Pomaire: Clay, Horses, and Pottery
Pomaire is a small town west of Santiago that specializes in clay and pottery. It is one of the smallest towns we visited in Santiago, but it is packed with great sights to see and things to do! We arrived early in Pomaire after about an hour drive outside of the city. I looked around at the deep burgundy red dirt and immediately understood why the town was famous for its impressive clay and pottery. I grew up in a countryside town, so I felt right at home. Although it was chilly in the morning, we all knew that soon the Sun would come up and keep us warm.
Our host was very hospitable and made us breakfast, not a small feat, cooking for 20 people. It felt great getting out of the city because Santiago, a booming metropolitan city, can be overwhelming (and is very polluted). We had warm oven-baked bread with a multitude of jams and spreads. Adding on to the generosity, scrambled eggs were available for those who wanted.
After our scrumptious breakfast, we went out and saw some of the fields where the clay is collected to make the pottery. It was such a surreal view of rich fields and hills infolding against the crisp blue sky. We saw horses, and learned the process of the clay drying before its use in the pottery shops.
After our tour, we came back and it was our turn at the clay! To this day, I always argue that my handful of clay was harder---therefore harder to maneuver--than anyone else’s. But I digress. At first, some of us could not decipher what we were making.
“Too much clay.”
Our pottery teachers guided us step by step at how the clay is supposed to look and feel.
I was a fish out of water; my clay was too firm, too soft, too rigid, but also too smooth---simultaneously. Thankfully, our teachers were very patient and helped us (me) along the way. Afterwards, we had to mold the bottom part of the cup on machine to perfect the shape before the drying process. For me, that part went swell, as I was able to shape my clay into a good sized round-apple-like structure. Since this part of the lesson was done, we carefully placed our precious cups into the box and went to the main market place nearby.
Everywhere we looked, there were furniture, house decorations, and jewelry all made out of clay. It was as if the long street market was an art exhibit, and each vendor was displaying their hard work!
I am so happy that our program included Pomaire into our schedule while we were abroad. The mind-boggling aspect of traveling is the passage of time. Six months is a long time - but then it isn’t. I will cherish these memories of pottery class and will carry them with me wherever I go. Once in awhile, it is so worth it to tread the outskirts of a city and to see how much life there is waiting to be experienced.
Although Pomaire is becoming more and more famous for its exquisite art, it is still beneficial to visit cities and towns that are not marked in a guide book. Sometimes, I rush to get to a new city to explore all that the country has to offer. And you know what I find? I find a trend of cities wanting to transform themselves into metropolitan areas like New York City, Barcelona, and London. While I will walk miles and miles around most any city, visiting art exhibits and museums, I know the importance of looking beyond a guide book and seeing unchartered territory. It is refreshing to meet people who live outside of the city, who have not succumbed to the rush of everyday city life. If you ask me, it seems life moves way too fast in the cities.
I hope your time in Pomaire is as adventurous and inspiring as mine. And if you find yourself in a major city and have extra time, dare to trek your own path into the unknown! You’d be surprised at how much this world still has to offer.
Stephane Alexandre is the Intercultural Immersion Editor for Wandering Educators. A Tufts University student, she just returned from studying abroad in Chile.
All photos courtesy and copyright Stephane Alexandre