Thursday, December 10, 2009


Last night I broke a tooth on a potato. Don't ask me how. I think it's one of those Only-Stefanie-Can-Do-It things. I bit down, felt a pain, and suddenly realized there was something crunchy. UGH. So today I got to visit the world of Dentistry in Chile--a place I did not forsee experiencing so soon in my journey.

To be honest, this is going to be a bit short, because it wasn't that different from going to the dentist in the US. Same chair, same poky tool, even same bright light in your face. I got some novocaine, some drilling, and a filling and it's (almost) as good as new--I have to go back on Tuesday to have a permanent thing done, but otherwise the treatment was unremarkable.

What was remarkable was how personal the experience was. The dentist herself came to greet me when we arrived. She stayed in the room and chatted with us while the novocaine was taking effect. Her desk was in a different part of the same room as the chair, and she could make appointments directly for us. And when it was time to go, she gave us her cell phone number in case I had any pain over the weekend or needed anything--she even patted me on the back on the way out. After going to so many dental factories in the US, this was a shocking change. Sometimes culture shock is a pleasant feeling, and this was one of those times. Going to the dentist has always been so unpleasant for me because I always felt like the dentist was rushing back and forth between patients, trying to squeeze in as much as possible in the smallest amount of time. It always seems like dental offices need to make as much income as possible to cover all the overhead required to keep the patient flow so high--a sort of catch-22. I wonder if it'll ever go back to a more personal experience like this?

So... where have you been anyway?

I have to apologize for my lengthy departure from the blogosphere. (Interjection: I love that blogosphere doesn't come up on the spell-check.) November was a really rocky month here for a variety of reasons. As those of you who are connected to me through Facebook (I think that's all of you) know, Nick's grandma broke her legs some weeks ago. What happened was that her dogs, who are completely out of control, were playing in the garden near her when they ran into her and knocked her over. No one else was around to say exactly what happened and I think she was too upset to remember exactly, but what we do know is that the leg she broke was NOT the one that she fell on, so it must have been a hard hit from the dogs.

What ensued after that was nothing less than mayhem. We went to the hospital around 8 in the evening, and stayed until she was in her room and had seen a doctor, which was around 1am. The next day we found out that she had been really upset and disoriented overnight, so we pondered what to do. Here it is evidently relatively common to hire an overnight nurse to stay in the room (and it's much less expensive than it would be in the US), so after consulting with other friends and family, we chose that option. But, the next day was the same report-- she had barely slept and had been very upset all night.

The next choice was for us to stay in the hospital, too, and that's what we did. I think we spent 3 or 4 nights in a row in a fairly restless slumber-- hospitals are not restful places at all. Gratefully that particular hospital made it much easier for us to stay: They made us a bed in the room each night, and the cafeteria-cum-restaurant was manageable. But regardless, staying at the hospital was hard. We were exhausted.

Right in the middle of all this, our ship came in. (I've been waiting for months to say that, by the way!) By which I mean all of our belongings, not, alas, a magical ship full of gold. It could not have come at a worse time. But we were desperate by this point to have a little bit of our own space, and we worked harder to get the apartment finished for when the movers came. They came and luckily they unpack all of our things and remove the packaging, but that still left us with the daunting task of putting everything away and trying to figure out what we were missing to get organized.

After that, we pretty much crashed. I think that I slept for 2 or 3 days straight. I barely got out of bed and gave up entirely on fishing the apartment for the time being. That was around Thanksgiving. Finally, though, we got things to the point in the apartment that we could actually live here (we had to buy appliances, lights, FOOD... all sorts of things you kind of take for granted as just being there), and last Friday was our first night here.

I can't even express how it feels to have our own space again after 2 months living in someone else's home. Even with the most congenial host, one still has a craving for one's own things. Finally I feel at rest again and in charge of my life. Aside from being dead tired for the whole month of November, I didn't want to write much because I felt so out of control of my own day-to-day life that it left me without words.

And of course, in just over a week, we leave here! For the holidays only, of course, but never did I think it would take this entire span to get settled. I think the timing is good, though, to have a break because we can come back and start fresh. That said, I forsee not a wink of rest in the next several months! I look forward to spending every waking moment in the US with my friends and family, whom I miss dearly and cannot wait to see. When we return here, many family will be in town throughout January and February. We still have to buy sheep to bring back here to revitalize the stock, and don't forget that we have a house that still needs to be built! Although it is great to have my bed here again, looks like I won't be seeing much of it soon--but that means plenty of blog fodder and lots of stories and pictures in the future.

So, in short, I apologize for my absence, but I'm looking toward the future with the expectation that November was the yuckiest of what we have to go through in the short-term future. Coming up, I will be posting before and after pics of the apartment! We did lots of renovation before our things arrived-- some with the help of contractors, but lots of work ourselves. I need to finish cleaning this joint, though, before I take the final "after" pics :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The W

Last night we checked out the restaurant at the gourmet market, Coquinaria, at the new W hotel that opened a couple of blocks from our apartment. We hadn't intended to go anywhere but after putzing around at the new apartment for too long (pics to come, by the way), we realized suddenly that it had gotten dark out and, guess what! We don't have a light fixture installed in the kitchen yet. Oops, I guess that meant we had to go out. Luckily our neighborhood has many restaurants and we just started walking toward something.

After a tour de Isidora Goyenechea, a street nearby with a cluster of restaurants, we happened upon Coquinaria sort of on accident, because it's a flight of stairs below street level and we hadn't seen it from across the street a few minutes earlier. At first I was a bit apprehensive of the choice because W hotels have a reputation for being uber-cool and we, well, are not. But my fears were assuaged rather quickly when we discovered it occupied by some fairly normal (looking, at least) people.

The menu was interesting compared to many of the restaurants I've been to here in Chile. There was no Barros Luco (Chilean cheesesteak) or anything A La Pobre (with eggs and fries) on the menu, gratefully. Instead it looked a bit more like a little part French bistro, a big part American cafe and a little dash of Chile. As with most restaurants in Chile (or maybe just outside the US, period), the menu is fairly compact.

Nick ended up choosing a sandwich with prosciutto, mozzarella, and arugula on a baguette (around US$8), and I chose the roast beef salad with a mustard vinaigrette (around US$10). We shared a bruschetta appetizer as well.

The service started off a little bit shaky. It took about 10-15 minutes to get our beverages, which were simply lemonade and water. Since we had been walking for a while before arriving, this was an unfortunate wait and we got pretty antsy. But then the food began to come and it was uphill from there. The bruschetta was 4 little pieces of baguette spread with a parsley pesto-- parsley pesto sounded rather anticlimactic to me but it was really interesting. It had a sweet and fresh tang to it that I didn't expect. I guess normally one doesn't taste parsley as much as one just sees it. On top of the pesto were different accents-- smoked salmon (I stayed faaaar away from that-- I really don't like anything smoked except bacon), shrimp, or prosciutto. The saltiness of the prosciutto best accented the parsley flavor.

Dinner arrived promptly after we finished the bruschetta. The presentation was great-- everything looked exactly how I imagined it which doesn't always happen. Nick's sandwich came with french fries that were the best I have had in Chile! There is not really peanut oil available here, so the french fries don't have quite the same flavor that I've come to expect but these more than made up for it by being made from Chilean potatoes-- If you don't know already, Chile is where potatoes originated and I think they have the best potatoes on Earth. They are light and fluffy like an Idaho potato but have a buttery, rich flavor like a Yukon Gold--they hardly need any additional flavor.

My salad, with the mustard vinaigrette, was a refreshing change from the ubiquitous DIY lemon-and-oil dressing. Although I think lemon-and-oil is a great flavor, I sometimes enjoy having a bit of herb or spice in my salad. In addition to lettuce and roast beef, the salad featured really flavorful cherry tomatoes, cubes of rather non-descript cheese (typical of here), and parmesan "croutons" made from toasting thin slices of parmesan cheese. All in all, a really refreshing and flavorful change from the norm!

I didn't suppose that we would have dessert, but after so many days of work trying to make the apartment come together, we felt like we deserved it. We opted for the creme brulee. I think it's probably completely cliche, but creme brulee might be my favorite dessert. I don't know what could be better than creamy, lightly flavored custard with little spiky bits of sugar. This particular one featured a limoncello flavor which was perfectly subtle but piquant. Although the whole meal was very good, the creme brulee was my favorite part.

So-- Coquinaria gets an A from us and we will definitely return! I look forward to checking out the fresh bakery and produce which is available earlier in the day. Expect to hear more about this from me.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Culture Shock

I´ve been thinking about this post all week. Last Saturday I saw an awful event that made me really feel that I am in a different culture, but it took me a whole week to come to terms with it enough to write a post about it. I´m warning you now that it´s terrible..............................................................................................................................

Nick and I were headed to the mall or something to do some looking around for the apartment and we came to a busy intersection that we´ve passed a thousand times. All of a sudden I heard a loud bang and instantly realized that a truck had hit a passing dog in the road. I screamed and couldn´t avert my eyes from the poor creature laying in the middle of the road. The truck didn´t stop. Nobody stopped. We were stuck behind a red light and I was frantically trying to undo my seatbelt to go try to help it. Before I could get out, though, we saw a pedestrian heading toward the dog and I realized he was better off dealing with it than I was (it was a big dog... I´m a small person, no cell phone, not a clue as to whom to call). So I sat back a bit but I could not look away from the poor dog with its life literally running out onto the street and a thousand cars passing it by as though nothing happened. I was horribly shaken up for the rest of the day and it really stifled the good mood I had awakened in.

I suppose this could have happened anywhere, but the thing is that it happens here all of the time. I don´t think we´ve made a single trip to the farm where I haven´t seen the poor body of a dog laying on the side of the road. It´s really macabre. And it stems from a huge cultural difference-- for one, dogs here aren´t fixed as often in the US and the result is a large feral population. This probably contributes to the cold attitude that people take here in regards to animal death. There are so many and they aren´t family members here that it´s like seeing a squirrel on the road. But for me it is very very hard to take and has been the most shocking difference so far; the thing that I suspect will never become any easier here for me.

The other unexpected difference is in a much more benign realm, although likely equally as difficult to overcome. Chile is a very class-oriented society. I don´t really know what the terms are to describe the classes, but there are working class people (maids, cleaners, maestros, manual laborers) and higher class people (wealthy people, business people). I am not exactly sure where the line of demarcation falls but there is a line. We are considered upper class people (which to me is hilarious because we are very US-middle-class and by no means wealthy) and interacting within our class is fine, no problems. But interacting with people of other classes, as we do at the farm or working on our apartment, has been uncomfortable at times.

It feels weird even typing this to Americans because the concept is so foreign, but the attitude among the working class to the higher class is one of submission and service. You can´t really expect to develop a friendly relationship with employees, for instance, because there is always that distance there. Our apartment even has a separate, miserable little bedroom and bathroom for a maid, but it´s not a room I´d expect a human to live in. I imagine that upper class people generally act condescending toward the working class as well, but Nick and I have made it a point to treat them as well as anyone. I feel like this could cause us some problems with other upper class people because this attitude is relatively uncommon. Even middle class people often have domestic workers, so there is not as much of a true middle class here as in the US.

Nick and I have resolved to be, in his words, unabashedly American in our attitude toward class differences; that is to say, we´ll act as though they don´t exist. Americans have a well-known reputation of being somewhat obnoxious and self-righteous, and I generally do not want to perpetuate this reputation while abroad. But being on this side of things made me think: would I compromise what I consider to be a core American value in order to fit in and keep from being a beligerent American? After some consideration, my answer is No. The idea that all classes are equally deserving of respect, opportunity, and so on, is too innate to us. I would rather stand out as a self-righteous American than submit to classism because it´s the local way.

I´m not sure how this will affect us at all. Perhaps we will just be the quirky Americans. Perhaps it can encourage others to break down some of those walls. I don´t know. What I do know is how surprised I am to find such a level of classism in a country nearly 200 years past colonial rule.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wool Soup

Those of you who know me well know that I am a fairly adventurous eater. I am willing to try most things at least once and often find that indeed I like them. Since I have been here, I have indulged in things such as corvina ceviche (raw fish in a citrusy dressing), queso del campo (raw milk cheese made on the farm... you all know I am squirmish about milk being left out, so this is a big one for me) and octopus. Octopus was actually quite good and possibly my favorite out of those. It tastes sort of like scallop. Not as chewy as one would expect.

So, you see, I was not expecting this one that drew the line for me, that said, "No more! This is too crazy for me!" It was lambs' tail soup. The name actually sounds enticing. Lamb, mmmm. Soup, mmmm. There is one small problem, and that is that the tail contains a LOT of wool. So much, apparently, that it's nearly impossible to remove it all, and even the best cooks have bits of wool remaining in the soup. "Bits" is somewhat extreme... it's more like a piece here and there which actually makes it all the more disturbing to me. I have tried it twice now and twice I have lasted about 3 bites. Wool soup I just cannot do.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Great Escape

Sunday was a pretty good day. Nick and I took it very easy, having gone to Marchigue the day before for the fair, which is an hour's drive plus standing around in hay most of the time. It was cold, but we curled up by the fire for a good portion of it, and made a nice dinner together. At bed time, we went through the usual routine of locking up the farm house. Just after I pulled all of the keys out of the doors (they lock automatically), I remembered that I thought the porch light was still on, so I opened the door a crack to look and to turn it off. Mister appeared suddenly at my feet and tried to slither out the door, so I grabbed his tail hard, terrified of him slipping into the darkness. Unfortunately he is very smooth and shiny, and he slipped right through my hands, and bounding off into the black night. I screamed after him and the last thing I remember of that moment is his bunny-like body escaping from the dim light of the porch into god-knows-where.

The night here is very dark without a full moon. Once off the porch, screaming my head off for Nick and a headlamp, I couldn't see more than directly at my feet. I panicked, and Nick came running out in his boxer shorts and a quickly-aquired sweater with the headlamp that barely illuminated a 3-foot space in front of me. He slammed the door in fright, as scared as I was. Mister is his favorite cat. I feel bad saying it, but it's not as though Shady might read this blog, I suppose. And as we don't have children, we pour all of the love a couple normally reserves for offspring into our cats. We really do love them.

Nick chased Mister around the house. Mister's greatest faults are that he is easily tempted by fields and fields of grass (and what is the farm right now but miles of grass?) and is prone to running when he is scared. At a few moments, I thought I had him when he ran back onto the porch, but he's very slippy and the porch has lots of escape hatches. Finally I got the idea that he might come back for his food, so I headed inside to get his bowl to rattle so he'd hear it. Only.. wait.. the door... was locked. We were Locked Out. In the black, cold darkness with our cat probably running to Argentina by now.

I thought I had been freaking out before, but the real freakout started now. I started hyperventilating. My stomach churned. I became hot and tears streamed from my eyes and nose. Nick was like an atom bomb, loaded onto a plane and ready to drop. I didn't know how we could get back inside. Nick informed me that Juan, the main stockman, had a spare key, and he went off into the black with the headlamp and in his shorts to find him. I felt awful. My cat was gone. Nick had to get up in 4 hours for the round-up, and now he was locked out with only thin cotton shorts and had to go wake the only neighbor in the middle of the night to half let us out of my stupid predicament.

At this point the only thing I could do was stand on the porch and hope that Mister felt like coming back. I tried to listen--the night is so quiet here you could hear a pin drop, but I couldn't hear a single rustle of a lithe cat slipping through the brush. I was positive that he had run so quickly and so far that he was in open grass and I'd never hear him. He was never coming back. It was a cruel blow just three weeks into my life here, and my mind began to race: with images of his black and white body bounding away, with worries of wild dogs, wilder cats, barbed fences and other farm terrors, with the thought that maybe Mister had always wanted to leave us. In between my hyperventilating breaths, I let out whimpering cries of "Mister...Mister...Oh God, Mister, come back..."

It took nearly twenty minutes for Nick to get the key and return, the farm being even bigger and more widely spaced when you can't see in front of you. Mirages of Mister had crossed my eyes while he was gone, but no sign of the real thing. He came onto the porch and grabbed my shoulders and told me to get it together, that we had to act together to find him. I firmly resolved then to stay up all night looking for Mister, until the sun could elucidate possibly hiding spots under the porch, the bushes, the scrub.

I pushed my head up and we went inside quickly for our provisions. Mister's food, more dim flashlights, clothes. As quickly as I could, I ran back out and shook the plastic bowl of kibble into the darkness. A shadow. I shook again. The shadow moved. He was on the deck! Still in the darkness, but I could SEE him. He hadn't run to Argentina yet! But he also wasn't in my arms.

I kept shaking, and thank heavens he was hungry. He thought food was a fantastic idea, having not found anything worth eating in the bushes in the last hour (and there really isn't anything). I put the bowl down and silently pleaded him to come to it. He did. I jumped. I snatched him into my arms and faster than a mother leopard had him in the house. He Was Home.

I collapsed on the bed with him, visions of his demise still dancing in my head, he crying from being held, maybe from fright as well. It was ok. I hadn't lost one of my only pillars here (for although they are just cats, they are the only thing that really define my own space right now... wherever the cats are is home). But something had changed about the darkness. Before when I went into it and watched the twinkling stars, I could drink it in, a refreshing emptiness that didn't exist back in Ohio. A blank palette onto which I could project any dream, thought, wish. But now it had been soiled in some way. It was a cruel envelope, waiting to steal things I love, hiding monstrous enemies in its shroud. I hope that the change is temporary, but I can't go out right now without pictures of Mister slipping away flashing through my mind.

Which reminds me of my other thought. Has he always been wanting to go? Am I cruel for keeping him in here? He does have a warm place and enough to eat and drink, but would he be somehow more fulfilled outside? The logic of my mind says no, but my heart can't erase him running off into the brush...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Baking

For some reason I agreed to take on the task of baking desserts and cookies for La Esquila. If only all of my belongings had arrived, this would not be a big deal, but I am faced with cooking in the glorified camping kitchen. No baking tools whatsoever save one springform pan pinched from the Santiago house. So far this morning I have made a Bourbon Walnut Tart. Here's how it went.

First I put the pastry crust in the springform pan. This was an easy task. Yes, I cheated and bought a premade crust. No, it's not as good as homemade or even the Pillsbury kind. But we had it from my last baking experiment and it seemed a shame to waste it. I won't buy it again. (It's chewy... I'd like to know how pie crust becomes chewy...) Next in the recipe, I spread chopped nuts over the bottom of the crust. Faced with a cutting board the size of my shoe and a knife the size of my arm, I realized that chopping wasn't going to do it. I decided that crushing the nuts in their packaging would be the best solution. I found the biggest crushing device I could: a wooden spoon. The farm is so devoid of industrial noise that apparently my whacking could be heard all around. I got several inquiries as to what in the world I was killing while I finely crushed the nuts. "Oh just some walnuts!" It took about 15 minutes to effectively smash the walnuts.

Next, one must mix brown sugar and softened butter. Fail on both accounts. The butter was nearly frozen and the brown sugar doesn't exist here. Instead I have a brick of chancaca, which is something like muscovado sugar, but very close in taste to brown sugar. And texture, once you grate it. So I set the butter next to the fire and set about grating chancaca. Chancaca is not like, cheese, where it easily caves to grating. No, chancaca fights the whole way. Like a fist-sized nutmeg. I thus spent a half hour grating enough chancaca for the tart, and very occasionally nearly grating my hand too.

The butter never did soften, so I decided to make a sort of double-boiler to soften it. Meantime, realized that the fire in the other room was dying so I had to run back to stoke it a bit (I am really terrible at keeping a fire). Finally the butter did soften enough and I managed to get the filling together. Into the oven went the tart and I went back to work grating more chancaca for later. Shortbread cookies this afternoon....

I really do think the chancaca is actually superior to traditional brown sugar. Brown sugar in the US is refined white sugar with molasses added. Chancaca is unrefined and so retains a bit more flavor, a bit more character then brown sugar. It's very hard to find in the US, so I think an adequate substitute would be adding a bit more molasses to brown sugar or just using muscovado.

All of that said, you might like the recipe for this glorious tart, which normally takes about 10 minutes to prepare and is quite easy and VERY delicious. Here it is.

Bourbon Walnut Tart
1 pie crust
1.5 c chopped walnuts
1.5 c brown sugar or grated chancaca or muscovado sugar
0.5 c softened butter
2 eggs
2 T bourbon
2 T whipping cream
1 T very good vanilla (don't bother if you only have imitation)
1 T flour
0.5 t salt--only if the nuts you use are unsalted

Spread the walnuts of the bottom of the crust which has been installed into a tart or pie pan. Throughly blend the remaining ingredients and pour over the nuts, moving them around a bit to make sure there aren't any air bubbles. Bake at 350 F/170 C for 35-60 minutes (really depends on the oven and ingredients) or until the tart doesn't jiggle anymore when you move it. Let it cool and enjoy with unsweetened whipped cream (trust me it doesn't need any more sugar!)
Recipe (c) 2009 Stefanie Niery Party

Saturday, October 10, 2009

5 surprising things I miss about the US

1. Instantly hot water--the calefon is awesome for its endless hot water but it takes forever to heat up. Sucky for washing hands.
2. Chicken--specifically awesome Amish chicken.
3. Cops--Specifically the traffic enforcers. I don't even know where to begin about how terrible Chilean drivers are. There are No Rules on the road here and no one enforcing anything like, oh, a speed limit or rules about changing lanes or, I don't know, driving on the curb.
4. Chewing gum--I can only find dinky little packets of 8 tiny pieces. I need a big hunk of bubble gum!
5. Weather forecasts--No one writes a weather forecast for the farm area so every day it's like "Hmm, what should I wear today? How about everything and I'll just take off what I don't need." One day it's 85, the next it's 60.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sicky McSickerson

Blah, I'm sick. I've been sick since Wednesday. Being sick sucks in the first place, but it especially sucks when you're away from home, which I still feel like I am. If I were back in Lakewood, I would have spent the last 5 days curled up on the couch with Shady at my head and Mister at my feet, with my computer and one of my myriad books, and bowls of Joe's chicken soup (or better yet... Dad's chicken soup). I'd have whiled away the hours in comfort and warmth, often snuggling up to my "hot stick"-- ie the bean filled bag you toss in the microwave for a few minutes and it stays warm for over an hour.

Instead, Nick and I have been at the Farm since Friday with no central heating and exactly one book. (I could only fit 5 in my luggage so I have to limit myself to one book a week, and even then I'll have to find 1-3 more here to fill up the rest of the time...) I'd make my own hot stick except there's no microwave here either. Aaaaand the kitties are back in Santiago. So it has been a bit rough. The best part, though, is the bed warmer. Whoever invented such a device deserves a Nobel Prize for Comfort. While staying at the Farm can sometimes be like glorified camping, the bed warmer keeps it just within the realm of civilization and is the saving grace while I have been sick here. And actually, being sick gives me a reason to stay in it all day :)

What would a good blog be without a recipe? We devised a tasty soup today to help soothe my throat and clear my sinuses, so I thought I'd share it. It probably tastes good even when you're not sick.

Spicy Mushroom Soup
1 pint mushrooms (we just used white but I bet shiitake would be amazing)
1 onion
1/2 liter chicken stock
2 T paprika (we used spicy)
Cayenne pepper to taste
A bit of butter/oil mix for sauteeing

Chop the onion into little bits and begin sauteeing in a tablespoon or so of butter with a drop of oil on it to keep it from browning. Brush off the mushrooms if necessary and then cut into 1/4" cubes. Add them to the onion and continue to sautee everything until it begins to brown and the mushrooms have reabsorbed their liquid. Add the paprika and sautee for another 2-4 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock and simmer for about 10 minutes. Voila! Add the cayenne to taste, although if you use spicy paprika it may not be necessary. You can also serve with a dollop of cream in it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sorry... We´re here!

Sorry for the delay. Things have been a bit surreal and I was REALLY tired when we arrived. But we have arrived.

The flight here was interesting. We left on Fri, Sept 18 in the evening. The cats made it through security which was actually easier than the ticket counter (which brings me to another thought: why is it that airline counter staff seem not to be trained in anything outside of issuing a standard boarding pass and luggage tag? I don´t imagine that people fly with pets every day but surely it´s a relatively common occurance. It took 3 or 4 people to get our cats ticketed).

Mister did surprisingly well on the plane. For those of you who know our cats, you know that Mister is a bit of a crybaby. But he also accepts whatever fate is handed to him and as such acted like, "Oh, I guess I´m in a carrier now! Ok!" Shady, on the other hand, is a fighter. So even though she´s technically quieter than Mister in a moving vehicle, when she gets it into her head that she is going to escape, she is GOING to escape! We had several bouts of 10-15 minute fights with the carrier on the plane. Luckily the only thing at risk were my feet which were next to her soft-shell carrier and thus her claws.

The only real traumatic moment of the whole thing (if you put aside the emotional yuckiness of saying goodbye to so many people you love) occured around 2am (which by the way is both Chilean time and EDT at the moment). I was so exhausted that I actually fell asleep pretty well on the plane. That and I traded my usual red wine with dinner for a Tanqueray & ginger ale... Anyway, I was actually asleep when suddenly I was awakened by the sensation of falling dramatically. I clamored for my seatbelt as I lifted out of the chair en route to the ceiling. I had one on but I loosened it so that I could shift around while I slept. When I opened my eyes, it turned out that indeed, we were falling! That lasted for a second or two and then suddenly we were unfalling and headed up rapidly. Then another lurch that was so bad that I felt dizzy and people screamed and the cats must´ve been pasted to the ceilings of their carriers.

Turbulence. I have never felt it so bad. Gratefully it lasted for about a minute, maybe two, and the screaming was brief. But the next thing I noticed was that Nick wasn´t in his seat. I looked up, half expecting to see him pierced into the ceiling, but he wasn´t there either. He had gone to the bathroom and had the joy of experiencing the worst turbulence either of us had ever felt (and you know we are in the air a lot!) while peeing. Here I thought it was awful for me. I won´t go into details about it but I´m sure you can use your imagination......

So we did arrive, on time and everything. Customs was surprisingly easy to deal with. 10 or 15 minutes and we were through con gatos. And so here we are! We are staying at the Las Condes house until the apartment is ready. I had taken some pictures to share but the dolt that I am forgot to pack the proper USB cord for my camera, so I guess that will have to wait. Perhaps soon I´ll have a phone that can take some photos.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surprises, surprises

In making a major life transition, such as getting married, moving or having a child, one must expect there to be at least a few bumps in the road. Unfortunately, they don't come with big "Warning! Speed bump ahead!!" signs posted along the way and so they catch you unawares. For us, one of those bumps came yesterday at the vet.

Moving a pet to another country is no small task. All countries require paperwork and shots, and most require quarantine. Luckily for the wee ones (and my psyche), Chile does not require quarantine. But we all know that the real work is in the paperwork, not the peaceful rest enjoyed inside a quarantine cage (taking a bit of license there...).

Yesterday was our final pre-trip exam, which was required within the last 15 days before travel. We contacted myriad sources to determine exactly what was needed and we were pretty sure we had all of our cats in a row, if you will. The first thing that happened when we walked in is a surprised inquiry: "Your flight is leaving Friday? You're too early! This has to be done within the last 24 hours." Blank stares. We have read about things to be done in the year leading up, things to be done in the two weeks leading up, but never did the phrase "last 24 hours" come into play. We went with our gut and said that we were pretty sure that within the last 15 days was the guideline, so let's go with it.

That was fine. But within the same breath, another exclamation: "Oh, this form has to be sent to Columbus!" What. "Is this the right form you need? If so, it needs to be certified in Columbus. There's NO WAY you'll get this back by Friday!"


At this point I started to get that dizzy-hot feeling that happens when your blood pressures rises higher than a sphygmomanometer can read. Fortunately for my vet, who shall remain nameless, I am incapable of freaking out at most people. But I do have to ask, HOW did this going to Columbus business never come up in the 47,000 discussions we had with the 3,500 people with whom we discussed moving our pets? And honestly, how did the Vet not even mention that when we were in 30 days ago for their rabies vaccinations and to discuss moving them?? How did none of this information appear anywhere??????

It doesn't matter. We had to get the certification. After consulting with several same-day courier services ($600 round-trip!), the office to see if overnight mail would be sufficient, and after crying for about 6 hours it became clear that there was only going to be one solution to this problem: I had to go to Columbus.

An impromptu, last-minute 6-hour road trip is approximately the last thing I needed this week. But this story has an incredible ending. My TOTALLY AWESOME Dad offered to do it for me. I am really bad at asking or accepting favors, let alone one that involves a same-day trip to Columbus. So it's been sort of difficult for me to get over feeling guilty about it, but I have to say it saved my butt. There is no way I would've been able to make that trip AND do the 465 things I had to do today. I am truly, truly grateful and indebted!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Work is Over

The weirdest thing about moving is quitting my job. I've never left a job like this. I've left because places have closed, or because school was going to be rough that semester, but this is the only really big job I've had, so leaving it really means I'm about to redefine my life. As those of you who know me would know, being a landlord has defined me for the past five years. I've had so many interesting, horrible, wonderful, confusing, heart-warming, soul-sucking experiences in my job that I can't help but come out different for it. So in honor of that, I'd like to post some things that I will miss greatly about my job:
  • Old Man Tenant For those of you who don't know who he is, he is a man who has lived at our building probably since the darn thing was built. He's probably senile, too. He was always coming in asking me to sell a diamon he found (read: chip of glass) or save some very important paperwork he was afraid someone was going to steal (read: a grocery receipt). But he had these lucid moments in between where he'd tell me about fighting in WW2. I did a little research and discovered that he did in fact fight in the War, so I have no doubt that these stories are real. I love those moments of lucidity.
  • The incredible generosity of some people Whether it was the retired school teacher who continued to be a mentor, the neighbor who paid the rent for someone in desperate need, or the countless residents I know who took in the children of relatives in hard spots, I have to say I was consistently amazed at the generosity exhibited by otherwise regular people. You all know who you are. And regular is an understatement for all of you.
  • All the cats Every few months a cat would come find me. I took the first one home with me, but with two in our little apartment, we were at maximum capacity, so I rehomed and sent to shelters about half a dozen more. Plus my other office visitors: The dog, the catterpillar, the BAT, the skunk... How much fun it was to go to work in the morning not knowing what sort of new friend I might find waiting for me.
  • Various psychotenants It must be said, there are a lot of really crazy people out there. Unfortunately, I probably talk about them the most because they made me the most insane. Sometimes it was just stupidity ("What's all this POLLEN all over my car? What are you going to do about this?") but sometimes it was a bit more scary (I was variously threatened for a slew of things like warning about making noise, or towing illegal cars). This is something I won't miss, but it's also what produces all my crazy stories, which I hope some day can be transformed into a book... or something...
  • Meeting new people I know this is cheesy. But you know never who or what will walk through the door! I met so many people from a couple of dozen countries in hundreds of different jobs. I'm so glad to have made those contacts (and I hope you keep in touch, you know who you are!)

Ok, so there's the sap about work. On the other hand, I am TOTALLY READY to start dealing with getting on the move! The next couple of weeks will be filled with organizing, storing and throwing away a LOT of stuff. I hope. Then we're on to Chile!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

I am recently back from my last trip to Chile before the move! We accomplished several things and had a few surprises as well. The main "surprise" (quotes because I could see this one coming) is that there is no chance the house will be ready by the time we move. Things. move. so. slowly. there. I have to get used to this. I am pretty laid back, but that's laid back for an American, which makes me fairly uptight everywhere else, apparently. I think I have a perfectly reasonable expectation that if you tell me that something will be done on a certain date, you mean that it will be done on a certain date, but that does not fly in Chile. So the house will not be done in September. The good side of this is that now that we know it won't be, we can take our time in making sure the design is exactly right and we can observe the construction itself, which we are told is imperative to making sure the quality is what we expect.

The house was the main topic of discussion on the trip overall. We met with the gentlemen designing it several times, and moreover Michele, Johannes, Nick and I spent many an evening poring over the drawings and imagining every possible scenario for the future of this house. What I mean by this is that we're not sure how it will be used past the immediate future. Nick and I will be living there full-time for a while, but then we anticipate being able to live in the US again at least for some of the time. That leaves the house available for use by other family members, so their needs must be taken into consideration. On top of that, although Michele & Johannes and Nick & I are childless couples as of the moment, those things have a tendency to change and change rapidly. So we have to plan to accommodate families in that house as well. This all led to much discussion over the form and function of the future abode and in the end we determined that flexibility in the design is key. The final product isn't available yet, but when it is, I will share.

So in regards to the living situation, we did find an apartment! I use the term find rather loosely because it's a family owned unit, but we did view it and found it delightful. It is in the El Golf neighborhood of Las Condes which is more or less part of Santiago. I'm excited because it is right in the middle of the city with quick access to the subway and has lots of stores and restaurants around it. The view is incredible as well--something I am not used to here :) The photo at the top is one I took from the living room balcony. I am excited to see how the cats are with having an outdoor spot open to them. We can screen in one of the balconies so they can go on it whenever they please. I suspect Mister will be all about it and Shady will be happy with her comfortable indoor existence :)

The trip was productive in those respects, although I did not do a lot of vacationing on my vacation. We spent a couple of days at the farm doing sheep things, but I was horribly jet lagged and slept a lot of it. I recovered from that just as we were going back to the city and getting involved with these projects. We did have a fantastic day at the home of family friends Jorge & Edith who also gave us some very helpful pointers about building the house, so I am very grateful that we got to speak with them. As usual, time went very quickly and I've been home now for over a week, but I think things will start picking up now! The wedding is about 4 months away and I have toooons to do, not to even begin mentioning all the work for moving! Stay tuned for more pictures, news, etc. Nick will be at the farm in April, our wedding is in June, lambing is in July and so on!