Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Weddings and Funerals

Dan left for Minnesota today to attend a memorial service for Terry Robinson. She was Dan's dad's cousin, but really like a wonderful aunt to Dan. Her death was unexpected and it doesn't really seem real to us, especially being so far away. Here's a picture of Terry a couple of years ago. She's up at the cabin, putting in a garden along with Jackie (Dan's mom) and me.

Weddings and funerals have taken us back to the States this year. I had a great time at my sister's wedding. And while it's a sad time for Dan, he'll be with family, be part of the closing weekend for the cabin and get to stop in the office to see his colleagues, which will be great. But its tough to go back for a short time and then leave again.

There's the challenge of how to possibly catch up with any one of your dear family or friends in a short time (I avoided some of that because of the California wedding). There's the fact that life and people have moved on, which comes as a bit of a shock as you remember everything as you left it. There's not really fitting in back at home in addition to feeling that way abroad. And then there's the homesickness and trying to pick up things all over again when you arrive back abroad.

On a brighter note, the weather is turning here! Hallelujah. The poinsettia trees (see photo) are still blooming, but so are the spring trees and plants. The air is filled with a sweet and pungent fragrance of the Oromo trees, which would give even Minnesota lilacs a run for their money. Its great seeing the California poppies and nasturtiums growing wild right along the street on our walk to school. I think Terry would have loved it.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Saying goodbye to the cousins

The cousins came for two weeks. We had a really nice visit! We did some things we couldn't have done with just the four of cook really good seafood, especially the machas parmesana (parmesan filled clams).

In their last week here, there was a national strike, so Theo and I got to skip school and hang out with the Hales. It was really fun to play frisbee and soccer at the beach with them. We went to the jardín botánico and did a zip-line/ropes course and it was awesome. We visited the Naval Museum and climbed in the capsule that saved the miners.

In addition, we had sleepovers almost every night - either upstairs or downstairs. And the five kids had "garbage tournaments" (card game) and some games of bananagrams, spoons, and capture the flag.

It was hard to see them leave.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Blog - Into the Andes

Greetings from the Hales - guest blogging from a tourist point of view! We have had a great time to date - Laura has posted a few of our adventures with them in and around Valparaiso. And after about a week with them we garnered enough confidence to head out on our own and explore the Andes Mountains. Sunday we headed to "Cascada de las Animas" (Waterfall of the Spirits) in the Maipo River Canyon in the mountains southeast of Santiago. After three buses, two trains and about 6 hours we were dropped at the gate of the resort where we had booked a 2 night stay. Wood burning stoves in the cabins kept us warm on frosty nights but blue skies and lots of sun had us in t-shirts during the day. The snow capped mountains were gorgeous and we enjoyed a few adrenaline-packed activities including a horseback ride that would NEVER pass insurance waivers in the U.S. (The horses climbed up and down rocky ledges within inches of the edge of sheer cliffs.) Needless to say, I was a little nervous (but the kids were fine) and the views were amazing! We also enjoyed a great hike to the waterfall and rounded out the adventure with a zip line trip across the Maipo river. We traveled back to Valparaiso yesterday- with a short stop to see a couple sights in Santiago - in time to avoid the national strike that has shut down transportation around the country. Today we awoke to rain and have enjoyed a lazy day in our PJs, playing games and reading.

We have been incredibly spoiled by Laura and the whole clan who have stocked our fridge, planned adventures, cooked meals, translated for us and overall been amazing hosts. Laura even restocked our fresh coffee supply while we were in the mountains!


Our first medical situation

I didn't want to write "emergency" and get all the grandmas worried. Theo took a dive - face first- on the stairs going down to school yesterday. Really, we're shocked that it hasn't happened before now as we traipse up and down hundreds of stairs everyday - all at different heights and widths.

He was pretty scraped up and a big goose egg to boot, so I took him in to "atención urgente" at a nearby clinic. Theo was a trooper...he got checked out, answered all sorts of questions - in Spanish no less, got an IV with some pain-killer and anti-swelling cocktail, and underwent x-rays. I paid in cash for what probably would have cost 4 times that amount in the US. And what timing, as our medical cards just arrived a week ago (8 months into our trip)! Good thing he waited...:-)

No fractures or concussions, just a tough mug like he's been brawling in the port pubs here and a bit of a scare for him and me.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A play day!

Friday was a gorgeous day and the Hales and we decided to contract a driver and van for the day and head down the coast.

If there was a theme to our day it was...a fun day (Dan and the kids played hookey). A day for everyone to play like and with the kids. Fernando was a great addition to our crew as our guide and driver.

1) First stop: Isla Negra. Pablo Neruda's coastal home, now museum. The kids had already visited with their school, but it's such a neat house right on the ocean they agreed it was worth a second trip. It's filled with Neruda's quirky collections, beautiful art, and several desks. Neruda, Nobel poet, is a great testament to playfulness like filling every corner of his home with massive and silly 18th century figureheads from ships.

2) Second stop: Nave Imaginario (imaginary ship). An interactive house in the shape of a great ship replete with rope ladders, hidden trap doors, indoor slides, and eccentric creator.

3) Third stop: Quisco, a beach stop for some lunch and the kids took the frisbee out to the beach.

4) Fourth stop: Casa Blanca and a vineyard. We stopped in time to sample some local wines (see kids reading Kindles) and see the sun go down.

5) Last stop: We convinced Fernando to swing by Amor Porteño for some of our favorite ice cream in Valparaíso, before getting home.

A great day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fresh Fish!

It's a good thing family comes to visit! It's a great impetus to do some of the things outside your daily routine. So when Deb and Jupe suggested a coastal dinner, it was a great excuse to try to cook up some of the local seafood.

Jupe, Gracie and I hopped on a bus down to Caleta Portales on Thursday morning. It's such a fun fish market. You weave around the fishing boats and buy fish right as they come in from the morning's catch. The vendors, many of whom are real characters, filet it right there for you. While we were waiting we were treated to some fresh oysters, which slid down nicely with lemon. Gracie even enjoyed them! Meanwhile the seagulls, pelicans, and sea lions are all vying for the cleaned out remains. It makes quite a sight.

We grilled some merluza (hake), fried up some reineta (Southern rays bream?), and made a spectacular machas a la parmesana (parmesan clams in wine sauce). Martha Stewart eat your heart out. The clams took probably 2 plus hours to prepare (with 3 of us working) and 5 minutes to cook - but it was well worth it! Yum!!! Great food, great company.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The cousins have arrived!!!

Yay! The cousins have arrived!

Dan's sister Deb, her husband Jupe and their kids; JJ, Connor and Charlie are here for two weeks! Needless to say, our kids are beside themselves.

Here's our first day out and about, walking around Valparaíso, ending with a some frisbee and soccer games and cold feet at the beach.

Lots more fun to come.