Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 23

23 Feb 2014 Thurs.  Spent the day researching addresses and looking up inactive Elders and prospective Elders.  In the evening I drove to Illapel for district Presidency meeting while Carolyn stayed in Los Vilos.  On the way home, around midnight, I pulled over at the top of the mountain pass to look at the stars.  It was an unusually clear and dark night… dark except for the Milky Way with an unmistakable swath of bright white from horizon to horizon… and except for the trillions of other stars everywhere.  I have not seen a sky like that since camping as a kid in the back country of New Mexico when at that time there was little light pollution and other forms of pollution to block the starlight.  It is absolutely awe inspiring to see the heavens here on dark, clear nights. 

I can only begin to imagine what the view is like a few more hundred miles to the north of Chile, in the high desert where some of the most famous telescopes in the world have the clearest view from anywhere on earth.  That is because they are so high, and the desert there so dry (some places have never recorded any rainfall, ever) that the air is crystal clear, giving great views of the heavens. Wowzer.  

Ben and I once stopped in the Wyoming desert around 2 a.m. on our way to Utah, to look at the stars in the dark sky there. (Maybe it was Calvin.  No matter.  One of them can witness that it was a great sight that they will probably remember for a long time.)  Anyway, the difference between the dark sky here and that, is like the difference between the Charlotte NC sky and Wyoming.  (In Charlotte, there is so much humidity and light pollution that you only see a few of the brightest stars).  


Friday, February 21, 2014

February Update ~ Schramma

It is an interesting summer in Los Vilos. Since many of the vacationers arrive here from Santiago there is a larger number of ‘fair-skinned’ people with light eyes here. Evidently the Europeans were a big part of the early settlements of Chile, mainly in the southern parts. They became the wealthy land-owners and businessmen.  They are pure Chilean but look different than those here in the small, northern towns and country.

Here are a few random thoughts---
Transportation: Most do not have personal autos so they pay for a collectivo or taxi if it’s too far to walk or they have too much to carry. It’s important that they live within walking distance for daily life.

Housing: No urban sprawl here!  Even though there is lots of undeveloped land here (mountains and coastal) the towns remain very compact. People live with & on-top of each other.  A small dwelling will rent for ($200-300/month). They are very tiny casas. It is normal for the renter to remove everything before vacating, including any light fixtures, curtain rods, kitchen cabinets etc. Everything goes-

Technology: They all have and use internet (Facebook is huge here) and cell phones but they never seem to have enough calling minutes. Since an in-coming call is usually free or greatly reduced in cost, they like to receive calls but not to make them.  We find it interesting that the tiny houses hold upwards of 3 TV’s each. It’s common for every child to have their own electronic devices, including TV.  TV’s are one of the few things less expensive for purchase here.  All the movies (Disney included) and music is pirated but cheap. It is nothing to see hundreds of DVD’s in a box under the TV.

Utilities: don’t seem very expensive but they do monitor how much electricity & gas they use. They keep lights turned off and since most own at least one HUGE big-screen, they don’t leave them on unnecessarily. If they run out of gas they just shower in cold water. (We’ve enjoyed that experience on occasion)

Healthcare is government run (and very bad!)  The hospitals in all the towns are dirty and horrible. Everywhere you look you encounter maimed, crippled and blind folks and children. Diabetes goes un-attended and cancer is rampant!

Taxes are a flat 19% and are always included in the price of the item so there are no add-ons when you check out, except that you need to tip the bagger-kids and the bum who ‘helps’ you park your car in one of the 6 parking slots, if you’re shopping at the largest grocery store in town. (Unimarc)

Food is pricy but if you shop at the street feria, then it's a little cheaper (no receipts).  Everything from food and clothing to toiletries to office supplies is about twice what we would pay in the states.  As far as the clothing goes, even if it is a used item (think DI or Goodwill) if it’s in good shape, then it’s pricey. They love any clothing w/ European or American Brand names or words.  There was a woman at church wearing a T-shirt (dress standards are much more casual here) and on it written was: “I’m not knocked-up ~ I’m just fat!  She said she didn’t care what it meant, but that she liked the colors. I’ve seen men wearing Lady Viking’s and pink Susan G. Kohlman Mammogram shirts.  (And to think it used to bother me wearing black clothing with brown shoes or accessories, not anymore.)

Fleas: we know first-hand are miserable, little critters There are so many stray dogs roaming that it’s easy to get them and hard to get rid of them. People normally just put up with them and wait out the 2 months of summer, and then the cold temperatures put the fleas back to sleep for another year. We had our house ‘bombed’ yesterday to kill them.

Everything is very tiny here:  You purchase Cake by the piece, flavorless gum in super tiny packs, sheets of paper individually, and milk (no refrigerated milk here) in cartons from 1 to 3 cups. You drink yogurt. They don’t give you ‘twist ties’ on anything but rather tape packages shut or staple them.

List of things I’ve learned recently:
You can re-use dental floss. One-day contacts can be worn for up to a week. Saving things like empty TP rolls, wire from a used spiral notebook, nails found in the street, or any plastic bags is good. They can be used for other purposes and save you money.    These things don’t exist (perhaps they do in the big cities):
Clothes dryers; Curly Ribbon; Corn Syrup; pretzels; chocolate candy (it’s all only the flavor of chocolate & heavy on the wax)….well I could go on and on with this list but this entry is already too long. 

Next time I will write more about our gospel experiences and things that really matter, like how we are growing and changing our lives and (hopefully) others J   Love to you all! C-

February update ~ Schrammpa

5 Feb 2014 Wed.  Kelly and her Mom Mirella and one of Kelly’s old childhood friends, Luis came to Los Vilos to visit today.  Kelly and her Mom were baptized in Illapel soon after we arrived in July of last year.  

They arrived arrived around noon while we were still in our weekly district meeting with the missionaries.  Carolyn left to attend to them.  They decided they wanted to cook us almuerzo (lunch, but more like a big dinner).  Almuerzo is a big, formal affair every day.  They went and bought some fresh reineta (a mild, popular fish) and were busy cooking up a feast when I got home around 2 p.m.after the meeting.  

They called and told me my job  was to buy lemons on my walk home from the church. The chileans will always have fresh lemons on the table for almuerzo.  They squeeze them on everything. They had the table spread out with colorful food, mostly vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, corn cut off the cob, avocados, honeydew melon, prickly pear cactus fruit (called tunas).  The tunas are FULL of very hard seeds.  They say they’re good for your digestion and clean out your pipes.  The fish was wonderful.  The best reineta we’ve had, and we’ve had it a lot here. Luis, Kelly's friend, is not a member of the church but a very very nice guy.  

Afterwards, Kelly, Luis and Mirella walked along the beach in our back yard.  People from the "interior"  (the country is only 50 miles wide here so its not very far inland) or inland, like to come to the beach here because the weather is always about 20 deg. F. cooler than up in the mountain valleys.  We often get cold here on the coast, with the stiff, cool ocean breezes. The latitude is like southern california, but it stays very cool all summer. I don't think the temperature has gotten above the 70's in the day, and at night it goes below 50 at times. 

I went on visits w/ the branch president in the evening.  He seemed excited to go this week (maybe these visits are helping him get excited about getting out and visiting his “flock”) He seems to be listening to the things I’ve been telling him he should do.  He surprised me by telling me several things he had done (finally), such as dividing up responsibilities within his the presidency and making assignments to his counselors, setting up meeting schedules for presidency meeting, PEC, branch council, etc. Wow.  Just when you think nothing is going to stick. 

He also picked (on the spur of the moment) some very good people to visit, because they were all needing a visit for one reason or another:  Pete, a YSA who has been missing in action lately, Danny, ex missionary, recently married, 3 kids, on church probation needing interview which was arranged, Mary, new convert and her non-member husband we had never met.  She was suffering from a panic attack/ and severe depression and migraine and looked terrible.  Pam and kids, who was mad because when the missionaries went over to help her move a couch they told her they couldn’t go in (due to a mission rule) because her husband was not there and she was home alone (I guess her 3 kids don't count).  She sarcastically asked if WE were sure we were ALLOWED to come in. Pres. Alfaro gave her daughter a written copy of her patriarchal blessing. She’s only 12.

It is amazing to see how the Spirit of the Lord works with the priesthood leaders here like in any other place in the world. The branch president is a small old fisherman with little schooling who walks with a limp and has little self confidence in himself and little experience leading and directing others.  Yet none of that matters to the Lord.  He is the one who has been called to preside over this little branch of the church, and it is plain to see that the Lord inspires and directs him to reach out and accomplish his purposes.  Does he even realize it?  I don't think so, yet.  But I can see how the Lord does inspire him despite what others might say are many shortcomings. The more he tries, the more I see that he is inspired.

16 Feb 2014  We were in the middle of a family night when President Marambio called to see if we’d felt the earthquake that was quite a jolt in Illapel and he’d heard that the epicenter was Los Vilos.  It was about a 5 magnitude.  We did not feel it.  But we did hear a guitar in the other room fall over when it hit.  It was leaning up against the couch on the wood floor.  These 4 and 5 richter scale earthquakes happen all the time here.  We’ve felt 4 or 5 in the 7 months we’ve been here.  If I look on line, they are happening almost daily somewhere within a couple of hundred miles of here.  No one really pays much attention to them.

Since the weather has warmed a tad (from freezing to just cold), I’ve been plagued by flea bites.  Hot humid climates have mosquitos.  Here, cool and dry, I don’t think I’ve seen a single one. But they have millions of pulgas....fleas. You rarely see one, except the bite they leave.  At first I thought they were chiggers, because the bite and tremendous itch are very similar.  They leave a big welt, sometimes the size of a quarter.  Now I know they are flea bites.  They are so small you hardly ever see them.  I’ve only seen two. 

They are pretty darn aggravating, especially when you get about 50 bites in a single day.  There are millions of stray dogs all over, and they are flea bags.  You cannot walk anywhere without passing these dogs, and so it is very easy for fleas to get around and hop on your clothes without you seeing them and start munching.  Later you start feeling all the bites. Some people are allergic to the bites (me) and others are not (Carolyn), though she gets bit too, she rarely sees or feels it.  I am about to go crazy. 

One of the Elders gave me a flea collar his uncle sent him.  There are no flea collars here.  The Chileans don’t seem to be bothered by fleas, just the gringos.  This Elder said he no longer is allergic to fleas and they no longer bother him, but when they did, he would hang the flea collar in his closet and the smell would get on his clothes and keep the fleas off and from biting.  Hey, I’m willing to try anything at this point.  I had one in my fleece pajamas once and it bit me about 20 times in 20 minutes before I figured out what was going on.  I never found the bugger.  They can burrow down in thick material and even survive a washing that way. I put my PJs in a pot of boiling water.  I’m sure that got him.

Calvin had problems on his mission in one apartment in Italy with bedbugs.  He sent a picture of he and his companion covered with bedbug bites.  That is what my arms and legs and neck look like, only they’re flea bites.  At least there is hope.  Hope for colder weather.  Hope that I will become immune.  Hope that they get rid of all the stray dogs.... well, not much hope in that.  They love their stray dogs here.