Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In Punta Arenas

Even though we travel lightly, we have a lot of bags and boxes and trunks to lug from the airport in Punta Arenas to the dock where we'll catch our boat. The Chief can't always get us all on. Sometimes he's able to charter, but often some of us have to wait behind, catch the next ride.

Lydia and Alex will be the first to volunteer. Lydia will want to try all the food. Alex just likes to be out and about, and he'll troll for guide work and whatever else he can find.

"Misha will stay with us," Lydia sings out as the Chief checks names on his list.

"What are you doing?" I hiss. She knows I'm a homebody. She knows I don't like the transition. And although I've grown used to Patagonia, I haven't quite grown fond of it.

"We have to get you acclimated," she replies. I have become her project. She is working to rehabilitate me—or habilitate me, to turn me into a good nomad. For a woman with so much attitude, she has her kindness.

And now it's too late to protest. I don't want to make a scene, add complications. I don't want to be a baby about this.

Chief Lundgren continues to separate us into two groups. I see Jeff, Paolo, and Gabriella go into the group leaving first. Jeff and Paolo are builders. They'll start off by fixing any damage that winter did to our houses. A lot can happen during a winter on the Cape. And Gabriella goes where Paolo goes.

I feel the small twinge.

The rest of us, left behind by now, divide into smaller groups—families, or three or four friends together. The Chief gives us each a name and address. This is where we'll stay until we can get a boat to Puerto Williams.

When we set off to find the home of Senora Fuentes, it's already growing dark—I can taste it under my tongue, a taste like sadness.

"But it's still too early to go out," Lydia reminds me. I see a night of bars ahead.

"We'll find you empanadas. It will be good." She looks at Alex, and I start to wonder.

Maybe I've got the wrong project.

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