Sunday, April 27, 2014


El Domingo de Pascua, Easter Sunday, Elder Kennington drove us in our Subaru Outback to Hna. Rosa's LDS branch on Ave. Los Araucanos in Talcahuano, the peninsula northwest of Concepcion. It was a beautiful cool autumn day, and traffic is light on weekends. The directions Hna. Rosita had given us were of little use, however, since the Costanera Highway along the Pacific is closed on Sundays near Concepcion, for local competitions. So we kept on driving in the general direction, north through Hualpencillo, until we recognized a few place names. Miraculously, we made it safely, on time, to the Centinela building.

The Centinela LDS building was once a stake center, but the 2010 earthquake and the ensuing tsunami did a great deal of damage to the peninsula, blocked from worse damage by the Isla Quiriquina in the Bahia, Bay of Concepcion. There are fewer members now, and many inactive members. We met with the branch president and the second counselor, who is Hna. Rosa's son-in-law. We were both asked to speak during Sacrament Meeting. Elder K. is usually prepared for things like this, but since I am not, I didn't speak very long. Which everyone appreciates.

Our Outback in the downstairs parking lot. We didn't see lines for parking until too late, so when the other two cars were also parked, we looked like clueless extranjeros, foreigners. This view from the front door looks out toward the Bahia San Vicente in the distance.

Turning a little to the right, you could also see the Bahia de Concepcion.

 Talcahuano, with the naval base on the left of the Bahia de Concepcion and Penco on the right. At the narrow base of the peninsula you can see an upside-down V, which indicates communications and cell towers.

Between the two bays is a cell tower hill.

After the meetings, we were invited to Hna. Rosa's daughter's family apartment for Easter dinner -- chicken, roast beef, mixed vegetables, rice, and ice cream. Hna. Rosa's husband was working at the hospital, so we missed seeing him. Again. (We are beginning to believe he is really a figment of Hna. Rosa's imagination, although her daughter vouches for him.) Here Rosita stands with her daughter, recently called to be the Talcahuano Norte Stake Relief Society President. Her daughter's husband, second counselor in the branch presidency, is a submarine sailor at the naval base not far away. He has been all over the Pacific, including San Diego, California, where he visited the Mormon Battalion visitor's center, where my sister Linda and her husband Craig are currently serving as full-time missionaries. The oldest son, the estimable Pablo, spent two days on a mini-mission with the stakes of the Concepcion area and several zones of full-time missionaries.

Hna. Rosa's house has been rebuilt since much of it was destroyed in the 2010 earthquake. She doesn't like to be alone without her husband, so she often stays late at the Centro de Autosuficiencia in Concepcion, waiting for him to get off work at the hospital. Or she stays with her daughter's family.

Driving down from Cerro San Francisco toward the village of Talcahuano.

The marina in the Bahia San Vicente.

 Later Sunday afternoon, we drove the Outback up the other side of the Bahia de Concepcion to Penco Stake Center, where about 140 mid-teen mini-missionaries from around Concepcion were coming to a final reunion--meeting--with several stake presidents, about 40 full-time missionaries, a women's chorus, and Elder K. and me. We both spoke, for the second time. This time I had a little longer to prepare. Even two days' missionary work had a tremendous effect on these young men and young women.

Wednesday afternoon, we took the bus to Coronel for our second crochet workshop. Some of the buses have video screens that play music videos, in Spanish and English, on the trip south. We were treated to the 80's music of Cyndi Lauper and Madonna. I have seen worse. This time the ladies wanted to make the mesh bags, and had to count out 150 crochet chains. So it was quiet, temporarily. The rest of the time there was a lot of laughing and talking.

Projects completed since the last workshop -- crochet baskets.

The marina at Coronel.

One of the ladies knitted me a cuello, collar -- cowl. I've worn it and it is nice a warm.

I found a drugstore that sold Alumbre, alum, and tried another batch of wool dyeing. Here it is rinsed and drying on the balcony. 

The bougainvillea and geraniums are still growing and blooming on the balcony in the autumn rain and wind. 

Thursday night, we gave an extra lesson to the Matrimonio Carrasco, a married couple taking our How to Strengthen Your Marriage classes, since they had missed two of the six lessons. We have printed up certificates to give to the seven couples who have finished the class. It has been a very special experience. This couple owns a little kiosk on the corner of Freire and Lincoyan, about 5 feet by 10 feet, where they spend all day selling magazines, newspapers, drinks, candy bars, and ice cream. Although they have very little, their two daughters are attending a prestigious university in Concepcion studying in the medical field, and doing exceptionally well. Their daughters will have a better life because of the sacrifices they have made. They read their scriptures and pray together every day.

Hna. Verdugo, again excelling, this time at Mapuche weaving. A wall hanging like this, if woven by a Mapuche Indian, could sell at a resort in Southern Chile for about $150.

Friday a teacher came to give a workshop in vellón, wool fleece, using long felting needles which shape the wool by repeated pricks into the unfinished fleece, causing the threads of wool to adhere to each other..

Felted flowers and figurines

The felting technique, using a long barbed needle, usually over a piece of espuma, foam, this piece covered with cheesecloth. 

The instructor demonstrating how to wrap pieces of fleece in order to prepare them for different felted shapes.

Saturday afternoon, we needed to take the Outback for a drive. We headed down Ave. San Pedro de Valdivia, and ended up in the pleasant village of Hualqui, about 24 kilometers down the long strip known as Chiguayante. On the return trip we drove alongside the BioBio River.

Heading back into Chiguayante.

A detailed map of Chile downloaded into the Garmin GPS our children gave us, which ought to serve more reliably than a smart phone as we drive in far-flung places.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Semana Santa

This week is Semana Santa, the Holy Week of Easter. Good Friday was a national holiday, so we bought a few things for our almuerzo, mid-day meal at Hermanita Rosa's in Talcahuano, since we are visiting her Rama Centinela, the Centinela LDS Branch on Easter Sunday. We have also been invited to speak the same evening to a group of youth in the LDS Penco Stake, which is 31 kilometers, about 20 miles, from Talcahuano. Because we now own a car.

After taking the bus to Collao on Friday to look at the car, which belonged to a young family, we made the decision to buy it and made arrangements over email and phone. The purchase actually happened on Tuesday. Between Friday and Tuesday the value of the Chilean peso had fallen against the dollar, so we saved several hundred dollars.

Monday morning we made a dry run to the Plaza Trebol, where we could find the car seller's bank, the Western Union office so we could pay cash for it, and the Registro Civil, government office, where we could file our papers of ownership/run to the bank to pay the taxes/and take the receipt back to the Registro Civil in order to finish the papers. (Thumbprints with messy black ink, and a civil servant who really knew how to stamp papers.)

Next to the government offices is Casa Pie, a shop for orthopedic shoes, which Elder K. reads as "House of Pie." He went inside but there was no pie.

The problem is that the Registro Civil closes at 3:00, while the banks all close at 2:00, so if you are about to pay the tax but your bank is now closed, you can't come back until the next day. Tuesday morning, in the company of the husband, mother, and two little girls, we waited three hours for other groups left over from the day before. Fortunately, we finished everything by 1:50 p.m., just in time to deposit my purseful of thousands of Chilean pesos into the seller's bank account. The Western Union in the U.S. balked at the amount we wanted Vanessa to send to us, since we might be drug dealers. She reassured them we were harmless Mormon missionaries. 

Crossing over the freeway on this whale-like walkway in order to take the bus back to our apartment on Monday. On Tuesday afternoon, Elder K. drove safely from Plaza Trebol through Concepcion traffic to the Centro de Autosuficiencia parking garage, and was declared a genuine Chilean driver.

Monday night, we had invited one of our apartment building neighbors and her little son for dinner. We made Caprese salad with tomatoes bought on the street corner, sliced quesilla--soft white cheese, and basil from my balcony garden, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I made one of our favorite dishes, zapallo italiano, carrots, and sliced onions, plus we brought a roast chicken and baguettes from the supermercado, and I made an apple cake with cream cheese frosting.

Our neighbor and her son. We met her in the elevator, and she found we could speak English. She is a delight, and very respectful of our Christian religion. She is from Iran and speaks only Farsi and English. Her little son speaks Spanish fluently. He was adept at figuring out the kid games on my iPad. She had followed her husband to Chile to study, but was divorced soon after arriving. She is now getting her Ph.D. at the nearby university  in metallurgy engineering, and her project is ceramic hydrogen batteries. She plans to return to Iran at the end of the year to teach.

Our neighbor brought us spiced pistachios from Iran, a yogurt and spinach dip that went wonderfully with the baguettes, and compressed sugar cubes, used in drinking tea--placed between the gums and cheek, you sip your tea so it passes through the sugar cube. Kind of like Tim-Tams, minus the chocolate, hot milk, and the Australians.

The Institute parking garage is about 3 1/2 blocks from our apartment, so we won't be jumping in the car for everything, but it's nice to have it when we need it. Plus, the parking is free. The city is so much different when you are driving a car--besides the streets going by in a blur, you have to remember all the one-way streets, gas stations, and the roads to avoid that are used by the "micros"--the big buses.

Our 2003 Subaru Outback. Elder K. is checking the engine. It has been well maintained and looks like a Chilean family car, lucky for us. We spent six months learning what life is like for people using public transportation, which is good insight into peoples' lives here. We have gotten to know the entire city of Concepcion on foot, by micro bus, and colectivo (group taxi). With a car, we feel we can do more good for more people, in the Concepcion and Concepcion South missions. We will take the car out most Sundays.

On Good Friday, we took a drive through the holiday-empty streets to see the lay of the freeways for our trips to Talcahuano and Penco.  We passed this rather beautiful cemetery in Hualpen.

I snapped this photo and found it included a student juggler on the crosswalk, earning a few coins by entertaining stopped cars. Chilenos are usually generous in such cases. There is regular business done at highway intersections and on micros between stops, of entrepreneurs making money selling ice cream bars, cold water, highlighter pens, and ziploc bags, among other things.

 Elder K. tried the Outback's 4WD by going up the steep hill behind our stake center, where we knew there was one of the nicest neighborhoods in Concepcion--big homes, clean, no stray dogs, no graffiti. Still with the confusing electric lines.

 The view of Concepcion from the top of the hill.

With all the delicious bread here, I have not seen my favorite sourdough for sale in Concepcion. With a climate similar to San Francisco, I thought I might capture some of its native yeasts. It has taken several weeks to develop a sponge and starter using only water and flour, and the weather has been cool, so the starter has grown very slowly. I have been rewarded, though--the starter flavor is very fine and sour, and made up into a nice dense loaf that took 24 hours to raise a few inches. One of the better loaves of sourdough bread I've ever made. I know this because we ate too much of it toasted, with lots of butter, and I had to wrap up the rest and put it in the freezer. I dried part of the starter in order to take it back to the U.S. in powdered form.

After researching natural dyes, I thought I would start making my own this weekend. To make the dye stick better to the natural wool, it needs a mordant, most often alum, which is used in pickling. Other mordants can be toxic chemicals, not used by home dyers. Since I can't find any alumbre (I know it's hiding out there somewhere,) I am using vinegar and salt, which don't give as deep colors as alum.

This is not Easter spaghetti, it's natural wool yarn in vegetable dye baths, sitting in the sun to intensify the colors:  The lavender was produced by soaking porotos negros, black beans in cold water overnight to make a purple-black liquid, and then cold-soaking the yarn using a vinegar and salt mordant. With alum it is supposed to be a beautiful blue. The lovely sage color, which doesn't show up very well, is the same cold black bean solution with the addition of baking soda. On the right are the cooked bean liquids: the small bowl of steel-gray yarn is without baking soda, and the glass dish with baking soda, is a  milk chocolate color. The dark red is from a big pan of cooked red beets. The bottom pan is a combination of  boiled red onion skins, spinach, and celery, that alone didn't produce much visible color but together make a nice amber brown. These will lighten as they are rinsed and dried.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Crocheting in Coronel

Today we took an Expreso Chiguayante microbus down Camino Nonguen, past Collao, the University of Bio-Bio and the Concepcion Zoo, to visit Barrio Villa Nonguen.  This is a more rural area, more residential, with a farmer's market on a side road, and a well-situated LDS chapel. The ward members were in place before 10:00 a.m., and although the electricity was out because the city workers were digging up the road, everyone was cheerful, kept on their coats, gloves, and scarves, and took part in class discussions and Fast and Testimony meeting. Even though there are many inactive members in this ward, (as there are in so many wards,) a pair of young elders and full-time sisters are teaching the members how to visit each other, how to help each other--watch out for each other--and to follow up on assignments. 

With April 15 coming up this week, it came as a shock to get an email from our CPA telling me that he needed information about last year's expenses for our state and federal taxes. It was completely gone from my mind. We are so present here in South America that it yanks me back to my other life. Thank goodness for online banking. I find that I spend several hours a week taking care of issues in the U.S. I even took the battery off the back of my little Samsung flip-phone, removed and replaced the SIM card, and miracle of miracles, it began working again. Another tender mercy, among many each day. Now I can continue to call the U.S. and have an American-based phone number, something I am finding is important to maintain.

One of the big surprises of living in Chile is how much crocheting I have done. I learned how to crochet in my Primary class when I was ten years old, and although I have enjoyed crocheting and knitting over the years, I've never done as much crocheting in my life as I have here. The really hilarious thing is that I'm considered an expert, in demand as a teacher of crochet, even though many women who come to the workshops are far better crocheters than I am. I realize that these gatherings are social events, and the women love to be together. They are beginning to learn, from Hna. Rosa's example of holding weaving workshops in the Centro de Autosuficiencia, how to coordinate their own meetings, a skill that comes very slowly here. Inviting the Misioneros Matrimonios helps bring more people to the meeting. They always thank me profusely for coming, and for my great patience with them. 

Wednesday afternoon, we waited on the corner of Los Carrera and Galvarino for Manuel and Andrea, for a microbus to Coronel, where Andrea grew up. She knows where the stake center is, and knows all the ladies, too. Although she brought her crocheting, she didn't get much done while we were there. I was able to take this picture of the handsome Elder K. while we were waiting.

The parada, bus stop, on Los Carrera. It was cloudy all day, and rained a little.

After one and a quarter hours on the bus, we came into Coronel. The main boulevard was recently relaid, and prefab houses are going up for coal miners and fishermen. Although this main boulevard is nicely maintained, much of what we passed on the way to the stake center was desperately shabby, old, ruined, and abandoned. The LDS churches are always a haven of order, warmth, and cleanliness, and it does not surprise me that many members like spending time inside them.

We recognized many of the ladies from the weaving workshop. I am amazed at their persistence in taking the more than one-hour trip both ways to the Centro de Autosuficiencia, each week, for the six months the workshops continued. I brought several samples of crocheting, but they all wanted to start with the yarn basket. The young mother to my left, wearing turquoise, wanted to crochet little flowers for her baby daughter, so I promised to bring instructions when we return in two weeks. She kept telling me I didn't look old enough to have five grown children and 16 grandchildren! It must be all the fresh Chilean fruits and vegetables I've been eating.

Beautiful crochet work from a better expert than I. While we were all laughing and talking, Elder Kennington had a nice conversation about Autosuficiencia with the District President; later, Elder K. and Manuel took a walking tour of Coronel. I wish I could have visited some of the interesting-looking little shops.

The microbus on our return trip, full of tired Chileans. Most working residents of Coronel take the round trip to Concepcion daily. Manuel, Andrea, and Manolito all fell asleep on the ride home.

The gitano, gypsy camp oustide of San Pedro de la Paz, moved to a different field than the one we saw several weeks ago. Hna. Rosa told us about how a gypsy encampment took up residence not far from where she lived as a girl with her widowed mother, and how her mother sewed, by hand, using her hand and fingers to take measurements, all their voluminous costumes, how they refused to pay for months until she threatened to call the carabineros, and how, on the day they finally left, they told her she wasn't charging enough, and gave her the money due her. Hna. Rosa always has a story that tops anything we come up with.

The setting sun on Concepcion and the puente sur, south bridge, over the Bio Bio River as it meets the Pacific Ocean. We always take our bearings from the hillside.

Another crochet workshop in the Concepcion Centro de Autosuficiencia, learning how to join woven squares with a stitch I found online. Hna. Dagnig is fitted out in her Scout uniform.

On our way to Collao to see a used Subaru Outback for sale on Thursday afternoon, we passed this sign. People remember my name Patricia, but can't get a handle on Clinton OR Kennington. They call him Elder.  Things look good for the Subaru, if we can jump through all the hoops.

For the additional Mapuche weaving workshop, (these sisters really didn't want the workshops to end,) one of the sisters brought this beautiful three-degrees-of-glory wall hanging. I will have to find a nice design to use up some of my store of wool yarn.