Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Silence Is Golden in Castro, Chiloé

For lunch today, the hotel receptionist recommended a small restaurant near Castro's town square.

I made my way there and easily found the place, but it was mobbed, every table taken. There was a small round table for three out on the patio, but it had the remains of someone else's lunch still on it. One of the waiters motioned me over there anyway, mumbling something about clearing it, but I sat in front of a pile of dirty dishes for at least ten minutes before someone came to clear them away and take my order.

Meanwhile, a young man came in, carrying a yellow plastic bag. He hovered near my table, which put me on guard, but the waiters all greeted him as if he were a regular there. Next thing I knew, he said something to me that I had to ask him to repeat.

"¿Puedo almorzar en su mesa?" Can I eat lunch at your table?

Surely, I hadn't heard him right. In four years, I had never been asked to share a table at a restaurant in Chile. Most Chileans would be too polite, too embarrassed, or too timid to ever do so, but this young man was flaunting tradition. I nodded my assent and he sat down.

I had just spent yesterday touring around with another guest from my same hotel who had been Chatty Charlie. After that, I wasn't looking forward to a gabby lunch companion today, but I needn't have worried. Except for ordering, "Hector" was silent, scarfing down bread and double-dipping it into the spicy pebre. I tried not to think about any floating germs, as I tried to eat the pebre around the edges of the bowl.

In the end, we did talk a little. He was a Socialist from Santiago, here for work, who was curious about my political views. I think we were both surprised when we found some common ground. We raised our voices, but only so that we could hear each other over the guitar player to my right and the loudspeakers that blared Latin jazz on the other side.

He finished before I did and, as he left, he reached into his yellow bag and laid two apples in front of me. "From my tree," he said.

Silence is golden, but meeting new people is priceless.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting story about your lunchtime experience! It's always interesting meeting people when you travel, isn't it?