Weather Whining and Other Truffles, Part Two: The Cold

I frequently find evidence that I create my own reality without realizing it, and then become very confused when my expectations of this false reality don’t match the actual scientific facts of common reality.

The most recent example of this is when I heard the term “South America” a couple of years ago. An equation became apparent to me.

f(x) = South of the Equator + south * More South Than Ohio (near Brazil) / America of the South = WARM.


Wrong. I got to Puerto Varas in late October of 2012, (“Oh, THIS MUST BE LIKE THEIR SPRING”) and found myself shivering in my winter jacket throughout all of their spring and eventual (and very shortlived) summer.




Valparaiso is ‘perpetually cool’. There are no extremes — though I’d be willing to go out on a limb and say that the carnivorous fog is extreme, and the cold humid rains are extreme because like, shouldn’t there be snow, and there’s not.

At the risk of sounding like a whiny weather baby (which I am), I have to confess, I am extremely ready for some freaking warmth. I’m talking, palm trees, white sands, shorts weather, warm breezes, people frolicking in the sun and rolling around in the grass.

You know, all the things I thought I’d find when I moved down here.

This oversight (or undersight?) is completely my fault. Prior to moving to Puerto Varas, which is technically, like, you know, PATAGONIA, I compared its latitude to Ohio’s on a map, did a quick and incorrect weather analysis, and actually concluded, ‘Hey, this will be really similar to Ohio summers.’

Ohio is in the northern equivalent of Chile’s latitude box thing…
So…based on prime meridians and cartography, we can conclude
Chile and Ohio have the same climate.

Where the HELL did I get that idea? It’s Patagonia, it’s not the Great Lakes. There is a different set of climactic elements operating here, which create entirely different earth phenomenons. Like the Andes mountain range, restless tectonic plates, and the Pacific Ocean, to name a few.

Again, totally a victim of my own belief-creation.

And prior to the move to Valparaiso, I assumed, ‘Hey, it’s more north than Puerto Varas, which we know is cold now, so Valparaiso will be a lot like Ohio summers finally.’

Totally and unforgivably wrong.

Like a trip to the therapist, it’s becoming very clear to me as I write this post what the main theme is. I’m pretty sure I just want to live in perpetual Ohio Summer. As does everyone else from Ohio, except those weirdos who like 10 months of cold and end up moving to Wisconsin, or Patagonia.

Chile is not the place for my warmth mission. While I have come to deeply appreciate the climates, topographies, and natural wonders of this country, I am extremely ready for a bit of weather that more closely approximates that which I was seeking in the first place.

On the plus side, come June time I’ll be back in Ohio, where I fully expect to find a little bit of Ohio Summer.

This blog may or may not completely turn into my quest to approximate Ohio summers in any place that is not Ohio. Stay tuned.


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.

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?

All the days are magical

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

For example…
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.


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.

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

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!!

More Jobs and Reflections

Once upon a time, Kelli and I were spending Spring Break 2007 in Guanajuato, Mexico exploring the little nooks and callejones of that delightful colonial city.

We went to a bar (we were freshly 21) and had a couple drinks. As time wore on in the bar that night, I became ever-more intrigued by the bartender who’d served us. Bartenders don’t normally intrigue me unless they’re male, tall and handsome, but this one was different: she was very blonde, very short, very American, and very clearly living in Mexico.

Before we left, I made the decision to approach the very-blonde and very-American bartender to pester her with questions about how, exactly, she’d managed to find herself living and breathing in Guanajuato on a daily basis. It boggled me then; the whole notion of ex-patriot lives in foreign countries was so foreign and strange and alluring. Sure, I had lived in Mexico once, but as a student. There was a start date and an end date and a legitimate visa to go along with it. This girl was clearly making a living there, renting an apartment, slangin’ with a group of Mexican friends, just existing in her own Mexican life. I wondered, How does someone just pack up and move to a foreign country and become a part-time bartender and English teacher?

The notion isn’t so strange to me anymore. In my trips and journeys since that Spring Break trip, it has become apparent to me just how easily, and oftentimes unexpectedly, one can find themselves rooted in a city or country different than the familiar hometown. It’s oftentimes unplanned – you go somewhere, fall in love, make a decision to go back, and then see what you find. Look at us for examples: none of us knew any of the people or opportunities that would find before we got here. There’s no craiglist ads or facebook groups to join for this type of thing. It comes from daily life in a place.

In fact, perhaps as an homage to the Great Irony of the Universe, it seems that I as well will become a very-blonde and very-American bartender here. The bar where Amanda works, the Garage, wants me to join the staff. I agreed to one or two nights per week (making it my fifth job), but it excites me for a number of reasons: the money, the side-stepping of full-time commitment, the access to playing MY music with LARGE speakers, a great boss, working with a friend, and, of course, the delightful nod to that moment in my life where I so desperately wanted to be that girl living abroad, picking up opportunities like change on the street, making it work even though so far from home and my culture.

I think it is a healthy and essential practice to think back on our pasts and find those memories from youth when we were looking ahead with dreamy eyes and hopeful sighs, and remember those small things we hoped for, grasped at, and find the ways in which we have manifested them or accomplished them throughout our lives. This of course doesn’t apply to some of the more grandiose dreams – obviously I’m not an astronaut OR a mermaid now, even though I always wished to be both of those things.

But when I think back to the things that I most wished for or aspired towards, here is what I see: I see a young Shannon hearing Spanish on some early-afternoon court TV show and becoming totally captivated, wishing so badly to be able to speak the language like the woman on the TV. I see a young Shannon enchanted by history from a young age and wanting so desperately to see pyramids and mummies in real life. I see a coming-of-age Shannon being affected by an experience abroad and vowing to move back abroad someday, somehow.

Those are just some of the things that I remember from my childhood/young adult life that I can trace like lines on map from my formative experiences to where I am today. These things are easy to forget, but realizing that maybe we are exactly where we always wished to be makes for a much more meaning-full and profound journey on this planet.

Keep hands and arms inside the vehicle until the tour has come to a complete stop…

Well, folks, my first private tour gig has officially concluded!

After our lovely and visually impressive jaunt to the waterfalls and Osorno Volcano on Saturday, on Sunday we (re: they, the paying tourists) opted for a trip to Chiloe.

In doing so, we left the South American Continent. 

Let me explain. The island of Chiloe is just that, an island, part of Patagonia (technically), but not connected to South America. People that live in Chiloe say “Let’s go to the continent” when they travel north. We drove from Puerto Varas about an hour south, parked the car on a huge boat that looked similar to the one that takes you to Put-In-Bay, and after thirty minutes we were at Chacao (not Put-In-Bay).

Took this looking out of the bathroom.
Good thing I was there, because I almost
made peepee in my pantalones again when I
spotted the sea lions sunning on some buoys nearby.

Chiloe is about 200km long and full of interesting villages and cities and opportunities for nature appreciation. Contrary to the area around Lake Llanquihue, it was founded by the Spaniards, but you couldn’t tell from what we saw; all of the buildings looked basically the same as the German colonial buildings. We started by ambling through the village of Chacao, full of colorful houses and pretty gardens, and I translated a lot of information about the use of the native tree, Alerce.

Cuteness times three.
I like the middle house because it is oddly shaped. 
A lot of houses were made using Alerce wood.
The tree grows at a rate of 1cm per year, and it can
take hundreds of years for them to reach maturity.
Historical areas like Chacao ask that the shop owners
don’t paint their buildings to preserve the look and feel of the buildings.

After Chacao, we went to one of the three major cities on the island of Chiloe: Ancud. There wasn’t much to see but we wandered around the city, checked out a cute museum about the history of the area, and then visited a Spanish Fort.
This tower represents something about history…
I took this picture more for the clouds. 
(Tour Guide Fail.)

Today’s adventures included the delightful German village of Frutillar. We stopped first at a corporate seed company, to search for some white potato seeds. The couple I interpreted for is involved in big farm business and are avid growers/appreciators of vegetables and flowers, so the guys chatted seed business talk (in English) while I educated myself on the astounding variety of potato that exists in the world (via entertaining posters featuring the same model in various stages of consuming the different types of potato – Crisps, Traditional, French Fries, and Salad). It was interesting to learn about, but I felt distantly uneasy… I wondered if these companies are involved in GMO shenanigans, and they deal with the potato business on an international scale. The seed company we visited today sold directly to Frito-Lay. 
After that we drove around Frutillar Bajo, the lower part of the city that sits directly on the lake and caters more to tourism. The view of the volanoes was astounding, and actually you could see more than just Osorno and Kalbuco. 
The iPhone doesn’t do it justice.
The  view from Frutillar was one of the best I’ve seen so far
(not counting the views I had from being on the actual volcano).

We had lunch; I tried something totally typical called Longaniza a lo pobre, which is essentially enormous sausage links served with carmelized onions and 2 eggs over-easy on top, with a side of french fries. I only ate one of the enormous links; I left the other one for an overzealous server or kitchen staff member to hopefully consume. I consider myself a Real Food Girl – I prefer to eat things that come from the earth; unprocessed, or minimally processed at best. This is why I cook the majority of my meals. My meals tend to consist of vegetables, rice, quinoa, beans, etc. 
But, this also means that I don’t eat a lot of meat. I have not purchased meat to cook or prepare for perhaps five years, at least. When I do consume the flesh of animals in a public arena, it’s usually fish, or chicken. But meat? Oh god. I looked at that sausage with dismay and disdain (not to mention a little curiosity). The last time I had something similar was in Glasgow, Scotland (or somewhere thereabouts) in 2009, when I ate that typical heinous meat-link dish that I can’t remember the name of. I felt i should at least do Chile’s typical dish a little justice since I disparage the cuisine so frequently, so I ordered it, and I ate half, goddamnit. I ate half. 
After the heinous meat excursion, my fellow Americans and the illustrious Marcelo ventured back onto the town (a whole two streets wide), and wandered to the German Colonial Museum, where we learned about watermills and archaic tools and what it was like to be a settler in the New Germany (i.e. Chile) and have amazing views of volcanoes from your back porch.
The watermill was amazing. Not because it was shocking,
or aesthetically surprising, or any of that. Just because 
the design was so simple and effective.
I guess I never thought about it before, but…
Seriously, colonial people – genius. 

After I had properly reveled in the genius of the watermill,
I lounged about some gardens and wore flowers in my hair.

Here I am on the grounds of the colonial museum,
sporting a flower on top of my head. 
It was interesting visiting the colonial museum because
it was in a Chilean context. I always thought of 
colonial things as distinctly American. Not true. 
This experience was wonderful. I’m not sure when Marcelo will call again, or if he will at all, but I am at least extremely satisfied (both personally and financially) with this opportunity. I got to travel to a variety of must-see sights for free, with good people, learning things the entire way. I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you, Marcelo, thank you Chile, and thank you Osorno. You all are wonderful. 

My Life as a Tour Guide (aka Interpreter Tag-Along)

“Today we’ll go to the waterfalls then Osorno,” said Marcelo, my temporary boss and the owner of the private tour company. “We leave at 11am, return in the evening.”

Those words didn’t really prepare me for what I saw today. I’ll tell the story in pictures.

We started at Petrohue, some (small) waterfalls that connect to Todos Los Santos Lake here in southern Chile (part of the lake system in the area…not the lake I live on).

There were all sorts of people like this,
snapping pictures of the incredible Osorno Volcano.

The couple I was interpreting for opted for the “Jet Boat Tour”. 
We took a few high-speed turns through the water,
catching the view of Osorno from below the falls.
Then we ate some blond fudge afterward that I’m positive
was made from pure cow’s milk and sugar. Only.
It was so tasty, and completely unwrapped and sitting in the open air.
Also I was recognized by the boat company operator, who also lives in Puerto Varas.
Damn these dreads. 

Here is Osorno with an artistic branch in front of it.

Looking back over the falls.
That body of water is where we took the Jet Boat Tour.
The water was insanely crystal clear,
you could see all the way to the bottom.
The water is so clear because of all the 
minerals from the volcanic sediment….or something.

We lunched at a small restaurant after the falls.
I ate salmon, tried Kuchen (local german dessert)
and then took patriotic photos of Chile, as seen above. 

Then we headed to Osorno, twisting and turning through
roads that were far more stable and paved than any other
Latin American country I’ve visited. Ears popping the whole way. 
A lack of burning brakes and heart-in-your-throat-type fear
was evident. 

Once we drove as far up as we could,
we boarded the chair lift system. As “The Guide”, 
I got to ride free. I held on for dear life (not pictured above). 

Here we see the top of Osorno looming in the distance.
I asked Marcelo if we were to fly over in a helicopter 
and look down at the top of the volcano, what would we see?
For some reason, I thought the hot and roiling innards of the volcano
would keep the eruption hole clear.
But…it’s dormant. No roiling innards. 
I’m also not sure what the right term is for eruption hole.
….It can’t be eruption hole.

The ride up was breathtaking. And also increasingly colder,
as evidenced by the abundance of snow.
I made the mistake of being sad yesterday about missing
snowfall in Ohio. Well, I experienced the frigidity of snow-air today.
Homesickness: gone. 

After two chair lift rides toward the summit, we disembarcated 
(Jill Smith) near the top but not quite all the way there.
As trekkers were toiling their way up through the snow nearby,
laden with backpacks and hiking poles,
I was dusting the snow off my butt from my leisurely chairlift ascent. 

Volcanic rock. Super light, and looks like soil.

Snow farm. 

Checking out the mountain ranges on the ride back down.
It was much easier to comprehend my surroundings on the way back,
since I wasn’t being blinded by the pure-white snow all around.
(I think I have sensitive eyes; I meant to ask my optician this before I fled the US.)
But I was much more terrified – I didn’t notice how steep the
chairlift was on the way up. On the way back, well….
let’s just say I made a little peepee in my pantalones.

After all the breathtaking scenery of the day
(not to mention the physically exhausting chairlift ride…phew),
we stopped by a nursery and I found these lily pads.
Hey…not bad, Mother Nature. Not bad. 

A successful day in Chile for Project-Based Bradford,
part-time non-profit worker, part-time travel writer,
more-than-part-time fiction author,
part-time interpreter, part-time tour guide impersonator,
full-time vagabond.
(My resume is getting hard to condense.)

Tomorrow’s agenda: the island of Chiloe! Expect another picture-heavy post soon!