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.


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.