May 4, 2011
Today I did two performances at the Andrèe English School, which is actually a Catholic School. An old style one that put me in mind of the stories I’ve heard from many of my Chicago parochial school veteran friends. My first clue was the picture of Padre Armando that dominates one of the walls. In it we see him carrying an honest to God sheep on his shoulders, presumably an errant member of the flock that he has just rescued. I suppose that the purpose of the picture is to convey the compassion and caring this beloved priest holds for his parishoners. Still, all I could think about was what the photo session must have been like: the smell, the mess, the struggling, bleating, pitiful lamb who, when you really look at her in the photo, doesn’t seem to be very happy. And next to this graphic example of Padre Armando’s determination to save every single member of his flock, is a Chagal-esque mural of the Day of Judgment. The details are a bit vague, due the post-impressionist artistic style. Still, it manages to convey the grim consequences of misbehaving in the classroom. And if the visual message wasn’t clear enough, the English instructor of the school reinforced the message verbally as she was “warming up” the audience for moi, emphatically instructing the students to behave and enjoy themselves OR ELSE!! (Note the previously mentioned picture.) We managed to have a good time and Alberto got some great shots of the students asking me questions after the programs.
In between the first and second shows I was introduced to Jose Luis, a friend of Alberto’s who is a Chilean story teller. After the shows the three of us toodled around Santiago doing some errands for DreamOn, buying new guitar picks for me, patronizing cafes and restaurants, and giving me my strongest dose yet of Spanish immersion. Naturally, most of my conversations to date have been with Alberto, who has a heavy Argentine accent. I haven’t had a lot of opportunity to speak with Chileans, whose accent is quite distinctive. I got a full dose of both trying to keep up with Alberto and Jose Luis. I frequently find myself two or three sentences behind in any conversation as I try to decode words that are unfamiliar. And, hoo boy! There are a lot of them. Chile is known for it’s colloquialisms and its vocabulary taken from the Mapuche, one of the indigenous peoples of the area. But even words that I do know are buried in the dropped consonants and blurred syllables of every day conversation. After a day this intense my mind feels like the hind end of a Sushi roll: wilted, incoherent and unstable.
And speaking of sushi, dios mio, it is everywhere here. By far, the most common sights of Santiago are graffiti and sushi bars. You see it on menus in the oddest places. Like, for example, the Mexican restaurant down the street from the Hotel. Jose Luis was pointing out today that it’s very easy and cheap for Chile to get all of the things it needs for sushi, having, as it does, so much coast line. So Alberto and I finished the day with another visit to Akbar to probe some of the other choices on their menu. Tomorrow we begin the changing of the guard as Alberto begins to get ready to leave for Argentina and I meet my next tour manager, Carol.