I wrote in one of my first posts that travel is a strange thing, that we often do not and cannot foresee the futures that wait for us. We can make predictions and plans, certainly, but what awaits us will always have that uncertain spark of chance.
As I write this, I am sitting in a flat in the centre of the city of Santiago, in Chile. This isn’t a matter of couchsurfing or staying with a friend; I rent this flat with my partner, Anabel.
I have a job now, teaching English as a foreign language, mainly to businessmen who wish to improve their grasp of the language, to better deal with their European and American counterparts.
The pay is good and the work is rewarding.
I have been here for a total of two months.
I spent three months in Peru, travelling quite a bit, volunteering in variety of work. I spent a month in the jungle in an animal reservation, without electricity or running water. I taught English to children in a remote mountainside community. I spent two weeks working at a boat hire situated at the shore of Lake Huacarpay, one of the most peaceful places I have known, where the company of the stars and the crickets were more common than the company of people. I explored cities like Lima, Tarapoto, Chiclayo; I explored Incan ruins both with and without names, of which there are many.
I have walked for hours to reach the ancient city of Machu Picchu and climbed to the peak of her sister mountain overlooking the ruins, each step hewn into boulders and rocks.
In Venezuela, I saw firsthand the dire circumstances that this beautiful country and her people now live in. I have stood in queues for hours on end, trailing and winding outside supermarkets and stores, only to be rewarded with a single bag of flour at an exorbitant price.
It is a country where every man, woman, and child, knows the risk of even stepping outside their front door, and far too often even the risk of simply being in their own homes. A shortage of food and severe case of hyperinflation, to the point where the smallest form of currency is literally treated as rags, have driven people to desperation. There are stories abound of kindnappings and murders beyond count.
Yet despite this, despite the desperation and sadness that has infected this country, in no small part due to their inept and corrupt government, her people are still the most wonderful and welcoming I have ever met in my entire life.
My time in Venezuela deserves (and will have) a dedicated post.
Leaving Venezuela, a plan developed of finding a place to stay for a time, to renew funds and recuperate. With my TEFL certificate, teaching English was an obvious opening.
Ecuador was our first option, as there is something of an English language market there, there use of the American dollar was also somewhat attractive in its familiarity.
We said farewell to Venezuela, with the silent promise of returning some day soon. We spent a week in the storm-laden city of Bogota, Colombia. A city where the soothing boom of thunder can be heard countless times a day. I hope someday to return to Bogota, it is a place that I would like to become more intimate with; what I saw of Bogota, I loved, and I left with a thirst for more.
We arrived in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, both apprehensive and excited. We stayed with friends for a time, and explored the city. It reminded me quite a bit of Europe, in no small part due to the constant rain and food that my mother would readily call ‘food to warm your bones’.
Their usage of the dollar reminded me of how much a superficially odd currency it is. The bills are strangely longer and thinner in their rectangular shape, and they are share almost the exact same color and size. Nothing of importance or any great impact, but something that always makes me say ‘huh’ when I take notice.
It soon became obvious that the supposed market for English teachers here was less than we had been told and had anticipated. I had already begun applying for positions in Colombia, and I continued doing so in Quito, but to no avail. It was here that we began to play with the idea of Chile, a city with a supposed duality between European and South American culture. With this in mind, we began to plan the next leg of our trip, and I began to apply for every English institution I could find in Santiago, the capital of Chile.
We traveled to Guayaquil, a small northern city in Ecuador; one whose humidity and heat is entirely and utterly unbearable, no matter the season. I would have liked to explore Guayaquil, but it proved almost impossible, a few steps beyond the haven of air-conditioning and you find yourself immediately drenched in sweat and exhausted.
We spent but a short time in Guayaquil before our trip to Chile. A trip by bus which took some five days. Most days were spent watching whatever film the driver decided to play on the communal televisions situated along the aisles, most other times simply sleeping or reading or eating, whenever we had a chance to stop at whatever roadside diner we crossed.
Crossing from Ecuador to Peru and from Peru to Chile required a small stop at customs, but nothing as endurance-testing as time at an airport. Mostly it was queuing and watching the sniffer dogs, wondering if one of our fellow passengers happened to be something more (or less) than they seemed.
The most memorable part of this trip was after our final border crossing. For hours (maybe even days? I can’t quite recall) we drove across a desert, that I would later learn was the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. There is something utterly mesmerising about deserts; from horizon to horizon there was nothing but sand or baked earth, and it had it’s own profound sense of beauty for its solitude and loneliness.
And so we come to our beginning, a city in a country with a flat and a job and somewhere that I might someday call home, but not just yet. Things have changed from the beginning of this trip until now, and many things have changed; both in me and in the nature of what I am doing.
This is not a goodbye, this is certainly not an end, this is only a change of pace.
-The Wandering Irishman