Saturday, April 21, 2012

Talcahuano, Bio Bio, Chile.

Geography lesson. And story.

This is my favorite place in the world. Talcahuano, Chile.

Talcahuano is a port city and commune in the Biobío Region of Chile. It is part of theGreater Concepción conurbation. Talcahuano is located in the south of the Central Zone of Chile.

Together with ten other municipalities, it forms part of theConcepción Province, which in turn is one of four provinces that forms the VIII Region of Biobío Region.

The official foundation date of Talcahuano is November 5, 1764 when Antonio Guill y Gonzagadeclared an official port. However, Talcahuano began to appear in history books as early as 1544 when Genoese captain Juan Bautista Pastene discovered the mouth of the Biobío river while exploring the coast in his ships “San Pedro” and “Santiaguillo”. In 1601 Alonso de Ribera built Fort Talcahueno to defend remaining Spanish settlements near Concepción.
The city is named after an Araucanian chief, Talcahueñu, who inhabited the region at the arrival of the Spanish. In Mapudungun, the language of the indigenous Mapuches, Talcahuano means “Thundering Sky”.
The port was well known to American whaleships of the 19th century. They often put in for fresh water, food, and various forms of entertainment for the crews.

Okay, so I was in this area of my mission for only 6 weeks. In that short time, I fell in love with the people, with the city, the landscape, the view of the bay of Talcahuano, everything.

Our little house was on top of one of the big hills, about twenty or thirty flights of stairs up from the the Plaza at the center of town.  We made this climb two or three times every day.

They moved me out of Talcahuano after having been there only one "cambio" or transfer.  They wanted me to be a zone leader in the south, in a town called Canete.  I wasn't super keen on leaving my favorite place in the world...

But, I left anyway. It was where I was called. I wasn't going to refuse the new responsibility. But, I did on occasion, find time to visit Canete as much as possible. 

Once, with my new companion, Elder Gifford (American, from Utah), we had to go to Concepcion for a Zone leader conference.  We decided to leave the night before, and spend the night with the Elders in Talcahuano Centro, where I had previously been.  

There had been some extra mattresses at the house in Talc Centro, so I figured we'd just crash there, and continue to the meeting the next morning.  I visited members that night, ate lots of food, had some good laughs.  Around 10:00 that night, we headed up the huge hill to the house. When we arrived, we discovered that the new guys there had lent the mattresses to some members down the hill, who apparently had some family visiting from Santiago...

So we had to hoof it back down to the centro, get the mattresses, and hike them up the 20 or 30 flights of stairs, at which time was now about...eleven or so at night.  For some reason, that night stuck with me. I'm not sure what it was. But I remember the feel of the cool, humid air, the smell of the green verdant hills, and the lights from the city and the boats in the bay.  Each of us had a mattress on our backs. It would have been a funny sight indeed, two missionaries with white shirts and ties, in the middle of the night, carrying mattresses up all these stairs.  

Almost to the top, I asked Elder Gifford if ever in his life he could have imagined that he'd be in this situation. He laughed, and said, "no way, man."  

I miss it sometimes. I miss the simplicity of the life down there, the warmth and hospitality of the Chilean people.  I miss seeing the dimly lit streets and alleyways in between the hills, and how everything was so green. I miss the feel of the cobblestone streets under my worn out shoes and feet.

That may have been one of the few places in my life, where I felt like I belonged.  That may have been why it was so hard to leave the area, and even more difficult to leave the country.  

I'm hoping the green rolling hills of North Dakota can bring me some feeling of home, and do some justice to the south of Chile.  

Half of my heart will always be there. I hope I never get it back.  

The Oilfield Romantic

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