Things You Don't See in the States

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Flag of Chile  , Maule,
Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sometimes when I travel the architecture, smells and sounds of a new city remind me of home. When I am homesick I just imagine that I am back at home and I am just on another side of town that is unfamiliar.  In Chile not even my imagination can be fooled by the things I see, hear, and experience.  Today I will point out some things that I have noticed that distinguishes Chile from my home in the Chicagoland area. 

First we will start with our house.  It is what we would call a ranch style house.  Most homes here have a black iron gate with a small garden in front.  Apparently that is a Crime is an ugly sneaky little monster that have found his way to this small part of the world.  The gates are high and help keep the out Thieves (Ladrónes – pronounced La-drone-ace).  When entering the property you walk down a long corridor that spills into and modest Living Room (they call it – The Living).  The furniture is an odd shade of burgundy and at least about 12 years old.  There is a long dining table that can seat at least 8 people.  The left of the dining table is a 27 inch Picture to Picture color television.  The TV gets about 70 channels and the house is equipped with WIFI. This sounds like the traditional ranch home in the states.  However this house is heated by an Estufa with is a fire burning stove, and the water is heated by a Calefon (pronounce Ca-lay-fone).  We just go a new Calefon a few days ago.  The old one had to be lit every time we ran hot water or used the stove in the kitchen.  The new one comes on automatically and that is a real big deal around these parts.

Mostly everything is run on gas and the only things that are electric are the lighting, entertainment equipment, the computers and washing machine.  The washing machine is small and can only fit a medium size load (by American standards).  However, don't even think about putting your clothes in the dryer after they are washed.  It’s off to the backyard (or the garage on rainy days) to dry your clothes.  Do you know how long it takes clothes to dry in 30 to 40 degree weather?  Well I do!! At least 2 days and that is if the sun decides to come out. 

There is a huge picture window in the living room and you can see the entire backyard from the comfort of the sofa.  Looking through the long glass wall gives you the feeling of looking in an aquarium.  However instead of exotic fish from tropical islands, I have the unique pleasure of watching the social habits of a crazy dog, and lazy cat, a frisky rooster, and 20 noisy hens (and a partridge in a pair tree).  I sit and watch for hours the crazy antics of this motley crew.

First there is Tomas (pronounce Toe-moss), a 10 year old sand colored long legged mutt.  On the surface it would seem that Tomas is kind of losing a grip on reality in his old age.  He runs around in circles and barks at nothing but behind his wild eye is a well trained "Hen Whisperer."  Everyday like clockwork he will break oven the gate to the hen house and let all the hens and the rooster out to run free in the backyard.  They run around, try to eat his food and just wreak havoc for hours until he gets so tired that he falls asleep.  Right at the point when they have stepped on his face, one too many times, or used his water dish as a birdbath.  Tomas the “Hen Whisperer” rises from interrupted slumber, springs to a wobbly long legged stance, releases a thunderous “Yelp” and chases every loony bird back to the coop.  Tomorrow this game will start all over again.

Then there is Sofia the cat.  I call her Sofia Caliente( means hot in Spanish) because she has 2 little kittens and we find out that she is pregnant again.  She is definitely one HOTT MAMA!!  Sofia makes her home in the garage, and because it rains so much, she can only be seen on dry or sunny days.  Sofia is quite regal as most felines are; spending most of her day cleaning her multicolored coat or sunbathing whenever the sun decides to make an appearance.  I like her because she is not easily riled.  Today the yard is covered in birds and she seems to be oblivious to the circle of hens that have congregated around her.  Busy with cleaning her beautiful fur she is not as entertained as I am by these feathered busy bodies.  A hen spots a crumb of bread that has fallen on Sofia’s head, and pecks at it interrupting her grooming.  What happens next may sound farfetched but I could not make this up if I tried.  Sofia stops, turns her head; and while looking straight in my face, SLAPS the taste out of that hen’s beak.  Then calmly returns to her grooming as if nothing ever happened.   That was an Ike Turner move it ever I saw one.

Next there is Felipe the rooster, I have nicknamed him Phil Boogie.  He is the lone man in a coop of 20 hens.  I must admit he is pretty handsome for a rooster.  His feathers are medley of crimson and emerald that seem to shimmer in the sun.  He walks with his coned head held high like it was a crown of rubies and this yard, patched with earth and stones,  is his kingdom.  I am almost taken aback by his arrogance.  I open the window and throw out pieces of bread.  The sound of the window opening is like a dinner bell ringing.  They run, squawk and peck at the discarded pieces of old bread.  True to form the king himself pushes past the smaller hens and grabs the biggest piece and walks away daring anyone to come within an inch of his majesty.  The other hens gather around him begging for crumbs.  He turns his head and in a flash one of the hens has come out of nowhere, grabbed the bread from his mouth, and ran back to the coop to eat in peace.  If you could have only seen the look on Felipe’s face.  I know they say birds don’t have expressions, but he had the look of a Big Player that just got PLAYED!! He squawks very loudly, I am sure he was cursing the hen out but it was in Spanish so I am not really sure. Oh have the mighty has fallen!!

Last but not least is POOKIE.  If ever a hen looked like a CRACKHEAD it would be Pookie.  Pookie is small skinny and has black patchy feathers.  She has no feathers on her neck or legs and the feathers that are left and scraggly and thin making her eyes look unnaturally large.  I know you’re thinking, “Why does the black hen have to be the Crackhead?”  I don’t make the rules I just report the facts.  If they killed her tomorrow to eat, she would not have enough meat to satisfy a refugee. She is definitely not a 10 piece from KFC; more like a 10 piece McNugget.   

While all the other hens are pecking away at food Pookie is running back and forth trying to get a few crumbs.  I can almost hear her saying, “Hey chica, you got a few pieces of corn I can hold.  You know I’m good for it?’’ To this the other hens just peck and kick at her until she runs away.  But no respectable CRACK-HEN would stop at a few measly pecks and kicks.  She keeps pestering them until one of the hens, out of frustration, accidentally drops a large piece of bread from her mouth.  Seizing the opportunity she grabs the piece of bread and runs for her life with about 7 hens hot on her heels (I’m not really sure if hens have heels but for the sake of the story let’s just say they do).  Unfortunately the piece of bread is so big that Pookie cannot close her mouth to eat her stolen spoils.  For about 5 minutes this CRACK-HEN runs around the backyard with her mouth propped open with a Mountainous crumb in her beak.  Part of me feels bad for not breaking the bread into smaller pieces.  The other part of me is so tickled by this barnyard comedy, that I am sort of pleased with this fortunate mistake.  Nearly choking and almost snapping off her beak, Pookie finally gets the crumb down her frail throat.  Tired, disheveled and minus a few more feathers Pookie is more than resilient and will live to see another day.

One of my favorite things is the Triciclos (Pronounced Tree-see-close).  They look like huge tricycles with two wheels in the front and one in the back.   They are used to transport wood or packages, or clothes.  They are everywhere and usually driven by older men.  I could not imagine how cold it must be to peddle around town on these contraptions to make a living.  It is so funny to see a Triciclo with a few boxes in it and the family dog sitting on top the boxes going for a leisurely ride around the city.  I usually see them when I am in a car so it is so hard to get a photo because Raul is usually going 80miles an hour.  One day I was riding with Pilar, and she slowed down so I could take the picture.  I thought the Triciclist would think I was strange leaning out of the window to photograph him, but like a true Chileno he kept pedaling, smiled and waved for the camera.  I would later take photos of other Triciclists and they all just smiled and waved ,happy to be a part of my Chilean memories.

Another thing that I find amusing is the Carros (pronounced Car-rows: but you have to ROLL the R’s).  Carros are horse and buggies that travel around the town all day and night.  Every morning I hear the rooster crow, and the clop, clop, clop of huffs from outside my window, and I am transported back in the early 1600’s into a small farming village in the 7th Region of Chile.  I am sure this town has not changed much since then; nothing new but the millions of photos of Pablo Neruda, WiFi, and maybe a 6 more books at the town library.

Finally the one thing that I will never see in the states is LOS ANDES.  The Andes are the world's longest exposed mountain range, and are the highest mountain range outside Asia.  They lie as a continuous chain of highland along the western coast of South America.  The range is over 4,300 miles long, 120 to 430 miles wide, and an average height of about 13,000 ft.  The Andes extend over seven countries:  Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela; some are known as the Andean States.  There are several active and inactive volcanoes on the range; it is said that Chile lies on a Ring of Fire.  There is an inactive volcano that can be seen in Parral, and every time I see it I hear Johnny Cash singing, “The Ring Of Fire.”  I am almost jealous that I only have 2 months to enjoy the beauty and splendor of the Andes, and Parralinos have Her for a lifetime.  

I hope you have enjoyed this entry, and I hope you were not too bored with the content.  Until next time my friends.  Remember when the day has come to an end, the little things in life are the most remembered.

Chao y Mucho Besos (Goodbye and Many Kisses)

PS:  If you are enjoying my blog please leave me a comment and let me know.  Thanx!
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