Tuesday, July 31, 2007

An Ordinary Life but with Pasta Muro

Look, no big hole in the front yard!

For those of you that expected to read fascinating experiences about my life in Chile, it occurs to me that you may be disappointed. My sister asked what my days are like and I gave that some thought. My days are surprisingly ordinary in many ways. We never use an alarm-I love that. We get up, have some coffee, turn on BBC, check the web for news and open our email. Generally, we then drive out to Pirque and work on the house. That depends on whatever needs to be done that day. We recently started our pasta muro project, which is a coating for the interior cement walls before paint. Three thin layers are apparently recommended. Pasta muro is similar to joint compound and dries to a plaster-like texture. So, we have been trying to emulate maestro Tio Victor's style as best we can, but very slowly and with more of a mess! It's quite a workout for the arms and wrists, I must say. So much cheaper than a health club.

Our days will revolve around construction for some time yet. There are rainy days at times, although those are dwindling as Spring approaches. The seasons are still confusing to me. I've been told that September or October is Spring, yet this is the time to plant fruit trees! It seems that you have a very short, mild winter but hard to pin down down times for seasons or planting. Maybe I'll make my own gardening in Chile calendar, like those in the US that tell you what day to plant everything! The guy in the parcela(land) next door has a crop of lettuce and this is still winter, so you see my problem. There is basic difficulty in becoming un-regimented since that's what we've done all our lives. Sure, some of that is easy but the whole day?
We try to utilize rainy days for shopping for materials and supplies at Home Center, which gets us out of the house as well as curb the frustration we have at not being able to work on the house. Michael bought a chainsaw the other day and an English-speaking employee actually gave him her card and said to call her anytime. That will allow us to buy more there without bringing Raul along to interpret. Our Spanish skills are improving but the words become unrecognizable to us when they speak quickly(as in normally).

There is also grocery shopping. It takes a little longer if we're looking for something we haven't found before. (See my post on baking ingredients). But, we improve everytime and gradually collect new things for the cupboard.

And fruit and nut tree shopping! We hope to do that soon. Visions of lemons, oranges, tangerines, paltas(avocado), cherry, peach, apricot, almond, walnuts dance through our heads. We have a list with Spanish names for all. We also want two pineapple palms for the pond in the front yard. Although when I mentioned I liked the pineapple palms, that was thought to be a strange name for them.

There are many ordinary activities more time is spent doing that in the States. Preparing meals(from scratch), doing dishes(no dishwasher and because of the humidity, they don't air-dry!), laundry(the funny little clothes dryer takes 2 hours for a tiny load), etc, etc..

Soon, we have to get our 90-day tourist visa renewed. We can go to a government office or travel across the border to Argentina-which sounds much more fun. I'll write and post photos when that happens.
Other various activities may include practicing Spanish, reading novels, playing on the computer, playing cards, watching TV and taking a nap. Helia, Raul and Valentina come by once a week or so for 4-5 hours which includes dinner and conversation and entertainment by Valentina. And she is definitely entertaining.

So, in many ways, it's all very ordinary. But a horse and cart clip-clopping on the street outside or the unfamiliar voice of a bird reminds me it's not ordinary at all. Laura, you're not in the USA.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Things to bring to Chile

Absolutely the most important things we brought were our notebook computers. The internet is just the best source of information. I use it to find baking substitutes and recipes, besides the million other reasons-news, encyclopedia, dictionary, communication....

Small non-electric kitchen items are also great, especially if you have certain special items you love to use. Favorite spices are nice to have too. Some are hard to find and many are hard to decipher because they're named something different here. Someone said cream of tartar and allspice are impossible to find but I haven't confirmed that. I also wish I'd packed a spice rack of some type. The ones here that I've seen come in sets of 4 jars. I was thrilled(go figure) to find a pie pan yet baffled by the spring form cake pan-I'll have to check the internet on how to use them. I haven't yet seen the layer cake pans. I haven't baked much previous to Chile but I find if we want a "real" chocolate cake, that's the way to go. So, even baking is more rewarding and adventurous.

I wish I had brought some of those little bag clips because everything(spices, marmalade, you name it) comes in little bags here and the small clips would be perfect for resealing them. I did throw in a couple for larger ones for chips which are handy, especially with high humidity. When we have more room in the new house, we'll acquire more containers.

I'm really glad we brought paperback books and cards for some of these rainy winter days. And happy to have warm, thick socks and long underwear for working outside when it is cold. The cold can't compare to Montana but 40 degrees and humid is quite cold to me! Sunny and 68 degrees in the winter is a nice relief on the non-rainy days. I also wish I'd brought a couple favorite board games. I have been completely unsuccessful in finding a crockpot, yet have found many rice cookers!

I brought an Ipod from the states and I love it-not so much for music but for the many free podcasts available. I know a few people that brought a Kindle and they love them.

And finding both familiar and new items is all part of the adventure! Chileans have been very helpful-one told me I'd find dark chocolate at Copec(the gas station-not the grocery store or department store) and there it was! Talking to Chileans is essential to the adventure and while you're talking, you'll hear some great stories. There is a lot of superstition here. We were recently told not to live in Pirque because high in the Andes there is a "bottomless" lake (Laguna Negra). When the dam breaks, the never-ending water will pour out and drown all of us! I guess we'll build a boat. Maybe it's easier for them to ignore the earthquakes and concentrate on a lake. Another perfectly sane Chilean told us to beware of the evil eye. The evil eye is the name for a sickness transmitted, usually without intention, by someone who is envious, jealous, or covetous. In other words, a person can harm you, your children, your livestock, or your fruit trees, by looking at them with envy and praising them.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Baking in Chile

I decided I wanted to bake a US style chocolate cake. The cakes here tend to quite dry-it almost seems they bake them very low for a long time. So, I decided to try to find baking ingredients. First I found baking powder, then baking soda. Also vanilla and powdered sugar and baking cocoa. You can see that a non-Spanish speaking person like myself might feel part detective

Bicarbonato is baking soda. Horno de polvo is baking powder. Flor is powdered sugar and chocolate amargo is unsweetened cocoa for baking-there is also a dulce(sweet) version available.

Then we went to Lider, which is something like a Chilean Kmart. Lider has groceries, clothes, shoes, bags and bags of dog food, sets of dishes, shampoo... And I found a rectangular cake pan, a Pyrex measuring cup with both US & metric measures, a loaf pan for banana bread and a pie plate!

And the chocolate cake turned out just fine. I'll make some adjustments on the oven temperature and time next attempt but we were quite happy.


We see these birds all the time around the place at Pirque.

They lay eggs in the grass and are also called the Southern Lapwing. I also found they are related to the Plover/Kildeer family. When they fly, they look completely different, showing a large wingspread and are all black and white from below. They swoop and drift something like seagulls and will announce loudly anyone nearing your property. Watchbirds, if you will!

Expat definition

An expatriate (in abbreviated form, expat) is a person temporarily or permanently resident in a country and culture other than that of the person's upbringing or legal residence. The word comes from the Latin ex (out of) and patria (country, fatherland).

The community of people living here that are from somewhere else uses expat to differentiate us from the native population. As in "Expat get together Saturday at 7 pm" or great website for expats to get information about living in Chile or where ever.

Apparently some believe it has some negative connotations so I just want to clarify the way I use it. Quick and easy slang, nothing more.