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Sept 11th in this stringbean of a country went off without a hitch, and soon fiestas patrias will be upon us. This is the national holiday, though not independence day. It is mainly celebrated by dressing your kids up like huasos (countryfolk), eating meat on a stick (anticuchos), eating meat empanadas, drinking chicha (light corn beer type stuff, sweet), drinking in general, flying kites and dancing the national dance, called the cueca. Which in Brazil has an equivalent meaning to the US-based “tighty whities,” and I’ve always found it strange that someone should dance a dance called “undies” but that is disrespectful, and so I shall stop this line of inquiry.

For this is what happens when you look at something through the lens of another country, culture or language. You end up making connections that were never meant to be made.

Take the candy Chubi, or the soft drink Pap. Do you think the Chilean companies responsible were thinking of your interpretation when they chose these names? They were not.

But sometimes the frame of reference is quite complimentary. Valparaíso, Chile’s principal port and the city where the Congress convenes, is the San Francisco of Chile. It’s colorful and hilly, though I wouldn’t find much more to compare than that. Or take the Lakes District in the south of Chile (and Argentina). This is the Switzerland of South America. Which is strange, as it was more German settled than Swiss, but I suppose it’s about the lakes and mountains, not so much the particular kind of kuchen. It is also very volcanically active, at least on the Chilean side, which isn’t terribly Swiss, but I’m sure we’ll find a way to forgive the comparisons as we soak in the hot springs.

And this is my way of telling you that I’m off. If not to Switzerland, than at least to her South American cousin, volcanoes be darned.