This will be a memorable birthday for certain. Rylee turned 12 on Monday. On the cusp of teenage life but still a girl in many ways. Such a gift she is. And what a treasure to spend her birthday month in a place where it is summer.
We decided to head to the coast on Thursday. It was said to be a roughly 2 hour journey…but four hours later and some kid squabbles in the car en route, we were just finally catching a glimpse of the water. Worth the wait and worth sitting in road constructions lines, one after another it felt like!
Valdivia was unusally busy so we kept driving and skipped the darling, bustling, riverside downtown and went straight to the open ocean.
A few days ago we went to a park in Temuco. It was beautiful and large and the kids enjoyed running on all the trails. We could see the whole city from the lookout tower. Eucalyptus trees are everywhere and also a sort of bamboo looking plant that is called something I don’t remember. The food is exceptional. Simple and delicious. A large piece of our day is spent preparing and eating food and then hand washing dishes for twelve people. Yes, that’s right. Life without a dishwasher for a month. A favorite so far is choripan. A grilled chorizo sausage stuffed inside the made-fresh-today bread that is absolutely everywhere. Topped with ketchup or mustard or mayo…so good. And for us gluten-free ones it is just as good as simply sausage on a plate. Very fresh and spiced to perfection. There are nectarinas de platano. Super sweet local nectarines that we eat a dozen or more of most every day. And there is palta, even for breakfast, I’ve never eaten so many avocados in my life. Pebre is on the favorite list too. I can’t leave here without learning to make it. A finely diced salad with onions, cilantro and a smattering of other delicious things combined to make an exquisite pile of yumminess that can be eaten alone or on meat or rice or anything.
On our way home from the butcher this week my conversation with Tina went something like this:
Me: So you said we are grilling steak for dinner yes?
Tina: Yes that’s right.
Me: But I heard Rodrigo say something about sausage…
Tina: Oh, yes, well we’re going to grill sausages for choripan first then have the steak after its done cooking on the grill.
Kyler (chiming in): Two kinds of meat in one dinner?! I love meat!
With the bounty of summer produce in full swing and a fantastic butcher in their pocket, we are more than well set for food. Though I don’t think my friend (and mother of two children) could possibly have imagined the staggering amount of food we would go through our families combined. It is quite a lot of food! She has ever so graciously opened up her kitchen to me and welcomed us so fully into their home.
There are all sorts of nuances that are unique to life here. And very different than our life in the American suberbs. An Italian man just pulled onto the property wanting to sell things so he could make money to fly home to Italy. There is no government welfare system. No 50% of the population dependent on federal money for subsistence. So if they have not, they have not. If they are lucky they have help from a friend or relative. If not, their options are nothing like the thriving, largely over-used welfare system in the US that has created such incredible dependence on the government. They turn tricks at main intersections in the city, hoping for a few pesos to be handed out of car windows. They drive carts with oxen selling seaweed across old cobblestone roads. No doubt there is much more than we get glimpses of.
Tuesday we all went to the market in town. Every Tuesday the vendors get fresh produce so the selection and freshness was enough to leave any herbivore drooling. There were spices in buckets and bags for sale in bulk. Beans too, gorgeous beans of every kind. Pickled onions and fresh cheeses and butter laid across counters. Fresh fish laid out over ice. There were stray dogs all over. Rylee’s favorite part was the variety, she said. There was a man threshing wheat through a wooden strainer and ladies selling fresh cooked wheat used for making some sort of dessert. Five miles down a dirt road every time we want to go somewhere means one dirty car. And our water usage at the house for a dozen people has been high so we weren’t about to wash a car with it! For a few dollars, Tina got her car washed while we shopped. A man chopped corn with a machete. A Mapuche (the natives of this area) woman sold cilantro. There are all sorts of people trying to support their families by selling whatever they are able to.
Our children won’t ever forget this. Their eyes are opened wide every day. Smells, sounds, sights and tastes that are all new. We are so glad to be here and so thankful to be together.
Sometimes dreams do come true. For the past couple of years we quietly dreamed of taking a respite from work and life and spending a significant amount of time together as a family. Time to slow and time to love. We spoke of it to no one and simply waited until a door opened. And when it did, we walked through each door, holding our dream with open hands, trusting that if it were meant to be it would unfold. Then one day we found ourselves buying plane tickets to Chile.
So here we are. Thousands of miles from home. Far enough south that it is summer here. No internet connection. No grocery down the street. No paved roads for miles. Nothing familiar except the love of friends. The kind of friends you can show up with your six children in tow and move in for a month. The kind of friends with decades of shared history, the kind you can’t replace or replicate for anything.
Taking each day as it comes. No grand plans but to experience life in a very different place. To spend our days together. Our friends have 30 acres of land and a beautiful house that is partway done being built. I’m hoping to be able to write a little of our journey on here and post some pictures and stories along the way.
Turns out Finn is as enjoyable and entertaining here as he is in the States. Last night our friends hosted a birthday BBQ for their son and Finn kept everyone smiling even across the language barrier. As did his little sister. Cute is a universal language.
A birthday dinner is really more of a nine or ten hour party. And if people get tired they simply take a nap on your couch or in your bed – how wonderful is that?! The pace of life is so different. Adjusting to a new place and recooperating from over 25 hours of travel to get here is sure made easier by the exceedingly more relaxed pace. We watched Audrey and another little girl walk around the house yesterday, teaching each other the names of items in Spanish and English. We watched our kids learn Chilean hide and seek and adapt to different rules and try to understand a language that isn’t their own.
More next week…no doubt new adventures await in the days to come!