Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Moai Lore on Easter Island

The rain danced last night in this paradise of green under the banana trees, pepper trees, bright red flowering El Ceibo trees, and around the bright pink and yellow cannas and Hawaiian-style hibiscus larger than a dinner plate. Already the roosters crow, one answering the other. And I can hear the songs of birds again. When you walk outside you will surely pass under a thin shower of rain before you get to the next house for breakfast. And then a double rainbow entertained me while I crunched my granola. Peace be here.

Photo: Rainbows for breakfast on Easter Island.

The plane landed very late last night in the tiny airport in Hanga Roa, which reminded me of early Montevideo and of current Jackson Hole landings, still rolling the stairs to the exit door. Outside the quaint airport painted with mysterious petroglyphs awaited two muscular Explora men, Julio and Tito, who wreathed my neck with fresh flowered leis. (Explora is an adventure company, not the sunken ship.)

Welcome to Easter Island. A new adventure at dusk begans on the Tropic of Cancer, 4000 kilometers from mainland Chile, five hours into the Pacific. The closest piece of inhabited land is Pitcairn 1900 kilometers northeast. Easter Island is 24 kilometers at its at its longest and 12 kilometers at its widest. It’s walkable, for sure. On with the hiking shoes, off with the all-weather ice jacket. I need exercise. But a mystical spirituality beckoned to my senses immediately on this ancient, triangular dot between Tahiti and Chile. Maybe it's the Moai.

A Sunday in Santiago, Chile

Photo: They build Christmas trees in malls in Chile.

I spent Sunday in Santiago much as I had in Uruguay. I searched for an Anglican church and found a roomful of ex-British in what was once a cathedral but now is a watered-down version of Anglican and Presbyterian thought. There was no bite in the service, a bit like eating too much fudge. Apparently since the days of Allende, the Anglican church began to dissolve in interest and power. Their amorphic creed begins “We believe in a God who has created and is creating" and ends with "In life, in death, in life beyond death, God is with us. We are not alone.” It may speak to some, but not to me.

Photo: Strawberry juice and empanadas.

My guide took me to a major shopping mall for coffee and “masitas” (bite sized fancy pastries.) Malls are destinations for family outings on Sundays and so they are crowded. I was amused by a three story tall Christmas tree decorated to the hilt, oversized packages under it surrounding a modest Santa Claus (Papa Noel, here) using his knee to take orders. Commercial Christmas was slow to arrive in South America. When I first lived in Uruguay in the ‘80ties, you might find a box of breakable red and green ornaments a few packages of silver “icicles” and fake snow, but all trees mostly sold in supermarkets were plastic. Not many people thought about wreaths and trees until Christmas eve. In most Latin American countries, Christmas Eve is Noche Bueno and there’s not much exchange of presents. Christmas Day is really the time for the family meal, usually “chancho” or a small pig spread eagle on a pit or “parrillada”. It’s prepared 24 hours before the mid-day meal, then left to cool until feeding time. The fat jells and the meat always seemed tough to me without spicy rub and sauces. It’s hard to other concepts of barbecue pork when you are a certified Memphis Pork Barbecue judge and we consider ours the only.

Photo: A fun cafe and our waitress.

Most of Santiago’s high end shops were closed on Sunday, but a person shouldn’t leave Chile without purchasing a piece of lapis lazuli, the only natural semi-precious stone mined in Chile. The dark blue stone is supposed to have mystical intentions. So you can imagine there were plenty of lapis lazuli and crafts shops open to meet the bus loads of tourists. We stopped at a thriving artsy barrio called Bellavista where restaurants back up to each other. There we drank fresh squeezed strawberry juice, one of my favorite memories of Montevideo as well, and were served by a smiling girl with eight silver rings pierced in one ear, her hair dyed Christmas ball red. She wore black and white checked Keds and an endless smile. A group of young people were filming a mini-movie at my elbow. From there, we drove to the airport where I met again thirteen of my mates from the Endeavor also flying to Easter Island but with another company.

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