It is still fall in Coyhaique, although the days are getting alarmingly shorter and the mornings colder. The air feels cold and crisp as if Halloween is on its way, and yet it is almost June. Very disorienting!
Last weekend I found myself at a big dinner for all the top huasos in Region XI. Awards were given for best horses, rodeo champions, and the like. Huasos are the cowboys of Patagonia, and they are fiercely proud of their traditions. The skills involved are usually passed down through the family from father to son. Women were completely excluded from huaso events until recently, and huasos are infamous for their infidelity. Although extremely macho, huaso men are also extremely vain. After quite a bit of primping, my host dad Ernesto emerged from the bathroom dressed to the nines. The traditional dress is very specific: a sharp above-the-hip jacket, tailored pants, and a thick belt cinched to the side. Over this they wear beautiful woolen embroidered ponchos and wide brimmed hats. There are even specific black boots that must be worn for special occasions. I am told that one of my host brothers could not be a huaso because his feet were to big for the special boots.
The evening, like most special occasions in Patagonia, consisted of roasted lamb, red wine, a growing cloud of cigarette smoke, and lots of dancing the cueca, chamamé, and ranchero. I have managed to learn chamamé and ranchero in my short time here, but cueca, the national dance of Chilé, is a bit more complicated. It is a courting dance in which the man and woman circle each other playfully waving napkins, and it is wonderful to watch.
One thing does not change at the bottom of the world: I am always glad when the weekend comes! My students continue to amaze me with their lack of motivation and interest to learn, but I see this as a worthy challenge, and my classes are improving. I´ve realized that I must "trick" them into learning by playing games, jumping around, and basically running a three ring circus. If anything even slightly resembles school work or learning, I lose them. And I must never utter the words "take out your notebook," or they´ll be gone forever. Needless to say, no matter where you live, Friday never comes too soon!