The New Normal

Rudy and I have moved to Cerro Blanco, a campo a few kilometers from the pueblo of Codpa Chile... this is our story.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Latest

So much has happened since I last wrote. Some good and some not so good, but almost all of them enlightening in one way or another.

A few of the best things were the acquisition of Samantha (goat) and two sheep, Lisa and Oliver. Samantha (in case I haven't already told you) was more of a rescue than anything. Poor thing was half-starved and I honestly thought she'd die before I got her home as she collapsed several times along the way. Thankfully, a few miles from home a neighbor helped me get her into a small shed, gave her some water and fresh alfalfa. After a much needed rest for both of us a friend with a van happened by and gave Samantha and I a ride the rest of the way home.

The first few days that Samantha was with me I kept her in a corral on the property and fed her as much as she could eat, which turned out to be an awful lot. After she had enough strength to walk a short distance I took her to another neighbor's farm, staked her out and let her graze for a few weeks. Boy! Did she ever get fat. Oops, guess she didn't like that remark!

Anyway, she's back in the corral now but not alone. I found two more lambs to purchase (the original Lisa and Oliver died from a sickness before I could buy them) and they are keeping Samantha company.
Lisa has a gray face and a very gentle disposition, while Oliver has a black and white speckled face, crazy eyes and is a bit aggressive when strangers (human or animal) come anywhere near Lisa. I reckon he's assigned himself the role of protector. Lisa and Oliver will be my breeding pair, which is why they have names, and hopefully early next year we'll have a baby from them.

I could not get a good picture of Oliver to save my life!!!

As far as Samantha and her breeding...well, I'm going to wait to breed her until we've built our house and move her to another property. It's one thing to move 2 sheep and a single lamb two miles away, but either a pregnant goat or a goat with 3 or 4 kids...nah. I'm not that impatient. Besides, I don't really have enough room in the corral for that many animals and I'm not going to build a corral on this property.

Yes. Move again. We knew this was not going to be a permanent location and when I was shown possible building sites (free) for a house, Rudy and I decided that since we'd have the money to build this year, we would. I think it's fantastic that we will have a house and no mortgage or rent payments. No electric bills. No water bills. No telephone bills. No bills. Period.

Granted, all of the free land for building homes is on the sides of the hills which means it's strictly desert land. The particular spot that we selected seems to be the safest of them all and the easiest to access from the road. What do I mean by safe? Well, it means there are no boulders or a lot of loose rocks and stones that would come tumbling down when (not if) earthquakes hit.

Here are some photos of the area. The formation is one that I've admired ever since I first laid eyes on it. The photo doesn't do it justice, but it really is lovely. Certain times of the day, it sparkles as though it were sprinkled with a million diamonds and when the sun hits it just right, it looks like it's covered in gold.

Also, we don't have to have the excavation done high alongside the hill, which means NO STAIRS. We'll be able to put in a foot path from the front gate to the road. That makes it nice for when we are hauling back our monthly shopping from Arica. Phew! I won't miss these stairs, that's for sure.

Honestly, the biggest problem will be hiring a reliable work crew and getting the materials from Arica. We'll do it though, one way or another.

We've also been presented with several opportunities to buy one of the many abandoned farms. I really wanted to buy a small one, remove most of the fruit trees and create pastures and vegetable gardens. My idea was to raise dairy goats and use the milk to make natural products such as soap, shampoo, and body lotion. Between the fruit oils, avocado, olive oil, herbs and flowers, I figured I could have a pretty wide variety of fragrances as well as something for every skin type.

My problem. Yep. This is one of the bad things. I realized that I am not physically able to do all of that on my own. Rudy has no interest in animal care. None. He's decided that he would rather take care of the house and yard and handyman kind of things. That's really fine with me. I think we should both do what we enjoy and he really does NOT enjoy working with the animals. Not even a little. Yes, he'll take care of them when I'm not around or I just need a day off, but he doesn't get the pleasure from it that I do.

Anyway, my younger sisters and I have been trying to talk to our brother about moving down here. If he came and partnered with me, I would certainly buy the land and we could work together. After all, this is the kind of life he's always wanted. With his knowledge and physical strength, I truly believe we could make a good go at something. Without him, I will settle for something on a much smaller scale.

What happened to make me finally accept that I would not be able to go anything large on my own was just last week as I was walking back from the pueblo and my back and hips were hurting so much so that when someone happened along and offered me a ride, I had to get a hand up into the truck. I was so horrified and so embarrassed. I've never needed an assist. I felt so decrepit. I had the same feelings when I finally accepted that my running days were over. I suppose if I still lived on flat land I could continue to jog—but not here. It's too hard on my joints and I need to be able to save what parts of me that aren't broken down to be able to take care of the animals that I have and will have later on.

So, I guess I will be content with two milking goats, a couple of sheep, and some rabbits. These will provide me with what we need for milk, cheese, butter, wool, and meat. I'll also have space for a vegetable garden and flower gardens. That's enough, right? Yeah, I think so too.

The month of May has more festivals than any month has a right to have. First there was the one for the Virgin Mary. A zillion people show up all over this valley, stuff their faces with food, drink until they puke and call it done. I wonder what the Virgin Mary would think of this.

Then, we have Vendimia. This is the wine harvest festival and when they make the traditional wine called Pintatani. It's a very sweet and very potent wine. One small glass and I'm out for the count. Anyway, there are typically 15-20,000 people at this event. Not this year. It was, as far as I'm concerned, a bust. Five days of back breaking work (not to mention all the work done in the months preceding this event), for nothing. We all had our asses handed to us. Rudy and I have decided that starting next year we will simply go have fun at Vendimia. No work. Just drunkenness and dancing. 'Nuff said.

Oh, and how could I forget 21 de Mayo?? It celebrates a war (or a battle) that Chile lost. Yes. I said “celebrates” and “lost.” Don't ask me, I don't invent these holidays. Perhaps one of my Chilean friends can explain the rationale.

Finally, we had the festival of the cross. It is essentially a repeat of the festival for the Virgin Mary except for this one we throw in the added fun and danger of a bunch of drunkards, along with a band which consists of a drummer, trumpeter, and some other brass instruments, heading up the narrow, steep trails of the mountains in order to decorate the crosses with carnations. Ok. Then, once the cross is decorated and a prayer said, the cans of beer and bottles of champagne open and the drinking begins anew...oh, this is accompanied by the band. The band members get pretty sloshed too and by the time they get to the fifth or sixth cross they are playing songs like La Cucaracha.

As you can tell by now, I'm not a big fan of the festivals here. Perhaps because I don't understand them. Perhaps because I don't understand the culture of the region sufficiently to appreciate them. Or maybe, just maybe, because I believe that religious holidays should be, well, holy. I guess I'm just an old fashioned fuddy-duddy.

I am so looking forward to having my own house on my own little bit of property. The cabin in which we are currently living is so small that it is nearly impossible to take normal strides and we have too much stuff in here (every bit of it is needed). One needs the grace of a ballerina in order to navigate without knocking something over—especially in the kitchen and especially since we put our own stove in. I probably could have done without the stove but I honestly could not share a kitchen with someone else any longer, even though Rudy and I are usually the only people here. It wasn't my kitchen and it was just a bit weird.

One thing I have figured out is that hallways are a massive waste of space. I am currently in the process of drawing up floor plans for our house and I guarantee you there are zero hallways. We will only have about 600 square feet (more than twice what we currently have—part of which is hogged by a hallway) but all of the rooms will be large enough to accommodate furniture and allow for easy, free movement. Trust me, I most assuredly do not have balletic grace.

Yesterday (Friday 26 June) I attended a course offered by the Civil Defense Search and Rescue group. That was probably the smartest thing this pueblo has ever done. Enough equipment was brought in such that all areas within a 6 mile radius of the pueblo will have easy access in the event of an emergency. The little storage area for our sector (Cerro Blanco) is now filled with backboards, carriers, professional first aid kits, megaphones, wheelbarrows, pickaxes, shovels, harnesses and mountain climbing equipment—and a bunch more—and we were trained on how to use the most important of the items. Even though I was trained in search and rescue while stationed in Belgium, it was an excellent refresher course and I feel confident that I could be useful in an emergency situation.

That is one of the things I really love about this area—the free courses that are so useful and so relevant to this region and our way of life. The basket weaving class was excellent, unfortunately I had to drop out due to time constraints. I did learn enough to make the sorts of things for which I took the course so it wasn't a total bust.

There was also a class in Guañacagua on making mermelade (I call it runny jam) from guava and tuna (no, not the fish—that's atun—but rather an outgrowth from a cactus), both of which are plentiful here. So, they can keep bringing them and I'll go to as many as I can.

There are also opportunities to learn skills from various individuals if you ask around. For instance, I like to crochet and use my knitting rings but I can't always buy good yarn. I was looking at my sheep the other day and wondered how one went about shearing them without electric clippers and then how one went about cleaning and combing the wool for spinning. As it turns out my friend, Philomena, knows how to do it and has offered to instruct me. She also knows where to buy a small spinner so that I can spin my wool into yarn after it's been cleaned, brushed, and dyed.

The really curious thing (to me, anyway) is that many people have sheep but no one shears them. Hmm. Maybe it just isn't worth it. I'll give it a go and if it turns out to be more work than it's worth, then I won't bother with it...but still...what a cool skill to have.

We have a little animal here that for the longest time I was calling a squnk. The first time I saw one was a few months ago as it was exiting the chicken coop with one of my eggs. No. I did not fight him for it. Anyway, its body-type and main coloring is like that of a very large squirrel, but its markings are like a skunk.

Turns out, they are skunks. And how! Pee-yoo!

Early yesterday morning while it was still pitch-black outside, the dogs were sent out to use the facilities and I heard a big commotion. So, off I went, flashlight in hand and went to see what the fuss was. The smell was the first thing I noticed and the second thing I noticed was that there was a third “dog” with Bob and Milagros. Closer inspection showed that it wasn't a dog at all but a very large fox. The three of them had this poor little squnk cornered. I, on the other hand said, “See ya!” and headed back up to the house. I wanted nothing to do with a cornered squnk and nothing to do with a big ol' fox.

Suffice to say, both dogs stank to high heaven. Bob was the worst because I guess he got shot directly inside his mouth. Now he has squnk breath and just having to breath the same air as he is pretty gross. No matter that I got the smell off their fur and skin—my boy needs a breath mint because he's stinking up the place.

We now have only the two rabbits as the rest have been butchered (except one). Because they are my breeding pair, they have been given names: George and Louise (the Jefferson’s). One of the rabbits I gave to my neighbor's, Roberto and Fabiola, who have two young children, Agustina and Mati, for a pet. The children named her Pilpintu, which means butterfly in Aymara. She is a large, beautiful brindle and is most likely pregnant. The family hopes so because they will be selling the babies as pets in Arica. If not, we'll have George make a house call, which I don't imagine he'll mind too terribly much.

I also gifted them the chicken, Lucy, because the amount of work involved in plucking chickens isn't worth doing. Besides, Agustina really loves Lucy and I know that both animals have a good home. Also since I found a butcher shop in Arica that sells butchered, farm raised chicken for about a dollar/pound it negates the reasons for raising my own, which was to provide hormone/antibiotic-free chicken for me and Rudy. I can also buy fresh eggs in the pueblo, so I don't need to raise chickens. Besides, cleaning the chicken coop was so gross. Chickens just crap their runny, smelly poop all over the place. Blech! I'll take tidy little poopers like rabbits, sheep, and goats. Nothing smelly and nothing....wet...just little beans.

After we move I'll be building a workshop where I can work with the hides. It really bothered me to toss all the hides because it just seems so disrespectful to the animals to not use every bit that can be used. It just wasn't practical here. Next time though, I'll have plenty of pelts to tan.

If a person has any sort of obsessive-compulsive disorder, living here will either cure them or kill them. I was more than a little OCD—I remember my son, Derrick, always telling me, “They have medicine for that.” – but I think I'm cured.

The reason is that absolutely nothing goes as planned. Almost every day I mentally plan the things I want to accomplish, yet I rarely accomplish everything (or anything for that matter) because something else will come up—a tool breaks, a water line bursts, etc—that requires your immediate attention and everything else has to go on the back burner.

This past week was filled with interruptions of my work. I had planned on cutting alfalfa Wednesday and Friday, but I could not because I had to take the time to walk to the pueblo to use the internet to get a response to a question I'd asked the week before...well, in order to make the walk without suffering heat stroke, I had to go in the morning which is the cool part of the day and the best time for cutting. So, I had to rearrange my week a bit. Then, Wednesday afternoon I had planned on cleaning the goat and sheep pen, but I couldn't because Samantha opened the door to the pen and let the sheep out and Rudy and I spent hours chasing Lisa and Oliver along the mountainside...until I remembered that Milagros was probably the answer.

You see, I had been training her to pull carts when I was in Arica and I realized that a lot of the commands could be employed to herd the sheep. It worked. By nightfall, the sheep were back in their pen with naughty Samantha, and Milagros earned a special treat. The pen has not been cleaned and I now have only today and tomorrow morning to get it done before I go to Arica. I also have a bunch of alfalfa to get cut before I leave.

That, at least, is the plan for today and tomorrow. I guess I'll find out in another hour when the sun is up how much I'll actually get accomplished. Fingers crossed.

My daughter, Margaret, and son-in-law, Noah, sent a most excellent care package. Thanks, guys! The knife has been getting quite a good workout, by the way. They also sent a desert backpack with a built in water bag. This thing is so well-made and allows me to take long hikes (climbs) on more treacherous terrain in which having both hands free is essential. It has just enough space that I can carry a few pieces of fruit and some treats for the dogs.

They also included some vegetable seeds—parsnips (can't find them here), sweet baby pumpkins, fennel (I've purchased it only twice in 9 years because it is only grown in the south and it is a virtual unknown here in the north), and carrots—atomic red, atomic purple, yellow, and white (how cool is that?).

The two one-pound skeins of yarn have been crocheted into a new poncho. I've decided not to use it for chores because I don't want it filled with hay and sticker-burs. I've been using it when I sit out at night enjoying a nice cup of tea and gazing at the stars.

So, despite many of the hardships and inconveniences of living this way, the rewards are so abundant that we can, for the most part, overlook or even ignore the bad. No bosses. No commutes. No real need for a clock. We do what we want, when we want, and how we want. Except when a water pipe bursts.

Until next time...

Oh, I almost forgot the pictures and video that I promised from my last post...the ones from the Membrillo (Quince) Festival:

Rudy with Membrillo Man

Video of Rudy and Beti doing the Membrillo Dance

Monday, March 2, 2015

Hillbilly Spanish

A little over 8 years ago I came to Chile with very little Spanish and learning the language has been the bane of my existence the whole time. In Arica, many people adapted to how I spoke (I imagine it is the same with parents of toddlers who are learning to speak and only they can understand what their kid is saying), and I began to understand more and more of what they were saying to me.

Enter Codpa.

No one understood me. I understood no one. Are we all speaking the same language? I was once again forced to adapt, not only to a different lifestyle but to another language.

Then it hit me: The people in Codpa (most especially out on the farms) are Chilean hillbillies! Down here, they call the farms "campos," but up there they call them "chakras." They have their own sayings and idiomatic expressions...just like the rest of the world.

This got me to thinking about how even in the States, groups of people who live in different areas of the country have their own language. Granted, most of us who grew up there can understand what the others are saying--unless they live in the bayou, in which case you need a translator. Seriously. Have you ever watched Swamp People? Often times they'd have to include subtitles, hahahahaha.

Anyway, I have decided to include a few really good Appalachian sayings so that those of you who may not be native English speakers can see what I go through:

Better put on your boggin.
If I had my druthers.
Graduating second grade was duck soup. (hm, does this mean it was hard or easy?)
Cotton pickin' minute. (is that faster or slower than a NYC minute?)
I'd like to buy me a flivver.

Membrillo Madness

In February we celebrated the harvest of the membrillo. I had no idea what a membrillo was, so I looked it up. It's quince. I was still kinda clueless since I'd never had quince, so I picked one, washed it and tried it. Weird. Kind of like an apple that is slightly green, with a hint of pear and lemon. Raw, it is also a bit chalky, which is also strange to me since it is very juicy. Turns out, the chalkiness dissipates with cooking and the weird blend of flavors goes away by doing the same. It makes great pies, although the average person here only uses it to make juice (yummy) and a paste (too sweet even for this girl). I also like it finely diced and put into my salads.

Anyway, the membrillo is a big deal here, and the harvest is a huge deal. An entire week of celebrations is dedicated to it. Carnival is what they call it and I don't wish to sound critical, but--one day is enough in my opinion.

I have some videos but I forgot to bring the pen drive with them. Story of my life. I'll post the videos and photos next time.

So, essentially what happens during Carnival is that a dude with drums and all the farmers go around from farm to farm, singing ancient songs, and tossing a lot of confetti and flour all over the place. There's one dance in which the men smear flour on the women's hair and faces and the women to the same to the men. Then, there's another in which a man and women throw these membrillos at each other. The women try to hit the men's knees and the men try to strike the women's feet.

They also carry around a stuffed man and he is given a seat of honor. You are supposed to take a glass of wine, pour a bit on the ground in front of the stuffed man and then take a sip. After, you burn a few coca leaves at his feet.

Honestly, I don't know how all this is supposed to bring rain or good luck, but like I said--one night is enough. Let's face it--flour, confetti, and smashed fruit make a huge mess, and for this to happen during a time when we have no running water BECAUSE we've had so much rain that the river has turned to mud and it is unusable, doesn't seem advisable to this girl. I know, I know--traditions. Anyway, after the first night I decided that was enough for me. You can call me a party-pooper only AFTER you've tried to wash that mess out of your hair with only a gallon of water.

Two New Additions

Next week (I hope) I will be able to bring home Oliver and Lisa. They are two black lambs, and since they will be for breeding they get to have names. I've already picked them out, negotiated a price, and made a deposit. The owner told me that they should be ready to leave their mother in a week or so.

Most of the livestock that I get will be purchased as babies. This way I will always know how/what they've been fed for their whole lives. I research each type of animal to find out the best living conditions and foods to give them so that I can get the best meat possible--or the best, healthiest offspring.

Los Camarones!!

Camarones means shrimp. In the States we call them crayfish, crawdads, or mud bugs, depending on where you live. They are freshwater crustaceans that are more closely related to lobsters than anything else. The best thing about the muddy river is that it is filled with these tasty critters, and we have gorged on them. That is the only thing that really takes the sting out of not having running water. It is only while you are eating them (steamed, not boiled) that makes you forget that your life has been utterly disrupted and made horribly difficult and that you may not have clean underwear tomorrow.

Question of the year

I have been trying to puzzle out some signs that I've seen on the road to Codpa. Don't get me wrong, I know what they say, but I don't understand why the second of the two exists. To me, it's a no-brainer.

Sign #1 reads: Property of the Army--Live Land Mines
Sign #2 reads: Entry prohibited

They got me at sign #1. If you need sign #2, well, there's just something wrong with you. My thoughts on this: Take sign #2 away and let those who would enter a mine field with live mines take a walk and eliminate themselves from the gene pool.


Time to head out to get my money and do my shopping. It was (and always is) strange to awaken with the realization that I don't have to do any chores.

Until next time.  

Sunday, February 1, 2015


It's always something

I didn't make it to the posta or the dentist. Instead, I had to go to Arica. Again. This situation with my electricity just seems to have no end. Anyway, I talked to the vendor who had sold my equipment to me and was told to go to Arica that Wednesday in order to replace it. I had the damaged inverter, or should I say ill-constructed inverter, in hand and went to Arica. I stayed at the home of my friends Tomas and Pilar. I was given a room with a bed and a desk and a high speed internet connection. Who could ask for more?

That night, I contacted the vendor and we agreed to meet at Tomas' house at 10 am. Perfect, I thought. So, I made sure I was up early enough to be properly caffeinated and then I waited. And waited. And waited. I finally sent him a message asking if he was, in fact, going to come. I waited some more. No response. I was becoming highly agitated. Tomas took notice and messaged the guy. While we waited for a response, I tried to relax by reading. When the man did respond, he advised Tomas that he did NOT have the replacement. My mind went on lock-down. I couldn't think. I couldn't feel. I could scarcely breath. I was really, rip-roaring mad.

I left for a few minutes to try to get some blood flowing to my brain. All I could think about were the people who were depending on me to salvage what meat we still had so that we could all eat: Rudy, Zoila, Julio the worker dude...myself. What I was spending in gas for a few hours of generator power each day, plus the few free hours of electricity the pueblo gives us poor hillbillies every night was certainly insufficient to properly preserve the meat, and the gas, at nearly ten dollars/gallon, was just ridiculous. A new inverter would be way cheaper. The problem was, I didn't have enough cash to buy a new one, and it was going to be another week before my pension check was deposited, so I was essentially screwed.

Fortunately, I collected my wits, called my sister Donna, and asked her to advance my money. Thank goodness she was in a position to do so. She wired the money and I calmed down considerably. I really did not want to go back home with bad news. We'd all had enough by then.

Finally, the guy arrived, checked out the inverter and couldn't find anything wrong with it, except that it did not work. Really? I must say, the construction of the thing was absolutely shocking. When I opened it to find the source of the problem, I'd noticed a screw that was touching a chip. Nothing wrong? I beg to differ. In a high voltage situation, that was certainly sufficient as to create a short-circuit at the very least. I pointed it out to him. He looked at me and said, “No, there's nothing wrong with that. You have a lot of static in the interior. It must be the static.” Anyway, that was all I needed to know about him and his level of expertise. I suppose I could have argued, but what would have been the point? I am after all, just a woman. What could I possibly know?

I asked for a refund of my money. He said he didn't have it. He said he wouldn't have it until it was sent back to the company from which it was purchased and he received a refund. Ok. Well, guess what, Bub? I need a new inverter TODAY. Not tomorrow, not next week, but T-O-D-A-Y. Tomas was clearly uncomfortable with this, but I could not just simply throw up my hands, give a grin, and say, “okay, no worries,” because there were plenty of worries. I let him know that I was going to buy a new one that day and that he could return the defective one for a refund and give the money to Tomas. He agreed. He also said he had a friend in town that sold this equipment and that he'd make sure I got a good price. We all agreed to meet in the city at 6.30 to go get it.

So, I got the new inverter and then I heard the guy tell Tomas that when the replacement came in, he'd take it to Tomas' house. What replacement? I wanted my money back. Of course, I wasn't going to make a scene out on the street, not with Tomas, anyway. Tomas put a happy face on it and said, “Well, at least you'll have a spare.” I suppose, I could resell it, but a part of me says, “nah, better keep it, just in case. Besides, I'll eventually be adding on and will need it anyway.”

This bit of relief was very short-lived. As soon as I got home, I noticed Bob had not come with Milagros and Chato to welcome me home. Odd. Very odd. I called for him and whistled, but it was nearly an hour before he showed up on our doorstep looking very tired. He came in and went straight to his bed and to sleep.

Meanwhile, I wanted to take a shower but there was no water. REALLY?!? I went out to check all the connections and find nothing amiss. Except, that water was flooding through one section of the orchards and I knew it was too soon for that. So, I asked the worker, Julio, if he knew what was going on. He did not, but he'd try to find the source of the problem. I was able to use the bathroom because I keep a large barrel of water there just in case the water is off and I need to use the facilities. One must flush, after all. However, I could not take a shower. Despite having a working freezer again, and despite knowing where my pets were, I was cranky.

The water was restored several hours later, but the day was not quite finished with me.

That evening Bob came to me for a pet, and when I began to stroke under his chin, I felt something wet. I pulled my hand away and saw that it was covered with blood. I immediately inspected him for injuries and found many. I began washing his wounds with peroxide and saw that whatever fought with him had sunk its teeth in so deeply, that the cartilage at the opening of his ear was visible and the wound was extremely deep. On the underside of his jaw and very close to his jugular, I found a tooth embedded in his flesh. I pulled it out and washed the whole mess with more peroxide. It was getting dark by this time and I knew it would be too late to try to get in touch with anyone to take me to Arica. I also knew that the vet's office would be closed. I knew that if I just stayed calm and thought, I'd likely be able to take care of him without having to take him to a vet.

I fished out the box of amoxycillin that I kept for the pets in case of emergencies, opened a capsule and poured it into water that I'd boiled and set aside to cool. I washed his wounds with that, then opened another, removed about 200mg and put that in some peanut butter and fed it to him.

The next morning, he had so much fluid built up in the side of his face and under his jaw that I became truly frightened. Again, I knew I just needed to relax and think. I gave him another 100mg of antibiotic with meat and a big bowl of water. I then proceeded to cleanse his wounds with peroxide and then the antibiotic solution. I expressed as much fluid as I could, and while he wasn't appreciative of my efforts while I was working on him, he seemed more relaxed and comfortable when I finished. I continued in that manner all day yesterday. I applied a pressure bandage to help prevent the build-up of fluids and to keep the wounds reasonably clean. I began to rehearse what I'd learned in the military when I'd trained for treating wounds in the field, on how to insert a drainage tube. I have a small suture kit, and I have a scalpel, but I was terrified that I'd have to open him up, insert a tube, and then stitch him without the benefit of a local anesthetic. Then, I remembered that Novacaine was created after doctors learned about the anesthetic effects of cocaine. I have a ton of cocaine leaves that I promptly mashed, boiled, and reduced until I was able to use a little on my hand and make it numb. I still did not want to do this. 

This morning, his swelling was almost gone. He has no new fluid building up, so he has been spared, thus far, any operation. Yes, I would have done it and if I have to, I will do it. I just pray that he will not need that sort of intervention. I'm keeping him as calm as I can, allowing him out only to use the bathroom and lay in the sunshine. Otherwise, he's inside with me.

Finally, nothing broken, no disasters, and a clean house. I decided to spend a few hours working on my book. Yay! Peace, quiet, and nothing weighing heavily on my mind and I could finally write. Who was I kidding? This is the boonies, after all, and each day is rife with challenges. I heard Zoila hollering for me.... “MayLee, MayLee.” I wanted to ignore her in hopes of finishing the chapter I'd started, but, it was useless. She came up and told me that I could not use the bathroom in my house for a while because her son-in-law was in the process of installing a new bathroom for tourists. Great. And wouldn't you know it—as soon as she said that, I had to pee. I guess I can hold it.


Well, wouldn't you know it? As soon as Bob was nearly mended he took off after a female, whose identity I will protect and simply call “Miss White,” who happened to be in season. There were several Bob sightings in the valley and I didn't worry too much as long as I knew that someone had seen him that day or if I heard him barking at night.

Ok. The burning question many of you have right now is: Why isn't he castrated? The answer: Down here they only use barbiturate anesthesia and greyhounds don't have enough body fat to metabolize it. Short answer—it would likely kill him.

Now that we have that all cleared up, I can continue.

Four nights and three days later, Bob made it almost the whole way home. I found him collapsed at the gate by the road. He could barely move. He was covered with injuries and was so thin that he made concentration camp victims look like well-fed fat-asses. After I carried him to the cabin and laid him down, Zoila and I went through the whole process of cleaning him and tending to his wounds, one of which required stitching. Gross...his lower eye-lid had been torn away and was kind of drooping halfway down his face. He was so weak he couldn't even lift his head to drink or eat, so we had to provide water and broth via a sponge for two days before he finally was able to eat something.

Thankfully, he is alright now. Sadly, some of the other animals have not fared so well. Chato, poor little sweet puppy suffered from the poison that someone left out. Also, the stallion died. Both senseless and needless deaths. It took me quite some time to get over my anger at the owners of the horses because I had been telling them that the animal was sick and that by keeping him so confined and him eating only dry hay was a recipe for disaster. Myself and many of the neighbors tried everything we could to save him, but it was just too little too late.

The Holidays With Neighbors

Country people and city people have different definitions of the word “neighbor.” Rudy discovered this the hard way. We have some neighbors almost two miles from us (three farms away) who invited us to spend Christmas with them. I accepted for both of us. So, Christmas morning after the chores were all done, I whipped up and apple crisp (some things never change—I still get pegged for the deserts), showered, dressed and was ready to leave when I saw that Rudy was dressed pretty nicely and wearing nice shoes.

“Um, Rudy,” I said, “you are going to kill your feet in those shoes and you are going to roast in those clothes. You really should change.”

“No, I'll be all right,” he told me.

I gave him a 'whatever' shrug and we left.

So, about halfway he started to complain a little and was asking where these so-called neighbors lived. I told him that we had almost another mile to go.

“You said they were neighbors!

And I was country standards they are neighbors.

Thankfully, he got over it after his first cold beer and a few minutes of resting his feet.

Dinner was great: Roasted turkey, stuffing made from dried fruits and nuts, papas a la huacayina, and a million other things. Everyone left stuffed and happy. At least the walk back home was all downhill :)
Abuelita...95 and going strong!

The sun was so bright, I know it's hard to see...Sylivia (76) and her husband, Juan, (74)


Fredi and Rudy still eating

Erika, our hostess

Chickens, Bunnies, and Lambs

We now have seven rabbits, three of which will be kept for breeding stock. They are all super cute and cuddly that I fear I won't be able to do what is necessary when the time comes. I must constantly remind myself that I cannot cuddle or name the food, but I can't help myself. Besides, I don't know which ones will be for breeding and I really do have to handle them so that they aren't afraid to be picked up. Trust me, you don't want a bunny that is so afraid to be picked up that someone blunders and gives them a bad death because they were squirming too much.

Many say they couldn't raise their own meat, but what I don't understand is how can they eat meat if they aren't willing to raise it? Even if they got someone else to do the butchery, which I think I'm going to have to do with the rabbits, they say that it would bother them too much to be responsible for the death of an animal. Now, you know I have an opinion about that, right?

If a person eats meat, they are responsible for killing animals. Period. If no one ate meat, no animals would need to be butchered. At least I will know that the meat I'm getting is from healthy, well-cared for animals. What's in yours?

Rudy and I have had a heck of a time trying to learn how to build cages and corrals. He seems to have a knack for it though. I'm glad he's finding his 'place' in this adventure. Our first attempt at building a rabbit hutch was less than stellar. I think 'disaster' is the word I'm looking for. Anyway, he eventually got the rabbit hutch squared away and we were able to sex the bunnies before they were able to start reproducing. I hope.

Rudy also brought me a wonderful surprise when he returned from his trip to Arica—laying hens!!!! Yay! Since they will be with me a long time, I've given them names: Ellie May and Lucy. Lucy is kinda mean and very bossy, while Ellie May is just really sweet and friendly. They aren't laying very many eggs—probably due to the stress of the move and change of altitude and climate. The eggs they do lay, though, are extra-large and sooooooooooo good!

We need to get a few more hens because it looks like Ellie May wants to be broody and I suppose that would be fine as more chicks means more egg potential and of course, meat.
Ellie May and Lucy

These next few days while I'm in Arica, Rudy will be trying to rehabilitate a dilapidated sheep pen because on Thursday I'll be getting the male half of my breeding stock for sheep. It's a white and I'll be crossing it with a black female that won't be ready to leave its mother for several more weeks. After the female has been bred, delivered, and free from the newborn I'll be able to milk her and finally have some feta cheese. You have no idea how much I've missed having that.

I'm still at least a month away from getting my first goat. I kept asking and asking one of my neighbors—ok! I confess, I hounded the poor man—to please sell me one of his baby goats. He insisted that he could get more money selling it in Arica or raising it and selling the meat. I really want goats from him, as they are Alpines and those bred by him reach weights of about 100 kilos (220 pounds) and produce a few gallons of milk each day with 3-4% butter fat. Good news for me because I want to make cheese, soap, and lotion from the milk. So, I'll start out with a baby girl and then in two months buy a pregnant female from him.

Question Answered

One of the hardest things I had to adapt to was all the junk and crap buildings all over the place. I finally figured it out: No one throws anything away that has even the remotest possibility of being re-purposed. Why? Well, we don't exactly have a Home Depot or even a small hardware store out there.

Need a spring? Hmmm... oh yeah! There's one on that old bed frame next to the sheep pen. Roof coming off the chicken coop? No worries—there's bound to be a sheet of tin or an old door that's just the right size.

The problem is, is that everything looks really horrible. But, I'm adapting. I caught myself picking up a piece of wire from the road this morning without even thinking about it. Just saw it, picked it up, and pushed it in my pocket. You never know when you may need it.

Fire! Fire! Fire!

About 6 weeks ago, we had a big fire. I guess someone must have been driving by and tossed a cigarette out of their window. It has been so dry and there is so much brush and so many dead trees that it was only a matter of time.

Of course, it had to happen after I'd showered, washed my hair, and put on a nice, new, clean nightgown. Rudy and I were enjoying a nice glass of wine when I heard this loud popping sound. It sounded like firecrackers going off. Rudy opened the door and all I saw was orange.

Since it was night, it was cold, and I grabbed my big sweater and just threw it on over my nightgown and then hiked on a pair of flannel pajama pants and ran out in my slippers. The fire was not in the orchards, but rather across the road and next to the corral where the horses are kept.

No cell phone signals, no landlines, and worse, even if we had those things we have no fire department or fire fighting equipment. So, while Rudy and a itinerant farm worker, Julio, ran for the buckets (yes, buckets) I went to bring the hose down through the orchards. Our neighbor, Marco, came to help. So, it was Rudy and Marco on bucket brigade and Julio on the hose. We gave that job to Julio because A) he's 76 and B) he's an alcoholic who was still shaking from 3 days of withdrawal.
I ran back up to the top of the orchards after handing Julio the hose, turned on the water and.............the hose broke. Good grief! It was dark. There was no light to see how I might be able to fix it and then no time because the fire exploded and the corral fence caught fire. Marco and I set the horses loose and then I headed back to the hose, which I had to hold together.

I was soaked and muddy, not to mention frozen. For hours, with buckets and a garden hose we kept the fire from spreading. When the flames were out, we had no choice but to stop because we couldn't see anything. Rudy and I sent Julio back to his bed and Marco back home. We stayed up all night and as new flames erupted, we'd put them out—one of us holding the broken hose together while the other one sprayed.

Finally, daylight came and we were able to find.................a piece of wire!!!! Yay! We could fix the hose. It took several hours of constant spraying to get the fire completely out. I honestly couldn't believe that buckets and a garden hose were able to contain that fire, but they did. And see how handy a little bit of wire is?

Strange Love

Last night, Bob pulled a disappearing act. Again. I called and called for him when it was time for the dogs to come in for the night but he never came. I was concerned, but not overly so. Sometimes, he just likes to be out all night. Later, before Rudy came to bed, I was awakened because he was calling for Bob. So, I got up and started calling for him again. Nothing.

This morning, still no sign of Bob. My heart sank because I hadn't heard him bark all night and he didn't come home for breakfast. So, with a heavy heart, I started my chores. After feeding and watering the horses, Milagros and I headed up to Marco's farm to tend to his sheep and pig while he was away in Arica.

Bob and Miss Piggy were together. He had been so fascinated by this pig that he would go to Marco's and stand in front of the pen and stare at her. Not an ounce of aggression. Just pure fascination. Well, the ground outside the pen is much higher than the ground inside the pen. He was able to get in easily enough, but he couldn't get back out. I hauled him out, wishing I'd had a camera to take a picture of him with her. It really was cute. It was also funny that he hadn't relieved himself while inside her “house” because the moment he was free he spent a long time watering a nearby tree. Afterward, he went to stand in front of the pen. They touched noses and he whimpered when I made him leave her.


Finally, I have to stop. I have been writing for hours and I'm tired. I still have to upload some photos—not great ones because I only have the camera on my tablet....but I think you'll get the general idea of how things look. 

More Photos

The kitchen is a separate structure as it is too hot and too dangerous to cook in the houses

old wood burning cook stove. works great

Milagros helping me with the chores

reserve water tank for irrigation

irrigation canal...the red plate controls the direction of the water flow

All these trees and more

Milagros checking the chickens (left) and my fruit dryer in the center of the path...oh, my shadow, too

fig trees grow like weeds here

Figs anyone?

bunny hutch

Rudy's work this this space for sheep and goats

small vegetable gardens planted within the orchards

a row of bedrooms for guests or workers

the chow hall

ok, chow hall + Rudy's gym

stairs leading up to my cabin...Milagros always wants to lay in the steps

stairs going down to the orchards

more orchards, more work

piles of supplies placed wherever there happens to be space

fresh alfalfa spread out over the steps of the terraces to dry

...and more alfalfa...after it is dry I have to gather it and haul it to a big cute cubes for us

soon we'll have some peppers!

grapes ready to harvest

tons of grapes...these ones need more time


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I know I promised pictures and videos, and I swear, I will eventually get around to them. I think though, that after you finish reading this you'll understand why there aren't any this time around. Also, I would like to dedicate this post to my dear friend, Kathy VanKirk, who passed away September 18, 2014. I thought of her every time I sat down to write and could just imagine some of her comments. 

Days 1-3

Pull up a chair, grab a cuppa, because this is bound to take a while. I'm writing as I go, so I don't know how this installment ends. Good, I hope. It certainly couldn't be worse than the start. So, join me now in the telling of my new adventure...or should I say misadventure.

I'm not going to lie. I never expected that everything would go right or even close to the way things had been planned—that's just life. However, I never, in a million years expected everything—and I do mean everything—to go wrong. Everything.

We arranged for a flete (trucks that move everything, not just households) a month before our departure date. He asked us to call him one or two days in advance to confirm a time. Rudy did this. The morning of the move comes. The driver was supposed to arrive at 8 AM. We knew that was never going to happen—not in Chile. So we waited. Patiently....8:30...9:00... Rudy called. The guy told him, “Oh, I loaned my flete to someone this morning, I can't move you.”

Say what???

Meanwhile, I had the cats in their carriers since 7:00 AM and Geronima was caterwauling non-stop. The sound she made sounded like, “Hurry! Hurry!” over and over. It broke my heart, but I knew I couldn't risk letting them out because they'd likely head up to the roof and I'd never catch them.

So, a neighbor knew a guy and called him. The guy said he'd be right over. Phew! We dodged a bullet, right? Nope. Not a chance. Another hour and a half passes and Rudy calls the guy. He told Rudy, “Oh, my truck has to be inspected today. Can't do it.”

Okay. My positive, happy attitude was slowly, but surely, going right down the shitter. Our first question both times was: ...and you didn't think to call?

Then, guy #1 calls and says, “Hey, guess what? My other friend has a flete but he's going to charge 60 bucks more than me. Do you want to use him?” Seriously? Did we have a choice???

Guy #1 shows up and he has a really nasty disposition. He hated that I tried to tell him what to put on the truck, always questioning me and going to Rudy. So, I stayed out of it. I wish I had not. I had made it clear (or so I thought) to Rudy what the most important things were for that day—anything extra was a bonus. Well, I guess the stress of the morning got to Rudy and he forgot THE most important things. Of course, I didn't realize this until later. Then, they said, “We are charging more because we will pack everything and move it to the house.” Hah! They saw the hill and decided to leave everything at the bottom.

Arrival time: 6:00 PM. Trust me, the cats were NOT happy. Geronima was still fussing. I felt so sorry for them.

It's funny—I cannot believe I'm laughing about what I'm going to tell you right now. The man's truck broke down three times and then his brakes went out at the most dangerous part of the journey. We went down steep mountains, with hairpin turns, and only a handbrake. I thought I'd have a heart attack. What was worse was that Rudy had to go back with these guys.

So, I was worried sick. I knew he wouldn't use these guys for day 2, but I was just worried that he wouldn't make it back to Arica alive. He did. He also found another guy—but his flete was small and couldn't carry everything in one more trip. There were only a few things left, but they just would not fit.

Sadly, the house was not ready. Two months ago, the owner's daughter said she was going to install the flooring and ceramic in the kitchen. I believed her. A month ago, I gave her money to install the hot water lines from the existing solar hot water tank. “Don't worry,” she said. “Everything will be ready,” she said. Hah!

Today, is my third day. My belongings are not in the house because the flooring isn't finished. The water isn't installed. It took two days before the keys to the frigging place arrived. Again, the daughter. When I asked her if I needed to come to her house in Arica to get the keys, she said, “No, my mother has another set. Don't worry.”

I have had to use the outside shower because I don't want to impose on the old woman, even though she told me to use hers. I feel weird doing that. Thankfully, there are several bedrooms and I am sharing one with the cats. The dogs are living outside and it is cold at night. I feel sorry for Bob, especially because he has no body fat and very little fur. He seemed all right this morning, so I guess I'm worrying for nothing.

I guess Rudy's driver from yesterday decided this trip was too much and not worth any amount of money. One look at the hill is enough to scare anyone. It is 8:30 PM on day three and there is no sign of Rudy. Now, why did I say I was glad there were no phones here?

It did occur to me that maybe, just maybe, my sister Brenda's husband was right when he said that Rudy wouldn't make the final trip. But, I don't think that's it. Well, maybe a little. In any event, he has nowhere to live in Arica...oh, wait, technically, he has nowhere to live up here, either. Seriously, I think he must be having a hard time getting another flete. Maybe he'll be here tomorrow. If I were him, I'd say to heck with the last few things, and hop on the bus. Who needs the aggravation?

In a way though, I'm kinda glad he didn't make it today because he had been reassured that the water would be installed today. That didn't happen. The guy is supposed to come back tomorrow. We'll see. Same with the floor guy. Tomorrow.

That's it for the moment.....

Days 4-10

To say this has been an eventful journey thus far would be the grossest understatement one could make. However, just so you know, Rudy did NOT throw in the towel nor did he have to find another flete driver. Turns out, there was paperwork to be done. I did not know that before you can legally move from a rental, you have to get authorization to do so. Sadly, it was a Sunday and there was no way he could do it on a Sunday.

I was so worried by Monday morning that I hoofed it a long, hot way—up the side of a mountain—so that I could get cell phone coverage. Thankfully, I had some minutes left and could find out what was going on. Rest assured, I will never make that particular climb again. It would have likely been easier to just walk to the pueblo even though it is a greater distance.

Rudy and the driver, Alex, arrived in the early evening that Monday with the last of our belongings. Doña Zoila (previously referred to as “the old woman”) was extremely angry because her daughter's husband, who was responsible for the finishing work on our house hadn't shown up to do any work. She was so upset that she was becoming ill. Fortunately, there was a lot of space for us to safely store our things until the house was ready to move into. She also guilted her nephew/godson, Adolpho, into doing the flooring in the two bedrooms. This, after he had done the plumbing and installation of my solar panels on the roof. She said, “Don't do it for me, do it for her. She's homeless and sad.”

So, for the payment of a few meals, Adolpho and Marcos (our closest neighbor and Zoila's nephew), began the tiling of the floors. This, after working all day at manual labor in intense heat. Then, another disaster. There weren't enough tiles to finish one of the rooms. We're waiting. I think tomorrow. I'll not hold my breath.

Now, for some really sad news. On day 5, Roki died. I met little Roki in June when I came to visit. I'm pretty sure he was less than a year old, and he was just as cute and friendly as could be. I'm not certain if the poison he got was accidental (meaning meant for the foxes), or if someone has something against dogs, but when your houses are about half a mile apart, I don't think the latter was the case. At any rate, poor Roki lay on the floor, suffering horribly. I couldn't let him suffer alone, so I cradled him in my arms and talked to him and waited for him to go to the Rainbow Bridge. Rudy took  Zoila away from the sounds of her seizing, choking dog and waited for me to call them back. Once he passed, I cleaned him up a little and wrapped him in some fabric that I had been using to protect a piece of furniture.

The three of us formed a little funeral procession to the orange groves where Zoila keeps her geraniums. Rudy, who had never even held the handle of a shovel, found himself thrust into the position of grave-digger. It was dark and cold, but I could feel the warmth of Roki's little body through the fabric. It was such a relief to put him in the ground and bury him, because Zoila was crying so much, and the act of the burial and her saying a prayer over him seemed to bring her a small measure of peace. She hugged us both and told us that she was glad we were here because she wouldn't have been able to properly tend to him on her own. Poor little guy. RIP, Roki.

While there has been chaos and tragedy, there has also been good. Our bedroom furniture is in the bedroom and we are able to sleep in our own bed. We have formed strong bonds with a few people, and we are useful. I am thankful to have what I do, and while it may seem like I am complaining, I am not. Well, maybe a little.

In all honesty, I am in awe of how something as simple as a move could turn into such a fiasco. Some bits are hard to laugh about, while other things are just so beyond ridiculous that one can't help but laugh. I told Rudy that no one will believe even a fraction of this post, because the odds of absolutely everything going completely and utterly lopsided are infinitesimal.

On the bright side, after my solar panels were installed, I was able to run the cables and set things up very quickly. My freezer is in the kitchen—oh, please, I don't want to write about that yet—and working great. We have our little solar lantern that we use until I am able to get some wiring done, and the notebook for our “television,” if we weren't so exhausted at the end of each night to watch a little.

Yes, tired. To the marrow of our bones tired. These steep hills with their “steps” that have been carved into the side of the mountain are absolute torture. We are going to develop the thickest thighs and most rock-hard gluts in no time flat. That is, if we don't break our necks going up and down them as they are not spaced evenly. I guess making sure the distance between each step is a low priority when you are chiseling the darned things with nothing but hand tools. I know it would be for me.

There is so much work to be done aside from trying to setup and organize a household that the days fly by in a flurry of activity. The only break is right after lunch and everyone just lies down for a few hours because it really is too hot to do anything else.

My routine, thus far, is to awaken at 3:30 AM—not my fault. Marcos' rooster starts crowing at that time and because we go to bed so early (9'ish), and sleep so soundly, it isn't too bad. I head down to the big kitchen, fire up the wood cooking stove, make some coffee, and boil water for everyone’s tea. I usually bake a bit of pastry for Rudy and Zoila's breakfast.

When the kitchen work is done, I go to tend the horses. I have to lug gallons upon gallons of water, several armfuls of alfalfa, rake the pens, give them a brush, then it's off to the sheep, geese, dogs, and cats. By then, around 7:30 AM, everyone else is awake and we yell across the valley for Marcos to come to breakfast. Yes, we have to feed Marcos. Though he is 41, he is a very typical Hispanic male. His mom and dad are in Iquique receiving medical care, so he is alone; therefore, some other woman must feed him, because surely, he cannot fend for himself. :) Anyway, I like Marcos and he does so many things for us that it only seems right to give him some pastry and tea...then lunch...then dinner. I would have to draw the line at doing his laundry, though. Zoila thinks I am spoiling her with the pastry. When I discovered that she had a sweet tooth, I couldn't resist. How can you not? I think maybe after 80 years of life, everyone deserves to be spoiled a bit.

After breakfast, I try to make sense of our tiny house. I unpack and put away what I can, but without all of my furniture, it isn't really possible. Rudy takes down meat, cheese, butter, and whatever else  Zoila needs for lunch and dinner. I can't believe her children have left her here without a scrap of meat. Anyway, she is an excellent cook and she enjoys doing it, so I let her. Some meat and pantry items are a small price to pay for not having to cook.

She's also happy that she doesn't have to wait for someone to bring her some bread. I saw that she had a quantity of yeast on hand, and because I can't even find the jar to make my starter let alone start it, I decided to keep her supplied with fresh bread. Besides, making bread dough and pastry dough helps to relieve some of my stress and while away the earliest hours of the day when it is too dark to do anything else. I'm happy in that kitchen with my snuggy, warm fire, and the smell of bread baking and coffee brewing. It's the best part of my day and I wouldn't change it for anything.

Meanwhile, Rudy has been being taught they mysteries of the orchards; irrigation, tree maintenance, and what crops are what. There are sometimes lines that have to be unclogged, or fences to mend, or young saplings that require support. Though he's as frustrated as I with the housing situation, he seems to enjoy being outside working with living things that don't talk back or complain. He also enjoys picking his own avocado every day, as that is one of his favorite foods and now it is free. Free money-wise, that is.

He spends his afternoons with me trying to figure out how to best organize what we currently have inside and discussing how we are going to finish the place. Oh yeah! I forgot. The only “finish” work that anyone is going to do are the floors, and the ceramic tiles on the bathroom floor and walls. The interior walls are Sheetrock (with no mud or tape), and plywood. We're going to have sooooooome fun! Yee-haw! Well, as small as the place is, it won't cost much to purchase materials to finish the walls and do the trim work.

As you can see, we are plenty busy, weirdly happy, and getting into the rhythm of country living.


8 October 2014

Rudy left for Arica on Monday to finish up his residency paperwork. The good news was that we found out that the bus company has a contract with a local guy to come out to the boonies and gather up all those who need to take the bus to Arica, and then gives you a ride home with your stuff when you come back. No charge. Free is always good, in my opinion.

Anyway, Rudy left Monday and was supposed to return this morning or early afternoon at the latest. Hm. It's almost 8 PM and he's not home, so I'm guessing he got up too late to catch the bus. Probably, he got up on time, but was too cheap to take a taxi to the terminal relying, instead, on the micros that are horribly slow and this caused him to miss the bus. That, or he decided to call his brother and arrange for airfare back to the States. Nah. Just missed the bus. Of course, there isn't another until Friday, so he's stuck there for another day. At least I think this is Wednesday. Let me check. Yep, it's Wednesday.

Zoila left over the weekend and was also supposed to return today. I'm not sure if she was taking the bus back or if one of her kids was driving her back home, but she's a no-show as well.

I've had a very productive and quiet few days. I've been building cabinets and shelving. I didn't realize how hard a hand saw was to use until today. Phew! Then, after I got all these perfect triangles cut for corner shelves, I discovered that the corners weren't so perfect. I sat with my little bits of perfection and filed them so they'd fit. I didn't have time before dark to install them, but I guess I'll do that tomorrow.

I also lugged boxes up the hill, and unpacked and organized as much as I could in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. My “living room” floor still is not done and I'm beginning to lose hope that it will ever be done. Meanwhile, I have my comfy chairs stored in the large room that Zoila uses for large gatherings. I call it the chow hall, because that's what it reminds me of with its long tables and benches.

Wouldn't you know that the moment I decided that I couldn't actually live without electricity and spent quite a lot of money on solar, with plans to expand my current system, that electricity is coming to the country? The poles were already out there along the side of the road but they didn't have any lines run. The workers were out today running the lines. I also found out that we will soon have a cell phone signal here. Hm. I guess that means I can get a smart phone with some service and stay in touch a little bit better. I'll take a pass on the electricity, though. I don't want the bill.

Speaking of electricity, I have found that I rather enjoy using my little lantern. It's battery is solar-powered and rechargeable. I also like the LED light. I know many people don't like it, but I find it soft and pleasant.

You'd think with all the physical labor that I'd be sleeping soundly, but you'd be wrong. The past two nights I barely slept. Monday night we had a small earthquake that woke me and I couldn't go back to sleep. Last night, I was missing Rudy. I guess tonight will be more of the same.

Well, time to turn the water off. It's dark out now, so I hope I don't fall down those darned steps.

9 October

Today was a crap day. I was missing Rudy something fierce and all of this solitude gave me too much time to think about what's going on. Or should I say, what's NOT going on. The cats have been confined to a bedroom for nearly two weeks. Geronima has escaped several nights in a row and it worries me because of the foxes and coyotes, and since our neighbor, Marcos, has lost five of his seven cats in the past month, I don't think my fears are unreasonable. I think that tomorrow, I am just going to bring the cats up here, space be damned.

So, with Rudy not here to help bolster my sagging spirits and no one to talk to, I spent the day in a severe funk. Eventually, I went for a run and that helped a bit. Rudy should be home tomorrow before noon with a few supplies that we need, so I'll be able to focus on making some improvements.

The first thing I really need to do is put up some sort of screening for the windows. Normal screening material will help with the flies and mosquitoes, but it won't do anything for the dust which blows constantly. If I thought the dust in Arica was bad, well, in the words of Bachman, Turner, Overdrive: You ain't seen nothing yet... It's terribly dusty here, so I am going to use double layers of curtain sheering material to make some screens. At least we'll get the breezes in the afternoons when it's blazing hot out and not the dust and those flies. Scads and scads of them. Ew!

I met another neighbor today. His name is Rogelio and he came up to let me know that he and his family were going to be having lunch in the chow hall. He didn't call it the chow hall, that's what I call it, but I was confused. At first, I thought I misunderstood him, but he explained that every Thursday he and his family have lunch here. They bring their own food, drink, and dishes, and it just made me wonder why lug all that stuff up the hill from their house to the road, then about a half of a mile further, just to eat lunch here. Weird. I don't know why, and I wasn't about to ask. I just told him to have at it and I came up to my little hell-hole to brood and try to organize my kitchen. Thankfully, they cleaned everything up before they left. I'm going to ask about this when Zoila gets back.

Hopefully, a better day tomorrow.

A Nice Little Walk

The Saturday after Rudy came home I asked him if he'd like to take a nice little walk to the pueblo because I wanted to get some eggs. Since we really hadn't spent much time together since the start of this move, I thought it would be nice for us to catch up and spend a little time alone.

So, we head out. It was, as usual, sunny and really hot. It isn't a great distance, 5KM (something like 3 miles, more or less), and I was mentally prepared for the journey. The going is tough—severely steep uphill climb. We aren't talking about a gentle and steady incline here, it really is quite steep for the entire 5K. Rudy wasn't accustomed to the altitude, nor was he accustomed to walking on hills. It didn't take long for the grumbling to begin.

“How far is this place?” “This is a nice, little walk?” “How high is this hill?”

I reminded him that he'd already seen the terrain several times and that it shouldn't come as a big surprise, to which he replied, “Yeah, but I was in a truck or van and wasn't paying attention.”

Meanwhile Milagros, who'd joined us, was having a great time playing in the woods, and drinking and playing in the irrigation ditches. About halfway, the ditches no longer existed and there was no safe way for her to reach the river for a drink. Her tongue was hanging out and she was panting like mad.

Rudy pretended he was Milagros and said, “Hey Bob, wanna take a nice little walk with Mama? Yeah, you'll have a great time...oh, by the way, take that little bastard Chato with you when you go. He's been getting on my nerves.”

Then, he started pretending he was Michael Jackson... everything was “ignorant.”

Finally, we got to the pueblo..............the lady who has chickens ran out of eggs.

A Rose By Any Other Name

For some reason Zoila and her daughter, Ivonne, cannot pronounce my name. The call me MayLee. No matter how many times I correct them—even spelling it for them, I'm still MayLee. Oh well. When I hear the call of MayLee, I know who they're calling and I just answer. No sense fighting it.

Almuerzo Nails

“Almuerzo” is the Spanish word for lunch. Here, it's the biggest and most important meal of the day. When the shout for almuerzo comes, you need to get to the table and eat before everyone else takes all the food. Nah, not really. But you need to get there pretty darned quick or you're going to have cold food and angry fellow diners because they were polite enough to wait on you.

Anyway, Rudy and I call some of the work in our cabin “almuerzo” work. There are several areas in which the nails are only driven in half way. The same with other things—some of the things are only half done. We figure that someone was merrily working away and then heard, “almuerzo,” so they just dropped what they were doing to go get their lunch. Of course, after lunch, one must take a nap, so by the time they returned to the work, they'd forgotten that they'd left something half done.

Those Darned Bureaucrats!

When Rudy went to Arica to finish up his paperwork for his residency he was given the world famous bureaucratic run-around. He left here on a Monday and was supposed to do his paperwork on Tuesday, then return home on Wednesday. Hah! On Tuesday, the lady at immigration informed him that his residency visa wouldn't be ready until Friday, but just to be safe, maybe Monday. What?

Anyway, Rudy and I have a good friend with great connections, so he went to see her. Pilar made a phone call, sent Rudy to see a lady who was in charge of this stuff, and guess what? It was ready on Thursday. Granted, he was still a few days late getting home, but at least he didn't get held over for the weekend.

Thankfully, he's done for the next 8 months and then can start the permanent application. I know we'll both be happy when he's done with all this.

Big Doings In the Little Pueblo

Today, the mayor of Arica and his aides came to Codpa. They brought a huge number of government and medical people with them: Vets, doctors, lawyers, dentists, as well as representatives from just about every organization one can imagine a government having—social services, child protection—everything.

So, I decided to take a nice little walk (Rudy declined my invitation...can't imagine why) to the pueblo to see what was what. Granted, transportation was provided to and from the pueblo, free of charge, all day long, but I wanted to walk.

Anyway, the mayor and the governor gave great speeches about how all these little pueblos are going to get bunches and bunches of money so that they can have nice things like electricity and maybe cell phone signals.

To me, it sounded more like campaign stump speeches, so I left the plaza for a while and headed to the library. I could not believe the number and quality of computers the library had. Not thanks to some government project, but rather thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Really excellent equipment and the internet too. Now, all I have to do is find my pen-drive and I'll be able to upload all my stuff so that you don't have a novel to read every month. Their computers also have Skype installed, nice cameras, and very good headsets. Thank you Bill and Melinda! I do appreciate your sense of charity.

I like walking to the pueblo. It's really great exercise, plus I get to chat with people along the way and learn about all sorts of things that this community has to offer. I keep telling Rudy that he really needs to get out and about, meet and greet, but he's really very much more a loner than I am. Sooner or later, though, I think the boredom will kick in and he'll go out just to have something to do.

So, while I was in the pueblo I asked someone when the Cruz Verde mobile van was coming because I needed something for my allergies. It's spring here and all the parsley juice in the world cannot combat the amount of pollen and dust that I breath in everyday. The carabinero (cop) looked at me and said, “Why don't you just go to the posta (clinic)? They'll give you what you need for free.”

Off I went to the posta. No lines, no crap, just nice people and free medical care. The nurse took my ID, wrote my information down, asked about my symptoms, took my blood pressure and temperature, and fetched the doctor. I had allergy meds in hand and was back out to enjoy the festivities in under 15 minutes. I also found out that the dentist comes to the posta every Wednesday, so maybe I'll go get my teeth checked and cleaned.