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.