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blogging | by Priya Lal | March 03, 2004 at 09:57 AM | comments (17) | trackback (0)

i'm in paradise and life is perfect. pretty much.
so. today since i am shunning the newspapers and electing to revel in my travel fantasy-land instead, i can write about what has been making me so happy.

first of all: pucon. a description. geographically, pucon is like a mullet: business in the front, party in the back. volcan villarica with its imposing stature and snow and ice and sulfuric gaseous emissions marks pucon's no-nonsense front, so to speak, while a beach (albeit of black volcanic gravel) on an idyllic, resorty lake keeps the good times goin on the back side of the town. in between are some forests and the few cutesy wooden-cabin-and-touristy-joints blocks that comprise the town itself.

to prove that the hairstyle comparison is in fact apt, glance at the pics here.
kristina and i spent monday at the lake beach, sunning and dunking ourselves (with underwear and newspapers instead of bathing suits and towels, lest this all sound too picture-perfect). and yesterday, of course, was volcano day.

how to describe it? first of all, the most physically challenging experience perhaps of my entire life. second of all, kick-ass. i went with a group of about 7 plus guide, which turned into 6 plus guide halfway up when a brazilian turned back. we took a ski lift a bit of a ways up to start, then hit some rocky bits for about an hour before we reached the snow. from then on it was about 3-4 hours in pure snow on very steep slopes... there were many moments when i thought i was going to die, when i was leaning on my ice pick and hoping i could take another step, when my legs were literally buckling. during these times i would think of anything and everything in the "happy" and "comfort" side of my brain: sleep. india. being in love. chocolate. music. cozying up on a soft sofa with a cup of tea and a good book in the rain. naptime in the early afternoon at hogar de cristo when all the kids would curl up and splay their little bodies on mats on the dusty floor and i would sit on the floor listening to their shallow breathing and adjust their pillows and uncrumple their sheets from their little fists and feel that i was absolutely at peace.

so. digressions aside, i made it to the summit somehow, incredibly. and it was well worth it. what did i see at the top? extraordinarily colored rocks that made me feel as if i was on another planet- bright bright fluorescent greens and oranges and yellows and reds surrounding the crater itself... an enormous hole emitting swirling sulfuric gases. and on the other side the landscape below- smaller green peaks swimming in a thick carpet of clouds hovering far below. i have never felt so high above the world. exhilarating.

after un-numbing my legs and with a belly full of cheese and bread, i was ready for the decidedly un-masochistic descent... we put on our snow pants and coats, and then proceeded to slide down the entire way on our asses. essentially, it was like luge or bobsledding without the sleds - there were these worn sliding paths in the snow that curved and were actually amazingly steep at times, so we flew down them one by one. the rest of the way we pretty much skiied down, minus skis, and then went running-stumbling through knee-deep sandy-gravely mountain dirt underneath the ski lift.

lovely. especially for the non-exercise, highly un-sportswoman-like type like myself. i felt a bit like i was in a national geographic explorer special.

that nite we visited the produce market a bit outside of town and cooked up a highly unlikely meal of rice and omlettes and veggie marinara sauce with a preciously earnest young german couple... the young man kept expounding in a rather obnoxiously but in a rather naive way the superiority of european and especially french culinary culture (even citing the oscar wilde quote about judging a culture's degree of civilization by its food... or something like that)... but then fucked up the rice. the rice! it was funny, so much so that i forgave him all his snobbery and ate the steamed mush with pleasure.

today was relaxed and easy going after yesterday. i spent the morning chatting with a couple of really friendly chilean women staying at our hospedaje and watching their improvised cueca(the chilean traditional national dance) demonstrations, and then we four plus wade the texan on a "trip around the world" (on his last leg after south africa, australia, europe, tahiti, and some other places - an interesting definition of "world") visited ojos de caburgua (nice waterfalls) and swam swam swam in an enormous blue, blue lake amidst towering mountains about 1/2 hr outside the town.

tomorrow we depart early for puerto varas.
so, yes. i sit here at this cafe in a wet bathing suit and with a bag full of peaches and corn and tomatoes and am absolutely blissed-out and cannot believe that i almost never came on this trip.


The Peruvians Surrender to Surfing, Body and Soul

LIMA, Peru — Hawaii may have the north coast of Oahu. California may have Malibu. But Peru has Punta Hermosa, south of Lima, the longest waves in the world at Chicama and, for 62 years, the fabled Waikiki Club.

"The waves are constant," said Rocío Larrañaga, who teaches surfing at the Waikiki. "In other countries, the waves come in seasons. Here is all the time, left and right. Some are six, seven meters high, some of the largest in the world."

The Waikiki is a club like no other — a white-glove establishment whose members come from some of Peru's most prominent and powerful families yet close enough to the gritty downtown of this coastal capital that gentlemen surfers, like Francisco Aramburu, a successful Peruvian entrepreneur, hit the beach on their lunch breaks.

"This is the Latin American lunch break — three hours," Mr. Aramburu, 58, a surfer since age 13, said with a laugh. "I try to surf every day, every day that is worthwhile in terms of waves, that is."

After soccer, of course, surfing could almost be considered the national sport. Peru has a 1,400-mile Pacific coastline featuring more than 70 well-known surf spots, some with roaring swells that regularly reach 23 feet. It has magazines like Extreme and Tablista (the word is Spanish for surfer) and even a television program on surfing called "Free Ride."

Long the pastime of the rich, the sport has steadily spread in popularity to the greater middle class, with an estimated 30,000 enthusiasts clambering atop boards. Rodolfo Klima, who makes custom boards with his company, Klimax, says he is producing five times as many boards as he did just five years ago.

Hard-core surfers the world over know all about Felipe Pomar, a Peruvian and the first international champion surfer from the 1960's. Today, the sport's glamour girl is Sofía Mulanovich, who is among the top women in world surfing and whose grandfather and father were members of the Waikiki.

Some families have been surfing for three generations....

Posted by anne | March 4, 2004 12:07 PM

Wilfredo Lam

Posted by anne | March 5, 2004 04:03 PM

Unveiling the Modern's Works From South of the Border

The first work by a Latin American artist that I remember seeing in New York was Wifredo Lam's huge and (to me, then) menacing canvas "The Jungle" (1943). For varying periods it hung in the entrance hall of the Museum of Modern Art, its powerful Surrealist presence a sort of logo for the museum as a stronghold of avant-garde culture.

I didn't fathom then that this Picassoid painting, with its verticals of sugar canes morphing into human shapes, attended by African masks and voodoo symbols, was a sophisticated vision of the artist's Afro-Cuban heritage and at the same time an anticolonialist statement about its exploitation by outside interests.

Nor was it clear that the painting was part of an enormously diverse Latin American and Caribbean collection that the Modern had been episodically assembling since the 1930's. Partly because the works were so dispersed throughout the museum's departments — paintings, sculpture, prints, illustrated books and so forth — and partly, perhaps, because of an audience not sufficiently tuned in to art-making south of the border, they were never identified as a cultural entity. The "collection" remained a sort of mystery.

Now with the growing vitality of a Latino presence in the United States, the increasing importance of El Museo del Barrio as a stronghold of Hispanic art and culture and the temporary dispersal of the Modern's collections occasioned by its new building project, the time of revelation seems to have come....

Posted by anne | March 5, 2004 04:04 PM

Pirate Radio as Public Radio, in the President's Corner

CARACAS, Venezuela — The sound room of Radio Perola, a small community station on the poor edge of this city, is papered with posters celebrating Latin American revolutionaries like Fidel Castro and offering a stern warning to the behemoth to the north: "Death to the Yankee Invader."

The setting seems fitting for José Ovalles's politically charged Saturday radio program. Gripping a microphone and waving reports from a government news agency, the white-haired retired computer teacher charges that a far-flung opposition movement arrayed against President Hugo Chávez is part of an American-led conspiracy. He ridicules the president's foes as criminals with scant backing.

He urges listeners to defend what Mr. Chávez calls his Bolivarian Revolution, which is under international pressure to allow a recall vote on the president's tumultuous five-year rule. "We have to fight for a free country," he said recently, "one with no international interference."

The message, beamed from a 13-kilowatt station in what was once the storeroom of a housing project, reaches at most a few hundred homes. But Radio Perola is part of a mushrooming chain of small government-supported radio and television stations that are central to Mr. Chávez's efforts to counter the four big private television networks, which paint him as an unstable dictator.

With Venezuela on edge, stations like Radio Perola are poised to play an even bigger role in this oil-rich nation's political battle.

Instead of shutting down his news media tormenters, Mr. Chávez's tactic appears to be to ignore them as much as possible while relying on former ham radio operators and low-budget television stations to get the government's message across.

Although the stations say they are independent and autonomous, Mr. Chávez has announced that $2.6 million would be funneled to them this year. They also will receive technical assistance and advertising from state-owned companies.

"This year, we will not only legalize and enable approximately 200 more communitarian radios and televisions with equipment, but we will also promote them," the communication and information minister, Jesse Chacón, said in an interview posted on a pro-Chávez Web site....

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