Tuesday, January 13, 2009

"Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist."

"Have you seen one?" they asked, "they're huge, they live in the river, eat garbage, and they can be as big as a cat; in fact, they eat cats!!" And so I was first warned of Chile's inferior rodent species, the guarén. Given that curiosity is one of the largest contributing factors to my personality and being, I was instantly set on a mission to track one of these pseudomythological creatures down.

When I first arrived in Chile, I lived close to the estero Marga Marga, which was supposedly an optimal location for tracking down a guarén. I would extend every bridge crossing to double its required time, eyes glued to the water and marshy banks looking for a beastly creature of sorts which I imagined was a small version of the ROUS featured in Princess Bride.

As my goal drained on and on, I collected more and more stories and information about the animal, and its cousins around South America (capybara/carpincho, coipo, pacarana). The nanas told me about how the guarenes sometimes enter in the kitchen of houses, host families claimed they can crawl through the plumbing pipes, and friends told me stories of their sightings.

And finally, it was my turn! Crossing over to the Plaza Miraflores, I saw something causing ripples in the water and a small animal climb onto the bank. Camera in hand, I tore down through the weeds to get a closer look at this animal that turned out to be... actually kind of cute!! It wasn't eating metal or poodles or baring teeth and my fear of attack or deadly disease turned into a condescending "awwwww." It looked like a guinea pig! Though the most popular photo on the internet remains rather ugly, I'm not sure if its because of the bad quality or they found a particularly creepy one. Plus, I must say I still wouldn't want this animal in my trash, kitchen, or having its tail brush my bottom from inside the toilet bowl (as one of my English students told me recently happened to his mother).

Later, my roommates parents showed me a photo they took of a seemingly related animal in Argentina and I was amazed at the size, which looked almost like a hog. But that was nothing compared to the news article last year that blew me away. They found fossils in Uruguay of the worlds largest rodent weighing over 2,000 pounds and appearing 3 meters long!!!


Isabel said...

i feel like you were just inducted into some secret chilean society because of your sighting, hah! that's awesome, though. i'd be pretty proud to have finally spotted chile's loch ness rodent. i guess maybe i should believe my old host mother about giant rodents now. im stll not sold on the ghosts and UFOs, though!

lydia said...

haha oh no its definitely not that hidden and this was a couple years ago. i´ve seen a few since, i still keep my eye out for them. ;-)
I just laugh how much everybody played them up and in the end it turned out to be this little furry thing rather than some fanged killer rat.

keep your eye out or you might get eaten before you´ve got the chance to join the club. ;-)

Sara said...

I thought the giant rodents were some weird mythological creature as well, sort of like in the Princess Bride. But, I guess there isn't a really sweet fire swamp to find them.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Festival de malabarismo- Los Andes 2009

This weekend we went to Los Andes to the "Festival de Malabarismo" (which, although it means juggling, is generally used to describe the whole circus atmosphere). Angel does a number of activities that people practice at these festivals, which take place all over the country during the year, and its an opportunity for people to practice during workshops and get pointers from other people who practice the same activities. These usually include, clown & payaso (not exactly the same in Spanish), magic, juggling, acrobatics, unicycle, arial acrobatics, diabolo, and others which fewer people tend to do.

I was extremely tired and didn't participate this weekend in the events (sometimes I fiddle around, I'm not necessarily good at any of them) but rather played spectator and took pictures. And finally, I finished "Welcome to the Monkey House." There were some interesting highlights: Angel got second place in the handstand competition, there was a gladiator competition in which everyone had to knock the other competitors off their unicycle, and one guy did it with a baby in his arms (luckily nobody knocked him off during that portion), and some really talented artists. Also, Herman, one of the clown brothers who often host events like this, was there making jokes and being a goof the whole while.

The photo is of Karen spinning flashing pins in the dark during the gala performance of the more experienced artists. I really like how the silhouette comes out decently clear among the light swirls of the pins and the shadow.

Also, I love the city of Los Andes. I especially like going to that area inland (Los Andes, San Felipe, Llay llay) during the summer because its gorgeous, hot, and calm. I love the looks of these cities, the marks of time on the buildings, like old wooden doors with knockers and chipped paint on the houses. Some people go around on horses. It reminds me of numerous older movies that were filmed in Latin America. Plus, Los Andes has a really cute plaza and center, and I'll throw it bonus points for the puppy adoption stand yesterday.


Cachando Chile said...

Very cool! Are these events open to the public? I'd love to hang out and watch (and take pictures!)Are there any in Santiago?
How about letting us know in advance when something is coming up?

Maeskizzle said...

I left a comment on your last entry about a possible job opportunity. Tendrías que averiguar, sí.

lydia said...

These events happen all the time but the thing is they are not very advertised, etc. Its pretty difficult to find information on the internet even, mostly word of mouth. In fact we ended up wandering the city looking for it because we couldn't get in touch with anyone. The event itself was fairly organized, though.
I do know there's supposed to be another one this weekend in Melipilla which is close, but after that I think it rotates to other regions further away (next one I've heard of is in Chillan. I'm not positive I want to pay for us to go to either, it adds up). Unfortunately the lack of info makes it hard for people not heavily part of the crowd to find it... In the future if i know enough specifics to be able to tell someone how to arrive I'll send you an email ;-)

Heather, thanks. I hadnt seen that comment, and thats a good idea. I know two girls who did/another who is engaged to an officer but at the moment they don't teach there. I'll have to ask why not, maybe its for summer or maybe they didnt find it convenient. I have a couple ideas in the works at the moment anyway, and if they dont work out i'll be looking to step up in March, I'll check that out.

Sara said...

Amazinv photo. It took me a while to realize that there was a person under there moving it around.