From Chiloe, I travelled north towards the green vineyard covered region of central Chile. Santiago didn’t appeal much to me; cities are starting to seem indistinct after so many in a short space of time. The city had a few redeeming characteristics, however. First, while wandering through the streets, I periodically happened across magnificent views of the Andes sandwiched between skyscrapers. Second, there is a plentiful supply of fruit and veg stalls that were desperately missing from Argentina. And third, there are street performers in front of the traffic at traffic lights. And drivers actually donate! Something pretty magical for a Londoner.Other than this, it seemed to me like any other oversized, impersonal and polluted metropolis. Travellers here will receive plenty of advice to clutch bags to their stomach for fear of thievery. It is a greedy, unequal city. I have read about consumerist Chile and, although this is not something than can be attributed to Chile alone, it is somewhere I felt it strongly. In a wild attempt to become even more of a hippie, I decided to reduce my luggage. I discovered a way to donate my spare clothes to local homeless people. I can’t pretend it was entirely altruistic; my back was complaining under the resignation and I needed an exercise in non-attachment. Predictably, I was loathe to let some things go but felt liberated later.
Valparaiso is a coastal port town situated a few hours from the capital. In the port, FM Prosperity strains against her mooring rope, containers clank and workmen bellow their greasy directions to one another. The old town is known for its colourful houses and is positively teeming with street artists. Much of the street art has political or philosophical messages: on feminism or the destructive nature of the fishing industry for example. Street art itself is a less protected form of art than traditional painting. Since it is regularly being painted over or stolen, to enjoy it is an exercise in non-attachment.
Even the way travellers casually float in and out of each other’s lives encourages people to enjoy the moment. And so, central Chile is unexpectedly allowing me to become an expert in Buddhism!
I’ll leave you, dear readers, with my favourite murial from Valparaiso (although slightly off-theme). It translates as ‘The heart is a weapon the same size as your fist’. In other words, if you put enough passion to a cause, you will reap a reward as effective as through using force.