Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bienvenidos Lectores de La Tercera/LUN/BioBio etc.

Esta dirección lleva meses sin actualizarse! La dirección adecuada es bearshapedsphere.com.

Gracias por visitar y comentar!

Monday, March 7, 2011

I'm moving! Change your feeds to bearshapedsphere.com

Having finally moved physically from Barrio Brasil to República, and with the patient help of Pam Mandel from nerdseyeview I am becoming a digital migrant of sorts, leaving behind the orange and blue, restricted format, three column pesky tiny photo and I don't know what else of Blogger (which has been a fine host, truth be told), to move into the bigkid sandbox of my own site.

I am certain this will bring me no end of fame and fortune, or at least a whole bunch of extra work to do while I figure out how to pretty it up and make it look like something other than a shell with a bunch of stuff in it. Comments should have migrated over (hallelujah), and hopefully you all will, too.

See you over there! And yes, I have organizing and some fiddely bits to fix, and a big empty space on my whiteboard where for more months than I would like to admit, it has read "xfer blog."

www.bearshapedsphere.com

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Nary a Hanga Roa in Hanga Roa, Easter Island report 2, now with jabón gringo

Before I left for Easter Island, I was charged by one of my work gigs with doing some research (and writing) on the island. This was nearly a first for me. I am the person who managed to go to Milan and failed to see the Last Supper because I simply didn't know it was there. And you'd think I'd have learned my lesson from this tiny snafu, but I have not. I continue to go places without exactly honing in on details before landing. For the most part, it works out.

But I knew more than a smidgen about Easter Island. I had even sort of vaguely plotted out a bikeride before leaving the continent (that's what they call continental Chile, the continent, or even "conti" which makes it sound like we all live in the village of Constanza, for which Conti is also a nickname. I had learned the names of the four volcanoes, and could even name several of the platforms on which the moai stand, and had planned to go horsebackriding and even scubadiving. I had looked at pictures of the two major clubs/discos on the island (Toroko and Topa Tangi), and I had hoped to go to both of them (and I did).

But one of the things I asked myself, which has a whole lot to do with language, which Pam has identified as one of the things I blog about the most (which was confusing at first, because I thought it was culture, but then I realized she was correct, and also a very good houseguest), and which I could find no trace of, in written or online sources is whether or not there would be any hanga roas in Hanga Roa.

A hanga roa is what we (on the Chilean continent) call the vertical sliding shades comprised of strips of bamboo or other thin wood woven together with brown string. They run on metal tracks off of small plastic bobbins, and you pull them across a doorway or balcony to keep the sun out. It took me a while to catch on to the name, and then I classed it together in my mind with salsa americana (american sauce, a bit like pickled cabbage and carrots, not to be confused with chucrut, which is sauerkraut), or cocina americana (literally: American-style kitchen, meaning an open plan kitchen)

I always like to have a secret mission behind the mission at hand (a week of vacation!), and it was to see if there were any hanga roas (see explanation) in Hanga Roa, which is the main town of Easter Island.

And I looked near the horses (the ones in town, there were horses pretty much everywhere):

horses in town, hanga roa

And down the main street:

hanga roa

And at the stop sign near the library:

stop sign, rapa nui

But I never saw a hanga roa. Maybe it's like this sign for jabón gringo (gringo soap), which I've never seen before either. A misnomer by any other name would be as sweet-smelling and/or shady.

DSC_1941

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Food and Drink Nostalgia, Chilean Style: Sorbete Letelier

In an apparently Chilean tradition of basing hypersweet drinks on the flavor of dried fruit (see: Mote con Huesillo), there's a soda in Chile based on the flavor of dried cherries. And not just any dried cherries, but guindas. Guindas are sour cherries, and when dried, they wrinkle around the pit and become leathery. When reconstituted, they get that "fat raisin" texture I associate with my mother's noodle kugel or Ecuadorean quimbolitos (cakes cooked in corn husks).

So what's the soda? Sorbete Letelier. It looks like this (photo with an iphone I recently was told was "a relic" so pardon the quality).

IMG_0533

What's so interesting about Sorbete Letelier is not necessarily that it tastes like your Cherry Coke married a Dr. Pepper and the spawn had a genetic anomaly that made the Cola taste as well as the kick of the pepper disappear and the sugar content double.

What's great about this drink is that it was here, and then it was gone. And when it came back, there was great rejoicing. From what I hear, I'm new here, myself. The beverage is originally from Talca, a city I admit not to knowing, but which I'm going to get to know pretty soon, I hope. S.L. was introduced in probably about the 1920s for local production, Castel bottling took over its production in 1958 and then pulled it from the market due to production problems in 1985. It returned to the market in 1997. It's still not available everywhere, and when it shows up, there's an occiasional rush of "tienen sorbete letelier!" (They have sorbete letelier!) and accompanying coin-digging-outage. I've yet to see anyone drink an entire one, but that might just be because everyone all around is wondering if they'll get a rush of nostalgia at taking a sip.

The reconstituted dried cherry in each bottle obviously goes to the person who bought the drink. I don't think this is the equivalent of who gets the worm in the tequila bottle, but I couldn't be sure, having never tried either. The expression for artificially-flavored sodas in Chile is "bebida de fantasía." Which still doesn't explain why Bilz tastes like bubblegum, but at least there's no gum inside.

See here for the drink's official website: Sorbete Letelier, and here for Urbatorium's writeup of the drink (in Spanish, with original label pictured). Dates supplied by above websites.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Celery to me! (Easter Island report, with birthday blabla)

3 at tongariki

For reasons too complex and probably personal, all of which have to do with someone's precipitous and precocious death and feared short life expectancy and really, I am that person who has been to two cardiologists in the past three years only to find out that no, I do not appear to be in imminent danger of a heart attack, I did not scream from the rooftops that I was about to turn 40.

But 40 I turned, a year more than 39, one less than 41, and a birthday that has not put me into an existential tailspin, but rather makes me think about how great these next 40 years are going to be, and how glad I am that I didn't promise to run a marathon this year, because I think I might have a stress fracture in my left foot and my right ankle is the weakest link, goodbye! (only not, because even if she's weak, she's mine, and I'm keeping her).

So. I went to Easter Island to celebrate my birthday, and like any bike enthusiast, partial misanthrope and crazy person, on my birthday itself, I woke up early, grabbed the bike I'd rented the night before and rode up a dirt road to Ahu Te Peu on Rapa Nui, several km out of Hanga Roa, alone, blissfully alone. Except for these cows.

cows en route to ahu te peu

And then I rode back to get some breakfast. And that looked like this (the ride back, not the breakfast):

en route to ahu te peu

Then I set out again, this time passing the airport, where I snapped this through-the-fence shot

airport

And I headed to Ahu Akivi, where seven moai face the ocean, are set up to receive the sun at their fronts and backs on the solstices, and where I sweated the sweat of the weary and humidity-unaccustomed and sat on a rock out from under which waddled a cockroach of mouse-like proportions. Photo of moai, not of the cockroach, for obvious reasons.

ahu akivi 2

This bike route, for what it's worth, makes nearly no sense because I doubled back from Ahu Te Peu when I really should have continued on, and would have arrived shortly at Ahu Akivi, but I was hungry and didn't want to miss breakfast and wasn't sure how long it would all take. Also, the island is pretty small, and I was going to run out of road before energy, so it wasn't a big deal to double back.

From Ahu Akivi, where I traded mild conversation with what appeared to be a Chilean-French couple (also cycling), but I don't know for sure because we never asked each other where we were from, I headed back to the road, and made a left, heading over to Anakena, where en route, I managed to get a wicked case of chain suck (yay! poorly maintained, grease-less bike chains), and ganked my chain into a position best described as "twisted" such that a) I could no longer get into the easiest gear and b) there was great skipping and clickage.

No worry, I pedalled on, urged to the right direction by this downward-facing sign, and fueled by fiber cookies, iced tea and a camelbak full of water.

sign

And views like this:

view from the bici 2

And the smell of eucalyptus and threatening rain, and finally, the long, long downhill to the beach where I felt like I was being towed in by the ocean. I later found out there's a "magnetic" spot at about km 15, where despite appearing to be an uphill, cars will coast up the highway, so perhaps this feeling of towing in was my bike being pulled by this same force.

Anakena

At Anakena I ran into a Chilean family from Iquique who'd adopted me on a hike to Rano Kau the day before, and whose friend-of-the-family's daughter handed me a piece of poundcake that she'd baked, which she didn't know, but which ended up being my birthday cake. And they shared water with me because I'd drained all of mine, and they ultimately gave me a lift part of the way back because there was no way my twisty bike chain and I were going to make it up that uphill I'd just come down without that smallest chain ring.

And I stopped to say hi to the moai for good measure.

moai at anakena, outline

And then I rode the ten or so km back to the bike shop, where I told them about the twisty chain and they gave me a mango for my troubles.

And I sat and watched a wispy sunset and then ate some fish and mashed taro cooked in a banana leaf, but I didn't choose the restaurant particularly well, and the food was just okay, and (don't tell), I shared some of each with a nearby cat. Perhaps it was her birthday, too.
::::::::::::::::

Green Celery explantation: The closest expression to how Happy Birthday sounds when spelled phonetically and then repronounced in Chilean Spanish is Apio Verde, which means green celery. Green Celery to me? Happy birthday to me. You didn't think I'd let a day go by without language geekery, did you? It's my gift to you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

On the anniversary of the 2010 Chilean Earthquake

On the anniversary of a terrible date in recent Chilean history, the 27th of February, nearly a year is completed from the 3:34 AM earthquake in Chile that would generate a tsunami that would wash away towns, and would knock one apartment building flat on its back (photo 13 in this photo essay), and leave many, many homes in uninhabitable conditions and many people more without homes to return to, I have to tell you a story.

It's about juxtaposition. As it happens, I was in Chile during the Haiti earthquake, then in New Zealand for the Chile earthquake, and finally, on Easter Island for the New Zealand earthquake. Yes, I am tremendously lucky, and hopefully, sufficiently thankful.

In Chile, we had fundraising events and a media bath of "send aid," or "send supplies" to Haiti. I know Haiti continues to struggle, and the trials faced in that country are much different, and dare I say harder than what would later be faced here and later in New Zealand.

Bear with me as I fast forward about six weeks from the date of the Haiti earthquake, to when I found out about the earthquake in Chile. I digested the information as best I could, far from the source, and with the occasional missive from friends who actually lived through it.

And then one day, not long after the Chile earthquake, I was walking around Rotorua, NZ, and saw this:

DSC_0724

and this:

DSC_0725

And I felt my knees nearly give, and then lock.

No.

Chile fundraises for other countries. No one fundraises for Chile, I thought. We're all wineries and deserts and lakes and skiing and hiking and the Andes. Not a charity case.

Time went on, and many millions of dollars were raised to help Chilean earthquake reconstruction efforts, which are still ongoing, particularly in the hardest-hit region of Maule, where adequate housing is still an issue, and where reconstruction is far from complete. So yes. People do raise money for Chile, and with reason. Thank you New Zealand, and everyone else.

And as if to prove that disaster can strike countries of every ilk, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake just a few days shy of Chile's 2010 quake anniversary. I took this photo almost a year before the most recent quake from when the Christchurch Cathedral was spiffy and upright, when the city of Christchurch hadn't been so shaken, when so many people hadn't died from having been simply in the wrong place.

DSC_0069

And I see now that people are fundraising for New Zealand as well. For Haiti, for Chile, for New Zealand. Three hugely far-flung countries, with very different pasts and presents, joined in recent history by earthquakes.

It pains me to know that people are suffering, with physical and psychological pain, with death. In Santiago we all had to step over escombros (building debris) for months while waiting for it to be cleaned up. A year later, even in Santiago (which was nowhere nearly as damaged as Talca or other more southern cities), many buildings are still scaffolded, 2x4s holding up cornices in places where they could still fall. The people of New Zealand must be reeling, and my few contacts down there seem thoroughly shocked (though physically fine).

Maybe we're supposed to remember that calamity can happen in any place, at any time? That even wealthy countries can need to ask for help? That tectonic plates respect no borders?

I offer out hopeful thoughts for speedy recovery, body and soul for those who need it. To people in Haiti living precariously, to Chileans still hurting, missing loved ones, waiting for reconstruction, and to Kiwis newly shocked and injured, as well as the foreigners who may have been in these places when the quakes hit.

A tidy finish eludes me. Stay safe.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Poof! I'm home!

Iorana!

Despite the presence of a wholly unlikeable seatmate on my flight home (oh! the scalp-scratching, the hangnail chewing, the using of saliva to clean the screen in front of him), I am so peaceful after an actual week off, that I find myself wondering why I don't do that more often. I very seldom disconnect from work, and the many hours of tappitytap that requires, and this week on Rapa Nui (Easter Island) was nearly internet free, with the exception of reading (and responding to) many, many, many birthday wishes from some pretty fabulous people, and reading the occasional news snippet. My heart goes out to the people of Christchurch, and once again I am thankful to have missed an event so jarring, so dangerous.

I think the trip from Rapa Nui to my apartment in Santiago is the fastest and brusquest change I've ever made. From being on an island with fewer than 5000 people and about as many horses (and many more than that number of ants!) to my balcony that overlooks downtown Santiago (a city of more than 6 million) took a little over five hours. It's a stunning shift to exchange the twinkling spray of stars overhead to the neon Entel Tower in such a short amount of time.

It always takes me an overnight to make me feel like I'm really on vacation. I know I'm being greedy, but I kind of hope it takes me more than that to start to feel like I've landed back in real life.

Hope you've all been well, and back to more navel-gazing, trip reports and photographic splendor (I hope, I haven't even looked at any photos yet) soon.