A few weeks (and 4,600 miles) ago, I was packing my two suitcases to come to Chile for three months. Back in those days, I used to have to wear at least five layers of clothing before dashing through the negative degree weather to my car, and my time was spent dreaming about my future life in the Atacama Desert. (Arica has a totally different climate – I literally haven’t been cold once since the MSP airport.) I was so enthralled by the idea of going to Chile that I started packing my bags weeks before my plane was scheduled to leave. Having a two month long winter break with nothing much to do, I didn’t feel too bad about spending multiple hours arranging things in my bags so that it would fit just right. With my plane ticket, I was guaranteed two free checked bags, up to 50 pounds each. My biggest dilemma while packing was whether or not I should bring one of my most prized possessions: my slackline. If you don’t know what that is, here’s a picture:
My dilemma was this: the slackline weighs 7.2 pounds. And I only get 50 pounds per bag (including the weight of the bag itself). That means I was going to have spend almost a fifth of one of my bags on the slack. Hence my struggle. But I decided to follow my heart and bring it anyways because after all, you only Chile once. (Until you go back to visit again later.)
Now that I’m here, I’m realizing that the slack was definitely worth the seven (point two) pounds. I bring it to the beach and slackline between the palm trees at the beach at least once a weekend, and I’ve met a ton of cool people who want to try it out. Saturday night, however, was the epitome of epic slacklining. There was a festival at the beach Chinchorro, kind of like a color run, but without the running part. There was music and color powder and about the entire city of Arica as well. (Fun fact: A few of my friends and I take Salsa classes during the week, and our instructor was one of the MC’s for the event, she was awesome.) I brought the slackline just in case, not really knowing what I was getting myself into.
I decided to set it up near to the stage so I could still see the going-ons of the festival. After walking across a few times, this little boy asked me if he could try it. Before we knew it, all of the children flocked over to try out the awesome new slack. All of a sudden I had like 20 new best friends, who were all about 7 – 10 years old.
So point of story, bringing the slackline to Arica was a good decision. Not only did I get to play with (all of) the children of the city (at the same time), but I’ve also met cheerleaders from the university, waiters and waitresses from the restaurants on the beach, and other random Chileans who happen to be walking by. Although I didn’t realize it when I was packing my bags to come here, slacklining is the perfect way to break the small cultural and language barrier that exists between me and the Chileans. It allows us to not only enjoy the beach side by side, but to enjoy the beach together. Which, although it involves talking in Spanish to people you’ve never met before and can be quite terrifying at first, is actually really cool.