Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Photos above: Tres Monjas, a view from where I live now in Chile with no electric; a picture of Greg, Nick, Dess and Chris, my lovely family;, me at age 18 - shipping out to Germany as a Tank Turret Mechanic, and then a picture of me at 46 - in Panama, with coffee bushes on our coffee farm in the background. I am plucking a chicken a farmer gave me after giving him a ride of 30 miles up into the highlands. Life is an adventure. I feel Lucky Tonight! Life is good.

I hate birthdays, but it is, at least, an occasion to reflect. I reflected with Greg...our life and adventure so far, and since he rarely pays attention ( I COULD have had a facelift and he wouldn't notice...gotten Double D's and he'd just give me a passing questioning glance), I sent him the link for futalandia, specifically the New Movie Post. He laughed, then was introspective, and then a little emotional, then in the end, laughing with eyes a little moist. And it stands still, as the post that most describes what our life is like here, and how it is a roller coaster. The New Movie encapsulates our life here, our ups and downs. Our joys and disappointments, and finally, even if it is just for the moment, our "coming to terms" with the details of, and the results of, our adventure.

So, here is New Movie, again....

A New Movie...I'll pitch the screen play...

Picture this! Survivor meets Nights in Rodanthy meets Grapes of Wrath. Kick in a little bit of of 28 Days and you have Futalandia! The short pitch is, we have an exploding volcano, freezing, isolated nights, pickup trucks with no tire chains trying to navigate two feet of snow on gravel roads, the woman is pushing a pickup truck while it slides back - almost over her, a diet of beans and suspect smoked pork ribs. Crawling out of a small wooden cabin to dig a hole in the harsh dim light of a Patagonia winter to take a crap...ground frozen, toilet paper rolls down and over a ledge...Spring time...one six pack of cerveza, chilling in the sparkling river, then gone, tumbling over rocks into a raging cascade, gone. Licking volcanic ash from your teeth when you wake up in the morning from a night of snoring under 20 pounds of blankets. Fingers shaking with hypothermic tremors in an attempt to start a fire with wet, ash-encrusted wood.

Then....THEN! The glorious four weeks of summer arrive and it's 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the river is cold and lined with wild roses and fuchsia. A woman, soon to turn fifty, and having not seen herself in a mirror in years, still imagines herself twenty year old. She sits on her front porch, down along a path that leads to a rushing river. The still, snow-encrusted Andes rise up all around. She lays a notepad on her knees and fishes a felt pen out of the lint-lined pocket of her torn, stained chinos, and writes:

"Sit for awhile in a Patagonia forest, along a river or a stream and as you grow quiet ...There! Something will catch your eye - a movement. But you turn, and there is nothing but the quiet forest. No stirring breeze at all, but the shadows move. The river is humming a G-chord now, but by sundown it will have erupted into harmonies.

"Around the house," she continues to write and sip from her mug, "the morning sun warms the bottles of bar and chain oil and they expand and burp. The fresh sawed lumber bakes in the sun, lazing down in a break between the canopy of cohaique trees. It's too early but I have a coffee cup of wine anyway. I sit here and think of all our adventures in foreign places. Picking up and starting over for the sheer adventure of a new culture. Here...I find I've bitten off more than I can chew.

"And just as we were ready to say "Uncle!", a wise man I don't know told me, "Take Smaller Bites." Ahhhh....Patagonia.

"And so, I'll try. Definitely. Because in leaving Patagonia, I'd leave my soul behind. We thought of returning to Panama. The Devil you know is safer than the Devil you Don't Know! Then...this anonymous person on the internet wrote and essentially said to me, "It's not the Devil - it's just a different animal."

"And so, I need to learn this animal, Patagonia. Learn it's ways and idiosynchracies. Because really, if I made a "plus" and "minus" list, the plus list would be long. And the minus list would only say, "It's Hard."

There are so many things in between this and the end of the film. And THAT is what is so exciting. All the stuff in between. But let me just clue you into the end. It is not a spoiler....

Just before the last celluloid frames of the filmstrip flap over the reel, (thwap, thwap, thwap) and it is placed back in a metal can and laid upon a shelf forever...the woman, not looking too much older than her fifty years long ago, sits on a porch swing with a handsome, equally elderly man. They are both slightly senile and fragile. Dusk slides into night.

Up through the Cohaique trees, the bright stars of the Patagonia night shine and the river is singing. The old woman turns, just slightly towards the old man, raises her long lovely hand toward his gentle old face, and slaps him.

"What the Hell were you thinking, moving us here?!"


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Food in Chile, and other random thoughts

I'm trying to think of how to ramp up my energy level, and all quick avenues are ridiculous. Seems like the best way is just to do a little more each day...walk a little further, take fewer breaks, continue to eat better. Also, of course, the hardest...smoke less. Make fewer "lists" which is actually a time-consuming activity undertaken to avoid actually DOING something. I could wallpaper my bedroom with the "to-do" lists I have made since moving to Patagonia.

Eating: Most of what we eat here is the most basic of basic. The meat is almost exclusively local, free-grazed, the chicken, cows and even pigs. Most of the produce is local, although some comes from Central Chile where I cannot verify if it is sprayed with chemicals. That said, I eat a hell-of-alot more healthy here, though variety is lacking, than I did anywhere else I have lived. Costa Rica and Panama were the dumping grounds for pesticides and fertilizers long banned in the US. I don't know about Central Chile, but here in this area, people simply don't have the money to fall into that Catch-22, and rely on rotating crops, grazing, and age-old remedies for maintaining a sustainable farm.

Go into Nono's barn and you will not find jugs and barrels of pesticides, or bags of hybrid seed. You will find barrels of chicha, and bags of seed potatoes and tools and farm equipment that looks like it belongs in the Smithsonian. We all buy our flour from a granary across the boarder in Argentina which comes from local fields farmed by the Welsh farmers much like it was a hundred years ago, and ground in the same granary founded a century ago by the founders of the town.

Much of the food we eat in the US is a disgrace. Processed process foods, so that how some of it is even labeled food is beyond me. How we treat the land, and animals that give us food is a disgrace. Few even know what real food tastes like anymore, or how it is produced. My eggs have an orange yolk and stand up when cracked in a pan. My beef is lean, so lean that ground beef will not hold together for a hamburger for lack of unnecessary fat. Butter is pungent and pale. No such thing as Velveeta (which is NOT cheese) or Chicken McNuggest (which is barely chicken). Lack of variety here is a small price to pay when I consider that mostly I see my food, know how it comes to be food, and how it affects the land. Aside from fruits, most of my food comes from totally organic land, and the animals graze and all that sits on my dinner table is part a great, sustainable, non-toxic process.

Exercise. I wonder if anyone in the US, paying for those wonderful Gym Memberships realizes how silly that is, from this perspective? They drive to a Whole Foods Store to buy "organic" food, then drive to the gym to exercise. Hhhhmmm. I've started to walk up to my neighbor's farm a little over 1 kilometer away (uphill) instead of wasting fuel by driving there. Yup...my hip hurts, and I huff a little, but more and more, it's less of a chore. Next, I will venture the other way, over the bridge and around (2 kilometers) to Blanca's farm for honey, and cheese. To be honest, at around $5 a gallon (538 pesos a liter) my motivation is more monetary than health.

Smoking. I smoke way too much. A horrible, horrible habit. I see that Chile tobacco prices, while cheaper than the US, are not what other Latin American countries put forth. I can buy a carton of Marlboro cigarettes in Argentina for about $13 US, and it is about the same in Panama. In Chile, a pack is around $3 for Marlboro, and the next comparable brand is ...LUCKY STRIKE. Chile puts pictures of cancer victims on the packs, diseased-dissected lungs. Does this discourage me? No. But price gets attention. I hope -despite my ranting addiction - that all countries continue to tax the shit out of tobacco products. I can burn through a carton of Argentinian Marlboros in a week for $13, but when I visited Manhattan where they were $8 a pack...you might guess I curtailed my intake.

To-Do Lists. My mother rearranged and cleaned the house. That was her mania. Mine is making lists about rearranging and cleaning the house. Add to that things to get done, what needs bought, ingredients and plans. This is a mania to feed my other illness...procrastination. I hope to acknowledge this on a daily basis by getting up, not picking up a pen and paper, and just picking the first thing in my line of sight and FINISH THE TASK AT HAND. Quit being so scattered. A list is a wonderful thing if you make it for the purpose of not forgetting. But, I don't generally forget. This shit list just keep growing and rolling around in my brain, and at night in my dreams, and it undermines any productivity I might accomplish. I can make a list of 10 things to do, do two, and sit and admire my list. Such is my mania and illness of list making, chaos and procrastination.

...In other news and updates...I have one new cat. She is about 9-months old, and was just spayed last night. The vet, Daniella, dropped her off today. She's not happy right now, and misses her three-legged dog companion who has been her constant companion since Daniella rescued both. I'm not necessarily a cat person (cat toys, all that stuff) but I like this pretty, wild-striped cat. Daniella says she does not like to be indoors which will make her two days of recuperation a little uncomfortable for her. Right now she is resting in the crumples of an old sheet on the chair. No name yet. We have to wait until she tells us what her name is. How do you say "Rat Catcher" in Spanish?

That's all the news I care to divulge from Futalandia...the hydro project is an on-going fits and starts situation, and it's best I just announce "the LIGHTS ARE ON" in a post, instead of wasting keystrokes and emotions back and forth, up and down.

Friday, March 13, 2009

What if...Just an Ideal

What if I, as a mother, and a grandmother, found that I had something in common with a mother and a Grandmother in Iran, Iraq, or North Korea, or any other country? What if, a kid, ten or 14-years old, found that he had the same dreams, loves and desires as some other kid in any other country in the world? We do have some common desires, I think. And what if we said to our respective leaders...STOP! We have no common reason to desire war. None.

Sounds like a simple, stupidly simple concept. But I have a sincere feeling that there might be a woman blogging, or who would blog, in another country, who might have the same deep convictions as I do...that we do not want war, and that we are sick and tired of men waging it.

Women are a significant portion of the population, not to mention, a progressive force in the world. And if nothing else, women have learned to say no. And to say yes. They are learning to have their say, but not enough people are listening. And there are enough good, intelligent men to join us. Women and children suffer disproportionately when countries war, or societies collapse or famine hits. Women hold up societies whether or not they are democratic, or dictatorships, or fledgling emerging nations.

I would like to seek out women around the world who might want to join in a global initiative to stop war, and genocide, and hunger and greed. I know the solutions are not easy, but dialog starts with just one person not just talking, but listening to another. If anyone knows of any womens initiatives for peace and power out there, let me know.

Dot Dot Dot

My Aunt Dorothy, or "Dot" as her close friends and family call her, is a gem. She is 70-years old now, never married, although I just don't understand that, unless it was a matter of supply and demand. She is a lovely woman, with a wicked sense of humor that was lost on the largely prim, Presbyterian population where she lives. She has laughing grey eyes, she is slim, hearty and giving. She teaches a progressive youth-group class at the West Eagle Creek Church, where the average age of a youth-group attendee is between 55 and 70 years of age. She still sneaks a fag (cigarette) and likes a little "cocktail" on the sly, but just once in awhile.

Aunt Dot dated a guy once when I was young. His name was "Dick", and he was a scandal! He openly smoked, said bad words, and drank beer. It was rumored that he was actually married to someone else, though there was never any proof. I often wished that Dick had married Dot, but then who is to say how that might have turned out. I have never asked Aunt Dorothy about him.

Dot finally retired. She worked for over 50 years at the same factory painting plastic parts for autos and assorted electronic devices and microwave appliances. She bowls on two bowling leagues, and takes little trips here and there and, as she recently told me in a letter:

"I have a 1000 pc puzzle on my kitchen table. About 1/3 done. If Jaunita (my other Aunt) doesn't come Sunday and help with it I'm putting it back in the box." Later, in her Valentines' Day letter to me, she says, "A woman just moved to here from another town. She is divorced and has two sons. Maybe I can chum around with her. Her name is Dorothy. I hope she is happier than my neighbor lady that is twice divorced. I'll see."

I am missing my Aunt Dorothy tonight. Because while she might seem simple in words and in her activities and expectations, I remember her absolute "life force" of joy, and fun, and twinkle impish sense of humor. My Dad has this trait too. She also sent me a copy of the Centennial Farm Certificate she recently received for the farm I am so fortunate to have spent summers and school vacations on, in Ohio. I am missing that it is probably not possible that she would ever visit me here, because she would be, aside from my mother, the one person who would find absolute joy in the culture of Chile.

Dot Dot Dot! Love ya!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

That Music! A Cornicopia of Ear Candy.

One of the things I miss without electricity, is the opportunity to endlessly listen to music, and music programs like this one which features folks, jazz, blues, and music of the world including indigenous recordings many from the Smithsonian's vast collection of recordings. This program, Tapestry of the Times from WYPR out of Baltimore, is one of the best public radio programs I've found. You can download the podcasts for free on itunes.


An example I liked, one of the first episodes I listened to is here: http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wypr/local-wypr-791058.mp3 It includes some Kentucky Bluegrass, Comanche Flute music, a cowboy song, Langston Hughes reading a poem, two Afghanistan musicians, slave calling from Georgia, and Pete Seeger and more. If you love music, and learning, this is something you shouldn't miss.

Court and Scorpions

Today was court day in Futa. There was a judge, a prosecutor, and a public defender. Then there was a defendant, who over one year ago got a bit more than tipsy at the rodeo next door, then decided to break into our truck, rip out the radio (and then dropped it in the grass), grab a package of flour, some canned corn, CD's and a bag of dogfood and drag it to his home two houses away. I guess it seemed like a good idea to him at the time. But...in Futa fashion, with at least 30 Carabineros in town at any given time, he was quickly discovered, arrested, and all the "loot" returned. So, for over a year, he lived the "life of shame", his parents shunned as well. At least that's what I think.

Anyway, a volcanic explosion, and several other shake-ups later, court came to Futa. Greg went alone (I stayed to get in a little internet time and watch another, more important court event...Madoff pleading guilty and going to jail) and was impressed to find the prosecutor spoke some English.

"What would you like from the defendant? Would you like him to do some work for you? Is there any restitution you want?"

Greg admitted that the whole event, which happened around 4 a.m. was over, and most of the loot recovered before he even woke up. He didn't mention that some months later, the ladrone's father made our living room furniture and our bed. In the end, the kid pled guilty, gave Greg an earnest apology, and it's all done. Our neighbor, and landlord Bosque, had wished for a long prison term, or a caning. After all, he'd given up his front-yard potato patch for a parking space the day after the break-in, and been vigilant thereafter with locking the gate.

Later, after court, Greg ventured up to Patricio's house. The Hydro Guy. Digging deep into his almost empty well of Spanish, he explained to Patricio the recent problems with the hydro, and wanted to tell him to bring his tools, specifically, a tool he though he knew the Spanish word for: pliers. But, instead of "alacates" for pliers, the word "alacran" came into his mind and he made a pinching motion with his thumb and forefinger and told Patricio to please, "por favor, tu alacran!"

So, Sunday, when Patricio comes to the house, if he isn't too scared to show up, we'll see if he figured out that Greg wants him to bring pliers, and not scorpions. Thankfully, Patagonia is almost completely without all the creepy insects we have encountered in most of the rest of Latin America.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


I came home last night...and where, really, is home? The hydro-electric came on, went off, the water flow diminished during the day, Ismael and Nono had no water because of it, we've walked back and forth up and down the road from water source to hydro house, flipping lights, turning the water pressure valves off, on, half-way, three-quarters, watching battery lights, climbing up and down the freaking dirt cliff from the house to the hydro. Anticipating some music, or a brief movie, or a moment to write on the computer...only to watch the last fading light and resign ourselves to dripping candle wax again in tin cans to hold candles for reading light.

Several things have collided to change my asinine, whining attitude. The recent horrific attack on the Chileno students in Destin, Florida, the catastrophic collapse of the market in the US that has turned humble retirees into bag boys and restaurant greeters, and a poem.....

I'll back up, then fast forward. It was hot yesterday. So hot that I cooked a large pot roast outside in a clay pot for six hours to keep the inside cool, while Greg cut wood and cleared most of the construction materials from the east side of the house. Ismael had visited the night before and explained that right now the water table at the source is just too low to run the hydro all day and night, something he seemed extremely apologetic about. April through January the water source is "bastante" (or is it vastante...Spanish just keeps escaping me these days). We discuss the situation and arrive at a solution that we can all live with. We run the hydro in the evening, it charges the batteries and we have lights and music, etc...then in the morning, we turn off the valve and let the water source replenish. We will turn the hydro back on at 7, or 8 in the evening, and enjoy power.

But 8 p.m. comes, and after five trips up and down the dirt cliff, the test light comes on for three seconds, then goes off. Something just isn't working and we have NO FUCKING CLUE! After a year+ waiting, and umpteen lucas, it's just almost too much to swallow. At 10 p.m., Greg says he wants to come back to town, where we luckily still have the rental.

It is a stunning night drive. The moon is full, the mountains illuminated. We drive into Futa with Leo Kotke strumming away on the CD player in the truck despite the accumulation of ash. I felt tired. Sick and tired of dragging a few clothes and food from town to the house. Sick of dragging dirty clothes to town, haggling to get what we need to complete the house. Sick of hoping, and waiting and being disappointed. And so, we arrived late last night and I plugged in my computer and read about the Chilean students in Florida and thought about my time as an immigrant, or visiting tourist in Latin America. And then I slept fitfully.

This morning, I woke up, made breakfast, missed my hot-water kettle which I had taken to the house along with pots and most pans in anticipation of LIVING there, and had to wash out the skillet I had just made breakfast in so I could heat water for coffee. Then, I started on a marathon of Internet...YouTube, CNN, MSNBC, email, blogs, etc. During the day of slovenly behaviour on the couch, I read follow-ups on the Chileno students, and one report quoted one female student who said, "I was a happy person before, and I will be a happy person still," and she continued on to say despite the horrific incident, she intended to come back to the US next year again. It touched me deeply.

I've been ripped off, taken advantage of, and at times singled out for scrutiny because I was a "gringa", but I have never been a target of violence because of my nationality, or skin color...not once, in all the time we have been traveling. In fact, I'd have to say I have mostly been the victim of random acts of kindness, overall. So, here is this 23-year-old Chilena, on a three-month work visa in the US to polish her English, who has lost friends and just been through what would be a horrific event for anyone, let alone a foreigner in a foreign land, singled out because she and her friends are "latinos", or foreigners, and she wants to come back. It humbled me.

That was the first domino of reality check for me. The second was an email from someone very close to us, who after working all their life, doing all the right things, being conservative, and frugal and kind, and good, lost their life savings in the recent financial debacle, but instead of whining, wrote to ask very seriously, if we were ok, and how Greg's health was. I was humbled considerably more.

Then, I clicked on the John Stewart show, an episode where his guest was a soldier who wrote a book he was promoting. Now, I am against the war, I have issues with all of that, but this thoughtful young man quoted the famous Kipling poem, "If". And my mind raced back so many years when I was a 7th-grader and had a teacher we called "Mr. Mousey". I am ashamed that I cannot remember his name, because he made us memorize the poem "If". And even before the Stewart episode was over, I looked up that poem, and was overwhelmed as I re-read it. and realized I still remembered it.


IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

And so it goes...Again. I need to pick my seething, self-pitying attitude out of my adventuresome soul, re-adjust my thinking and get on with things. I've never been the victim of an horrific crime, we have not lost our lives savings (we live our life's savings), nor have I been a soldier in a horrific war, but, Mr. Mousey is owed some credit today, because I remembered, and looked up the poem "If." And today...it means something to me. It's about perspective. Plain and simple. It's not about comparing adversity...gauging your adversity with that of others, it is about your personal best. And that is something I can only gauge with myself, and no one else. I am the measure of me.

And I suspect that Mr. Mousey probably forgave his hideously immature 7th-grade students for their cruel behaviors, and knew that someday, they would forgive him his ears, his stray whiskers, and brutal homework memorization assignment. Kudos to you Mr. Mousey!!!!

Not About Chile

I was astounded by this story...please read the comment posted after the story which I have copied from one of my favorite Latin News blogs, The Latin Americanist.

A nine-year-old Brazilian girl who was impregnated after being allegedly raped by her stepfather underwent an abortion yesterday.

The child- who’s identity is being kept private- would’ve had her life in danger had she allowed the pregnancy to continue according to doctors. (At the time of the abortion the eighty-pound girl was in her fifteenth week of pregnancy). "She is very small. Her uterus doesn't have the ability to hold one, let alone two children," said Fatima Maia- the director of the hospital where the abortion was performed.

The 23-year-old man accused of violating his stepdaughter currently sits in jail where he awaits trial. Local media reports that he allegedly had been abusing the girl since the age of six and that he paid her for his sexual abuse.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil yet judges can make exceptions in cases of rape or if the mother’s life is in danger. (Both circumstances appear to be the case here).

Ideally, local religious officials should provide compassion and understanding to a girl who had been traumatized and the victim of rape. Sadly that was not the case:
A Roman Catholic archbishop says the abortion of twins carried by a 9-year-old girl who allegedly was raped by her stepfather means excommunication for the girl's mother and her doctors.

Despite the nature of the case, the church had to hold its line against abortion, Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho said in an interview aired Thursday by Globo television.

"The law of God is higher than any human laws," he said. "When a human law — that is, a law enacted by human legislators — is against the law of God, that law has no value. The adults who approved, who carried out this abortion have incurred excommunication."
The Archbishop’s comments were strongly (and rightly) rebuked by Brazilian authorities; "I believe the position of the church is extreme, radical and inadequate," Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao said.

Image- Javno.hr
Online Sources- FOX News, Reuters, AP, earthtimes.org, Javno.hr

Gregory Greene said...

The archbishop refers to God's Law. However, abortion is nowhere forbidden in the Bible; indeed, it isn't even mentioned. So the Church applies the fifth commandment: Thou shalt not kill. Look who's talking--the Catholic Church ranks right behind folks like Nero, Caligula, Hitler, and Stalin when it comes to killing those who have disagreed with it over the centuries. If the Church had had its way, the girl would have died a slow and painful death, with her twins, when they would have grown too big for her little body. Killed by the Church, all three of them. Thou shalt not kill, indeed.

The mother and the doctors have been excommunicated. But not the stepfather, he who broke an actual command in God's Law: Do not have sexual relations with both a woman and her daughter. (Lev. 18:17) The punishment to be administered is spelled out in clear: Everyone who does any of these detestable things—such persons must be cut off from their people. (Lev. 18:29) Excommunication, that is. Commanded in God's Law, but not carried out by the Church, because the poor sinner is a man. In the eyes of the Church, he's still a Catholic in good standing.

The misogynism of conservative so-called Christians comes from the same Middle Eastern tradition as that of conservative Muslims like the Taleban: Woman, even at nine years old, is but a vessel meant to bear sons for a man. She has no rights, particularly not over her own body. If there are complications with a pregnancy and a choice has to be made, always let the woman die: she has no value.

For more on failed religious institutions, read my free book.

2:24 PM

Monday, March 9, 2009

What's up? Six of one, Half Dozen of another.

I decided to use sheep skins for chair covers.

And this is the "lana" sheep wool that Nono deems too defective to spin for yarn...so it is what I am using to stuff the cushions with after I have "teased" it out.

This is my kitchen sink cabinet that I am varnishing now. We were thinking of tiling the top.

This is Nono, Ismael and Patricio after the lights came on.

This is the funky housing for the turbine for the hydro.

Hydro House almost finished.

And the home-made Turbine.

I haven't done a blow-by-blow for the hydro because I was too excited to sit in front of the computer. Then, well, it's Chile. And really, no one should have to endure my manic-depressive adventures in Futalandia. Patricio was supposed to be out last Saturday to start the main project installing all the doo-dads in the hydro house, but his mother ended up ill and in the hospital in Esquel, Argentina. To his credit, he came and started work on Sunday, last week. This weekend, he came to finish, and on Saturday night, we had lights! Which was WEIRD! Greg watched Slingblade (Billy Bob Thorton) and I read in bed with my bedside lamp! Oh JOY! Then, Sunday.......Arrrgggghhhh! The turbine wobbled and thumped and while we still had electric from the batteries, obviously we had a problem, which made me realize what our future problems might entail. That is...the twenty-foot slide down to the hydro house to check on any problems that might arise, and the twenty-foot freaking climb back up...which in good, dry weather is a bitch! So, as we work out the kinks in the system, I told Greg we WILL address the access problem.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Short Story: Vicki's Illustrious Toilet Paper Emporium

Donnie's hardware store does not have roof paint. "Otro semana?" I ask hopefully. He moves his head side-to-side as if watching a slow-motion ping pong game. "Por que?" I ask. I get the "shoulder shrug". I go next door to the other hardware store. They don't have it either, nor do they have the water line connectors I need. Off to the third and final hardware store. Nope. "Next week?" "No se." Non-committal, as if I'm nuts to be asking for hardware and home improvement supplies at a hardware store.

That is how, this afternoon, I thought of a new business venture. My business plan? I will rent a little storefront in Futa, I will paint it...oh, wait! I won't be able to paint it...no paint in Futa. Never mind that. I'll just rent the store. Then....

I will put on my "goin' to town" clothes, and hop on a bus and travel to Santiago. It is a three or four day trip, but well worth it as you will see. I will meet with all the toilet paper suppliers who do business in Futa. Now, here's the fun part. No matter how much it costs, I will secure an EXCLUSIVE rights contract with all of them, rent a warehouse in Santiago, then get back on the bus to Futa with two 4-roll packs of toilet paper to stock my store, Vicki's Illustrious Toilet Paper Emporium, and wait.

This will make part two quite ingenious. While I am in Santiago, Greg will have canvassed Futa to purchase all the phone books which no one ever uses except to start fires in wood stoves, paying 100 pesos each for the books.

So, now I have returned to Futa and placed my eight individual rolls of toilet paper on my shelf behind my cash box and Greg has stacked all the phone books along the far wall.

Soon, all toilet paper purchasers find their way to Vicki's Illustrious Toilet Paper Emporium and the line now snakes around the block, the owners of all the hardware stores in town dancing in place waiting for the store to open WHENEVER I FEEL LIKE OPENING IT!

I unlock the door, then talk for five minutes on my cell phone before looking up at Donnie, who is now clearly distressed. "Toilet Paper? Do you have toilet paper?" he asks (in Spanish of course).

"No hay." Then, with a grand sweeping gesture of my arm I indicate the now-empty shelf.

"Cuando?" He is perspiring and there is panic in his eyes. "No se." I shrug.

Then...with a look of empathy I touch his forearm and point to the stack of phone books, walk over, open one and tear out a page. "Like toilet paper," I say. "Only 500 pesos!" He thrusts a coin at me, grabs a fresh book and runs from Vicki's Illustrious Toilet Paper Emporium.

Within a week, Nogal varnish, and green roof paint appear in hardware stores, as well as water tube connectors and wood protector (cedro in color). Black market toilet paper from Argentina is hidden behind counters selling for 500 pesos a roll. But my point has been made, and now I will call my suppliers, pay off my contracts and ship truckloads of toilet paper from my warehouse to Futa to sell for 800 pesos a 4-pack.

But then I realize I cannot look up their phone numbers because there are no phone books left in Futa.

And so it goes.