Friday, April 30, 2010

Banana Peel Shoes

I'm the type of person that can't make a serious face if I try. Noticing that, one of my coworkers tried to give me a lesson once on doing the "evil eye," a lesson I failed, of course, as the furthest I get is a giggle and maybe a slight eyebrow twitch.

Anyway I have this pair of flats that have a sort of hard plastic sole. They work fine everywhere except gravel, on which they tend to skid. Unfortunately I figured this out through a process of trial and error... the error being multiple wipe-out mishaps of varying degrees of height, distance, and grace.

I'm stubborn, so of course when I finally came to terms with the fact that its the shoes and not just many clumsy cooincidences, I continued to wear them anyway. Until... walking down the road I live on, I pulled the most EPIC of tumbles, landing on my ass, scraping up my arms, and calling the attention of a handful of people nearby. Of course, as has happened nearly every single time something unfortunate happens to me in Chile, everybody stared and did nothing to help. I went to work dripping blood from my palms, and cursed the shoes, later throwing them in the closet for a few months.

But putting clothes in the closet for a long time eventually sparks my curiousity and doubt, figuring "it cant really be that bad, can it?" even though I know better deep down. So I ventured out on Saturday, wearing the same flats again, thinking about my major blooper as I passed down my street. But careful baby steps did nothing to lessen the magnitude of a complete reinactment of the origional fall, right at the exact same spot as before. It happened in slow motion, I swear. First my foot skidded foreward off the step and out from under me, extending higher into the air as my body followed, landing with a huge thud a few steps below.

After one second of shock used to realize I was alive and catch my breath, I burst out laughing, because, well... it was funny. And though I didn't land in any of Valparaiso's trademark canine landmines, the situaiton wasn't much better.

Then something entirely unexpected happened: Someone stopped and asked if I was OK. I was, so, again slightly dripping blood from a few points, I got up and continued on my way,this time smiling for the random act of kindness I have found to be so uncommon.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

One size fits all....

All what, gnomes???

When it comes to shopping, I hate being a giant in Chile.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Micros will be micros...

Today it took me two and a half hours to get home from work on the bus.

The whole way home I was thankful for 3 things for sure:
1. At the last minute I decided to go to the bathroom before getting on the bus
2. Despite not waiting around for him, a coworker ended up on the same bus because I waited so long for one to pass that he caught up.
3. That I was not involved in whatever was holding up traffic.

I think about things like that last one often. Today was the biggest traffic jam I have experienced yet in Chile, and I have been stuck in more than my share. Traffic was backed up til the mall in Vina, and similarly far away from other angles. That doesn't sound too shocking without any context. Where was the accident? On Avenida España near the Industrial High School!!!
i.e. (for those unfamiliar with the Viña/Valpo layout) FAAARRRR AWAY

We basically went over a whole coastal mountain because traffic going towards Valparaiso on the oceanfront was shut completely down.

Though quite used to it, I am still uncomfortable with how dangerous public transportation is here. Although a little freaked out by crazy lane changing when I got here, my fear really established itself when I saw a micro had crashed into a neighbor´s house. Furthermore, the busses are often in bad condition, drivers are irresponsible, and the different busses compete for passengers. They race, they cut one another off, they pull close-call moves, etc... Last Sunday the driver of the bus I was on and the one next to us started playing a game of chicken, almost slamming into each others side until they started throwing things at each other through the window, then stopped in the middle of the road, got out of the busses, and began the physical threats...
These series of ridiculous events are not a unique experience and I, unfortunately, have racked up an archive of crazy micro stories.

The order of what I was most thankful for swapped around quite a bit after I saw the news article with photos on the accident, which happened just about exactly where a similar accident happened a year and a half ago.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Velas Sudamerica

(Click to enlarge any photo)

This is definitely one of the most gorgeous sights and light displays I have seen in Valparaiso, as if the New Years fireworks and rolling mountainsides speckled with lights weren't enough to marvel at.

A few mornings ago at work I caught a glimpse of the Esmeralda on its way to the port. It looked quite beautiful, though it wasn't the first time I had seen the Esmeralda in the bay. The Esmeralda, along with about a dozen other sailing ships from around the world, arrived as part of a regatta going along the coast. The public was welcome to come see the boats up close.

(Above: Argentina's Libertad)

Some of you may remember that a friend of mine in the Chilean Navy spent half a year traveling on the Esmeralda. When he arrived in the Spring, for some mysterious and unfair reason, I was denied access to the pier (and only me, I didn't see one other person get turned away) when I went to welcome him upon his return to Chile. I never even got to see the boat from up close because there was a big structure blocking my view from the entrance to the pier.
This time, if one has enough patience to wait through a never-ending line, it was possible go up on the ship. And this time, that included me!!! The ship is gorgeous!

(I had the most ridiculous time trying to take pictures. Some didn't turn out the first time mostly because of lighting but there wasn't much time for a second chance. There were numerous times people would look at me trying to take a picture of something like a peephole, and they would stick their heads in front of the camera to see what I was looking at. My camera makes a loud click noise so I would take the picture anyway as a "hint, hint")

It was possible to climb on many of the ships, however it was late and there were so many people that I didn't want to go on all of them. I did take pictures from the front and sides though. Here are some of my favorites:

(Mexico's Cuauhtemoc was definitely one of the most elegant)

(Colombia's Gloria)

(Venezuela's Simon Bolivar)

(Portugal's Sagres)

(Uruguay's Miranda. +Shooting star, or just a smudge on the lens? haha)

(Looks like a pirate ship from the movies, right?)

If you are in Valparaiso today, go check it out! Today is the last day and the line, though huge, was totally worth it.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Showing her the ropes

(Odd color adjustments so you can actually see the dark kitten)

When we first brought home Rayita (Angel demanded his naming rights... for those who don't speak Spanish her name would mean something like "Stripey" and the first syllable is pronounced like rye the grain rather than ray the beam of light), Daisy hated her!

The house was a war zone, though entirely one sided; Rayita sat weak in a plastic box, quiet and oblivious to the older cat running in circles that would hiss, growl, bite and swat at anything that came near. For days, a low grumble that had us double checking to see if it were a tremor came from the depths of Daisy's throat. It was obvious an enemy had invaded her turf.

As the days went by, Daisy stopped acting crazy and would only freak out when in close contact with Rayita. She stopped biting Angel and I just because we had the smell of the little one. She even finally dared to get close enough to take a few swats at the little kitten, a scene which, though heart-wrenching to watch as Rayita is too small to defend herself, the veterinarian recommended. So we let things play through without human intervention.

But within the past few days Daisy has calmed down and started approaching Rayita. She has seemed to recognize that a tiny little kitten can't do much harm and needs to be taken care of. When Rayita goes to eat, instead of stealing her food, Daisy takes the opportunity to give Rayita a full cleaning and brushing of her fur. She also has began to playfully pin her new sister down and almost choke her with her arms in a position that almost looks like an adorable little cat-hug! Maybe soon they will get along just fine after all!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

A dream come true

Saturday night my boyfriend and I went to a neat show with a bunch of really funny and talented performers. After the show there was a party, but as usual, I wasn't up for making it til dawn and I went home early around 2am to make pizza and watch Law and Order (SVU, of course). I conked out before my boyfriend even got home from the party, but he woke me up and asked if I'd come to the fleamarket with him the next morning, to which I said no and told him to let me sleep. [or so I was told]

That night I had a dream that we went to the fleamarket and at the end of the aisle there was a box with 4 little kittens. In my dream I hovered over the box, finally picking out a dark little kitty.

Early Sunday morning (so, noon) my boyfriend got up and was leaving the house when I asked "where are you going?" .... when he reminded me he was going to the fleamarket to buy hardware tools, my dream flashed through my head and I decided to trail along.

At the fleamarket when we got to the end of the row, I drug Angel over to the spot where the kittens were in my dream. There sat in a basket on the ground one lonely kitten. I asked how old it was, "2 months" said a mother and daughter in unison, and I willed myself away, reasoning we already had a cat, trying to ignore the omen I felt my dream had been.

We took only about two steps away when Angel goes "...why aren't we going to take it?" No thinking required, we retraced a few steps and said "OK!" But looking at the kitten more closely, I asked them "Its really 2 months old?" To which they insisted at first, then admitted "maybe a little younger" and eventually "Well, they were born on March 2, so I guess she's only a month old. There were 4 of them but someone adopted the other 3 before you got here." 4 kittens originally? I must've just overslept my cue to reenact my dream.

It disgusted me that these people were knowingly and deceptively trying to give away kittens too young to be away from the mother, claiming they were 2 months old and handing us a bag of huge hard pellet food which would've been near impossible for the kitten this little to ingest. I wanted to tell them to take her back home for a few weeks, but I knew they wouldn't. Anyway, I know I'll take good care of her and she'll probably be better off with me than some of the alternatives.

While I was dying to name her something related to the jungle, Angel has insisted on "Rayita" since the begining. So, Rayita it will be. I named the last one.

Without further ado... Meet Rayita. She's one month and 3 days old. She weighs 365 grams (12 oz) and speaks like a gremlin.

When we got home she took a nap, then I set her in this big mug to take a picture similar to the one everyone oogles at on the front of my notebook at work. (Yes, the professional look of my notebook has already been jabbed at.)

At night she could not be left alone. She meowed and meowed and devised ways to escape from various containers, boxes, clothes hampers, etc... When we finally let her have her way she climbed on the bed and slept all night on my neck. Its good someone finally got to sleep, because I sure didn't... I was so nervous I would roll over on her that I hardly got a nap in.

So much for the photoshoot, she fell asleep inside the mug!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Burning of Judas

Last year I posted about an Easter tradition I'd never witnessed. Since the link is down I will copy my description:

(Judas, obviously? A photo my boyfriend sent me that sparked my interest about the tradition)

Apparently there is a somewhat widespread Orthodox and Catholic ritual to burn an effigy of Judas, the man who betrayed Jesus. However, I'm not Catholic, and I had never heard of this tradition before coming here. (In Chile I've personally only heard "la quema de Judas," however, the internet tells me in many Spanish speaking countries [Venezuela, Ecuador...?] its called "la quema del judío" which means "the burning of the Jew"). In Chile young children try to gather as many coins as they can, sometimes through asking strangers on the street and other times their parents basically fork over the money. Then they put the coins inside a straw, clothed, near life-sized effigy of Judas. On Friday night they're supposed to hang him, and on Sunday they set him on fire. As he burns the money is released and falls (Judas' guts falling?) to the ground and children collect it and supposedly keep or spend it.

As I've never been able to see it for myself, this year I made it my goal to actually witness this tradition. I am always open to the idea that what I've imagined in my head is nothing like the real thing, and for this I must always verify. Luckily, a group of people in Valparaiso set up an event that included a small parade leading up to the spot where they would "burn Judas." What follows is a short photo sequence of what I saw.

Short description: The parade had live music on a float that resembled Valparaiso, and the participants had interesting costumes and each danced around with a stuffed Judas. Then they were loaded on a cart and the parade weaved towards a spot where Judas had been hung up in an intersection. (I wonder if that shirt was a cooincidence...). Then they torched Judas and everybody watched him burn for about 15 minutes as kids ran up and tried to grab the coins that fell down amidst flaming pieces of Judas being flung off as neighbors on their balconies shook the chains he hanged from. It was not a particularly safe event, in my opinion.