Sunday, September 19, 2010

Half a decade of Dieciochos

I just got home from celebrating Chilean independence (to be referred to henceforth as el Dieciocho or las Fiestas Patrias) in New York City. Paying homage to my adoptive country required graciously accepting a free pisco sour refill, so I apologize if the writing in this post is rather uninspired. As for the story of my night out, it will have to wait for later this week; some of the events that transpired were quite unexpected, and I'd like to be able to do them justice. Also, I'd like to combine the story with a restaurant review, which I think will take more time than I'm willing to stay awake right now.

As an appetizer, I leave you with the Tales of Dieciochos Past. Tikitikitiii.

2004 - My first Dieciocho was, sorry to say, anticlimactic. I'd arrived in Santiago less than two months earlier and had been too busy trying to find my way home from all the places where I'd gotten lost to make a real Fiestas Patrias plan. A fellow exchange student's host family had clued her in to the fonda (public Fiestas Patrias party) being held at Parque Intercomunal de La Reina, now called Parque Padre Hurtado, so a group of us boarded a big yellow city bus (those were the days) and headed up there. Since we weren't exactly sure what one was supposed to do at a fonda, we spent most of the afternoon waiting in line for anticuchos (meat shishkabobs) and plastic cups of chicha. Since the La Reina fonda was a family affair, we were left with a thirst for mischief but -- as is the way of college students -- didn't get organized in time to go anywhere other than the Empanadium in Las Condes.

2005 - Back for my senior year in the States, I bought a horrifically overpriced bottle of pisco at the seedy yet beloved liquor store near campus and tried to make my roommates drink it with me. They hated it, although they were too polite to say so. My mistake was starting them not with the cocktail-style pisco sour but with Piscola, a low-budget favorite that involves mixing pisco with Coke or Sprite (the latter is my favorite). The thing is that piscola, in my opinion, is not very good in itself. Piscola is good if you associate it with good memories, which it is particularly skilled at evoking. It's a drink that's made and shared at backyard cookouts, impromptu gatherings, and university concerts, events that leave you thinking back warmly on the company and -- yes -- on that warmly tingling burn your drink left at the back of your throat.

2006 - I was living in Quito and, as I recall, did nothing special to celebrate. I may have sought out a Chilean empanada, which are easier to find in Quito than you might think.

2007 - I had just returned to the States in Quito and was too busy wallowing to do much of anything.

2008 - This was the year I learned to dance cueca. A friend had happened upon an instructional DVD that we replayed until we had it down. Of course, cueca -- like Spanish -- is a lot harder in the real world than in the classroom, so my grand premiere at one of the infamous Parque O'Higgins fondas was more than a bit fumbling. Still, I'd dared to get out on the floor, which was more than I'd been able to say in the past.

V. and I both lived within a few blocks of Parque O'Higgins at the time and, as a result, spent more time at this fonda than we ended up wishing we had. If you want to party with the crowds, have your choice of low-cost fondas and drink chicha from the barrel, this is the place to go. After a bit, though, the teeming activity can get overwhelming, especially if you go at night. I wish I'd gone during the day, when kite-flying on the green is the activity of choice.

2009 - Another busy year. This one involved failed kite flying and an Andean dance party. Details here.

2010 - Coming soon.

Felices Fiestas Patrias, everyone. I hope you have a wonderful weekend celebrating (or not celebrating) however you choose to. If you happen to be in Chile, fly a kite and drink a glass of chicha for me.

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