The Countdown Begins

Let’s be fair, the countdown is actually ending, since today is my last day before I leave Puerto Varas for my three-week stint in the north. Tonight at 10:30pm I leave on an overnight bus to Santiago. I’ll check into my hostel tomorrow, spend a nice afternoon/evening in the capital, then check in for my flight to Easter Island on Friday at 8am.

Am I thrilled? You bet. Excited? Heinously. A little bit braindead due to the onslaught of experiences, vistas, and newness that awaits me? Absolutely. On top of all this, I am in a strange state of denial about the fact that my time in Puerto Varas has come to a relative end: sure, I’ll be back here at the end of March, but the majority of my friends and acquaintances will have fled by then. So these past few days have been rife with goodbyes, celebrations, a-little-bit-too-much drinking, and a helluva lot of FUN.

Yesterday my friends and I celebrated my birthday a bit early with a home-cooked Jambalaya at the Guesthouse, followed by tres leches cake, Sex on the Beach (the drink…come on, guys), Euchre, a brief nap, dinner at a local nice restaurant, a stint at the Casino (I played Blackjack without having any idea what I was doing and was up 6,000 pesos at the end, roughly $12 USD), then a long night of Champagne and Cosmopolitan consumption at the Garage with some close buddies. Truly, a lovely way to celebrate my 2__ th birthday early in Chile.

Now, off to go celebrate my real birthday on Easter Island this weekend.

Expect pictures and stories and details and a general explosion of thoughts, but maybe not until the whole trip is over. There’s no telling if I’ll fully disconnect on the island; though that’s the goal, I may be too inspired by the moai to be able to hold it in (I’m bad at holding it in).

Another notable sunrise in Puerto Varas.
Looks impressionistic – good job, Mother Nature. 

And then also this one.
HOT DANG.

Catch you on the flip side, ya’ll. Thanks for reading, and I wish you all the most delightful experience in whatever you are currently doing. NAMASTE!

The End of Times (in Puerto Varas)

Contrary to what the title might suggest, this is not an apocalyptic prediction. Rather, it has come to my attention as of late that my days are numbered here in Puerto Varas, and this realization has left me feeling a bit confused, a bit scared, and wholly sad.

I leave on March 6th to begin my three-ish week voyage To The North: Easter Island, Valparaiso, and Atacama. I am so excited for this trip I could perform a number of bodily functions; but at the same time, the arrival of the trip means The End Of Our Time in Puerto Varas. We are all excited for our various pursuits and Next Steps, but there is an inherent sadness in seeing the “summer” come to an end. (I use the quotation marks because there were approximately 30 days of sun and the other 90 days have been clouds and frustratingly chilly breezes and drizzle.)

We arrived here knowing no one, with only a general idea of our living arrangement, and a decided lack of plans. Now, almost four months later, we have a circle of friends, jobs, a routine, favorite hang outs, and too many memories to count. It’s always like this – just when you’re settled, it’s time for the tides to change.

Amanda and Leslie will be heading back to the States for various endeavors. I will be heading north to Valparaiso in April sometime. I want a bigger city, full of vibrancy and art and life and chaos, and I definitely don’t want to weather a rainy cold winter down south. But I am profoundly aware of how nice my life has been here – the comforts of a place like Puerto Varas shouldn’t be overlooked. Though it’s small, it offers an intimacy that can’t always be replicated. I walk downtown and run into at least 10 people I know. Every night at the bar, it’s a gathering of friends, old and new. While sometimes this very fact can be irritating, especially on days when I most want to be invisible and anonymous, it’s a reassuring, invigorating aspect of the community here. Sure, we may not all be best friends – but you can go anywhere knowing that you will find someone you know, and the friendliness of Chileans assures that you will be welcomed and greeted no matter where you show up.

Perhaps it’s a bit too early for the Goodbye Puerto Varas posts, but this has been on my mind recently. I have about three weeks before my bus ride to Santiago for the trip to Easter Island, and I plan on fully enjoying the rest of my time here (obviously, since one doesn’t plan to spend time miserably or half-assed).

Speaking of taking advantage of my time down south, I took a trip to Puerto Montt today with a friend, and we visited the fish market of Angelmo. Here’s a photo journey:

Market scenery at Angelmo. 
Great prices, super fresh.

Take your pick of freshly caught seafood.
Oysters, clams, salmon, conger eel, and more…

Is this too gruesome for a blog post?
Anyway, here’s a fish face. 

Abandoned boats by the sea.
For some reason, there are a lot of sunken/abandoned ships
near the fish market. Are the waters really that dangerous?

Lunches in the sun

Leslie, Amanda and I got pretty lucky in Puerto Varas. We’ve found such a fun, open-minded, smart group of friends here, and most importantly, these friends know how to cook.

We’ve been prone to spontaneous lunches and dinners here; a gathering of friends that leads to food talk that eventually leads to a trip to the supermarket and ends with a seamlessly choreographed group meal. Our friends Robert and Ignacio really get creative with the meals, to the point where if they don’t go into business together sometime down the road it will be a severe tragedy for the mouths and stomachs of the world.
Here are some photos from just a couple of our group lunches/dinners. Warning: Viewing the following photos will inspire an insatiable hunger for homemade meals using whole foods and fresh ingredients.

Roasted red pepper, homemade falafel with french fries
(that’s how they do it in Egypt, at least), homemade wheat tortillas,
freshly baked bread, some sauces that were also obviously homemade
since that’s the entire theme of the post,
and lettuce (purchased, not harvested).

Here I am peeking out from behind the french fries.
(Also something that is typical to Egypt.)


The group lunch at last. Delicious!
And a good chance to tan while enjoying really, really
really, really good food made with love by people I love. 

I botched the presentation on this picture, making the food
look like an actual pile of STUFF, but the deliciousness presented
here was fish tacos (Conger eel with avocado and a fun
peach/apricot/corn salsa that Robert invented, on handmade tortillas).
Also pictured here is FRESH non-alcoholic SANGRIA prepared by Leslie. 
(Can Sangria be non-alcoholic? Would that just be juice then?
Let’s just say it’s fresh juice.)

And the obligatory photo of Amanda and I doing
what we do best: being freaking awesome at the bar. 


All the days are magical

What I like is about 2013 is that every date feels magical when I write it.

For example…
1.3.13
1.11.13
1.19.13
I like this year’s date aesthetics.

And then of course, 3.9.13 promises to be pretty magical. March 9th is my birthday. I’ll be turning [insert twenty-something age here] and I’ve had the inclination for awhile now that I wanted to make this birthday abroad pretty spectacular. As it stands, I’ve had several notable birthdays, both US-bound and abroad. My 19th birthday was spent in Mexico, complete with a surprise Mexican birthday party featuring a pinata, my surrogate Mexican family and tres leches cake shoved in my face. My 21st birthday was spent hungover on a plane on my way to Mexico for Spring Break with Kelli.  My 23rd birthday was spent in Cairo, Egypt. And last year’s birthday was one of the best, in Sandusky with all of my friends having a ball on the town and listening to live music from the Womacks.

But this year will be different. I’ve made plans to spend 6 nights on Easter Island, alone, in a cabana on the ocean.

I’ve made all the reservations; I’ll arrive on March 8th and leave the 14th. My cabana is booked, and all I have to do is get my gringa ass to Santiago by the 8th. I’ll go with my yoga mat, my notebook and plenty of space on my camera. (Oh, and clothes and stuff.)

I don’t normally splurge so much on trips, but the rationale is that I will never go back to this place, and I want to make it something quite memorable. Hence the non-hostel accommodations. I’m usually averse to spending more than $15 a night anywhere in any part of the world, but for what I’m aiming for here, my little cabana on the ocean was both a deal and a necessary component for the trip.

WHEE!

Now, here are some more pictures from life in Puerto Varas.

Osorno at sunrise.
The sunrises and sunsets here are so magical and pink,
all the time. 

One of my friends here, Fu, is from China and practices
Acupuncture here in Puerto Varas.
He showed me his vaguely communist cigarette case.
Delightful. 

The wooden German church here in Puerto Varas,
early morning snapshot. 

Non Sequitur

 Here’s a shot of my cutting board, for no particular reason.
I was really impressed by the mushroom design.
Look at how gnarly that thing is.
(The red pepper bits are just for artistic effect.)

And then I found this rainbow a couple days ago.
Usually you see the beginning of the rainbow but not the end.
Well the end of THIS rainbow was in Lago Llanquihue.
And look at how brilliantly vivid it is.

Another shot of this epic rainbow. 
It was actually a double rainbow (not noted here).
Soo….a little bit better than just one rainbow. 

A shot of the Great File Transfer of 2013.
My files were distributed between two laptops (my old one
and the one borrowed from my friend, far left) as I
awaited the arrival of the New Vaio (far right).
Completing the transfer using only a 4gb stick was fun,
let me tell you. 

My new bike!
Her name is Hermanina. 
She has tricky gears and wobbly handlebars,
but I love her because she let’s me zoom down hilly streets
and enjoy crisp Chilean airs atop two moving units that are not my legs.

Holidays Below the Equator

I’ve never spent a susbstantial holiday away from home, despite my extensive travels. This trip was the first time I’d ever spend all the major ones away from home – Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and then who knows what else in the future – and away from family.

I was slightly apprehensive about how I might feel during these days. Obviously Thanksgiving came and went successfully, complete with Bursting Gut Syndrome yet thankfully free of Black Friday Madness. Christmas was quiet here and save a little unexpected Tearful Joy after talking with all of my family on Christmas Eve, I felt very calm and happy. Even away from family, I can have a successful and fulfilling Christmas.

Me on Christmas Eve! Note I’m not wearing a heavy jacket.
Because there’s no snow here, Ohioans. No snow. 

It helped to have the girl’s here. We opted to spend our Christmas Eve helping out with a dinner at the guesthouse where Leslie works, which allowed us to spend the time together, eat really well, and be surrounded by Americana-type comfort. The guesthouse is really gorgeous and it’s decorated impeccably, so being surrounded by such cozy Christmas touches helped the holiday spirit.

Vicky readying the gourmet salads for the Christmas Eve dinner.

We made the decision to not purchase presents. None of us are really in a position to spend mass amounts of money on gifts, much less ship them around the world. So without the pressure of gift purchases, and the weather indicator (first Christmas without snow and cold – WEIRD!), it was really hard for me to remember that Christmas was even approaching.

Our awkward family portrait on Christmas Eve.

New Year’s Eve festivities commenced with a fireworks display downtown at the beach. Around 11:50pm everyone started shooting off silly string and screaming and cheering and popping champagne bottles on the street. Then right at midnight, a huge fire sign lit up that said “Puerto Varas 2013”; it was really impressive. Then the fireworks started, and they went on for quite some time (far longer than the July 4th Cedar Point fireworks, for the record).

The rest of the Eve was celebrated in typical fashion (partying) but what was different about this New Year’s Eve partying was that I was working. And working really, really stinking hard. We were slammed to the gills with people from 12:30am until the (not so) early morning, and I’ve never run so much at that place as this night. I think the first time I was able to look past the wall of people waiting at that bar was around 5am or so. Two girls were supposed to come in and help us serve drinks that night but something didn’t work out right, because they definitely showed up behind the bar. Amanda, Keko and I served hundreds of people that night. Phew!

Plus I got a sunburn on the beach later that day, and took a dip in the Lago Llanquihue. Invigorating!!

Me and a friend braving the cold waters…
Not a bad backdrop, eh?

Merry Christmas (a little late) and Happy New Year to all my loved ones and dutiful readers! 2012 was a ridiculously fun, magical, eventful, rewarding and inspiring year…here’s to 2013 being all that and more!!

All in a night’s work…

Pouring a Schop (draft); it’s Kunstmann.
I am a sub-par bartender because I don’t drink beer 
and don’t understand beer terminology…
nor do I care to learn. The most you’ll get out of me is, “It’s an amber beer,
and no, we don’t carry any cerveza negra. Get a Heineken and shut up.”

Guitarist for the tango group.
The Tango is very Argentine; you could tell the Argentine 
members of the audience based on who was reacting
the loudest/most fervently in favor of every tango song. 

Lovely performance by these two;
I can’t wait to visit the ‘tanquerias’ in Argentina!

Our team! Leo (the French DJ), me, Amanda, 
and Keko, our boss (and the bar owner).
We have a lot of fun together…
which includes the implementation of unnecessary dress codes, 
as seen above. 

The International Cookie Conundrum

I don’t know if many of my readers know this about me, but I make chocolate chip cookies. Not just any chocolate chip cookies, mind you – Vaguely Healthy Chocolate Chip Cookies.

I sold these things for four years at my local farmer’s market. Initially, the name drove some people off. I frequently heard “Ugh, no thanks, I prefer my cookies unhealthy.” I gently reminded my customers that my cookies were not entirely healthy, thankyouverymuch – just vaguely, due to the fact that I used the best quality and minimally processed ingredients available  in the market.

While my exact recipe remains a secret that I refuse to disclose except in the event of a very large sum of money, what makes my cookies different is the fact that they are infused with a flax meal egg replacement, and feature REAL vanilla extract, alongside stone ground whole wheat flour, kosher salt, and more. It’s a hefty, hearty, vaguely healthy experience. My clientele were testament to this – after four years and one 3rd place award in a general baked goods contest, I was selling out nearly every week at the market and taking large orders for those customers who just couldn’t get enough of my vaguely healthy goodness.

Four years, man. Four years of baking something like once a week for 50 weeks each year. So it stands to reason that I might be going through a little withdrawal here after almost two months without a single sniff or taste of my beloved recipe.

So I broke down and hit up the local Lider store on a mission to bake MY cookies. “It’s almost Christmas,” I reasoned, “I need to share cookies with people.” I make this sound easier than it was – I had to go almost four separate times before I recognized the baking aisle (it was that small), and then a couple more times before they had chocolate chips in stock (one brand, super expensive, one package available). Awesome.

Furthermore, it appears that Chile does not differentiate between baking powder and baking soda. Due to the specifics of my secret recipe, I won’t elaborate on which one I use, nor the brand, but let’s just say that it’s still unclear what I was using, how it was processed, and why the other kind isn’t also made available to the baking public.

i was able to find wheat flour, which was nice, but stone ground varieties were conspicuously absent. I had procured my own sea salt from the local vegan store, which I ground using mortar and pestle. Raw sugar (or what looks like raw sugar) was also available – score. (I am slowly revealing my whole recipe to the general public, and I realize this, BUT I’LL NEVER DISCLOSE MY RATIOS!)

I got a little stumped when it came to Brown Sugar Time. It was nowhere. Like, actually, physically non-existent. Como como?? Hello, I thought this place was founded by Germans. There is an explosion of pound cake around every corner, and while I don’t actually know if brown sugar is a requirement in any of the pastries or baked goods produced in the area, you would think it was.

So I turned to Luz for help. I described what I was looking for, and after much explanation and lack of dictionary and/or online translator, we got to the bottom of it. She hands me a brick of something that smelled like brown sugar, tasted like brown sugar – by god, it was brown sugar in brick form. She told me to use the crazy grater instrument that I have never once in my life used. What a genius implement, I see now.

This was a therapeutic and invigorating experience.

When it was all said and done, I had a basic approximation of my recipe, minus the flax meal, which meant I baked cookies using eggs for the first time in four years. Similar to my Thanksgiving Baking Experiment of 2012, I did this all without a single measuring tool. Boy was that fun. Again.

Uhhh…yum?

What emerged from the oven after a very nervous and pacey 7 to 11 minutes (once again, cannot disclose the time allotted in the oven – also this number is unclear to me because I have no way of telling what temperature I set the oven to, making any attempt at my prior method a total gamble) was this:

Readily identifiable cookies! Chilean Success!

Luz’s reaction after tasting my not-so-vaguely-healthy-anymore cookies?

“La encuentro bien. Muy bien.” I find it to be good. Very good.

My reaction after tasting my not-so-vaguely-healthy-anymore cookies?

Shit, these are buttery. And sorta gummy. And maybe I didn’t use enough sugar. Maybe it was the brown sugar, since I did get lazy and not add the whole [amount has been censored] cup. Is it possible to have a buttery cookie? What purpose does the brown sugar serve, anyway? Why does it not come pre-grated here? Do these chocolate chips actually taste like anything? I better eat another one and find out. 

Next up: making these again, but this time WITH the flax meal, which I was able to find. Now I just have to wait for those chocolate chips to be in stock again…

Navigating the Cosmos (in Puerto Varas)

There is a conference of astronomers visiting Puerto Varas right now, and they have been visiting the Garage each night they’ve been in town. I never imagined scientists and astrophysicists could consume so many mojitos and draft beers. Furthermore, I never imagined they would be at a bar at all, much less MY bar. But alas, these scientists were rocking out, dancing, having fun, involved in conversations of most likely epic proportions (I imagine their jokes must be infinitely more intelligent than mine).

One of them was a Chilean man, a Santiago native, who lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for seven years before coming back to Chile to continue working with the telescope in the Atacama Desert. He spoke English very well, and we chatted for awhile about the work they’re doing up there, what type of telescopes they use, the dimensions of the antennae, nerdy things like that. I showed him my space shuttle necklace as proof of my dedication to all things outer space.

We had a live tango band last night. At one point, this Chilean astronomer came up to me and asked why there was no one on the dance floor, dancing the Tango. I felt a particular lightning bolt of wit come scorching through the cosmos and land somewhere in my chest cavity, so I thought I’d follow this inclination. I told him, “What do you mean? There are tons of people out there dancing; you just can’t see them.”

He looked at the dance floor, then back at me, confused.

“They’re in a different dimension,” I clarified. “You just can’t see them, but they’re there.”

He watched me a moment, still somewhere between amused, confused and horrified.

“Like in the tenth dimension, you know? String Theory and all that.”

Another pause, and then he says slowly, “What are you talking about?”

I felt my joke shrivel and crumble and return to the interstellar dust bits from whence it came. I was a little surprised; I mean, I dropped the term ‘String Theory’. Isn’t it obvious that I’m being witty in front of an astronomer?

“I was trying to make a scientific joke,” I said. “I thought it would be funny…People dancing in the tenth dimension.”

“Oh, you mean the eleventh dimension?”

This time, I paused. Sure, maybe I’d gotten the specifics of String Theory wrong. But was my joke so unintelligible with that slight, barely noticeable, quark-of-a-gaffe? Come on, Astrophysicist; cut me some slack!

He threw me a pity laugh and we went on our separate interstellar paths. I thanked the astronomers later for sharing their presence with me and the bar and Puero Varas in general. I was strangely honored and thrilled to be in the same breathing space as the people responsible for some of the most cutting edge scientific research in today’s world.

Oh, and by the way, these guys found water in distant galaxies!! Look for the articles coming out soon…

Snapshots in December

A little friend I like to call ‘caracol’ (snail).
These lil’ guys are everywhere.
Be careful not to smoosh them on the sidewalk!

Us girls with Francisca, a friend who was giving 
Amanda and Leslie Spanish lessons.
It was always a treat to sit in on the classes…
(more for entertainment purposes!)

Robert and I posing in downtown Puerto Varas.
I look inexcusably 90’s and I’m not sure how it happened.
But there it is. 

This is the Garage, where Amanda and I work
as two overly-enthusiastic and color-coordinated bartenders.
We frequently dance in sync and are rarely seen not having a good ass time.