Saturday morning. I run into Roberto, Juan Carlo's son in the hallway. He is a little surprised to see a strange woman walk out of his sister's bedroom, but he only grunts like a normal teenage boy. He is to go get his sister Isabel. Then we are to drive to the family's second home outside of Santiago.
Juan Carlos' children are beautiful. Isabel, the daughter is gorgeous. Tall, dark, and beautiful at 16. His son Roberto (Why does this name follow me everywhere?)is thin and very good looking. As he matures he will be a handsome man. Neither kid has attitude. They are natural and sweet. Juan Carlos tells me the main reason he and his ex left the US was because they did not want their children to be teenagers in the U.S.
We are to drive an hour or so outside of Santiago. This is to be a good size party of family and close friends. Juan Carlos´dad is 87. I look out the window. Deja vu. It looks like Seattle here. Maybe parts of the South Bay in the Bay Area. The people remind me of people from Oregon. Very friendly and wanting to please. The country side rolls by. I keep seeing things that are a little disgusting with names like "Starbucks, MacDonalds, Dominos, Pizza Hut." Where is Target when we need them?
Soon we turn off. We are in a small town that reminds me a little bit of Stinson Beach (only no Beach here) or maybe Andersonville. In any event it is beautiful. As we drive further into this small pueblo it has a more Latin American feel. There is a small feria en the town center. People are milling around.
We turn down a road. Grandma Brown would be proud. The lawns are well manicured. (Sorry inside joke, only I am sure none of my family reads this blog, so it is lost in translation...) We pull into a driveway with a locked gate. Juan Carlos goes to the security pad and punches in some numbers. We drive through the gates. We come to a driveway and pull in. The place is magnificent.
The house is beautiful Juan Carlos called it a cottage. Yeah right, depends on your frame of reference. The grounds are spectacular. A lush green with all kinds of beautiful trees and plants. There is a swimming pool in the middle, a barbecue area, caretaker's home, and a recreation area as well.
I meet his parents. His dad is amazing. Sharp as can be at 87 nothing gets by him. I am introduced as being from Argentina. He speaks English to me. I answer in Spanish. He welcomes me to the family home. I meet his mom. She is stunning. No is sure what her age is, even her brother and sister are not sure. This is the most guarded family secret. Regardless, it is obvious where Isabel gets her beauty.
I stroll the grounds. Juan Carlos joins me. He tells me that his family's place is what most upper middle class and upper class families own outside the city. This "small" cottage is on 10,000 meters of land. There are peach, plum, apricot, walnut, apple, and orange trees. They have blackberry and raspberry bushes. Juan Carlos says his father tried to plant different kinds of the same species of trees. The swimming pool is in the middle of this lush haven of green. This might be normal for him, but for me it is a small paradise.
I am sitting in the shade watching the people when this older woman makes a grand entrance. She is like a duchess. She makes her way over to where I am seated and sits down next to me. She waits to be introduced to me and then says "Porque estas en Santiago, que haces aqui?" (What are you doing in Santiago and why?") Nothing like being direct!
Over the next hour I proceed to have a very fascinating conversation with this dama. She is amazing. She tells me that she was teaching in the university when Pinochet called her to tell her to stop teaching immediately. She asked what would happen if she did not. He asked her if she really wanted to find out. Instead she was reassigned to teach Spanish until she could leave Chile to go to Switzerland.
At this point some new relatives came and she was deep in conversation with them. Juan Carlos asked me if I knew who Irma was? I told him no. It turns out she is a reknown sexologist and M.D. She was a thorn in the military coup's side. This is why she was told not to teach her courses at the University.
Irma later floats back to converse with me. This woman is absolutely incredible. I paste myself to her side listening to every word that comes from her mouth. She has had 3 "official" husbands and others, well, they were others as she puts it. Her life is fascinating. She now lives with 7 dogs down the road from this summer house.
The food at this party is spectacular. I am served Chilean empanadas which are very different from the Argentine ones. I hate to say this, but I think I like this version better. They are larger and filled not only with meat or chicken but with olives and eggs and many other delicious things. I sit at a long table next to my new friend Irma and with other relatives from Juan Carlos' family.
I am amused that people find it interesting that I speak Spanish. It seems though every time I open my mouth here in Chile people laugh and respond with "Che, Che." Outside of Buenos Aires people compliment me on how well I speak, and they almost always think that I am Argentine. In Buenos Aires I am treated to "No entiendo" at least twice a day. (I don't understand)
It seems that everyone at this party speaks at least one other language besides Spanish. The second language is either English or French. Some people speak all three, and then there is Juan Carlos who also speaks Portuguese. I don't think I know any Americans who speak more than two languages and usually they do not speak the second language very well. What a shame as my life as been very enriched by my speaking Spanish. I cannot imagine living in South America without the language.
I walk into the house to see Juan Carlos' sister putting the birthday cake together. It is thousands on miniature cream puffs stacked in a tower. She is drizzling a sauce over it that will become a hard candy. Very decadent. It will be brought out blazing with candles.
We spend the afternoon eating, drinking, and talking. I feel like I am in a movie. Maybe I am.