Friday, June 15, 2012

Pea-Soup Goodbye

We are spending the long weekend of the 21st of May (the celebration of the Glorias Navales of 1879) with four Chilean friends in the small coastal city of Valdivia.  

On Monday morning, the fog rolled in, and where Lord Cochrane had sailed his ships, airplanes didn't dare follow.  The sea-fogs of Valdivia are pea-soupers; on two of our three mornings there we woke to classical white-out conditions and ate our breakfast and moved slowly about the town under a flat white light that obscured cars in the street and the houses across the road.
            Valdivians mostly heat their homes with wood-stoves.  On evenings where there is little wind, the ubiquitous nightly sea-fog mixes with the wood-smoke and makes a bank of dense, impenetrable smog.  The air is grey and tastes of ash and pine-wood, and the smoke curls around your ankles and your elbows as you walk about, while cars and buildings loom out of the dark at you as you pass.
Our hotel room was built mostly sturdy - but with the window tightly sealed, there was a quarter-inch gap all around the edges of the frame.  After an evening soak in the wonderful shower and eight hours asleep in our sealed hotel room, we awoke smelling pleasantly of campfires and wood-smoke, and our towels, laid out over the arms of chairs to dry, smelled like the leavings of a house-fire.
            That last morning our dreams of a last dreamy shower were dashed.  Completely. The hot water was out - everyone in the hotel was going home after the long weekend and we were all showering at once. We settled for a hasty lukewarm-ish brush-and -scrub, no songs, and scurried for the airport, and spent our last morning and most of an afternoon in the dank tile-and-concrete chill of the airport terminal, sipping interminable cups of hot chocolate to keep warm, and going on arm-swinging, chest pounding walks in circles about the parking lot while we waited for the fog to lift.
            At mid-afternoon the fog lifted, and our plan home took off from Santiago to come down to us.  And two hours after that, we went home.
            And settled gently down onto the tarmac of a city that smelled like aviation fuel and motor oil.  No rivers and no rain.  But it was home.
            Welcome home.

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