you will be able to see that!)
Thank you to Polaris from the bottom of my heart– gonna try to hold on to this feeling of gratitude for you all as long as I can!! On Friday, Sarah and I went to a Seder at a Chilean family’s home. This was a beautiful experience in a different way. On Wednesday, we shared our traditions with our Polaris tramily, and on Friday, we were in a country where I don’t speak the language, a city that is at the literal opposite end of the earth, with people who were strangers, and yet we were in a home where we were made to feel like family. Even though the Seder was in Spanish, and I couldn’t communicate super well with our hosts, their children and many guests did speak some English, but more importantly, we had the same love for the holiday and for our heritage. I followed the entire Seder–the blessings are the same, the songs are the same, the food is the same. They hugged us and welcomed us and treated us like we were their own. This is honestly my favorite part about being Jewish, no matter where you are in the world, you always have a place and a home. The other notable thing about this Seder was the diversity in people who attended. There were ultra-Orthodox members of Chabad, there were religious Jews, non-religious Jews, Jews who did not come because they are atheist, a young man who brought his non-Jewish girlfriend to her first Seder, Israelis, Chileans, and Americans. On Passover we include everyone, even those who are not attending. The thing that struck me most was these parents who had three adult children, one who had become ultra-Orthodox, one who was a middle-of-the-road Jewish girl like myself, and one daughter who did not even attend the Seder because she was not into it at all. The pride they had when talking about all three children was palpable and equal, and everyone was included, even the daughter who was not present. It was so inspiring. We ended the night singing Ha Tikva, the national anthem of Israel, and also just a g-damn beautiful song. I started tearing up a bit. Here we are, disparate people, with disparate nationalities and languages, disparate beliefs, and yet we all have the same love and yearning in our heart.
Ok, now that I’ve dried my eyes, back to reality. During the day on Friday, a group of us went to hike a glacier! I was dying in the beginning, I felt like I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t move my legs at all. It was brutal and made me think about how I need to redouble my exercise efforts. I’ve really allowed Santiago to get me off my game. I can tell I’ve been losing strength here and it’s stressing me out! But getting to the glacier was pretty cool. This country really does have such a crazy difference in topographies and sceneries. I do hope I get to come back one day to do Patagonia.
We’re now in our last week in Santiago, and frankly, I am really, really excited for this next transition. I’m really sad about not living with Nandita anymore, it’s been so amazing being roommates with her. She is such an inspiration in so many ways. Hopefully before the year is up, we’ll get to live with each other again. Or I may just have to sneak in to her next apartment to spend quality time with her. But, I must say, I am ready to leave our apartment and Chile behind. I’m living with Tonya and Jon next month, two fantastic people, which I’m really excited about! I’m ready for Medellin and Colombia and everything beyond. It’s really nice feeling like you get a refresh button every few weeks here. New country, new experiences, new you.
On a sidenote, I’m having numerous panic attacks over Game of Thrones and also seeing the Avengers this week (midnight showing, yassss!!), so if anyone would like to discuss those with me, I’m all ears. Nerdiness travels well, apparently.
See ya in Colombia!