Monday, July 07, 2008

Fourth of July Weekend

My Fourth of July was quite enjoyable, if not firework-free. The daytime included a variety of quehaceres or 'to-dos'. I got a yellow fever vaccine and afterward, went to sit in the park and drink a cup of tea. While sitting on a bench reading my book (Donde Van a Morir los Elefantes by José Donoso, a Chilean author), I was approached by a gitana woman, or gypsy, or (if you're going for PC) Roma. Normally I avoid the gitanos because they run scams and in general are mean, bitter sorts that spit at your feet if you decline them money, but I was in the mood for a bit of entertainment so I consented to let her give me "a gift that she gives to very few people" (this was all in Spanish, of course).

She sat on the bench next to me and began to read my palm, telling me a lot of things I forgot right away. Of course, no palm reading would be complete without a threat, and she warned me about two people who wished to cause me harm. I laughed and said, only two? She then told me to take a coin out of my purse - she wasn't asking me for money, she assured me, this was a gift and for my benefit only - and squeeze it in my hand. I took a quarter out of my pocket and she said a blessing over it. Then she told me to take out my wallet. I laughed and politely declined, saying my wallet was empty. She claimed to be deeply offended that I didn't trust her, that she knew I had money in my wallet, and that she wasn't asking me for any of it. I replied, no offense, but you can't expect me to trust you and I really don't have any money. She then pointed to my 3-carat garnet ring and said, fine, squeeze that in your hand. I did, smiling inwardly and knowing where this was going, and she said several blessings over it. When I opened my hand she snatched it out of my palm, which scared me for a moment, but she was older and a bit fat and I knew I could run her down if necessary. She then said, do you want these two people to cause harm to you, or do you want this ring to sacrifice itself for your safety? Let me take the ring and bury it in the cemetery for you, and you will be free from harm. I started laughing, which clearly "offended" her even more, at which point another gitana walked up and got in my face about how this woman was their teacher, their leader, the most powerful palm-reader and I better listen to her. I took two hundred pesos out of my coin purse (about 50 cents), asked for my ring back, and handed her the coins. It took several (increasingly forceful) requests but I finally got her to return the ring and leave me in peace.

An old man had been watching me, and walked up immediately after to ask what she had told me. I repeated it, smiling, and he asked if I believed it. I said no, of course not. Then he asked me who I wanted to win for president, and I said Obama. He replied, "aunque sea moreno?" (Even though he's brown?) I tried to account for his approximately 80 years and reminded myself that my own beloved grandfather referred to Asian people collectively as "Orientals," but replied firmly, "Aun mejor que si" (Even better that he is). He chuckled, shook his head, and shuffled off. I decided I'd had enough of the park by then, and went to get myself a punk haircut. For telling the hair stylist that I was pro-Obama, he gave me a discount. I've since washed the straight out, and it's much cuter curly, but here it is right after the cut:

It's way shorter in the back!

Although my day was filled with American president references, my night was decidedly more festive. I have made friends out of several students here, and two of them - Ivan and Elizabeth - threw me an asado, or barbecue, in honor of our independence day. They even made an invitation, and chose this one because it looked like me! They colored her hair red, too (not that my hair color isn't completely natural...) What they didn't realize was it's in front of one of my favorite spots in Philadelphia.

Although there were no fireworks, the food was excellent: choripan (sausage and bread, literally), shish kabobs, and I introduced them to the wonderful world of grilled, salted pineapple - they were hooked! Here is Ivan starting the barby:

This is Elizabeth or Eli (they call me Eli too, which I've taken a liking to!) and her niece Matilda. Those of you who know me well will be surprised to learn I actually played and subsequently snuggled with Matilda for quite some time.

The next day I headed to Santiago for Renée's birthday (another gringa profesora), which was a lot of fun. Here is Carol with the delicious cake she made:

Here I am with the birthday girl:

After the potluck at Renée's we went to a bigger party where I saw just about everyone in our teaching group, many of whom I will likely never see again. I wasn't drinking due to the vaccine since I'm not trying to aggravate my system any further, but I probably had more fun sober and even played beer pong, with my partner consuming for the both of us. The next day I lazed around with Carol, who made us a deliciously American breakfast - french toast, fried eggs, and mimosas. We then walked to Blockbuster and rented movies, and I finally saw No Country for Old Men. Weird movie, very relaxing day.

Unfortunately, Santiago is one of the world's most polluted cities, and it's especially bad in the winter; currently, air pollution levels are three times the acceptable "healthy" rate by U.S. standards - yikes! I was coughing within minutes of arriving, and it's sort of gross how you can barely see fifty feet in front of you. Needless to say I was happy to arrive back in fresh Valparaíso last night, which is surprisingly clear of fog for the moment.

I leave in a mere 6 days for my month-long vacation and am SO EXCITED. It's taken a lot of planning, especially coordinating with Matt and Robyn and trying to find them the cheapest possible airfare within Peru (which would have been easier a few years ago before Peru's government shut down two of the national airlines), but I think we finally have it all squared away. Keep your eyes peeled for my itinerary!


Renée said...

I think your punk haircut is really cute. Mandame mas fotos de la carrete! Gracias por venir.

I can´t believe you gave las gitanas so much of your time!

I´m sad that you´re leaving soon, Elizabeth!!! I can´t believe you´re going to BA without me!! Te voy a extrañar!

Nick said...

I wonder who the two people are who intend to do you harm. Maybe it was the very two individuals involved in the prediction/threat.

A couple months ago, Joe was riding the bus and a man asked him for change. Joe said he didn't have any and the dude punched Joe pretty hard in the face, and then ran off the bus.

I dig the haircut, and look forward to reading about your next adventure.

Momma Archer said...

I love your sassy new haircut! Your latest blog is particularly fun--and funny, too!

That fortune-teller actually was sent by your Mom to tell you to be careful on your vacation:)