I got up a little late and left the apartment around noon. I wasn’t exactly sure how to get to Las Ramadas, but noticed a bus a block away that had “Ramadas Directas” scrawled in soap on it’s windows. So I asked the driver and indeed made my way there. In general people seemed more talkative, louder, excited on the bus than my previous trips on busses to Iquique. I faintly smelled stale beer odor. But I didn’t notice anyone on the bus drinking. It was a short ride and in about 10 minutes we arrived.
Las Ramadas were generally what I expected with massive amounts of food and drink. It wasn’t overwhelmingly full of people, but was clearly popular, and had an excited energy to it. More meat smells. More Cueca music. There were some carnival games like shooting wooden ducks with rubber bullets, and tossing pingpong balls into buckets for different amounts of points. It was dusty, like everything else in this place. I imagine it would be an entirely different experience at night (it’s open until 4am), but I’m not sure I’m ready for that. At least not alone. After wandering around a bit, I took a bus back to the business center of Alto Hospicio, and thought maybe I’d find another crowd. But the block with the bank, supermarket, notary, and some government offices felt dead. Usually there are thirty cars vying for the fifteen parking spots. And a few older men hoping to get paid for ushering them in and keeping an eye on the cars while owners are off conducing whatever their business happens to be. But today is was empty. Not a single car or valet in sight.
I walked over to the main plaza which is a block away, and found a small crowd there, but mostly just parents playing with their kids. There was one small tent serving chicha. Nothing more.
So I started to walk home, planning what I might buy for dinner at the market across the street from my apartment. I knew they’d be open, unlike most other businesses, because in the midst of a mad rush of my neighbors buying festivity alcohol of various sorts, I was trying to buy an avocado yesterday and overhead someone ask what their hours would be on the 18th. “Hasta las 8, normal.” The señora replied.
I walked in and there was another lively crowd, mostly buying alcohol. I just needed mustard and some bread. I asked the young man who I think is the son of the family to retrieve the bread and mustard from behind the counter. He passed it to his mother and said it was for the gringa. “Para mi amiga, gringa,” she said to me, and I laughed. Then the son put an empanada on the counter next to me and I told him it wasn’t for mine. “No, es regalo. Hoy es fiesta patria!” Then he put a small glass of chichi by me too. I paid, told them gracias and salud and headed home with my goodies.
I’m now trying to catch up on some writing, listening to my neighbor’s Cueca and still inhaling the entoxicating aromas of meat.