Put On Love

The reason for this trip to Chile was, in large part, so that our family might have the joy of sharing in the wedding that our Chilean “daughter”, Elizabeth ‘Mandy’ Arriagada Dölz was celebrating with her beloved, Matias Carrasco Mella.  They further honored me by asking me to share in the preaching of this event.  I thought that readers of this blog might enjoy the message preached in both English and Spanish, as well as a few photos of that event.

Put On Love

On the Occasion of the Marriage of Mandy and Matias

26 November 2016

Santiago, Chile

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (Colossians 3:12-14)

 

In 2010, our family had the opportunity to make our first visit to Chile. We were so excited to come to see Mandy’s family and community! There were tickets to be bought, clothes to pack, and activities to plan. One thing you should know about my family is that my wife is the “planner”. She makes lists, and usually, our daughter, Ariel, and I do them. So she made a packing list for our trip, and made us promise to bring everything on the list.

One of the items on the list for this trip, which included not only Chile, but some of the rain forests of Peru, was a hat. “Bring a hat that will keep the sun out of your eyes and the rain off your head,” she said.

This is a classic hat.

This is a classic hat.

So I brought a hat. It’s a great hat. I love this hat. It was a gift from some friends in Africa.

And, as you can see, it does the job. It will keep away the rain and the sun just fine.

Except that when we arrived at Mandy’s family’s home, when I unpacked, she said, “What’s that?????”

“It’s my hat.”

“You can’t wear that! It’s not a good hat!”

“It’s a great hat! It does everything a hat should do!”

But she wouldn’t budge. She told Mandy to take me out and help me find a new, better, hat for our trip.

Mandy took us to the market, and I saw all kinds of caps. So many different styles and shapes and sizes.

img_2732

This is a markedly better hat!

And then I saw this hat. And I liked it. And when I looked at my daughter and at Mandy, they said, “Oh, Dave, you look like Indiana Jones!”

Now know this: I like Indiana Jones. I think he’s smart and brave and creative… But the hat was more expensive than any other hat. So I said, “no… it’s too much.”

And they said I should buy it, but I didn’t because of the cost. And Mandy looked at me and she said, “Listen, Dave: being Indiana Jones isn’t cheap, you know…” And Mandy bought me this hat.

And I LOVE this hat. I wear it a lot. It’s been to Chile, Peru, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Korea, New Zealand, Malawi, South Africa, South Sudan… It’s been all over the world. And when I wear it – even to cut my grass – I feel a little bit smarter, braver, and more creative. The hat helps me to feel, well, a little more like Indiana Jones.

I’m telling you that story, not so much because I want you to know why I wear my hats, but because you know what it means to put on a piece of clothing and be changed a little bit. When you are getting ready to watch a big football match, you wear the jersey for your favorite team. Why? Because it helps you to cheer for them; it helps you to connect with them in some way.

Similarly, when we get ready for church, we often put on special clothes. The priest or pastor wears a number of symbols to remind him and us that we’re in a different place, and many worshipers get dressed in their best clothes to worship.

And look at today: Mandy is wearing a “wedding dress” – a special uniform that says a lot about who she is and who she hopes to be. Mandy and Matias will be wearing rings for the rest of their lives – little bits of gold or silver that don’t really DO anything… but they remind them, and us, and everyone else that they are people who make promises.

When the Apostle Paul was writing to his friends in Colossae, he told them to pay attention to the things that they were wearing. In fact, he asked them to wear compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience – like an outfit. Put those things on as you walk around, he said, and sooner or later you’ll find that just like me wearing the hat makes me feel like Indiana Jones, wearing those things helps us to act like Jesus.

At the end of the day, Paul said, “Put on love.” Make love your garment. Seek to do right by the people around you, and love them.

That’s what we want you to do, Mandy and Matias. You’ve been together for a long time. You’ve known for a long time that this is what you’ve wanted – but for whatever reason, it’s taken you seven years (?) to do it. I know, Mandy, you thought I was taking a long time to pick out a hat back in 2010, but this is longer. A lot longer. So let me tell you: being married isn’t cheap. You may have been smart to give it so much thought and planning. Nobody should just jump into a decision like that.

But now that you ARE married, let me encourage you to wear these things. Sometimes when we get something new we wear it for a little bit and then we come home and stuff it in the closet. Don’t do that with your promises and your hopes and your dreams. Put on love. Wear these promises. Wherever your marriage takes you, seek to act, every day, in grace and kindness and humility and gentleness and patience with each other.

I’m here to tell you that you won’t always LIKE your spouse. And she or he won’t always be right. And she or he won’t always be wrong. Those are the times when you need to be especially careful to put on the love that you’ve had for so long. To wear it. And to allow it to change your hearts so that you both continue to grow closer to each other and to the Lord.

Put on love, my friends. It’s not cheap. But it’s worth it. All day, every day. Thanks be to God! Amen.

Some of the congregation in attendance...

Some of the congregation in attendance…

The Deacon invited me to share in the blessing of the couple.

The Deacon invited me to share in the blessing of the couple.

As the marriage was declared.

As the marriage was declared.

Vístanse de amor

Por lo tanto, como escogidos de Dios, bendecidos y amados, envuélvanse de afecto entrañable y de bondad, humildad, amabilidad y paciencia, de modo que se toleren el uno al otro y se perdonen si alguno tiene queja contra otro. Así como el Señor los perdonó, perdónense también ustedes. Por encima de todo, vístanse de amor, que es el vínculo perfecto. (Colosenses 3:12-14)

En el año 2010, nuestra familia tuvo la oportunidad de realizar nuestra primera visita a Chile. Estábamos muy emocionado por conocer a la familia de Mandy y sus cercanos!. Pasajes que comprar , ropa que empacar y actividades a planificar. Algo que necesitan saber de mi familia es que mi esposa es la “planificadora”. Ella realiza una lista para nuestro viaje y nos hace prometer que llevaremos todo lo que dice la lista.

Uno de los puntos de la lista para este viaje, que no solo incluye para Chile , sino que para las selvas tropicales de perú, fue un sombrero. “Lleva un sombrero que aleje al sol de tus ojos y la lluvia de tu cabeza”, dijo Sharon.

Por lo tanto traje un sombrero: es un asombroso sombrero, amo este sombrero. Fue un regalo de algunos amigos de Africa y como uds. pueden ver, hace su trabajo. Me aleja de la lluvia y del sol muy bien.

Excepto que cuando llegamos a la casa de Mandy y desempaqué, ella dijo: “¿Qué es eso??!!”

“Es mi sombrero”, contesté.
“No puedes usar eso!!, no es un buen sombrero!!!”..
“Es un muy buen sombrero !! Hace todo lo que un sombrero tiene que hacer !! ”

Pero ella no se rendiría , Ella le dijo a Mandy que me llevara a encontrar uno nuevo y mejor para nuestro viaje.

Mandy nos llevó al feria donde vi una gran variedad de gorros. Tantos estilos, formas y tamaños distintos.

Entonces vi este sombrero y me encantó. Al mirar a mi hija y a Mandy, ellas dijeron: Oh, Dave, te pareces a Indiana Jones!!!

Sepan uds. que me encanta Indiana Jones. Pienso que es inteligente y valiente así como ingenioso… Pero el sombrero era mucho más caro que cualquier otro sombrero. Por lo que dije “no… es demasiado caro”

Luego me dijeron que debería comprarlo, aunque no lo hice por el alto costo. Mandy me miró y exclamó: “Mira Dave, ser Indiana Jones no es barato, ya tú sabes…”, y ella me lo compró.

Pues adoro este sombrero. Lo uso mucho. Ha estado en Chile, Perú, Israel, Jordania, Egipto, Corea, Nueva Zelanda, Malawi, Africa de Sur, Sudán… Estuvo alrededor de todo el mundo. Y cuando lo uso -incluso para cortar el pasto- me siento un poco más inteligente, valiente e ingenioso. El sombrero me ayuda a sentirme…bueno…un poco más como Indiana Jones.

Les cuento esta anécdota, no para que sepan por qué llevo mi sombrero, sino para que sepan lo que significa colocarse una prenda de ropa y transformarse un poco. Por ejemplo, cuando están preparándose para ver un gran partido de fútbol, uds. usan la camiseta de su equipo favorito. ¿Por qué? Porque ayuda a alentarlos; los conecta con ellos de alguna manera.

Igual que cuando nos preparamos para ir a la iglesia, generalmente nos colocamos una tenida especial. El cura o pastor lleva varios símbolos que nos recuerda que nos encontramos en un lugar distinto y muchos de los adoradores se arreglan con sus mejores tenidas para rendir culto.

Y miren hoy: Mandy está usando un “vestido de novia” – un uniforme especial que dice mucho de quién es ella y quién espera ser. Mandy y Matías llevarán unos anillos por el resto de sus vidas – un poco de oro o de plata no hace mucho en realidad… Pero les recuerda, y a nosotros también, así como a todos que son personas comprometidas.

Cuando el apóstol Paul, les escribió a sus amigos en Collossae, les dijo que pusieran atención en lo que estaban usando. De hecho, les pidió que llevaran compasión, amabilidad, humildad, gentileza y paciencia- como una prenda. Dijo: colóquense estos cosas como en cualquier ocasión, y tarde o temprano, encontrarán que – tal como yo con el sombrero me siento igual a Indiana Jones- al llevarlas puestas nos ayuda a actuar como Jesús.

Al final del día, Paul dijo: vístanse de amor. Hagan del amor su prenda. Hagan lo correcto con las personas a su alrededor y ámenlos.

Esto es lo que queremos que hagan, Mandy y Matías. Llevan mucho tiempo juntos. Han sabido por mucho tiempo que esto es lo que querían – pero cual sea la razón, les ha tomado siete año (?) hacerlo. Mandy, sé que pensaste que me demoré mucho rato para elegir un nuevo sombrero en el 2010, pero esto es mucho más. Entonces déjame decirte que estar casado no es barato. Seguramente has sido muy minuciosa en pensarlo y planificarlo. Nadie debería simplemente saltar en una decisión como ésta.

Sin embargo, ahora que ESTÁS casada, déjame alentarte a llevar estas cosas. A veces cuando obtenemos algo nuevo lo usamos un rato y luego volvemos a casa y lo guardamos en el clóset. No hagas eso con tus compromisos, tus esperanzas y tus sueños. vístanse de amor. Usen estos compromisos. Donde sea que su matrimonio los lleve, actúen cada día, en gracia, con bondad, humildad, gentileza y paciencia el uno con el otro.

Estoy aquí para contarles que no siempre te agradará tu esposo/a. Y ella o él no tendrá siempre la razón. Y ella o él no siempre estará equivocado. Esos son tiempos en los que deben tener cuidado en vestirse con el amor que han llevado por tanto tiempo. Llévenlo puesto. Y permítanle que cambie sus corazones para que ambos continúen creciendo para acercarse el uno al otro así como al Señor.

Vístanse de amor, mis amigos. No es barato, Pero vale la pena. Todo el día, todos los días. Gracias a Dios. Amén.

I am not the only one who thinks that's a snappy hat!

I am not the only one who thinks that’s a snappy hat!

Mr. & Mrs.!!!!

Mr. & Mrs.!!!!

Instead of place cards at the tables, the crowd was called out to stand for a photo with the couple, then ushered to their seats.

Instead of place cards at the tables, the crowd was called out to stand for a photo with the couple, then ushered to their seats.

The wedding ceremony started at 9 p.m. We arrived at the reception venue just prior to 11 p.m., and the party lasted until 5 a.m. Lucia made it until about 3 a.m.

The wedding ceremony started at 9 p.m. We arrived at the reception venue just prior to 11 p.m., and the party lasted until 5 a.m. Lucia made it until about 3 a.m.

A Tough Day at the Office?

The "Step Pyramid" of Zoser, located at Saqqara, Egypt

Have you ever  had one of those days when you make a blunder that seems, well, COLOSSAL?  If so, you might be interested in this tidbit I learned the other day.

One of the highlights of our trip to the Middle East was a chance to visit the Pyramids in Egypt.  We started by visiting the complex at Saqqara, where the famous “Step Pyramid” of Zoser  was built in about 2680 BC.  Imhotep, Zoser’s Vizier, wanted to send his boss off in a big way, and so he came up with this design.  The complex contains  a variety of smaller tombs, funeral chapels, and a massive hallway.

Wanna buy a pyramid? Never used - just like new...

Well, not long after that, Pharaoh Snefru decided that he wanted a “true” pyramid – one without steps.  So he had his builders begin work on a project in Dashour, not far from Saqqara.  Well, they started off fine, but once they got to a certain height, they realized that the angle of construction was wrong.   Snefru’s builders began the project using a 53 degree angle, only to discover that at that angle, the pyramid would collapse under its own weight.  They hastily corrected it to the proper 43 degree angle (you know I’m such a math whiz), but the result was a pyramid that is unmistakably bent.  Imagine being the foreman on that job…”Uh, boss, look, we’ve got to talk…”  Yikes!

Wait - is that me in a Bedouin head scarf? Yep. Two vendors tried to GIVE me one because they liked my beard so much (apparently, facial and body hair is a sign of virility or status or something. I am a man's man here, I suppose...)

But Snefru was nothing if not determined, so after they finished the “Bent Pyramid”, he had them start again from scratch and the result was the “Red Pyramid”, the first “true” Pyramid (with finished, sloping walls, etc.).  I might say that Ariel and I enjoyed going in the Pyramids, but that would be lying.  We did go in, but it was cramped and hot – the passageway was only about four feet high.

Our day ended with a visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza, located in a suburb of Cairo.  In and amongst the throngs of tourists, we found the chance to marvel at the mysteries of the men and women who built or were buried in these edifices.  We wondered at the Sphynx.  We heard a dozen different languages, were accosted by policemen looking for bribes, were offered all manner of souvenirs, and then finished the day with a big bowl of kousherie – a pasta/vegetable concoction that I think you may be sampling at our home sometime…

This will give you an idea of the size of the stones on the Great Pyramids of Giza. Wow!

As I contemplated the day, it occurred to me that some unknown architect’s mistake has lasted for more than 5000 years.  The Bent Pyramid has survived earthquakes and sandstorms and war and weather and human attempts to deface it.  When I think about the times I’ve blown it, I have the optimism to hope that my mistakes will not be so durable, and that, like Snefru, I might be able to learn from them in order to reach my goal.

With the Hat at the Great Pyramids of Giza

Ahlan wa sahlan!

Welcome to Jordan!

From the first taxi driver we met to the last person I spoke to before returning to my room last night, this sincere greeting has rung in my ears during our entire visit to this beautiful and peaceful land.  Jordan is not a “heavyweight” in the Middle East – at least not compared with a military giant like Israel or some of the oil-producing countries.  Yet we have been blessed to be here and to experience a bit of its favor in even a few days.

“Don’t talk religion” was the instruction that the first cab driver gave to me when I asked him how to get along here.  “In the Middle East, we see people killing each other over religion.  In Jordan, you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe, but we still have to shop and work and go to school together, right?”

Our time in Israel was punctuated by encounters with people who were wearing their religion on their sleeves – a variety of people who were obviously intent on letting you know their faith tradition by their style of dress, their choice of headgear, their hairstyle, and more.  We were surrounded by fiercely devout people, but somehow in that place, those elements seemed to be walls of division: you were “one of them” or “one of us”.  Even within the Christian community, I was asked whether I was Catholic, Coptic, Orthodox, or whatever…

Here in Jordan, faith is no less important (he says, typing this at 5 in the morning after being woken by the muezzin calling the Muslims to prayer).  Yet somehow there seems to be more of an emphasis on seeking the ways that we can be together, even as our traditions are different, rather than in staking out the places of our difference.  I will be thinking about that (and probably blogging about that) more in the days to come.

Stopping for Tea with the Locals...

In terms of the places we’ve seen and the people we’ve met, again, I must say that this is a place that is above all, hospitable.  On Monday, for instance, we were driving down the King’s Highway toward Petra and decided to stop at a scenic overlook to take a few photos of the sunset.  No sooner had our minivan stopped than a herd of camels appeared and their owner greeted us.  When a couple of our number asked about taking photos, he wondered which specific camel they’d like to see and offered to bring them over to us.  A few moments later, a young boy of 8 or 9 showed up carrying 14 cups of hot tea with sugar.  I tried to pay him and he shook me off.  All I could do was to say shukran – thank you.

Inside the fortress at Kerak

We spent a good bit of time on Monday visiting Kerak castle, the largest of the Crusader Fortresses that remains in Jordan.  This twelfth-century edifice was the site of many battles between the Christian crusaders and Saladin; it also has served as a monastery, a palace, a market, and, under the British Mandate of Palestine, a police station.

On top of Mt. Nebo, with the Promised Land behind us.

Mt. Nebo, the traditional site from which Moses was allowed to view the Promised Land, was also on our itinerary.  Compared with some of the places we’ve climbed, it wasn’t really much of a “mount”, but there was an awesome view of the Jordan Valley (yes, you can see into Israel), Amman to the north, and the Dead Sea to the south.

According to local legend, Lot's wife was turned into this pillar of salt above the banks of the Dead Sea when she looked back at the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah.

Speaking of the Dead Sea, a float there was clearly the highlight of our day.  I can’t describe how FUN it was to be so bouyant and to simply lay on top of the water.  We would try to “stand”, but once the water got to be about chest high, the pressure of the tremendous saline content (almost 40%) pressed us into a horizontal position.  We observed a number of people who took the black mud from the sea and smeared their bodies with it, and after allowing it to dry on them, rinsed it in the salty sea.  Ariel’s comment was, “When in Rome…” and so we took part in that practice.  What a smooth and clean feeling we had after doing so!  Our visit to the Dead Sea was capped off by spending time in a beautiful swimming pool (where the chlorine no doubt counteracted any of the healthful aspects of the Dead Sea mud!).

This is how we do it on the Dead Sea. Everybody floats!

Here are your intrepid adventurers researching the miraculous powers of Dead Sea mud. The hat never looked so good...

Our day ended with a delicious meal of mensaf – lamb that is slowly roasted and then served in a bed of rice with a warm yogurt sauce.  Outstanding, and a way to get to know the other ten members of our tour as well as our two guides, Faisal and Suliman.

Here is our crew of 7 Australians, 3 Americans, a Canadian and a Scotsman enjoying dinner together.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I am a blessed, blessed man.  Al-hamdu lillah (thanks be to God).

A Disappointment…and a Joy

Well, Thursday was the day I had been looking forward to…the day where we would be able to visit with new friends at the Sabeel Study Center in Jerusalem, and hear about the peace process from the perspective of some Palestinian Christians.  So much of what we hear and read in the USA is filtered through somebody’s special interest, and we were excited to have received an invitation to join with Sabeel for worship and study on Thursday afternoon.  We made the preparations…we had gotten a map, we had gone to Google Maps, and we printed out a set of directions.  We left our hotel early, in time to make two important stops:

The Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam

Ariel really wanted to visit the Dome of the Rock, the mosque that is built on top of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, and I was longing to visit the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man who had been lame for 38 years.  I drove the rental car through the windy streets of the old city and even got a parking place.  Later, we got to our car just as a policeman was writing us a ticket for having parked with a tire on the curb.  This guy has obviously never been to Pittsburgh.  But we played the happy-go-lucky tourist card and he tore the ticket up.  Shalom!

So we were ready for Sabeel.  And we left 50 minutes to make what Google was calling an 18 minute journey.  We were in, I thought.  In!

I have driven in numerous countries on four continents.  I have never, ever, EVER been so lost or so frustrated as I was yesterday.  To begin with, Google Maps didn’t account for the construction.  OK, that happens.  Then the map we bought in the city was flat out wrong.  And nearby the Old City, maybe one in five streets had a sign on it.  Tee street signs there are made of decorative and illuminated glass panels, which seems very classy…until you remember that it’s in a part of the world where rock throwing is practically a national pasttime.  Bad Idea, folks.  Bad idea.  We literally had NO idea where we were for 45 minutes.  After an hour and a half of trying to find the place, we gave up.  It was really, really, discouraging.

However, we were driving north – leaving Jerusalem and heading to the Sea of Galilee, the site of Jesus’ ministry for most of his time on Earth.  En route, we drove through the Palestinian Territories (which floors me – that I, a regular guy from Pittsburgh, can come and go at will, while someone who has been born and raised there must have permission to go to Jerusalem or to swim in the Sea of Galilee…I don’t get it).  We passed Jericho, and wound up at our hotel just north of Tiberias.

Beach bums...with a sense of style when it comes to headgear!

What a change!  The air was crisp and clean (although hot – today we registered 46 degrees centigrade as we drove!).  And we just relaxed as we sat around the beach at the Sea of Galilee.  We explored the Kibbutz where we are staying, and found cows and sculpture gardens and friendly faces…It was great.

A quick visit to the Sea of Galilee refreshes a frustrated traveler. I was going to walk,but that is SO 2000 years ago. I decided to try flying instead.

And after a good night’s sleep, we rose to see the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee – a brand new day!  But that will have to wait for another post…for now, celebrate a profound disappointment absorbed into a beautiful day…and hope for great days to come.  Shalom!

How Do You Spell it? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

When we planned the sabbatical, we had anticipated visiting the rain forest and Amazonia in Bolivia.  For reasons not entirely clear to me, those plans washed out and we ended up having the chance to visit the Madre de Dios region of Peru.  As you have seen, that was a clear “win” for us.

An overview of Machu Picchu ("Old Mountain" in the Quecha tongue)

A secondary benefit from the change in plans meant that we could “add on” to our itinerary a visit to Machu Picchu.  I have to tell you, I’ve been writing this name for three months now – in journals, in letters, in blog posts…and I still can’t remember which word gets two “c’s” and whether or not both of the words get an “h”.  It’s a mental block, I guess.  I hadn’t heard much about this “lost city of the Incas” prior to planning the trip, but we soon discovered that it is Peru’s most popular tourist attraction.  We can see why after having been there.

Machu Picchu was inhabited by the Incas in the 15th century.  There are no records of the Spaniards ever having discovered the place – which is not surprising, because it is essentially invisible from below.  There are two main routes into the town of Agua Caliente at the foot of the monument.  One is by foot on The Inca Trail.  This is a favorite for adventure enthusiasts and serious hikers – it’s a five day trek across the old highways used by the Incas hundreds of years ago.  While we bet that it’s amazing, it was not the route for us.  The other way to access the town and the monument is by rail – there is a single line in and out of Agua Caliente that brings tourists, supplies, and commerce to that village each day.

Riding the rails towards Agua Caliente

We boarded our train and headed for the city…and when you see these photos, remember that this city is actually LOWER than our starting point of Cusco (about 3,000 feet lower!).  We descended from the highlands into the jungle and then, at the base of Machu Picchu, took a shuttle bus up a series of switchbacks that led us to the plateau that the Incas had carved out for themselves. This village was entirely self-sufficient: there were agricultural gardens built into the slopes and a spring was diverted into the heart of the community.

We were impressed at the astronomical knowledge of the Inca people.  The Temple of the Sun, for instance, looks out onto a small notch in the mountain across the valley through which the sun rises on June 21 – the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.  Other rock monuments inside the village indicate the shape of the “Southern Cross” and point to the four cardinal directions.

Inside a "classic" Incan arch. Note the way that the stone is fitted together without the use of mortar of any sort.

Another aspect of the visit that impressed us was the Peruvians’ desire to keep the monument as natural as possible.  To that end, there are no bathrooms inside the monument.  There are no vending machines or concessions, either – just a lot of ruins, some trails, and a great many questions.  Just outside the gates are all the conveniences one needs – but within the structure itself, it is remarkably similar to the way that it was laid out when Yale’s Hiram Bingham re-discovered the site in 1911.

We didn’t know what to expect when we signed on for this part of the adventure, but we are delighted to have had the chance to visit this amazing edifice.  We were humbled by the exacting geometry and other scientific knowledge that these people used to develop this city, and left there with an appreciation for the power of human ingenuity and creativity.

More "typical" Inca Architecture; these niches were probably designed to hold idols used in worship services.

You have to admit, this is a llama with good taste in haberdashery!

Hats Off to Santiago!

As we prepare to leave Santiago and head north to the next leg of this journey, it occurs to me that we really haven’t talked much about the city where our adventures are taking place: Santiago, Chile.

If you are the kind of person who wants maps, details, and statistics, you can read more about Santiago and its environs.  We were very surprised by the immensity of this city.  The population of the metro area is about 5.5 million people, which makes it a touch bigger than, say, Philadelphia (metro area of about 5.2 million).  It is nestled between the western base of the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and while I´ve been in large cities before, I don´t know that I´ve been in one that has felt this sprawling.  Mandy and her family live near the center of this metro area, and we have remarked time and time again as to how much time people must spend in their commute.  Every road seems to be congested. The major arteries have three or four lanes for traffic and two for buses and taxis only, and still, it’s always crowded!  Yesterday, as we drove from a shopping center in the north of town to a site in the center of the city, after we’d been on the road for about forty-five minutes, I asked JuanK if we were close.  He looked bemused, and said, “No, not really.” I have never – anywhere – driven for an extended period of time in such traffic.

Santiago at dusk from the hill of San Cristobal

One of the reasons for this may be the fact that if the city has a series of beltways or parkways, we haven’t discovered them yet.  Every trip is marked by endless stoplights and lane changes – which makes driving this minibus a real adventure.    A side effect of the traffic is the tremendous amount of smog that envelops the city each day.  In the photo below, you can see the Andes – just barely.  Chileños have commented as to how nice it was to get out of the city to a place where we could see clearly – as we did the other day, when we visited a park about two hours away.

Another view of town with the Andes barely visible through the smog

Ariel & Mandy at the Rio Clarillo National Park

The Rio Clarillo, simply begging for a trout fisherman...

Uncle Eduardo and JuanK with HALF the meat that was ordered for our party of eight!

Monk Parakeets are an invasive species from Argentina and common throughout the city.

El Zorro - one of two foxes to greet us at the National Park

After telling me that "Being Indiana Jones isn't cheap", Mandy bought me the hat!

No matter what we say about the city itself, we are very grateful for our Chilean family.  Last night Elizabeth and Juan Carlos hosted a farewell party in our honor, and it was a real treat to meet (or reconnect with) so many of Mandy’s family.  There were probably thirty people there, and  while very few in attendance were bilingual, we had a blast!  Delicious food, wonderful beverages, a few speeches, a lot of one-cheek air kissing, and great laughter made the evening truly memorable.  Juan Carlos and Elizabeth have told many of their friends of our visit and this blog, so most of the people there had heard the saga of the yellow hat.  As Ariel said, “You know, nothing rescues a party from a language barrier like a little physical humor!”  We tried to capture some of the spirit of the gathering.  Take a look:

If the hat fits...our South American family gets in on the fun!

So later today, we’ll head to the airport having said hasta luego to Juan Carlos, Elizabeth, Mandy, JuanK, and the rest of our friends and family here.  We’ll get on a plane and head north to Lima, Peru – but more about that tomorrow.  For now, we are grateful for having had this opportunity and eager to see what will grow from the seeds that have been planted.

You know, when I left Pittsburgh, I threw the yellow hat in my backpack because I didn’t want to be another American in a baseball cap viewing the world. And, I thought, maybe, the hat would keep the rain off me.  Who knew that it would be the source of so many jokes and laughter?  Look for pictures of Ariel in it in the days, weeks, and months to come.  And when Mandy caught me eyeing up the new headgear, and threw in a comment about Indiana Jones, well, I thought that it would make interesting fodder for reflection as to who gets to decide who I am.  How wonderful that a part of who I am now includes these memories and this laughter.  I am grateful for the gift of growth and for new opportunities to become a new person.  You´re a part of that, and I appreciate it.  For now, we’ll sign off from Chile and say thanks for your prayers and support.

The Winners in the 2010 Hat Poll