Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Month: February 2013

Valparaiso – Old, Beautiful…Sad

The port city of Valparaiso is one of the oldest cities in Chile. The city is composed of a flat, mostly business/industrial section right near the shore that rises sharply into cerros. More than 42 cerros define the city’s landscape. And the cerros — they are covered with dwellings and shops. The streets and stairs are steep, yards are hardly existent, and much of the architecture (at least in the area that we explored) is pre-WWI.

Colors! You’ll find them in Val-po. Many homes and buildings are painted in vibrant colors. This city is distinctly Chilean, unlike Viña del Mar (which has more of a north-western influence). The city is home to the first public library in Chile and is the birthplace of El Mercurio de Valparaíso, the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in circulation in the world.

El Mercurio de Valparaiso

El Mercurio de Valparaiso

(The above three photos came from Wikipedia.)

After parking in an underground garage, we made our way to the port. On the way, the visited the main square where the fire department was displaying their antique engine.

The fire department was displaying their antique fire engine

An electric trolly or cable car went down the street. See the cables connecting to the lines above the street?

We visited a port where there were street vendors and the occasional street entertainers.

This group appeared to be a multi-generational family making some extra cash with a percussion routine. Reminded me of Bert in Mary Poppins. See the cords running from one of their shoes to the cymbals on top of the drum? They would kick their foot back to sound the cymbals. Clever.

We rode one of Val-pos incline railways. It was not very long (compared with Chattanooga’s Incline), but it was very steep, and very old, made of wood that creaked as it went. Yikes! I got this photo from Wikipedia. I’m not sure that this is the one we rode. I don’t think so…

Here’s the view – looking up – from our ride. We only rode up. Then walked around for a couple of hours, exploring the streets of shops, houses, restaurants, and art galleries, and came back down via stairways.

I don’t remember the name of the Cerro we explored…I should ask Goyo or Andrea…here’s our little group minus Marathon who took the photo.

Most of the buildings and houses on this particular cerro were old with very high ceilings, huge doors, etc. Clean clothes could be seen hanging out. Right across the street from the clean laundry was this white-table-cloth restaurant.

Notice the artwork on the exterior of this building.

The cerros are covered with dwellings, all built right on the earth, without blasting dynamite to level the ground. The houses are constructed of wood and metal, and they conform to the contour of the earth.

The sad: with a constant breeze from the sea, fire is a very real danger to these closely packed wooden structures. Just two days before we arrived, this happened.

A fire destroyed more than 120 homes before it was contained. Thankfully, I don’t think there were any deaths. After walking the steep, winding streets and looking down on layer after layer of houses packed together, well….the logistics would make fighting fires incredibly difficult.

We spent the late afternoon back in Vina del Mar at a different beach, the family beach. There were more young children, bathrooms that cost $0.75 to use, some outdoor restaurants, and playground and exercise equipment, as well as a big area dedicated to beach volleyball.

I’ll save the rest for next time.

So, what do you think? Should I write a description and then show a corresponding picture? Or should the picture come first?

Miami Beach in Chile?

I should start off by saying that I have never been to Miami Beach. But the beach in Reñaca, Chile made me think of a scaled-down version of Miami Beach.

Last weekend we went to the coast with some Chileans friends. They have a son who, age-wise, is right in between Carman and Sudoku. With three of them and six of us, we used both of their vehicles to get around in the traffic-heavy, beachy tourist areas to the west of Santiago. They drove for us, showed us around, waited to find parking spaces…Oh my. They made our trip.

We drove from Santiago to Viña del Mar and we explored Valparaiso, Renaca, and Concon too. Then we came back over the mountains and through the countryside via Tiltil.

Viña del Mar is a popular vacation spot for Chileans and Argentinians. It is just north a Valparaiso, one of the oldest cities in Chile. Viña del Mar is a modern, hip, popular place. In the off season, life there is slower and calmer than say, in Santiago. Residents leave school or work at lunch time to dine at home. Sounds quaint. But the Viña we visited was not quaint — it was hopping – ’cause it’s summertime.

The first day, we drove from Santiago to Viña del Mar and located the furnished apartment we had rented for the weekend. (Our friends were staying with family for the weekend.) We stayed in an apartment complex on a “cerro” (a hill) not far from the beach. The cerros in this area remind me of San Francisco. They are steep with rounded tops, and in this area, they are covered with houses and/or apartment buildings. (These next two pics are by Flicker’s aev and §Claudio§, respectively. Hopefully they give you an idea of the size, scope, and steepness of the cerros.)

After getting settled, eating lunch, and taking a little break (there was a small playground at the apartment), we headed to the Reñaca beach. The beach at Reñaca, we learned, is for the young or “youthful”: the young, wild, and daring. 🙂 There were folks playing games, music, and of course, lots of bikinis. There were a few people knee or waist deep in the water, but few were swimming. We did spot a few surfers, but for the normal person, the water was really cold. Like, make-your-feet-ache cold. I could handle it for about 5-6 waves before the ache was too much for me.

Now, a break for a bunch of pictures!

Those are terraced apartments/hotels built onto the side of cerros (hills)

So, we hung out on the youthful beach for a while, let the kids play in the surf (which they loved). We headed back to the apartment to get some dry clothes, and then went out for pizza. We didn’t have to drive far at all – we probably could have walked to the pizzeria and probably should have, because finding a parking place was a bear. And it was after 10:00pm – busy time.

This is Chile. Folks here are typically night owls. The typical “dinner” time is around 9:00 in the summer. So we were out at dinner-time rush hour on a weekend. We drove in circles for — I don’t know 20-30 minutes? — trying to find a parking space. The pizza – WOW! The best I’ve ever had. Super thin crust, different, delicious toppings, with a cheese or other non-tomato base. Just truly delicious.

We got back to our apartment after mid-night and slept hard. There’s much more to say about our trip, but this post is already too long. More later.

The Santiago “Comunas”

Comunas de Santiago (nombres).svg

There’s the map. We are in south Providencia, an area almost completely made up of apartment buildings. It is on the wealthier side of town, with minimal trash, lots of trees and very green grass in the few places that it is. It has a very active local government, with many employees watering grass, picking up trash, etc. In the north of Providencia is the area known as “Sanhattan” (Santiago+Manhattan) and is full of big corporate buildings, people, and more people. Also in this area is the Costanera tower. In the north-west side of Providencia is the Cerro (hill) San Cristobal, which is a public area, uninhabited with gardens, restaurants, etc. and makes up about a quarter of Providencia.

Over the cerro is Recoleta. This area, from what I have seen in the south side, is business based, many small shops all with garage door fronts, for security. It is LOADED with graffiti and trash. Literally, big piles of trash, un-bagged sitting on the side of the road, and a huge piece of graffiti art on 99% of the store fronts. North Recoleta is where La Vega, the big food market is. There is a large, fairly nice sector, that is very busy during the day, with lots of women shopping for mostly cheap, imported clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc.

South of us is Nunoa, (pronounced “nyoonyoah”) which is similar to Providencia, but with smaller buildings and a little more trash, more houses, simply a result of an area with less money.

Las Condes is the biggest and most spoken-of comuna. It is not as big as it looks, with the east 30% of it being mountains. It’s like a bigger, more wealthy and more spacious Providencia, with houses instead of apartment buildings. This area is not as bicycle-friendly, and it’s more like the US.

Vitacura is very similar to Las Condes.

Lo Barnechea (official name) everyone calls it “La Dehesa”. This area is the nicest area in all of Santiago, with Absolutely NO trash, lots of high-end car dealerships, and big houses in gated neighborhoods. It has a level of well-keptness and signs of wealth that I have never seen in the U.S.

Santiago Centro is the official, government center of the city. It is packed with people all times of day, has no grass or trees except in parks, and is a combination of business and residential buildings. It is the oldest part of town, and the center of petty crime like pickpocketing, because of the constant mass of people.

La Reina, Penalolen. These are more undeveloped, poorer areas. Out here, property costs vastly less than it does in the comunas north of it, so you will occasionally see a huge mall or supermarket, simply because they had the space to do it.

La Pintana and Puente Alto are considered the bad side of town. I have never been to either of these.

The rest of the comunas I do not know enough about to be worth describing.

Where the Wild Deals Are

Don't panic! Prices are in Chilean pesos, not USD.

Today I found out what I’ve been missing.

Before coming to Chile, I heard about fabulous food prices and upon arriving was dismayed by the prices in the local supermarkets: ground beef for $4+/pound, eggs for $3/dozen, cheese for $7/pound…. In season fruits and vegetables could be had for $1/pound on a really good day, which was good, but I’d done as well at the supermarket in the states.

There are other nearby, cheaper alternatives to the supermarket. We’d found better quality and prices at a local produce market that delivers. There are nearby kiosks with small selections of varying quality where I often buy tomatoes. There are also ferias (open markets) around town, but with no delivery and no car, it was hard to see how that could be worth it, when you’re buying for a family of 6.

Despite the fore mentioned food avenues, we were spending more on our grocery bill than we had been in the states. That’s not what I’d expected from Latin America.

That changed on this happy day.

A friend introduced me to La Vega, the queen of ferias. I saw for myself the great deals to be had on produce here in Chile. La Vega is a seven-days-a-week feria that serves many local fresh markets and restaurants, as well as the public. The feria is located in Recolta, the comuna to the northeast of Providencia, about a 10-15 minute drive from us. My friend Andrea likes to arrive a little after 9, before the main marketplace opens at 10am, to snag deals from the men with trucks full of produce. She parks her sedan right in among the delivery trucks, then makes the rounds to find the deals. These trucks are there delivering food to the inside vendors, but they’re happy to sell to the public too. At 10:00 they’re clearing out of the parking lot, hopefully with empty trucks, to make room for the mass of customers who come to shop inside.

Walking among the trucks, there’s a continual smell of ripe food. In one place there’s a melon-y smell. As you walk it merges with cilantro, then strawberries, then just a generic smell of…vegetables. It smells wonderful. Almost everywhere you walk there are leaves from lettuce, cabbage, celery, or what have you sprinkled around on the ground. There are a couple of fork lifts that scrape the scraps into heaps. Imperfect veggies that don’t sell get tossed on the ground to get scraped into the trash heaps. I saw more than one savvy customer spot a slightly bruised large yellow pepper that had been left on the ground, shrug, pick it up, and put it in her basket. I might have too, but I didn’t get a chance to think about it: they were all nabbed up.

Our best deals of the day were found among the trucks. So, I know you’re wondering — what kind of deals did we get? We got a flat of strawberries for $2. A watermelon for $2. A Wal-mart bag full of carrots for $1. 7 heads of lettuce for $2. A box of tomatoes for $6. Three bunches of beets for $2. Bananas for $0.25/pound. The bulk items (the strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, and carrots) we split between the two of us.

The inside area of the market is covered but open air. It’s huge. The prices on the inside are still good but not as great as directly from the delivery trucks. I thought we’d be limited to fruits and vegetables, but there were nuts, meat, fresh fish, eggs, cheese, grains, etc.

I picked up some cheese and nuts but steered clear of meat and fish this time, though I do want to try those things. Maybe sometime when I go sola in a taxi — I really don’t want to stink up Andrea’s car…

There was a Peruvian sector of the market where I found some sweet potatoes. We’ll be having those tonight with a big salad and some meat from the supermarket. Now, if only I could find some natural peanut butter…

Back at the apartment, Marathon and I spent more than an hour washing and prepping strawberries to freeze – they were ripe and delicious and something needed to be done with them right away.

The lettuce is still waiting to be cleaned, so off I go.

Bald is Beautiful…

…especially when you’re a baby in Chile. Yes, bald (or nearly bald) babies are prized here. Why? Pampers and Johnson & Johnson ads, of course.

Chileans, like most of us, are heavily influenced by Hollywood and media in general. Ads here display tall, fair skinned people. While I’ve seen some ads with dark haired models, I’ve seen few if any with dark skinned models. To be fair, there are plenty of fair-skinned Chileans from the heavy European influence here. Still, darker features are the norm but are poorly represented in advertising.

These advertisements seem to reflect (or define?) the general consensus that tall and fair are marks of beauty.

Enter: the baby.

I’ve learned that most Chilean babies are very hairy, born with lots of black hair. While newborns with thick heads of hair is rather novel in the north — believe me, I remember the fuss people made over my little brother’s wild baby ‘fro — it’s commonplace here. And, in order to look like their fair skinned counterparts in the North, the mothers here have their baby’s locked shaved off before leaving the hospital. Really.

There’s an old wives tale here that if you’ll shave your baby’s thick, black hair, it will grow back more healthily. My Chilean running partner just shakes her head. “The real reason is that they think a bald baby is more beautiful!”

Short post

The main thing I am studying is Adobe programs, like Fireworks, Photoshop, Dreamweaver etc

This is something I drew in Adobe Fireworks. This figure could be put in Flash and animated, then put into a Dreamweaver website as a game or cartoon. This is extremely basic, Fireworks has the capacity for far more complex drawings.

The answer to last post’s question…….

The Panama Canal. Opened in 1914, it allowed ships to avoid the trip around Tierra del Fuego, and therefore Valparaiso did not have the huge traffic of ships that it used to, the vast majority of them now using the Panama Canal.

People then went to Santiago for it’s safety of tsunamis, it’s warmer climate, and it’s being closer to the river sources (right next to the mountains), which really means something in a country this dry.

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