Sunday, March 16, 2014

Living in Chile

We've been working on the Living in Chile list (at the bottom of the page) for five months now:  notes on overcoming culture shock and adapting yourself to life in South America South, or, as the Chileans like to say, life Al Sur del Mundo, at the Southern Tip of the World.

This morning, we visited the Santa Sabina Ward. This took some doing--it is in a neighborhood fairly far from where we live, and not along the usual path of most buses and colectivos that go by our apartment. Plus, colectivos and buses are scarce on Sunday mornings. We hopped on a Centauro bus, which took us as far as Calle Cifuentes, from which we could see the church steeple at the top of a hill. It was drizzling, but Elder K. had his nice new paragua (for water,) umbrella. We found the Tucapel bus terminal, which didn't help. About then, a car stopped in front of us--the bishop of the Santa Sabina ward. He knew we were lost and he gave us a ride. Bless him for listening to inspiration. The building was a very nice stake center, and the ward was full and overflowing. The Relief Society sisters, especially, were interested in knowing about the Perpetual Education Fund expanding to include older members. After five months in Chile, I was able to get the message across without much prompting.

Saturday afternoon, we went to Barrio Laguna Redonda so Elder Kennington could talk to Hna. Dagnig's cub scout troop about preparing for a mission, but their scout campout the night before had turned into un fracaso (don't ask!) so instead Hno. Delgado met us at the church and we walked in the brilliant sunshine to their home. Above is the Laguna Redonda, which fell several feet during the 2010 earthquake. Don't believe the Google Maps placement of Laguna Redonda on what is really Laguna Tres Pascualas. It's not even round, for heaven's sake.

Both of us are taller than Hno. Delgado, who is nevertheless a very kind, spiritual man. He told us how he wanted to be on the rowing team, un bote de remo, but since he was too small, he served as the timonel, coxswain.

The Delgados' two story home on Paisaje Dos.

Hno. Delgado has a collection of woven sombreros, spurs, and a leather saddle from the 1880s, and bamboo tiki torches for the scout troop. He likes to collect antique tins and bottles. You can see the beautifully carved wooden table and chairs set, which included a sideboard.

Hna. Dagnig served us each a big plate of purple grapes. Then we went into the dining room, and we ate empanadas, sopaipillas, pan de campo, Ecco--a toasted barley drink (like Pero)--with cocoa, and cookies with jam and manjar. Their youngest son, a returned missionary from Colombia, told us the story of the family's conversion to the LDS church: His parents were on the verge of divorce, when a pair of missionaries showed up. Hno. Delgado was the first to be baptized. Hna. Dagnig, seeing the change in him, finally responded to the set of missionary sisters who began visiting her, and after giving up smoking her cigarettes and pipes, she was baptized as well. They were sealed in the Santiago Temple. Both have been a great force for good in the Barrio Laguna Redonda.

The view from our new apartment. We are now able to see the stars at night, including Orion's Belt, which the South Americans call Las Tres Marias, the Three Marys.

Tuesday we helped process a group of new missionaries at the mission home on Castellon. On the way back, we stopped at Sodimac and bought the shelf unit, above, which after assembly turned out to be 89 cm wide to fit in a 90-cm space. It is sitting above the molding because the molding makes the space too narrow to fit. We had to put the bottom shelf in and then lay the top shelf on it because of the doorway molding. But it holds a lot of stuff! We got the Chilean flag on sale at the supermercado.

We also got this little shelf unit for the kitchen, and a set of curtains which we will be needing when the weather turns cold. There is a cottage industry for insulated curtain-making in Concepcion. Since everything was too heavy to carry home, we hired a pickup driver from the line of hopefuls just outside the front door of the Sodimac for $5 mil, about $10. It was worth it. The other drivers were making jokes about us converting our hired driver to the Mormon church, so we were able to start a conversation about it on the way back. We even had copies of the Book of Mormon we'd gotten from the mission home, but they were in English, to use in Elder K.'s newly scheduled English classes.

A little wall hanging  I made using beautiful hand-dyed wool yarns, off-white, green, navy, and calipso--aquamarine--using abedul, birch twigs.

The finished Mapuche telar, made with red, purple, navy, off-white and green hand dyed wool yarn.

Hermana Tia, Elder K.'s adopted aunt, wearing her crocheted colgante y pendientes, necklace and earrings.

A girl's doll that holds pajamas inside.

Hermana Verdugo, who returned to us after spending all summer babysitting her six grandchildren, now back with their families in Santiago. She was still able to  work on this beautifully-made unfinished wool blanket and several other items.

Elder Kennington modeling Monica's well-made poncho. She will be going to Osorno during the winter, and this will keep her warm. It is like  a very large, very heavy wool blanket with a hood.

Hno. Manuel Valdes, who joined a group of five returning Latino missionaries at the weekly Self Reliance workshop. We visited him in the Santa Sabina ward. He  is an entrepreneur and wants to start an educational farm in Hualqui. He has asked Elder Kennington for help. We will probably be taking the Bio-Tren to Hualqui sometime soon.

Suggestions for Living in Chile:

1) Even if you look like a foreigner, few Chileans speak English well, and they will expect you to speak Spanish. Do not hesitate to let them know you can't speak Spanish, or if you can, to ask them to repeat, more slowly -- Lento. We have been told it is very hard for them to speak slowly. Try speaking English slowly, for instance.

2) I drew a little map of Concepcion to memorize all the streets in order. We depended on that map for weeks. Since no one ever writes anything down, and you can only find out things by asking someone who knows, you will need to have the map in your head if you expect to use the transit system, including microbuses and colectivos--the group taxis--or walk most places, as we do.
3) Until you have your RUT number, the national I.D., use your Driver's License number to sign for credit card purchases. You won't be able to sign contracts without the RUT, so someone else with a RUT number will have to rent your apartment or install Internet for you. It takes about six weeks or more to get your Carnet card, ID with picture, including a visit to the police department for a background check, and having all the fingers on your right hand fingerprinted at the Registro Civil.
4) When you buy something in small shops, you usually leave your selections on the counter, the sales person draws up a slip of purchases, you take the slip to the cashier to pay, then take it back to collect your purchases.
5) It was not easy to find a stylus for our iPad. (Finally found one in the Santiago airport.) There is no decent canela--cinnamon--to be had in this country. (Sis. Kimball gave me some Costco cinnamon! Hooray!) Or brown sugar. (see recipe below) Or hydrogen peroxide. Or heating pads, although you can buy electric blankets. We found some heating pads with the right plugins on and had Vanessa send them to us. Elder K. gave away a pair of his very expensive rigid arch supports to a lady with scoliosis who had pain with every step she took.
6) Take advantage of the fruta y verdura paradise you are in. There is usually something on sale even during the winter. One of our favorites is the salad mixes sold on street corners, including grated carrot, sliced cabbage and lettuce, half a boiled egg, and cooked peas, beans, and sweet corn (choclo). The season for strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes goes on and on. The apples are wonderful.The prices of fruits and vegetables sold by street vendors are usually the same everywhere. If you can find a vegetable rinse, buy some and use it. Romy often bought zapallo italiano, a striped, club-shaped, zucchini-type squash, cut into julienne strips, stir-fried with julienned carrots and chopped onions. She often added cream to the dish before serving. It was simple, inexpensive and delicious. Another common dish is rice with lots of mayonesa, pimientos (orange and yellow peppers) and cooked choclo, "sweet" corn. I have had to stop eating rice in Chile because it is usually a fried rice, and I have choked on it several times.
7) I made brown sugar by mixing 1 cup of sugar with 1 T. liquid chancaca (molasses). You can buy compressed bars of chancaca to make a dark sugar syrup by boiling with water. It is very strong. What passes for brown sugar is large sugar crystals that look brown.

8) Quillayes yogurt in large containers is more like U.S. yogurt, lots of fruit, and the containers are great for storing and containing liquids that come in pouches.
9) The liquid yogurt in pouches, which Elder K. drinks from the container, makes great sauce for fresh fruit or eating with granola. The Jumbo granola is way better than the Quaker Oats granola. 
10) On the subject of food: We found sweet and sour sauce, Hershey's chocolate syrup, and Quaker Oats in the Jumbo in Concepcion. Lider carries the Walmart brand peanut butter and potato chips etc. Chilean potato chip brands contain enough oil to spontaneously combust. The vegetable chips (sweet potato, carrot, and beet) are REALLY good and quite expensive. The cookies that look like they might be like Oreos, aren't. I was able to find gluten-free rice and corn based pasta. Cornstarch is called Maizena and is rather passive about the job it's supposed to do. Same with the gelatin. Don't buy any brand of vanilla (vainilla) except for Marco Polo (unless you test it first). The flavor is ruinous otherwise. Curcuma is not Cumin, it is Turmeric. Buy cominos if you want cumin. Parsley is Perejil. Bicarbonato is baking soda. Many other herbs I will have to put a name to. Merken is a hot Mapuche chili spice. I've found hot salsas in pouches that can be used in chili. Most Chilean food is not highly seasoned. Good luck on finding refried beans or pumpkin in cans. Hamborguesa is actually chicken, pork or beef-flavored rubber the size of a deck of cards, most often individually sold. There is a real problem with quality control in the Hamborguesas. If you want ground beef, get carne molido. Milk is ultrapasteurized and comes in boxes. Crema de leche para batir, whipping cream, comes in little boxes or sometimes is in the refrigerator section. I like it. It takes forever to whip, but once it decides to whip, it stays that way. Sour cream comes in pouches and is called Crema Acida. You can find cream cheese, which the Chileans call Filadelfia. It is outrageously expensive. 
Buying meat is a nightmare. Don't buy local Chilean beef, buy Argentine instead. Uruguayan and Paraguayan beef can be greasy. Look up beef cuts in Spanish to see what you think you are buying. Vacuno means beef, vacuna means a vaccine. Pollo Ganso is a cut of Chicken Goose Beef. Cook it a long time, it actually has good flavor.  I like the sobrecostilla cut for pot roast, you can often find it on sale. Loma is the best cut, also the most expensive. Chileans love to barbecue, and the smells in the evening are wonderful. Cerdo means pork, and it is usually pretty good. I hear bad stories about the hormones they use in chicken, but the chicken usually tastes very good. Pavo, whole turkey, is expensive, but you can often find diced or even ground turkey at reasonable prices. Remember the weight is in kilograms, so you will not get sticker shock.  Missionaries aren't allowed to eat seafood, but can eat freshwater fish. (Something to do with pollution.) The hot dogs have lurid food coloring, but the young elders are able to eat them on buns covered with tomatoes, avocados, mayonnaise, chucrut (rinsed sauerkraut) and papas fritas (a "completo"). Lots of different types of sausage, longaniza. You CAN find black pepper grinders if you look. Otherwise you get black pepper the consistency of dust. Sal, Salt, comes in plastic bags like powdered sugar to refill your salt shaker. You CAN find a holder for lighters so you can light a gas stove without injuring yourself. 
The national dish of Chile is empanadas with pino, a mixture of chopped beef, black olives, hard boiled eggs, and raisins, in a rather tough, doughy bread wrapping. The national drink, mote con huesillo, which you buy at roadsides and street stands everywhere, is dried peaches soaked in syrupy water with grains of puffy wheat. It deserves a blog post all its own. It is very filling, and you can buy the ingredients in most supermercados.

Mote con huesillo

Chilean cheese is generally of two varieties and expensive: Gouda laminada (sliced), and quesillo, soft pot cheese. Everything else is imported, and ruinously expensive. There are no corn tortillas in the entire country, although you can find corn chips and flour tortillas.
I see I'm going to have to expand on this some other time. I haven't even mentioned the herbal teas of Chile.
11) Do not be put off by what a business looks like on the outside. It MAY be very nice on the inside. Often the living quarters of the owners is behind the store and goes deep into the middle of the block.
12) The dogs on the street have parasites and ticks. (Garrapatas.) They are not your friends. Hna. Balden keeps telling us of elders who have been bitten by dogs. Do not pet them. Some towns have a worse problem than others with the number of dogs.
13) Things I wish I had bought more of when I was in Santiago and Valparaiso: hammered copper, alpaca neck scarves, and lapis lazuli jewelry. Although I have found more at Ferias Artesenales. Prices for jewelry and watches is much less in the Centro Urbano--along Calle Barros Arana and all the cubbyhole businesses leading out of the plazas down the center of town--than in the large department stores like Ripleys or Falabellas. We did find a nice umbrella (paragua) at Falabellas, and a very nice bedspread at Ripleys. I bought a few clothing items in the department stores, although my husband could not find anything that would fit. Maybe in Temuco, where there are more descendants of Germans. He did order two pairs of handmade leather shoes for about the same price as new ones.
14) We bought a couple of fans to 1) dry the laundry and 2) serve as white noise at night. Chileans are not generally noisy, but they do tend to stay up late, late, late. The fans, by the way, one of which was made in Spain, were expensive.
15) Try to find an ATM machine (if you can) that doesn't swallow your card whole during the entire transaction. Elder Kimball had a bad experience with one. We found a RedBanc ATM that you allows you to pull the card out right away. Most ATMs are not accessible after 2:00 p.m. unless you have a bank card for that bank, which, good luck with. You can hang around until someone opens the door with their bank card and then you can slip in the door behind them. Or you can go to the Jumbo on Bernardo O'Higgins downstairs and use the ATM all day, as long as there is money in it. It doesn't swallow cards whole.
16) Even walking outside 30 minutes, you may need sunscreen in mid-summer or at high altitudes. You can buy little spray bottles of it near the checkout counters.

17) We couldn't find antacid that isn't outrageously expensive, so we bought Calcium Carbonate supplements and chew on those instead. Or have someone send you some.  Probiotics are outrageously expensive. Fortunately yogurt is widely available. Vanessa sent us antacid and acidophilus tablets, hooray! Also ibuprofen, another outrageously expensive item. (Am I overusing the word outrageously?) We hand out ibuprofen to suffering friends who cannot afford the ten tablets at a time of questionable effectiveness you can buy here. We will probably send for more and leave them as good-bye gifts.
18) We found a great shoe repair place--Navarros--on Serrano between Cochrane and San Martin. Heel replacements are perfect at about $4 a pair. There is also a wholesale shoe place on Los Carrera that sells great "Grasa de Caballos" shoe grease.  There are a lot of dentists in Concepcion, and we found a jolly one who did a pretty fair job for a fraction of what we would have paid in the States. He only gave us anesthetic when it was actually called for. I will have to say, now that we have been home for two years, that one of my husband's fillings (he had two) and the one I got have cracked and fallen out. Our U.S. dentist tells us it is because they used acrylic fillings in grinding molars, when a metal blend would have been more sturdy. Ah, well, it lasted long enough before we could have it replaced.
19) I have problems with gluten, but I can eat the bread here. As long as it is not too much. It is easy to go overboard. The best bread in Concepcion, especially flautas (half-baguettes) and croissants, is at the Unimarc on Chacabuco near Arturo Prat, conveniently across from the Centro de Autosuficiencia. They also have really good roast chicken there, and thin-crust pizza.
20) Serve lemon and olive oil with salad, mayonesa (in bags with screw tops) with everything.
21) You will be honked at, eventually. Don't take it personally. Buses are independently owned, and they are in competition with other buses. Take a colectivo, if you can. The drivers seem to care more about their vehicles. Middle-aged women in colectivos do not like to move over for other riders. Even a millimeter. (See #34, below.)
22) Most people think well of the Mormon missionaries. It gives members a lift to see you with your name tag.
23) There are no parking meters, because you must pay a street-side parking attendant who appears out of nowhere, for the privilege of parking at that particular curb. Often they will help you parallel park in miniscule spots. If they know you are a Gringo, they may delay the amount of time it takes to take your pay so you have to pay more. Show your disapproval. They get off work at 8:00 p.m. so you can park wherever you want. If someone is stopped in front of the driveway you want to turn into, keep your blinker on so everyone behind you will honk into shaming them to get out of the way.
24) When you go to a chain grocery store, Lider, Unimarc, or Jumbo, you may be asked the following at checkout: Boleta? (if you want a receipt) Puntas? (if you are collecting points--you have to sign up for this, and have a RUT number) Cuota or Sin cuota? (Do you want to put it on a credit card payment plan? You will want to say: Sin cuota) or Donacion? (if you want to round up your small change for the store charity). If you don't want to keep all the 10 peso coins you will be getting as change, you can give them to the grocery bagger. The young adults we knew did not get paid for bagging, just tips.
25) In the grocery store, you have to take your bags of loose bread, fruits and vegetables to the weigh counter to be weighed with a sticker before you can buy it at the checkout.
26) Always take toilet paper with you, especially if you are going to smaller cities. Even some of the chapels in Concepcion are often without toilet paper, and there are rarely hymn books, either. Carrying wipes with you is not a bad idea. If you are lucky enough to have a car, stock it with paper towels, a blanket, water, coins to pay for toll roads as well as jugglers and acrobats at the intersections, and, of course, snacks.

The calendars, printed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper, are too wide for the narrow folders; too long for the short yellow folder, and "lined" paper is graph paper. 

27) Standard 8 1/2 x 11" paper will not fit in most notebooks or folders, which are either too narrow or too short. "Lined" paper is graph paper. Paper punches only come in the two-punch variety. Try Lapiz Lopez for stationery needs.
28) I have found 220-110 electrical outlet  adapters for U.S. electronics in the Hiper Lider and Jumbo. The most useful are the all-in-one international adapters, especially if you can find a multi-outlet strip. The European size adapters also have three prongs but are too big to fit, but there is an adapter for those, too. If you visit Argentina, the adapters do not handle Chilean plug-ins, although they did for American plug-ins. Draw your own conclusions. 

Adapter in Buenos Aires that does not accommodate a Chilean plugin-in, which needs three holes in a row. Several other South American countries use the American-style plug-in.

29) Make sure your electronics can handle voltage to 240, (for example, look on the big heavy rectangular adapter that comes with your laptop plug-in cord). If you do not see the number 240, it may burn up. I have two voltage converters (like little bricks with prongs) but neither of them work at all. The only thing I have lost is a little Black and Decker fan, which whirred VERY FAST and then started smoking and died. But my laptop, iPad, and phone and digital camera chargers have all worked fine, also my Babyliss travel hair dryer and my curling iron.
30) Some things you may have to hunt for, for example, wire whisk, clipboard, envelopes, delantal (apron), etc. may be found in specialty shops, or show up unexpectedly at the Jumbo or Lider, never to be seen again.
31) Which reminds me, if you see something you want, buy it since you may never see it again.
32) When someone ships a box to you, make sure it is U.S. Priority Mail. Do not use services like UPS, or they will charge you $100 to deliver. Vanessa sent us a box of socks, books, antacid, Ibuprofen, acidophilus, and A&D ointment via U.S. Priority Mail (it cost $60 in one of the Post Office boxes) and it got to our apartment in 10 days. If you send things to the U.S., use Correos Chile. Lines are shorter in the afternoon before 5:00. Bring a list of all contents, their value, your address, phone and RUT number, and the address and phone of the person you are sending it to.
33) In Concepcion, peatones (pedestrians) will cross at a red light, if no one is coming, on a one-way street. They will cross at the middle of the street, too, but are usually aware of how much time they have to get out of the way. Vehicles are not allowed to turn right on red. If you wonder why all the cars surge out on a green light and race like it's a speedway, it's because the lights are not synchronized to maximize traffic flow. If you follow a colectivo, you can see where all the potholes are and avoid them.
34) As in Germany, Chileans walking, most especially women in their 40s and 50s, do not like to make way for anyone else on the sidewalk. Even a millimeter. Like the French, they will at least acknowledge you in the elevator.
35) Chileans say  ¡Chao! (the Italian Ciao) for goodbye.
36) Take a snack with you. You never know if you'll be stuck in a taco (traffic jam), your bus won't show up, or your meeting will start an hour late. Chilean snacks tend to a lot of starch, so you may want to take an apple.
37) Tea Tree Oil is indispensable. Unless you are one of those unfortunates it doesn't work on. It repels pulgas (fleas) or, if it is too late, apply it on a new bite--try not to scratch it--and it will take the itch out, and it will heal faster. I have also made a lot of use of spearmint oil, lavendar oil, eucalyptus oil (works the same as Tea Tree Oil) and digestive blends.
38) I'm sure there are more, but that's enough for now.

 ¡Chao chao! 

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