Christmas With Chickpeas and Chicks On Cocaine
I am sitting on the rooftop of the Hostel I am staying at in Valparaíso, on the chilean coast and am enjoying the peace and quiet. In the common room Frank Sinatra is singing classic Christmas hits, the same music, that is probably playing in my parent's living room right now.
But I couldn't stand it and had to get away, because my heart was painfully shrinking to the size of a raisin. And now I am here, cleaning my bicycle chains - just so I don't have to think about my family, who is sitting by a tree right now, exchanging gifts.
I am never really homesick, but I am a person, that loves Christmas almost as much, as the family. Even though there are a lot of people, who hate Christmas, the holidays have this magical power of bringing people together. Even now, that I am officially "over 30", I have always been counting down the days until Christmas. Every single time I got on that train in Berlin, I got excited and felt like a little kid. I was so excited to see my parents, brothers, the dog and the cat, so excited to enter this nicely decorated house, the fireplace and meeting all those friends that I have known for ages, but always only see once a year - during Christmas.
And here I am, 12.162,39 km away from this nicely decorated house, the lovely family and those friends... in the sun. And even though I have chosen this and even though 30°C doesn't make it feel like Christmas, I get sad and take a walk down memory lane. Which then makes me smile. So many moments, saved forever on the indestructible hard drive of my brain.
All of the sudden my phone stops my walk down memory lane. It is making weird loud, pinching noises and shows a push notification with a huge, red warning symbol. In spanish I read something about bushfires and evacuation. After the third warning and the panicky hostel people, who run up the stairs of the roof terrace, I check the web and find out, that in one of the hills, not too far away, there are houses on fire. 150 houses by the end of the night. 150 families, who lost their home on Christmas eve...
My mood had been weird all day, since arriving in a not-so-friendly-neighboorhood the day before. Piles of trash, shady people, a crazy man, standing in the middle of the road, waving his arms in the air, yelling conspiracy theories into the traffic noises. My inner warnsystem had sent me signals and I simply wasn't feeling comfortable so I had moved to a different hostel in one of the hills, where there's Hostel after Hostel and way too many Restaurants, Cafés and Kiosks. A happy-tourist-bubble, surrounded by slums.
And then it's time to eat. Christmas Eve Dinner, cooked by the Hostel's Volunteers that was supposed to have vegan options. I take the first bite of the Curry, and do a little fork dance, saying "Yeah vegan!", when one of the volunteers tells me, that it actually isn't vegan, but that there is "just a little bit of milke and a little bit of cream" in the Curry. Christmas eve dinner 2019: rice, lettuce and chickpeas from my own food stash.
I am surrounded by people, who are traveling, to get smashed on cheap alcohol and other drugs. Thank god I met the aussie Jarrod before, who is watching this circus, just as annoyed as me.
As always, I wonder, how it is possible, that we are sitting in this happy-tourist-bubble, while two blocks away, there are people sleeping in the streets. Valparaíso is often called the most beautiful city in South America, at the same time it is also on of the poorest cities of Chile.
A few days later I cycle past "houses" built out of cardboard boxes, mattresses and wood.
Traveling is about so much more than happy hour deals and cheap souvenirs, it is about "straightening" the way you look at things and widening the perspective. And to understand, that there is much more than the own comfort zone and that things like a flushing toilet, a warm shower and a roof above the head are not common everywhere and could be seen as a form of luxury!
Thanks to everybody, who donated during the holidays. And to the ones, who have been looking for a reason, why they should donate, maybe you have one now.