"In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different."
-Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel, artist and business woman
Immediately upon crossing the border from Argentina, noticeable differences made themselves impressively apparent. While the northern portion of the land form one of the most desolate and arid environments in the world (the Atacama desert, which connects to Bolivia's stellar and seemingly interplanetary Uyuni salt flats), the southern sections creates one of the rare and gorgeous temperate rain forests, hearkening to my beloved woodlands of the Pacific Northwest, where giant trees and fields of ferns under canopies of green and curtains of moss spread throughout the valleys and mountain ranges. The governmental and municipal organizations of Chile were clearly more regulated and strict, the food distinctly their own, the landscape more outstanding, and, as unimportant as it may sound, wooden homes became the norm.
On top of that (literally) the overwhelming popular option to cover the homes' exterior in customized shingle shapes was ceaselessly entertaining.
Wood siding cut to the shape of diamonds, chevrons, scales, stars, slants, trefoils, stripes, waves, and stairs of all colors and sizes, each one expressing a different personality and artistry, made unique expression an expectation.
An odd, wide stretch of beach, wrapped in fog, more than the rest of the island, which enhanced the feeling of mystery so much that it felt like I was in a world in-between. The visibility was so low, and the sense that we were being watched was palpable, but strangely non-threatening. I would later learn about the beings and spirits of local folklore at another festival, and it became easy to understand why sprites, goblins, witches, and trolls were written into their history: I could almost feel their mischievousness penetrating the air even before I learned of their stories.
When we weren’t exploring the land on our own, Marco kept us like live-in brothers, sharing time, thoughts, good humor, and good food with us. We laughed and bonded and truly bridged our two different worlds.
We grew so close so quickly, and he was one of the more difficult friends to leave, when the time came. I have insisted that he come to visit us in the United States, so I can have him practice his English the same way he encouraged me to practice my Spanish.
We waited for the bus at a mall, and Daniel and I were craving Chinese, so we tried it. Sadly, it would be almost another year before we would find Chinese food that hit the special spot in our stomachs, because this Chilean version truly did not...
Our plane landed in the vibrant and rich Salvador in Bahia; our port to the vast ocean and our final American destination.