Learning Chile's dance

Last updated 05:00 09/10/2012
The Cathedral in the Plaza de Armas in Santiago.

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I seized the opportunity to follow my partner and I now find myself in Santiago, Chile on a working-holiday visa for a year.

I'm no stranger to travel, having lived in Germany for four years, travelling a large portion of Europe and being lucky enough to travel to Korea, Japan and Brazil.

According to my Trip Advisor Map, I've visited 10 per cent of the world.

However, this is an entirely new experience, a new language and a new social environment to adjust to. According to locals I couldn't have arrived at a better time, last September Chile celebrated 202 years of independence from Spanish rule.

The Fiesta des Patricia is celebrated every year over two weeks and includes traditional food, drink, song and dance. The entire country is decorated in the colours of the Chilean flag: rojo, azul and blanco (red, blue and white).

Not decorating your home with the flag is actually an offence, with fines being served for those who infringe.

Traditional foods are heavy and everyone jokes that Chile gets fatter every September as waistlines expand.

With treats like Sopaipilla - a flat circular deep fried 'bread' made of pumpkin and flour; Completo - hot dog with all kinds of trimmings, and empanada de pino - a typical turnover pastry filled with diced meat, onions, olive, raisins and a piece of hard-boiled egg, baked in earthen or plain oven, it's not a surprise,

These items are usually found near a dish of Pebre - a seasoning of tomatoes with chopped onion, chili, coriander, and chives.

Another discover I made while in the thick of celebration was a drink called the ‘Terremodo’ (which is Spanish for earthquake), with a name like that you can expect it to do damage.

It's made from Pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine) with pineapple ice-cream and is served in a one-litre glass. This drink has been designed to make your legs shake as if you’re in a natural disaster.

For the brave there is also a ‘Replica’ (which means aftershock) and a Tsunami (which I haven’t seen yet, thank God).

Song and dance are a big part of any Latin American culture and it’s no different here. Cueca is the national dance and is a re-enactment of the mating ritual between a rooster and a hen.

The men dress traditionally as a huaso (a traditional rural worker) in hat, shirts, flannel poncho, riding pants and boots, short jacket, riding boots and spurs.

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The women dress as huasa, wearing flowered dresses with an apron, usually with the hair tied up and adorned with a flower. Both flirt with each other while waving handkerchiefs to the rhyme of the music.

I did attempt to learn this over the festive period, but I have much more work to do if I’m to keep up with locals.

So far it’s been an interesting experience for the ears, eyes and taste buds.

As I settle into Spanish courses and life in Chile, I am constantly discovering something new and stimulating within the culture and the kitchen. Only six weeks into my year here I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.

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