Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas Week 2013

The week of Christmas we have had the most glorious weather since we've been here--mid-70's with a nice sea-breeze, and we can hear the seagulls outside our apartment balcony. It gets down to the 50's at night. Our friends in inland Chillan say it is in the mid-90's there, so we're glad to be in Conce.

My Christmas display. Sis. Pulsipher ordered the dyed-wool nativity figures for me, and the larger set was finally complete. Pres. Arrington and his wife delivered it with their Christmas card and a loaf of banana bread, along with a flat of amazing blueberries from Chillan. The smaller nativity set will come later. I was surprised at how much more Christmasy our little apartment felt as soon as Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus were in place. The pretty gold bead angel decorations on sticks were made by Hna. Debora from the Centro.

The Sunday before Christmas, Romy's friend Fernando picked us up at our apartment and drove us the 20 minutes north to Penco, on the coast, where the Penco Stake was putting on its Christmas concert.

Fernando is an electronics engineer, and knowledgeable about his home country.

Although there are a few swimmers in the Penco beach, Fernando told us the water is very cold, there are rip tides and depressions near the shore, and the water is polluted. Environmental protection is still in its infancy in Chile, according to Fernando.

The stake center filled up with families with children. Romy sang with her double women's quartet, led by the stake president's wife. This chorus and another mixed choir sang a capella, with beautiful voices.

My tomato plants are finally blooming. We will see if they set any tomatoes. The blue hortensia (hydrangea) I bought in bud at a little nursery called "Le Petit Jardin." It is the first blue hydrangea I have been able to successfully grow. I made bruschetta at the Centro using the basil growing on the balcony, and yogurt pancakes and crepes with  champignones, cebollas y queso (mushrooms, onions and cheese) and whip cream/fresh fruit fillings with maple syrup on Christmas Eve. They were a big hit, since the ladies had expressed a love for American Pan-queques.

"Le Petit Jardin" nursery on Calle Ongolmo between Freire and Maipu, where I bought flowering plants and herbs several weeks ago, and had to carry them back to the apartment.

 On the afternoon of Christmas day, after Skyping with several of our children, we went to the stake center to a gathering of all the elders and sister missionaries in the Concepcion mission. Here is Elder Richardson, nephew to James and Debbie Skousen, friends who live in Ontario, Oregon.

Elders playing futbol (soccer) in the basketball court. There were between 80-100 missionaries present, eating grilled chorizos in fresh buns, and enjoying wearing non-Sunday clothes. Elder Kennington talked to all of the native Spanish speakers about the Perpetual Education Fund. Only about half of them had heard of it.

Sister missionaries from all over the Concepcion areas. Our mission nurse, Sis. Balden, says one of the worst problems she sees is the lack of good walking shoes for the sisters. Even nice-looking trainers are preferable over non-supportive flats.

The day after Christmas, the Udalls, a humanitarian couple stationed in Santiago, made the drive down with the Concepcion stake president, the area seventy, and the Welfare Director for South America South to present a new underwater rescue vehicle to the City of Concepcion, a converted Ford F-150 truck.

An article about the truck appeared in the Faro Mormon, the Mormon Lighthouse. The gift is in memory of Elder Dallas Archibald of the Seventy, who drowned while fishing December 14, 1998, in the Bio Bio River near Santa Barbara, southeast of Los Angeles, Chile.

 Oscar Chavez, on the right, the Chilean director of Church Welfare Services, remembered Elder Kennington from the summer several years ago he spent working for a friend and member of our ward, Reed Dame, in Fruitland, Idaho. Elder Valentin Nunez, the area seventy, standing next to Oscar Chavez, was instrumental in helping organize the Elder David Archuleta Christmas Concert at the Santiago Temple.

We had a nice visit from the Pulsiphers and their friends from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, the Livingstons, a new missionary couple serving in the Perpetual Education Fund in Republica, Santiago. The volunteer work force in Republica needs supplementing, so they have their work cut out for them.

Our new Perpetual Education Fund agent, Raul Seguel, has been in Concepcion this week, discussing with us the changes to the Self Reliance Centers that will be occurring in the next few months. We have been informed we will be attending a training session in Buenos Aires in mid-January, on my birthday, no less. Hermana Rosa will be assigned as a full-time missionary to continue as the Directora of the Centro de Recursos, fulfilling a life-long dream for her.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nativity Week

The week before Christmas, we had a party with the weaving workshops lady, a ward Christmas dinner, and we visited a number of Ferias de Navidad.

Elder Kennington and ladies enjoying refreshments in the Centro de Recursos (Resource Center). The lady to Elder K.'s left reminds him of his Aunt Fern, so he has adopted her as his Tia, Aunt.

Crochet work

Centro gift exchange. Monica Rodriguez, with the short dark hair, is taking English lessons from Elder K.

A stunning table runner woven and crocheted with glittery gold thread

Manuel had his fill and took a nap on Elder K.'s pillow under a desk.

One of the workshop ladies made this motorcycle rider out of seashells.

Elder Kennington cleaning up afterwards using the vacuum the ladies call "R2-D2."

At one of the Christmas feria booths, I bought a leather pencil case to carry my crochet hooks. The artisan threw in the coin purse because I was a missionary, and her son was currently on a mission in Argentina.

I couldn't resist this puffy dyed wool angel. I ordered a complete Nativity set, but it isn't finished yet. Jon Snider will notice that this angel may not have a complete face, but she does have eyes.

 Our barrio (ward) Christmas dinner was scheduled for 8:00 Friday night. We were supposed to bring our own plates, but somehow didn't get the word, so the Relief Society provided us with some. We began eating about 8:30: baked chicken, rice with mayonnaise and choclo (corn)--surprisingly good; peeled tomatoes, paltas (avocados), and peas tossed with oil and some sort of cilantro cousin. Since Elder K. hates cilantro, he gave his peas to the lady sitting next to him, and everyone laughed.

 At the end was a very sweet rendering of Luke 2 in the beautiful Spanish language, or Castellan, (Castilian), as they always call it. A trio of teenagers sang "O Holy Night" a Capella. 

Tonight we are going to Penco to hear Romina sing in a church choir, in which she has a soprano solo. Fernando is going to pick us up and take us, so we have to be ready early, since Fernando drives "lento," slowly. We didn't think such a thing was possible in Concepcion!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

El Hogar Mendoza Ramirez

On Saturday, we made the 1.8 kilometer  (1.1 mile) walk to visit El Hogar Mendez, the Mendez home, on the shores of Laguna Las Tres Pascualas near San Sebastian University. Andrea is the teacher of the weaving workshops, who gave me the Tree of Life wall hanging. Her husband Manuel is self-employed. Elder K. has hit it off with their 6-year-old son Manuel, and we promised we would stop by.

Andrea is a natural artist. Here, she allows cobwebs to form around antique lamps just outside the back door, in order to catch moscas, flies, before they come into the house.

Manuel's father built this house sixty years ago, extending the property into the laguna with loads of earth. Here Andrea shows me herbs and flowers growing in her yard. She has taken herbalist classes from Hna. Rosa, directora at the Centro de Autosuficiencia.

San Sebastian University is visible across the laguna. During the 8.8 earthquake in 2010, the water swallowed up much of the shoreline, flooding some of the homes. Although some of Andrea and Manuel's house has been rebuilt, they have a much smaller yard now, and the foundations of the house are on a permanent incline, so the entire house is tilted a little, and some walls are still broken.

Andrea says the center of the house was very dark until she cut a hole in the roof and put in a skylight. Here she has a display of antiques inherited from her husband's mother.

Some of Andrea's weaving looms, and the beginnings of a new wall hanging.

Artistically arranged piles of weaving wool, hilo de lana. Andrea tells us she eats lana, drinks lana, and sleeps lana.

A beautiful original wall hanging

Another tree of life wall hanging.

 We visited the Valderrama family is well, including four daughters, two of which are church members, a mother, and a grandmother, living on Calle Cruz, adjacent to the university. The third daughter has had missionary lessons and will be baptized after Christmas.

At the week's weaving workshop, Manuelito was pressed into unwilling service to model this well-made boina, beret, woven on round looms. 

Manuelito drew us this picture, of the ship Nephi and his family used to cross the ocean, with cannon in the hold. You can also see the flags of Chile and the United States.

This hilarious hermana kept us laughing as we were weaving. She wove this bag out of strips of recycled plastic.

Red and green woven Christmas valance

A rather beautiful valance made with white cotton thread.

This cute hermana  made a number of beautiful boinas, one of which she wears, above.

Sunday, we attended a good-bye lunch for the Bensons, the mission office couple for the Concepcion South mission, after 18 months of non-stop service. Hna. Benson answered all my anxious emails before we came, and was a great help to us. We wish them well back in Utah! 

We also found out this week that the Chilean sister in our mission, Hna. Villarroel, will soon be going home. Missionary service is not always possible for everyone. We hope she will back in a familiar place before Christmas.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Itata Falls

We finally got our visas okayed, so we went to the police station to get a certificate assuring everyone we are not criminals. The next day we went to the registration office, took a number, and waited awhile with a bunch of other people until our number was called. We were fingerprinted on every surface of every finger on both hands, and were assigned a R.U.T ("Root") number which identifies us in Chile now and forevermore. Fortunately the registration office no longer covers the hands in fingerprint ink, instead using a colorless ink.

This week the Instituto Down, the institute for Down's Syndrome children, was having an open house. Several ladies with children there invited us to come. It is not large, with a courtyard open to the sky, and barebones tables and chairs to work at. But the children seem well cared for and happy.

The childrens' drawings had been transformed into artwork for sale, so I bought these two to hang on the wall next to the non-working telephone.

I finally broke down and hung some Christmas decorations I found at the Hiper Lider, to accompany what is left of the Thanksgiving centerpiece, and the willow shavings flowers in a water bottle I got in Santiago.

I finally finished the crochet work around Andrea Ramirez' woven squares. I first crocheted around each square, after which the squares are crocheted together, and the whole thing surrounded by a crocheted border. Hna. Rosa is going to Santiago this weekend to visit the temple, and she will present this as a gift to Hno. Faria's wife. I can see I am going to have to make one for myself--I ended up taking the poncho out of my bag and wearing it on a cold day.

When we were walking back from the registration office, we wandered into the flower district on Calle Caupolican. I rarely find potted plants, but I found a basil (albahaca) plant, verbena, rosemary (romero) and an osteospermum growing in sawed-off 3-liter pop bottles, and had to carry them all home. The basil seeds I had planted earlier all sprouted, but the nights are still so cool they didn't make it. You can see the different growth habits of the tomato plants--one of the risks and surprises of open-pollinated, non-hybrid seed. I found a bag of guano (sea bird and bat) fertilizer, which smells strongly of ammonia.

Saturday, we were invited to accompany the other senior missionaries to Itata Falls, between Cabrero and Yungay, southeast of Concepcion. The Bensons are going home in a week from the Concepcion South mission, and this is their goodbye trip. Above, yellow baptisia blooms freely for miles along the highway.

There is not much information to be had on the Itata Falls, with the exception of a blurb in Spanish on one web page, saying that the falls are "little known". This is understandable, since once off the highway and into the woods, it is nearly impossible to find. The senior missionaries remembered the last time they came here, looking for a sign and being directed toward this tree, which says helpfully, "Solta Itata" (Itata Falls) in green paint, with two little green arrows. The senior missionaries say this has improved over the last time, with additional green paint.

The falls are gorgeous. After the rainy season, water comes down all around the rocks here.

Nor are there any annoying hand railings to spoil the view. Here Elder Balden takes a picture next to a sheer drop of 240 feet. One young family, with two little children, came out of the woods to see the falls, then turned around and went right back.

The noise of the water was very peaceful and pleasant.

Above the falls, a group of ladies in sunhats splash in the River Itata where it forms rivulets through the sandstone.

Under the falls, downstream of the River Itata.

 We had a very relaxing picnic of cold chicken, excellent potato salad, and croissants from the Unimarc.  A bus load of the ladies we had seen above the falls stopped on the path near our table to smile approvingly at our lunch plans, and we waved goodbye to them. 

 We finally had to go home. A few minutes down the road, a gap-toothed forest ranger riding a rickety bike asked about "robo," theft, having received reports of a thief who had broken into someone's car. We told him we hadn't seen any robo. Elder Balden set the GPS, and the route it chose was this long gravel road through country lanes of poplar trees and little acreages with small homes with tin roofs.