PAUL K LYONS
JOURNAL - 1976 - OCTOBER
Saturday 2 October, Puerto Montt
SUCH FRONTIERS TO DREAMS
I had a dream Thursday night. I was travelling around the world, seeing so many countries poor, rich, exotic and beautiful, meeting so many people, touching so many religions, and learning so very much. Every new country was a new adventure, new excitement. I woke up early on Friday morning cold and damp in my sleeping bag. Where was I? In an empty railway carriage with the smell of shit in the air, and piles of the same all around, my body full of fleas, and my scalp peeling with a terrible dandruff
The last boat to Punta Arenas left on Monday, and it won't go again until the end of October. My soul is squashed, beaten, the world has imploded. There is no flight to Punta Arenas until Monday and the return leaves on Wednesday. That would give me one day in Tierra del Fuego which is crazy.
What broke - and I realised this didn't matter one iota - was my determination to get back to England by Christmas. That is why I thought I couldn't wait until the end of October for a boat, and why I was so disappointed. My idiocy cleared as the day became the afternoon. So, I wait three weeks for the boat. I'll go to Bariloche, where it is supposed to be very beautiful, and suss out the lakes. Getting home for Christmas is not important. The day continues to improve as I discover the little fishing market and cove and the creepy crawlies that people eat as a delicacy. Laid out along the stalls, they seem to pulsate and send out flashing feelers to draw pedestrians into the tea stall. The tide is out, the vessels lie on their sides, the air smells, clouds rain and don't rain in argument with each other.
The high street of Puerto Montt is crowded on Saturday morning, but deserted in the afternoon and evening. The square though comes alive between 7 and 10 as lots of youngsters gather to look at each other. If the clouds rise a little one can see snow-capped peaks all around. The little boy blue, excited by the thought of Bariloche, tried to hitch out of town but the weather didn't drove me back to find a cheap pension. Peter arrives. We share stories with two other travellers while the rains continue. There is a tall spindly yawning American who is buying woollen goods made by women in Chiloe to export to the States. He buy hats, for example, at 10 pesos($0.75) and can sell them wholesale for $4 or $5-6. He sends them by air freight and has duty to pay as well.
Without inhibition the barefooted children play their games in the plaza. Regardless of the rain, regardless of their bodies, regardless of the changing audience, they run, jump, fall, fight with everything they have. It's a circus. They each hold a stick which they throw, twirl and hit with. The toughest scamps are kings, the smallest are pawns. But there is a nonchalant trust, a deferred caring between them - one who cries is really hurt, they rally round. They are children playing at gypsies, they are gypsies playing at children. They beg and share and yet are selfish. Children trying to survive. The oldest is not yet ten.
From one corner of the evening arrives a young girl, she carries some things. She joins in their fighting, their games. She wins and she gives orders. She pretends seriousness but is always laughing. She acts, she is an actress. She holds the longest cane.
A passer-by passes slowly. The girl dances towards him. She arches her back by leaning back on the stick like a prima donna, so perfectly poised, so perfectly timed. She asks for a peso, but the stranger is unaware of any brilliance, and the actress is unrewarded. The play continues. Now she dresses her head with a scalf and becomes a mother. From her bags she shares out a little bread. When the ruffians play tricks on her she scolds, teases and kisses them. She loves and hates them through her little movements. She is the centre of their life, their play. She is their queen.
I am in the near-empty plaza at 2pm. Rosy-cheeked Amalia asks if the museum is open. She permits herself to sit down next to me and start a conversation. We ask a carabinero but he doesn't know whether the museum is open. He can only smile for he thinks Amalia a bit mad. Her eyes are coloured like coffee. They demand nothing from me. She eats the remnants of my apple. She talks incessantly. I smile constantly.
We leave together. I understand she is 49 and that we are going to her house. She carries two bags and an umbrella. On the way she buys a sweeping broom and some olives. I carry the olives. She talks and I smile. As we walk slowly up and to the edge of town she stops often to say something. I turn and smile, then she gallops ahead assuming I have understood. I follow gleefully until she slows again.
She stops at a church. Outside, she reads a notice and shows me spelling mistakes. We laugh like clever children. Then she rushes into the church and up to the altar, where she makes a hurried sign of the cross. We continue slowly up the hill. She stops here and there to say hola to different people on the way. All the time she is rambling in a loud distinct rapid Castellano interspersed with a few English words: 'come here', 'yes', 'goodbye', 'OK', 'all right'. The English words increase in quantity and volume whenever other people are in earshot. She talks and I smile.
Towards the outskirts of Puerto Montt, the buildings become less large, less well-kept, less clean; they become shacks, the size of coal-bunkers; inside they are black. Soon they are shacks on a wasteland of rubbish and pits. But here there is a group of modern semi-detached houses planted in the middle of the poverty. Amalia brings me to one, the pink house of her son, only he is not there. Amalia prepares a salad. I smile.
There is silence while we eat.
And then, for some inexplicable reason, I begin to lose my freedom, lose my smile. The last time we laugh it is over her childishness about smoking. She eats fruit and vegetables, drinks water, walks always with vigour, but is so proud and ashamed of smoking three cigarettes day. I share her pride and shame. But she begins to demand answers to questions, to demand my understanding. She wants my name, my bread, my things. And then she becomes incessant, repetitive, frightened, angry. Her breath, her voice, her eyes start to annoy me, all the same qualities that only a short time before had cast such a spell on me. I escape before I understand.
Wednesday 6 October, Bariloche
FREEDOM, BARNACLES, BOLIVIAN PRISONS AND TOES
If you go to San Francisco put some flowers in your hair. Put some flowers around my pen. Find some summer on these pages. Above, the grey clouds form and unform continuously, tempting spring, holding winter. I have so much freedom. There can be no greater quantity of freedom to have. How can I ever be without it? How can I ever take on my back responsibility? My bubbling, my joy, my peace, my loneliness are only results of this freedom. Anything I do is because I, the me, wants to. How real is it? How unreal is it? When tied to friends and job and children, will I walk down a dirty street in the cold and the rain and clap my hands and shout and sing with joy, like I do in these days? Will I be able to feel so low, tired and cold in moments but brush them aside with peace and understanding? Will I ever be able to do things day after day that I, the me, does not want to? Will there always be flowers in my hair?
I remember a Sunday, in the dim distant past when I was still in Puerto Montt, still amidst the rains, and still finding Peter by my side. In the crystal clear high tide seaweed morning, Peter belched a bowl of squirms and squirls in the cosy fishing holes at Angelma. The barnacles tasted fine similar to crab or lobster. The stroll to the plaza revealed little of ourselves, but John told of Bolivian prisons. He said there were no more than 30 gringos male and female, and that no-one had been inside for more than two years. Single cells could be bought, and they ran a little restaurant to keep themselves occupied. The conditions were fair, he said.
John is from San Francisco. He seems sad and repentant, and dreamy in an alcoholic/drug kind of way. I like to listen to him. We share a few ideas in opposition to other travellers: he too thinks Siddhartta weak at the end, he too suspects the Chilean government has hope. I seem to have something he has looked for all his life, and he has a multitude of things I want to know. He is another stranger I am sad to leave.
Peter and I visit a Kiwi couple from Auckland. They give me a couple of books and we swap too many stories.
Otherwise we have such pleasant meals and excellent herbal tea in small warm little houses. I had much trouble in finding a lift to Orsorno. OR SO NO Three short syllables, a bit like toes. Orsorno is really three toes and not a town at all. I find a small humble colourful uni out of town, an ugly closed market, friendly girls at the bus stop. I spend hours trying to hitch by night without success and then spend a comfy sheltered night between/below/at the side of thundering roads.
Tuesday was green. It was so full of impressions, yet they are hard to recall. Some were momentary, some hazy, some shallow. Cold crept all around as my faithful and trusty sleeping bag wound itself up and into the rucksack. The sky was crowded with pink flamingoes flying north and up, south and across, or was it a sky of floating mauve mushrooms that chased each other into grey cloud heaps.
It was weird this morning. As I stood peering down the road for autos, a bus (the first) arrived in front of me. A couple of girls got out and started hitching. Within minutes they had a ride, and I felt free again. But then a bus (the second) arrived and out jumped more hitch-hikers. I too the dirty back of one truck in which a girl rode in the front. Motionless and upright I stood through the cold morning and dairy cow pastures. When I got down, a young kid joined my trail and we marched together for a while. He couldn't read, and wouldn't go to school. We spoke little. The road seemed very vacant, and the boy seemed very sad when I left him - a little blue car carried me a few kilometres but would not take the child. I hope he has found a ride by now.
Entre Lagos couldn't even provide me with breakfast. From there I walked along the lake. I saw so many children: of cows, calves with the skinniest smoothest coats; of ducks, so many, like rushes in the lake, and ducklings flobbling on the rocking sea. I saw hawks perched up on empty trees. And oh, how vacant the road the way. I took weary rests at bus shelters, especially when it rained. As afternoon wore on, the end of the lake approached. Occasionally it was blue when the sky above was, occasionally the clouds lifted revealing snowy mountains.
A heavy lorry carried me to Bariloche, and friendly young guys carried me through the frontiers without difficulty. The land is beautiful. Natural forests, almost tropical, temperate I suppose, thick deciduous bush, and, higher up, sparse uniform trees covered in light green lichen. There is slush on the roads, snow drifts in the ditches, and cloud-covered peaks all around. I proceeded along an octopus lake towards night and cold and a steak. It's kind of nice to be in Argentina again. Chile is so poor. An address given me in NZ turns out to be a private house occupied by a woman with beautiful daughters. She has a couple of beds and is very proud of all the travellers that come to her house from all over the world. She serves me such a welcome tea. It is 1am. I sleep on the couch.
I spent Wednesday wandering around Bariloche. It is rich, with huge sweet and chocolate stores. There are millions of hotels in the town and spread around the lake, and lots of tourist shops and travel agents; and there are so many excursion places to visit. The civic centre is prettily built (in stone) but is unfriendly. The tourist office is unwelcoming. Bread and cheese and fruit are cheaper here than in Chile, while coffee and tea are a little bit more expensive.
Letters to Frederic, Edgar, Dad, Tudor.
Thursday 7 October, Bariloche
OF BEAUTY AND ITS VIEWER
I talked for a while to a Canadian couple who will probably be on the boat to Punta Arenas - Cathy and Bob. In the evening, I went to a folklorico show: traditional tap dancing, singing and guitar playing. The moon was full. I found a sheltered place down by the lake, sheltered from the wind, sheltered from the lights of town. I sat and watched the moon weave between the clouds. How the light of the lake changes. It is so very beautiful.
How much beauty can a mind, a body, a soul, absorb? How much can it soak in? How much can be remembered? I see a lake, another lake, a mountain, a forest. A thousand scenes a day that are magnificent. I cannot put them into words. I cannot distinguish between them a few hours later. Is it the same to see one beautiful place a thousand times, or a thousand different places? They compound in the mind, they are absorbed or dissolved. What do I really gain from moving around and around to see so many different things? The region is beautiful, it's magnificent, but the scenes don't drastically change in different parts. Should I sit in one beautiful place all day, and stare and try and perceive it. But I get bored. My legs, heart and mind get up and go somewhere else. But I sense a futility in the make-up of my mind. I should be just as bored if I changed location every second every minute every hour every day. What beauty ever grew in my mind?
On entering the Puyehue National Park from the west, the first thing one sees is a newly ploughed field, the like of which I havn't seen for hours. Points to note. 1) In Bariloche there is more traffic on the streets at 1am than at 9am, even the cocks don't crow until after 9am. 2) There are lots of big dogs, mostly alsations, friendly and roundly plump. 3) The sweet and chocolate shops are overpowering. I am sure I shall succumb. 4) On the edge of Bariloche are shanty houses that seem as bad as anywhere else in S.A. 5) There are lots sweaters with star-flake and angular designs for sale.
Friday 8 October, Bariloche
I don't find a ski field, so I hitch off along the beautiful and endless lakes and forests. A physicist, a beautiful woman, and a restaurant owner carry me in their cars for a while. Grey clouds and rain play with me all day long obscuring snow mountains and picture book skies. At Llao, llao there is a ginormous hotel stuck on a hilltop. I sat in a teahouse writing. An Australian, Barry, having established that I spoke English, asked me in the strongest accent: 'Where's the cheap beds mate?'. He too is going on the boat trip south. Then I sat in the big hotel reading Herman Hesse, and listening to piped music: 'Who goes by the name of the sandman'. A small museum entertains me: Indian artifacts, gorgeous belts, petrified wood, a big tapestry of San Martin sitting on a horse in the middle of the Andes with one hand in his pocket (masturbating?!).
Thursday's child was free and wild.
Saturday 9 October, Bariloche
ART AND SCIENCE
The Bariloche Foundation was initiated 12-13 years ago by a breakaway group from the Centro Atomico. It encompasses many fields, economy, sociology, physics, biology, geology, ecology, music. It is virtually totally dependent on the government, though now it is searching for other sources of money. I visited the institute of material resources and energy, and learnt about some ecology and geology research. One group has taken a lake basin and is trying to create a model of it to understand all the variables, such as rainfall, sun's energy, growth rate, earth factors. It wants to create an almost closed system to study the cycle of energy and what happens with elastic change in one of the variables. Another group is studying the spread of species and their invasion of other species. He tells me that in Bariloche there is an almost 100% invasion of foreign garden plants, the local Patagonian species are not wanted (although he, of course, has them in his own garden). It is necessary to go at least 10km out of Bariloche, he says, to find 100% Patagonian species. He was very worried about this problem and what he thought would be the vast economic and cultural consequences of species invasion. He cited the example of the mosquito brought to Brazil from Europe in boats and how it killed millions through malaria. Then I was introduced to Roger, a pure bred Manchester geology graduate. He first came to Peru ten years ago climbing, but has been Bariloche 4-5 years. He walked into the Institute just like I did. He's developing sampling techniques for rare earths. He showed me how they work out, on the computer, the possible locations of deposits (of nickel for example) from rock samples brought in (from South Argentina). I involved myself in the computer game in the afternoon. It was easy for me to understand. I had many memories and thoughts of science, of uni, of Phil, of my desire to work so mentally. Roger knows the south very well because of his climbing trips. He says it is beautiful. At the end of the day, though, I felt rejected and left feeling a little awkward.
Science turned to art. At the library and culture centre a group of players presented Nuestro Pueblo by Thornton Wilder. There was a full and responsive audience. Obviously I missed a lot of the finer subtleties, but I still thought it well done. At the play, I met Arturo. He reminds me of a rich Ecuadorian I met at Playas - sad, bored, lots of money if needed, and intelligent.
A read a book called 'Strange news from another star' by Herman Hesse. There were short stories, very flowery, very dreamy and full of symbolism. Sometimes I think he loses himself in the symbols. 'Personal Anthology' by Borges with stoties such as The Zahir, The Circular Ruins, The Compass and Death The South. It's all good stuff - labyrinths, the cyclical nature of things, the philosophy of time, the impersonal factual description of circumstances that shook his peace. I don't like the poems (but then how can one ever translate poems effectively). I've also read 'Modern Asian Stories', 'The Years' by Virginia Woolf, and 'Being There' by Jerzy Kosinski.
D. H. Lawrence retort to Whitman: 'And whoever walks a mile full of false sympathy, walks to the funeral of the whole human race.' His retort to Jesus: 'And whoever forces himself to love anybody, begets a murderer in his own body.'
Monday 11 October, Temuco
I made the effort to get out of bed by 7am thanks to the Australian noisemaking machine. Friendly police took me out of town telling me to get the hell out of here because they don't like hitchers. I was preparing myself for endless waits, but the first car picked me, dropped me in the middle of nowhere, and then the very next car took to Chiloe. I couldn't believe my luck. He drove recklessly fast, and we had some border hassles. The road was so beautiful: towering mountains, cliffs into the lakes, lichen-covered trees, snowfalls, mirror lakes, rainbows, sleeping horses, and even accordion music in the custom house. It was a magical mystery tour. And then almost without hitching I get a ride to Osorno, where I meet two Americans just off a boat from Punta Arenas, and a fast furious ride to Temuco.
Back to Saturday. I met Arthur in a cafe. We talked for hours, about searches, goals, answers to life. He writes and walks and works a little. He knew a chacra some 100km away wherein two semi-travellers worked so we head there. The road was long and sinuous and fast. He played mediaeval jingles or Peruvian flutes or Simon and Garfunkel on his tape. When we got there, though, the friends had left the chacra. He left me at the end of the day, a bit like the geologist, feeling awkward. But he did give me his address in B.A. and maybe I will use it.
On Sunday a stranger showed me the Centro Atomico which is a university extension. It was poorly equipped. We also played a few games of bar football and billiards. It was such very hard work to get a ride to the moto cross. I cheated and entered for free but my conscience was clear: I'm just not interested in moto cross. I was reminded of the time in Dunedin when Ross and I went with two
nurses to see The Gunn - I don't think I'll ever forget him. I felt privileged to have seen him ride. He was so good. But the riding here was not so good. But the power and the control, the concentration, the masculinity, the dirt all impress me immensely. I strolled up and away from the noise and the crowds, to a high point where I could see forests of silver cane and golden birch, rocky brothers, and lakes everywhere. I twirled and danced. The moto cross was a buzzing bee between the wide dark flat waters that stretched beneath me. Galloping, I returned in time to see a chequered flag raised and lowered. The people packed their children and turned their cars towards Bariloche. The winner was me.
Postcards to Rick, Frank, Letelliers, Johnnie, Ed & Jenny, Lisa; letters to Sandy, Ian Watson, Peter Binns
Tuesday 12 October
A leaf fell onto the page I was reading. Small and brown and round. I placed it in my mouth and chewed it. As the sun came and went, as the people circled round, I chewed and chewed the little leaf until all its essence was gone, until the soul of the leaf had entered mine. Then, with latent curiosity, I looked up at the branches above. The heavens were full of large, square, sharp leaves, so very different from the leaf that had fallen onto the page I was reading.
Thursday 14 October, Puerto Montt
PUERTO DE LLUVIAS
The rains continue. Have the people here ever had a rainless day. Why am I here, what am I doing in this rat trap? The boat company said come back on the 20th for news. The radio said the boat should leave on the 28th - two weeks today. That's crazy. I might as well have hepatitis again. I've got the rains and the wind and the cold. How should pass the time? Bariloche again? Santiago? Just hang about here? I should have stayed in Temuco a while. But here I am, never regressing or regretting.
Temuco on Tuesday was not bright lights or exploding stars. I went to the feria; for a walk on a hill; a visit to museum - meanderings through markets, sitting in plazas, playing a little pool. I slept
in the station after a Peter Sellers film which was not very good. I was really looking forward to the train ride, with time to meditate, write and read, but I was oh so sleepy and slept instead. In Puerto Montt I went back to friendly little house. The yawning American was still here, but Pete had just left. Some people in the town recognised me - a policeman and a small boy - but it is so empty of pretty places, empty of little things to do. It always rains. Why do I wait for the boat? Am I crazy? Will I ever get back to my homeland?
Monday 18 October, Vina del Mar
I'm living from peso to peso in the youth hostel at Vina del Mar. What the fuck am I doing here? There is no story to tell. After two hours of unsuccessful hitching out of Puerto Montt, I caught the slow train to Santiago. It took 22 hours and cost $6. I spent most of the time spent reading Richard Adams. Josefa offered me bread and we talked a while. He studies fish in Puerto Montt. I will go and see him on my return. A young couple from Temuco stole my bed. They they were going to Canada, but couldn't have been any greener. Their love for each other will carry them through some bad times.
In Santiago I bought a glass for my broken pocket watch, but couldn't find the pen cartridges I needed. The market is cheap - I stock up. I change a little money at the Sheraton Hotel. I thought hitching out of town would be difficult but an old friend reversed up to me and took me to eat a cheese roll and rich cake and then on to central Vina.
The most exciting event of the Saturday was the purchase of a plastic cup. Wow what a plastic cup. 30 teabags cost three pesos, enough sugar two pesos. Thus I can have 30 cups of tea in the youth hostel for five pesos. The cheapest tea in town is three pesos. So now I make my own tea in the kitchen - morning, noon and night.
Sunday passed by without words. I walked and hitched up the coast. There were pelicans praying on rocks in the sea; young men on shellfish hunts; and wonderful white and black and red ladybirds. I became lonely and tired of walking.
On leaving the stadium this morning it was so beautiful, the blue sky and the sun. I took to singing a mantra I made up at university in Cardiff when walking from the flat to college: 'This morning is too beautiful for me.' It welled up a thousand feelings inside - none of them definable or explicable. In the afternoon I watched a football match between Everton (Vina del Mar) and Wanderers (Valparaiso) but was bored. In the evenings I've been walking down the high street and along an avenue by the shore. The sun burns the horizon from blue to black as it sets.
My kharma has been low the last couple of days. I seem to have rejected many people, cut them down, due to pride, due to weariness whatever. And for this my punishment is to not meet anyone interesting. Well, maybe my vibes are bad. Also I'm disturbed by the fact that I seem to be thinking a lot about women and sex - maybe I am always like this or maybe it is all the beautiful women here in Vina.
Thursday 21 October, Puerto Montt
On Monday I fell in love with Valparaiso - its thin curling streets, its dark green and old hills, the street characters, the port and port life, the old English banks and companies, the plazas, the slippery fish, the hill trains, the pretty girls standing close by wretched beggars. I spent the afternoon on the roof of Julian's residencial with a crowd of tourism and translator students. We listened to his music which included Joni Mitchell's 'Hissing of Summer Lawns'. I freaked out when I heard it. She is still so brilliant to my ear.
The kharma picked up a little on Tuesday morning. It was burning hot on the morning beach, but the brave little boy offered a pretty girl an apple. The girl refused but was happy to talk. Patricia. I tried to understand her Spanish as my shoulder burnt. She is dark and slim with beautiful firm breasts. She had to leave to go to lectures so we parted and maybe I'll never see her again.
But having encountered Patricia on Tuesday, I went to the British Consulate in Valparaiso to ask about work. Work? I thought I was heading for Punta Arenas. There was nothing of interest at the consulate, and I meet nobody at the university later. Later - back in Vina - I sussed out the British Institute which Patricia had told me about. A young bespectacled woman is the manager. She said there might be a job at an English school in Renaca. We talked a little, and she gave me the address. I vowed to go the next morning. It it doesn't work out, I thought, I'll catch the Thursday train to Puerto Montt.
My spirits were free. Later I met Julian and we talked, mostly about women.
Life in the stadium at Sausalito is luxurious. I go back two or three times a day and always make myself tea and have a hot shower. I chew my bread on the balcony overlooking the lake and whistle across the stadium at night. All the people who work there are friendly and recognise me. Events take place in the stadium but I just come and go nonchalantly as if it were my home.
To continue the story, the next day, I scooted along to Renaca a few miles up the coast from Vina, in the best clothes (cheap black nylon trousers with a bright colour patch). At the gate I explained my purpose, but everything seemed to be waiting for me. I suspected they thought I was someone else. I was passed from the hands of one administrator to another and finally came face to face with the headmaster. He was the perfect image of Englishness. He seemed to need a little convincing about me, but everyone was impressed with my Britishness. Two of his phrases are memorable: 'Well! I'm protestant', and 'I can see you are a gentleman'. It is a British school but there are no British left, though some of the teachers speak queen's English. They are excited about a new headmaster coming next year from Britain. They are sure it will mean a revival of their traditions. Whether I like it or not, I have a job until 15 December. I will be an Inspector (or general muck about). It is perfect - perfect. They will pay me 1,400 pesos a month, on which I can live on it OK. I laughed hysterically on leaving, just like when I got the job as a medical representative in NZ. I start on Monday. Now I have to go to Puerto Montt to get my good clothes and papers, which is a drag. I am sailing on my luck - to live here for a few weeks, wow.
Friday 22 October
As I wander around in a dream, I have to organise myself, find a place to live, maybe buy a bicycle, make friends, suss out the good places.
I went to Valparaiso to check with the British Consulate about working, but there doesn't seem to be any problem. I met some ricos in the uni and spent a few hours with Julian and the girls on the beach. Then I met Diego who was drawing in town. He speaks good English and is studying to be an architect. He told me about Cerro Castillo, where he lives, and where there are cheap residencias. It overlooks everything in and around Vina. Later in the evening I went there and asked around. It is very difficult to find a solo room or apartment with privacy so you can have people coming and going, so I ended up renting a fairly private room off a courtyard inside a private house. I will pay 300 pesos a month. I like the duena. Another guy drove me around in search of a bicycle. He hangs around a lot down town and is a grass contact. In the evening I befriended America, Angel and Autumn.
How many other things happened on Wednesday I don't remember. I didn't see Patricia even though I was looking for her.
Julian leaves in the morning. He said he would send me his address. The sky was beautiful tonight. A coat-hangar moon, a pearl star and a fire-grate horizon. A very special view across the water to Valparaiso. The grasshoppers continued to sing in Sausalito.
Jobs I have done: milkman, greengrocer, laundry van driver, waiter, kitchen hand, office assistant, filing clerk, builder's mate, furniture mover, packing clerk, factory line, powerhouse labourer, handicap person assistant, medical rep, inspector.
I am spending a lot of time with Christian and Ignacio, who have a universe of aquaintances. We went to a concert - 'Stone Alliance' - of heavy rock jazz. I am drinking alcohol again, vino and cerveza.
Today I discovered a few cerros in Valparaiso with Rivers of Houses. There is a very special cerro, it has two cemeteries, one sewage bowl, and one prison.
Monday 25 October, Vina del Mar
I bought a jacket yesterday, it was hard work. I found this huge second-hand - odds and ends - market in Santiago and visited a thousand stalls before finding THE one. The market becomes very crowded by midday - is everybody interested in odds and ends? I did try hitching back to Vina for a couple of hours, but a bus carried me away and soon I was home.
My home is at 369 Balmaceda, Cerro Castillo, Vina del Mar, Chile. A young couple lives there with kids. My room lacks everything except the expected. There are vines in the courtyard. There's a kitchen I can use and hot water. I don't feel entirely comfortable. I cannot stay long in the room, and find myself leaving to wander the streets. I am lucky. I meet Diego. He introduces me to people at a leather workshop nearby (where a New Zealander is staying), and then we go to Diego's house, which he shares with another architect student. They have a perfect studio with just one window that breathes in the whole beauty of the evening sky. There I sit and soak in the view. But it is not enough, I have to escape again. When walking the streets, I realise how speedy, how ungiving I am. I realise it was a mistake not to let Diego help me find a room. But luck is still with me. I make new friends in the street. I feel warmer. Patricia doesn't seem to exist any more. How much importance I am putting on these brief meetings?
Am I writing irrelevant things in this book? What is it, some sort of escape? It is surely a book that will give me pleasure to read in the future, maybe in 20 years time. I will write reviews of it in later diaries; then, maybe in another 20 years I will write a review of the review; and, if I live to be 84, even a review of the review of the review.
The sea out there is full of introspection. I can see the ripples of reflection, the masks of introspection, the fading blue and yellow. That is why there is night, so the sea can sleep. It does sleep I'm sure of it. Nothing is capable of endless timeless thought, not even the sea. Bread when not fresh is stale. I cannot be fresh all of the time, therefore I must be stale. The world survives on staleness. I survive on fresh bread. One day there won't be any, a dying flower will whisper 'no hay'. Then I will discover I have a soul after all - because it will leave a body stinking of age and staleness and uselessness. If any strength remains, I shall lay down and let the hungry feed.
How perfect nature is - there is no embarrassment, no humility, no pride. If I stumble in the street, I feel awkward and look round to see if anyone is daring to laugh. Yet every movement of the sea, through the rocks and weeds, is perfect, every movement is rich in beauty; there is no awkwardness not once in all infinity. These thoughts followed the sun in its descent. I was on an empty road and walked in joy towards the night, uncertain of my destiny. I bought matches and let thoughts of serenity and kindling times by the beach and sea fill me. I joined a growing procession of trumpeters on the road, and walked towards dstant lights.
A solitary lady - a music teacher - giggled at my passing through. We talked and joined our hours and laughed the weekend through. Horcon is where her father once built a big and mighty house in a forest of eucalyptus 20 steps from the sea and beach. It's where handsome fishermen and richmen dance in liberty; where the moon sails; where cars are new, wher children are pretty; where the bars are rich in pleasure and wine. Only the seagulls work and whine.
Some books: 'Ten keys to Latin America' by Frank Tannebaum, 'Shardik' by Richard Adams, 'The Professor's Daughter' by Piers Paul Read, 'Darkness at Noon' by Arthur Koestler, 'The Woman Destroyed' by Simone de Beauvoir.
Wednesday 27 October
Cocks that crow and crow should be strangulated. I have them to thank for my early arising. I have no timepiece that works. I leave the house if it looks light enough. Now, on the third day, I've found the route of the school bus. Where shall I start with my description of Mackay School? There is not much to tell - it is all very ordinary. The facilities are adequate but I hate to think what they are like in a state school. There is no gym, the classrooms are stark and bare. The pupils have seven 40 minute periods from 8:00am to 1:00pm with two breaks of 20 minutes and 10 minutes. On some afternoons they return to school to play sports at 3:00pm. A few kids are super-prefects. The teachers seem to have little control, and it is left to the inspectors, such as me, to keep order, check dress and behaviour. Sometimes they take classes if, for some reason, the teacher can't be there. We get tea and sandwiches at 11:00 and I get a free lunch in the 'Old Boys Club' which is very wishy washy. On my frist Monday there was a riot. The final year students bombarded other students with flour, water and eggs, rang the alarm bell and ran amok through the school, escaping through the gate in a disorderly manner. Everybody was so upset and angry, but it all seemed so unimportant to me. When the kids muck about I can only laugh with them. I had to look after one class of older pupils. They did what they liked. I had no control at all. I was a joke, laughing all the time. The rest of the time I just hang around. There are three university graduates and two full-time, less educated, inspectors. The graduates were friendly enough to begin with but they ignore me now, the permanent inspectors have more time for me.
There is an old Uruguayan, ex Montevideo football player, who referees the football in the week. He is full of football knowledge, and knows more about English soccer than I do. He's very friendly and well meaning, but a bit heavy. I think the boys need a younger man to guide them in the sport. The music teacher has befriended me as well. He's young and has a folklore group. The headmaster has a nasty and peculiar twist of the lips. Education is basic: drill and repetition. The whole place brings back memories of my schoolhood, especially the kids playing soccer in the yard during break. How precious those memories are of our games by Red House. Phillips the flare, Taylor the booter, Daniels the milky bar kid, Langly the bully etc. That game of football at lunchtime was so important to our discussions and lives during the days. The rage, pride, envy, anger, joy - the flowing ease of those emotions. And I remembered the days of playing in Cheshunt; and the days of the C.W. consortium versus the Samantha consortium and the glorious pints of shandy afterwards. Pure memories are such joy, so long as they are not clouded by regrets or wishes to change the past.
News: Mao's wife was caught forging a will to put Chiang Ch'ing in the party leadership; 14% inflation in UK; J B Priestley writes about being old; Arsenal are fourth in the league; British naval ships are being encouraged to disguise themselves in the search for suspect poachers; a fascist coup in Thailand purges left-wingers, with many crossing into Laos; there is conflict in Rhodesia - Smith wants a smooth transition of power in the coming two years but ministers of defence/law and order and chairman of the superior council must be white.
I took a short walk around the university end of Valparaiso. I found a yerberia which was exciting. I found a church with a mundane exterior and motley interior except for the colours the sun was creating through the stained glass: the stone floor was alive with circles of purple and yellow. I walked a little through the cerros with mountains of houses built on top of each other; crazy conglomerations of wood, stone and corrugated iron. Every hill seemed to have its own pully that, for a peso, could relieve one of endless flights of stairs. Los cerros seethe in character. Valparaiso is alive, everywhere there are shops and people bustling in the streets, here, there and everywhere. It's ancient and beautifully ugly and ripe.
Friday 29 October
Days are sure to blend into each other now I am stopped for a while, keeping regular hours, forming routines. I have been relegated to the junior school where I am to provide a heavy masculine hand. All the teachers are women, they cackle all day long. I am surely in the way, as they talk about potatoes, make-up and tight jeans. Sylvia was inquisitive the first time I went to the junior school. She offered me her address. I responded with ideals and dreams that go round and round in my head. Now I've offered to visit twice she is sullen. We drink tea all day. I watch the kids at break and read the rest of the time. One teacher is very pretty and doesn't cackle. She talked to me today about independence and freedom and her dreams when she was at uni. Roberto, Victor and I stick close together. We laugh and mess about at meals, and skip off in the afternoon as soon as we think we can. Kids are kids. They shout and scream a lot, and who am I but just another one of them. How can I control them? I took two hours of football practice today, and tried to instill some sense of position and passing. And very tiring it was too.
Thursday was a bad day. All the world seemed to come crashing down on top of me. Anger, despondency, sadness, loneliness all boiled inside me. I gave some to a jazz concert and some to the pintable machines and some to the horrible girl who helped me practice my Spanish words.
Paul K Lyons
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