December 23, 2012 by southerninversion
Ok, so I can imagine what you are thinking, probably something along the lines of, “I knew it”, or “I told you so”. I can hear my Dad’s voice running through my head saying, “Oh Lord”. It seems nearly everyone I spoke with prior to leaving the U.S., from friends and family, to even casual acquaintances, said almost the same thing, “Oh, I bet you’re going to meet a beautiful lady in South America, fall in love, and get married. Well, the first part of this scenario has come to pass, and the second part may well be on its way. However, the story behind it is not quite so simple, because there were actually two ladies.
It all started a few weeks in to my journey at a coffee shop in Puerto Varas, Chile. Up to this point I had been traveling solo and was laying low, not really going out much at night or partying at all. I was lo-key and enjoying the first good cup of coffee I had tasted since arriving to Chile, (since all their coffee is the instant mix variety, namely Nescafé). I was reading a long, detailed article about Bruce Springsteen and his whole history, from his early days forward, in the August 2012 issue of the New Yorker magazine I had brought with me. When up walks this attractive waitress or barista, ‘Maria’, 26, to casually chat and to see if I was doing well. (I changed her name for privacy). We exchanged greetings and a few smiles and she went on her way. The coffee shop was directly around the corner from the hostel I was staying at, owned by this eccentric French guy, Nico. So, naturally I went back the next day to get another cup of this great coffee and again, ‘Maria’ came over to greet me. However, when she brought my coffee over, I couldn’t help but notice the swirled ‘heart’ shaped design made in the crescent of the latte foam. I smiled and drank it down, chatting with her a few times more. When I went to pay I mentioned in Spanish that, “I liked the heart in my coffee” to the barista. She pointed at a red faced ‘Maria’ saying she had done it. We talked a bit more, then I got her contact information and asked her out that night.
Tres Lagos con mis amigos nuevos Dat & Trey – El Chaltén
El camioneta del Juan Carlos Ruiz que se queda en paz – El Chaltén
Later on that night, we met outside my hostel and walked to one of her favorite bars to get a few glasses of wine and get to know each other. We were speaking Spanish because her English is still in early progression. I told her my story of why I’m here and what I’m up to. She told me she had lived in Buenos Aires for a couple years and had recently moved back to her hometown, to live with her parents, to save money, and eventually aspired to work for LAN airlines as an azafata, (flight attendant). We hung out for a few hours talking and eventually a Cumbia band, (Colombian salsa music), started playing in the back room, so we went to check it out. We danced to a few tunes, sort of awkwardly, in front of the band, as there were only a handful of other ‘couples’ on the floor. We left shortly thereafter and walked back by her work, so she could get her things and we said goodbye, with a few simple kisses.
I left the next day to visit the Isla de Chiloë, to go camping in the National Park there. We made plans for me to visit again in a few days time, as I had to pass back that way to go to Argentina, to report to the cattle farm in Cholila. This next visit was incredibly brief. We ended up meeting at the barista bar at midnight, (the coffee shop turns into a bar at night), because she was busy with family, until late. When I arrived, she was seated with three American girls, one of whom was her English teacher, and I went to join them. Right away it was slightly uncomfortable, because the American girls were being disagreeable and trying their best to give me a hard time. One of the girls later apologized for her friend saying that she ‘sees herself as the protector of the group’, whatever that means. So after two hours of this situation, I was ready to leave and this became increasingly necessary anyways, because at 2am the hospedaje (hotel) I was staying at, locks their doors, and guests can no longer ‘buzz’ in. I asked ‘Maria’ to join me, to walk me there, and we ended up kissing some more and said goodbye another time. That was the basic gist of our interaction in person. During the following several weeks we exchanged emails at first, then elevated to Skype calls and maintained decent contact with each other, mostly on the weekends, as I had no Internet connection in the farm.
Trekking in the rain, pensive thoughts
This endured throughout my stay in Cholila on the cattle farm, my ventures to the Refugio’s outside El Bolsón, and even through Thanksgiving and my time at the strawberry farm in Lago Puelo. We remained in contact but we never really got much closer literally both due to the distance apart and the lack of things to talk about. Despite this, I was willing and ready to see her again to find out if there was a deeper connection, and if perchance there was more there between us. So, after weeks of loosely planning to return to Chile, I bought a plane ticket from Punta Arenas, (the southern tip of Chile in Patagonia) to Puerto Varas for December 20th, a nondescript date allowing me enough time to travel south comfortably and to not rush. This very night, my last night in El Bolsón, at the Casa del Árbol hostel, I met Ana. She was seated at the end of a long wooden table in the kitchen talking with her friends. I was drawn to her and I immediately sat down beside her and joined their conversation. She shared some tortas dulces (sweet cupcakes) and wine with me, Rich, ‘El Recacho’, and Bobby, as we were about to depart in our adventures the next day. The chemistry between Ana and I was instantly magnetic, and wherever I went throughout the night she was with me, or vice versa. We stayed up late drinking vino tinto and cerveza until roughly 2am, when I convinced her to join me to go to El Sol, (a bar), where a local blues band was just taking the makeshift ‘stage’. (The bands seriously don’t start playing till 2am here!).
We went out and continued flirting throughout the night and kissed passionately in the street. This is a somewhat funny…. Side note: From what I’ve seen so far on my travels South Americans are super affectionate in person, and PDA (public display of affection), is commonplace. Various people have told me, when I asked why, is that it shows there is harmony and passion in a relationship, and that it is encouraged to some extent, at least in a minor PG-13 sorta way. Anyways, we ended up staying till almost 4am listening to covers of American blues tunes, before belatedly heading back to the ‘Casa’.
Las Torres del Paine Parque Nacional
La Naturaleza El Glaciar Grey
The next day everyone slept in late and woke up in a lucid state with a strong desire for coffee and a hearty breakfast to cure the ills from the night before. Ana and another French girl joined Rich, Bobby, and I for breakfast and a trip to the grocery store in the rain so that we could purchase provisions for our camping trip to Los Alerces National Park later that day. The brief time I spent with Ana and the elated feeling she inspired, left me reeling for her company, and to see her again. I love the way she carries herself, so gently and at ease, always smiling and with a positive perspective. She is simple and yet beautiful without wearing any makeup. She actually likes camping and she enjoys my music! These all rate extremely high in my characteristics for an ideal companion. The camping aspect is also funny, in that, I don’t think you ever really know a girl and how she’ll react towards a situation until you go camping. Friends will tell me, “I met the coolest girl and she’s really hot”, and I’ll say, “Yeah, but have you taken her camping”? Anyways, we continued to speak about as often as ‘Maria’ and I had been, except with Ana there was never an awkward silence, a lull in the conversation, or either of us searching for something to talk about. Our connection was tangible and apparent from the start.
However, this whole escapade left me in a dilemma, and also feeling guilty, like I had ‘cheated’ on ‘Maria’, despite the fact that we weren’t really even dating and we had only just kissed more than a month ago already. So, by this point, several weeks had passed, and I was eagerly looking forward to each conversation, email, or any correspondence with Ana, and somewhat unconsciously avoiding the ‘talk’ with ‘Maria’, as I was still unsure. After my first week venturing further south, solo, I finally ended up in El Chaltén, by grace, and ‘with a little patience’. From here I was headed into the Parque Nacional de los Glaciares, to go camping, see the picturesque peaks of Mt. Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre, and with plenty of alone time to clear my head.
After braving strong winds, rapidly changing weather, rain, sleet, and snow I reached the midway section of Fitz Roy, although the summit was obscured by clouds. This grey, dubious climate left little room for certainty, however, it allowed me copious amounts of time to be pensive and to follow my heart with the right decision. I knew all along what I had to do, and it was necessary to be honest with both ladies and tell them both the whole truth and let the dust settle. I decided upon leaving El Chaltén to call ‘Maria’ and inform her that I wasn’t coming and that I had met someone. Also, I told Ana about the plane ticket and the whole history with ‘Maria’. Obviously, ‘Maria’ was upset with me and couldn’t understand why I waited to tell her. Although, honestly I wasn’t completely sure until I had some time to sort it all out, free from the expectation to call either one. Ana on the other hand, was thoughtful and understanding, simply stating that it all happened before we met and that its in the past. Moreover, to make this long story a bit shorter, I’m going to Buenos Aires, Argentina for the holidays! I went this past Monday to change my ticket at a local office in Puerto Natales, prior to a 5 day trek through El Parque Nacional de Las Torres del Paine. I left the Airlines kiosk giddy like a kid on Christmas morning, eager to tell Ana the good news. As of right now I’m sitting in the airport waiting to board the flight that leaves early this morning. I’m not exactly sure how this will all turn out, all I know is that I cannot stop thinking about Ana, and it just feels right. Ana and I in El Bolsón Las Torres del Paine
El Chaltén otra vez..