so my little girl got attacked by the school’s guard dog

It happened Wednesday, but I haven’t felt comfortable enough to write about it until today.  She is fine now. She is a remarkable child. She is blessed and cursed with having a game face. She is the one who did not shed a tear or cry or moan or groan when she broke her arm las year.  I have to study her to determine her actual level of suffering. She is the strong and silent type when I least want her to be.

The school nurse called, I flew over, got her in a wheel chair and hit the gas all the way to the emergency room.  I pulled up to the entrance and carried her past at least six men within feet of me who watched. I started to stumble as I entered the emergency room and everyone just stared at me carrying my little girl. I had major back surgery so I was starting to crumble and still they stared. I yelled for someone to help me, to take her, I shoved her into a man’s arms.

Soon afterwards the school’s administrator joined me “For legal reasons” she explained. I was too overwhelmed at the time to contemplate the legality of the situation. I wanted my daughter taken care of. While on the hospital bed the doctor asked me about the dog, I directed him to the school administrator. For what felt like an eternity they talked while my daughter suffered in pain without any treatment.  I went out to the main counter and asked the staff if they could at least give her some Paracetamol (Tylenol in the US). Again more stares. Damn you robots and your stares!  Back in the room I saw my girls legs start to tremble from the pain so I distracted her with items I brought with me: a drink, a blanket and an electronic game. I was so pissed that I forgot my little pharmacy. I usually carry my own stash of Benadryl, Tylenol etc. which came in handy when she broke her arm last year. I was able to shove one down her throat back then until help came. I was able to do something.

A lady came in with more paperwork to fill out. There were no introductions. Everyone just wanted my national identity number, phone number and address. “Can someone please help my daughter?” I went out a second time to the counter to beg for any pain killer: nothing.  I went back in and took a photo.

Image

Eventually her wounds were cleaned and she was patched up with some giant cloth like bandaids that kept the wounds closed.  Anything to avoid stitches. I learned that when I came to the same ER (on a previous occasion) with my son’s head cracked open: they glued it shut.  Stitches were the most popular measure of severity of her injuries when asked about the attack.  So if she doesn’t get stitches then she is fine right?

For the next 48 hours our phone rang off the hook.  I checked her for infections. Rabies was not a concern since after all it was the school’s guard dog. O thank goodness. I should be grateful. Yeah, that is some twisted shit right there isn’t it?

Friends and family were outraged by the concept. Yes folks, the school keeps an entire pen of guard dogs, on campus. Yes folks, one of the guard dogs tunneled out during recess and attacked my little 7 year old. Yes folks, my other child knew which of the dogs it was because he had seen it run around on the school’s field before, during school hours.

I am not angry at the dog and neither is my daughter. We have 3 rescued animals. We pet every dog on the street and in Chile, you can’t walk for 5 minutes without encountering a stray.  I have taken my kids for walks around our town and taught them how to behave when approached by packs of wild dogs and even worse, guard dogs. We have been surrounded by over a dozen at a time all barking fiercely and my kids and I knew how to move without provoking them.   The strays usually want some food and  affection. We happily pet and even give belly rubs to all interested.

You see rarely will you find the kind of dog we would define as a “pet”in the USA. There are two kinds here, the ones who are trained to injure you, these are the ones who are fed and sheltered and then there are the tame ones, starving to death in the public eye.

My daughter is healing at a wonderful pace both mentally and physically.  She does cover her ears at the mention of the incident.  When she hears dogs bark she freezes, hugs herself and shakes. I hold her and make her move on. What of the dog who attacked her?  My daughter told the school director she should train the dog. I am proud of her. While others want the dog shot or removed, my daughter sees a good creature who in her eyes did a bad thing. In my eyes though, the dog did what it was trained  and hired by the school to do.

I understand that the dog escaped. I also understand that having guard dogs near children is like having loaded guns near children. Accidents happen.

 

PS

Please take the time to comment on my blog as opposed to Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or in person for that matter. You can do so anonymously here, just grab a generic avatar and a creative pseudonym.  I won’t respond elsewhere: as I noted in the blog entry, too much “craziness”.  Gracias

What do u want 2 know about us gringos in Chile?

Answer this 1 question poll. What do you want me to blog about life in Chile?

The Expat Child

The Expat Child

Apparently I am an ” Expat “. That identity crisis only took some thirty some odd years to figure out.
It sure explains a lot.
As a child I remember designing different flags with my best friend. A flag to represent our own country where we both fit in. Her parents were from Argentina, mine from Switzerland and the US. When we entered our homes our language and customs instantly changed.
I was raised under the “melting pot ” theory. Which meant our home was a bubble of the USA. We were all going to speak English, watch TV from the USA and eat ‘ American ‘ food. As a result I have little beyond a passport to show for my Swiss heritage. It also meant that any language or customs that I acquired locally were frowned upon.
To confuse matters even more I attended a school where the students transferred in and out every three years from other countries. This was before the internet era and long distance phone calls were expensive. I tried desperately to stay in touch as a pen pall, but none lasted.
I remember exploding in anger one day after hours of crying. I was mourning the loss of another friendship transferred to some other country. “That’s it! No more!” I was not going bother bonding with anyone anymore at school. I was going local.
My act of rebellion was to recognize and embrace the local culture I had absorbed all along. I had already grown up speaking the local language, listening and dancing to its music and watching local television programs. Over time I looked at my family as the foreigners.
I remember begging to study at the local university. No, I had to study in the USA. So I went thinking, ” I have cable TV , a dad from the US and studied at an American school” I am ready. No, I was not. It was incredibly difficult.
Imagine a Zulu speaking Japanese. That was how I felt. My looks did not match my identity and it angered everyone. They could not pigeon hole me. People yelled at me saying I was lying about who I was, where I came from.
College was temporary, so were those relationships. I knew about that already. All I did was look forward to going home. When I did my parents were surprised. They thought I would fall in love with the “Motherland”. Whose mother? Not mine.
My mother sent me off to Switzerland hoping to kindle that bond that was forbidden in our home. It was too late. I was a tourist and will always be. My roots had not found any sustenance. I responded by mutating. I found a way to grow my own roots.
Since then the “salad bowl” theory replaced that of the “melting pot”. It is how my husband (local of course) and I have chosen to raise our children. You see our family has also packed and unpacked, started over and over. Always the new kid in school… Always the new employee…
Except we do not live in our bubble. We do not melt all of the separate cultural ingredients into one stew. Like a salad, every component of our culture retains its shape, color and texture, its integrity and best of all, we can always add more with every new experience.
“Citizens of the world” is how my children have been described by fellow expats. I tell my kids not to worry about losing their friends because like mommy and daddy, they can stay in touch with social media, e-mail and Skype. I am more open now to new friendships, but sadly still a bit icy on the edges. I am still haunted by the thought of “Why bother, I will be leaving soon anyway…”

Quasimodo (Cuasimodo) Sunday in Chile

DSCN2081

..one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre- Dame,”

Victor Hugo

DSCN2084

     Quasimodo geniti infantes, alleluia: rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupiscite, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Translation- Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia.

1 Peter 2:2 

     If you are unable to attend Easter mass in Colina, Chile the Low Sunday mass comes to you, by the thousands, on horseback.  The church  celebrates the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, with those who are not able to attend Easter mass by way of a procession unlike any other in the world.

DSCN2185

     With the participation of over 3,000 Chilean cowboys or huasos Colina’s celebration is considered the largest in the country and since this custom is unique to Chile, the world.  In fact it continues for the following two Sundays in neighboring villages.  According to oral history this tradition dates back to colonial days when Dominican priests in an effort to offer holy communion to the disabled, elderly and ill required the escort of huasos not only as guides but as guards against thieves.

The name of the celebration Cuasimodo hails from the Catholic tradition of naming a mass after the first words of its introit. An introit being the first portion of the processional psalm chanted  at the beginning of mass.

quasimodointroit

On this occasion the huasos do not wear their traditional wide brimmed hats out of respect for the holy sacrament. Instead they wear scarves on their heads and capes mimicking the priest’s attire. Once varied in color they now dress in predominantly white and yellow to reflect the papal colors.  These colors are also visible in the decorations welcoming the procession to each parish.

DSCN2260

DSCN2258

When they do arrive you hear them before you see them. Thousands of hooves pounding the earth  accompanied by the repeated cry  of “Viva Cristo Rey” – Christ the king lives.

DSCN2093                                                  DSCN2113

There is no photograph that one can take to capture the magnitude of this event.  Any one image will only represent a moment’s worth of people passing by.  It is truly a “Holy Marathon” in that it begins at sunrise and ends at sunset.  The huasos hold the flag of Chile with one hand and a bottle of water in the other, deftly hidden under their capes so they may have a sip  while the priest gives his blessing at one of the many stops.

And then there are the children.

IMG_1046

All whom dress up to honor their loved one who is riding on this sacred day.  Families wait eagerly on the sidelines to wave at, take photos of and then send the children off to ride with their huaso.

DSCN2265 2

    DSCN2155                                                              DSCN2277 1

During his visit to Chile in 1997, Pope John Paul II called this holiday “…a treasure of the people of God.”  It is and one that they generously share.

Long Day

  huasa

 

     Amongst the 3,500 Chilean cowboys known as “Huasos” riding through town on Cuasimodo day there was a singular pink dot.
A girl who rode with her proud and stern faced father. A girl who started riding at sunrise and was now hot and tired after 7 hours of going from parish to parish. A girl who still had several more hours to go on this holy marathon.
A pink rose whose thorns the father gave room to grow instead of clipping them.

The Hideout

 

“So mom, want to go with us to our hideout?”  – Sure.  “Yippee!”

My children have asked me to tour their hideout and I was always busy or honestly not that interested.  As part of my campaign to kick the kids out of my home for as long and often as possible I suggested they trek through our “backyard” which is not ours nor a backyard.  I had previously scoped out the area, but not in detail.  I knew it was an abandoned ranch and after today’s stroll, I must say a pretty nifty hideout.

Behold the entrance.

hideoutentrance

Please note that all of the stones you see in the photos are stacked and not held together by mortar.  This leads to many a rock slide under one’s feet at the risk of twisting an ankle and to my children’t delight the option to remodel as though they were Lego blocks. So for now it is a tie: Mom’s nerves 1 vs. Kid’s cool factor 1.

romana

We suspect “Romana” is the name of the horse who once rode with the cowboy in charge of this land; this land that in the last several years was literally split by a fancy new highway.  On the one side a hill and on the other side the ranch slowly being invaded by hundreds upon hundreds of new homes, including mine.

stonefence

When I first moved here the cattle grazed in this part of the ranch and still do nearby. The cowboys have had to be very creative in maneuvering around the construction boom.  It is not uncommon to walk right into some stray cows, leisurely resting on a freshly manicured lawn whilst cars zoom by.  As of late my kids have taken to bringing stray dogs to this spot so they can have some shelter.  Loose rocks, stray dogs… I know, I am keeping count.

        hideoutporch              sticksnstones         cattleentrance

“…and there is a basement.”  Mind you that “basement” was previously covered and like the great explorers that they are they found a way to get in.  So naturally I asked what exactly was down there, because you know, I was not feeling that adventurous.  No bodies, good, just don’t linger because you know, we have earthquakes on a regular basis here and mommy doesn’t want, oh you know the speech. So let’s review the count: Sprained ankles, rabid dogs and crushed children.

basment

As we strolled past the hideout onto the ranch the eldest reminded the youngest ones to watch out for tarantulas.  “You see mom  just yesterday we got to watch a full wrestling match between two of them right here where we are standing! ” He wasn’t kidding either, they are native to Chile and referred to affectionately as “Baby Chick Spiders” since they too are fuzzy and um adorable? Keep walking kids!

ranch

gateway        entryway

playing

Not only is this an escape for my children it is also for our dogs.  I love that my pets can also sneak away, off the leash and romp.  Somehow I know the “pack” is safer with the four-legged ones in tow.

obstaclecourse

…and now for the anxiety driven parent test. How many objects in this shot set off your “Hover Parent” alarms?

     Just in case you were wondering, note the rusty nails on the log, the coil of rusty barbed wire and the fresh pile of horse manure.  Yes, the cowboys, or huasos as they are referred to locally still patrol the area, but rarely by daylight.  They still herd the cattle by weaving them in and out of the suburban sprawl throughout the night when the traffic and pedestrians are least likely to get in their way.  We have learned to drive very slowly when coming home late in the evenings. Once we managed to get ourselves completely surrounded by a herd and all we could do was wait, they were here first you know.

Signs of life at the ranch featuring the unforgiving thorn bush.  It is absolutely everywhere and at all ranges of height. I ONCE made the mistake of zoning out while jogging in this area, not realizing the sidewalks were lined with them … at eye level.

barbedwire     horseshoetrack     wiltedcactus

     Like a moth to a flame the piles of dirt were calling.    We ran as fast as we could up those hills, yes we, I still find them irresistible.  Our feet sank in up to our knees, the shoes left buried underneath the freshly dumped earth.  During the week truck after truck from the new developments dump earth  once held together by the roots of this ranch to its new resting place. I doubt it is the final one.

dirtpiles

     The pleasantly cool part of the day was ending. The temperature here swings from sweater to shorts weather within hours.  Now how do we get out of here?  They had no clue, they had not dared stray so far from their hideout before. Point for mom.  So the kids found the space in the barbed wire fence where they agreed I would most likely fit and off we went down the somewhat beaten path.

limbo     offwego

     So the next time my kids ask me if they can go out and play what do you think goes through my head?  Sprained ankles from the rocks, rabies from the dogs, buried alive in the hideout by earthquakes, tetanus thanks to rusty nails and barbed wire , eyes poked-out from thorn bushes, bacterial infections from horse and cow feces and tarantulas swallowing them whole.  ” Yeah, sure, go out and play!”

hideoutexit