30 June 2011

A pack a day

Flying over Santiago, as I said in an earlier post - I thought I was seeing a beautiful fog over the city, but actually it was smog.
Walking around in town, you don't see it from the ground level, but oh you feel it...... I sneezed frequently and my eyes were irritated at times.
When I watched the sunset from above, I could see it settling over the city. The night sky lit up in beautiful colors - pollutants do that to a sunset/sunrise!

During the tour our tour guide talked about the smog. He told us that breathing the air in Santiago is like smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.
Then he told us the following (joke?):
Why do so many Santiagans smoke?
Because they need the cigarette filter to filter out the pollutants in the air!

But after it rains, the air is crisp and the sky is clear - these days provide a short relief and allow the blue skies above to be seen....
Santiago is lovely - smog or no!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Santiago, Chile

Sunset on the beach

Living next to the beach I try and take advantage of it.....the sound of the waves, the beauty of the water and the amazing sunsets. I have 2 weeks of this privilege. Oh it is amazing.

My favorite time of day is sunset. The sun begins it's descent and the water is painted orange. Despite the cold, the beach is alive...kids play soccer barefoot. In the sand, vendors sell their wares, couples cuddle up to each other, tourists take photos and locals run along the shore. A brave few (or a crazy few) go in the water...
The water is painted orange, blue and white. The horizon begins to glow. Birds circle overhead in the sky that is becoming deep blue - almost the color of a sunny summer's day. Occasionally birds dive into the frigid water for food. The sun sinks. Ships come in and out of view on the horizon, gliding silently in and out of view. They are barges, laden with cargo containers bound for ports unknown. As I look at them, a familiar tune passes through my head
.....out of my window looking in the night, I can see the barges flickering light....barges I would like to go with you, I would like to sail the ocean blue......
Crash! The sound of the strong waves cresting brings me back to the scene at hand. Crash! The waves pound the shore as the sunsets further. The water no longer has an intense line of orange, but rather a general orange tint. The horizon glows orange, more and more intensely. The sky is darkening, blue slowly changing to black.
The people begin to depart, the lights on shore twinkle more intensely, the sky glows bright, but almost suddenly, as if someone blew out a candle, the sky is dark, and I am left with the sound of the waves and the lights of the barges and of the city behind me. Sun has set on another day in Viña del Mar, Chile.

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Location:San Martín,Viña del Mar,Chile

28 June 2011

Coffee with legs

A quick story from my tour in Santiago ......
Coffee in Chile is, well, quite bad! It is almost always instant - and I even had a mug of "Cafe con Leche" that was microwaved so long, I had to peel off the hardened skin of milk to be able to drink it!
Well on our tour, the tour guide admitted to the fact that coffee in Chile is pretty darn bad. Then he drew our attention to some nice looking coffee shops in downtown Santiago. One example of which is Cafe Haiti. He told us tha these nicer looking coffee shops still "brewed" the same Nescafé, but they charged more for it... So what is the draw you may wonder - why would anyone pay 3 to 4 times as much there?!?!?
The answer is "Cafe con Piernes" or "coffee with legs" .....
These shops hire young, pretty women to serve. Back in the 1920's til about the 50's at an 'unofficial' set time of the day, the shop would be crowded with businessmen being served by these women.... Then the owner would lock the door and draw the curtains for a minute or two or maybe five. The shop was closed and during this "happy minute" as it was known, those leggy waitresses would do a quick strip routine on the tables of the coffee shop. Then the music stopped, they got dressed, the curtains were opened, the door unlock and it was back to business as usual.....coffee with legs
Now the question is, do they still do this today? I don't think so, but the history of the cafe certainly draws in many individuals to drink overpriced really bad instant coffee. Of course, if you are reading this and really want to find out firsthand - then come visit Santiago!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Santiago, Chile

26 June 2011

Santiago....4.5 great days!

I flew into Santiago just as the sun was coming up. The whole flight had been bumpy - but I had three seats to myself so I slept some. As we began to sink for landing, the Andés came into view. I looked out the window of the plane and saw what I thought was fog settling around the villages below. It was an amazing sight, the ground seemed to shimmer and sparkle as the sun poked it's head out over the clouds. I would later learn it was actually smog.....

Santiago is huge, but well connected. The central downtown area is easily walkable as are all the barrios around. Between the metro and my own two feet I covered ALOT of ground.
But my first task was finding the Brazilian consulate - so that I could get a visa for my trip to Brazil mid-July..... I found it on a map and went to the San Lucia metro station - I left the station and began walking. I couldn't find the right street, but I found a Chilean government office and asked security there. They pointed me in another direction.... And their directions took me to a police station.....the officers there gave me directions to a theater and at the theater a random woman outside gave me directions to a shopping area. Obviously no one knew. I looked on the map again, oriented myself and headed off in that direction. As it was well hidden, I actually walked past it several times - but now I know *exactly* where it is! Once that was taken care of, it was time to be a tourist...

There is so much to see and do in Santiago! On the first day I went to Plaza del Armas (central part of town), San Lucia hill - great lookout, and Las Monedas (governmental offices). I also walked across the Mapucho river to the San Francisco Cathedral and through the nearby barrios (neighborhoods). My couch-surfing host, Pato took me around his barrio. I loved the 1920's feel of the area and the graffiti murals around the area. Especially clever was the one of cats waiting to pounce on fish in the sea. Near and dear to my heart was the one for Guias and Scouts. It has the WAGGGS logo!

My second day I slept in a bit later than planned and missed the tour I was going to take - oh well! So instead I went back to Plaza del Armas and to the main post office. This was the fanciest post office I've ever seen! After getting some stamps for postcards, I realized it had a museum inside of it. I've been to the postal museum in Washington DC before and am just enough of a nerd to like it! So my first tourist attraction of the day was the postal museum. I mean it was interesting to look at, but only the first room was actually translated into English and I was just too lazy to spend time reading every Spanish caption. (Although it is worth mentioning that I have spoken very little English or German since landing in Santiago - I am doing a decent job of communicating in Spanish.) Then I met up with Pato and we went to eat - I had fish and my first pisco sour (yum!) He took me to the fish market, the fruits and vegetable market (my favorite) and a textile market. It was all really amazing to see!

My third day I finally made it on that tour! The tour guide was great (I think some of his comments are worthy of their own post) and I really learned a lot about Santiago. Plus in the middle of the tour, there was a stop - for pisco sours! That evening I switched to my new couch-surfing hosts, Mario and Jessica. They treated me to an amazing meal that Mario cooked: oysters with lemon juice, muscles with cheese baked over them, soup made of Congrio (a traditional fish) cooked in a clay pot and oh yes, more pisco sours..... Amazing!

My fourth and final day as a tourist in Santiago, Jessica and Connie showed me around to some of the places I'd not yet been. We started out at Los Dominicos church - but it was closed, however the market next to it was not... Lots of great craft items. Plus there I enjoyed the Chilean version of sopapillas. Whereas the ones we get in Texas are flour-based, pillow shaped and meant to be filled with honey; the Chilean ones are round, flat corn cakes. I ate mine bare, but they can be topped with cheese or beans. Loved em!

Then we went to the zoo. I've been to the world's highest zoo before - in the Alps in Austria, but as this one was up on a hillside within the Andés, it must be up there among the highest. It was a cool zoo with great views of the city.

After the zoo, we rode the funicular further up to San Cristobol. At the top is a statue of the virgin Mary. Think of the famous one in Rio - then reduce it in size.... We watched the sunset from the top and then rode the funicular back down. Before returning to their house, we walked through the artsy Bellavista Barrio. Un día perfecto!

Santiago has street dogs EVERYWHERE! Some of them are cute and small, others look mean and large. They live nowhere and everywhere. They belong to no one and everyone. Literally. The Santiagans feed the dogs and even provide some of them with jackets. But no one takes them in. The dogs know their place, they do not bark or attack. They follow runners, but only to join in the run. They do not beg, but they accept gratefully. When walking by, they pretty much ignore you. The dogs are everywhere - but cats are almost non-existent....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad.

Location:Santiago, Chile

Dirndl - just for Ruth.....

It's the old "when in Rome" situation..... Two German Teachers (Ian and I) take a group of students to Bavaria, German and somehow decide we need to not only talk the talk, but dress the part. Sooo what does that mean: Dirndl and Lederhosen of course!
It started in Ulm. Ian found a deal on Lederhosen at a store called K&L. He tried on about 4 or 5 pairs. One of our students was with us - I've never seen someone laugh so much!

Ian eventually found the right pair (yes, the very first pair he tried on).
He got the whole kit and caboodle and there was no time left for me to look at Dirndls. Oh well.....

Fast forward a few days, and we (Ian, Kathi, Sven, Kathi's parents, Carl and a few other Dossi teachers) are going to a fest. It's the PERFECT opportunity for Ian to wear his Lederhosen (I still have no Dirndl), but at the last minute he backs out....something about the cold.
A few days later the 5 of us (Ian, Carl, Kathi, Sven and I go to buy Dirndls and Lederhosen. (Kathi and Sven were buying them to). We go to a shop that specializes in Tracht (authentic Bavarian wear). And the fun begins.... I believe Sven found what he was looking for pretty quickly. Once I determined my size, I tried on a dirndl in turquoise blue.

Not bad, but I wanted something darker. Easy as pie, I got one darker and wallah, I had my dirndl. This was actually way to easy......

Poor Kathi had a bit more difficulty finding the right Dirndl for her.....

But eventually, hers was found too. Ian also got a second shirt (in purple - for Paschal). Then we took group photos all dressed up.

At this point it was time for the GAPP farewell party. Ian and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to wear our tracht, but we were assured it was not something the others would do....
Unable to convince our German colleagues and friends to do the same, we decided that we needed to wear them at least once in Bavaria before going home. We were met with cheers, compliments and our own private papparazzi.

So now what...... Well we think Dirndl and Lederhosen are just the thing for German events in North Texas as well as the first day of school..... So watch out for some crazy tracht-wearing German teachers!

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Location:Posted in Chile, but happened in Germany

24 June 2011

twin day?

A quick post from Chile....more proper posts later...

As I walk around downtown Chile I often see people dressed the same. Adults - often two men or two women. Sometimes three or more. This is not a one time occurance. Actually it's quite normal. Many businesses here have a uniform (and I don't just mean fast food places!) and the employees wear it. Its actually kinda fun to guess where the person works and what they do. It's also neat to see how many people are friendly enough with their colleagues to go out together.
Some of the uniforms are very smart, whereas others are way too pink for me!

17 June 2011

Signs signs everywhere a sign

Signs are nothing to be scoffed at - without them I'd not be able to navigate my way around the world as easily as I do.....but lately on this trip to Germany I've seen some that are sure to make one think, or laugh...

This one makes me immediately hungry. It is advertising a farmers market - right next to the fields where the products are grown: potatos, vegetables, fruits, eggs and honey. Lucious.

This one has bragging rights - 768 steps to climb the tower. Ulm Munster - alleged tallest cathedral tower in the world. Awesome view!

Then there are those intended to make us laugh - from a school play in Germany: This is the *real* Northstate ghost....

And what about those that shouldn't be taken word for word literally: "Our grill is waiting for your meat/flesh."
Not so sure I want to go into this restaurant......

There are those that just amuse us..... No this is not in Amish Country - just a touristic area of Rothenburg.

Sometimes a sign is boring until a creative person alters it. I am so glad to now know who all of these previously anonymous figures are! Who'd have ever guessed they are all soccer players?!?!

Signs are all around..... Look for them and share - what's your favorite?

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Location:Deutschland, Germany

07 June 2011


Ahhhhh a day with the host families. That meant that the teachers got to go and play a bit too!
The best part was the visit to Blaubeueren. We started off at an old monastery, but that's not what this post is about. We then saw the famous Blautopf. It's a part of the river that is suddenly a vivid caribbean blue color. All around it the water is a dark green. It's an amazing differences.

From there we went hiking. I LOVE hiking in Germany. They have a set of amazing 'Wanderwege'. Each is marked with a symbol to help keep you on the correct trail. The symbols will be painted on rocks or trees or stuck in the ground as a small sign. One just needs to be observant to keep on track. And observant we were - we saw wild strawberries, flowers, trees, gliders and the village below.

So observant we were that we lost our marker and ended up on another trail! But we were not worried. Between the five of us (Ian, Kathi, Sven, Carl and I) we had great instincts and knew the direction we needed to go to get back to Blaubeueren. Plus as Carl put it "we are not going to get lost and disappoint my parents" {we were invited there for a grill evening}
We did not disappoint. We followed our gut back down the hills of the Schwäbische Alb and ended up coming into town about 500 yards from Blautopf. Success - and a great hike to boot!

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Location:Blaubeueren, Germany