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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Chile (Part 5): Visiting Pablo Neruda's House - La Chascona And Learning Spanish

Note: It's better for you to read
Swifty in Chile (Part 1)
Swifty in Chile (Part 2)
Swifty in Chile (Part 3)
Swifty in Chile (Part 4)
before you start reading this entry:

Day 5. 18th of August, 2007.

A photo I took from my hotel room when I woke up early in the morning:

View from Grand Hyatt (sunrise)

My trip in Chile was originally scheduled until the 20th of August. I would have left before the awards ceremony and the closing party.

Not intending to do that, I had attempted to extend my stay in Chile for another day ever since I first arrived at Santiago.

I was told by the SANFIC staffers the day before that the arrangement can only be made if I went to the LAN Airline (the main Chilean airline) office myself. So I skipped the vineyard tour organized for the festival guests and attempted to go to the office by myself (which is in the same shopping mall where the film festival was held).

I said 'attempted' in the previous sentence because I didn't exactly go to the office immediately. I entered a van which was supposedly going to take me to the shopping mall, but there was a young woman in it, Marina, a film producer from Argentina.

I asked where she was going, and her answer was:

"I'm going to Pablo Neruda's house."

(One of the iconic Chilean poet's romantic poems, "Leaning Into The Afternoons" was quoted by me in Swifty in Chile (Part 2))

Gasping, I immediately changed destinations. Since watching Il Postino (The Postman) a couple of months ago, and knowing that I was going to visit Chile, I had made a mental note that I would check out anything in the country related to Neruda!

(The award-winning film, Il Postino is a fictional story of Pablo Neruda befriending a postman when the poet was exiled to Italy. Highly recommended.)

Poster of Il Postino
Poster of Il Postino (The Postman)

My air ticket can wait! I wanna see Neruda's house!

So I went to the metro station with her instead. Together, we took a commuter train to the Baquedano station.

Marina and I in a commuter train to Neruda's house

And then we started walking to his place.

Me on a bridge near Baquedano Plaza
Me, standing on a bridge near Baquedano Plaza

The house we went to was called LA CHASCONA, named after Neruda's third wife, Mathilde Urrutia (whom he built the house for) for her unruly mane of hair (that's what La Chascona meant, I believe). Go to the official Pablo Neruda Foundation page to check out La Chascona's interesting history.

And there we were, two film producers, paying pilgrimage to the legendary poet of love!

Some photos taken outside La Chascona:

Stone Pillars outside La Chascona

Me, waiting outside La Chascona

Guided tours were given, unfortunately more expensive in English, so I opted for the Spanish tour, as long as Marina could translate for me.

Entering the house, I snapped a photo of Neruda's bar.

Inside La Chascona

... only to be told by the tour guide that I wasn't allowed to take photos in La Chascona.

So the photo you see above is invaluable.

Neruda was an ardent collector of different stuff, so the decoration of his house was really exotic and unique. Paintings by his artist friends lined the walls, antiques and sculptures, old newspaper articles about him or by him, his Nobel Prize medal etc. It was really interesting.

Guided tour ended in slightly more than half an hour. We could finally snap photos outside the house.

I am hawt.

Me at La Chascona, Pablo Neruda's House

Me at La Chascona, Neruda's House (2)

Marina and I at La Chascona, Neruda's House

We went back to the hotel at 3pm. Marina had a 12-hour party (yes, a party that would last for 12 hours) to attend, it was to celebrate the launching of one of her films.

I resumed my journey to the shopping mall near my hotel just to get my air ticket fixed.

I made a stop at the SANFIC Meeting Point outside the mall to get a drink and some candies from a booth.

It was there that I took some Spanish lessons. Here's a photo I took with them (yes, the two ladies... well, the guy helped a little too).

Me and my... Spanish tutors
Swifty and his Spanish tutors

They were absolutely dedicated, making sure that I would learn the most important phrases, from useful everyday words (asking for the bill, directions, price) to some swear words. They wrote everything on my map.

Notes from my Spanish tutors 1
Notes from my Spanish tutors

Notes from my Spanish tutors 2
More notes from my Spanish tutors

After spending enough time to ensure that I've grasped a bit of the language, I excused myself and went to the airline office.

They told me the tickets couldn't be changed.

That was the beginning of a long, drawn-out nightmare that I would elaborate on in the next posts.

At night, I went to the cinema just so I could watch a few movies from the festival.

Buying myself a huge tub of ice-cream, I walked into the screening of a Paraguayan documentary called TIERRA ROJA, by Ramiro Gomez (Ramiro would later win a BEST DIRECTOR award under the Latino American Competition category).

The documentary is about the life of four families from the inlands of Paraguay, detached from present day progress and immersed in their own space of the country.

When I walked into the film, I saw a scene of a woman breaking a duck's neck with a broomstick just so she could cook it for dinner. The duck died a slow, drawn-out death, twitching, twitching and twitching. I had trouble swallowing my ice-cream.

After that, I went to the screening of American filmmaker Mike Ott's ANALOG DAYS (also competing under the International Competition category).

Here's a photo of me with Mike.

Mike Ott and I

Sitting next to me during the screening was Miriana Moro, a Mexican actress/ producer, who was in the group photos posted at Swifty In Chile (Part 4).

Me and Miriana Moro

A girl behind us recognized Miriana and greeted her enthusiastically.

"I am her boyfriend." I deadpanned, gesturing at Miriana, earning a 'WTF' look from German director Bettina, who was also seated behind us.

Go to Swifty In Chile (Part 6): "Tu belleza me ha cautivado"