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.


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.


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.


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.


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!


gateway        entryway


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.


…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.


     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!”


What it means to be ABC1 in Chile

Chileno – “You cook?”

GringaDchicureo – “Yes, but not well.  God bless my family for eating whatever I put on the table.”

Chileno – “, but YOU cook”

GringaDchicureo – “Well yeah, no gourmet here, but I try.”

Chileno – ” Nobody cooks for you?”

GringaDchicureo – “Well the husband is too busy, but I am teaching the kids some basics so they can help out.”

Chileno – “Doesn’t your nana cook for you?’

[ Sound of vinyl record getting scratched as GringaDchicureo’s thought process comes to a screeching halt.]

GringaDchicureo – I don’t have a nana.

[Sound of a vinyl record getting scratched as the Chileno’s thought process comes to a screeching halt.]

It has taken me a while to adjust to people’s expectations of me here in Chile.  My Europoean features and proficient English have branded me an ABC1. Our actual financial status is weird to be frank.  On the exterior we lead quite a comfortable life. We do have all of our needs met and yet are drowning in debt. Yep, definitely a member of the middle class.

Regarding our official status as ABC1

Wikipedia on ABC1

What do you call a person who graduated at the bottom of their class in medical school?” Answer – Doctor.

It isn’t enough that I look the part, but we live the part too.  We live in the infamous suburb of Chicureo. What do I mean by “infamous”? Last year the international media had a field day with the residents of  Chicureo’s   treatment of the service industry aka “The Help”.

Huffington Post

I  have a friend who resides in the condo at the center of the controversy mentioned in the article. She, her nana and I  had an open and honest discussion about their relationship and  compared it to that of other employer/employee relationships they were familiar with. As expats new to the country we wanted to know if what we were seeing in the media was the standard or the exception.  There was no consensus other than we , the ABC1 ladies of Chicureo, were perceived as “cuicas”.  In Chile “Cuica”  is a derogatory term which loosely translates to “snooty b****”, in Puerto Rico where I grew up it means  “jump rope”.  Yep, that was quite a leap.

Well brace yourselves Chile, this “cuica” cooks, cleans, raises children and as of late has held her own with some new found plumbing skills.  Do I want a nana? No! I want a team of them and a chauffer and a tutor.  Someone to cook for me, clean for me, drive for me, do homework with the kids for me so I can…. I don’t know… whatever it is that those giant billboards claim my fellow ABC1 ladies do all day.

Sobreviviendo El Verano

El año pasado esta madre pasó el verano en Chicureo, Chile, error. Aunque tenía sus hijos en campamento por unas horas cada día no bastaba para la Madre. La Madre estaba eternamente cansada y sudada. La Madre soñaba con robarle la manguera a un bombero y pegárselo a su hogar para eliminar de una vez la Atacama, perdón el polvo y refrescarse.
La Madre se rindió ante la falsa esperanza de mantener un aspecto limpio con su auto. La Madre decidió que esa capa de polvo servía como un carnet identificándola como verdadera residente de Chicureo. Todo auto limpio era un impostor, un Santiaguino “escapándose” de la ciudad por el día.
Los malditos bichos: Escorpiones, grillos, hormigas, arañas de rincón, todos igual se refugiaron del calor en su hogar. Fumigar era inútil ya que el calor la obligaba a abrir su puertas. La Madre aprendió a convivir con las criaturas . El marido le preguntó si tenía algún remedio para los bichos y la Madre le contestó “Sí, se llama ‘ invierno ‘ “.
La Madre intentó refugiarse en el aire climatizado de sus negocios favoritos, pero los encontraba cerrados, “De vacaciones”. Un día mientras que esperaba que un muro de polvo cruzara la calle anunció a lo Roberto Durán “¡No más!”
Este verano renunció su fidelidad a Chicureo , empacó sus maletas y se fue con otro…. la playa. La playa se encargó de cansar, digo, entretener a sus hijos. La playa la refrescaba con su agua fresca y brisa constante. El polvo y los bichos se quedaron atrás esperándola… hasta otoño.

Back in the USA, Wow, I’ve Changed.

It has been a year and a half since our family left the USA. We relocated to a suburb of Santiago, Chile known as Chicureo. Our family arrived at Miami, FL, USA at 5 in the morning on Christmas Eve. After landing I bent over to gather my belongings and muttered “Finally! No more being stared at!” and sure enough as soon as I looked up there were two young passengers , point blank , eyes glaring at me like I just landed from another planet and not another country. I had spoken English on a LAN flight to the USA. So I chuckled, pointed at them and proceeded to retract my statement “Not yet, but soon.”
The first stop at the airport was the bathroom as every self-respecting parent knows. In between the male and female restrooms stood my youngest, face-to-face with an unfamiliar object until the eldest cut in front and drank from it. ” Water fountain!” I watched and smiled as they taught him how to push the button and slurp the rainbow of free, clean and bubble free water.
We spent so much time fantasizing about food we missed while living in Chile. Like a prisoner on death row planning his final meal we planned our gastronomical tour of favorite haunts in the USA. Our first meal as a family ended-up being a revelation in terms of defining “American”. Nothing says USA like a Mexican lunch truck serving hot and spicy food, in English and Spanish 24/7.
I am a conformist now. I was quite the opposite in my little town of Chicureo. No matter how outspoken or outlandish I thought I was my adopted country of Chile had tamed me in ways I am now beginning to appreciate. My ears had to readjust to parents shouting at their kids and strangers voicing their unsolicited opinions.
At first I must admit I celebrated when I heard a fellow parent publicly reprimand their child. Back in Chile I often asked the mothers for their secret. I never witnessed a Chilena openly lose her patience and yell at her child. Somehow they found a subtle way to keep their kids in line. I am sure I got my fair share of stares that way, not from disciplining my kids, but for raising my voice in order to achieve it. Point for Chile.
And oh the complaining! Dear God the USA is a nation of whiners. Then again my peers in Chile were raised under a dictatorship so this freedom of speech thing has not become the monster that it is in the USA. While in Chile I begged the people to speak-up and now in the USA I am begging the people to tone it down. Please, I can hear you, all the way across the store.
Before I part ways with today’s blog entry I would like to thank those of you you hit that “like” button on my blog. What I would love more are some questions, comments or suggestions on what to write about. Post a link to your blog or item of interest on my comments so I can do the same for you. I am honored to know someone finds what I write interesting and worthy of discussion or sharing.
Hasta la pasta from Gringolandia.

Welcome To Bedrock

blogsize01 1   Welcome to Bedrock, Chile.

For the longest time I wondered what on Earth was going on in that hill across from my home. “Boom! Boom! Boom!”several times a day followed by the rumbling of stones down the hill.  The dust it raises forms a cloud that settles on every vehicle, in every home and even some lungs… cough cough. I sometimes wish I could just hose down my home the way they do an industrial bathroom. You know, the ones with the stainless steel doors and a drain on the floor; much easier.  As it is when I do hose down the outer walls it looks like the bleeding tears of the Madonna.  Everything in our area  appears as if it went through one of the Instagram or Flikr filters to make it seem like the old west.

I was not a fan of this hill.  It represented filth and noise to me.  There is constant movement on it.  Maybe it is a small mountain. You can run up a hill. You can’t run up this thing.  There are winding roads, dirt roads of course, wrapping themselves around it like the grooves of a top.  Every now and then a tarp appears for workers to take refuge underneath. Day in and day out that anthill of tiny people on tiny trucks setting off explosions  gives me cause to mumble like a crazy person as I wipe down everything, knowing full well a fresh coat will land within hours.  “Progress”, I grumble.   Blowing up a mountain to reshape it into modern day suburbia.  That would be my neighborhood.  At the foot of that hill are hundreds upon hundreds of brand new gated communities that depend on this rock for attractive landscaping and whatnot.

One day I decided to jog to the other side of the mountain, to see what I could see. Not that I was earnestly curious.  I had to add some kilometers to my jog and according to  I could do so with a nice circuit around whatever was back there. Off I went down a lonely road until at some point I think I stepped through a worm hole.  When I landed on the other side I arrived in the town of Las Canteras – The Stone Quarry, or better yet “Bedrock”.

Piles and piles of stone lined the street; each pile categorized by size and color. The contrast of humble wooden homes with stone  sidewalks, entrances and even a stone ping pong table was a feast for my eyes.  I don’t know who stared the most during that jog, the residents at me or myself at my surroundings.  I was giddy. I had to come back and take this area in, give it the attention it deserved, garner even more stares from the locals. I did look odd.  I was a gringa with flaming red hair (In one of the 2 available colors in the country) running for sport in a town where people use their feet for transportation.  At least I gave the packs of dogs something to chase.  Ah yes, the dogs, the local home security system.  I made sure to warn my kids about them.  “Now stick together! We need to look like a pack so they don’t come after you.” You see for my second trip I brought my kids and my dogs and of course Chocolate .  Chocolate is a street dog who has adopted us.  So off I went leading my little ones on what ended up being a 4.5 hour walk through the town of Bedrock.

blogsize04 The walk went by quickly as the kids were as excited about this town as I was. It had variety, color, creativity.  This is the country that gave us the Moai of Easter Island.  In fact there were several modern renditions of them standing guard on the sidewalk.  The kids wanted one.  Mind you, it was hand carved stone and twice my height. “Someday and smaller.” I promised. I meant it too. Hunger started calling so we marched up to a local snack shop.

blogsize05 Past the now customary pile of stones there lay a garden  and quite the porch.  I asked the owner and yes, her family designed and built all of it.  Each stone carefully selected and cut to interlock as a mosaic of strength and beauty. I mentioned that somehow, I didn’t think this fortress of a home had any trouble handling the big quake. Oh, no, nothing she said with pride.


I guess we won her over when my son told her this was his dream home.  Soon after she waved us through the door for a tour.  If you have ever lived in Chile, you will appreciate that this is a great honor. They are very private people and it may take years to reach this point in a relationship with some folks.  Then again, she had the chance to brag to a family of expats dragging their jaws on the floor in pure admiration of her home.  Right on the other side of her door was her quincho which is a separate BBQ grill area in the back yard.  Her quincho of course was B.C. chic, because, well, we were in Bedrock and Wilma was showing off her kitchen.


We hugged and kissed and waved good-bye to Wilma. It was time for our picnic.  A little while down the road we found of course,  stone picnic tables next to… yes a hopscotch game; with each number represented by a carved stepping stone.  While the kids ate and played I heard the “Clink, clink” of a mallet and chisel.  There he was, parked underneath a tarp, surrounded by piles of rock and a wheelbarrow: Fred Flintstone. Well Luis actually.  Poor Luis, he had no idea what hit him when I marched up to him and promptly sat down.  I sat face to face with him, munched on my sandwich and yammered away about my day’s adventures, life story and littered in between, questions about his craft.  Rain started to fall which sent my picnic crew, dogs and all, creeping over, politely so as not to kick any stone out-of-place.  There we were, huddled under the tarp in the rain, watching Fred Flintstone measure and trace the lines of each stone with chalk and carefully chip away at it.  Not for some impressive sculpture, no, for use as a brick in a wall or on an entrance way. Each stone, hand measured and carved.

blogsize03  The rain let up long enough for my motley crew to head home. We all said our goodbyes.  No doubt we gave Fred and Wilma something to talk about at the dinner table.  Man, that must be some dinner table. My kids slept well that night.  They not only had a lengthy walking tour through time, they had plenty to dream about.

Trotando Con 4 Patas

Untitled by GringaDchicureo

Luego de observar los múltiples intentos de suicidarse en la última trotada (Lean mi post – Frogger) decidí encerrar mi adorado cachorro en el dormitorio. ¡Qué alivio! Ahora sí pude planificar una trotada larga mas interesante. Tenía que ser interesante por dos razones: Andaba sin escuchar mis podcasts sobre temas tan excitantes como la ciencia y política y segundo iba acompañada de mi hijo quién logró lavar su Ipod al dejarlo en el abismo, digo bolsillo de sus pantalones.
Bien, fui a la página de Runkeeper y con ánimo tracé un circuito por el pueblo de Chicureo. Una vuelta nítida de 14 kilómetros. Así tendríamos paisaje, negocios y las obras de los canteros para nuestra gira peatonal. El primogénito y yo salimos, encerramos al cachorro y comenzamos la trotada.
“Buenos Días Chocolate”saludamos al pasar a la caseta del guardia. Chocolate es un perro bello quién adoptó a los guardias de nuestra comunidad. Es mas, Chocolate merece un uniforme ya que cuando suena una alarma igual anda con los guardias a revisar. Una vez intentaron deshacerse del perrito al dejarlo en Santiago y días después volvió a aparecer hambriento y con las patas peladas.  Desde entonces Chocolate cobra su pega con alimento de perro .

” Mami el perro.” El perro, me parece,  se inspiró al ver  mi cachorro acompañarme la última vez y como andábamos sin él,  decidió que nos hacía falta el tercer integrante, el de cuatro patas.  Como era temprano por la mañana Chocolate confiaba que el guardia humano podía cumplir sin él, seamos realistas, ni los ladrones madrugan a estas horas. Así que mi hijo y yo partimos para la vuelta a ver cuánto iba durar este trío.

La hora de la verdad llegó al abandonar a la zona de los condominios y pasar a los hogares particulares protegidos por perros y escasamente cercadas.  Los que trotan  ya saben andar con cautela para no levantar las sospechas de los perros guardianes.  Ladran y sacuden las verjas al brincarles encima , todo a nombre de proteger su terreno. Eso es su deber.  Es la pega de la mayoría de los perros, pero no el  de Chocolate.  Chocolate totalmente confundió a los perros de Chicureo.

Chocolate dejó su uniforme de guardia atrás en el condominio y como muchos trotadores guardaba un cambio de indumentaria. Los perros de Chicureo estaban pocos preparados para ver este atleta. Perdí cuenta de cuantos perros salieron a amenazar o saludarnos durante esa trotada. Una y otra vez llegaban a toda velocidad en grupos, de todos tamaños rodeándonos mostrándonos sus dientes hasta que se dieron cuenta que Chocolate andaba relajado…. muy relajado y contento con la vida.

Chocolate, feliz como lombriz, prueba única del “Runner’s High” en el mundo canino culminó sus 14 kilómetros con unas vienesas y nuestra admiración.