Thursday, June 16, 2011

Las Brujas

We started a new book this term called "The Witches" by Roald Dahl. The kids were in love with the book even before we started reading. That's probably because I told them the author was the same guy who wrote "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "Fantastic Mr. Fox", and "Matilda". Mind you, they have never read any of these books (I asked), but of course, they've seen the movies. And in their minds, a book written by the same guy who wrote about a fantasy chocolate world must be a good book.

In case you never read it, "The Witches" is about, well, witches. And in the first chapter of the book, Dahl explains that witches are everywhere. They look like ordinary women and have ordinary jobs. Then he writes (and I read aloud), "...she might even be your lovely school-teacher who is reading these words to you at this very moment. Look carefully at that teacher. Perhaps she is smiling at the absurdity of the suggestion. Don't let that put you off. It could be part of her cleverness."

At that point, my students were completely consumed by a big case of the giggles.

A few chapters later, one of the characters in the book explains how you can spot a witch from the rest of the regular women. She gives a long list of characteristics to look for. After I read each one, my kids would discuss whether or not I could still be a witch. Now, some of these characteristics include being bald (which I am not), having color changing eyes (which I don't have) and having no toes (I have ten). They finally agreed I wasn't a witch when we got to the last characteristic: blue spit.

Too bad I wasn't eating a jolly rancher, or some other type of hardy candy that changes the color of your tongue. I'm sure the kids would have just loved that.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


About an hour and a half northwest of Santiago is the town of Llay Llay. Somewhere in this small town, surrounded by a grove of avocado trees is the Quintessence Alpaca Farm. 

Why'd we go to an alpaca farm? Two reasons: 
          1. My mom loves to knit and wanted to buy some alpaca yarn. 
          2. Alpacas are awesome.

In case you were wondering, there are two types of alpacas, huacaya and suri. The difference between the two is the type of wool they produce. The wool of a huacaya is similar to that of a sheep, while the wool of a suri is longer and more mop-like. (Alpaca Fun Fact #1: Suri alpacas are named after the daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes.) 

While at the farm, I took over 100 pictures. So it was quite a challenge to narrow it down to the pictures you see here. 

I'd totally get one for a pet. If only my apartment was bigger.

I didn't count, but if I had to guess the farm had around 100 alpacas. They are separated by age, gender and size.

Baby alpaca nursing.

Alpaca Fun Fact #2: Alpacas are shorn once a year. They produce fibers in more natural colors than any other animal. 

Hanging out in the food trough.

Alpaca Fun Fact #3: Alpacas eat hay and grass. They have a stomach with three chambers, similar to a cow's.

Someone forgot to tell him it's not polite to chew with your mouth open.

Alpaca Fun Fact #4: Alpacas are members of the Camelid family. Other members include llamas, vicuñas, and camels. 

A face only a mother could love. This beautiful creature is a huacaya. 
Me and El Flaco, a suri alpaca. 

Alpaca Fun Fact #5: Baby alpacas wear these snazzy outfits for about two months after they are born to help them stay warm.

Three day old baby alpaca.

The quality isn't spectacular, but here's a video of the baby alpaca running around. The baby would roll around in the grass similar to dogs. The other alpaca in the background is her mother. You can hear Maria, the owner of the farm talking with my mom and my Tio Mario. But really, just watch it to see the baby roll around in the grass.

After the tour we went into the shop so my mom could buy some yarn. I probably took just as many pictures of the yarn as I took of the alpacas.

These two were my favorites:
Watermelon-colored yarn.

Sunset-colored yarn.

I can't imagine the opportunity will come up too often, but if you ever have the chance to visit an alpaca farm, do it. It was seriously awesome. 

Author's note: One of the Alpaca Fun Facts was made up. I'll leave it up to you to figure out which one is false. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

La Moneda: Take Two

As my loyal readers may know, I visited La Moneda back in October of last year. You can read about my first visit to La Moneda here. If you're too lazy to read it, La Moneda is where the President of Chile works. My mom and Joe have never been, so my aunt scheduled a tour for us. The tour consisted of two parts. The first part was the regular tour on the ground floor and outdoor patios. The second part was a super special second floor tour. The second floor is restricted to the public, but my aunt is awesome and was able to show us around. But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

The last time I went to La Moneda it was just my aunt and me. And because of language barriers I had only a vague idea of what I was looking at. This time we had a English speaking tour guide. Not to mention the added bonus of 9 students and their professor on a school trip from a Pennsylvannia university. 

It was the professor who provided the most entertainment on the tour. While in the Patio de los Canelos, as the tour guide was explaining to us about the indigenous people of Chile, the professor decided it was an appropriate time to let everyone know that one of his students was half-Chilean. I had to suppress the urge to one-up him by letting everyone know that my mom is two-halves Chilean. 

In the center of Patio de los Canelos is a Canelo tree. The tree is sacred to the Mapuche, one of the indigenous groups in Chile. Around the tree are statues representing the different indigenous groups. 

The tour concluded with a question and answer session with the professor. Not the professor and the tour guide. Just the professor. After the tour guide asked if anyone had questions, the professor proceeded to ask her questions and then answer them himself. At one point I actually thought I would lose it and burst out laughing. 

Okay so after the first tour finished and the professor and his students left, we began the second tour . This time our tour guides were my aunt and a La Moneda carabinero (police officer). Before we began we made a quick stop to the infirmary. Joe was having pretty bad back pain, so my aunt had the nurse give him an injection of pain medicine. I can't imagine that happening at the White House.

Joe and the nurse.
On the second floor, we went into several different salons. I'm not sure what each room is used for, but they're all incredibly decorated, usually based around one color scheme. I'm sure the rooms have official names, but I don't feel like looking them up on the internet.

The Red Room
The Yellow Room
The Green Room
The Blue Room....also known as the President's office!
Sitting at the President's big deal. 
After seeing all the colored rooms, we visited Allende's office. Salvador Allende was the 29th president of Chile. He died while the military overtook La Moneda on September 11, 1973. There has been controversy over the cause of death. It was initially reported that Allende commited suicide. However, many people doubted this and about three weeks ago his body was exhumed after new evidence had surfaced.
Inside his office.
A statue in his office with bullets and bullet holes.
The adjoining room to his office where Allende died. 
In the last photo you can see the phone that Allende used to make his now famous, farewell speech to the citizens of Chile on live radio. 

The last room we visited was, by far, the most exciting place in all of La Moneda: the presidential kitchen. Someone left an apple core on the kitchen counter. I can only assume it was the president's, seeing how it was his kitchen. 

a presidential apple core

Okay, the President was in France, so it probably wasn't his. 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Vegetarian's Worst Nightmare, Part 2.

One of the first things we did (my mom, Joe, and I) was go to Mercado Central for lunch. Well, they had lunch. I simply went along for the fun of it. People go to Mercado Central to eat and buy fresh seafood from one of the dozens of stalls.

Outside Mercado Central

Mercado Central was opened in 1872. Parts of the building were actually constructed in Europe and brought over. It's a popular destination for both tourists and locals. 
Once inside, there was no mistaking us for tourists. I had my camera out and ready the entire time we were there. Boisterous fishmongers eagerly stopped us, encouraging us to buy their seafood or eat in their restaurants. 
We walked along the stalls taking pictures and trying to avoid slipping on the wet floors. I didn’t want to imagine what sorts of liquid I was walking through. 

 Ever wanted to know what the inside of a tuna looked like? Well here you go:

Why is it on the floor??

We settled on a fish restaurant away from the center of the market. My mom was excited to eat typical Chilean seafood and I was just as excited that they sold Coca-Cola Zero. Joe ate clams, and they both had conger eel prepared two ways.
Conger eel soup. 

Mercado Central is not only a fish market. There are also stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables and Chilean wines and spices. 
Much better.
The produce stalls were much nicer than the fish ones. Not only were they prettier, but they smelled way better too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


The Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex began erupting on June 4th. The PCCVC is located in the south of Chile, about 500 miles south of Santiago. As far as I've heard, the eruption has not resulted in anyone's death. However, over three thousand people have been evacuated. And as the ash cloud spread out across Argentina, many flights were canceled. Including the one that was suppose to take my mom and Joe home. (Of course they didn't find this out until after they were dropped off at the airport.) 

In case you were wondering, the last time this volcano erupted was after the 1960 Valdivia earthquake (the strongest recorded earthquake in history). 

Here are some incredible photos of the eruption. (Needless to say, I didn't take a single one of these.)

The eruption sent a cloud of ash and smoke over 6 miles into the sky.

Another side effect of the giant ash cloud is volcanic lighting. This type of lighting occurs because of the static charge caused by the dust particles in the plume of ash. 

Lots of lightning.

The Eye of Sauron. 

Since the eruption, ash has been blanketing the ground across the region, including over the border in Argentina. 

Cleaning up in Bariloche, Argentina

Monday, June 6, 2011

Express Yourself

My mom and Joe found these ads plastered all over the metro station by their hotel. 

In case you haven't figured it out yet, the ads are for Kotex pads and yes, they are telling women to "express themselves". How do they suggest you express yourself? By wearing one of their products that has been decorated with flowers, butterflies and hearts. 

I'm sorry, what??

First off, who in their right mind would want to share how they are expressing themselves (in the way they are suggesting) with anyone?? Like, "Hey Susie, today I'm expressing myself with butterflies." Or better yet, can you picture yourself letting your boyfriend know you're expressing yourself with flowers and hearts? 

We found the whole thing quite ridiculous. So ridiculous in fact, that we had one too many conversations about it. 

If they want you to be "expressing yourself" why don't they come up with more appropriate themes. Butterflies and flowers just aren't really something most people associate with that special time of the month. So here's what I suggest:

When you're feeling incredibly bitchy and are moments away from killing everyone in sight, how about one decorated with bombs, knives and guns. 

When you can't pry yourself away from the fridge and are shoveling all the food within your reach into your mouth, how about one decorated with potato chips and candy.

And finally, during the time when you can't seem to stop crying, how about one decorated with boxes of kleenex and the sad Care Bear. You know, this guy:

If Kotex really wants you to "express yourself", they should at least let you pick from more appropriate themes.