12 November 2008

+/- 3

I will miss:

2. la familia Chianale.

It would be an insult to say that they are the exception to the norm. Maybe in the blonde eat blonde, tunnel vision worlds of the las Condes, Vitacura, and Lo Barnechea communes they are one of the exceptions. But in the real life world of Chile as a singular country and not as a larger suburb of the Inland Empire of Santiago, the Chianale family, I'm happy to report, are a part of the norm. Friendly and generous, inviting and open, Chileans are proud of their country and often more than happy to share it with outsiders. And we were lucky enough to have the distinct opportunity to share with the best of the norm:
Andrés, Pilar, Dominga, and Emilia.

(And this brings me to a subset of my ongoing list: I will not miss the overriding opinion of many gringos that Chileans are rude and arrogant and live in a closed society. To this narrow-minded world view I offer my advice: please leave your Ruby Tuesday, strip-mall routine of the aforementioned communes--and leave Santiago altogether--and go talk to one of them. Come on, give it a shot!

There is little question that the United States is one of the more xenophobic countries on the planet and to conclude so easily that the smallest and wealthiest class of people in Chile is representative of the entire population is naive, foolish, and short-sighted--not to mention rude, arrogant, and closed.

It would be like visiting Washington, DC--a place that makes the arrogance of Santiago's wealthy communes seem like charity--to sample "real" America. I only hope that at some point in our life we are able to share our own family, friends, and beautiful scenery from the home states of Idaho, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado with people like the Chianales. But I digress...)

The Chianales immediately opened their world to us (something we were told often wouldn't happen because Chileans prioritize family circles first and all others a distant second) and we are better people for it. Within the first three months we were invited to Pilar's family in Concepción for Fiestas Patrias celebrations and a slow roasted lamb by the jefe of the family.

From there the relationship only grew. From family ski trips to Chillán (top picture) and Bariloche, Argentina;

to grilled meat-fests with family (Franco, left) and friends of family;

to long and fuzzy restaurant benders;

to birthday parties, dinner parties, party parties, quick beers, slow coffees, and countless other engagements, the Chianales have been excellent country hosts, tour guides, interpreters, and friends. Plus, Andi is a damn good ski partner.

Yup, los chilenos son buena gente. And, yes, we will miss the Chianales.


Fernando Pereira said...

As a short-term repeat visitor, I've been treated very well by most Chilenos I interacted with (even in Santiago). It might help that I try to speak Spanish (badly). My best story was when we were driving back from Lonquimay last August. The driver of a truck behind us on the lonely road signaled insistently to us and convinced us to stop. Our rear-right tire was flat. This older gentleman, clearly a farmer, got out a battery-powered air pump, re-inflated the tire, gave us directions to a tire repair place, and absolutely refused compensation for his time and work. He didn't speak a word of English.

Thank you for showing us the best of Chile!

steven hatcher said...

Thanks for the theoretical support, Fernando, and a nice story. I think Chile is a country filled with stories like yours.