New Friends and Memories

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Flag of Chile  , Maule,
Tuesday, July 21, 2009

July 15th, started low and lazy like most of my off days.  I woke up late just in time for a shower and a hot lunch.  On this day Eliana's Brother in Law, Andy, will come by so I can take pictures of him in his uniform; He is a local police officer or Carabinero (pronounced: Car-a-bin-air-row). 

Around 3:30pm I hear a knock on the door and it is Rorry and Andy coming to pick me up.  I thought I was going to their house to take pictures because Andy asked if I wanted to go to the "House of Police."  Instead we went to the Police Station.  I was given a tour of the station, going from office to office meeting each officer and learning their specific jobs.  Andy does not know a lot of English but he has been practicing more since I have been here.  When he noticed the DUMB FOUNDED look on my face he would translate in SPANGLISH.  Immediately I was asked questions about the United States, How is Chile different from Chicago (like Chicago is a country), If the men in Chile are better looking, and what is my favorite Chilean dish.  I have been in Chile for over a month now and it never fails that those are the first questions asked.  I admire the fellowship of the Carabineros.  They joke that one guy is Fat because he drinks too much whiskey, them they tease another because he is a good dancer saying that is how he paid for his new car.  As I laugh and join in the teasing I am can only wonder that somewhere In another part of the world there is a police station enjoying similar banter.

I must admit that these Police Officers are more laid back than I expected.  They work, joke around and pose for photos as if it is a natural part of their work day.  I also thought it was very kind of them to try to speak English to make me feel more comfortable.  Truthfully it was easier to understand them in Spanish.  I informed them of my upcoming trip to the south of Chile in Puerto Montt.  They gave me a lot of helpful safety tips as well as emergency numbers to call, just in case I needed help.  They said most police officers do not speak English but if I am in trouble do not hesitate to call the police and together we would figure the language out. 

Isabel, Andy’s wife and Eliana’s sister, works as a Medical technician at the Police Station and she shows up to give me a tour of her office.  She is so sweet and tries very hard to speak with me in English.  Sometimes she will chat with me on Facebook to practice talking in English.  Every time I see her she is always equipped with a smile and her Spanish/English Dictionary.  Sometimes I can imagine what she was like as a child.  Her eyes are round and Doe-like; full of curiosity and wonder.  When I speak she hangs on every word; recording the experience to memory forever and I get the feeling that every word I say is truly important to her.  Her office is small and reminds me of a dentist office because of the big white observation chair.  She shows me her bible and tells me to read the 90th Psalm, it is her favorite passage of scripture.

The tour continues and it leads to an open courtyard where there is a full court basketball court.  Rorry is playing a quick game of basketball with an off duty officer.  It never fails, when I say that I am from Chicago they always assume that I can play basketball.  As if Basketball is the national game and everyone in Chicago plays like Michael Jordan.

In the USA Most Police Stations have a fleet of vehicles, but this station has only 4 patrol cars, 2 patrol motorcycles and 2 horses.  Two of the cars and the horses were out on patrol when I arrive.  Juan the off duty police officer asked if I wanted to see the mounted police and within 10 minutes they were waiting for me at the front gate.  They were a happy handsome duo, and seemed to be more interested in being photographed than being on patrol anyway.  They even offered to let me ride one of the horses.  I could not believe my luck, and was eager to get back in the saddle again, however getting in the saddle proved to be an event within itself.  Being deficient in height and abundant in BOOTIE is truly a recipe for comedy.  I even think I heard the horse SNICKER a little.  After a few attempts, I was sitting tall; the sun on my face and a western wind blowing in through my hair (it could have been a northern wind I am not that good with directions).  With my Faithful Stead, all I needed was a sombrero and the music from “RAW HIDE” playing as I moved toward the setting sun.  Move over JOHN WAYNE there’s a NEW SHERIFF in TOWN!!

When I thought the day could not get any better the Three Legged Dog shows up.  They call him Tripote (pronounced: Tree-poe-tay – meaning 3 paws).  Many years ago he was hit by a car.  Lying on the corner howling in agony two local veterinarians had mercy on him and took him to their hospital.  The infection was so bad they had to amputate his leg.  When he was all healed and full of strength the vets took him back to the streets and set him free.  I asked why they did not find a home for him the response was “The Streets are his home.”  I never have my camera when I see him, but today while I am sitting on the horse I tell Andy to get a picture of the dog.  He hobbles by, stops and waits while Andy fumbles with the camera, gets his picture taken and hobbles off to continue doing whatever it was he was doing.  Tripote if very famous in Parral and I am glad a celebrity of his status was gracious enough to pose for a photo for a humble English teacher from a land far away.  Maybe he wanted to be a part of my Chilean Memories too.

The day was long, the sun had set and it was time to go to Andy and Isabel’s house for dinner.  It was is always good to hang out with them because they are a very fun and loving family.  After dinner we watch the Chilean version of “Dancing With The Stars” Baile de Fiebre (pronounced: By-lay Day Fee-ay-bray =means Dance Fever.)  It was the worst display of dancing that I have ever seen.  The winner receives a gift certificate for $600 (USD).  I have never seen so much gyrating and silicone flying all over the place; like a train wreck I couldn’t stop watching.  At the end of the show Raul calls, around 1:00am, and says it is time to come home.  I have to get up early in the morning to go out to the country for a BBQ.

The next morning Raul and I will travel alone to Eliana’s brother Juan house for a BBQ.  The mother of the regional director for the schools in Parral died the day before and all the teachers were required to go to the funeral.  I was shocked that she was dead for only one day and they were all ready putting her in the ground.  Micheal Jackson was dead for about 3 weeks before they put him in the ground.  I found out that Chilenos do not embalm their dead so they try to bury them as soon as possible.

We arrive to Juan’s house around noon and as usual the turkeys are patrolling the front yard like guards at Rikers.  I notice one of the Turkeys is missing, which is strange because these birds of a feather always stick together.  We are greeted by Pamela, Jaun’s wife, with a big hug and a mega-watt smile.  This is the first time I have met her because she works as a social worker in another town and only comes home on the weekends and holidays.  Crossing the threshold was like stepping into an alternate universe.  A rustic wonderland wrapped in the aroma, of grilled meat, wild herbs and fresh bread.  The air engorged with savory fragrances teasing the senses.   

Later their friends, Juaquin (father), Gabriela (mother) and Javier (son-15yrs old) arrive is a thunderous blaze of laughter, kisses and bear hugs.  They were a happy friendly bunch, and were very interested in getting to know me.  Surprisingly Juaquin could speak a good amount of English.  The more we talked the more comfortablehe became with speaking to me in my foreign language.  I tried to speak as much in Spanish so the rest of the people in the house could participate in the conversation. 

Dinner was served; a simple salad of lettuce, celery, and olives tossed with lemon and oil, a Turkey Cazuela, Turkey Asado served with warm spiced apple sauce, and fresh warm bread.  It now accrued to me what happened t o the missing Turkey from the front yard. I felt a bit sad for the old bird, and mourned the loss by dipping fragments of her deliciously grilled carcass in apple sauce. 

The conversations flowed like honey; discussing such topics as family, travel, wine and the difference in lifestyle of Chileans and Americans.  I am happy to be an American but our values and not consistent with the principals we claim to hold dear.  I watch as Javier hugs his mother affectionately and help her clear the table.  Not many teenage boys in the USA are so attached to their mothers and willing spends their day off of school with a house full of Grown Folks.  He is a good boy and the beat in his mother’s heart.  Juaquin says, “We Chilenos live a simple life, third world to American standards.  We work long days for little money, but at the end of the day the only  things that are true is God, family, and good friends.  Americans think of money and things, yet pride and family are lost.”  To that I add, “Tu familia es tu vida.” (Your family is your life)  The room nodding in agreement as if that were the only phrase I ever needed to know in Spanish.

After a wonderful dinner it was out to the back yard to help plant eucalyptus trees.  I am eager to feel the cold earth between my fingers and feel the sunshine on my face.  Everyone helps and the process in somewhat archaic; using a straight sick and a long string to measure and devide the rows.  One person would place a small hole in the ground so the planter would know where to place the eucalyptus stalk.  Another person would fill the hole with a powdered substance to help keep the soil moist to allow the plant to grow.  With all hands on deck the process did not take very long.  Juan says, ”Nakia if you come back in 10 years this will be full of tall fat trees.”  To know that I was a part of this process sat heavy on my heart.  One day his home will be warmed from trees that I planted, their shade will give him shelter in the harsh Chilean summers, and one day his grandchildren will play in this grove of trees filling the air with echoes of laughter.  These are my GIVING TREES; a gift I did not expect to receive on this warm winter afternoon.

Finished with planting we go for a walk to work off the rest of my Fine Feathered Friend.  Juan shows me how far his land stretches out.  The setting sun casts a golden mist across the horizon.  The earth is calm and the winds breaths through the open field. In the distance the snow capped peaks of the Andes is a compass directing us west.  I walk and take in the day and all that I have learned and experienced.  I look ahead and see friends, fathers, sons; Chilenos as rich as the soil underneath their fingernail, as fiery as the blood that flows through their veins and as constant as the mountainous landscape.

After a long walk, we had all worked up an appetite and back at the house an appetizing helping of warm bread covered in butter and drizzled with honey served with hot tea and milk was waiting for us.  Time is fickle and slips away too quickly, before long it was time to travel the dark dusty road back to Parral.  Juan gifted me with a few stalks of dried wheat to remember my visit, and his wife Pamela invited me to visit her father’s farm when I came back from working in the south (Puerto Montt). 

We drive away and I watch as the Little House In The Country, is swallowed by the darkness and I recap the day in my mind and tuck them away in my memory.  Until next time my friends try to do something meaningful with your day, cherish every sunset, and create a memory that will last forever.

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nakiaford on

Hey Lady
Thank you so much for reading my blog. I was not sure if you were getting the notifications. I am having a great time hear and every day is filled with new possibilities. I hope all is well with you family and I hope to hear from you soon. Be good,


nakiaford on

Thank you so much for reading the blog and I hope to keep it interesting for you and the rest of my readers. Having too much fun!

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