Tuesday, December 17, 2013


I know we have mentioned the little town Combarbala. We’ve been there several times on P-day. It is located higher up the mountains where they have lots of mining.   The air is dry and arid thus making visibility keen.  Chile is well-known for their observatories.  A few months ago on a previous trip there we stayed late into the night hours and toured the observatory.  We loved seeing the planets. Saturn’s rings were especially neat.  We learned a little about the constellations in the southern hemisphere. 
Combarbala has a beautiful old Catholic church right next to the town plaza.  It is in need of repairs but that only made it more interesting to peek inside.  The small feria (like a little flea market in the street) was fun to visit. You can purchase handmade articles or pickled cauliflower and fresh produce. We bought some apricots and cherries. We also saw some pretty good deals on base-ball  caps that had “Falcons of Atlanta” embroidered along with a bowl-game & date.  Probably these caps were either left-overs that never sold or the caps they had PRE-made in case the Falcons won the game, but when they didn’t they got sold off cheap.  If you ever wonder where many of the old things you contribute to charities or Goodwill etc. end up it could well be here!  I’ve seen so many peach/mauve/blue painted wooden geese and ducks and birdhouses from the 1980’s for sale on the streets (literally—not even a table to set them on) for sale here.
We usually stop for Almuerzo while we’re out.  Typical lunches here begin with Pan (bread). Then arrives the salad (normally they do NOT mix them, but rather set the vegetables on your plate). You will find sliced tomatoes (pealed of course) next to a few slices of avocado, next to shredded lettuce, and maybe a few beets.  Next up is ‘carne’ either pork or chicken served with rice or noodles.  That’s it. We usually get some type of juice such as Watts’ apricot drink. 

Here are a few photos! 

We stopped to locate a bathroom on our way out of town. We asked at the catholic ‘rectory’ or office next to the church and the employee let us use theirs.  Have you ever shared a bathroom with a coffin? 
Here is a photo of a man selling weed in Combarbala:

Recently, we found another interesting church on a Cliff overhanging the ocean. It is an ‘open air’ church.  It was locked but we took a picture thru the window/hole.

Meet Betty

12/17/2013   MEET BETTY!            

She pops over to visit us every so often. She is a faithful member of the church but a bit eccentric. Yes, she knows the magnification sticker is still on her glasses and that they are broken. Yes, she is wearing a bathrobe. Yes that is a ‘health mask’ around her neck which she always uses—it’s pretty dirty. Her house key is on a rubber band around her wrist. She wears many layers of colorful clothing and the crocks on her feet cover huge woolen socks. She always drags along her little cart on wheels. She loves to do community service.  She helps with the music school here and learned they were not using the funds which had been donated properly.  Last week she brought some legal documents over to our house for help translating them from English into Spanish.  It was a $50,000 grant from the Ford Foundation for the school but she knew they would use the money for whatever they wished unless she intervened.  It took some long hours (legal language) but she was so proud when she marched herself (all decked out but in a better way than this normal photo of her) down to the mayor’s office and presented the translation saying that they would be monitored and inspected to make sure the funds were being used appropriately!  She also visits the hospital frequently and tracks down family members who may not know their relative is in a coma for the last month in a hospital here in Los Vilos. She is not afraid to tackle anything. She is special and just like a character from a movie or story book.  We love Betty Rojo because she is ‘the spice of life’ even if it is hard to set aside time for her.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


4 Dec. 2013

Lunch, or almuerzo, is the biggest and most important meal of the day here.  A family we know well wanted to serve userizos (sea urchin) for lunch. They kept saying it is the most famous and sought-after dish in Chile, and all foreigners say it is Chile’s most delicious dish, and that it usually goes for $60 USD a plate.  They had happened into a big sack bag of sea urchins from a fisherman friend.  So they prepared them and brought them over in a bowl so we could eat lunch at our house, because their house is so very small there is no room for guests.   “They were alive a few minutes ago” he said.  Erizos are served cold, raw and “cooked” in the juice they’re served in.  You eat them with toasted bread.  They’re cold and slimy. 

They were horrible to put it mildly.  But we couldn’t let the family know because they were so pleased to be able to serve us this delicacy.  They bowl of erizos literally looked like a bowl of vomit. The prepared sea urchins look like salmon-colored human tongues in the slimy vomit.  They’re real soft and squish easily in your mouth if pressed with your tongue. They’re prepared by covering with a half quart of fresh lemon juice, to which is added lots of chopped raw onion, cilantro, garlic and salt.  

Carolyn kept spiting hers out in her napkin on the sly and getting up from the table to check on things while she threw it away and got more napkins.  The sneaky little devil. 
The family figured out that she didn’t like them too much.  She said “I like the sauce better than the other stuff” (the “good part”) … which technically was not a lie because she never said she liked the urchins.  The sauce, like I mentioned, was like vomit, only slippery-er, kind of like mucous.   It was hard to distinguish from the urchins, because they were so soft and a lot broke down and became part of the sauce. 

Well, I had to eat my whole serving so they wouldn’t feel too bad.  Of course they made sure was twice as big as theirs. I had to be careful not to gulp it down too fast to avoid the taste, because then I knew they’d try to serve me more.  We said we’d save Carolyn’s bowl for later.  I bagged up the leftovers for them to take home, but they insisted I put it with Carolyn’s leftover and eat it for breakfast.  Mmmm.  Yummmm. For breakfast too!  They had more at home, they said.

A couple of hours later, about the time we had a family coming over for a lesson/Christmas project, I started feeling real sick to my stomach.  We have only one bathroom in our really small little house, and its right in the living room practically where everyone was busy making a Christmas candy countdown chain.  With the bathroom door shut, you can actually see people in the living room because there is no door jamb.  With the  door open, you could reach out and touch people in the living room, the house is that small. 

So I kept trying to think how and where I could go be sick without startling this family with young kids. Like, going outside around the other side of the house and throwing up.  But then, no, I make a whole lot of noise when I throw up and they would still hear me because the windows were all open and the wall around the house would echo really loud any noise I made.   Maybe I could sneak out and run down the beach a ways and throw up.  But, no,  what if I needed the toilet too, like really bad at the same time?  All these things were running through my mind.  The other family finally left just in time for me to run back in to the bathroom and be sick for a couple of hours.

The next day, the guy asks me how I slept.  He says sea urchin are an aphrodisiac, and give you lots of energy like caffeine.  Thus he couldn’t sleep all night.  Once my stomach quit hurting, I slept pretty good actually, about 12 hours after eating those things.  I was left wondering if he got sick too, and was just trying to see if we did too.  

Carolyn and I decided that the next time someone asked us if we liked shellfish (which means just about anything, here), we would both say quickly absolutely not. 
The only other time we’ve been served shellfish, which is a local specialty because there is such a variety of shellfish harvested by the local fisherman and consumed by the tourists here and shipped all over Chile.  We also had a hard time getting the locos down.  Locos are kind of like small abalones. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

11/26/2013    We’ve now been here in Los Vilos for over 2 months. In some ways time is going really fast but not fast enough when I think of all the things I’m missing back home.   I love fall and Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We may have chicken instead of Turkey for Thanksgiving but we will share a meal with the other ‘matrimonial couple’ in Illapel and another family. Then I will put up all 5 of our Christmas decorations and find some Christmas music somehow.
I love our little beach cottage. It’s small but so easy to clean.  We have to clean more often now that it’s warming up and we can open the windows.  Along with the cool air, dirt & sand blow in. We’ve also had 2 birds recently fly in. They say it is good-luck when that happens. We started putting bread crumbs outside on a table for them & they found them immediately. We love watching birds and I always think of my dad when I watch them. There are lots of different birds here at the ocean.  Last week for “P” day we went to ‘Pichidangue’, a nearby beach. We saw Cormorants, Whimbrels & watched another very interesting bird as it travelled back and forth skimming the surface of the water with the lower half of its bill in search of dinner.  We ate almuerzo at a little restaurant on the outside patio which had an ocean view.  I had Reineta (local fish) and an avocado salad which it turned out was simply an avocado peeled, thinly sliced and spread out like a fan on my plate.
Our work here is progressing. The people are very friendly but usually quite reserved until we speak first. Then they open up quickly. The other day we couldn’t find a particular store we were hoping had skittles or M&M’s for a game we wanted to play. We spotted 2 young girls and asked them for directions to “Keiko y Yo”, thinking they would know where the candy store was. They insisted on walking with us personally up the street to the store. The other Senior Missionary couple here in our district once stopped to ask for directions from their car. The Caballero/gentleman instructed his child (10yr old boy) to get into their car to go with them to the location & then told him to return home on foot.  I always feel like I’m living back in the 1950’s here.  I love how trusting the people are yet we have to gate and bar and lock everything in our possession or else it’s considered ‘fair-game’ and will be taken. They love to drink and party all night long. We met two very friendly (inebriated) men this morning while we were on our walk. They had been out all night and sadly, were robbed (so they said) while in that state of drunken helplessness. The disco up the hill opens at 1am on weekends and we sleep to the beat of the bass drum all night long. Luckily the sounds of the ocean waves help diminish it.
We love and miss you all!  Send us an email when you can—careschramm@gmail.com

Things I like:
·       The beautiful, colorful flowers like Geraniums and Bougainvillea etc.  They grow wild, like weeds, in cracks and crevices of walls and cascade down in voluminous color.
·       They gather as families & friends for Almuerzo from 2-4pm every day and feast.
·       They always peel tomatoes!
·       The church bells in Illapel chime every hour and often play songs.
·       When there is an old building that needs to be demolished, somehow it burns to the ground and is then bull-dozed before the embers have even cooled.  No need for any investigations ;)
·       Everyone loves Papa Fritas (These include both French fries and Potato chips-) & they are NOT considered an un-healthy, bad, fast-food item!

Things I don’t like:
·       Maimed stray dogs that are starving & bark all night.
·       The tiles on the floor in our shower don’t drain.
·       The need to pre-wash all fruits and vegetables in a disinfectant.
·       Our tiny LumPy bed!

The blessings we have received since being here are too many to count. We’ve decided we need to pay better attention to even the smallest of miracles that happen day to day here. Our family back home is being taken care of and we feel of their love, prayers and support. We have been given great families here to work with and feel a family relationship growing with many of them. We love the Elders and Sister Missionaries in our Zone.  Sadly one of our favorites, Hna Cazaut was transferred. It was hard to see her go. I got to be Hna Valencia’s companion for a day till her new one arrived.  (It was probably one of her laziest days on her mission because we just relaxed, made cookies and looked out at the ocean!)

 District on P-day.
Geraniums growing on our back wall.