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.

1 comment:

  1. It would never have occurred to me to make sourdough starter, but I certainly can appreciate the bread! I'd like some toasted, with lots of butter, please. Your yarn looks very beautiful. And very fun sitting in those pots and bowls. I'll never forget you knitting a pointelle sweater many years ago.


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