First Impressions: Chile

I could fall in love with any city whose first impression is made in the morning. The wide-open streets like the open-mouthed yawn of a city waking up. Your senses are awakened to the newness of it. Crumbling building facades juxtaposed with shining modern glass feel more like a balance of progress and nostalgia than they would in broad daylight, a soft contented sigh of having it all, rather than losing one thing and not yet having gained another. Pristine waters of a river or a fountain reflecting soft morning light that masks the pollution of discarded trash, a behavior not yet overcome, and the industry of economic growth. Verdant parks nestle along or between city streets and breathe free from loiterers.

You might see this in any city, anywhere in the world, as globalization blurs the lines between one place and the next, smoothing out the uncomfortable differences that define a place. But in the morning, the city is free from the choking flurry of humanness—ambition, despair, anxiety, complication, growth. In the morning, the city is itself something to know. A distinct being, free from the insufficient filter of communication, the discomfort of self-awareness one feels only when with other people. Taking the place of cultural difference that might cause confusion between two people, the city becomes itself in the morning, and you speak and listen unencumbered.

I sit at the base of the fountain in front of the small Iglesia Nuestra Senora de Los Angeles, a few blocks from my hotel in Santiago, Chile. The morning is cool, but the sun is beginning to rise over the mountains forcing me into the shade. A woman leads an elderly lady across the street into the church to pray. A father pushes a baby in a stroller, their golden retriever walking faithfully alongside. A young couple on bikes passes, their spaniel off-leash runs ahead of them. A personal trainer leads a young woman in spandex through a series of exercises.

I could be home. But I am here.

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