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.