Thursday, March 3, 2016

Me Gusta Valparaiso, Chile

 I've been living in Valparaiso, Chile for more than two weeks and really enjoying it. "Me gusta" means "I like" en espanol. It's a cool, gritty, funky, artsy city of hills and stairs and murals and street dogs. I have spent many afternoons wandering around and getting lost. It's fun to walk up a lengthy, winding staircase with no idea where it will spit me out.

Learning Espanol

For the past two weeks I have been taking more Spanish language lessons and seem to be making very slow progress. I feel like my brain is wired for numbers way more than language. After 6 weeks of Spanish lessons I can, when I have the time, formulate a sentence and say what I intend. However, I am still a looong way from being able to hold any kind of meaningful conversation with a native speaker who isn't extremely patient with me.

Some Sights

The other day I went up over the hill to a more rugged shoreline. It had the classic cliffs and rocks and crashing waves that I can sit with for hours. There was also a cool cemetery that used a different and more cost-effective burial style than I had seen before. You can see it in the background of this photo. 

It's like those tiny Japanese hotels where you just rent a 4x4x8' cubby hole for the evening, only these are for... wait for it... eternity.

Some more cool street art: La Mano Cornuda (the devil hand)

And this one, I dunno. I just walked by it this morning and it was closed. I'm not sure if it's street art or it actually is a Scandanavian disco, bar & hotel all in one. I'll go back tonight and see.

I thought I heard her whisper my name as I walked past...

What's Next

Saturday I bid farewell to lovely Valparaiso and head north to San Pedro de Atacama. Northern Chile contains the driest desert on the planet -- the Atacama. Some places in this desert have not received rain water in 400 years! On average it gets 0.004" per year.

I expect to spend a week or so up there and then make my way back south through Salta to Mendoza, Argentina. Mendoza is the heart of Argentina's wine region so I imagine I'll enjoy some tasty vino there. In fact, most of the hostels appear to have free wine tastings every evening, so if you follow me on twitter you may experience more of my infamous drunken tweeting. Mendoza is a beautiful city full of tree-lined avenues, so I might stay there a couple weeks and take more Espanol lessons.

After Mendoza, during the first week in April, I'm up for my biggest adventure so far. I signed up for a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Cordoba. It is vipassana meditation where you just sit and focus on your breath, essentially, for 11 hours per day with breaks every 60-90 minutes. Read more about it here

I've been meditating on and off for the past couple years, but usually for 10-20 minutes at a time. Just sitting cross-legged for 20 minutes is difficult for me, so I feel like this is a good push out of my comfort zone. I feel I've grown a lot in the past few years and meditation has been one tool that has helped me. It has helped me slow down my frantic monkey brain and be more able to thoughtfully respond in a conversation where previously I may have just thoughtlessly reacted (aloud) to something surprising or challenging. Often times after I thoughtlessly react verbally, I regret what I said or wish I had said something else. So I'm getting better at that.

Last week I got my visa for Brazil, so after I hopefully survive 10 days of silent meditation the plan is to keep heading east to spectacular Iguazu Falls and Brazil.

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