Thursday, 29 September 2011

Something smells fishy.

Halfway between Valparaíso and Viña is the Caleta Portales fish market.  The easiest way to get there is on the metro, which stops out the front of the markets.  The markets are currently being renovated by the government but are still open for business.

When you think of flower markets, fruit markets or spice markets you automatically divide the experience between the sense of sight and smell.  Fish markets smell like fish.  The Portales markets are clean but fish is fish.  My parents owned a bait business for over thirty years and for me I felt like I was fifteen years old, packing fish to earn some pocket money.

There was a real variety of seafood to choose from and every bit as colourful as a flower market.  Incidentally, the Spanish language has one word for fish that are alive, pez and one word for fish that are dead, pescado.

Perhaps the real treat is out the back of the markets where you can watch the fishermen repairing their nets and attaching new floats – glass bottles.  Further down is a jetty with pelicans sitting on the railings and sea lions underneath.  Just waiting.  Two women brought out a drum of fish offal and scraps.  The pelicans and sea lions knew who these women were and what they were carrying. 

As soon as the first piece of fish hit the sand a sea lion was right beside it.  Within seconds there was pushing and shoving as the pelicans tried to grab their share of food.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Back home.

Just a quick blog to say that Talluah is back home now.  She feels a bit battered and bruised but is alive.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

If your appendix is at the front, where is your index?

It started in the early hours of Friday morning with many visits to the loo and Talluah cursing the crab empanada.  The maker of the crab empanada was also cursed, as was the person who caught the crab and I think at one stage the inventor of the empanada was cursed in the crossfire.

Talluah lay on the bed saying she’d never been so sick or sore in all her life.  My parents had eaten from the same empanada and didn’t suffer any ill effects.  Our neighbour had recently had a stomach virus and was subsequently blamed but as time went on it was obviously a very determined tummy bug and with a baby on the way it’s easy to let your imagination get carried away.   By Saturday morning Talluah said that she couldn’t take the pain any more and we needed to go to a hospital.  Medical care is always a concern when you’re travelling abroad.  We all think our own country’s hospitals are the best.  We called The Yellow House for some advice and they offered us a lift.  Sometimes private vehicles are a better option than calling an ambulance.  Fifteen minutes later, Martin turned up to take us to a private clinic in Valpo.

Talluah was attended to as soon as we entered the clinic and because she is three months pregnant they organised for an obstetrician to come and do an ultrasound.  For all the curious people out there, we don’t want to know the gender of our child and baby had his or her legs crossed.  Everything was fine with baby, strong heartbeat, right measurements and little arms moving around.   It’s a magical moment hearing that heartbeat for the first time.  The doctor concluded that Talluah had some sort of virus or infection and organised for some medicine. 

The pain relief that they’d given Talluah made the trip home bearable and Talluah returned to bed to recover.  Until the pain meds wore off and agony, which was described as worse than childbirth, started stabbing into Talluah’s abdomen.  She might be a featherweight but she can tolerate a lot.  To see her this way meant that something was really wrong.  We called the doctor again and he said we had to meet him at a different private clinic in Viña, which had more equipment to run tests.  He advised us which train station to get out of.  Talluah could barely think she was in so much pain.

My parents are visiting and Indy and Truce had some Granny time while one of my students drove Talluah and I to the Viña clinic.  We arrived before the doctor and were told that as foreigners we have to have a US$6,000 guarantee on our credit card.  We don’t have that sort of limit on our card and the clinic averages US$300 a night plus expenses.  They pointed us to the public hospital around the corner.

Talluah could only walk doubled over and didn’t complain once during the whole trip.  We arrived at the Emergency doors of Hospital Fricke and entered a packed waiting room.  A man, who may or may not have been under the influence of something, came to our aid and ordered the security guard to let us through, bypassing administration and straight to the maternity section.

The staff were super friendly but we felt like we were in the 1940s.  I don’t know when I last saw someone put a thermometer under the armpit.  Everything they used came out of a sterile bag but the place was dated.  We’re used to stainless steel and plastic, not steel and chipped paint.

They realised that the problem wasn’t pregnancy related and wheeled Talluah to Triage where we had progressed to the 1950s.  I’ve only seen glass vials with snap off lids in war movies but once again the staff were helpful and the doctor spoke slowly, for a Chilean.  That’s an average of 37 words a minute.  At this point I was doing the paperwork and Talluah was being examined.

And cue power cut.  Ten seconds of darkness before the generators  started up.  One piercing scream echoed through the hospital as a surgeon gave a push on Talluah’s appendix.  Thirty minutes later she was in surgery.

Two hours later the surgeon came out and gave me two thumbs up.  The first doctor came out and we spoke, mimed and clarified what had happened during the surgery.  Talluah had a perforated appendix and they removed it.  They let me go in and see her.  Talluah gave me a full recount of the operation.  They couldn’t use gas because she is pregnant so they gave her an epidural and she watched the whole thing in the reflection of the lights.  At around 12:30 a.m. she was put in the maternity ward where she has to stay for the next few days.

On Sunday morning I took the girls over to Viña so they could see Talluah and we could drop off some supplies such as tea bags and sugar.  Apparently it’s a bit of BYO.  I showed my visitors card that I’d been given the night before at the entrance of the hospital.  The security guard told me that the girls couldn’t go in.  I looked around at the car park behind me full of people smoking.  This is when I used the ‘B’ word but I don’t know if Chileans understand Bugger off!  A nice chap pointed me to the security office and I had a chat with the boss there who escorted us into the maternity ward where another guard told me the girls couldn’t come in.  I can imagine the tea break for the security guards while they chat to each other.  “¿Que es bugger off?”

There is a policy that children under 12 can’t enter the maternity ward.  Everyone but us knows this.  Apparently it’s because of the risk of infection being spread.  The number of adults we see here sneezing and coughing into the air is phenomenal.  We taught our kids from a very young age to cough and sneeze into their elbow.

Indiana was in tears.  She misses having mum around and she’s got the mother hen gene.  Talluah is in a ward by herself and a nurse smuggled the kids in for a few minutes and closed the door.  Indiana clung to Talluah while Truce in her four year old nonchalant asked about a breastfeeding poster on the wall.  All kids react differently.

Talluah will be in hospital for a few more days to recover.  She’s very happy with the staff and is in good spirits.  Donations of Spanish Villas, Learjets and holidays in the Virgin Islands shamelessly accepted.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Happy Independence Day.

Banners and BBQs have been on sale for a few weeks now culminating with masses of meat for above the BBQ and carbon for below the BBQ.  The red, white and blue has been building for this one day when Chileans celebrate their independence from Spain.  Even North Americans with their patriotism can’t compete with this day of national pride.

Sebastian, a student English teacher, invited us to spend September 18th with his family over in Playa Ancha.  They had decorated their garage to look like a ramada, a temporary building decorated with tree branches.  Ironically, the tree of choice for decorations is the eucalyptus – an Australian tree.  We were treated to sweet, handmade wines, empanadas, meat and salad.  Everyone cooks with carbon in Chile and it cooks the meat slowly and gives it a lovely smoky flavour.  After lunch was finished everyone took turns dancing the cueca, a courting dance which involves much postulating and handkerchief waving.  Indiana was in her element because she had just performed this dance for school.

Unfortunately for Truce she fell while the children were playing and scraped her face on the ground.  She felt battered and bruised for a while but like a true trooper she pulled herself together and still had loads of fun.  In fact we all had loads of fun being welcomed into this traditional family day by a very warm and generous family.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Doing things differently.

One of the main reasons we decided to move overseas was to see how other people live and show our daughters that people in other countries do things differently.  I am still a little bewildered when it comes to shopping in Chile.  Ricky has spoken before about the street vendors changing with the seasons and how some things you simply cannot find anywhere but at the flea market.  This is really very strange for an Australian who is used to buying mostly everything from a shopping centre. 
This week I was given a mission.  Indiana and Truce were to be in a Chile day performance at school and needed a traditional style dress.  My mission, should I choose to except it, was to hunt down the costumes for their dances.  Should be easy enough I thought.  Surely I’ll find what I need with the street vendors.  They haven’t let me down yet.  Sometimes I have to walk the entire length of the city to find what I need but it’s always there, somewhere. 
Indiana needed a calipso skirt and bandana.  Truce needed the same in black.  The black costume was easy, half of the Chilean niñas needed black so I every second store was selling them.  Calipso on the other hand was a different story.  My first question was, what colour is calipso? I soon discovered that it was a Chilean word for brilliant blue.  During my hunt a few stall holders told me of a magical store near Parque Italia where I would find every colour skirt I could imagine.  I finally found this mythical place only to be told that in Valparaíso this year they were making only red, black and yellow skirts.   Right, now where on earth do I find a brilliant blue skirt and bandana?  Being the optimist that I am, I walked home a different route and continued popping into every shop selling Chile day costumes.   I stepped into one particular shop and told them I was having trouble fulfilling my quest when two lovely old ladies told me that I had to make it myself and that there was a fabric shop across the road. 
I’m fairly handy and I have an emergency sewing kit so I decided that they were probably right and that I should bite the bullet and go buy the material.  20 minutes later, I paid the equivalent of $1.20 for a metre.  “Algo mas?” the attendant asked me (anything else) I replied that I needed cotton of the same colour and she shook her head, you have to buy that two shops down, we don’t sell cotton.  Another 20 minutes later and I had my cotton.  After two days and with very sore fingers from using very blunt needles my mission was complete.   Indiana went to school today looking like every other girl in her class whose mothers also either had sore fingers or a sewing machine.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

The social barometer.

As usual, the cues and clues from the street vendors and actions of Valparaisians have proven more accurate than any calendar.  We are emerging with blinking eyes from five months of winter and though it doesn’t snow in Valparaíso it has been a test of endurance for those of us from an area officially called The Sunshine Coast.  Two loads of timber, three days to dry washing, seeing your breath at three o’clock in the afternoon, inside being colder than outside, sunshine a myth and clouds a constant we have proven the local saying true:  If you survive until September, you’ll survive the rest of the year.

But how do we really know that it is spring?  Knees.  Since the end of April our girls have kept their knees hidden under stocking while at school.  For my students who complain about the silent ‘k’ in English… know knees krun kabout klike kspring klambs.  The close cousin of the knee, the elbow, has also been sighted in various forms enjoying the sunshine.

How do we really, really know it’s spring?  Kites or volantín are taking to the skies and neighbours engage in dogfights.  The idea seems to be to knock the other kite out of the sky. The kites only cost CH$200 each and are available everywhere.  The design is a simple diamond shape without a tail.   Anyone who flies a volantín also possesses a gaint wooden reel with over 300 metres of string on it.  The reel has an internal handle to allow for the string to be retracted at a finger blistering pace.  There is a vast amount of stray string appearing on powerlines, rooftops and tree branches as well as injured kites clinging precariously to the aforementioned structures.

How do we really, really, really know it’s spring?  The Chileans are preparing for their independence day celebration on Spetember 18th.   Flags, banners and BBQs have been on sale for the past three weeks and everywhere we look we see red, white and blue waving in the wind.  We’ve been invited to a traditional Chilean BBQ on Sunday where we’ve been promised to eat lots of meat.

But how do we really, really, really, really know it’s spring?  Talluah finds it difficult to get warm and this week I saw her walking around the house barefoot.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Happy Birthday Indiana

Indiana, our first-born and ambassador to the fairies, turns 8 today.  She’s had a staggered birthday as we bought her boots before winter, took her to La Serena last weekend, a party this weekend and later this week my parents are arriving with presents from Talluah’s parents.

The weather was perfect yesterday with a top of 22 degrees.  We thought we were going to fry.  Indiana had a few of her classmates come over for a party.  Luckily we had Boris on hand to help us explain some of the more complicated games that the other niñas hadn’t seen before. Games that we take for granted are completely foreign here. 

That’s the beauty of travel – you get to exchange ideas and learn from each other.  For example, the chocolate game that we, in fact learnt while living in London.  For those of you playing at home, this is how it’s done.  Participants sit in a circle on the floor, around a block of chocolate on a plate with a knife and fork and a pair of ski gloves and a beanie or hat.  Going around the circle everyone takes turns to roll a dice, if you roll a six you have to put the beanie and gloves on before cutting off one piece of chocolate at a time. The object is to eat as much chocolate as you can before someone else in the circle rolls a six.  It becomes very funny when a few sixes are rolled consecutively.  Other games we had a go at were, dancing statues, balloon races, pass the parcel, and, an oldie but a goodie Limbo.

Indy’s friends gave her a little surprise by insisting on singing Happy Birthday in English for her and then in Spanish.  Even our landlord got in in the festivities and gave Indy some money to buy herself something nice.  And of course no birthday is complete without a massage from your little sister.