Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Update on Summer ( January) in Futa

Ongoing efforts to clear ash from streets and common areas may be making a small difference, however, rain the past few days helps tremendously. And then, much as I often forget, strange, inexplicable weather hits. For two days now, the temperatures have dropped below 40F at nights, creeping into the mid-to-high 50's during the day, cloudy, windy, spritzes of rain here and there. Stove pipes are puffing across town again, when just a week ago children were splashing in blue plastic pools in front yards and the favorite watering hole, is just that...a small cool cove on the river just north of the bridge over Rio Espolon.

This is all strange, and I will be interested to see if the Futa website ( begins to post it's own weather information gathered from the brand-new weather station constructed on the front lawn of the town hospital.

The backpackers have invaded and the rafting companies are out early, fitting them with flotation devices and ominously dinged-up helmets. Backpacks are stored behind counters in the tiendas and internet cafes. There is no granola cereal to be found...I should have remembered that from last year. Also, bananas fly off the shelves and extra blocks of cheese await mounds of fresh pancito. Nuts, and raisins, and truckloads of beer arrive, batteries for cameras and flashlights, extra bottled water, bandaids, and single packets of cheap shampoo. Lines at the ATM machine, globs of happy kids stretched out under trees in the little city square park, airing out stinky wet clothes, comparing bruises and hostel recommendations.

It's been a busy holiday season with all the new permanent residents from Chaiten settling in. Shortages of propane, varnish, paint, window and door hardware as new houses go up, or old houses are refitted for new occupants. No gasoline or diesel in Futa now, not even for the outrageous 1,000 pesos a liter we were used to. You must make the couple-hour drive to La Junta, or Palena now, and even there it is still over 600 pesos a liter.

My motto now is "Get it While they Got it!" and I mean that. Get it, store it, freeze it, dry it, buy it. When I see the red flag up at the meat market, I go buy meat, even if I don't need meat at the moment, because it might be a week, or two before more meat comes in. Milk? Buy it by the case. Freeze butter. Dry some soup vegetables. Stock up on cans of cholgas and chorritos. With 500 new people in town, combined with tourists, there is some readjusting to ordering goods now, and shopkeepers are just now realizing it.

The new Post Mistress is handling things best she can. The old Post Master had only to check his bread (he ran a small bakery), watch TV and collect mail incoming and outgoing, which was all he did...collect. Nothing went out, nothing came in. The Post Mistress, has a store in which she sells used clothing, handles selling bus tickets and flights. Now we add the voluminous amount of packages being sent into and out of Futa by displaced Chaiten residents and relatives, not to mention the sorting and distribution of found mail into alphabetical cubby holes, tourist inquiries, and her normal female duties which I suspect include cooking, cleaning and shooing children off to school on time, and...... she's frazzled. I also suspect she bakes bread when she has nothing else to do. I forgive her for thinking my last name is 7ansen, and yesterday when she asked if I could come back the next day to check for a package, I agreed. Absolutely.

So, Futa is finding it's footing, strange as it may be...a forceful, determined path to normalcy, despite the fact that the charm about Futa is that it is FAR from normal. I fear I have been vilified for two reasons here. First is my ongoing dispute with the builder, wherein I have withheld the final payment due to the fact that he abandoned us with an unfinished house. Now, he has creditors he has not paid AT ALL and they question me...."H says you haven't paid him for building your house, so he can't pay us. Is that so?" Shit. The fact is that he was paid, and paid and paid. And the last small payment is so insignificant that he hasn't bother to request it...because he knows he did a shitty job and didn't even bother to finish his shitty work. The other vilification I think, and maybe I am paranoid, is because I have often posted on some forums, and responded to inquiries, saying that the situation with ash in Futa is NOT resolved. And that in the dry, windy days of January, February and March, it would be intolerable. I stand by that. And that until the situation with the Chaiten Volcano is understood, and a pattern has emerged, I personally would not want to have spent several thousand dollars on a dream trip to this area of Patagonia to raft, or fly fish, or bike, or hike, only to find myself hunkered down in a mask and eye-protection. So, I think it is possible that it may be construed that I attempted to circumvent a tourist season in Futa. Some funny looks, a few snubs, a comment or two lead me to ponder the possibility that I have pissed some people off. That one sole commentator might steer away an entire tourist invasion in contravention of well-established, well-funded tour companies is silly.

So, onward, even if it is a weaving, disjointed long as - at the least - it's three steps forward, only one back. That's progress.

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