Wednesday, 30 March 2011

If I could turn back time.

There is a perception that South America is very relaxed.  And to a degree it certainly is.  Daylight savings was a heated topic for Queensland, Australia some time back and required a referendum to show that people don't want their curtains to fade.

Here in Chile we are suffering the downside of Daylight Saving Time.  Summer has truly finished and after I walk Indiana to school I turn around and watch the sunrise at eight o’clock in the morning.

The end of DST in Chile was supposed to be March the 12/13th but the Government is concerned about a possible energy crisis so this date has been pushed back to May 7/8th.  There is a belief that with less night time the energy consumption is reduced and the crime rate is also lower.  The power that we’re not using at night we use when we turn the lights on in the morning to find the kid’s socks.

Talluah went out to the Wednesday fruit and veg market on the trolley bus.   The bus stopped suddenly and Talluah wondered why because no-one had pressed the button.  The driver jumped out and ran around to the back of the bus.  You’ll have to excuse my use of scientific jargon here.  The thingys that hook onto the electric wires had jumped off and the driver had to lasso the thingys back in place.  There was a line up of trolley buses waiting as they can’t overtake each other.

The immersion method has worked for Truce.  While the girls were doing their homework (Truce is very indignant if she doesn’t have any homework) Truce pointed to a picture of the moon and said, “La luna.  Aughh!  I can’t remember what you call it in English.”

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Death by chocolate.

At the foot of Cerro Bella Vista is the Museo a Cielo Abierto.  If you’re learning Spanish and want to guess the meaning, block your ears because I’m going to tell you what it means.  The Open Air Museum is around twenty years old and consists of murals dotted along four streets of Bella Vista.

We can’t comment on the level of art work that was in Valparaiso during the 1990s but what we saw today doesn’t really compare with the random surprises that we’ve encountered while meandering about.  
These are some of the more vibrant murals. 

We’ve been putting up various posters to advertise our English Teaching website . English Opens Doors or Inglés Abre Puertas is the Chilean Government’s tagline for wanting more Chileans to learn English.  Taping signs to poles is a regular practise here.  We often see “Rent for room” signs – yes there is a need for English teachers here.  With almost nil rainfall you know that the sign will last for a very long time.  While we were putting up one sign an elderly gent stopped to watch us.  A potential customer?  Judging by the velocity of his Spanish and the different directions he was pointing we decided that he wouldn’t be participating in any private tuition.

Most of our posters go on university notice boards and other designated places for public announcements.  And we only use posts that have already been used in an attempt to keep our visual pollution to a minimum.  Perhaps the man was telling us to bugger off to our own country or perhaps he was annoyed at flyers being taped to lamp posts.  This was one of those times we were glad that we aren’t fluent.

It’s taken a month but the girls finally have their sports uniforms.  I think they’re made from left over material from a polar expedition.  We’ve decided that if it gets too cold we’re going to sit outside the uniform shop and wait for offcuts to be thrown out.  It’s been a hassle for the past four weeks as the school has a strict uniform policy, Indiana and Truce have had to take a change of clothes on the sports days and change before PE and back into their uniform before leaving school.

It’s funny what food brands are over here.  We’ve found Bega cheese direct from Oz and also Milo but we don’t think it comes from Australia.  The consistency is different.  The other day I was feeling a bit low on sugar and thought I would have a Milo.  I opened the tin and thought how fine and bland the powder looked.  Then I mixed it with cold milk and stirred and stirred but it wouldn’t dissolve. 
I almost choked as I breathed in chocolate dust while drinking.  I cursed all Chileans who worked in Milo factories and wondered how the Australian government could let Milo be made in such a crude way.  This is the national emblem of Australia we’re talking about here. 
Later on when my lungs had become moist again and I was able to speak, I told my story to Talluah when she told me that Milo is too expensive to buy here so she just refilled the tin with chocolate drinking powder, the type that is meant for hot water.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Expressions not found in our phrase book.

This is a city with a very low rainfall.  This doesn’t stop the arrival of unidentified fluids appearing along the footpath.  We’ve coined some of our own phrases that we use for various situations but you can imagine how cute it was to hear Truce shout, “Look out mum, mystery liquid.”

People set up stalls of all sorts on the footpath.  They lay a blanket down shuffle their goods about then wait for the customers to walk by.  We’ve had keys cut by someone who set up a machine under a tree, books laminated and purchased a sewing kit.  You never quite know what you’ll see for sale as you walk about and invariably these products are cheaper than what’s in the shops.  It does mean that you have to be constantly thinking about what you might need in the future because you don’t know if you’ll see that particular vendor again.  Or you may see them again but the next time instead of selling fleece socks they’re selling cutting boards.

Talluah experienced the irony of this intuitive shopping.  She spent three days looking for a dairy for me to use for classes.  Just a basic diary.  She tried the supermarkets and book shops and eventually settled for a normal exercise book and lovingly ruled up the pages into a diary for me.  The next day there was the blanket with every type of diary known to man sitting on it.
Street vendors are allowed to hop on buses whenever they please, sell their wares and then get off at the next stop.  Sometimes they can do all their transactions while waiting at the traffic lights.  Products range from ice-creams, to pens, nuts, socks and Band-Aids.    
We bought a slab of milk today.  Twelve, one litre containers in a box.  They cost CL$525 each.  I told Indiana that I’ll give her a map and she can ride the buses selling milk for CL$600 a litre.  Her response was, “But where are we going to get a cow?”

Everyone tells us to be careful and warns us about potential crime.  A little while ago our neighbour had her back pack stolen as she rolled it off her shoulder to get her keys out.  Apart from that we’ve seen no evidence of crime. 
A friend of ours was walking down the street when he felt a spray of goo land on his back.  Immediately a kindly stranger offered to help wipe it off but our friend was savvy to this bird poo ploy and immediately guarded his wallet.  Apparently it’s a common trick used by pick-pockets to distract you while they relieve you of any valuables. 

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Allergic to the water, you say?

There were many things that we prepared for before coming here.  We learnt some Spanish phrases, had our vaccines and bought travel insurance.  One thing that we weren’t ready for was living in an apartment.

Suburban living on the Sunshine Coast has spoilt us for space.  Unlike here, our floor is not someone’s ceiling.  The house we’re living in is a little over a hundred years old and has been modified to have three self-contained apartments.  A very typical thing to do here in Valparaiso.  The place isn’t haunted because when ever something goes thud we know it’s one of our kids.  On the first day that we moved in here the person below us told us she could hear every time we moved a chair.  Obviously we can’t walk around with sponges tied to our feet but we are still acclimatising ourselves to living in such close proximity to our neighbours.  I’m sure our Australian neighbours can verify that we’re a noisy family and we need a buffer between us the next dwelling.

The door does swing both ways though.  With the carpenter of the dwelling long departed and the warranty perhaps expired, we have to put up with the smell of the downstairs fireplace coming up through the floorboards.  We assume it’s their fireplace we can smell, although we do get the munchies in the middle of the night.

This is the first place we’ve been in where, on a windy night, the draft comes up through the floor.  We’ve stuffed bits of tissue in-between some of the larger gaps.  It’s a strange sight to see the curtains moving when the windows are closed.

Indiana has started her own business venture.  Like all childhood businesses there is a high amount of expenditure expected from the parents.  She has some body art pens and has drawn a sign, in Spanish, offering body art for CH$100.  We sit out on the boardwalk to the ascensor and she holds her sign up while all the passengers walk along.  I try to paraphrase from Robert Kiyosaki’s books and maintain a nurturing attitude on the pros and cons of running a business and starting a billion dollar empire on the streets of Valpo.  We certainly admire her courage to have a go.  Who knows were it may lead to?

And Talluah’s allergic to the water here.  Can’t take her anywhere.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Is this the bus to Argentina?

Dineros are starting to enter the Chilean Harper household.  I’ve started teaching with an emerging institute.  Class numbers are lower than what I’m used to working with but adaption is the nature of the game when teaching.

I’m the native speaker for the institute and my favourite part so far has been telling each class that I won’t answer any questions that they ask me in Spanish.  Slowly through the lesson I can see the change in their attitude as they realise how beneficial it is for them to be thinking, speaking and listening to English.   There was one student who missed my first class and the look on her face as the rest of the class told her (in Spanish) that I wouldn’t speak Spanish with them was priceless.  ¿Él no entiende español? 

We haven’t stayed out past sunset yet.  We’ve found that it’s too long of a day for the girls if we do.  The other night I taught a night class and came out at 10:00.  It’s the first time I’ve seen the city after hours.  I walked the long way home to avoid a set of stairs we’ve been told to only use during daylight hours but the city is so well lit up with street lights I saw the same activities at ten o’clock at night as I do in the day time.  People were sticking ‘rooms for rent’ posters on poles, dogs roamed around and artists were even sitting in doorways sketching streetscapes.

There are different reactions when people know you’re not fluent in Spanish.  Some shopkeepers will show you the price on a calculator instead of repeating the amount while others will correct your mistakes at a speed easy to comprehend.  We’re slowly breaking into the circle of mums who wait at the school.  They’re all happy to smile at Indiana and Truce but are unsure what to say to us.

Truce is learning more Spanish than she realizes.  She’s been singing a song in Spanish.  We have no idea what it means but she’s happy to sing it.  When the teacher says her name she has to answer, “Estoy aqui.”  I am here. 

When old powerlines are finished with they’re usually left hanging on the pole.  We assume they’re no longer live but it’s better to be safe than sorry.  We’ve had many conversations about the dangers of electiricty.  This must have filtered through to Truce’s train of thought because as we were walking upstairs to our apartment we passed the internet router.  Truce saw the flashing lights and asked what it was and I told her it’s for the internet.  She asked if she could touch it and I said it’s best not to.  She then said, “Because we might get internet in us.”

Thursday, 24 March 2011

On our way to school.

A three hour cruise.

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a man who was made to sit for three hours at the Ministry of Education. 

While I was nursing an ear infection, if you ever need to make a hot pack a sock and some rice works, Ricky attended a meeting on behalf of Indiana.  We didn’t know until after but the meeting was to formalise her enrolment in Chile.  The extremely helpful bilingual vice principal from the girls’ school took Ricky by bus and sat with him for the entire three hours.  Lets just say that after waiting that long together they are now quite good friends.  In just five minutes all the signing and stamping was done and they were free to go.

When doing your weekly fruit and veg shopping at the markets people warn you about many things.  Don’t pull money out and be extra careful with your camera.  What they forgot to warn me about are the vendors who give you 50 ten pesos coins for change so they don’t have to count it later.  Luckily I had my wits about me, never go anywhere without your wits, and I bought the next thing on my list from his partner and gave them all back in return for a kilo of apples.

Take 2 on the visa application today for Ricky.  He came home with news that one word in his contract was incorrect and therefore the steps in the visa process of contract, photos, notary, and visa office would have to be retraced.  He had even remembered his best smile.

In two weeks Indiana has learnt numbers 1 - 100, the ABCdario, a completely different style of cursive writing and the word for boyfriend in Spanish.  Truce has learnt the hello and goodbye songs.