Thursday, June 30, 2011

Sybaritic: The Sandwich of your Imagination

Just try to come up with a better name for a sandwich shop -- I dare you.

It's mid-winter, and we're in a groove here, life just humming along.  Not much new to share on a daily basis, so I thought I'd just start posting some photos that I've snapped with my phone whenever something catches my eye.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Winter solstice, races, GI problems and other quick highlights...

Yikes, where did the week go. I'm going to commit a blog faux pas and wrap-up some updates all at once.

Dan ran a race on Sunday with his intrepid Viña runners' group. We tried to go cheer him on, but the race route is always unknown to at least Dan, if not most runners beforehand, so we didn't find him. When we asked how he did, he said that he thought pretty well, but difficult to know for sure as no one is quite sure the exact distance of the race (somewhere around 8 kilometers in a smoking 36 minutes - a veritable blur!!!).

Theo's soccer team played another team last week. We sent Theo with some teammates in another dad's car to this other school and then Gracie and I went with some other parents and kids by bus. It was a good game 5-6. Theo's team lost by a point, despite Monte Alegre's cheering section having the vuvuzelas, drums, cowbells and whistles in full swing again! The third and fourth graders played well!

Grace and Theo are in the middle of end of semester exams. Every other day they have an exam on a different subject. Today they had lenguaje (Spanish language), so they have been studying about verb conjugations (no easy task in Spanish), parts of speech like sustantivos, verbos, pronombres, adjetivos (nouns, verbs, pronouns, adjectives), and other grammar in Spanish. Its pretty cool.

Gracie is also going to town on her recorder for her music class. She has got "Ode to Joy" down, started sounding out "Oh, Canada" on her own and now her music teacher gave her the notes to "To Dream the Impossible Dream". The recorder in my opinion is a far cry from the piano, but I'm glad Gracie still gets to play music this year.

As for me, I had a bit of a relapse and came down with Theo's stomach virus right after my cold, which allowed me to continue to be a slacker for a couple more days. By Saturday, I was very glad to be up and about again just in time for "Noches Luminosos" - some fun light shows for the winter solstice here. Theo has asked to blog about I'll leave it to him. Then on Sunday, after failing to find Dan on his race route, the kids and I did happen upon the May Day parade equivalent for Valparaiso - with lots of music, traditional dancing and costumes, stilts, huge puppets, and lots of political slogans. Maybe I can get Grace to write more about the parade! Lots of fun.

Well, there's some quick highlights of the week. Hope you are all well.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Unexpected gifts

A quick post script. Theo and I are both feeling a lot better today (Tuesday). The nasty tasting syrup from the pharmacy was a huge help. The sun coming out again was also very welcome!

I realized today that while I missed familiar cures and my comfort foods from back home while sick, this was the first time since perhaps my Peace Corps days, when I actually stayed in bed until my body felt better! I can't remember a time in recent years when I wasn't continuing on with work, writing a proposal, or taking care of kids despite being sick. It's a bit startling. I think its interesting in the States there's scarcely time to be sick.

It reminded me of how fortunate we are to have this year and how little stress I have in my life right now. Ironic as one might thing moving abroad for a year would involve a great deal of stress. But I think the toughest part of this year - at least for me - was the transition back home; deciding to travel, quiting my job, figuring out where would be the best place to spend the year, packing up the house, renting the house, etc. The kids might have a different opinion as their first month of school was no piece of cake. But thankfully, we're all in a groove now. Our lives are definitely simpler and slower paced than in the States. We spend more time as a family together and have fewer activities and demands on our time. Its some of the unexpected gifts of this year.

Hoping you are all enjoying some sunny weather as well.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A rained-in weekend

We had Chile's version of a "snow-in" this past weekend. It's been raining almost without stop since Saturday morning and continues today, Monday. Driving rain, flooded streets and high winds mostly shut down the city. About 30,000 residents lost power from Saturday until mid-day today.

We were one of the lucky ones around here in that we kept power - allowing us the luxury of our little electric heater. Our neighbors periodically came down to charge their laptops. We looked down on the harbor as huge waves (5 meters or 15 feet) crashed and completely covered on our usual running route and listened as the corrugated metal roofs and siding flapped in the wind all night. There was even the rare middle of the night lightening flashes and rumbling thunder. Gracie and Dan made the trek down to school, where only a handful of students had braved the weather this morning. I am sure it would be considered a mere trifle by our friends/family in the Pacific NW or in England.

In addition, Theo and I have been fighting some kind of nasty virus since the start of the weekend. Theo's has G.I. woes and I have an awful cold - perhaps we both have the flu. It's one of the few times I'm really missing stuff from home; some pepto bismal for Theo, some nyquil for sleeping, lemon-echinicea juice, throat-coat tea, some spicy Thai Tom Yum soup from Taste of Thailand, and a Jane Austen film. Oh well. I'm sure there are many of the equivalents here but it will take some time, energy and a break in the rain to try procure them. In the meantime, Theo has got Angry Birds going and I did watch Ang Lee's version of Sense and Sensibility. :-)

Decidedly, a good weekend to stay in and watch movies. And a good weekend to make homemade wordfinds, crosswords, and pancakes for your a favorite dad! Yep, Chile celebrates Dia del Papa as well! And we celebrated with Dano as best we could.

Wishing you all well.

p.s. "Brontec" - pictured here -not so tasty!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My first fieldtrip

Last Wednesday my class went to Isla Negra, which is about 2 hours away. When we got there, we sat on the bus while our teachers talked about whether we should bring our backpacks or just our morning snack. In the end they decided that we would just bring our snack after a lot of changing of plans.

Then after we ate our snack, we walked through some mud to one of Pablo Neruda's houses (it was after the rain that day). When we got there, we sat and waited for our turn to go into his house. When it was almost our turn, we went out to look at the fish sculpture, which is Neruda's symbol. And they taught us what the letters around the circle mean. Every person that worked there had a little one on their shirt or coat. The "N" stands for nosotros, the "E" stands for estamos, the "R" stands for realmente, the "U" stands for unidos, the "D" stands for de, and the "A" stands for agua (all of us are really united by water).

Then when it was our turn, our guide led us into Pablo Neruda's house. As you may know he collected almost everything, including the ships' figureheads, different shaped bottles, ships in bottles, masks, dolls, different colored glass cups, petrified eggs of huge birds, gargoyles, and much more.

Then after we were done looking at all of his collections, we walked over to a house named "Nave Imaginario" (imaginary ship). Inside it was nothing like an ordinary house. When we got in, the guide told us that the two rules were you can't jump and you can't run. Then he lowered down the stairs to get up to the second floor with a pulley - and let us explore! First to get to the second floor, there was a set of wooden stairs and on the other side of it - a wooden slide. Then after that on the second floor , there was round hole in the wall that led out to a balcony with a big bell on it that you could ring. On the other side of the room, there was a small wooden ladder that led up to the roof. Once you were on the roof, there was a spiral wooden staircase that let you back into the house through a window. After we did all that, we went back down and the guide said we could go into the basement, which you could see through the floor. Once everyone was in the basement, he closed the door, and started stomping with a big chain over the floor like an angry pirate. Since I was one of the first ones to go through to the basement, me and some friends found a trapdoor on the ceiling and we decided to escape through it.

After that we went out and ate lunch on the beach and then headed back to Valparaiso and our school. It was really fun.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dia de Patromonio

A couple weekends ago it was 'Dia de Patromonio'. The president's house in Viña Del Mar was open to anybody who wanted to see it, so we went with our friends from New York to see it. When you entered the Palace you had to walk around this big garden and if you looked closely you could see a tennis court, and one of the police guards said the president had a pool too!

Then you entered the actual house and you got to see the rooms. On the outside of the house it had a big patio and there were a bunch of chairs where you could sit and watch a performance. So we sat down and we had to wait because the performance had just ended. We saw a performance of this group that did Rapa Nui dances (from Easter Island) and a dance group from Bolivia. The dancers that had done the Rapa Nui dance then danced to the National Anthem (see video).

After it ended we left, and it turned out we had a great time!


All Aboard...

Ooh, we have some blog catching up to do. But for now, I thought I would share our lovely afternoon of yesterday.

We've had a warm front hovering over us as of late, leaving the cold days of 50s for warm sunny days in the upper 60's and even 70's. Not bad for winter really!

Yesterday we took advantage of our balmy weather and at Gracie's urging headed to beach with soccer ball, volleyball, and frisbee in our backpacks. We don't have many options for field space or wide open green spaces, so the beach is our best option for playing some Saturday afternoon sports. The four of us went down to Caleta Portales - about 15 minutes on micro - and played for a couple of hours.

Then we strolled down the boardwalk and boarded an old, abandoned train that has been converted into a café of sorts. I don't think it would pass OSHA standards, but its delightful in its rustic ambience and great views of the early evening sunset. Some soda and delicious muffins made for a perfect afternoon.

We'll write more later about some of the other doings of late.
For now, our best to all of you, Laura

p.s. Thanks to all for your wonderful comments! It's great to know someone is out there! :-)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Random Hacks of Kindness Santiago 2011

Hacking for humanity last weekend in Santiago
rhok is a worldwide, loosely-organized group that sponsors 'hackathons' to produce clever technical solutions to problems faced by non-profits and people in crisis situations.  The terms 'hack' and 'hacker' are sometimes used to refer to a nefarious use of technology to cause trouble, but its original meaning refers to experts who do cool, creative tricks with software and hardware. 

No one has convened a rhok event in Minnesota yet, so I've never been able to join in the fun.  But this year some great folks at the Latin American headquarters of Groupon in Santiago, Chile, donated their office space and their espresso machine to the cause.  I packed up my laptop and took the two hour bus ride to town for 48 hours of Hacking for Good.

The hack we produced is a working prototype of a system (Mercado Esperanza -- Hope Market) for micro-enterprise organizations to help consumers find their clients.  We also had a lot of fun and learned some new programming tricks, while doing live video interviews over the internet with similar rhok teams in Sao Paolo, Bogotá, Bueno Aires, and Seattle.

It was a great time, and I'm determined to help bring Random Hacks of Kindness to Minnesota next year.

- Dan

Friday, June 3, 2011

My first soccer game!

Last Saturday I went to school for a soccer game. When we got there, we found the kids in the soccer after-school team and their families waiting to get in. Tadeo's dad had brought instruments (including two vuvuzelas) to cheer Tadeo and the rest of our team. Our team was wearing red shirts and the other team was wearing blue and white uniforms. One of the cool things was that the other team had girls on their team (unlike our team).

First we played dodge ball (que malas in Spanish), which was close but we won. Then we started playing soccer. There were too many people on the teams to have them all play at once, so every time the teacher blew the whistle it was time to substitute. Once, when someone else threw it in, I almost got a header into the goal. Thanks to the 4th graders, we won 7-0.

I hope there's another game soon and then maybe we can go to a different school to play.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Music to my ears

Last night I was cooking up some chicken vegetable soup. Dan was off at his running group in Viña. The kids were entertaining themselves with a school yard game called "bolitas". Essentially its marbles or some form of the game. Grace and Theo both play it during recess at school and of course they learned to play here in Chile - in Spanish.

So as I chopped vegetables, I just basked in the sound of the kids bantering back and forth in beautiful Spanish. "Vamos a jugar menti." "No, verdi". "¡Chita!" "No, esto no fue." and so on.

It was lovely! Music to my ears.