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Years ago, just having barely moved to Chile, I was enjoying what was to be the first of many rainstorms. It had rained in the morning, the mountains were out, and I, along with every other santiaguino, old and new, was craning my neck to the east to stunning views. Snowy snowcapped, snowarific mountains were right there, just barely out of our reach it seemed.

Slosh, through another puddle, and eeep, as I realized my pants were dragging in the filthy muck between the cobblestones. The first rain of the season is many things, occasionally surprising, often freezing, but never, ever clean.

And then the rain started up again. First it was chispeando (lit: sparking, I’d call it spitting), then lloviznando (drizzling), later it was lloviendo, and finally, giant crocodile-tear-sized raindrops started falling out of the sky. It was a veritable chubasco (heavy shower), or even an aguacero (downpour). Chile has many lovely traditions, and one of them is that on rainy days, you eat sopaipillas pasadas. They’re a frybread, covered with a molasses-type syrup made from chancaca, a, dark brown solid sugar sold in bar form.

But this was before I knew about sopaipillas pasadas, and also before I had an arsenal of rain words at my disposal. Vocabulary stunted, I was thinking of another great tradition, that of buying an umbrella from a vendor on the street, hopefully before getting soaked to the skin.

And so I approached one such vendor, standing on the corner of Pio Nono, on the bridge, by the crafts market in Bellavista. He was shouting at the top of his lungs, the following stream of sounds.


and then he said it again


I looked at the sky, and felt in my pocket for money, determined to turn my faded bills into something that would protect me from the frigid rain.

And I approached him, and asked, in my best textbook Spanish: How much do the umbrellas cost?

And he looked at me like to bozo I was and he said, “a mil” (one thousand pesos, now about $2.25, at that time more like $1.50). So I gave him mil pesos and opened my j-handled plaid umbrella and listened to the rain hit its arched tarp. And then it became terribly clear to me.

While what I was hearing was parawahamilamilahparawah, my umbrella vendor was actually saying the following:

Paraguas a mil. (Umbrellas for 1,000)
A mil las paraguas. (1,000 for the umbrellas)

Which, dear reader, makes my question incredibly facile. And I decided to tell this story because today it’s lloviendo a cantaros (raining cats and dogs), and I have the most incredible hooded goretex jacket should I be foolish enough to actually step outside. I just wish someone would come here and make me sopaipillas pasadas.