11,710km. 7 million people. 19 short days.
There’s a lot to learn about a city more than half the world away. A city that’s closer to Antarctica than it is to home. This post isn’t about art, it’s about thoughts. More importantly, the thoughts that Santiago stirred in me.
From watching England crumble at the semi-finals at the very bottom of the world, to hearing a silence so profound I could hear my own ears straining to listen, Chile is a surreal place. A country longer than some continents, a land of four seasons stretching from North to South.
Santiago felt to me like a social experiment. What happens when you throw luxurious shopping malls into the midst of strangled rivers, street-sellers and the socially under-privileged? Do you find conflict, neglect, empathy, or apathy? It seems the vast majority of the conflict arose in my own, and my husband’s deeply European minds.
We know of poverty: we’ve seen homelessness, perhaps not in our own countries but in Europe’s capitals. We’ve seen streets and schools depraved of love, but what I think surprised us most was the normality of it all. Inequality sits deep at the heart of this nevertheless wonderful city. Is it the fault of its present, it’s past or a sign of the future? I’m not sure, but I know that I was surely moved by one city’s fragmented, confusing pseudo-progressive normality. I love Chile: the people are wonderful, the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, there are beautiful natural areas, up and coming districts, but the rest seems to be a little jaded, a little stuck in the past.
But perhaps it’s not, perhaps I’m just a naive, middle-class European who needs to get out more. I’m glad that I was able to venture so far from home, far from my comfort zone and learn of the world beyond the Eurozone. It’s not all sunshine, but it is wonderful. For what is the use of travel if it doesn’t inspire us? From inspiring me to paint, to inspiring me to pay a little more care and attention to the world around me, and perhaps, a little humility too.
Travel is hope.
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