Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You never know what to expect...

We were just telling the kids this weekend that when you are invited to a Chilean event - try as you might to get details or information, its still an unknown until you just get there and experience it. Case in point... on Sunday someone from Dan's running group and I were talking about swimming. I explained how I hadn't been able to find a pool yet and she invited me to join her the next day to visit a free municipal pool not far from her house.

So last night I hopped on the metro and traveled a half an hour to Viña del Mar, and then we grabbed a taxi/colectivo that climbed into the hills. When we got out, I saw a bubble - like what you might see over a tennis court in MN. Well, its now in the upper 30s or lower 40s at night here...chilly and my first surprise was realizing there was no heat in this little bubble. The second surprise 5 minutes before we got in, was that I hadn't been invited to swim laps, but rather a water aerobics class! And the final surprise was that I think they turn off the pool heat on the weekends, so by Monday night the water was a little warmer than the air..not much.

Steam rising over the pool, dimly lit by some lights outside the bubble, I did double time to my water aerobics to stave off the goosebumps, while old Whitney Houston played on the boom box! Not what I expected, but a fun or maybe exhilarating time nevertheless! brrrr.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Día de las Glorias Navales: the aftermath

'Protesters' looting a store in Valparaíso last Saturday.
The day was far from glorious.  The newspaper today had a grim tally of the damage from the 'protest' from last Saturday (Gracie and Lojo's report here).  The total is estimated at $40 million Chilean pesos, or about $85,000, and includes 4 traffic lights, 20 garbage cans, 15 lamp posts, 4 public telephones and damage to several buildings.

There are also charges being brought against several people who attacked military members who were marching in the parade.

Politicians are discussing making a change in date or in location for the president's state-of-the-union address for next year, arguing that having it on the day meant to be a celebration of national unity just isn't working out.  The way things are going, a lot of families won't want to go downtown to celebrate the holiday, out of fear for their lives.

It's a shame:  from my perspective, the holiday should be cause for celebration and national unity, and political protests on the day of the state of the union speech are also probably a healthy thing.  Too bad a relatively small group of people choose to create random mayhem instead.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The never-ending hike -above the clouds

Yesterday we took a bus out to Olmue (a town not far from Valparaiso) and did a huge hike up La Campana, the second tallest peak in the region!

We hiked with our friends, Jules and Steafan, Keith and Becky from NYC (who are living here in Valpo). A really nice guy named Luis joined us and kind of was our guide. It was his 90th time to go up. Daddy was sick, so he couldn't go.

It actually looked like we were on the tallest peak because the tallest one was far away. We made it to the top! We hiked up the 2000 meters in just 7 kilometers (6,561.68 feet in just 4.5 miles) and then we had to do it all over again all the way down (which was harder)! It took about 9.5 hours to go up and down.

It was really fun, but we were REALLY TIRED AND SORE by the end! Charles Darwin did the same hike in 1834. Check out his plaque.


Saturday, May 21, 2011

Protest or Parade?

After watching President Piñera's televised state of the union address, Gracie and I opted for going down the hill to check things out. We had a tough choice when we reached Plaza Victoria at the bottom of our hill...protest or parade?

They were both taking place only a couple blocks in either direction. We glanced down the street at the thousands of folks at the protest and saw that the water canons were in full use - so we opted for the parade.

It was a full Armed Forces parade and we saw lots of bayonets and bands in marching formation. We thought the women carabineros (police officers) ill prepared for combat in heels, skirts and make-up, but it was unclear as to what potentially lethal item their hand bags (see photo) might have held. There was also a fun group of Cueca dancers all over the age of 70 bringing up the rear of the parade.

After watching the marching for awhile, Gracie and I made our way back towards the our house. In short order, we came upon the protesters again, which had moved much closer to the parade route, with police in riot gear surrounding the area. We spotted the above sign - which I'm not totally clear about the Capitan Planeta reference - but something about blowing your whistle on Piraña (the pejorative name for Pres. Piñera) and the CIA (reflecting the US/Nixon/Kissinger's legacy from its days of helping to overthrow Chile's socialist President Allende and installing the military dictator Pinochet in 1973). There's growing opposition to some of this administration's pro-business policies, foremost is a project to build a hydroelectric dam in Patagonia's wilderness.

We stepped over broken glass and listened at a safe distance and then continued home. Unfortunately, we did run into the residual effects of the tear gas (the Minister of the Interior explained that rather than taking two weeks they were able to study in 32 hours the matter of long-term health impacts and having found no evidence of such, reauthorized the use of tear gas for today).

Gracie and I scrambled away from the area coughing and with stinging/tearing eyes, but we made it home without further incident.


p.s. Theo didn't post this...really!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Día de las Glorias Navales: the preparation

Workers remove benches in the Plaza so they can't be damaged by unruly mobs (I'm not kidding!).
While others fret about the end of the world, Valparaíso is preparing for a big day of its own.  May 21 is Día de las Glorias Navales (Day of Naval Glories), when Chile celebrates the 1879 Battle of Iquique.  It's also the start of a new session of Congress, and the Chilean president's version of the State of the Union address.  As such, it also is traditionally a day of parades and mass political protests throughout the country.  Apparently the protests often turn violent -- you can almost feel the tension this week as police, politicians, and protesters prepare for confrontations.  Streets and parks are being emptied of anything that can be moved or thrown, and we've seen armored police vehicles with water cannons downtown.  The big news for this year is that the Interior Minister has declared that the police must not use tear gas.  We'll post after the weekend to let you know how it went, assuming we're all still around by then!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A little homesick tonight

We're all feeling a little sad as we said goodbye to Dan's mom, Jackie, today. We had such a nice visit and she fit right in down here. I think at least for me, somehow when a visitor leaves us, it feels like I have to do a little adjusting again to being so far from home. We'll get back into the swing of things in a day or two, but tonight we're already missing Jackie...and the rest of you.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A fall trip into wine country

We're sad to see Dan's mom, Jackie, leave us tomorrow. We have had a great visit. But we figure we better let her recuperate as the kids have had her playing games, I have had her taking walks with me, helping me cook and pick up kids, and in general giving me extra company in the day and then Dan wants to visit at night. She probably needs a vacation after this visit!

Jackie did some of her own exploring in Santiago and surrounding areas. She does quite well in Spanish and she took advantage of Chile's awesome bus system.

Then this last weekend, we rented a car and headed south of Santiago. We drove through the Central Valley - known for its cowboys, rodeos and wine. We passed vineyard after vineyard - all alight in soft fall hues. It was a beautiful drive.

We stayed in the town of Curicó and did a day trip to the Siete Tazas (seven cups) National Park. Its named for its series of waterfalls and subsequent pools. You can see the kids playing on the rocks as the river is quite low in the fall.

We also sampled some tasty wine, took turns luxuriating in a bathtub at the hotel (we just have a shower at our place), and had several little adventures; such as coming to a dead stop on the road as a herd of around 50 horses occupied both lanes ahead of us! Yeehaw. Finally, we had "onces" (tea time) with my mosaic teacher's parents, who are from Curicó. So we enjoyed some great southern hospitality as they treated us to local chesnuts and homemade blackberry jam. Yum.

Mostly, we just enjoyed taking in a little fall color in another part of the country and having Jackie along was a real treat.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A great mother's day!

Check out those socks! Jackie and I were served delicious pancakes, bacon and fresh squeezed OJ. Plus the kids gave each of us a pair of these great fuzzy socks and they both made beautiful Mother's day cards. But perhaps the best part was the homemade crossword puzzles- particularly challenging because of a couple misspelled words- nonetheless impressive!

We roused ourselves in the afternoon to take a bus up the coast to Con Con beach (about 45 min. away). We grabbed some food, threw the frisbee, played a quick soccer game and served the volleyball. And the kids weren't to be outdone by their Bridgehampton-raised-grandma who laughs at cold water. I think they are all crazy as this H2O is straight from Antartica! Yikes!

A great mother's day - especially because we got to have Jackie with us. Hope you all enjoyed your special day too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Yeah! Grandma Jackie arrived!

Dan's mom, Jackie, arrived yesterday for a much anticipated visited. Being the intrepid traveler and Spanish speaker that she is, Jackie spent the day in Santiago upon arrival and made her way to us yesterday! We are all very excited and not just because she brought lots of treats (new running shoes, fleeces, and books of poetry!).

Last night we got to take her to one of our favorite restaurants, a Belgium placed named Via Via, and ran into our friends Becky, Keith, Jules and Stefan. They are a family from New York who are in their last months of their year long sabbatical in Valparaiso. Luckily, we often run into each other. Good food and lots of laughter marked our first night with Jackie.

We're looking forward to lots more good times during her visit. And we have lots of plans. We'll keep you posted.

my awesome birthday in Chile!

For my birthday I rented an indoor soccer court and invited my whole class and some other friends to come and play soccer. We had around 12 kids. We played soccer almost the whole time. And when we did have cake the kids gulped it down and went back to play more.

We played just kids for an hour and a half and then we played parents versus kids! Which was a big game. It was pretty evenly matched because there were a lot more kids than parents, but the parents were a lot taller and bigger than us. They kept trying to head it into the goal over our heads. But we were faster and did quicker moves with the ball. We played against the parents for another hour and then we played last points takes all and the kids got the last point!!!!!!!!

It was all really fun!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

!our first asado!

A couple of days ago we went to our first asado! (grill) It was with my class. It was really fun! Here are some pictures.
ps. asados are really popular in Chile.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Inspired by art

Valparaiso is a hub of public art, perhaps further lending to the comparisons to San Francisco. It's really fun to wander the streets and see murals, graffiti art, sculptures, mosaics in every nook and cranny. I've decided to jump in.

I'm learning how to make mosaics under the tutelage of an artist here (Monica Moreno Reyes) and hope to be doing a mosaic wall design soon. For now, here's my first creation - a trivet no less (we needed one in the house)! Perhaps not what my folks had in mind when they sent me to Oberlin College, but I've always wanted to learn how to do mosaics and I'm totally enjoying it! Plus, its a great way to channel my spring gardening energy since I find myself in fall with no garden.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Beautiful day for a run...

... in Curauma, Chile.  The 11K race turned into 13.5K due to a measurement error, but it almost didn't matter.