I have to be honest. There is not a whole lot to "do" in Iquique in the summertime. Unless you want to waddle shoulder-to-shoulder with hundreds of tourists in the duty-free mall. Or swallow an ice cream cone whole before it pools in a puddle at your feet downtown!
Most locals leave the city when the population explodes with visitors from the capital and from across Chile's borders. The lucky ones flee to the south, where verdant green relaxes the eyes and summer breezes are cooler and snow can still be seen on the highest mountaintops. Others endure the stifling temperatures of Santiago for the sake of time with family. In years past, we have done both.
This year, though, it was our turn to stay.
I'd like to say that I've made my peace with having a singular outlet for family fun: the beach. However, that wouldn't be completely true. I still long for lush, green parks with cool, shadowy trees. I yearn for the pleasure of an air-conditioned children's museum. I fight jealousy when my sister stateside tells me of the latest kids' program at the Y, or my sister in Santiago explains the excitement of Kidzania and my own kids clamor to go.
The truth is, I do love the beach. I love to gaze at the glimmering waves from my bedroom window. I love to breath deeply of the sea air. On nights when the waves are strong, I love to hear the surf smashing far below us. While driving, there are still times when I crest a hill and catch a glimpse which makes me gasp again at the expansive beauty of the ocean.
However, I don't love to "be" at the beach. It's hot! It's sandy! It's hard to find parking! It's a lot of work to prepare! And then afterwards, you have to clean up! This year, our family embraced local customs by purchasing a canopy under which we can set up a table, chairs, and stay further protected from the sizzling UV-intense sun. It's great once we've sweated everything into place, but when the day is done we have to sweat everything home again.
Yet despite all my reservations, I have to admit there is something the beach offers once we are settled that we seldom find elsewhere. It is so peaceful. There may be hundreds of other people but with the breeze blowing and the waves crashing and the children laughing, it feels like we are in a world of our own. We may be less than a mile from home and work, but both seem light years away. Our cell phones might ring, but even modern technology can't seem to break the spell.
And our church family in Iquique has taught us the very best part. There is something special about staying until the sun begins to set and the day begins to cool. In fact, some of our friends only ever seem to go to the beach at day's end. That's when conversations linger and sandwiches are shared with a cup of tea in hand. It really is wonderful.
So ... "summer days and sweet fellowship" ... I guess I couldn't ask for more. (Thank You, Lord!)
(pictures from a recent family day and church fellowship night at Playa Huayquique)