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Chiloé: Ireland meets Gloucester

Friday, October 28, 2011

The summer between 5th and 6th grade, my family took a two-week vacation to Ireland, my first time out of the country (except Canada).  Our first day in Dublin was pleasantly warm and sunny, but not enough to justify the entire city sprawled in parks in shorts and bikini tops, playing frisbee in bare feet.  Soon we learned: for Ireland, this was a heatwave.  It rained every day thereafter of our vacation, and we became friendly with the damp and the mist, the provider of the lush, thick green.

This week I have experienced something similar.  When I arrived in Castro, Chiloé on Wednesday afternoon, it was warm and sunny; Thursday morning too, I strolled around in sunglasses and almost sunburned my arms.  Then, the clouds rolled in, and since then, I have experienced Chiloé as its characterstic, wet self.  Like Ireland, it doesn’t rain in Chiloé: rain is Chiloé.  Rainy, raining, about to rain, just stopped raining, drizzle, fog: these are the possible variations of a chilote weather forecast.

Curaco de Vélez, Isla Quinchao

Also like Ireland, Chiloé is an island, traditional, “quaint”, and charecteristically defiant and separatist in regards to mainsland Chile.  Rolling hills are dotted with sheep, wildflowers, and villages.  There are chilote mythology and magical tales.  And like Gloucester, this is a working-class place about the sea, not a place you would want to swim, but a place where tourists take pictures of fishing boats, where men wade in boots to harvest shellfish, where it always smells of salt.  Chiloé is known for two archetectural elements: palafitos, wooden houses on stilts, so the tide can come and go, and beautiful, UNESCO-heritage-protected wooden churches.

palafitos, Castro


church in Dalcahue


interior, church in Castro

It has been luxurious to be on this mini-vaction, a product of a four-day weekend + three personal days.  It is especially fun to travel in a country I’m living in, because I understand the bus drivers, I know the songs on the radio, the junk food brands and meal times are intutive, and so on.  As I chatted with the museum owner in Castro, we talked about acess to health care and the debate over rural schools, topics about which we both could contribute examples.  Though it was a shock to hear gringo English, French, and German, in a way it is easy to be a tourist because I don’t know anyone and I don’t really care what they think about me.  It is delicious and yet so strange and cold to be anonymous after living in Palena.

hospedaje I stayed at in Castro

The other big part of Chiloé (like Gloucester) is seafood, which I unfortunately don’t eat.  I was thinking recently about how I find no health or environmental justification for not eating fish here, and I am unsure about the moral part — but I cannot imagine putting fish into my my mouth.  So here’s what I have been eating:

ensalada naturista, (faux, mini) empanadas de queso, pebre (onion/tomato/cilantro)

cafe cortado (not nescafe!) and a book I'm so close to finishing

pastries: filled with membrillo (quince), pastry cream, and fried.

breakfast at hospedaje in Castro


cheese empanadas, made before my eyes by woman whose hands are in the background.


Chile has some great beer, thanks to German immigrants.


unfortunately the soup was instant (proudly advertised on the bowl)

So with books, fried foods, and my fleece-lined raincoat, here I am in Chiloé.  And as I compare everything to Palena (they call this “remote”?  Buses run every twenty minutes!), I also hear the quiet, insistent thought: this is the last time I will leave and come home to Palena for a long, long time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jane woodman permalink
    Friday, October 28, 2011 7:19 pm

    Hi meg! We are with Dad and Ria in Brunswick enjoying your blog! Love Ireland and Gloucester so Chiloe sounds good to me! Hope you get more sun… Xo Mom

  2. Friday, October 28, 2011 7:23 pm

    Thanks, Mom! Hello everyone.

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