Saturday, January 24, 2009

Volcanic Ash, Shopping in Argentina, a Rodeo and Bread a bonus...another Greg story.

The inauguration of the new President of the United States of America infused me with a new energy and can-do attitude. I took a picture of live coverage of Bush's moving Van preparing to leave the Whitehouse. My happy mood lasted about 5 hours, promptly quashed when our Chilean attorney called with a dismal update on the "electric to the house" project. To avoid raising my blood pressure by 50 points, I won't go into it more than to say we are meeting with someone to evaluate the possibility of a micro-hydro electric set up.

The volcano did have an episode, as I understand it, one of the new growth domes collapsed sending a monstrous ash plume northwest. It continues to be volatile which reminds me to put our emergency bag back together AND LEAVE IT BY THE FRONT DOOR!

On January 21st, I hopped in Nono's truck, with Cocho driving, Nono's oldest daughter Delia, and grandson Francisco, and we headed over to Argentina to purchase the wood protector for the outside of my house, along with other needs we either cannot find in Futa, or are so expensive we would just do without. The specific wood protector is not available in Futa, and the 25-kilo sacks of flour is way too expensive here. So I got both, and then some. Here is what I bought:

Enough toilet papers to last through 2010
A few gallons of good cooking oil
One case of granola cereal
One case of tomato paste
One jar of marinated mushrooms (gone by the time I got back to Futa)
Three cartons of cigarettes (I know, I know.....)
Enough mayonnaise to hold me over until I get a blender to make my own
25-kilos of flour (making my own bread, pretzels and noodles)
wood sealant for outside of house

Cocho, in his "goin' to town" wide-brimmed hat struggled to keep the rattling truck on the road, each wheel bobbing independently over the bone-jarring washboard road. Francisco spends the hour-long trip navigating between the front and back seat, while Nono picks and teases and everyone talks over each other. Lots of laughing. I laugh too, because the laughter makes me laugh, not because I understand what they've said. We stop at a bank in Trevelin so I can exchange Chilean Pesos into Argentine Pesos, where five of my 20,000 peso bills are promptly rejected because someone had written on them. We pile back in the truck, and bounce on through Trevelin to Esquel and a granary where we load up with flour. One bag for me, two for Nono, one for her daughter, and Cocho decides to buy one for his wife since we are there. Francisco continues to move lizard-like about the cab of the truck; I can't help but touch his little black-haired button head. He calls me Tia Gringa and paints pictures for me each time he visits my house.

So, our shopping trip finally finished we make our way back to the border. As we come closer, the incredibly wild Andes peaks come into view, less snow on them this year it seems, than last. Delia pokes me and points...Ceniza, she says. The entire range of mountains are enveloped in a gray haze, looking much like a smoke cloud. It is not new ash fall, it is ash being blown off the ridges, whipped up into a murky, dry fog. It grows more dense the closer we get to the Chilean border. By the time we pull into Futa, the typical January winds have clearly won the battle.

A friend stops by in the early afternoon and we decide to meet for dinner later. But when it's time to go, I am just exhausted and beg off. Spending an entire day in Spanish always wears me out. Greg goes to meet him, but our friend is delayed, and delayed, and finally Greg gives up waiting, goes and buys some sausages...comes home...cooks them up, and sits down to eat his dinner. I am right here. On the couch, awake, listening to the radio, and he makes his plate, sits down in the chair and eats his dinner. As he finished HIS dinner, I go into the kitchen and make a sausage sandwich for MYSELF, bring it back into the living room and a little hard, put the plate down on the table. Still, it takes him a couple of minutes before his eyes get wide and he realizes I'm a little angry. Yet, he does not know why. This is a guy who has not made a meal in three years, except for the time I was in the hospital in Panama, having my appendix out.

Now, he says to me, "You look really tired out." Hhhmm. Yup. I eat my sandwich. He takes his dirty plate out and puts it in the sink. Comes back, sits down and says, "Vick, what do we have to do tomorrow?" Arrgggghhh! Very slowly, and without screeching, I say, "You know, wouldn't it have been nice if you had at least...ASKED ME...if I might want something to eat?" Wide eyes again, recognition, realization...deep shit...goofed up.

"I didn't even think to ask you. I'm so sorry."

"No, you didn't, because you aren't very thoughtful," I say as the list of thoughtlessness grows one item longer. At least I get coffee in bed every morning, and with that cup of coffee, I re-forgive him for not being very thoughtful. Another day.

By January 22 the air-quality situation is miserable as the town readies for the big rodeo down by Lago Espejo. Blasts of dry hot air whip down the streets, following water trucks spraying down the ash. The temperatures rise to the mid-80's but we cannot open doors or windows to let air in. Ash creeps in and I use a shaving brush to keep it from accumulating on the computer as I look up the Volcanism blog by Dr. Ralph Harrington. He has posted a new NASA photo which freaks me out...only by chance of wind direction are we not being buried again in new ash fall.

Such a warm day, and being stuck inside, I decide it's a good day to start a batch of yogurt and rip into the big bag of flour. I also decide to make Greg start serving his sentence for being unthoughtful. He will help me make bread. Lots of it. I explain to him that "punching down the bread dough" does not mean an Oscar de La Hoya punch as he pulls his bruised knuckles out of the big bowl. It turns out to be way too much fun to be punishment as we bake a pan of rolls, a large, long loaf, and three batches of excellent, herb-encrusted soft pretzels.

Sometime during the night, the ash battle is won, but not by trucks or people. The morning of the rodeo is greeted by a pounding, relentless rain.

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