Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Curious Kitty in the Strange Bathroom

One of the *features* of our house is that it has three bathrooms. Apparently this is hard to come by here in Porvenir so I feel lucky to have so many showers and toilets. But wait, we don't just have 3 toilets and 3 showers... One bathroom came equipped with two toilet stalls, two showers and two sinks! The house's previous owner was a fishery which used the house to board visitors, so they rigged up a kind of hostel-like bathroom. Unfortunately for us it requires a lot of tearing down and remodeling and it hasn't been on the top of our to-do list so right now it's acting as a storage area/laundry room. One of our cats, Callie, found a nice resting spot up high on top of the shower stalls.

Our miracle working handyman is scheduled to come back next week and this bathroom will finally get a nice makeover!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Just Your Average Sunday Lunch

I love this. Today we went to my in-laws' house for lunch and the following friends attended:

Sheep Farmer
Sea Bass & Sea Urchin Exporter (yes, the famous CHILEAN sea bass!)
Algae Processor

I think it is so cool that people's vocations here are so different from what one is used to living in a city. And it makes for really interesting conversations around the dinner table!

A Visit to the King Crab Plant

As I mention in my profile and as some of you already know, the main reason we moved to Porvenir was for my husband to help his dad with a king crab/fishery processing business. Right now we are smack in the middle of king crab season which runs from about July to November. When my mom was here, we took a tour of the plant and I'd like to share some photos of the process the king crab goes through from the seas of Chile to a table in Taiwan.

First off, to take a tour of the plant we had to wear special hats, coats and boots. Here is a shot of Fernando and I getting ready for the tour. I have to say that I am really rocking those boots. New fashion trend?

The process obviously starts with the freshly caught king crab which they buy from the fishermen. (I have yet to see "The Deadliest Catch" which shows the fishermen in Alaska but I assume it is a very similar process.) This is what the king crab looks like fresh off the boat. Beautiful, isn't it? (Notice that they have one large claw and one small claw.)

Next, the king crab are killed (don't really want to write about that but obviously they have to be killed and if you take them out of the water and wait too long to kill them, their meat turns to water and they die). Then they are cleaned and wrapped up as follows:

Once they have been wrapped up, they are submerged in hot water for about 5 minutes in order to cook the meat. Then they are submerged in cold water to cool off because otherwise they keep cooking inside from being exposed to the high temperature (see photo below of cooling off). After this they are rinsed off and packaged in crates (see photo below).

Once in the crates they are frozen completely overnight and then re-submerged in water to create an icy covering at which point they are packaged in cardboard boxes and shipped to Taiwan.

Once last photo, this time of my mom and me. It shows the plant pretty well (Pesquera Bahia Chilota) which is why I am including it, although you also might like our lovely head coverings.

So that's the king crab process. Any questions?!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Very Strict (BORED) Police

So here is an interesting tidbit about Porvenir. The police are super strict. What's up with that? Since my arrival on August 12 (just over one month ago), my father in-law has been pulled over (and sited for not changing his driver license residence to Porvenir), Fernando has been pulled over (no citation - whew!) and now today, I was pulled over!!! Apparently they set up these random check points all the time all over town. I guess it kind of makes sense in a small town where there isn't much action. They have to fill their days somehow. My experience getting pulled over was actually quite pleasant (since I had my driver's license and car papers all in order) and I chatted with the two police officers for about 5 minutes. They of course were trying to figure out what the heck I was doing in their little town. But the important lesson learned is that I always have to drive with my licence handy even if it's just to go down the street to the bakery (which of course I do driving not walking even though it's right around the corner because it's too darn cold).
On a side note, what's up with the overly aggressive Chilean police emblem (see picture above)? I've always wondered why they chose the double rifle to represent themselves. Seems a bit belligerent doesn't it?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Broccoli Update

I have found frozen broccoli!! It's not the same as fresh but I'll take it. It was hiding under my nose this whole time at the place I buy my fruits and vegetables but only today for the first time did I notice the freezer hiding in the corner where my broccoli was waiting! Okay so I won't be able to make broccoli salad (I HEART broccoli salad!!!) but at least I can have proper stir fry!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Baby Milestones?

Olivia now knows how to nod her head "no." She also has begged for coffee and to show her that she wouldn't like it I let her taste it and she proceeded to beg for more. How can a one year old like coffee?? I am creating a monster! Here's my little monster with her papa and sister (ahem Callie cat) working on the computer!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sunset After The Rain

Sunday it rained all day. Boo. The cold and drizzly weather made for a nice sunset though. This was the view from my in-laws' house.

And here was the sunset from our house (I know I already posted this view once but I LOVE it and it was so beautiful last night that I felt compelled to share it again!)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Dieciocho Cookout (vegetarians, skip this post)

Friday was finally the big celebration of Chilean independence. We were invited to a cookout at a nearby farm. Here is a shot of Fernando and Olivia at the farm (I am loving Fern's beard!).

Among the various festivities of the day, there was a man singing and playing the guitar. Olivia was quite intrigued and was dancing up a storm.

The main attraction (and specific to the region, not typical in all of Chile on the 18th) was the lamb. The particular lamb that we ate, as with all of the lamb in the region, is completely organic and grass fed (just by default, no special farming, just *old school* farming the way it should be!). Now here is the part vegetarians (and maybe even some omnivores) might want to skip. The lamb is put out to cook at 10:00 am like this:

It is grilled all day until about 3:00 pm at which time it is taken down and chopped up for serving. Here is a shot of our expert grillers chopping up the meat.

And finally, the lamb, along with the beef, chicken and sausage are all eaten up (and a few potatoes, no salad). It was delicious!!!! And there was so much food! Imagine, this shot is just of the leftovers!

All and all a very nice Dieciocho, despite the ever present cold and wind!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fiestas Patrias Parade

Yesterday I went to my first Porvenir parade in celebration of today's independence day (not sure why the parade was the day before). More flags were raised on the waterfront.

I had heard that the parade was starting at noon so I arrived just after 12:00 and waited and waited and waited until 1:15 at which point I left because it still had not started and I was freezing! So I missed the parade only I didn't really miss it because the whole time I was waiting everyone in the parade was also waiting, lined up so I saw the parade, just not in motion! Here it is:

Most of the parade's participants were the soldiers from the nearby military base. Here they are lined up and waiting (and waiting...). Notice the stray dog hanging out with them as if he were part of the group.

More soldiers showing off their winter gear. I love that they have snow shoes!

The other main participants in the parade were all the kids from all the local schools (I think there are three schools, to be confirmed). All kids wear uniforms in Chile and here in Porvenir they also have very smart looking school coats. Look how cute these girls look. And notice in the second picture that lots of girls do not even wear tights. And they were standing outside for at least 1.5 hours!

Heading off to a cook out now. Wondering how much of it will be outside. Wearing multiple layers just in case!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

World's Smallest Baggage Claim

Dropped my mom off at the airport here in Porvenir on Tuesday morning. Actually it is called an airfield ("aerodromo") because it's not really an airport but I am quite impressed with the facilities which seem quite new. There is a check-in counter, a waiting area (no security check point in between), a potential bar and snack counter (no one was selling anything to drink there but I guess they are planning ahead, hoping for a future tourism boom with thirsty travelers), and my favorite part, a baggage claim area! Do you really need a baggage claim area when the passengers walk from the plane to the building on the tarmac next to the guy pushing the luggage cart with the bags from the plane? Maybe you could pass them over a counter or line them up like they do on those little commuter flights where you gate check your bags. But this is a true baggage claim area - complete with a bilingual sign, conveyor belt, spinning metal bars and the whole thing is about 15 feet long. Love it!

Well I think it's great that they have a modern, clean, new facility and more power to them for investing in a baggage claim area!

And here is what I think is a cool shot I took outside the airport.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Trip to Argentina

This past weekend we drove to Argentina with my mom. The trip required a lot of driving through boring steppe terrain but there were some interesting moments along the way. No road trip through Tierra del Fuego is complete without a random sheep crossing. This one was especially nice because there were little baby sheep!

When we crossed over to Argentina our first stop was in a town called Rio Grande where we had lunch and stocked up on cheap groceries (food is way cheaper in Argentina plus they have a better offering of goods). Then it was on to a small town called Tolhuin where we stayed at this hotel on the lake.

This was the view from our room (with grandma and baby!).

The next day it was on to Ushuaia which markets itself as the southern most city on Earth. (Puerto Williams, a Chilean town, is actually further south but it is only a "town.") Olivia and I posed (or rather I posed and she resisted) next to this cool barrel marking our end of the earth trip ("fin del mundo").

Ushuaia was nice but not amazing. The best part about it is the view from the bay where you can really get perspective and see how the town sits in the foothills of the surrounding mountains.

It was a nice trip but we are glad to be back!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Where are the penguins?

We went to Argentina this past weekend since my mom was in town and we wanted to show her something other than the hustle and bustle of life in Porvenir :) So we drove over to Argentina. I plan on posting more about that trip soon but in the mean time, I wanted to mention the lack of penguins. I have heard that there are penguins in Tierra del Fuego; I have read about the penguins; I have seen pictures. There is even supposedly an island full of penguins, so many penguins that you have to be careful not to step on them because they waddle all around you! We did finally see some penguins this weekend in Ushuaia but the experience was less than satisfying. Take a look.

Hopefully I'll be able to post some more *authentic* penguin photos someday. Until then, we'll have to be satisfied with stuffed penguins sporting lovely ski sweaters and enjoying a tea.

Preparing for Las Fiestas Patrias

This week Chile celebrates its independence. Friday the 18th (el dieciocho) is Independence Day followed by Military Day on Saturday. So far we don't have any major plans but will probably go to an "asado" (Chilean cookout). I am getting ready for the big day though. By law every house and place of business must fly the Chilean flag for the holiday and since we have always lived in an apartment we have never had to worry about breaking the law! But now that we are in a house we have to be law abiding citizens (or in my case a law abiding permanent resident...). So today I bought a flag for our house:

And more importantly, figured out how to hang it outside our front door where it now flies proudly!

And here is a shot of the Chilean flag flying in the town plaza. The flag behind it is the Magellan regional flag which people from the region proudly fly. It's hard to see the details of the flag in the picture but its design represents the geographical features of the region. The yellow stands for the steppes (new word for me, it means: "a climatically and geographically defined area characterised by grassland plain without trees," which definitely describes a lot of Tierra del Fuego), the white peaks represent the snowy mountains, and the stars are arranged in the form of the Southern Cross which shines in the Austral sky.

The town is also getting ready for the 18th. This morning some school kids were performing the national dance (la cueca) next to the town plaza.

And what a beautiful, sunny, non-windy day!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Winter Kayaking

This is another pic taken from the window at my in-laws' house. The view never ceases to amaze me. And even more amazing are the kayakers paddling away in the middle of winter! You probably can't tell but they look pretty bundled up. I would definitely like to try kayaking in the bay but may wait for a tad warmer day.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me!

Today is my birthday. Thirty two big ones. We had a relaxing day at home, grandma, mama and baby. Also had my first restaurant experience in Porvenir. More on that later. Here's a photo of Olivia and me. I am sporting my new birthday sweater (thanks to mom) - made with local wool by a local artisan. (There are sheep galore here. More on that later too!)

And just in case you were wondering about that super cute dress Olivia has on, here is a better shot of Olivia. Besides the awesome sweater, what better gift could I ask for than an adorable baby girl sporting an adorable outfit??

More Gross Looking Seafood...

Another dinner, another random dish of funky looking seafood. And keeping the promise I made to myself, I tried it. This time it was sea urchin ("erizos" in Spanish). Once again, I just don't get what the big deal is. It is served raw on bread with lemons squeezed on top and an onion relish. It's pretty mushy and not that flavorful. I seemed to taste the lemons and onions more than anything. I didn't have my camera so I don't have a photo of the actual sea urchin we ate (my mom joined me on this tasting adventure), but I found this picture online which pretty much looks like what we ate:

The slimy orange stuff is the meat inside the sea urchin. Here is a picture of the sea urchin creatures with the meat still inside.

Sea urchin has been checked off the list!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Olivia Bundled Up!

Finally posting a picture of the sweetest little baby girl ever... Here she is walking along the shore with her babysitter/nanny, Julia. Olivia doesn't seem to mind the cold, although the wind is a bit overwhelming at times. She loves to go outside and often runs to the door to go out.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Crossing the Strait AGAIN!

Well I survived my first flight across the Strait. The plane was ridiculously small: one passenger has to sit next to the pilot, the luggage is stored in the nose of the plane and the passengers are assigned seats based on their size. Once the plane got off the ground I actually found it exhilarating and enjoyed the short 15 minute flight. Here I am pre-flight:

My mom made it here safe and sound and amazingly had no delays or problems with any of the three flights or ferry. Yesterday we took the ferry back over to Porvenir which brings my ferry strait crossing total to six. The waves were high enough to splash over the window next to our seat multiple times. Feeling nauseous AGAIN, I went outside, only to be splashed by those same high waves. Fun stuff. All in all it was an ok trip. Here is a photo of me on the ferry next to the Magellan Regional flag.

And here is my mom all bundled up setting foot on Tierra del Fuego for the first time. It was a bit windy yesterday...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crossing the Strait in a Puddle Jumper

Later today I am meeting my mom in Punta Arenas. Yesterday she started her long voyage at 5:00 PM and will not get to P.A. until 5:20 PM today so yes, she is traveling 24 hours to see me (ahem...Olivia) and that is only to get to P.A. We will hook up in the airport, spend the night in P.A. and then take the ferry to Porvenir the next morning. As I mentioned in a previous post, besides the ferry, you can also take a puddle jumping plane which seats nine passengers and makes three trips daily. I found a picture of this plane, which I'll be taking this afternoon. Not sure which scares me more, the size of the plane or the fact that this picture looks like it was taken 40+ years ago:

Wish me luck!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Found: Three Other Americans!

Would you believe that I am not the only American in this little Chilean town of 5,000 people? I had heard that there was another American here teaching English and then a couple of days ago when I saw a girl out for a run on a cold windy day I thought, "That has to be the American!" Chileans in general and women from Porvenir more specifically just aren't really the type to go for a run, especially during a winter wind storm. So I surprised her by asking "Are you American?" I then got the scoop from her that not only is she here teaching English but there are two other Americans here as well also teaching English. They will be here for four months. So that puts the American population at four which is about three more than I thought there would be. My brief conversation didn't yield much more info but I'm hoping to find out more about the other "gringas" here in Porvenir soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Feeling The Distance

Originally, when we decided to move to Porvenir, we planned on renting a house because the truth is we don't know how long we will stay. Could be only a year or could be three, depending on how we like it. Unfortunately there were no decent houses available in the renters' market so we ended up having to buy a house. Sound like a big investment but the price tag was somewhere near the price of a really nice car so it wasn't as big of a deal as it sounds. The house was in decent shape but needed quite a bit of work cosmetically speaking. We had a handyman working on the house for 6 weeks and it's turning out great (pics to come later). Last week, Fernando and I took the ferry to Punta Arenas to buy some stuff for the house and the trip was a disaster. The store was out of stock of most of the things we needed, it took forever to get around town to the places we needed to go AND I got seasick on the ferry! So it was not a very fruitful trip. We ended up having to go back, this time with a truck and a previously placed phone order. Second time around was much better and the handyman built me a kitchen in two and a half days! On trips like these to P.A. I really feel how remote we are. What a process it was to get there and what an inconvenience when the store is out of stock of what you need. It's not so easy to just come back the next day when coming back means taking a 2.5 hour ferry....

Here's a photo of the truck on the ferry loaded with my future kitchen cabinets and pantry floor!

And here is a photo of all the other cars and trucks on the ferry. I find it amazing that a boat can carry so many heavy vehicles.

So now I am a pro at crossing the Straits in ferry (seasickness under control) as I have done it 5 times in the past 2 weeks now! There is also a puddle jumper plane that crosses 3 times a day (the ferry is only once a day and not on Mondays). The plane makes me a little nervous but I will be taking it on Friday to meet my mom in Punta Arenas so my fingers are crossed....