After going to bed at respectively 1:30 a.m. (Mark), 2:30 a.m. (Feng) and 4 a.m. (I’m reading a great book!), we all got up at noon rested (all of us), thirsty (me) and hungry (Mark). I made a quick ham-and-cheese sandwich and we headed out to Parque O’Higgins, Chile’s second largest public park.
“Eh, if papa Francisco is gonna hold a Mass there, it must be good!”
Oh yeah, apparently the Pope is coming to Chile from January 15 to 18.
We got the clue from the many Bienvenido Papa Francisco banners hanging in front of churches and we learned the details of the visit on a leaflet handed out at the Basílica de la Merced (yes, Mark is still a bit into churches). I have no idea where we will be around these dates but I can tell you we aren’t members of the fan club, so may as well enjoy the park without the crowd.
Parque O’Higgins on New Year’s Day reminded me of Chinese parks on any given weekend. An artificial lake, walking trails, playgrounds for kids, an amusement park, food stalls and many vendors selling toys and other cheap stuff designed to make children shout, “I want it!” There were kids biking, skating, getting fake tattoos and throwing tantrums while grownups were eating hot dogs (Chile’s favourite food) and trying to relax. We baked under the sun crossing la elipse, the massive military marching area, and we bought Mark a small $1 bubble blower—good investment, he blew bubbles until 9 p.m. and now I have to find another one and no, Mark, we’re not going back to “the jungle” to buy it.
After waking up in Latin America on several January 1, I know what to expect on New Year’s Day in this part of the world. Cities are usually quiet, the weather is nice, everything is closed, people hang out in parks, in public square and in pedestrian streets, if you see a convenience store open just grab drinks and cigarettes because well, may as well.
A city on New Year’s Day is a treat for those who like to explore various neighbours and just wander around. Don’t get me wrong, I like cities with people in it, but there’s something special about a day with very little traffic, no business activity and no rush. You see things differently, pay attention to small details you’d miss on a normal day. From barrio Bellavista (where kids were having fun in a swimming pool on the sidewalk) to Barrio Brasil, from Barrio Santa Lucía to Barrio Lastarria, from Barrio París-Londres to La Alameda—I lost count of the barrios I crossed but I felt awesome.
Along the way, I was prompted by various signs outside the few shops open. “¡Hay pan!”—quick, buy a piece of marraqueta, Chile’s French bread. “¡Hay bebidas!”—grab a Coke. “¡Abierto!”—step in, whatever the store sells, just to take a look.
I came back with an empanada, bread, a yogurt and a slice of cake.
And then I stood at the window of the hotel, looking at the Andes in the distance, and then down at the city below me. From the 20th floor, I felt safe and cozy—one person surrounded by many other people in many other apartment buildings all around, eating, dancing, reading, chatting and just living. Here I could see a living room, there a kitchen, here three bikes and some laundry on a balcony, there a Colombian flag…
It felt comforting to see people living their life so close to me living mine.
A new year just started for all of us.