The Cautious Tea Drinker
15.07.2008 - 15.07.2008 6 °C
I was invited to see the Ruka from the inside and then the most bizarre thing happened. The Mapuche guy called Ambroachar asked me to describe his house in my mother tongue (See video - to be uploaded later)
After that, I was asked if I wanted to drink any tea. My natural caution was ever present, so I said yes, but didn’t want to the the person to take the first sip. We went inside his normal house (not the ruka) and something herbal called Mate was presented to me in a very ornate looking silver pot. Sticking out of the opening of this pot was a straw. Not any straw but a metal one. I was instructed quite firmly, not invited, but instructed to suck the tea through the straw. I looked around me to judge the reactions.
Manuel, the guy that accompanied me seemed to think it was ok
Ambrochar the half Mapuche gue was looking like he might be deeply offended if I didn’t drink any.
His wife, whose name I forget had made the tea and appeared ready to make another brew, once I’d finished the first.
Finally, there was Jonathan, the Mapuche son. He was around 20, and didn’t seem all that bothered about whether I had the tea or not.
I couldn’t do it. What if the tea was an aphrodisiac, and I started humping my guest’s coffee table. What if it put me to sleep and I woke up the next morning with my possessions gone and one of my limbs missing. I just couldn’t do it. There were 3 pairs of eyes on me, all willing me to take a sip. Rather than risk fate or death, I said to Jonathan:
“I’m Indian.. We can’t eat until the youngest person has eaten first”
It was complete bollocks obviously, but if I was going down, their son was coming with me.
Jonathan took a sip. I glanced at his mother checking for signs of panic. But there were none. I looked across at the father, who still had a slightly demented look in his eye.
Manuel was egging me on.
Jonathan passed the cup back.
I don’t know what herbs there were in there, but I did begin to feel a little mellow. To cap the experience, Ambrochar, pulled out a strange comb-shaped Mapuche instrument called a “Trompe” and pressed his lips against it whilst flicking one end of the instrucment with his finger (See vid)
I was all a bit surreal. But I was glad to be able to the story of how I experienced something of an ancient culture without asking for it, without the help of a guide or book. It will stay with me, I hope, for a long time to come.
Evening – Returned back to Temuco. Dinner in a fancy restaurant. Some coffee with my hosts at Hostal Francia before heading back to Santiago on an overnight bust to meet my travelling companions for the next 20 days.
Even though I was alone for the first leg, I’ve never really ever once felt alone. If ever I’ve needed company, I’ve found it. The Chilean people, I concluded were quite friendly.
...Next -- The Return to Santiago.