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A friend of mine, a podcaster, recently asked me to record a piece for her. I was alternately flattered and freaked out, overly confident and very nervous. I still haven’t done it, so I guess now I’m just procrastinating a bit. The topic of the podcast is loving another country.

I have tomes to say on the subject, but the crux of it is that I think love has to be mutual. I feel (for the most part) that Chile loves me. I have felt supported, coddled, challenged, helped, moved and otherwise kept awake here, and this I value tremendously, and it helps me to love it back.

Last night a bunch of friends were over and we played a game where I read them unlikely-sounding town names along the length of Chile from a map I’d hung up to plan an upcoming trip on a very cool little train, and they would tell me if the town was in the north or south, what region, any special details about it, etc. I still don’t have that kind of encyclopediac knowledge of this country, though it’s something I work on from time to time. But there are always surprises.

Like this plant, the puya chilensis, which we call chagual (cha WAHL), which I always thought looked like a huge broad asparagus. It shoots 15 feet up from the middle of a scraggly, wig-like cactus, and up sprouts this unlikely looking thing that looks like it may well have been invented by a six-year old, or perhaps a college-age student working on a nasty cough syrup addiction.

chagual, faro, sebastian

It’s surprising in and of itself, but last weekend my friends goaded me into sliding down a small coastal hill to get a better look, and that’s where I could see it up close and nearly expletived out loud.

Look at this thing!

chagual 3

And if that’s not enough to make a girl love a country, well, I don’t know what is.