A jump-up to the present:
On Wednesday I went to the Oriente Campus of the Pointificia Universidad Catolica de Chile to register for the art class that want to take there this semester.
It was the second time I'd been there to register. The previous week I'd gone to there to do it and the lovely gentleman at Desk in Charge of Extension Courses had said, and I quote directly:
"JUST because we have that class on our website and just because we said it starts on April 23 2012 doesn't actually mean we're offering it this year. Sheesh. foreigners."
So I went away and spent a full week and several phone calls working out exactly what IS being offered this year. Officially.
But golly, word seems to have got around. On my second visit to the university, to register for the almost-the-same-but-technically-entirely-different-class on offer, the gentleman in charge of Extension Courses greeted me with a warm kiss on each cheek and handed me off with all possible extraneous gallantry to the head secretary of the art department to have me registered in the official listed version of "Life Drawing: Light and Shadow" - and didn't it take the poor woman a terribly long time to do what turned out to be the impossible- because the only life drawing class she could find in her computer data base was the one that her boss had decided didn't officially exist any more!
It wasn't all she found. She found me in there too. Name, RUT (national ID number) and all, dating back to the last time I'd taken classes at la Catolica -almost 9 years ago, when the art campus was in an ancient adobe hacienda along the river. Gosh. After that I wasn't quite such a foreigner after all, and I'm pretty sure that if I turn up on the 24th of April at 6:30 in the evening, there'll be some sort of drawing going on, and I'm almost certain that my name will be on the student list.
After we'd battled the registration computer to an even draw, I asked the dear lady if the art department could recommend a good art store as I needed to stock up on drawing paper. Ooh, more gosh. The secretary didn't know. The professor of the class would probably have a recommendation. On the other hand, yes, it's true that by the time I arrived at the class it might be a good idea to have paper in my hands. Maybe Lapiz Lopez? (a very generic chain of stationers.) They might sell art materials. Of some sort. Watercolor paints maybe? She was terribly sorry, she just had No Idea. Maybe I should just troll Santiago's stationery shops and find whatever I could to get me through my first class and wait for the professor to recommend somewhere better? There wasn't anywhere local that sold art supplies.
So I said thank you, very politely, and left (gallantly bowed and kissed to the door on the way out by the Desk in Charge of Extension Courses) and when I exited the office of the art department and turned left, do you know what I found right next door?
I found a fully stocked, university-funded art supply store. Right on campus, next door down from art department office.
This semester has the potential to be highly entertaining!
As I left the art store with a roll of brown paper in my hands, I heard music. It was Semana Santa (Holy Week) and a troupe of students and professors were walking stations of the cross, and singing as they walked, and it was beautiful. Because the arcades were built for singing. Quite literally, I suspect.
The new campus is housed in a turn-of-the-century monastery: a square quartered into a cross of double-story building blocks that wrap around 4 enormous courtyards. At the front of the block the courtyards are quite busy, with students sitting at little wrought iron cafe tables and doing huge experimental things on giant canvases. At the back of the block the courtyards are filled with almost-overgrown gardens that sound like music because the music school is housed there. In the centre of the cross there is a small, narrow courtyard that is something straight out of an Italian palazzo and it is literally dripping with greenery. From the windows of the second story balcony. And it is grassed and fountain-ed and it is so pretty - the whole place is deeply serenely elegant and pretty that I found myself terribly envious of the students and the faculty that get to live with it every day.