Friday, 29 April 2011

Scooch on over.

Moving house is ranked as one of the most stressful events in a person’s life.  A natural assumption is that moving to another country must be more stressful.  Our marriage has remained rock solid throughout our transition here.  However, there is something that has destroyed more relationships than lipstick on a collar.

The humble allan key and instructions in a foreign language should be part of any pre-marriage course.  The last time that Talluah and I were tested like this was assembling a computer desk in London some eight years ago.

Our futon arrived today in no less than three boxes.    After awhile you start to miss a few creature comforts and life without out some sort of couch is akin to camping indoors for a year.

A futon such as this one is the same as a giant mouse trap.  Any novice assembler could become a human Frenchfry in seconds.  Now we have somewhere the kids can watch the Saturday morning Spanish cartoons or we can read stories.  We have a slow combustion fire place so in the near future we’ll be able to roast marshmallows from the comfort of our futon.

We have established one rule.  No foodon, no feeton the futon.  © 2011

The next photo translates to Take your rubbish or.  I don’t know why it ends with ‘or’.  Note the bottle top lid that wasn't moved for this sign.  This is on the stairs behind us that lead down to the plan. They're a favourite drinking place and we've been told to only use them during the day.

There does seem to be a grassroots movement to have the residents take more care of Valpo.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

But it looks so close on a map.

Australian travellers have a certain amount of arrogance.  We take great pride in our deadly animals and the magnitude of the country.   You have to drive for eleven hours to get to my sister’s house.  We knew that South America was big but as Australians we looked at the maps and thought, We’re from Australia, we could walk to Buenos Aires.

We’re border hoppers.  It’s too difficult to get a one year visa for the whole family so every three months we have to cross the border to renew our tourist visas.  Our trip to Mendoza was for the benefit of our passports and we learnt just how big South America is.  It was an eye opener for budgeting and travel time.  We’re planning our next jaunt over the border and there are only a few easy places to cross into Argentina.  Peru is 26 hours by bus (or a second mortgage by air), Bolivia’s crossing is a series of goat tracks marked by landmarks.    Turn right where the Sanchez’s farm used to be.

I think that most guide books are written for single or couple travellers but we’ve since learnt that even though children are smaller they are charged the same as adults for bus seats and beds in hostels.  We are in the process of finding jobs for the kids so they can pay their own way.

We chuckle at the common sense approach to safety here.  ‘Litigation’ is a gringo term and I think it’ll be some time before it enters the Chilean dictionary.  This next photo shows a path wide enough for two to walk abreast but don’t lean on the handrail…  

Indiana + scissors + cereal boxes = a new guardian angel to watch over us.

The streets of Valparaíso are like and ever changing canvas.  We see new art work pop up all the time.

Monday, 25 April 2011

What do you mean choclo isn’t chocolate?

Sunday morning, the bells toll an hour before church begins.  Then they ring half an hour before mass with a final ding at the end to say half an hour till mass.  The next peal is fifteen minutes before church starts and there are two dings at the end.  Five minutes before mass the bells strike again with three single dings at the end.  This means five minutes to go. This is when all the locals start running in.  Who can blame them for waiting?  We’d been sitting on the church steps for twenty-five minutes soaking up the sun before going in. 

Our church has two anti-snooze devices installed.  The backs of the pews have a lip of timber running along the top making it painful to lean back.  No maestro would have purposely built pews this way.  I sense orders from higher up.  If the temptation to nod off is still great the kneelers (I’m sure they have a proper name and I’m sure mum knows what it is) are made of hardwood and sloped on an angle that involves a certain amount of constant muscle contraction to stop you sliding off.

The chocolate Easter eggs made everything well again.  Our Chilean Pascua passed without anyone suffering from sugar overdose.  Perhaps the Easter Bunny should purchase his chocolate over the border where they use fresh milk.

This is the fruit stall that operates outside our church.  It’s there every day but Wednesday and Saturday, when everyone is at the feria.  As per normal the person who serves you isn’t the person who collects the money. They use an honesty system where the person who weighs the fruit tells you the amount which you have to relay to the cashier.   With the way the peso works here shopping can be difficult if you don’t know your numbers.  The smallest purchase involves a three-digit number.  A few items of fruit can be CH$680 or CH$1,290 or any other such number.  I’ve said it before but it’s vital to learn large numbers before coming here.

There are certain things you can do in a city where rainfall is a rarity.  Masking tape can be used to create an instant car park in a plaza.  This is only one half of the plaza.  I can imagine the conversation at the hardware store.
I need 600 rolls of masking tape.
¿Por que?
I’m making a car park.

Talluah has whipped up her first traditional dish.  This is Pastel de Choclo.  If you’re like me and you thought it meant a pastry with chocolate you’d be wrong but suitably impressed.  Choclo means corn.  This is a protein rich dish with beef, chicken, eggs, and sugar caramelised on the corn.  It’s very tasty and certainly something that surpasses the old meat pies in Australia.  If you’re in Valpo and you want to learn how to cook this dish, give The Yellow House a call and ask about their cooking classes.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

One flu in the Cuckoo nest.

When school was starting, the street vendors were selling books and other stationery items.  The first cold morning saw all the scarves and beanies come out.  Valentines Day brought out enough roses and hearts to topple the Mills and Boone Corporation.
We find the street vendors are as reliable as any calendar.  We always know what’s coming up next. With Easter only minutes away all the peddlers are pushing chocolate eggs, cloth carrots and surprise packages wrapped in coloured foil.  I assume they have something chocolate inside them but I sense a pig in a poke.

The adage, necessity is the mother of invention took on new meaning when we passed this house.   Many of the people around us don’t have yards or even a garden of some variety. I know that Australians think they invented it but the word barbeque comes from the Spanish language.  It would appear that the Easter weekend is a time for barbeques and those that live on quiet streets can take over the footpath. 

Those that live in a house clad in iron can take a more inventive approach.   Yes, it’s a BBQ out of the second storey window.

A few weeks back we went to the botanical gardens.  Having seen how much Coca Cola is consumed in Chile I have recently bought shares in the company.  All of the glass bottles are returnable and some of the plastic ones are too, but there is the odd one that goes towards a more green use.

Our neighbour fumigated her apartment and since then Indiana has been getting bitten by something during the night.  Indy sleeps on the lower part of a trundle bed and we had a chat to the maestro about putting some legs on the bed.  We mimed and conversed in Spanish and he agreed to fix the bed.  Over the next few days we heard the word mañana used with each greeting.  Today was D-day.  He carried the bed downstairs and we listened to lots of power sawing going on.  A power saw to attach legs?   Perhaps we should have drawn a picture.

Thirty minutes later her carried the bed back up with the legs attached.  He’d sanded the edges and gave us the receipt for the materials plus the cost of his labour.  Without any of my tools there is no way I could have down a decent job for the same price.  It’s the first time we’ve ever hired a handyman to do a job for us.  It feels a bit elitist. 
We’ll see if Indy survives the night without being bitten by anything. 

This is Charlie Brown.  From what we can gather it’s either a Day Care Centre or an indoor play centre.  I’m trying to work out if it’s the naughty kids or the good ones who get to use this slide.

A few things that you might not know about dogs.  They like to read newspapers.

All dogs have a guardian angel, you just have to be lucky to capture it on film.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Let it rain.

Today brought with it the second lot of rain that we’ve seen in ten weeks. The rainfall is so low in Valparaíso that we didn’t bother to bring any specific wet weather gear.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but Talluah had to get across town to work a shift at The Yellow House for the busy Easter weekend period.  Indy and Truce both have a cough and sore throats.  At one o’clock we stared out the window watching Talluah dodge the rain drops we planned our activities for the day.

By 1:15 we had learnt there are certain games that cannot be played in a one-bedroom apartment.  Hide and seek sounds great for a dark rainy day but by the time we’d all had a turn hiding behind the curtain the game had grown boring.
We’ve been saving our cereal boxes for just such an occasion and the girls and I constructed a few buildings to go in a yet to be built city of the future.  Another aspect of being in a one bedder is that there is limited space for cities of the future to be located.
The maestros downstairs turned into the maestros upstairs.  We listened to them traipsing around in the roof cavity.  There is a lot of wasted space up there and with a little bit of work could be the attic where so many stories have begun.  Rainy day, bored child wanders into the attic, dusty trunk in the corner… 
A few minutes later the maestros came down and proceeded to tell me what they were doing in the attic.  When you’re learning another language there are certain phrases you learn first, Where’s the bathroom?  How much does this cost?  Is it contagious? and so on.  Discussing why someone is in a ceiling cavity is not in any phrase book I know.  I caught the words for roof and water.  Putting two and two together I told him that in the two times that it’s rained here we’ve never had a leak.  He pointed to above the kitchen sink.  Ok – so we have a leak.  No leaving the laptop on the table tonight.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Incredible generosity.

Truce has the flu, nothing major just an everyday common cold that we are treating with lots of rest, water and Euky Bear Rub. This is probably a by-product of travelling in inconsistent air conditioning on the way to and from Argentina.  She’s off school until her nose stops exploding, which will hopefully be soon thanks to our maestro. 

There is a studio is being fitted out downstairs by two maestros (carpenters). This afternoon they came up to our apartment to look at a few things for us.  While they were visiting they said they had heard Truce coughing and asked if she was taking any medicine.  When I told them of my water and rest method one of them decided to intervene.  He sent his mate down to retrieve a packet of unopened herbs, which had a picture of some lungs on it and said herbal. 

After a few minutes of mime and some very slow Spanish I finally understood his basic instructions to make her a tea with the contents of the packet.  At this point I don’t think he was satisfied that I knew what I was doing so he grabbed a cup from our shelf and poured in some herbs, directed me to add hot water to the top and a spoonful of honey. The remedy reminded me of the many potions Indiana used to concoct in our Aussie backyard. 
When he had left I tried the tea and waited a while to make sure I wasn’t going to poison my youngest.  Half an hour later Truce was screwing her face up as she reluctantly drank the hot liquid. 

I have no idea if it will help, as Ricky pointed out it’s more fluid so that can’t hurt.   But a few hours later it struck me the extreme generosity of this man, a complete stranger.  Not only did he give us the full box of herbs but he took the time to care.