Musings from Chile
Merilee Mostov, CMA’s Manager for Creative Initiatives, recently spent one week in Chile as part of a cultural arts exchange through the Ohio Arts Council’s International Program. As an arts educator at the Columbus Museum of Art, she was asked to work with the directors and programming staff of Teatro del Lago, a new cultural and educational performing arts center in Frutillar, a lakeside town in southern Chile. She spent one week touring schools, galleries, and libraries in the region to better understand the role of the arts in this region. She and the staff shared ideas and worked to develop arts educational strategies that will be implemented through Teatro del Lago. Merilee shares some thoughts from her trip below:
Always go left and look down. Those are the two most important things I learned while visiting Chile last week during a cultural exchange sponsored by the Ohio Arts Council. My pre-trip Google searches and stacks of guidebooks on Chile did not prepare me for the most important rule in Chile — the “Go Left Rule”. The “Go Left Rule” goes like this – when greeting anyone – friend, business acquaintance, or relative — lean in to your left, brush right cheeks and give a swift air kiss. I knew I was going to like the Chilean people after my first one-sided greeting. In France, I’m never quite sure how many cheeks it will take for a proper and polite greeting. Depending where you are in France it could take 2, 3 or even 4 cheeks before the greeting is over and I have whiplash. In Chile, it is simple and consistent. I like that.
The other thing I didn’t gather from my pre-trip reading was the “Look Down Rule”. The “Look Down Rule” means this — always look down because you may trip over a stray dog or even worse– the piles left by stray dogs. Stray dogs are everywhere in Chile – in the newer business districts of Santiago and in the quaint lake side villages of the south. In poor communities and wealthy communities. Stray dogs are curled up by park benches, under parked cars, outside your hotel room and under your table at an outdoor cafe. It is not unusual to see stray dogs walking confidently down city sidewalks. Where are they going? I wonder. The weird part is that the stray dogs are not mangy, undernourished, teeth-barring canines. They are mostly cute, docile and considerably plump. Who is feeding and bathing these creatures, I wonder? I admit that in one week I saw many signs that Chile is on the fast track to economic, political and cultural progress. But I believe that this beautiful country tucked in the Andes has got to clean up its stray dog crisis if it wants to be taken seriously by its neighbors up north. So, if any motivated young college students are looking for an alternative spring break project next year – head down to Chile please, and set up some dog shelters.