Monday, 31 October 2011

¿Truco o dulce?

If our sources at Wikipedia can be trusted, pumpkin carving originated in the British Isles.  The only difference being that our British cousins used turnips instead of the modern Jack ‘O Lantern pumpkins that we see in every Halloween movie from the USA.

Pumpkin carving is relatively new in Australia and in 2010 the price of a carving pumpkin was just ludicrous.  Our local supermarket here had six pumpkins for sale at a very reasonable CLP$2,500 each.  The Harpers sharpened their blades for their first carving soirée.  We scanned the Internet looking for ideas and had to steer away from some of the more intricate cemetery scenes and opt out for a traditional toothy grinned lantern.  Truce designed one side and Indiana the other. 

The street vendors, as reliable as ever, have been flogging tridents, scythes, masks, witch’s hats and anything else ghoulish that can be made from plastic in preparation for tonight. Our kids are normally asleep before the sun goes down but as Halloween is an affair for the night they stayed up later than usual and joined the other zombies, brujas, vampires and evil scientists wandering the streets high on the smell of sugar and food colours 139, 145, E116 and 187. 

There seems to be varying degrees of participation in the neighbourhood but those that did give lollies gave very generously.  The girls have a pile of lollies that should last them until our trip to the airport.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

In the olden days.

A row of eight horse and carriages wait under the shade of the trees in Plaza Vagara, Viña del Mar.  They’re all reminiscent of a time when things moved slower.  We were approached by one of the drivers who showed us a laminated card with the route and a set price on it of CLP$20,000.  We said we’d think about it and turned away – right into another driver with the same card but he said he'd do it for $15,000.

We climbed into the shiny red carriage and clip-clopped our way around Viña.  It’s a very relaxing way to see the city and the kids imagined having to travel long distances in the back of a carriage.  Except I don’t think the carts of 100 years ago had modern suspension and rubber lined tyres.  

Friday, 28 October 2011

Are your Mcleans showing? Part II

In her best Australian accent Truce called out from the bedroom after school today.
"Guys, I don't know why but there's a tube of toothpaste in my bag."

That solves that mystery.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Are your Mcleans showing?

Just when we thought we’d progressed with interpreting communiqués from the school, a new challenge came along.
Truce was asked to bring in a tube of toothpaste.  We assumed it was for a charity drive to send essential toiletries to needy families.  A few days later we were introduced to rabbit.  Zoom in on the skeletal system of this rabbit and you’ll see a Colgate toothpaste box.

We asked Truce what had happened to the tube inside.
“No sé,” she replied.  Someone, somewhere has fresh breath.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Truce was strapped into her harness to do the chercan course which is 1.5 metres off the ground and she loved it.  She was shown how to clip her carabineer onto the safety rope and then she balanced along logs, rope bridges, scramble nets and finished off with a flying fox.
At the end of it she had the biggest grin on her face.  We were so proud of how confidently she made her way through the obstacles and for only CLP$3000 it was worth every peso.

Indiana’s course was 3.5 metres off the ground and started with a flying fox through the canopy.  This is when Indiana’s smile started.  An instructor followed Indiana on the gavilán course making sure that she was always clipped in as she changed from rope bridge to floating logs to tight rope.  The course finished with another flying fox and one of the biggest smiles we’ve seen in a while.

It’s been ten years since I last wore a harness but the girls wanted to see if I could climb the rock wall.  With encouraging comments such as, “Frog boy,” – because of my green jumper, not my physique – I did manage to make it to the top.  However, teaching English has left my arm muscles a little under developed so I’ll be sore tomorrow.

The kids have asked when can we go back.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

The bucket list.

The four of us have shared a bedroom for the past seven months and this has had its advantages such as in winter we knew how warm, or cold, the room was for the girls.
Truce has been waking up recently with numerous bite like welts over her arms, legs and back but never her face.  This doesn’t seem to be a problem except that Truce then scratches at the bites.  We’ve been at a loss as to what has been biting her as Talluah and I have not received a noticeable bite.  Truce and I even swapped beds for two nights. 
The cause of these mysterious marks had to be alien abduction so we set up a motion sensing, infra-red camera to capture proof of this extra terrestrial foul play.  Alas there were no aliens fleeting past in grainy resolution with a list of experiments to carry out on earthlings.  Next on the list was to consult a wise friend of ours.  Renowned doctor, travel advisor, interpreter, psychic and entomologist – Google.  We narrowed the culprit down to bedbugs and have since learned that bedbug bites can affect one person and not another.  Truce seems to be the one that reacts.
We have turned their beds into islands by putting sticky tape around the feet.  Tomorrow we’ll see if we’ve caught anything.

We’re on the homeward stretch now with less than six weeks to go before we fly back to Australia.  We’ve written a bit of a bucket list.  Due to financial constraints it’s more of an old ice cream container list.  First on the list is the one ascensor that we haven’t travelled in yet.  Ascensor Polanco is very unique.  The base is reached by walking through a 150 metre long tunnel which is noticeably colder than the street temperature.  A constant, cold wind creeps through the tunnel. 

The start of the ascensor, a vertical elevator is about 40 metres underground and is complete with constant dripping water, which you can hear falling on the roof of the elevator as you travel upwards.

The top of the tower is 45 metres above street level and gives a great view of the city.  We chose to walk back down to Avenida Argentina through the most varied collection of steps that we’ve seen here.

The building we live in is a house more than a hundred years old.  The current owner has been trying to sell it for the past eight months and has finally done so.  Part of the condition of sale is that the property is handed over empty.  Our landlord has been really fair while we’ve been here and he’s given everyone six weeks notice to vacate.  The actual date is five days after we fly out – talk about lucky.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Not exactly petals.

We haven’t fallen off the face of the earth and as said in the last blog we’re lying low.  Not because the police are after us but because the kids seem to have a bit of trouble shaking this last flu.

A good night’s rest is always recommended when you’re feeling run down.  On Saturday night at around eleven o’clock, a party  started up at the corner of Calle Cummings and Atahualpa.  This may not mean anything to those without a local map but to help put it in perspective the proximity of these streets I shall use the metaphor of the hurled apple.  Calle Atahualpa is close enough and downhill enough that, with a tail wind, one could hurl an apple and hit the offending two hundred people who were having the street party.  That is if the great big green hostel wasn’t in the way.
From eleven pm Saturday night till dawn these people sang, played instruments, drums and the wine bottle. We’ve seen this on other occasions in Valpo where people use an empty wine bottle as a percussion instrument.  The bottle is tapped with a metallic or stone object so that it creates a noise which curls the hairs that lead to the middle ear drum.  Apparently if you are the one who consumed the contents of the wine bottle it sounds more like a fairy laughing than a slow motion car wreck.

Some of those two hundred people wanted to experience the view from the ascensor near our house.  Come one, come all, all you merrymakers with your drums, guitars and empty wine bottles.  Carress my sleep with renditions sung three ways; flat, off key and out of tune.  And when the morning comes, scamper away and leave your broken beer bottles and empty wine caskets and whatever else you couldn’t carry back home.

We were a bit grumpy Sunday and looked forward to a good night’s sleep.  But last night’s party was so good that it had to be recreated.  From eleven o’clock till dawn. It’s like living next door to vampires.

This morning they hosed two hundred metres of Calle Cummings and there is broken glass spread almost to the plan.   We know that Valparaíso isn’t Chile and we can’t judge all Chileans on what we saw last night, but the sheer volume of disrespect for neighbours and environment has left us speechless.  Indiana and I went for a walk to take some photos of the wildflowers that are popping up around Valpo and there were some parts of Atahualpa where we could hardly breath due to the smell of urine.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Just resting.

The Harper Hotel has shut down and turned into the Harper Hospital.  Talluah is recovering from her op and taking it easy in the house.  The girls have taken turns over the past week running a temperature.  Indiana started with three days of 38-39 degree temps and then Truce spent three days with similar temperatures.  It seems like they have some sort of flu.
All three ladies are recovering well but it has put a dampener on any of our outings.