Sunday, December 28, 2014

Nacimiento & Quinchamalí

Christmas Week 2014 we attended two Christmas concerts, Sunday services at Barrio Nacimiento, and helped the senior office missionaries provide a Christmas dinner for all of the 250 young elders and sisters in the Concepcion Mission. We managed to sneak in a trip to Chillán's mercado central, and to the hamlet of Quinchamalí, known for its alfareria engreda negra, black clay pottery.

Saturday evening we came early to practice with the Penco missionary and sisters' choir.

The Bio Bio Region Carabineros Band added to the festivities with several rousing numbers. Following the concert, the director, who is a church member, asked us for information on the Perpetual Education Fund. He wants to advance in his chosen field by taking more classes.

The flautist, wearing black, and the young pianista in his coat and tails and white gloves. He played the accompaniment to the sisters's rendition of O Holy Night, without music, only by ear. Although what he played was not complicated, it showed an innate understanding of music theory that he will no doubt build on in the future. He never did break a smile, and was perfectly content at the keyboard.

Missionaries always add a note of enthusiasm to any choir.

Sunday morning we crossed the Bio Bio to take Highway 156 south. 

This stretch is known as Ruta de la Madera until Santa Juana and then on to Nacimiento and Angol.

The Nacimiento Ward was very accommodating and quite interested in Elder Kennington's impromptu presentation during Sunday School lesson time. We brought the Kauers with us since they don't get to travel south of Concepcion very often.

Following church, we located the Nacimiento town plaza for a picnic lunch. Nacimiento was first a Spanish fort, which was declared a city on Noche Buena--Christmas Eve--1603. It was attacked and repaired following three Mapuche uprisings. In 1749 the city and its inhabitants were moved to the present location, where it thrives because of the wood products industry

Poplar-lined fields on the road back to Concepcion

The Sunday afternoon sky

Sunday evening we attended a Christmas concert at the Gleisner Stake Center. There were about 1000 people in attendance. The orchestra played very well, the choir was among the best I've heard in Chile, there was a children's chorus, and two young women with beautiful soprano voices sang solos. Music more than anything has put me in the Christmas spirit this year.

Tuesday morning we joined the Kauers and the Wynns to help put on an almuerzo for the entire mission in Chillán.

Lily the cook had made hundreds of large cookies, which took a long time to frost.

It took two trips to Lider to pick up all the cooked chicken. Just getting enough tablecloths turned out to be another adventure for the Kauers and the Wynns.


 Each zone presented songs and skits . . . 

. . . to a large and appreciative audience.

This is Elder Withers from the Boise area, whom we met when he and Elder Kennington were buying their CTR suits at Peterson's missionary store in Boise. Elder Withers says when he leaves the mission field he will wear one suit home and leave the rest in Chile. We keep running into him when we visit different areas.

While we were in Chillán we were able to again visit the mercado central.

I found a shop I really liked, and ended up buying a small carved gourd from Peru, a lapis lazuli "Tierra del Fuego" pinguina--penguin, and this example of Crin (horsehair) shaped like a butterfly. Crin is the native art of the village of Rari in the Maule region off the highway between Linares and Talca. The women artisans use Ixtle tampico plant fiber for the warp, and dyed horsehair for the weft. It must take hours of time to make each of these.

After leaving Chilllán, we dived off the highway for a visit to Quinchamalí, which means "paired girls" in Mapundungan. Elder Kennington and I had stopped here once before, hoping to find fruit stands among the orchards of cherry trees. But we hadn´t gone down the narrow main road far enough. 

The Kauers, however, had been looking for the black pottery hand-formed by loceras--women potters--so they showed us where they bought several nativity scenes. I had to sadly decline the only nativity I saw, since it would have been too heavy to take home in my luggage.

Quinchamalí's famous cooking dishes can go from fridge to oven--just like Pyrex. In the display above you can see the traditional figures of the guitarrero, guitar player, small pitchers, birds and chickens, goats and vases, decorated with filigrees of white paint. The artisans explain about how the clay has been obtained and finished.

This shop had the most artistic and well made pottery we saw. I bought a piggy bank and a dangly wind catcher, and Elder Kennington got some miel--honey, very smooth with excellent flavor, some of the best I have ever tasted, most likely due to all the fruit trees.

I had my picture taken with this guitarrera, woven out of some sort of narrow fiber. On our way out of town, the men found a fruit stand which only had Rainier-type or Queen Anne red-and-yellow cherries -- no more Bings. But the kilo bags did not last long. 

We mostly rested on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, talked on Skype, and listened to music, since Elder K. has been recovering from a lingering virus. We are thinking we would like to rent a casita like this on the main street in Quinchamalí, so we can lounge under the sweet gum trees while painting white designs on black pottery and eating honey and cherries.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Parral and Cauquenes

We had made arrangements to visit the Parral District north of Concepcion, to attend the Cauquenes branch and have a meeting with the district Self Reliance committee. Sunday morning we got up early for the two-hour drive.

It is the time of year for stands along the side of the road selling Mote con Huesillo, the boiled grain, syrup and sun-dried peach drink that Chileans love. We passed them all by.

In Chile there are two main mountain ranges, the Andean cordillera and the cordillera de la costa, between the Andes and the coast. We were driving the Ruta de la Costa, the main highway between Route 5 and the Ruta de la Playa, the coast highway.

We shared the highway with these horse-drawn carts.

Quirihue, halfway between Concepcion and Cauquenes

Driving into Cauquenes, a town of about 38,000 in the Maule region of Chile.

We attended the Cauquenes branch. The Parral District presidency was also in attendance. All adults and youth gathered for a meeting to answer questions about the Perpetual Education Fund. Being far from population centers and academic institutions, many members in Cauquenes feel left out of the opportunities available to others. We brought materials for those in Cauquenes and Parral who are more interested in self-employment.

Following the meeting, we located the only hotel we could find in Cauquenes, the Hotel Maule, with what appeared to be a 1930's facade.

Inside was rather quaint, but clean.

The decor had undergone numerous revisions over the decades. The hotel boasted quite a few rooms, and a gated estacionamiento (parking lot) down the street and around the corner. The concierge said many foreign guests stay at this hotel, which includes a dining room.

All was forgiven when we found the king-size bed was comfortable, and that we were the only guests in the hotel. Otherwise the walls were paper-thin, and it might have been a different story. Poor Elder Kennington needed as much rest as he could get. He was sleeping a lot lately, following a sore throat and cold symptoms, and several days with red cheeks, which we found were apparently caused by the Parvovirus 19, a usually childhood illness called slapped cheek disease. It is taking him a long time to recover.

After the nap we drove 40 minutes to Parral due east, passing across the Rio Cauquenes. The Cauqui were an indigenous group given that name by the Inca, and called Cauquenes by the Spaniards.
The soil is drier here than it is farther south. We passed pastures of horses . . .

. . . and sheep. There is a thriving wool yarn industry in Cauquenes.

We remembered it was Christmas season because of Santa sitting on an ancient combine.

The Parral district chapel. Parral is about the same size as Cauquenes, and more rural. More people here wear the native huasa dress, especially the men, who wear the wide-brimmed huasa hats.

After our return trip to Cauquenes and a night's sleep in the Hotel Maule, we picked up a set of four missionary sisters to take to the desayuno, zone breakfast provided by the Member and Leadership Support senior missionaries, the Scholes. The landmark to guide us to their house was the Iglesia San Alfonso, St. Alphonsus' Catholic church.

The missionary sisters' casita along the sunwashed streets of Cauquenes.

The Scholes live in this two-story mansion, the top floor of which they don't even use. Elder Kennington kept reminding me to be thankful for our tiny apartment in Concepcion.

They even have a dining room with a table and chairs.

Elder Scholes, who is now the Cauquenes Centro branch president, Hermana Scholes (not in this picture), and the young hermanas making pancakes, fruit salad, whipped cream, and scrambled eggs in their giant kitchen. It was the best breakfast I've had in a long time.

There was a great group of about 16 elders and hermanas enjoying breakfast. Elder Scholes says that no matter how much food they have, it will all be gone.

Monday morning we drove back to Parral in order to take Ruta 5 to Concepcion. We passed these beehive-shaped dryers surrounded with leña, firewood, and clouds of grayish-white smoke. We could not smell anything, so we don't know what was being smoked or dried.

A pretty tree-lined avenue outside Parral. Parral is notable for the main highway which runs through it, making three 90-degree turns and passing by the rodeo grounds.

The main plaza is beautiful this time of year.

Elder and Hna. Mora, who serve as counselors to the Concepcion Mission president, wanted us to stop by and visit their home, which is decorated for Christmas. Their son attends BYU Idaho, and they miss him a great deal.

Elder Mora is a retired carabinero who plays many musical instruments in the carabinero band, as did his father, grandfather, and uncles. His display of firearms and woodwinds is a sight to behold. He also collects vintage cameras.

Back in Concepcion, Bro. Verdugo, the Institute director, gave us this gingerbread house made by his multi-talented and very thoughtful wife.

The Christmas ferias continue one after another in the main Concepcion plaza. I couldn't resist these puffy wool felted angels. Jon Snider, don't be afraid. Just imagine they have noses and mouths. These cost $4 or $5 mil each, about eight or nine US dollars.

Also these felted nativity scenes.

I had to get this one for the Joseph figure and the wooly sheep. This set cost $12 mil pesos, about $20 at the current exchange rate.

At our choir practice, Hna. Solange banished these lovely gringa sisters to the side of the chapel. Since they are all over 6 feet tall, they not only block the view of all the shorter sisters, they block the congregation's view of the screen where a video will be shown. They were good-natured about it. The extremely tall gringo elders, of course, are likewise lined up along the sides of the regular choir seats. The performance is December 20th.