Saturday, January 31, 2004

Just wanted to add a funny story about human nature. When we were in Viña del Mar we went to dinner for pizza. The place was really crowded and there were no more tables outside so the owner was nice enough to give us plates and we sat on a bench on the main street a little down the road from the pizzeria to eat. He gave us forks and knives but we took no notice, folded our pizza in half like we were in NYC and started eating. Well we created quite a spectacle for a woman walking by who stopped looked over at us in astonishment and put her hand to her mouth exclaiming "They´re eating it like a taco!" And ran off lauging. Crazy gringos.

Also wanted to metion that we have met some wonderful people who have shown us the ropes and more. In Santiago we spent time with an old high school classmate of Jake´s cousin, Kate, who just moved to Santiago from Ecuador with her partner Ever and their adorable daughter Nia. They were really welcoming and it was great to have such lovely people to spend some time with our first week. And here in Argentina beyond lots of friendly travelers we met four great folks from Buenos Aires who have really helped us find our way and are sending us armed with lots of information on hikes and treks in the south. We went out to a bar with them last night and felt really blessed to already have met some good people to practice Spanish with and learn about our new home for the next eyar. We are headed down south, by bus tomorrow night where we will hopefully see many moutains, lakes and awesome scenery. More to come on this later....

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Friday, January 30, 2004

Well, more than one week down and we´ve already graced a second country with our presense. The day before yesterday, we crossed the Andes, not far from the 24,000ft peaks Raegan described, descended through utahesque, and napaesque landscapes into Mendoza, Argentina. It´s different, but more on that later.

Santiago is not a bad place to be sick: the water is potable, the juice is delicious, pharmacies are plentiful, and I had my dearest Raegan at my beckon call to nurse me to health. I don´t recomend a feverish flu in the summer, but luckily it left as quickly as it came. Once healthy, we toured the city´s pre-columbian art museum -- one of the best in the world we´re told. I guess I knew that prior to Columbus´"discovery" there were more groups present than the Inca and Maya, but I had little idea. Did you know folks down here were mumifying their dead 2000yrs before the Egyptians? Well they were. Also, DYK the Inca developed an elaborate method of writing with knots of rope in order to organize, manage and record the planting and harvesting of crops and the labor of 10 million people (among many other things)? Well they did. We also observed that a sizable portion of the artifacts were devoted to the production, consumption and commemoration of drug use. It seems this continent was occupied by some cocaine and mushroom-eating, pot-smoking, hallucination-having ancient people. In my next life, maybe I´ll return as a shaman.

From Santiago we headed to the beach resort city of Viña del Mar. We watched the second installment of the Ace Ventura series on the bus ride -- movie magic. The beach was beautiful and crowded. It didn´t take us long to remember that our skin was in winter not long before. Next to Viña is the city of Valaparaiso. Supposedly it´s a poor-mans San Francisco, but other than the hills, electric buses, and victorian architecture the comparison doesn´t work. After riding a funicular and winding around the alleys and steps in the hills of the city, we were thinking sicilian hill town, but bigger, and with more stray german shepards. It´s a magical place.

Despìte our enjoying the three cities we visited in Chile, we are enjoying Mendoza much more. And dwho could blame us: steak and wine have replaced mayonaise lathered hot dogs-- for the same price? Every street in the city is lined with trees, plazas are filled with necking couples, and everyone we´ve met has bent over backwards to ensure we enjoy their country. Today we slept like cats until the afternoon, then went wine tasting. Tommorow I suspect more of the same. The people here speak Spanish with an Italian accent. Can you picture that. Try saying "buenos dias" like you had a dry throut or were Michael Corleone, now put your palms faced up, connect your fingers at the thumb, and shake your hands up and donw. You get the idea.

I miss you all greatly.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Day two in S. America, about 363 to go! Yippee we made it, our ten hour flight arrived safely yesterday causing me a great sigh of relief as I am no fan of strapping myself in a little capsule to jet off into the sky. On the way in we saw huge mountains from the plane, the Andes, jutting above the clouds. There was one on the opposite side of the plane which we couldn't see so well from our seat, said to be 24,000 feet high, amazing. Wow can't wait to get a closer look.
Observations will be brief as I must say I have seen a lot of our hotel room, which is nice in an old mansion with many winding stairs on a cobblestone street (not tipical). Have seen a lot of the room because Jacob has been sick with a 101 fever for the past two days, doing a lot of sleeping and pretty miserable. But I have been going on two hour jaunts around the city on my own to see the sights in between keeping him company.
Santiago is big and bustling... and hot, it is full on summer! It is light until 10 o'clock, which will take some getting used to. Don't get caught outside at 2pm or you will fry (learned this today). The main culinary delight sold on every corner for less than a dollar is a completo, hot dog with mayo and saurkrat. (yes, this is the place for me generous helpings of mayo on everything) Haven't tried one yet but don't worry I will not leave without eating one! There are nice plazas and a ton of pedestrian only streets downtown that are packed. Good parks that I have seen so far, pretty city downtown. Little kiosks all around selling snacks. Stray dogs all over. Lots of places to eat ice cream and everyone seems to go for it about five o'clock. I am doing a better job today of seeing past the general masses of people coming at me on the street and start noticing more and will give a better update when the sensory overload has abated some and I get my sea legs. The Spanish is going well, have had no problem communcating so far, phew, although my accent has thrown a few people off track, can't seem to leave that Spanish lisp behind. No deep conversations on the meaning of life and politics so far , I look forward to those. There are actually a lot of details here that remind me of Spain, of course big differences too but a nice familiarity that has made adjusting easier.
Missing you all, especially these first days. Un beso gordo, Raegan

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Monday, January 12, 2004

Well, well, well. We're getting down to the wire here, and we couldn't be more excited. Only four more days of work, and five days of craziness lay ahead. To give you an indication or our lives at the moment: this last weekend Raegan and I had a dinner party, opened a bank account, canceled all our bills, sold a car, grabbed lunch and a movie with my mom, bought a few last minute items, got a soccer lesson from my cousin, Kevin, packed a few boxes, and hosted Jeff Peak, an out-of-town guest. No pats on the back though, we we're a little disappointed that we didn't get more done.

Oh one other thing accomplished last weekend: I spoke to Kate, a childhood friend of Kevins, who lives in Santiago with her Ecuadorian husband. She's a new mom, and I think he's a soccer player, but nevertheless Kate kindly offered to play tour guide for us. I can't wait.

Much love to you all.

It will be interesting to see whether we hit the ground running, or hit the pillow when we land in Santiago.

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