Hello. Last we left off in my 2020 adventure, I was departing a sweaty Cordoban summer and heading to Chile for a final solo traveller adventure. This one is long but filled with pictures and even a little swashbuckling adventure.
I am glad it’s finally finished so we can move onto the birth of Aquiles Ananda and the lockdown!
Back in college, I would travel in the summer and then host or entertain travelers as much as I could during spring and fall semesters. It was a good way to stay sane while being stuck in one place, by letting the world come to me. Good friends with the study abroad department, my roommate during my senior year had made it clear that our house was open for arriving students in need of a quick place to stay. It had generally been reserved for Couchsurfers but we were open to anything.
That’s when Alonso comes in. A Chilean exchange student studying theater in Paris, he had been accepted to study theater in California and the school was looking for an affordable place for him to live. The study abroad department asked us if he could crash our couch for a week or two while they sorted him out.
He spoke French with us—which we loved, having both been exchange students in France a few years prior—and he brought a friendly, comfortable energy to the living room. We decided to invite him to live on our couch for a small fee per month. Matter solved.
I got to show Alonso a good time, which in those years was probably pretty fun. Alonso and I would take coffee together in the morning while I smoked Lucky Strikes, ride bikes around Long Beach, most often drunk, party hard with the liberal arts students, Couchsurfing community, and high school friends that came to visit, and once in a while run into each other at school.
In any case, we became good friends. He had a good ear for listening to my girl troubles, and was always open to an adventure. After graduation, I saw him once in Paris after a hitchhiking trip through central Europe had brought me back to my starting point, destitute and sorrowful. He bought me a beer and cheered me up. He had just gotten married.
As luck would have it, Alonso was visiting friends and family in Chile during the same week in February 2020 that I was looking to come to Santiago. It just so happened that those days were right after his reserved beach vacation time and right before his trip to see his family, so he invited me to stay in his friend’s apartment with him, his wife and son.
Art & Culture
From the airport I take a shuttle that drops everyone off in their final destination. Even at night, three words strike out at me as we drive through the city: Revolution. Poetry. Art. Graffiti is all over, entrances to buildings boarded up. People are outside everywhere in busy movement, a vibe that is anything but “the day has ended.” Mostly I notice the artisans sitting on the ground selling their wares to passersby of all varieties. The amount of culture packed into this one situation rocks my world, from behind a car window.
Alonso doesn’t receive my text in time so I wait outside for a while scoping out the sights. A few houses down is a beach cantina themed bar blasting contemporary hispanic reggae. It is loud and I want to check it out since I am now a beer drinker once again, on a solo trip, but there aren’t a lot of people there and I don’t want to stand out as a clear tourist gringo (despite my long hair, beard, and general grizzle that normally fits me right in with the modern back-to-the-land hippie revolutionary vibe). Alonso finally comes down to find me and let me into the apartment complex. From his balcony, I can see that the reggae bar is but one of many nearby. Over the next couple nights, I would hear this fact as well, spanning all hours of the night. The afternoon-to-evening restobars are about 2 blocks down to our southeast, the evening-to-night establishments like the reggae bar are on all sides, and the night-to-morning nightclubs seem to happen literally right outside my bedroom window. After a few white wines and catch up with Alonso on that first night, I sleep to background ambiance of Ke$ha and Katy Perry remixes.
I learn that this part of Santiago is always like this, it’s not simply the revolution-causing-a-celebration-of-art-and-culture thing that started in the last year. This is the district of art gallery warehouses and nightlife. Street art shows itself off buildings and it must take a certain type of person to live there. It almost reminds me of my time in the gentrifying artist colonies of the Marigny/Bywater of New Orleans.
That morning I do some yoga, drink some mate, and head out on foot to find H&M. Lau always insists I should buy clothes there since most of my wardrobe is Goodwill finds from over the years. I’m not really into supporting the purchase of brand new clothing often made by slave children in Asia, yet I have been wanting to modernize myself a bit as I usher in this new phase of my life. Plus, the t-shirts she had got me at H&M in Europe the year before did actually look good on me. What’s a consumer to do?
So there I speed walk across town, past the poverty, street hustlers, and artisans, and into one of the tall corporate shopping malls. I spend $100 and call it a birthday gift to myself. I am sweating and hot at this point but feeling good about it since I had woken up feeling like I’d drunk one too many wines with Alonso like the old times. I do some pull-ups and pushups at a park and stop to eat some weird fusion Asian food. They speak English to me. I’m just another tourist
Tourism in Revolution Time
Santiago has an energy that I suppose I would compare to Buenos Aires or even a generic big city in Spain. I would say New York too, but there’s something about the European architecture of these Latin American cities that adds a little magic.
Like many cool cities, it’s busy and alive with its crockpot dichotomy of clean/corporate and raw/real-life. It was especially unique for me to see banks boarded up for protection and Starbucks destroyed with anti-capitalist graffiti. I imagine there were tourists there around this time that saw a more traditional side of Chilean tourism. But me, all I could see was la revolucíon reminiscent of all the social uprisings that took place throughout 20th century Latin America. It was powerful. I think I can better tell the story of my experience in Chile during this particular era of its history with photos and video:
“Until living is worth it!”
What’s the revolution for, anyway?
By looking at the art, you’d probably think it had something to do with ending capitalism, carnivore-ism, and the state’s use of police force and violence to enforce its ways. Some of these subcultural vendettas were definitely represented. But in reality the reason for the mass protests was not simply to express unhappiness with a certain way of doing things. Very much unlike their North American BLM or MAGA successors (if you could even call them that), these protests were actually organized by committees with communicated goals and objectives. They wanted to change/fix the constitution that had enabled the disparity in wealth that in turn caused a lot of economical damage for the traditionally socialist government.
I won’t pretend that I understood the politics or currency inflation exactly, but two examples of note were a significant drop in retirement pension funds and a significant rise in the ticket price of the Metro system. Two examples of the myriad transformations negatively affecting people’s livelihoods, young and old and everyone in between that isn’t in the upper class. (My very shallow and basic understanding sorted out from my random collection of sources including Alonso, Uber drivers, fellow travelers, and hostel workers I would meet.
“When the last river dries and the last tree disappears will you finally understand that you can’t eat money!”
I’ve always personally believed that abstaining from giving our hard-earned money to [big] businesses that contribute to the world being such a fucked up place is a better solution than violence or destruction such as what I saw in Santiago (except when you need clothes at H&M, of course). But I suppose in a pre-Bitcoin world there is no escaping banks for those that need a place to store money, and it’s even harder for a coffee drinker to avoid a Starbucks some times, especially when they’ve run the local cafes all out of business. So maybe the rampant disregard for property that took place during the protests has a bit of merit. This isn’t my culture and it isn’t my business how they choose to carry out their revolution. In any case, it’s inspiring to see such passion alive in the art on the sidewalks.
As the video I’ll release next week demonstrates, much of what the demonstration has left in its wake is art. But some, like the trademark anarchy “A”, is just pure vandalism with no profound substance:
Meanwhile, much of the intellectual/academic substance likely goes unnoticed by a majority of those protesting for protesting sake, and posters like these get lost in the mix:
“Terrorism of the State / Uses police, judicial, and media violence to repress and intimidate those who do not accept the injustices.”
The people had been demonstrating publicly since October 2019. Right now the movement was “asleep” until the weather cooled down in April or so. This is a shot taken during one of the “off-season” protests. I didn’t go, mostly because I was going to be a father soon and this wasn’t my fight (indeed, the protesting faction had their own hospital in the university library, off-limits to police), but you can see the energy that did indeed lead to some smoke bombs, tear gas, and physical conflict that Friday afternoon:
Here’s an aerial view in its heyday from Wikipedia:
Something about the energy in the air made me like I was home. Like all the coolest latin American travelers I had met over the years were all here, united with a cause and unified by street art, drum circles, and common circumstance. As I saw it, these were people that shared my values and were actually living them out instead of just fantasizing and writing fiction about it.
Did I envy their position? Maybe a few years ago this would have put my life on a different trajectory, but not today. But did I admire their tenacity, courage, and persistence? It was almost impossible not to be inspired. Every other boulevard I walked down had some sight wrought of frustration that made tears well in my eyes.
Traveling: Guys and Girls
So that’s the backdrop of my week in Chile. After hanging out with Alonso and buying some t-shirts, I decided to go to the beach for a couple nights in a city that isn’t much different in terms of street art and destruction (but apparently the rest of Chile outside of these two spots and perhaps a handful of others was calm and normal despite economically destitute).
I travel to meet people. I always have. After hitchhiking around western Europe for the first time at 19 when I studied abroad in France, I resolved to never waste money again and spend it only on travel. When I started to make excuses in order to justify buying beer, I began to realize that it isn’t simply new locations that make me love travel; it’s the experiences with new people. From old men chain smoking* the afternoons away in Mediterranean tea houses to independent women roaming their way through exotic patriarchal landscapes, it isn’t difficult for me to find entertainment with anyone who is interested in spending time with me.
Especially after a beer. And thus how I spent my twenties.
Fast-forward to now, I’m an all-but-married expecting father who hasn’t come to terms with settling down yet. Lau knew all about my process/inner turmoil with that. Here in Chile, it’s a treat to spend time with Alonso, his wife, and three-year old. I meet some of his theater friends at a bar—the only thing anyone seems to talk about is the revolution, potential outcomes, names of big faces in the movement. While exploring downtown I have conversations with hustling street artisans selling fake ancient maps who want to hear a North American’s thoughts on Chile.
So I take a bus to the beach where I check into a hostel on a steep hill. Hostels are always hit-or-miss in my experience, some times I make great friends and pass unforgettable times in a single night, other times I sit around awkwardly hoping some one tries to talk to me or ask for a lighter, other times I just lay in bed acting like I’m going to sleep when really I’m hoping one of the other dudes in the room tries to strike up conversation. This time, I have a long, yerba mate driven conversation with the woman working the front desk. I learn a bit more about the revolution and becoming a parent. She is very beautiful and supportive of me trying to figure out my situation, this big transition in my life, as she is a mother herself. I wonder if she is hitting on me, or at least hinting at it, but despite our conversational transparency I have no energy to pursue it. I bid her farewell, knowing there wouldn’t be another chance to spend time with her before I go.
See, that’s how I’ve always been. I used to think it might just be how travelers are, when someone is in “travel mode” and there is literally nothing more pressing to do than to genuinely get to know a human being. Something about the travel life makes you value that more than anything. And that doesn’t exclude intimate moments with strangers, if that’s where the moment leads.
Next, downstairs, I make eye contact with another solo traveler. His name is Chris and he is half-German and half-Chilean, here visiting family on an extended trip. He just arrived, too. I ask him if he wants to go out and check out the town together and he says yes, after a quick shower.
Weird situations that only the mind can create.
This always happens in my solo travel, but for some reason in Chile a lot of time is compressing significant, synchronistic events into a few short days. Moments arrive when only some serious subconscious sabotage of the waking mind can cause otherwise simple situations to go awry.
Case in point, I sit in the common area of the hostel as people came and went and Chris showered. At first I play Super Mario Bros on the hacked Raspberry Pi SNES emulator, then I flip through some books on the shelf, and finally I go on my phone.
I eventually figure that Chris has forgotten about our rendez-vous, so I get up and left. I wander through town appreciating the night culture in the streets of this very artsy beach city, and finally sit down on a curb amongst a crowd of young people hanging out and crack open a big bottle of Corona. A bunch of guys are break-dancing with loud music, and this little section of the street is basically a party. Chile is super cool. I wonder if it’d be cooler to live here than Argentina, and then figure Lau probably wouldn’t go for that. Not with a baby.
I get back to the hostel, pretty beat, and see Chris. “Yo, what happened earlier man?” I ask. “Are you serious?” he responds. He goes on to tell me that he had come to sit right next to me on the couch earlier while I was flipping through books waiting for him. He’d even asked me if I was ready to go, to which I didn’t react. Once I’d taken out my phone aimlessly, he finally just got up and left.
“What the f*ck, really? I just ignored you like that?”
My shock is apparent, because he offers that I had looked like I was off into space, in my own world. And I had actually been keen on hanging out with him—I was the one who’d invited him, after all.
We laugh about it and take a walk outside to buy more beer. But inside I am wondering what about that whole situation was meant for me to open my eyes to something, to pay attention? Nothing like that had ever happened to me in my life. I don’t ignore people, intentionally or not.
Chris disappears the next morning and I have been in contact with a local Couchsurfer who is up for hanging out and showing me around a bit. (I elaborate on the importance of the Couchsurfing community to my travels in other writings, if it is of interest to you please let me know.)
We meet up at the only local cafe that has gluten free pastries and I sip on yerba mate. He has great English and we get on very well. He’s a photographer and artist. It becomes clear to me soon that he is gay. Not that it matters, but I sensed a hint of the same vibe that passes over when I meet women online, as “just friends.” Are we really just meeting to be friends or is there potential for something more… interesting?
He ends up taking some shots of me sitting on some beachside rocks and walks me to the bus station to return to Santiago. We share a big hug and I bid farewell to the first solid connection I’d made here.
I introduced the concepts of my complex love life last time, so I’ll skip the rhetoric. In a nutshell: I never sought out the comfort of monogamy in life but I wanted deep companionship; Lau accepts me for both so I am curious about the true nature of these desires and non-traditional, non-conformist tendencies. What is the authentic part of my nature and what may be a contrasting story I tell myself?
Chile was my last hurrah not only as a free bird but as a bachelor. Based on prior communication with my fiance, I had assumed that there was no question that I would resume my old ways once I hit the road. But perhaps I overestimated my communication in regards to a relationship that had evolved quite a bit over the past year. No longer partying and not seeking intimate experiences, I sit in that hostel curious WHY I still want to give energy to new girls (see section above).
So I re-download Tinder to see if anyone looks interesting. Tinder, like Couchsurfing before it, is the traveler’s ultimate tool, as it enables anyone to create friends and new experiences, with a higher likelihood of getting laid. Some of the younger demographic use it for hookups, but in the app’s early years, as I traipsed through the Himalayas searching for meaning along Nepal’s tourism circuit, Tinder was a great way to meet Scandinavian women on similar journeys. (Not that Scandinavian was a requirement, it was just that everyone I seemed to meet was from Northern Europe.)
I start chatting with a yoga girl who has upwards of 35k followers on Instagram. A local celebrity, basically. I make it clear to her that I have a partner who supports me in “doing what I need to do” and she says OK, she still wants to meet and get to know me.
Good. As I’d learned the hard way in Buenos Aires a year before, a lot of women don’t want nothin’ to do with that despite their bio saying “Looking for new friends and 420 buddies.”
Meanwhile in Cordoba, Lau’s having a rough time. A friend of hers cancels plans, she’s pregnant and not feeling good, it’s hot, etc. I try to call her before my date but she’s not feeling like talking. I wasn’t explicitly planning on telling her my date plans, especially if she was already in a poor mood, but I was open to at least seeing if I could bring it up in our call.
In any case, it doesn’t matter because she doesn’t want to talk. I tell her I am going out for Indian food and would talk to her later on.
The following is what I wrote the day after our date, drinking 2x1 Corona on a patio somewhere in Santiago’s afternoon bar strip.
The End of An Era
The end of the era hit me hard last night. It was good to feel alive again… that the universe is a refined chaos outside of my little bubble wrought of homesteading and preparing for a child-filled future. I still have much to learn when I put myself up to the task, but the absolutely perfect learning environments seem to appear right in front of my eyes.
If only I’d choose to see it as such.
It all started on Tinder. I was here in Chile alone to do my thing, one last time, and I had been under the impression that this was understood between Lau and I—because that’s just what Jordan does. There has definitely existed a hint of “if it doesn’t come up, maybe there’s no need to bring it up” between us when it comes to that sort of thing; I figured it had something to do with our pasts. But I prefer to bring these non-conventional things out into the open so she knows what I am about.
From a young age I was intimidated to speak to girls. Later on, I was scared to be real with girls about how I was feeling, or what I was sensing between us. More recently, being authentic with the fairer sex became much natural for me as I interacted with women of all ages from all around the world. I’d learned that I would never “miss out” on anything—there is always enough love. But now I’m not single and I have to learn how to own the truth—that I’m not single—and still be honest with my place.
Last night was a rite of passage. Two, actually. The first rite was letting the yogi girl know my situation before going to meet her even if it meant her cancelling our rendez-vous. Making sure there were no expectations and I was not monogamous. Normally I would share such a fact in person because otherwise the subject matter of those words hold high freak-out potential. (Confidence and body language can be powerful tools to open conversation and engage minds.) In this particular case, it was extra important for me to recount this information beforehand because she shared similar astrological qualities to my ex (obviously).
But moon in Pisces as she may be, yogi girl accepted the information without a desire to cancel our plans and/or ghost me forever.
That was the first rite of passage. The second was to go meet her, be real, and see where it went as purely as possible, without any feelings of guilt. In some fantasy, we get intimate. In reality, I knew we never would—but then where is the fun? Why would anyone want to write off the potential for fun? In any case, to actually arrive at that point the air would have to be pure: truth, flirting, and, of course, the right vibes and mojo. And in that same vein of purity, if things did lead to a situation that could compromise my relationship and trust with Lau, then I must be real with that, too.
An aside: leading into it, did I really imagine that I had the energy to flirt with someone that I’d probably never see again? I am no longer a nomadic backpacker, able to hop on a random flight across the world on a romantic whim (or walk out of an airport on a romantic whim, which has also happened).
I took an Uber to the vegan Indian restaurant. The driver is my age and we have a good conversation about the revolution and Chilean politics compared to that of the USA. The drive through town reminded me of going to Silverlake from Downtown LA via the 101 N, where inevitably you have to take an exit far from your destination because the nearby connecting boulevard peels away from the freeway, schmancy hipster restaurants sprouting up sporadically among the fairly-tranquil residential neighborhoods.
Except for the hills. It was completely flat in this part of southern Santiago.
Yogi girl was quite late in arriving. I sat outside at a patio table awkwardly, thumbing through the menu as I waited. Suddenly, my phone vibrates. A message had arrived: “can we go somewhere else? I’ve had a change of heart about dinner.”
Now, wait a just minute young lady. I’d been looking at the menu while waiting and, quite frankl. I was rather excited at the prospect of vegan Indian plates that I could already smell. Argentina doesn’t really have Indian food because they’re too Italian to care about most other genres of dinner. I responded saying in my amateur Spanish that at this point I really wanted to eat here, she had totally sold me on it to begin with, so would I have to respectfully veto her change of heart. I also am not digging the idea of hopping in another 20-30 minute car ride in Chilean traffic. I was also ravenously hangry. So once she arrived, we stayed.
We got seated and tried to make small chat as the waiter did his spiel at our table. She was a welcome guest and I was hoping for some influencer discount. After the waiter left there was a smile-y lull where we did our initial Instagram notification checks (at least, I acted like that’s what I was doing. In truth, I hadn’t checked the price of Bitcoin in the past 10 minutes and she was probably just sending her location to a trusted friend or housemate). After that, one of us commented on some aspect of the vibe that wasn’t jiving, like the sound of the fans from the kitchen not too far from our table. We agreed and asked to be moved to the dining area upstairs. The waiter throws on a smile and grabs our glasses of ice water to migrate them.
We got settled in again. There are many more people seated up here on the second floor, I hadn’t realized the restaurant was so big. I took a gander around at the other patrons, but how could I know at the time that a friend of Lau was dining two tables down?
Meanwhile, my overarching theme of honesty was a dominating topic of conversation over our appetizer course of samosa and coconut lassi. I explained to her my situation—well, I tried to anyway. Sometimes I think because of my own lack of clarity on the matter and my not-professional Spanish, that I may not be communicating as well as I think.
The entire situation was a great opportunity to explore this concern of mine, which was certainly on my mind. I hadn’t shared with Lau that I was “going on a date” because there had not been a good chance to do so; plus, well, to me it was understood between us that I would still go out and meet girls on my last hurrah… because that’s what Jordan does. Besides, nothing serious had happened—yet—and nothing was anyone’s business but my own—yet.
At least that’s where my mental process was at, and that’s what we talked about. One can only imagine how animated I may have been there at the table, basking in the Cancerian glow of yogi girl with 35k followers. She then recounted to me about her latest relationship with a well-known local celebrity in Santiago and Chile. It lasted 4 years and they had lived out of a van in California for a while. They’d opened their relationship for convenience sake but after exploring that they realized that the relationship itself had ever been founded on anything of substance.
It was a good story. I had many questions. But sometime during that conversation, not too far away, a fan and follower of yogi girl sat there watching on us. Spying on us. Because something about this gringo date of hers must have stood out, made the hairs stick up on his forearms. Scratching his head upon seeing the two of us seated together, he must have sworn to himself that he knows my face from somewhere… he just couldn’t remember where… Until it finally must have hit him that I must be that same gringo that is always on @LauGardaYoga’s Instagram stories! But wait a minute, he’s with a girl? Yogi girl! An influencer with 35k followers that he follows on Instagram!
That was probably his exact thought process.
Of course when the food arrived, the first thing yogi girl had done was snap a photo of our table full of colorful exotic dishes for Instagram. My forearm, with a one-of-a-kind tattoo, was in the shot. Sure enough, homeboy a couple tables down forwards her Story post of our food to my partner—my fiance, my future baby momma. I would learn later that it came with a message a little like this: “do you recognize that tattoo? Because I feel like I recognize this guy from your posts.” Back in Cordoba, that’s what Lau receives after having a bad day, with me a few thousand kilometers away doing lord-knows-what.
Pretty crazy. In a city of however many millions of people, we were not only dining in the same spot but at the same time and on the same floor of the establishment. And he felt it was his business to contact Lau about it, for whatever the intention may have been.
We eventually say goodbye, no sparks flying, no mutual interest in pursuing this evening further than the restaurant. I soon after received a message in the Uber: “I hope you enjoyed your Indian food,” to which I responded that yes I did. The conversation quickly turned oddly passive aggressive, so I asked her directly: “is there something you need to say to me?” She recounted what happened with snooping homeboy in the restaurant, the photo of our food, and my tattoo in the shop. I sat there taken aback, a little nervous. Eventually I asked, “OK, so what’s the problem?”–“I thought there was trust between us.”
([A Moral Dilemma<img src=”https://writing.jordanurbs.com/essays/2020/08/23/moral-dilemma-tt.html)—I recently wrote a blog post about this event digging into the concept of morality for my Budokon mobility teacher training. I am of the opinion that this friend of Lau’s had stepped completely out of the realm of his business, as in mind your own. You might disagree or agree but either way you can [read my argument here<img src=”https://writing.jordanurbs.com/essays/2020/08/23/moral-dilemma-tt.html).)
And then came one of those conversations that was a lot more twisted over missing context as opposed to actual subject matter. I’ll spare you the details but one of those classic misunderstandings where text messaging is actually making it worse. We’d already talked about this, you know this is what Jordan does; there’s been no trust breached because I didn’t kiss her, I didn’t sleep with her, hardly hugged her, not to mention there had not been an opportunity to tell you that the date would happen even if I wanted to. Intention was never dishonest.
My MO had been to find out at what point did “my” business breach into “our” business? To me, that seemed most obviously to be something physical. Sex. Maybe something leading up to that. Something heartfelt and emotional, definitely. But certainly not a first dinner date? This isn’t the Brady Brunch.
However, Lau brings up something that points out the holes in my story: I had been sharing all the activities I’d been up to and the people I’d been meeting during my trip, and how I’d met them, yet I conveniently left out that I’d be going out to Indian food with a girl from Tinder. Even though there hadn’t been the chance to bring it up over the phone, I can understand how it could have felt like I was hiding something.
Maybe I was hiding something. In any case, it wasn’t difficult to work out. She was having a tough time as it was, things like this don’t help. We had always been a good team and something like this wasn’t a threat to our well-being. Just something to nurture when I get back.
And let’s not forget, this whole thing was supposed to be about me. My process. My farewell to bachelorhood. I definitely encountered a landscape where each situation could present itself to me for my final huzzah within its bounds. And that landscape has lead me back to my baggage, ready to check-in at the airport and return “home” with Lau where I’m comfortable and not lacking in stimulation.
So that was it. Just a few days in Chile and I’d already explored all there was needed to explore. It happened in ways I couldn’t have planned on even if I tried. I’d put created a bubble of my mind’s own intention and my voyage created the perfect scenarios necessary to experience these final challenges, put a lid on the philosophical questions, and move on with my life.
And that’s why I’ve always loved travel. The people you meet are those ripe scenarios and show up when you least expect them, often for reasons that may not make sense yet.
But be that as it may, I’m ready to be done. Ready to forget about meeting new girls for a while, figuring out new places to stay every week, and questioning my identity.
Time to have this child and get some shit done.