Sunday, January 31, 2010

Guanaco Art

On our recent trip to Rio Gallegos, we came across some interesting art which was hanging all throughout our hotel. According to the guy at the front desk it is two women who make the paintings (although I don't think "painting" is the right word because they are textured and use other materials) and their business is called "Racies del Sur" (Southern Roots). What I like about their work is that they focus on animals indigenous to the region (guanacos, penguins, and rheas - a type of ostrich) and the native look to their art. Also as I mentioned, the work is textured using what looks to be some kind of string and paper. Here are a few samples.

And here is the display by the front desk with a few items for sale. We ended up buying the small guanaco art at the bottom in the middle but I like the one on top best.

Wouldn't you totally want to buy one of these after seeing guanacos all over the place?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Language Fun

Like many bilingual couples, Fernando and I are in the process of conducting a linguistics experiment with Olivia. He always speaks in Spanish with her and I always speak in English. She has done an amazing job at learning both languages. She understands absolutely everything we say. And in some ways having to learn two languages at once has its advantages. She can chose whichever word is easier to pronounce. For example, it's much easier to say "agua" than "water," so she has been able to ask for "agua" when she is thirsty or talk about the "agua" in the bath or the "agua" in the ocean long before she would have been able to do the same with "water." "Bunny" is a lot easier than "conejo" and there are probably 3 year olds who don't say "watermelon" but "sandia" is pretty easy.

Like all babies, Olivia first imitated speech before she could form words by speaking giberish which had the sounds and intonation of the languages she was hearing. But at around 13 months she stopped babbling because she started to be able to say more and more words. Last week we inadvertanly added a new dimension to our linguistic experiment when a French couple came to stay with us. We spoke with them in French as Olivia played nearby. After less than a day of them being here, Olivia started babbling again! I am so fasinated and amazed that within less than 24 hours of hearing a new language she started the first step (among many many steps, of course) to speaking it. Long after they were gone she was still making babbling noises and now when I really want to get her attention I speak to her in French!

When they say babies are like sponges they aren't kidding! Any French people out there who want to come be an aupair here in Porvenir??!!!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Knock Knock. Who's There?

One of the entertaining (and sometimes annoying) things about life in Porvenir are the random and often untimely knocks at the front door. We have received a knock at 10:00 p.m. from a woman selling homemade chocolate, a knock at midnight from a (drunk?) guy asking for bread, and a knock on a Sunday afternoon from someone who heard we were looking to buy a freezer and they had one for sale (we were not looking for a freezer, how random!). Yesterday someone knocked on the door selling fresh fish. Now that's more like it -convenient and timely! And it was super cheap. I'm hoping for more knocks like that in the future!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Breaking Out The Bob

Back in Santiago we bought a used jogging stroller from a fellow "gringa" who hauled it all the way down to Chile from the US. This is not just any jogging stroller. It's The Bob (see photos below)! It's a great stroller for running and looks cool too! It had been packed away since our arrival in Porvenir and due to the wind we hadn't bothered getting it out but this morning things looked pretty calm outside so we decided to put The Bob together. Of course this being Porvenir we had to work fast knowing the calm air could start whipping around at any moment. Here is the blow by blow of the craziness that we call any given Sunday morning:

8:30 - Look outside and notice that all normal signs of strong winds are not present (no white caps on the water, flags on flag pole barely flying, grass and bushes in back yard completely still). This is the moment to go for a run!
8:35 - The Bob is located and pulled out to be put together.
8:55 - The Bob is ready. Family now dresses for the run, applies sunscreen and heads for the door.
9:00 - It's raining. But so what, there is no wind so let's go anyway.
9:10 - Mid run the wind suddenly appears and we're running into it. The rain continues but not more than a drizzle.
9:15 - We turn back to head home so at least we have the wind at our back.
9:30 - Back home, head inside and the winds really start to pick up.
9:40 - Full on windstorm begins and continues for hours!!!

Olivia seemed to enjoy getting back in The Bob despite the 5 minutes of strong wind blowing in her face. And as expected she fell asleep for the second half of the run. Think we'll run into any other people going on a family run here??!!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ferry Fun

We made an unplanned ferry crossing yesterday to take Olivia to the doctor. There is a hospital in Porvenir but for more in depth care it is better to go to Punta Arenas. (All her tests came back o.k.) On the ferry crossing we saw these awesome campers from Europe (more of those extreme tourists making their way from one extreme place to another!). I wouldn't mind traveling the world in one of these:

Monday, January 18, 2010

Signs Of Summer

I am feeling the need to elaborate on my previous post comment on the lack of summer here. I am not sure you really appreciate what this means. Remember that January in the Southern Hemisphere is equivalent to July in the Northern Hemisphere. What comes to mind when one thinks about summer in July? Sweltering heat, sun dresses, air conditioning, sandals and ice cold lemonade to name a few. Well here in Porvenir, our "July" does not even come close to these visions of summer. Since the weather certainly does not provide much guidance, I thought I would share my own list of how to know it's summer in Porvenir:

---> No *extra* blanket on top of the down filled duvet, blanket and flannel sheet on the bed (yes, we sleep with a down filled duvet and flannel sheet YEAR ROUND).

---> Watermelon! (Thank goodness all the yummy fruits from "up north" make their way down here.)

---> I can wear my wool lined Ugg clogs WITHOUT socks (the closest thing to sandals you can hope for here).

---> There are a lot more extreme tourists wandering around town (or just passing through as quick as possible on their bikes).

---> Every couple of days it's warm enough to turn the heat off during the day (but it's always on at night!).

---> Lamb, lamb and more lamb. It's lamb season and there seems to be a lamb BBQ every weekend. I've heard there is a lamb cook-off in February. I will definitely be attending, tasting and taking lots of pictures to report back on the blog!

---> I can wear two layers of shirts/sweaters versus the usual three but the outer layer must always be long sleeves.

---> It's light outside from the wee hours of the morning (~5:30 a.m.) to late at night (~10:30 p.m.).

---> The locals can be seen walking around in short sleeves even when it's cold and windy. (I too would be in denial about the cold after a lifetime without a proper summer.)

Despite the lack of warmth, the sun does shine at some point almost everyday. (You can expect rain, hail, snow, a wind storm or any combination thereof the rest of the day.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vamos Agua Boat

Lately Olivia has been getting a case of cabin fever. Everyday, usually when she first wakes up, she says "vamos" and when I ask her where she wants to go she says "agua boat" which I've deduced is to the bay. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to spend that much time outside because, I am sad to report, summer never really did make it here. We have only had a couple of nice days and only one day that I actually had on short sleeves (when I foolishly thought it was a sign of things to come but oh no it's basically constant winter here). Normally the sun is at least shining but we've had a rainy couple of weeks so I had been feeling especially down about the weather but two good things have happened. First, we booked a week vacation in the "north" (Puerto Varas) in February where we will be able to swim in a lake and wear shorts, woohoo! And secondly, today was a nice sunny day. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was warm (long sleeves plus a vest under no circumstances can be considered summer wear) but the wind was only breezy and the skies were blue! So we finally went to the "agua boat". Here are some pics.

Holding on tight to Olivia's hand to prevent a full on sprint into the water:

Checking out the beloved ferry before it takes off:

Playing with rocks among the rustic fishing boats:

My fingers are crossed for some more nice days to come.....
If you want to see Olivia in action asking to go to the bay, here's the link to youtube!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lunch Break

Here is an interesting tidbit about life here at the end of the earth. In both Porvenir and Punta Arenas everything shuts down from about 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm everyday so that everyone can go home for lunch. This obviously has its pros (Fernando is home for lunch everyday) and its cons (forget trying to buy anything or get anything done in Punta Arenas for a huge chunk of the afternoon which is a real drag when you are racing against the clock to get to the ferry on time!). I think it's great that family takes such a high priority (even the kids at school all go home for lunch too) and as the pace of life is slower here anyway, lunch at home is a great way to take advantage of that extra time to help solidify family life. It also means healthier meals at a slower pace (remember, we're losing weight being here without even trying!). So after getting used to this pause in the day, I have to say that I think it's a great idea. Bon appetit!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Penguin, A Frog And A Cute Baby

I found the CUTEST little sweater vest for Olivia and wanted to share. I also gave her baby cousin one and we were hoping to get a picture of the two of them together over Christmas sporting their penguins but with the flu bug and everything out of whack we never managed. But here is Olivia in her cute vest.

Please note that smack dab in the middle of summer is a completely appropriate time here in Porvenir to be wearing a wool sweater vest (boohoo...). But we do occasionally get some nicer days, not quite warm enough for shorts but at least for a nice pair of (long) capris!

I am thinking of buying everyone I know with a baby/toddler one of those penguin sweaters because they are just too cute so let me know if you want one :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The 9 Best Foods I Am Eating

The NY Times reran an article this week from June 30, 2008 entitled "The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating." Despite our lack of variety in fruits and veggies here in Porvenir, I was surprised to see that 9 of the items are readily available here and of those 9, I regularly eat 6. I say not bad since the article assumes I am not eating any of them! Here goes...

The 6 I eat semi-regularly:

1- Beets

2- Cabbage

3- Swiss Chard (they do not sell spinach here, only swiss chard!)

4- Cinnamon

5- Canned Pumpkin (actually I eat cooked fresh pumpkin)

6- Dried plums (super yummy on baked chicken)

The other 3 that are available which I occasionally eat:

7- Turmeric (we have a whole bunch and know it's super good for us but don't eat it as often as we should)

8- Pumpkin seeds (automatically come with the fresh pumpkin, will try to save them and eat them more often now!)

9- Sardines (I actually started eating them quite often after reading the book referred to in the article but I have to admit they kind of gross me out.)

And the only 2 that cannot be found anywhere near here:

10- Pomegranate Juice (you cannot even get real juice here let alone something *exotic* like this!)

11- Frozen Blueberries (they might be available in Punta Arenas but transporting frozen goods is too complicated!)

Anyway, I guess that diet-wise we are not as deprived as it may seem since we have a lot of the power foods we should be eating.

And on a side note, Fernando and I have both lost weight since moving here. My theory is that it is because of the lack of french fries in our diet and lack of restaurants in general. Any meal we eat has to be prepared by us so out of sheer laziness sometimes dinner is pretty skimpy! (Trust me, if you had to make breakfast, lunch and dinner EVERYDAY, seven days a week, you might skip some meals too!!!)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Girl With The Blog

A couple of weeks ago when we took the ferry to Punta Arenas to meet my arriving family, a really cool thing happened. Fernando was inside buying the tickets while Olivia and I were walking around outside. I noticed a guy standing by two packed full sophisticated bicycles. It was pretty obvious he was not a local so I went up to him and asked in English where he was from. Here is the conversation that ensued:

Guy: I'm from England.
Me: Oh cool. Where are you headed?
Guy: My girlfriend and I are biking from Ushuaia, Argentina to Quito, Ecuador.
Me: Wow that's a big trip.
Guy: Yeah, we also biked through Europe first. By the way, are you the girl with the blog?
Me: Actually I am!!!
Guy: Yes, you lived in Paris, went to HEC and now live here. I saw it all on your blog.

How freakin' cool is that??? I love knowing that people read the blog; it makes it that much more fun to write. And having a random guy (his name is Jay and his girlfriend also has a blog: about their trip) recognize me and ask is just TOO COOL!!! So thanks, Jay, for making me feel special! :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Guanaco Fun Facts

As I have mentioned in other posts, one of the main native animals here on Tierra del Fuego is the guanaco. The guanaco is wild (seeing one behind a fence is deceiving; wait a few moments and it will gracefully jump over the fence). The better known llama is the domesticated version of the guanaco. I really enjoy seeing the guanacos when we are out on road trips. I love their big eyes and long lashes (which efficiently keep out the all the dust). I looked up guanacos on the internet and learned some interesting fun facts.

The babies are born between December and February and can walk within 5 minutes of birth. Due to predators, lack of food, and harsh weather only about 30% make it to adulthood and those who do make it live to be between 20-25 years old. (The adult guanaco has no natural predator in Tierra del Fuego.) According to the San Diego Zoo website there used to be 50 million guanacos in the world but today there are less than 600,000, all in South America.

This past weekend on our way back from Rio Gallegos we saw baby guanacos for the first time (called "chulengos"). In fact, we even saw one nursing!

In addition to being speedy on land (can run at speeds up to 40 mph), the guanaco is also a very strong swimmer. Last week there was a guanaco lost on the bay (in the exact same spot the king penguins were lost actually!). Guess he could have made his way home swimming across the bay?
In case you are getting enthusiastic about the guanaco, the San Diego Zoo website has a lot of interesting info. Check it out!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Trip to Rio Gallegos

At the last minute we decided to go to Rio Gallegos, Argentina for the long weekend. To get there we drive to the north end of Tierra del Fuego and take a ferry (of course!) across the most narrow stretch of the Strait of Magellan. It's only a 15 minute ferry ride. (I think Olivia is going to start thinking that road trips by definition involve long car rides followed by random ferry crossings.) Rio Gallegos is the southern most city on the Argentina side of the American continent. The town itself is not necessarily aesthetically pleasing but it has a lot to offer to anyone coming from Porvenir: good, cheap shopping (clothes, groceries, books), cozy cafes with yummy coffee, and amazing restaurants with tasty steaks. Per usual, the photos...

Getting ready to cross the Strait:
Outside of a cute and yummy chocolate shop:

Olivia eats almost nothing when we travel but she did at least stay well hydrated:

We don't have any stairs in our house so Olivia LOVED the stairwell in the hotel. In fact I am sure her favorite part of Rio Gallegos were all the steps she repeatedly climbed!

Apparently Argentina is very kid-friendly in general. We witnessed this first hand at dinner last night. The restaurant had a play area for kids off to the side and we were able to dine right next to Olivia while she played.

And finally taking the ferry again to get back to Tierra del Fuego. We saw two beautiful black and white dolphins but were not quick enough to get a picture. Instead here's another shot of Olivia and me (notice she continues to hydrate).
I really enjoyed Rio Gallegos and look forward to going back sometime soon (a girl needs to shop every now and then)!