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 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

Back To School in Chile

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I would love to compare notes with fellow expat parents in Chile.  People often ask me about the education system here, which are the best schools and how to handle many dilemmas. Of all of the adjustments I had to make to a new culture, life as the parent of a school-aged-child was the most challenging.  I still can’t answer questions about the schools here because I am but one parent with kids at one school.  This time around I  do have a much better understanding of how my children’s school functions after getting a degree at the ” University of Trial And Error” consisting primarily of errors on my part.

Within one household my relationship with the school was totally different based on which of my children was involved.  On the one hand everything was smashing and on the other a nightmare.  This is to be expected anywhere as each child’s personality and academic ability present a totally different picture of life at school. Never had I felt so isolated or at times insane, because quite frankly I began to think it was all in my head. Nobody else seemed to have the same problems, then again nobody else had the same child.

Over time I slowly started to learn which circumstances were unique to my child, my child’s classroom or my child’s school.  Now I want to know what is unique to our school population’s social circles, our geographic location, ethnicity and generation (Remember our fellow Chilean parents grew up under Pinochet).

Whenever something comes up over the school year please share it with me in the comments section below.  Any questions, complaints or anecdotes i.e. Supply lists requesting “jockeys”and “panties”. It’s all good. Gracias.

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  http://runkeeper.com  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  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Chile_earthquake the big quake. Oh, no, nothing she said with pride.

blogsize01

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.

blogsize02

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.