Thursday, March 31, 2011

silliness at the beach

LJ:Hey Theo, where did you take this goofy video?
TW:we took it at the beach in reñaca. it's too cold to swim, but it's still fun for playing.

LJ:what other things do you play?
TW: we play sports, and the water is fine for chasing the waves. plus, it's more fun to chase cold waves than warm.

LJ: Why is it more fun in the cold waves? And can you share what sports we played this weekend?
TW: because if the waves are cold, it makes you run faster intead of standing around in the waves. as for the sports, we usally play soccer or volleyball. sometimes grace and I wrestle but not too much.

LJ: I bet all that soccer and volleyball and chasing waves makes you hungry. Do you have anything to eat at the beach?

TW:Not at the beach, but usually we go and get some ice cream across the road.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Date night!!!

As my mom, Mary, prepares to leave today, we are all smiling about our date nights. Grandma and the kids went out for a night on the town on Monday night. Which meant that Dan and I went out for our first night out without kids since we arrived!

What was really fun was the kids being able to take Grandma to a restaurant and not only order the food and ask the for check, but also carry on a conversation with the hostess as to where we were that night and about how their grandmother was visiting, etc. all in Spanish! So cool!!!

Yesterday, Mary and I ran to Santiago for the day and wandered around the city, visited some art museums, and got some really good pistachio ice cream.

We'll miss her.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

This week from Valparaiso

One update from each of us.

1) Grace is memorizing "To Dream the Impossible Dream" or rather "El Sueño Imposible" from Man of the Mancha. It has all of us singing from the musical. It's a 5 verse poem and she's really impressive to listen to reciting it all in Spanish. We'll try to video tape it soon and put it up.

2) Theo lost his soccer ball this week. We purchased a lightweight plastic ball (the school won't allow a regular soccer ball for fear of the windows breaking) so he could play soccer with his buddies at recess. Unlike last week when the 7th grade boys were trying to kick it over the roof, this time Theo let go a big goal kick and sent the ball flying to the roof and then it blew away... Caitlin suggested that we might want to think about budget for one soccer ball per month.

3) Dan is waiting for his new laptop from his company to reemerge from customs (it wasn't ready to travel with us in January). He tracked it to the UPS office here and then saw that someone had signed for it and picked it up. Not being him, it was somewhat worrisome, but upon inquiring in person at UPS he found out that customs has it. When it will reappear or when he will get notice of it remains to be seen.

4) (Laura) I have been spending some time playing tour guide and running around Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with Mary and Caitlin. We've had such a nice time. We said goodbye to Caitlin today and Mary leaves on Wednesday. We'll miss them and things will seem a lot quieter around here.

5) Mary - when she isn't climbing the endless stairs of this city - she has got the kids painting scenes of Valparaiso with her watercolors. Very cool. A good warm up for her as she prepares to head to Guatemala next on an art trip.

6) Caitlin - gathered new friends and old and checked out some nightlife while in Chile (although she was looking a little worse for the wear as she departed today). She also gave chase to a would-be pick pocket a couple of days ago until he finally threw her wallet down (he may have gotten about $2 for his efforts).

Huge piles of cash? Priceless...

Time to pay the rent...

The Chilean economy is very modern, and has China-like growth figures, so much so that they're trying to slow it down.  You can buy nearly anything here, though size 12 shoes are a bit hard to come by.  That's why it's been surprising to find out that credit cards are often not accepted here.  Every hostel and restaurant has the Visa and MasterCard sign in the window, but they make a distinction here between domestic cards issued by Chilean banks, and 'international' cards.  The latter are often not accepted, and the former are generally not available for foreigners.  Several hostel owners have told us that they don't accept international cards due to big transaction fees.

So, we almost always pay cash for everything, even for a week's rent in a hostel, which is hundreds of dollars.  And with an exchange rate hovering just below 500 pesos per US dollar, we are often carrying around hundreds of thousands of pesos.  It's a strange feeling, but like a lot of aspects of Chilean life, we're starting to get used to it.

Speaking of tough adjustments, the kids just finished their 3rd week of school.  Hopefully they'll write soon about their experiences.

- Dan

Monday, March 14, 2011

Our first visitors!

My mom, Mary, and sister Caitlin have arrived for a couple weeks in March. We've enjoyed catching up and appreciated all the gifts from home; kids' vitamins, contact solution, Brita filters, slippers, etc.

Its been fun to show them around our haunts and introduce them to friends. Its also been great for the kids to have a bit of a distraction for what otherwise is a tough first couple of weeks of school - all in Spanish.

Mary and Caitlin are currently off taking in the sights in southern Chile and will be back on the weekend...we think.


Saturday, March 12, 2011

A quiet night

Valparaíso at night (photo from here)
Valparaíso was shut down last night due to tsunami warning.  All the ships left the harbor and a curfew was in effect for the Plano, the area near the water.  Our apartment is fairly high up the hill so we weren't at any risk.  We went for a walk around midnight, when the wave was due to arrive.  There was an erie quiet over this normally-bustling city -- no traffic, no ships, no one on the street, not even the dogs were barking.

The sea rose up to 3 meters in our region, and in some other regions of the country there was some minor flooding, but thankfully no casualties or major damage.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tsunami alert

When we arrived at el colegio today the principal let us know about the earthquake in Japan. She wanted to reassure us that the tsunami that could be headed across the Pacific towards central Chile shouldn't reach here until midnight, but in any case she let me know about where the tsunami evacuation route would take the kids. Sobering, although both the kids' school and especially our apartment are relatively far and/or higher up from sea level.

Nonetheless, about half Theo's class didn't show up for school. While it doesn't sound like the authorities anticipate any real danger from a tsunami, the fear of tsunami's is palpable and seems greater than the fear of earthquakes here. Many communities didn't receive a tsunami warning following the February 27th earthquake last year, which created 9 foot waves.

I think everyone in Chile especially empathizes with the people of Japan today and for their difficult days ahead.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Time to gather moss!

Well, our apartment in Valparaiso is finally available today! We're hoping this is our last move...for a good while.

It will be our twelfth dwelling in 2 months! These rolling stones are ready to stop and gather some moss! :-)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Barton in Valparaiso

On Thursday we started school as you all know, but since that's all you know, I am going to tell you a little more.

Here is a list of things that were different and some things that were that same.

Things that were the same.
1.There is no uniforms like Barton (boo hoo for me because I kind of like uniforms).
2.They call the teachers by their first name like Barton.
3.You have to pack your own lunch like Barton.

Now some things that are different:
1.There is no food that you can buy (an easy way to say it there is no school lunch).
2.There is usually no more than 20 people in one class (unlike Barton that has around 30 in each class).
3.There are four recesses each day (unlike Barton that has only one).
4.The building was made around the playground or courtyard, so there is a hole in the middle of the school (unlike Barton which the playground is on the outside of the building).

Now I will tell you the story from the beginning on the first day.

When we stepped through the entrance at 8:15am the first thing we saw was a bunch of kids with their parents saying hi to everybody that they knew from the last year. We walked over to Theo's teacher and she said to put his stuff down in the classroom. When we were in there we met this guy from Mexico. A girl from Argentina, the guy from Mexico and Theo and I are the only people who were born out of Chile. And he asked Theo if he wanted to play so then we waited tell the bell rang and then when the bell rang we went to our classes. I went to go sit down with the girls and we said our names and we said hi. Then the teacher said to make a circle with the chairs and then we went around and said our names and where we were from and if we were here the last year or if we were new and how old we were. Next we talked about the logo de la escuela and what it meant and then we drew a picture to represent Valparaiso or something from the logo. Then we had a recreo (recess), then we had educación física (gym) and then we had to pick our lunch spots and then we finished up the educación física. Then we had tecnologia (technology) and we got to draw whatever we wanted and then we had lunch. Then we finished up tecnologia, then we had música (music) the teacher was really enthusiastic and friendly. Then we had another recreo (recess) and then we finished up class and it was time to go at 4:30pm

We did pretty well for our first day but the Spanish was definitly the hardest thing but we enjoyed it and it was not so bad after all.


The first picture is after school, the second picture is the courtyard of the school, the third is my auntie (who is visiting) right next to the entrance to our school (the blue gate), the fourth is before school in our apartment, and the last is my teacher and me.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Don't buy a Nook eReader if you're planning on travelling abroad!

eReader smackdown

As we've mentioned before, Laura and the kids brought Kindles on our trip, and they love them.  With lots of time on buses and hanging out in hostels, the kids have been able to keep up with their favorite adventure and fantasy book series and play Scrabble, and Laura likes to read the New York Times occasionally to keep up with news from the US.  They work flawlessly and as an engineer I appreciate their elegant design.

I bought a Nook over a year ago, and while I enjoyed using it in the U.S., I've discovered that I can't buy new books or newspapers from here in Chile.  Barnes and Noble apparently is looking at my IP address (the internet address assigned to my Nook when I sign on to a wifi network here), recognising it as assigned to an internet service provider that's not in the U.S., and not allowing me to buy anything.  Here's their official explanation.

Yes, I can get around this silly restriction (that's a topic for another post), but it's a pain.  Also, having now spent some time with the Kindle, I'm realizing that the Kindle is a far better machine.  The Nook is too heavy to comfortably hold in one hand, the buttons are poorly placed, and the screen is too shiny, so it's uncomfortable to read via a book light at night, or in sunlight.  The main advantage of Nook is that you can get books from places other than just BN, like Google Books, but I haven't felt the need.

So, if you're planning on travelling, or even if you're not, go with a Kindle!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

I finally started.......

SCHOOL! I'm too tired to write more right now, but at least I survived. I'll write more later.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Summer's over...

... time to get school supplies. All the procrastinators, including me, had some long lines to wait in. Lojo signed the kids up for school today - it sounds like a great place, and the kids are excited.