Having been pushed across the sky in a metal capsule, fed, hydrated, and entertained by movies I would never pay to see, I arrive in Santiago.
The first thing I realise when I get off the plane is that as an Australian I have to pay something called a “reciprocity” tax. It is the first I hear of such a thing. I have my Spanish passport packed away in my backpack, so I can’t access it. I feel a slight tinge of annoyance that I don’t have it on hand, as it would have been my passport to not having to pay this $148 worth of “reciprocity”. Regret flashes past and away from me, like a shooting star out of the corner of my eye- who cares if I have to pay this money? Am I not fortunate to even be here? This thought instantly lightens my heart, and I remember a trick of travelling that I learned most painfully whilst travelling in India. Only pick up passengers that you want to take with you on the journey and leave the rest behind… Guilt, a particularly pesky passenger who has been with me for a while, pops her head up, taps me on the shoulder and reminds me of my privilege. She reminds me of the deep processes of colonisation forced on this place and its’ people. There is something poetic about having to pay this tax, so I let the annoyance slide away.
Javiera is waiting for me on the other side of customs and our reunion is sweet. We met at uni doing our PhD’s and of note is the fact that at the end of our PhD’s, on a whim, we travelled together to Gili Meno in Indonesia, where we spent a month in huts by the beach writing. That was the punchline of a whole other era, one that I won’t get into here.Suffice it to say that it was a magical time at a moment when I needed all the magic I could muster.
Javiera greets me with exactly the type of energy that I need after 12.5 hours of time travel. Strong, excited, loving. Overflowing streams of time, needing to be recovered, begin to wash over us. We start babbling to each other. The quickest catchup in history happens as we walk across the carpark, get into her car~ “el tomate” ~and drive to her house. Words are pushed out at the speed of light. Our catchup is peppered with tidbits of tourist information as we drive towards her house. I quickly realise that Santiago is a very segregated city, the well-to-do hygienically separated from the not-so-well-to-do.
The plan for my first day? A secret santa get together with five of her closest friends. But my biorhythms are doing backflips, and I am having an out of body experience as we buzz along in ‘el tomate’, the Andes rising majestically on my left. Oh well. I have seven glorious months stretching ahead where I can do exactly what I want to do at any given moment of the day. I’ll deal with the jet lag as it comes!
From top-left we have Maria Ester, Claudia, Eva, Romy, Javiera and Carito. These women invite me into their space and treat me gently, in the full knowledge that even though I am physically there, I haven’t really landed. The lights are on, but nobody’s home… We sit around a table on Romy’s patio, we eat, we drink, they talk, I sit back and listen. They exchange gifts and there are even gifts for me, the interloper. As they exchange gifts, the fabric of their sisterhood becomes apparent. One of them is having some issues with her husband. We sit in circle and have a yarn about love and relationships. We align with the universal thread of openness and connection. I am reminded of my own circle back in Australia, and I give thanks to have landed here in this place, with these wonderful women to receive me.