In Santiago weather is taking a turn for the BETTER. Yes, I open with weather-speak, but it's been so terribly hot and dry lately that any change toward cool and damp is a BIG GOOD THING. It's sort of overcast outside and very cool inside and ooooh - I unravel in damp weather.
The first day of change is like putting down a load that you didn't even know you'd been carrying all through the heat until it disappeared. I feel obliged - truly obliged and incumbent and duty bound - to spend that first day lying flat on a rug with my pores open wide and soaking up the damp.
It's that good.
That day was two days ago -Sunday. We purred and basked till mid-afternoon and then we took the subway into the city center and spent the afternoon wandering around the Plaza de Armas and out of it, through the inner-city streets. In the cool of the late evening we sat down at a table in the shade of a tree outside a little restaurant on a quiet street and had a long, slow meal of random little things - and were serenaded by street musicians. Three shifts of them.
First we were played at by a young man with a guitar, long hair and a set of pan-pipes. He couldn't play the pan-pipes, and on the guitar he knew exactly three chords, only middling well, but his hair blew WONDERFULLY in the breeze.
After he'd played the three songs he knew and walked round the tables, collecting our spare change and wandered off around the corner, we were approached by a second man who didn't have pan-pipes and DID know how to play his guitar (lovely flamenco stuff) But on the negative side, he couldn't sing. Not a note.
He was terribly enthusiastic, however. Determined to give it his very best shot.
And while he collected the rest of our pocket change and ambled offstage, his place was taken by an entire band - three young men with electrical guitars, battery-fed amplifiers and an entire drum kit. And those kids could really PLAY. Lined up against the stone wall of the restaurant, they played the best of the old stuff until the municipal security patrol car drew up in the street beside us and sent them on their way.
Santiago is great for street music. The streets are full of sound. Street sellers with whistles and hurdy-gurdy players and old men with flutes and guitars - too old to have been able to take advantage of Pinochet's reform of the pension system, and playing to supplement their keep.
In our immediate neighborhood we have a group of six opera students from a conservatory who often perform under a covered arcade next to the metro station. The roof does amazing things with the acoustics and its shade lets you stand and listen right through the summer sun.
And this summer, we've had a school holidays treat. A group of music students have staked out a spot right in front of our local supermarket. Ten violinists, a young man with a cello and a girl with a cornet will walk out of the crowd, make a circle against a wall and play all afternoon. The lead violin raises his bow and drops his head - and music breaks the air open and fills the sky with a WALL of sound.
Bright red and brown and golden noise - the shopping streets slow, and mouths open, men and women walk into each other and still- even the local beat police on their horses stop to listen, their reins slack and their faces still.
I put down my bags and lean against a stone pillar. The music plays up and down the walls - and under my hands stones are dancing, ringing back and forth under the great weight of sound.
Two little girls stop dead in the middle of the open space in front of the musicians. You can see the music crashing over them like a wave. One stands stock still - her arms spread and her mouth open and the other stretches her hands up to the ceiling and spins around and around and around -