Thursday, March 17, 2011

My House Sets on Fire 2 - The Sequel!!

Because once is never enough...

Ugh, apparently.

So we're a couple doors down at my cuñados having tea and watching the first episode of Arrested Development, and I was getting frustrated because he was going to miss the story because there was a ton of distracting noise going on outside in the streets. Two seconds later there was a huge thump on the door, and someone screamed "your house is on fire!"
So we run outside to get out, but it wasn't the house we were in, but instead, MY house! The street was full of people staring at the house, and when I opened the door all I noticed is smoke. Thick smoke everywhere. And flames on the kitchen ceiling. It sparked just like when some idiot almost set the ascensor on fire with fireworks. My boyfriend and his brother started trying to put out the fire with water and get the gas tank away from the larger fire on the other side of the wall. Thank God I had stashed about 10 jugs of water last Friday, juuuust in case there actually was a tsunami! A neighbor had been hosing down the fire from over the top of our house for some time already. Soon the firemen charged in. They started spraying a bit of water, but then someone shouted that the fire was in the house below us so they all started to rush out, but then the firefighter outside yelled them back and started putting out the fire from the outside of our house, where the fire had actually started. One firefighter told us to collect our important documents, and I proceeded to stumble around for about 20 minutes in the smoke, unable to find my damn passport. And one of the cats. The one I could find was terrified enough for the both of them and all 18 lives together. When we finally found the other one, she scratched my boyfriend up pretty bad when we tried to get her our of the house. I went back to check on the fire a few times, of which I only really remember seeing them hack down part of our roof and get everything wet. Lots of random sketchy looking people kept coming into our house and the windows, either being really nosey or trying to steal things. It was really frustrating to have to try to protect our things from theft in the middle of all of our other worries.

Aside from everything smelling like a campfire (oh my gosh I cannot even grasp having to do so much laundry! everything reeks), we didn't really lose much of value besides all of our utility tubing, all Angel's really nice woodworking tools and a lot of other stored things that I cannot even remember. We also have to replace the siding and the roof of the kitchen, but I'm going to try to think of that as a positive thing, as I suspected the previous one of housing spiders. And a wall-to-wall mirror completely disappeared, however, as a tradeoff we now have a lot of super sparkly trash! Take that, copuchento neighbors!

God Bless the bomberos in Valparaiso. I couldn't have asked for more. They were quite friendly and nice as well.

With the sketchy randoms running through and all the commotion with the police and fire fighters, I didn't really feel it was the right time to take any photos, as you might understand (I will not deny it was one of the first things to come to mind, pathetic as it may seem). I tried to get some after shots but my boyfriend was pretty angry about the ration of "picture taking" to "assistance cleaning" so I hope you'll forgive me. However, as the title suggests, this is not the first time our house in Valpo has set on fire. Last time I took more pictures.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


"jajja pareces una niñita," he commented Tuesday on my photo.

On Wednesday, Roberto died.

Death has never shaken me so hard. Its been a real struggle to stay composed, and I haven't been especially successful.

Roberto first became part of our social circle because he lived with a group of friends. Over time, he came to spend a lot of time in our house, as Angel taught him how to make instruments in the workshop, and Roberto hung around to practice cavaquinho with the band. Back when they were doing weekly shows, he was a regular and loved the energy. That's where I pointed him out a few years ago to one of my gringa friends. "If I could only put in a plug for one guy, it would be him." Despite my attempt, it wasn't until later that they officially became a couple, and we began to go to even more social events together.

Roberto died tragically in the South of Chile, where he went for some piece of mind after his girlfriend went back to the US. He stopped by the day before his trip, and the two of us talked for a while. He was lonely and missed her, but optimistic that somehow they'd find a way to be in the same place again. He had come to borrow a set of DVDs and materials to learn English, knowing it would be necessary in his future, and promised to bring them back soon. He told me about his motivations for going south, his intentions of going on to return to his studies, and his hope of figuring out logical way to be together with the person he loved.

Everything has been really hard for me. Of course its hard grasping that life can slip away so suddenly. And its unimaginable to think what its like for my friend to hear this news from afar and have nobody to help her cope. Its difficult not knowing how he died- if there was a struggle, if it was painful or peaceful. Its heart-wrenching watching a mother say her final goodbye. And its unlikely I'll ever understand how such a good person can be taken so soon. Most of all its hard to come to terms with the fact that someone I saw so frequently will never again stop by. I need to stop expecting to run into him on the street corner with a yoga mat or body board. It wont happen, but his voice is stuck in my head too. It's not haunting though, its quite friendly. I haven't done so yet, so when do I delete his number from my phone?

Throughout this all I couldn't help but dwell on something that frequently bothers me. This is unfortunately the 3rd person in my social circle who has passed away in Chile. And the hushed reactions, or lack of them, have extremely bothered me in the past. For the other two girls who died recently, since the initial notice of the accidents, I have never again heard anybody bring up their deaths, or memories of them, and there haven´t been any official video or words at events where their presence would be missed. Its illogical to think that nobody cares, but the reaction of people my age comes across as indifference, along the lines of "oh, that's too bad." Change of subject. Never brought up again.

I was quite bothered that I only knew 5 people at Roberto's funeral. The church was packed with relatives, community members, and people from different periods of his past, but I felt a large part of his current social circle was missing. To be honest, I don't know with certainty that my boyfriend would have gone if I had presented it as an option. Three of the roommates he'd been living with for years did not come. Two of them politely declined a ride without comment when I saw them the night before. I will admit I haven't gone to all of my older relative's funerals, but I feel like, being young and away from home, Roberto's family would have enjoyed to hear more about him from all the people he spent his time with, and it puzzled me that some of them weren't there.

I wonder if people my age don't feel ready or willing to deal with death. Especially if it is a death nobody saw coming, as the ones here have been. When I was younger in the US and someone died, everyone would desperately try to remember all the ways they were connected to the person who passed away. They wanted to feel part of a major event, even a sad one. In school, anybody who ever had a class with the person would feel the need to go to the funeral and tell everybody what they remember most about the person.

But perhaps we are at the stage where there is no desire to have been acquainted with someone who passed away, and we are starting to really contemplate the meaning of life and death. Maybe if we can avoid the need to internalize at all, it helps ease the transition to life without him. If this is so, I do feel it is only a phase. Sooner or later I think most people come to see these rituals as calming or necessary, even if just out of respect for those who will go on living without the person.

I feel like my post needed a picture of him, and since I carry around a camera as if it were an appendage, I have a lot of nice ones-mostly dancing, hugging... but this one seems to have a special something to it. I'll miss that smile.