Tuesday, 31 May 2011

One for the dolphins.

Twice this week my attempts to save the planet have been thwarted.   I was in the deli section of Lider buying some ham.  Normally we buy ten slices, which gets wrapped in paper then put in a huge plastic bag.  I thought it would help save some plastic if I asked for fifteen slices of ham.  The lady weighed the ham then disappeared around the corner.  When she returned she had my ham on a polystyrene tray, double wrapped in plastic.  Thwart number one.

Bag packers stand at the end of each checkout and the idea is that you give them a tip for packing the bags.  I’m all for equal rights but bread is not as strong as a can of soup.  Should you tip someone who can’t put the heavy stuff on the bottom and the soft items on the top?  This is not a gringo-grumble.  A few Chileans have agreed with me on the subject.  At least I think they were.  We now feed the items to the cashier in the way we want them packed.  Most of the heavy things go into the backpack that we take shopping with us.

To help reduce our plastic bag usage I asked the packer to put a few more items into each bag.  This was done without hesitation but while my back was turned paying the cashier our shopping was double bagged.  Thwart number two.

On the cerro opposite us we often see camp fires or a circle of people sitting around playing the drums.  We put this place on our to do list and today we made it over there.  This was obviously off the normal tourist path and as such we found some beautiful artwork.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Incase of emergency use the key.

We're always keen to get out and about with the girls.  So when we received an email from our friend from the school telling us about a show at the Jardín Botánico in Viña we jumped on bus 203.  

I’ve given up trying to work out how much a bus ticket costs.  As soon as your foot leaves the road it is acceptable for the bus driver to start driving.  Unlike the buses in Australia, these buses can drive with the doors open. The noise of the road makes it impossible to know what their saying.  There is some weird price system on the window but I’m yet to correlate it to the money the driver takes.
I haven’t paid the same amount twice.  Even for a return journey in the same day there always seems to be some difference.  I give what I think the fare is then I hold out some coins and let them take the correct amount.

When we return to Australia we might open a realistic Spanish school.  Instead of sitting in a class room learning Transportation Phrases, we will put students in a flight simulator with a vacuum cleaner blowing in their face and have them hold on with one hand inches from an open door while sorting through a mountain of coins and uttering, “Two tickets for the Botanical Gardens please.”

The upside is that the bus stops right in front of the gardens and today was free entry.  We meandered about through the cactus garden, had a picnic in the rose garden and found a tranquil place to watch some water birds diving for food.  Whilst wondering through the greenery we came across a fire extinguisher in a cage.  It must have been a dangerous one as it was locked up tight.

We found the children’s theatre show and were thankful that we had insisted the kids wear their new puffer jackets.  Which strangely enough were missing whenever we took a photo of the girls.  Our next business is thermal lined jeans.  Practical and stylish.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Happy Birthday Truce.

How does one celebrate ones fourth birthday in South America?  Naturally one starts the day with presents in pyjamas…

followed by going on all the rides at Plaza Victoria and having an artisan ice-cream…

… and finish with 10 four year olds in our little apartment plus a few parents.  Luckily we had Boris on hand to help explain new games such as pass the parcel and pin the nose on the clown.

Truce had a great day and at 8:00pm wondered why she had to go to sleep instead of playing with all her new toys.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How do you say piñata in Spanish?

Something happens to a mum when their child turns another year older.   There’s the reminiscent phase I remember when you were a watermelon pushing on my bladder to the first time you said my name.  Then there is the planning that would put Kate and Will’s wedding to shame.
Truce is turning four and we for the past two years we have spoken about this magical land called Chile where Truce will cast off the shackles of threeness and become a four year old.
Pass the parcel.  Of course we can organise that.  Pin the nose on the clown?  I don’t see any donkeys so a clown will have to do.  I’m sure I can translate the object of the game to Truce’s pre-kinder class.  A piñata?  Done.  But what of the cake?  Talluah always makes the cake.   This is when the now famous line was uttered, “I thought you packed the Mixmaster.”

A compromise was reached where Talluah would buy cupcakes and decorate the tops of them.  A quick run a round of Valpo brought Talluah to wholesale type store with cups, table cloths on the roll and other catering goodies.  Talluah spied a piping bag and went into the store.
The man behind the counter turned his head, Tenemos una gringa.   We have a gringa.  Our first case of racism.  To make sure his meaning was understood the storekeeper placed the correct emphasis in his sentence and inserted “the look”.
A second person served Talluah and the transaction was carried out.  When everything was paid for Talluah told the first storekeeper that his behaviour was unnecessary.  Not a phrase you find in every phrase book but Talluah is a smart cookie.

As for the store keeper?  Any one who is too dumb to realise that it’s the customer that brings in the money that pays the bills isn’t really worth remembering.  This man is the exception not the rule and of all the people we have encountered while here, he is the only one that is definitely off our Christmas card list. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Beware the snaperazzi.

Truce’s birthday is on Saturday and Talluah is madly preparing for an untold number or four-year olds descending into Cerro Alegre’s own Australian Embassy.  We received a quick run down on what usually happens at a Chilean party and apparently there is an official hot chocolate drinking ceremony.  We don’t even have enough cups for when two friends come round, how are we going to serve hot chocolate to the masses plus their parents?  We will be introducing the all important fairy-bread cuisine to South America.  Any other traditional Australian party suggestions are welcome.

Talluah went shopping this morning to scope out some presents for Truce.  Part of living on the other side of the globe is that family send money with instructions to go buy something nice for Truce.  She saw a lady patting Crazy-Dog and informed her how dangerous he is and that he had dinned on my leg last week.  The lady kept on patting Crazy-Dog and politely suggested that Talluah cross on the other side of the road.

Later in the day Talluah went out with the kids and saw Crazy-Dog and his blonde mate chasing a man.  The man was holding a camera.  After much scientific research we have decided that this maladjusted canine does not like cameras.  As we speak we are preparing a mechanical crash test dummy with a camera around it’s neck to test out our theory.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Once more for the arteries.

Tomorrow is a special day for the school.  We think it has something to do with yesterday’s Navy Day but the point is that Truce has to have white gloves and stockings for tomorrow.  

Like most almost four year olds she doesn’t have any so we headed down to the Plan, which is a ghost town on Sundays except for the major department stores.  They didn’t have any gloves but the street vendors always come through and Talluah found a pair. We also bought the ever important ¾ length puffer jackets for them both.

In preparation for winter we went back to J Cruz M for some more chorilliana.  It’s important to add a few kilos to help keep out the winter chills.  This time the girls left their boarding passes from the flight over here.   We ordered a serving for three thinking the four of us could beat it.  Wrong.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Once it's gone, it's gone.

On this day in 1879, the Chilean Navy lost the battle of Iquique to Peru.  The Chilean Navy regrouped, learnt from their mistakes and eventually won the war.  They commemorate this day with military marching, fanfare and processions.

We went down early in the day but couldn’t get close enough to Plaza Sotomayor to see all the military units parading before the President.  We did however manage to buy some patriotic flags complete with pinwheels.  We were about three hours too early for the march so we headed back home.  We had been advised that the best way to see the procession is to either be seven feet tall or have a front row seat and watch it on TV.  We chose the latter.

Since 1926 today has also been the same day that the Chilean President addresses Congress.  At one end of town we had a parade, at the other end we had a protest.  Thanks to our TV we were able to be in both ends of Valpo at once.  High leg kick marching on one channel and people throwing rocks at riot police on the other.  We’ve been told that this level of protest is uncommon but with two protests in one week we’re being cautious of large crowds.  We even saw our first real, men in black suits with ear piece and Matrix like sunglasses talking into their wrist, Presidential body guards.  Just like Hollywood but with a different accent.

The Chilean government has just given the green light to the Hydroaysén project which would see five dams built in Patagonia and about 6,000 acres flooded to generate hydroelectricity.  Chile is facing an energy crisis and with the recent events in Japan many people are strongly opposed to nuclear power plants being built here.  We believe that the need for electricity should be approached from the other end of the equation.  Instead of trying to create more ways to produce power we should be looking at ways to reduce our consumption.  It would be a great shame to see so much wilderness destroyed.

Patagonia is an environmentally sensitive area overflowing with natural beauty and many people are opposed to the idea of spoiling it for the sake of hydroelectricity.  This, plus students wanting more money spent on public education, was the cause of today’s protest.

The parade is a big event and numerous vendors appeared with paper sailor’s hats, balloons, Barney the Dinosaur riding a bike (I still can’t work out the significance of this but we see them at every event) and other snack merchants.  

The police presence at Plaza Anabel Pinto, the plaza we walk through to get to the Plan, incuded ten riot police with dogs and a tear gas canister on their hip as well as standard police.  The dogs get to wear their own flack jackets.