Since we arrived in Chile, we've been living in Santiago, its big, modern capital city. In many ways, it's even more modern than many comparably-sized cities in the US, when you take into account the kinds of apartment and office buildings that are going up in Las Condes, or the constantly expanding subway system, for example.
Living in a city like Santiago has been a great experience so far, revealing yet another angle in the multifaceted gem that is Latin America. I've remarked before, surely, on the simultaneous unity and diversity of Latin America. With a common language, history, and certain aspects of both traditional and popular culture, you can visit many places around the region and find common threads. And yet the culture is so varied that you can go from one country to the next and discover the countless details that make each place unique.
Santiago, for its part, represents Latin America perhaps at its most modern, its most globalized. Here, you haven't lost the charm inherent in any given latin culture, but you also find yourself surrounded by all sorts of conveniences, and big business. Fascinating, and overwhelming at the same time. A topic I will certainly explore further in later musings. It will have to come later, for today's story starts here in the capital, but ends up elsewhere.
After a month or so of staying in Santiago, once work was lined up and a regular schedule began looming ahead, we thought we ought to get out of town for awhile. As pleasant as it's been to be in a modern city, both of us come from smaller towns and after awhile, a city this size can start to feel oppressive. Fortunately, once you leave town you go from urban to rural landscapes very quickly, and there are a number of interesting destinations within an hour or two from the city limits by bus.
One such place is Pomaire. It has a very small town feel, with no buildings seemingly more than two stories, and most homes with a small but fertile garden. Many of the houses look to be made with adobe, and either have flat roofs, or sloped and topped off with corrugated metal. Or better yet, with the red ceramic shingles you can find all around Europe and Latin America.
Further contributing to the small town atmosphere is the fact that the people are much more likely to say hello to you as you pass by in the street, and on the day we went, there was hardly a car to be seen on the roads.
Grapevines of this sort add an elegance to even the simplest home. Really, if you're going to grow a garden, why not make it an edible one?
Pomaire is so close to Santiago that it's a popular weekend destination, a place to shop in some rustic stores and get out of the city, much as we had chosen to do. So much so that its unmistakable style of pottery can be found in Santiago homes, up and down the socioeconomic ladder.
The other attraction of Pomaire is the rustic food, baked in rustic clay ovens, and served up in equally rustic-looking restaurants.
I've developed an unbridled appetite for the empanadas they sell in our neighborhood, which are big enough to fit nicely in your hand. The empanadas here were about twice that size. Or at least, that's what we saw as we walked by the restaurants.