Saturday, June 23, 2007

We have windows and doors-and snow!

We have windows and doors! They were all custom built and are made of Rauli wood which is a Chilean cherry-like wood. Roble wood was considered but we're glad that it's Rauli since we were told Roble is oak but it turns out it's not oak at all(rather a type of beechwood). Roble is Spanish for oak so many, many years ago, I imagine a Spanish person named it Roble and that's what it has been ever since. And hence the confusion between Spanish and English. I'm sure beechwood would have been very nice, just the same...

And this morning it snowed in Pirque. The mountains just disappear in this kind of weather-humidity was 100% while generally it's only 85% or so! Snow is rare here so it was quite exciting for many.

No work until Monday when the weather forecast says sun for at least several days. Good news on the electric-another 10 days or so. And the well guy will be out Monday(Lunes).

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Construction Lessons in Chile

It's raining again-'tis the season. But we hope for some more dry days to finish a few things. Uncle Victor is working on the electricity and various other tasks. The septic system work is at a dead halt with the rain-also the water well. But the windows and doors are being installed so I'll take some new photos at the end of the week. Our hope is that we'll soon (2 weeks?) be able to work inside the house... meanwhile, a little background. The house has brick foundation which is covered by cement.-thick sturdy walls. The windows and doors are custom made. A number of "maestros" have been and will be used for different types of work. While Uncle Victor works on the electrical stuff(and today the small wall against which the woodstove will stand), another Victor works on bricklaying & cement work relating to the septic tanks. Nephew Hugo will be building metal tops for the septic, and did remarkable metal work on the front fence. Another guy is a whiz at digging holes where ever needed. It helps to have family connections-someone always knows someone!

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Calefon

The Calefon is used here for hot water instead of the big hot water tank I'm used to in the States. Basically, the cold water flows through coils and is instantly heated. It hangs on the wall, and is, of course, a space saver as well as an energy saver. I saw one at a home show in Colorado touted as if it was a brand new concept!

The great thing about the Calefon is that you never run out of hot water! However, I at first had trouble adjusting the hot water just so. I would turn on the hot water in the shower, then turn on a little cold, turn down the hot, turn up the cold...and so on. But, the cold water faucet is really unnecessary although sometimes desirable. The flow rate determines the temperature of the water so if the water is too hot, turning up the "hot" water actually increases the amount of cold water flowing through(because the calefon can only heat a certain amount of water-if the flow is too high, the water cools off).

So, the answer to the perfect shower temperature is to turn on only the hot until steaming hot, then turn the "hot" up slightly until you reach the perfect temperature for you! And if you like it a little hotter during your shower, simply turn the "hot" water down...You may have a different experience from winter(when the pipes are cold) to summer. But you must start with the hot water and gradually adjust either the hot or cold water.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A couple hours at the mall

It is winter here and that means rain. We're hoping for a break in the weather but are sure the newly built septic tanks look like water wells. So, we went to the local mall to satisfy my curiosity.

The mall looks like any other mall-but different. There were several large stores-Falabella, Paris and Ripleys. And the many smaller stores in between. We found children's coloring books in the bookstore, not the toystore. In one department store, we were looking at a portable CD player and one salesclerk tried to help but soon found we spoke little Spanish. A few minutes later, a young Chilean man appeared and spoke some English. The other sales clerk was quite grateful and he seemed to have a little extra importance in his step because he was able to help the gringos.

Many shoe stores. I was surprised that shoes and clothes are as expensive as US prices, or so it seemed. An electric warming mattress was $100 USD and expensive athletic shoes available as well.

Shopping was limited-I'll have to go on my own to really browse....

Commerce in Chile

Commerce here-wine! Mmmmm. You can find lots of Chilean wine there too. The Pirque house is very close to Concho Y Toro. which is perhaps the biggest and oldest in Chile. The wine here is unbelievably cheap. Fruit-you guys get many of Chile's fruit in the winter too. There are fruit and vegetable stands everywhere you look and stopping there is really fun. We load up on everything for around 5000 pesos($10). Avocados for $2 a kilo(2.25 lbs) but they're much cheaper in season which, I'm told is July(which is deep winter here). Everything else runs $1 to 1.25 a kilo. I've been making soup with all the veggies. They have a few fruits I've never tried-persimmons and pepino(which is the size of a pear and you peel and tastes like melon). Oh and kiwi. There is always fruit, I'm told because they get it from the North(which is desert) and South(which is colder). And nuts-almonds, walnuts. And olives. They have this juice made in Santiago, strawberry and apple the best. Nothing like it that I've tasted, just delicious. And marmalade, very cheap and delicious.

Other commerce is salmon, which is mostly exported-look for it at King Soopers. They also make clothes, just for here I think-haven't shopped much yet beyond the grocery store. The President)Michelle Bachelet)has been setting up trade agreements so I expect more access to varied products. Beef is from Argentina mostly I think. They have no concept of grain fed or feedlots here. The common breed I read can be used for beef or dairy and the owner decides his need! I also read that they are importing some angus beef for restaurants to see if people like it. Beef here is grass fed, which is much leaner but not as tasty as the grain finished beef. We should get very healthy here!

There are many US companies here-Dominos Pizza, ADT alarms, McDonalds, Burger King, KFC/Taco Bell. And they love many US products-they do like to dress pretty much like North Americans but everythings with a twist. Like the pizza has very different ingredients. They love hot dogs-called completos-but with mayonnaise and creamed avocado. Taco Bell has burrito supremes but no nacho chips, instead fries with cheese on it. Only Dorito chips in the store-no other tortilla chips. I can't seem to get enough guacamole with cheap and plentiful avocados & tomatoes. I tried some olive and tomato flavored chips here that they make that were really good. Coca Cola is drunk in every home at every meal-even those that have very little money-don't know how they did that. So, a lot of US business is done here. By the way, they will point out, Chileans are also Americans-you are Norte Americano!

We noticed the Jeep Cherokee we bought here is Canadian made, a little smaller, but gets 38 mpg-the one he had in the states got 22 mpg. Have no idea why yet. His friend is buying a Ford Ranger that is supposed to get 50 mpg. I have heard emissions would make the difference but this Jeep does have a catalytic converter.

Chile Videos

Here is a link that features Michael's daughter Helia in some videos that were done for a tourist site. The rodeo was rather odd to see the first time! Her husband Raul is the one with the hat flying off.

There are also videos for Valparaiso-click on the Destinations box above...

Fruits and Vegetables and other things

The fruit and vegetable stands, which are everywhere(many entrepreneurs) are wonderful. Huge vegetables-the celery wouldn't fit tin the fridge uncut-of many varieties. Tomatoes all year round. Fruits include oranges, lemons.grapefruit, apples, kiwi, pomegranates, avocado, and also walnuts and almonds. We bought lots of nuts(we thought before the season ended) but Helia told us this is the expensive time of year-the local ones be will be ready to harvest in July! Vegetables & fruits seem to run from 100($.20) pesos to 500 pesos a kilo($1 for 2.2 lbs). They get fruit from the North(hotter) or South(colder) year round so it's always available. There is a little fruit stand on the road to Pirque so we stop there often.

I've started making soup with lots of vegetables. Perfect after a day working out at Pirque.

Some interesting things I've learned: You tip the postman but never the taxi driver! Everyone drinks Coca Cola at nearly every meal! On trash days, the trash(in small grocery bags) is put in the elavated trash basket in the front of the house. When that's full, people hand them on the trees or the fence. We weren't sure we had the right day, but there was the garbage truck about 8:30 at night! The yards are almost all fenced with wrought iron fencing and yards kept very neatly, except in the poor areas. The fences keep the stray dogs out(there are many in poor neighborhoods), in this neighborhood, I've seen people even walking their dogs on a leash! Also, there is very little violent crime here but lots of graffiti everywhere(and purse snatchings) wrought iron fences-solid walls are so much better for tagging, I think. The cars are parked inside the fencing too. Some of the graffiti is quite colorful and art-like but mostly quite ugly. There are many small "Mom & Pop" stores in the neighborhoods(two on this block) that sell Coa Cola, coffee, some fruit and vegetables and milk-Leche, which is sold on small (1 liter?) cartons and kept on the shelf-refrigerated only when opened! It tastes strange, partly because it is whole milk-no 1% here! The wine is cheap-Concho Y Toro also on the road to Pirque. Their "Exportacion" Cabernet in a 1.5 Liter was less than $3 and very good.I believe they keep a certain amount aside for the locals.
June 10, 2007

Yesterday, we went to Jorge's house. He drives buses for Transantiago and lives with his wife Nina(Neenya) and 14 yr old(about?) son, Jaime(James). Anyway, it was really fun. These people were just the happiest people and live in a tiny, tiny house. Jorge(who is maybe early 50s) works 6 days a week and drives a 25 yr old Peugeot. The house is clean but the living, dining and kitchen in a space about the size of my old kitchen! I've noticed there is always a large table in dining and kitchen-so big, you can hardly move! The living room area matters little but a huge dining table is important. Jorge speaks some English(mostly from Michael) and Michael speaks his halting Spanish and I could understand quite a bit of what they said. It was weird because we laughed a lot-as if we all understood perfectly. They have little money so we said we'd already had lunch yet they gave me a bottle of wine to take as well as 2 empanadas(kind of a homemade hot pocket). Jaime sat with us and laughed too, he knows some English from school. A younger cousin was also there, just the nicest family. Michael and Jorge have had a running joke about Jorge's wife, that Michael visits her when he's at work(this is from many years back) and it's suspicious that Jaime is tall, like Michael! So, of course, Jorge made a big joke of giving me wine and indicated that maybe he and I could get something going!

Anyway, some lessons in there somewhere about happiness and life and money. I only wish I knew enough Spanish to express my gratitude for their kindness and absolute acceptance. It struck me that someone who knows only Spanish in the US would not be treated so kindly. It's interesting being the immigrant. I worry about my Spanish but Chileans assure me I'll learn quickly. Michael says that's because here they think blonds are smart! Very funny.


We did get our wireless connection...which enables me to write this blog. Sorry, I am catching up on writing some things that have already happened-including VTR coming out and getting our wireless laptops connections online. It took a while and a number of phone calls over a week and a half. VTR insisted many times they were on the way or we were first on the list the next day...eventually being a "squeaky wheel" was the only answer.

We’ve been going to the land daily. The other day we saw one of the many birds that run around on the ground with three babies. But, a few days later, we found the babies dead. Too cold, we were told. Apparently they lay eggs all year round. Often, you find their little brown eggs in the grass.

The view surrounding the Pirque parcella is gorgeous. The Andes loom above it all, and you can see fresh snow on the peaks. The countryside is so very quiet and peaceful here-only a whinny from nearby horses and the song of a bird. I feel like I’m home here. Is it because it reminds me of Montana, where I was born and raised?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Waiting for wireless connection

So much to say but it`s great to be here. I`m on Helia`s computer and it`s hard to work with-old with sticky keys and in Spanish. "Blog mayus" is apparently caps lock and "supr" is delete!! I`ll write more when my wireless is hooked up and can use my own computer! Hope it`s not in Spanish...anyway, I`m safe & sound! It`s 22:03 and we`re exhausted(24 hr clock)-10:03 US!

Had to tell you have at least 20 cable channels that are sometimes in English. There are Spanish subtitles so hopefully that helps me.. One more thing. We actually saw Jon Stewart yesterday. He has his show on Intl CNN. I do recognize some words now. By the way, on the computer start menu, instead of Start it says Inicio...Ahhh, it will be a relief to use my laptop.

Banking and shopping

We went to the bank and waited outside as Helia did her banking, exchanging dollars for pesos and making a deposit. Everything is slow here and patience is important. We made a game of translating signs from Spanish to English, and watching the people. Many study my blonde hair intensely if they think I’m not looking. Helia says I have no eyebrows!

The taxis are black with a yellow top while collectivo(many can ride in one) taxis are all black. Cars are of course, all smaller than those in the US. But I think many in the states wish their cars were smaller with the current gas prices.

Then we went to the mall. Looks like any mall but signs in Spanish. A Radio Shack style electronics store was our first stop to get a transformer. (The transformer blew the breaker and we took it back later). Then the food court. McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King and Taco Bell. The portions are much smaller and cheesy fries are served instead of tortilla chips with nacho sauce. Once again, we made a game of interpreting signs and prices. Life hasn’t been so interesting since I was very young! Now, if my Spanish improves...we'll see if immersion really works!

The rental neighborhood

Bougainvillea and roses still bloom in spite of the impending winter.

As neat as the yards are in this neighborhood, they are the opposite in poor neighborhoods. Graffiti is everywhere and is sometime colorful and arty but more often is ugly. You can almost tell how bad the neighborhood is by the amount of graffiti. The Chileans love bright colors and the neighborhoods are nearly a kaleidoscope. I can see the fences serve many purposes. No one bothers to "tag" an open fence-solid walls are much more fun. The stray dogs are kept out and it's good for security-people love to keep their doors open but robbery and petty theft is a problem here. I'm trying to keep the yard and sidewalk neat like the neighbors. They must think us very strange already.

Little stores everywhere, two on this block. They sell whatever fits in their space-vegetables, fresh Chilean bread(which is almost like rolls), milk (leche) and Coca-Cola which everyone drinks at every meal, poor or not.

The Adventure Begins May 12, 2007

May 12th, 2007

The adventure begins! We’re on a Delta flight to Santiago, Chile. In nine hours, we will reach Arturo Benitez International airport at 7:30 a.m. Much of the flight will be at night so it will feel much quicker., I hope.

May 13, 2007

I awake to see the sunrise over the Andes, the huge peaks, clearly outlined. My heart beats a little faster. Omigosh, I'm really in Chile. We embark exactly on time. We go to pick up our bags and move toward customs. A woman in a uniform asks if we are Norte Americano and directs us to special, shorter line.

After a couple different lines, Helia picks us up in the Jeep Michael had her her purchase for us. How funny to see the Chilean license plates. On the ride from Santiago, there are so many strange plants and flowers along the roadside, yet some are very familiar. Red maples and giant Aloe Vera plants. Helia points out a homemade shrine at the side of the road and tells a story about a woman with a baby in the desert. People made her a saint and now bring her bottles of water. There are hundreds of bottles.

We pull up to the house we rented. It has a wrought iron fence around it and the driveway is inside the fence. It has three bedrooms and one bathroom and a funny little propane gas heater in the living room. It’s quite small, like a 1950s era house in the US. A tiny kitchen, with the refrigerator in a back room off the kitchen-the Chilean way! The yards in the neighborhoods are very tidy and there’s a tiny store across the street.