02 March 2015

art in the city

Valparaíso, how absurd you are, how crazy, a crazy port, what a disheveled head of hills that you never finished combing, you never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you
Thus begins Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to Valparaíso,” and I don’t think I could have described the city more perfectly. I’ve found a bit of free time during this last orientation week to wander just some of the streets of Valparaíso, and I’m continuously entranced by the city. There is art everywhere you look, mainly paintings on buildings but also sculptures on the sidewalks, musicians in the plazas, and jugglers performing on the streets.
some street art- “the smile of a Valparaísan lights up the city”
another mural spotted up on Cerro Bellavista
Valparaíso is made up of about 42 hills that put the “hills” I knew in Portland to shame (and that’s saying something, since I’m one from of the flattest areas of the US). Most have their own names, and each has its own personality. The roads up the hills are narrow and winding (in both senses of the word) and are lined by buildings of all colors. Roads will suddenly turn off in other directions and be intercepted by staircases that are intercepted by sidewalks. There are dogs almost everywhere you look, and cats almost every other place.
My host family lives in Viña del Mar, a twin city to Valparaíso. By contrast, Viña is more of a beach town. Although Valparaíso is a port city (once the hub of Latin America, before the Panama Canal was built), there are really no beaches in the city that people can go to. Viña, on the other hand, is lined with beaches and hotels right on the water (so many beaches that I've already gotten pretty sunburnt twice in the 10 days I've been here). It’s also much flatter, especially the plan where my house is (though there is a plan in Valparaíso, it makes up much more of Viña than it does Valpo). Most of the dogs here are owned by individual families, and the city feels much cleaner, though less lively.
This week has been filled with orientation related activities, both for CIEE and for the university. For CIEE, we’ve been taking some intro classes to learn a bit about the geography, history, and poetry of Chile. Thursday we went to Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaíso, called La Sebastiana.
the view from Neruda's house- not too shabby!
Neruda (a poet and political activist, if you haven’t heard of him) wrote an entire poem about the house, beginning it with:
I built the house. First, I made it of air. Then, I raised the flag in the air and left it hanging from the sky, from the light and the darkness
While in reality he did not literally build the house (it was built by Sebastián Colledo, the namesake of the house), he did definitely make it his own. Neruda loved the ocean and all things related, evidenced by the large glass windows overlooking the Pacific on each of the five floors of the house. On the wall of his study hangs a map of the world as seen in the 16th century, and his bedroom is composed of furniture that once inhabited a boat. He once wrote that
El océano Pacífico se salía del mapa. No había dónde ponerlo. Era tan grande, desordenado y azul que no cabía en ninguna parte. Por eso lo dejaron frente a mi ventana
which roughly translates to say that the Pacific ocean is so large that it goes off the map, and there is nowhere to put it. It’s so big, disorderly, and blue that it wouldn’t fit anywhere, which is why it was left in front of his window. It was really amazing to see his house, and get a perspective on how he saw the world.
Beyond the work for CIEE, I’ve been going through an orientation at PUCV, the university. They had a big welcome breakfast for all of the international students (about 250 people in total). We had to take a written Spanish language assessment to determine what level of Spanish class we had to take, as well as supposedly take an oral exam, though that turned out to be more of an academic advising session than anything. Classes officially started today, but I don't have anything until tomorrow. The add/drop periods are heavily used here, so I will inform you all of my final schedule next week!
I'll leave you with some pictures of my host family's dog, Benito. I think he's hilarious.
looked out the window and Benito was sitting on the table
looked out the window and Benito had his head sticking through it
If you have any questions, please email me at rekidder@lclark.edu!