Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An update on our travels

I thought it was time for an update and to share some neat and unusual sights we have seen.

We are starting our second week in Valparaíso. We had planned to stay only a week and move to Viña del Mar this week. But because Viña del Mar and Valparaíso are really Chile's version of the Twin Cities - as it takes only about 15-20 minutes by bus or metro to travel between the two and wanting to cause the least amount of disruption to Dan's work - we decided to stay put in our old hostel and move instead on Friday to Viña - just for the weekend- before traveling to La Serena in the north.

Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are both lovely cities in their own right, but very different. If one had to characterize them, one might say... that Valparaíso is a working port, more artsy, bohemian, old, romantic, unplanned, mostly vertical and dirty ...and that Viña del Mar is a bit more modern, upscale, clean, orderly, green and perhaps typical of a coastal city. Ironically, the foreign tourists flock to Valparaíso and its old colonial architecture and quirky, twisting streets and the Chilean (and Argentinian) tourists flock to Viña, its green plazas and its beaches.

Last week the kids and I spent a good deal of time getting to know the cities and beaches. As Gracie described, we tried all the different transportation options and we had some great outings with new Chilean (Alonso, Maria Eugenia and Adrea as well as Cecilia, David and children) and US friends, Artie and Margy. We also visited some potential schools for the kids.

This week, the kids and I are on a bit more of a schedule; wake up 8:30am, breakfast, exercise a bit (soccer or yoga), Spanish lessons with Mom, then free time, lunch at 1:30pm, then run some errands or do an outing, and come back for a bit of free time (checking e-mails or reading Kindles) before a late dinner with Dan at 7 or 7:30pm and in bed by 10pm.

Even though we have such a flexible schedule, there still doesn't seem enough time in the day to negotiate daily living, research future living, stay in touch with new connections here in Chile and stay in touch with friends and family at home. Once we're settled we won't have to figure out food, laundry, housing, transportation, and all the rest with each new move. But we have another month of moving around and getting to know Chile and its people.

So, for now we're just embracing the fact that everyday is about discovering the new! And then by the end of February, we will happily move into a routine and community. Honestly, I think we could be happy settling in either Viña or Valparaíso for the year.

Here are some photos of some neat and unusual sights for us:
  1. The Pacific Ocean!
  2. Tsunami evacuation route sign
  3. A chilean naval submarine and its crew coming to port
  4. A wall of flowers (a vertical garden)
  5. Palm trees everywhere
  6. Mosaics everywhere!
  7. Dan's watermelon birthday "cake" (thanks Margy)
  8. Our new soccer "field" in front of our hostel
  9. A 20 foot diameter functioning clock made out of flowers
  10. Our daily vertical climbs

Mote con huesillo

Jon suggested that Grace (our resident food critic here at OFA) try a drink here called mote con huesillo.  In my rusty Spanish that sounded like something involving 'little bones', which didn't sound like an appetising drink.  But the other day, on top of Cerro San Cristóbal in Santiago, we were confronted with this stuff everywhere.  It was a hot day, and what the heck, a nice cool glass of little bones might just hit the spot...

Grace wimped out, as did the rest of my family, but in the name of science I had to try one.  For my $850 pesos I got a cup of thick, syrupy substance filled with a large soggy apricot and what looked like... a handful of little bones.  Turns out it's actually a handful of waterlogged pieces of cracked wheat, and the whole concoction is considered the national drink of Chile.

It tasted about like one would expect it to taste:  sickly sweet, with a confusing texture, and not at all thirst-quenching.  It's also very difficult to drink, er, eat.  It came with a cheap plastic spoon which was not at all up to the task of parting the soggy but tough apricot flesh from its pit, and after forcing down a few bites and splashing a bit of it on my shirt I gave up completely and dumped the whole thing in the trash.

I love what I've seen so far of Chile:   the culture, the language, the warm, friendly people.  But I'll leave the national drink to the natives.

Friday, January 21, 2011


We have been spending a week in a city called Valparaiso. It is a port town so there are a lot of boats here which is really cool if you go down in the port and see the ships. We have been staying in a really nice hostel when you go inside the passage way you will see six or seven cats on your way to the hostel there are also a lot of stray cats or dogs when your just going on a regular walk around the city. There are a lot of hills in Valparaiso, but not any in Vina del Mar. On the hills there are outstanding houses some are on a cliff and a little part of them is leaning off the cliff and looking like it is going to fall of any minute.

Another thing about Valparaiso that is nice is that it has lots of transportation like buses, metro, trolly car and the most intertaining was the finicular. The buses were nice but hot in the day because they stopped every few minutes. The metro was very nice just like the one in Santiago but we think it might be newer than the one in Santiago. And the trolly car was unike just like the one in Minnesota that goes by Lake Harriet (see green and white below). The finicular is almost like a outdoor elevator on a hill. The one we took was very old and it was very unique when you are going up or down the other one goes the opposite way (see picture above with Chilean flag). It is very cool to go in it.

When you look out our window it is a beautiful site. You can see the boats and the Pacific Ocean and tons of other stuff. It is really pretty. Hope your doing well. Grace

Thursday, January 20, 2011

it's beach time!

Hi everyone! Here is a picture of grace and me, and we are at the beach! Yesterday we went to a beach with sea lions. Here are some pictures of the sea lions eating the fish the people throw to them and pelicans chasing them for the leftovers. All these beaches are pretty close to where we are staying. Yesterday we went to two!


Monday, January 17, 2011

Hemos llegado...

We've arrived in Valparaiso. What a strange and wonderful place. At least until the next earthquake, at which time, by all appearances, all of the 100+ year old wooden buildings clinging to the hillside here will surely fall into the sea. In the meantime, Lojo will enjoy her pisco sour...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

list of things I like about chile.(a post for my class)

Hi everyone! Here is a list of things I like about Chile so far...(from Theo)
  1. the best desserts in the world!
  2. lots of mountains.
  3. right by the coast.
  4. a lot of pools.
  5. hot and sunny.(unlike Minnesota in January)
  6. lots of empanadas.
  7. it fits my criteria
  8. there's a metro
  9. it's summer break here!
  10. lots of teeter-toters

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Our days in Santiago

Hey Everyone!

Well, I thought I'd give a sense of how the kids and I have been spending our days while Dan has telecommutes with his Minneapolis office.

After a late breakfast and the ritual sunscreen application (the sun is very strong here with a hole in the ozone somewhere above Chile) around 9-9:30am, we have been trying to get out to see something around Santiago. One day we headed up to Bellas Artes and saw some cool art. Yesterday, we discovered the Science Museum. Modest by US standards, but we had a great time doing some great hands on physics experiments, wishing former professor Dano was with us, and checking out some cool astronomy and geology displays. Chile hosts all sorts of international telescopes because of its very clear skies. We hope we can visit some this year.

After our morning outing, we try to find some lunch somewhere along the path around 2pm...looking for vegetables or salad has been a focus of mine as Dan's last entry pokes fun at. Then we head back to the hotel, head to the really cold pool for a quick dip, and have a bath and a little down time. Around 6 or 6:30pm, Dan joins us and we head our again for a late dinner and some more walking around.

There's usually something to see or its just fun to discover more about the neighborhood - since everything is new. Last night, Gracie and I happened on some amateur astronomers in La Plaza de Armas on our way back to the hotel last night. The main plaza in the center of Santiago was alive with street performers, vendors of all kinds and tons of people at 9:30pm on a Friday night. We paid $1US or $500 pesos each to be shown a great view of the moon's craters and Jupiter's moons through the telescopes. Most fun was watching these hobby astronomers get all the kids excited about what they were viewing! Super fun. Needless to say, its a late night for everyone. We usually read a little or post something and try to get to sleep around 11pm.

Today being Saturday, was different and we grabbed Dan for some exploring. We headed up San Cristobal peak (around 800 meters above sea level). We didn't try hiking it, but we took this cool little rail car up the peak. We had a great view of Santiago in all directions. And then we did hike another 2 miles or so, over to a swimming pool also on top of another peak. They say its the pool with the best view in the world! :-)

Finally, we ended our day with meeting up with our friend's, the Valencias, family in here Santiago. We had such a fun time visiting with them and sharing a great meal that ended with huge ice cream sundaes. I must say that people in general have been incredibly friendly and welcoming to us. It bodes well for a great year to come.

Goodnight. Laura

Friday, January 14, 2011

El menú, once, y ensalada

We're slowly adjusting to the way they do things here in Chile, but we aren't yet on quite the right schedule for meals.  Chilenos generally eat the main meal of the day in the early afternoon.  Many restaurants here in Santiago serve only a handful of daily specials around that time, which the call 'el menú del día', or the menu of the day.  In the late evening they have 'once' (own-say, literally eleven, meaning 11pm), which is a sort of bedtime snack. [Update:  the meal 'once' does not get its name from 11pm.  Its etymology is disputed; it might derive from 11am, but there are several more interesting stories of how the term came to be.  If you read Spanish, the details are here.]

This is cool except that old habits die hard, and we gringos just don't think about eating a big meal at 2pm.  And if you go out on the street looking for lunch at noon, or dinner at 6pm, they can be hard to find.

This was the mistake we made tonight, heading out at about 6 to a restaurant that Lojo had seen during the day that advertised healthy-looking salads.  Here's the sign -- I'm not sure what that red stuff is, but "salad prepared to your taste" sounded good...

Hmmm, salad...

Turns out, not surprisingly, they don't serve salads at night.  At night this particular place turns into a drinking establishment, with typical drinking establishment food.  So, our 'salad' became this:

Can you spot the little hot dog pieces?
Yes, that's french fries with some sort of shredded beef and onions, topped off with a couple fried eggs, and some sliced hot dog for added protein.  The four of us couldn't quite finish it!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

critica gastronomica 2

When we went out to our first meal it just happened that they had beets! The chicken was very good to but the spinach and carrot salad was not so good and my chicken was the best of all of our food in my opinion. I am looking forward to more good food thanks a lot


here's our hotel

Here's Chilean pesos- 10,000 pesos is $20 US dollars. I'm rich!

The Arrival!

Hi everybody! We just arrived! Here's a picture of us in Chile eating empanadas on our first evening.

I was the only one who slept well on the 9 hour flight. Apart from not sleeping well, we had a great view of the mountains! I even got a picture of the coast!


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Eight hours in an airport...

... can make you sort of goofy.

1.11.11 Departure

A day of ones and new beginnings… Fortunately we left about three hours before our flight this morning and were able to get rerouted to Dallas connecting to Santiago. We avoided the Chicago to Miami connection and a snowstorm and expected delays.

So we have lots of time in Dallas before we leave tonight at 9pm, arriving tomorrow at 10am Santiago time. Chile is three hours ahead of Minneapolis, quite a bit to our east, which was a surprise to all of us.

Things have changed a great deal since the most recent time Dan or I were traveling and living abroad back in the 90’s (Dan in Costa Rica teaching English in ’92 and I was training Peace Corps Trainees in Dominican Republic in ’96). How we know we’re not in our twenties - exploring the world – anymore.

1. Then: We traveled with a duffle bag or big backpack. Now: As you can see by our departure photo, we don’t travel light.

2. Electronics explosion! Then: I think I had a short wave radio. J Now we have: 2 laptops, 2 smart phones, 4 e-readers, 3 digital cameras, 4 Mp3 players, and several small bags of cables! Wow…

3. Then: Maybe during a long layover before Dan or I might find a quiet corner to read something like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Now: we have spent the last couple of hours at the Internet Station, charging devices, checking e-mails and in Dan’s case, working.

4. Then: Much to our parents’ chagrin, it might have taken a couple of weeks to receive word that we had arrived and all was well. Now: Well, here you are…thanks to the blog, you are able to get updates perhaps sooner than you would prefer! :-)

Alright, I promise the next post will be from Chile… Thanks to everyone for such nice e-mails, messages and goodbye skypes.

Hasta pronto, Laura