September 12, 2014 By Steven Marx
We’ve been back for awhile now, but as we’ve gotten into the back to school and other regular, non-summer schedule season, I keep seeing people I haven’t seen since I’ve been back, so the “How was it” questions continue. And that’s fine, I have no problem with that, although Chile is already becoming a somewhat distant memory.
The change in the weather, from 90s and humid to 50s, cloudy and rainy has indirectly brought Chile back home to Peoria. The first reminder was this morning, when I decided it was chilly enough to put on a jacket before leaving to drive the “car pool” (my son and his friend from next door) to school. As I put on the jacket there was a crinkly sound from the outside, sunglass (as I think of it) pocket. I reached in a pulled out this:
If you kept up with our blogs, you know we rode the buses a lot in Chile, because it’s one of the best ways to get around the country. And if you didn’t keep up with our blogs, well, we rode the buses a lot in Chile. They no longer have much of a train system, so unless you want to take local planes, you take the bus. And even if you want to take a plane internally, you usually take a bus to Santiago and then get the plane.
There are several different bus companies in Chile, but we ended up riding mostly Tur-Bus. And as this ticket indicates, we rode the Viña del Mar – Santiago line quite a bit. But this isn’t just any ticket, this is the last ticket: June 4, Viña to Santiago, the day before Joel and I flew home. And yes, I did get a little nostalgic looking at it and thinking of that day, and the truck smashing Joel’s window as we got to Santiago, and how riding the buses was just a normal part of our lives, whether it was the two hour (or less) trip to Santiago or the seven hour trip up to La Serena. Sigh.
Now That’s Just Cold
My second reminder of what I have left behind came just now. Having survived the chilly day in our chilly house, where the temperature dropped during the day from a not so bad 67 to a chilly 66, I decided after dinner that I would give in and put on a sweater. When I’m putting on a sweater in the house I think of only one, the cardigan I bought on our family trip to Paris and London back in 1979/1980. So yeah, I’ve been wearing that sweater for a long time. But it’s a great sweater: warm, green and cardigany.
I had noticed it aging before, and Cecile had already done some elbow patching. But while in Chile it developed some frays and it just seemed that, as with my ponytail, it was time to let go. So I left this wonderful sweater behind, as you can see here:
But tonight, when I thought of going to get a sweater to put on, I just naturally assume I’d be grabbing my green cardigan, and it wasn’t until I was part way up the stairs that I realized, with great sadness, that I’d have to make a different selection.
So though we have left Chile, memories of Chile will continue to be with us in ways big and small, obvious and not so clear, and will come upon us unexpectedly in the midst of our everyday lives.
July 21, 2014 By Steven Marx
After a marathon travel session we finally made it back home, and only one of Joel’s windows was busted out by a truck. Really.
Yeah, even Cecile didn’t believe that one when I first told her, she thought I was putting her on and took a little convincing.
But I get ahead of the story. … But now it’s been weeks since I started this post and can’t remember how far ahead I got. Reviewing my photos, I don’t think I did get too far ahead. If you want to get back in the swing, here’s where we left off. Or maybe here.
Leaving Viña del Mar, Chile
Having said goodbye to the neighborhood and Valparaíso, it was finally departure day. Our plane didn’t leave until 10:45 p.m. so there was no need to leave Viña until the afternoon. So we decided that Joel should go to school as it was an early day for him anyway, otherwise he’d be bouncing off the walls and making us crazy as well. We picked him up from his last day at school, had lunch, and it was time to leave.
I had already begun the leaving process, of course, having left my ponytail behind a month earlier. But there were some other things I decided to leave behind, most notably my wool cardigan that I had owned for more than 30 years, since our family trip to London & Paris which I think we determined was around 1979. It was a sad occasion, it’s been my favorite around the house sweater for years, but it was time. While Cecile had patched it several times, it continued to fray around the edges and get worn out in the elbows, so I left it behind. Cecile appreciated it, as she wore it as one of her many layers after we left. I left some other clothes behind as planned, but this was the one that meant something. And after that, it was time to head to the bus station one last time and head on out.
On the Road, and In The Air, Again
I had become very familiar with the trip from Viña to Santiago, having gone back and forth many times in the last 3 1/2 months. And the trip was smooth and uneventful as expected. Joel and I had agreed that, as we were going to have lots of time in the airport and the plane to use electronics we would forgo them for the bus ride. This meant, unfortunately, that I didn’t get a chance to take pictures of the snow dusted mountains along the way, not just the Andes but even the inter-coastal ranges; what had been rain in Viña was obviously snow at higher elevations and the mountains were quite pretty. And then we got off the highway in Santiago, and the truck next to us just missed that turn. Here, have a look.
The bus pulled over the to side of the road (the truck didn’t) and the attendant (there’s always a second person on the bus, who loads the bags and checks the tickets) came to check on us. Joel was unhurt but obviously a little shook up and his lap and backpack were fairly covered in glass. After carefully brushing him off a bit, the attendant had us move to an empty row for the last few minutes of the trip to the Pajaritos station. From there we grabbed the bus to the airport, checked in, and then worked our way through customs and security.
So THAT’S Why We Got the Cédulas, and Cecile Did the Extra Paperwork
Customs showed us why we got there early. At first it looked like it might go quickly; I handed over our passports, and had our cédulas and the extra paperwork handy. The paperwork was so that I, on my own, could take Joel out of the country. Apparently there are problems in Chile with single parents taking kids out of the country when they don’t necessarily have the right. So one of the first things Cecile did when she arrived in February was get a piece of paper that said I could do that.
As the agent looked at our papers (the one you fill out when you arrive that you need to save for when you leave) the first request was for our cédulas, as we had been there longer than 3 months. As you may recall from our many posts on the subject, just getting these was a challenge, and though we originally applied for them in February, I had just gotten them the Monday before our Wednesday departure. So I was a little relieved to be able to hand those over. Next came the extra paperwork, that he examined page by page, in great details. I don’t know if it was because it was unusual and he wasn’t familiar with it or he was suspicious, but it took a while and I began to get a little worried. But eventually he seemed satisfied and asked if he could keep the piece of paper. As far as I knew that was ok, I couldn’t think of a situation in which I’d need it again, and letting him have it seemed like the only way we’d get through, so I said yes. And we were through. After that, security was a breeze.
Last Hours in Chile
And then we had about three or more hours before boarding. We grabbed a meal, walked around a little, and found some outlets to charge up our devices. Nice touch: they have outlets of different kinds, including U.S., so we were able to plug in with no problems. And finally it was time to board. It was late at night and dark out, so this, while underwhelming, is our last picture from Chile.
Living in Chile was a great experience and I’m actually getting a little choked up just talking about leaving; don’t know if we’ll ever be back, but there sure is a lot more to see, even in places where we spent some time. Stay tuned for more backfilling on things I didn’t have time to blog about in our rush to leave.
June 13, 2014 By Steven Marx
Of all the things I’m going to miss about Chile, especially having come him a couple of weeks early, watching the World Cup in a country that knows how to watch it is at the top of the list. Just got an email from Cecile about how things are ramping up with the first Chile math starting in about 20 minutes, and wish I was there to see it. While we have many teams to root for, for various reasons which I may get into in another post, Chile is definitely the sentimental favorite this year.
I actually had to seriously think about priorities when I thought the game started at 6:00 p.m. our team, meaning if we went to Shabbat services as I had planned we’d miss the end of the game. Fortunately we don’t have to find out where my moral compass points as the game starts at 5:00 (yay Central Time Zone!) and services at 7:30. Don’t even talk to me about overtime. Do they play overtime in the first round? Talk to me!
Chi chi chi le le le CHILE!
June 12, 2014 By Steven Marx
OK, I know, it’s been awhile. Buy in my defense, I have been sick, traveling and busy. So we’ll cover both being back’s today, in reverse order. And then hopefully backfill the rest of the blog with stuff I missed, then front fill with new stuff. With me so far? OK, let’s go.
Return of the Blogger
I should have started this blog, oh, about ten years ago, back when blogging was, for lack of a more accurate word, cool. After all I worked in the technology field, kept up with the latest happenings, created and consumed content, what more could you want in a blog? But I know me, and I know the greatest challenge would be keeping it up. The key to a successful blog isn’t just good content, though that is important, but regular servings of content, and I knew there was a good chance I would start strong and then fade. If you read blogs, you’ve probably seen it happen; heck, I don’t really read blogs and I’ve seen it happen. It’s tough to keep up a regular flow of good content. So that’s why I reluctant to start one.
But our adventure in Chile wasn’t just an excuse to start one, knowing I’d have lots of good regular content, but a blog was also going to be the easiest way to keep people caught up with our happenings. I didn’t want to use Facebook for all that, certainly wasn’t going to send out e-mails, and Twitter’s a little difficult for regular, good-sized chunks of content. So I started this blog, the domain for which I had owned for at least a year. And in Chile, it worked. I was marginally less busy than at home, but again most importantly I was regularly accumulating good content and at least a few people wanted to read.
But now the real challenge begins: keeping it up. Now in theory this shouldn’t be difficult: I still work with technology, use lots of different hardware and software, try to keep up with the latest happenings, so the content is there. The problem is, well, see above. So the key for me going forward, especially once I finish providing all my fabulous insights on our time in Chile, will be setting aside a few minutes several times a week to provide to you, my faithful readers, my insights on subjects related to the title of this blog. Hope you keep reading, and feel free to bring your friends.
So the other return was, of course, returning from Chile to Peoria. I thought I’d cover that here, but I’ve already gone a little longer than I thought, so we’ll cover the return trip later, and briefly discuss what it’s like being back.
It’s a little weird.
I think the weirdness comes from plane travel, the ability to get on a plane and overnight, and through a bunch of the next day, and one more plane, and a bus ride later, voila, you’re 5,000 miles from where you started and walking back into the house you left three and a half months ago. As if you had never been gone. Particularly because we didn’t have a house sitter, so the house really was essentially unchanged form when we left. Except for the corroded water pipe in the basement, fortunately a small leak and easily fixed by our contractor.
And it’s taken a week, but I’m starting to feel not just like I’m back, but like I’m ready to get back, on track and on schedule, getting stuff done. I’ve even cooked and mostly filled the refrigerator again.
But until I bake bread, it doesn’t really count. The yeast’s been out for about 5 days. Maybe tomorrow.
Meanwhile, enjoy this short video of our Beagle Hoover’s reaction when I went to pick him up from the home he stayed in while we were away.
June 4, 2014 By Steven Marx
To be clear and honest (obviously my career in politics is a shambles) part two happened before part one, but part one was easier to get up quickly. Anyway, on with the story.
Sunday, feeling somewhat better though still a bit leery of food, we decided it was time, lacking any other before we left, to say goodbye to Valparaíso. Again, by we I mean Joel & I, though all three of us took the trip. Cecile will have more opportunity to explore and hopefully she will take advantage. It was a beautiful, sunny and relatively warm day, and we wanted to get out and enjoy it while we could. So we hopped on the Metro and took it to end, the Port of Valparaíso.
The Mystery Ship
One thing I’m really going to miss is having a functioning port right next door. It’s been very cool watching the cargo ships of various sizes coming in and out, hanging out around Viña, and going to the port and being able to see these ships in action. And Sunday was no disappointment. There were a number of ships in and around port, and especially this large and oddly shaped one; it didn’t look like any of the other container ships we had seen, and we spent much of our time speculating on what it could be.
So after getting off the metro we first walked down to the port to look around and try and get a better view of this large, mysterious ship, but we couldn’t get a look at the part pointing out. I thought that was the front, but later realized that Cecile was, of course, correct and that had to be the back, even though it looked like it was straight across, which was weird for either the back or the front. We’ll tell you what we found, but you have to read to the end. I’m watching you so don’t think you can just scroll down, I’ll know.
The Last Ascensor
To try and get a better view of this ship, and to see a little more of Valpo on our last trip, we rode the nearby ascensor up to the Museé de Belles Artes one last time. Joel was hungry and neither Cecile nor I were nauseous at the time, so we decided to grab a bit at the museum cafe. In what has become a theme of our restaurant eating, the were out of the first thing I ordered … and the second. So I went with number three, a quiche, which I then got to exchange for Joel’s vegetarian sandwich (my second choice) when it turned out to be … vegetarian. OK, he expected palta, which was reasonable, but all it had were greens, hearts of palm and artichoke hearts. And admittedly weird vegetarian sandwich and one he was bound not to like, but he loved my quiche, so it all worked out.
We ate, walked around a little, and then Cecile wanted to look for a little store where she had bought some earrings before, so we headed up the hill. Sadly, we were apparently on a different twisty street from the one she had been on before, so the additional earrings went unbought. Joel had had enough and we were all a little tired, so we decided to head back down and look around the port some more.
The Gooching of the Pigeon
So Joel has been fascinated by all the pigeons around here, and has spent three months chasing them. I know, but what can you do, he’s starved for companionship. He finds many of them what he calls “goochy”, which involves some combination of being fat and fluffy and deserving of some sort of poking/scratching/rubbing known, to him, as gooching. (I have been the unwilling recipient of this, don’t ask.) While he also finds many of the street dogs goochy, his real goal has been to gooch a pigeon.
Lo and behold, opportunity rose up and smacked him in the face. Fortunately, not literally. There were people at the port with nuts and they were crumbling up nuts and peanut shells, putting them in their hands, and pigeons were landing right on their arms and hands and eating. We suggested to Joel that he pick up some shells, crumble them, and attract a pigeon, and eventually he did. Sadly I didn’t get a picture with the pigeon actually on his arm/hand, though Cecile did. On my side I got the better reaction shots, though.
But that danged ship was still there, confusing us. Eventually Cecile, as is her wont, went up to the little office that was right on the tourist part of the dock and asked the person working there what type of ship it was. Turns out it’s a car carrier, and they just drive the cars right on and off through the doors in the back, as you can see below.
Bye Valparaíso, I’ll Miss You
I really will; it’s a cool town and we didn’t get to spend enough time exploring it. I’ll be posting later on pros and cons of our time here, but I definitely wish we had been able to spend more time here and there are a couple of specific things I didn’t get to do that I wanted. Ah well, most people never get to visit and see what a cool city it is, the many of the people who live around here hate it and want nothing more than to be able to afford to live in Viña del Mar. As always, it seems it’s a matter of perspective.
June 3, 2014 By Steven Marx
This has all been so sudden, and what with being sick for over a week it’s been tough to say some proper goodbyes. But in the last few days we (we here means Joel and I, Cecile will get to make her own goodbyes in about a month) have managed to pay some final visits to a couple of places. Herewith, some pictures and descriptions.
Everyone should have some neighborhood hangouts, and we found one across the street. It became our default cafe with the traditional Chilean food that Joel calls, with some accuracy, Chilean fast food: completos, chorillanas, etc. It’s the Wall Street Cafe and the owner actually grew up in New York, but his father is Chilean and eventually he moved down here. While it is across the street, the way streets work around here that means we have to cross four streets to get there (it is a street with a median, so two crosses would be a minimum). Yesterday we went there after school so we could fulfill Joel’s mission of having dessert there. We always eyed the desserts but were too full after eating to get any. Actually Joel got dessert, Pie de Limón (and chocolate caliente), Cecile and I split a tostada de palta (toast with avocado spread, traditional snack) and helped him with his pie. Friendly staff, good food and convenient, what more could you want?
If you’ve been following along at all, you know I’m going to miss the bread. And while there’s a panadería on every block (kind of the Starbucks of Chile), and we used several, this one was our favorite. I went there this morning, before the rains came, so Joel and I could have one last binge. I got at least enough for tonight and tomorrow morning, we’ll see if any makes it to lunch. While we’ve bought from several, this is our standard and Cecile found out that we have good taste. One evening she was sharing a collectivo with a colleague; she gets let off right near here and mentioned that she was getting bread here and was informed by a native that this is a good place for bread.
Joel and I like the kind that look like four little connected baguettes (the one the others are leaning on); when fresh, they’re crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Cecile is partial to the flatter kind that when you open them up have layers like a biscuit. They’re also dense kind of like a biscuit, but in a good way. I like them too … heck I like them all. And we all like that they make some with words on them, so as a treat today I bought one (most of them are larger versions of the flat square kind) which has the panaderia’s name on it.
Our normal route into the heart of Viña takes us down a street across from us with two pastelerias practically side by side. One looks and prices their goods fancier, the other is less expensive and has a larger variety, including a few breads, empanadas and a few other things. We tried them both, but discovered that the cheaper one has the better pancake de naranja. Didn’t get a picture of the storefront, so you’ll have to settle for a picture of the cake. Pancake de Naranja is another Chilean specialty, and the Chileans at my birthday party confirmed that this place has the right stuff. So we got some more as a going away present for us. Mmm it’s good. I’m sure there’s a recipe for it out there somewhere, but I haven’t found it yet. Sorry mom, but I am still looking.
Those are really the essentials; yes I did have a grocery store I went to, and a corner market for emergency eggs and produce (i.e. avocados) but I don’t have pictures and they wouldn’t be that exciting. Come to think of it, I may try and get our favored corner market tomorrow to share with you, because I just love the idea that they still have them here, all over the place. You really only need the supermarkets for packaged, processed foods, and we don’t eat many of those.
June 1, 2014 By Steven Marx
Much as I did walk into the apartment and yell “Wohoo!”, it is difficult to see this as anything better than a tie. After 16 accumulated trips by the three of us (6 each for Cecile and I, 4 for Joel), an additional trip by Cecile to the International Police office and three months of waiting and reapplying, we finally all have our cédulas.
Five days before Joel and I leave.
Granted that’s partly because we’re leaving a little earlier than planned, but this ordeal started in February. Remember February? For you readers in the north the snow was still accumulating, while for my Southern Hemisphere readers sunshine and warm temperatures were still the rule of the day.
Aside from Cecile at work, Joel at school and our apartment, we’ve spent more time at the Civil Registry office than anywhere else in Chile. I’m pretty sure that’s not a joke, but it might be a slight exaggeration.
But we do have these lovely souvenirs to bring home, and now we shouldn’t have troubles leaving the country.
May 30, 2014 By Steven Marx
Still recovering from my double shot of yuck. The cold is “mostly dead”, but so is my GI tract. Just when I thought it was safe to eat again. But we must carry on, so here’s a short but somewhat substantive post. Cecile and I have both talked about the local ferria and how we love going there to buy our produce and various other things (flowers are cheap and last over a week). We’ve been hesitant to take pictures because it seems like kind of an a**hole or touristy thing to do, but time’s running out and you, gentle readers, deserve pictures. So here are some from our most recent visit.
Some are at weird angles or cropped oddly so I could keep people’s faces out of the shots, and this doesn’t give a sense of the scope of it: several aisles of stalls all filled with various selections of fruits, vegetables, eggs, olives & pickled items, fish, flowers & more.
Loved being able to shop this way, looking forward to the farmer’s markets back home, but it’s not the same. Not better or worse, just different. Maybe I’ll try and explain why and how in another post.
May 29, 2014 By Steven Marx
Sorry I haven’t blogged recently, been busy with unpleasant matters. When last I wrote my brother was in town and we were having fun. That continued. Then Monday, the day he was leaving, I confirmed that I did indeed have the cold I thought I felt coming on on Sunday. Got Rick on the bus out of town then settled in to a nice seasonal (mid-Autumn here, remember?) cold. Tuesday night the fun really began. We don’t know the exact culprit, except that it wasn’t the restaurant food that apparently took Rick down on his way out of the country. But Cecile and I both had some version of food poisoning that had us down for the count Wednesday and mostly Thursday (today) as well. If you’re wondering, I don’t recommend combining the two illnesses, there’s no real tradeoff there.
I’m Not Saying There’s A Connection, But I’m Not Saying There’s Not A Connection
Somewhere in the fog of illness that was yesterday Cecile and I discussed travel arrangements, as in maybe Joel and I should leave early. At this point, there’s not much for Joel here; the excitement has worn off, he misses his friends despite the occasional Skype/FaceTime call, and outside of school, he’s had no time with kids his own age. When we suggested this possibility to him he tried to keep a straight face, but couldn’t; it might have been the biggest smile we’ve seen since we’ve been here (aside from when relatives visited, anyway) and we think he may have even gotten a little weepy with happiness.
So this afternoon Cecile was able to get it together long enough to go down to the LAN office and change our tickets; we leave late next Wednesday, back home Thursday afternoon. It’s already weird thinking about not being here and being there. And while it will suck being away from Cecile for so long, that was going to happen anyway, and she’s planning on leaving early too, so the separation will probably be about the same amount of time.
Whatever you do, make sure you save some warm weather for us.
May 24, 2014 By Steven Marx
That’s soccer to you estadounidensans (U.S. Folks). With my brother in town and no other plans for the afternoon, we decided to head out and see if we could find a likely bar to watch the UEFA Champions Cup match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid. For the uninitiated, this is basically the European Championship and is possibly the most important fútbol match outside of the World Cup finals. Well, the challenge wasn’t so much finding a bar as finding one that had space for us.
And eventually we did, the Belfast Restobar, which had little of either Belfast or resto (restaurant), but did have space for us. Barely. We had to pull out a table and drag up a chair and adjust so we could see the large projection tv, but once we did it was all good. At Belfast, you order and pick up your drinks as you enter, I guess to make sure you’re not just there to watch. We started with a couple of Beck’s and settled in. The match was about ten minutes in but we didn’t seem to have missed anything.
As the back and forth without many scoring opportunities continued for much of the first half, it was difficult to tell the loyalties of the crowd. We were mostly there for a good match and atmosphere and were quite content. Late in the first half Atletico scored when Real’s goalkeeper made quite a boneheaded play, and we could tell at least the two tables near us were Atletico fans.
The first half ended 1-0 and the bar, as we suspected, emptied out as people went out to smoke. But they know the schedule, as they were back in time to use the baños and stock up on the large bottles of Becker’s to which we had also moved before the second half started.
The second half was back and forth, but as time wound down you could see Atletico play more defensively and Real press more on offense. They missed several good scoring chances and Atletico was piling up the yellow cards but couldn’t hit the back of the goal. And then an Atletico player overplayed a foul and laid on the pitch for several minutes longer than necessary, undoubtedly adding several minutes to stoppage time at the end of regulation. And this would turn the match. Without about a minute and a half left in stoppage time Real finally capitalized on a corner kick with a beautiful header into the back of the net, tying the score and sending the game into overtime. It became clear that most of the patrons were Real fans.
To make a long story short, Real ended up scoring three times in overtime, including the last by Renaldo on a penalty kick, giving them their long sought 10th title and denying Atletico their first. But more importantly we got to enjoy a major fútbol match in the proper atmosphere, among fans who know, love and understand the game. And as we real baseball fans say of our game, anyone who thinks soccer isn’t exciting doesn’t understand the game. This was one of the more exciting sports matches I’ve seen, and I didn’t really care who won.
Can’t wait to see some World Cup (Cupo Mundial) games down here and for Joel to see them too.