Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Could it be?

Is it possible that Aidan is teething already? That our teeny, tiny 3-month-old boy is cutting teeth? For about three weeks now, he has been sucking and chewing his hands and drooling quite a bit. At first I just thought it was because he had discovered his hands and it was a novelty. Since then, though, he has been spitting up a lot more than he used to. That and he has a bit of a diaper rash. All of those things make me think that his teeth are bothering him. He also will just start screaming at the top of his lungs out of the blue as if he were in pain. So, I've started looking in his mouth to see if I can see any little buds. The only thing I see is a small bump on his top gum, but it's not where his front teeth will be but one to the right. If that's the tooth that comes in first, it'll look so funny!

On another Aidan note, I was playing with him today while he was lying on his tummy and all of a sudden he had rolled over onto his back. It totally was a fluke and it surprised him as much as it surprised me. But it won't be long till it happens!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Summer is coming!

I love it when the weather warms up, the days get longer and the flowers start blooming. The anticipation for summer is great! Spring is my favourite season of all. This week, I took the kids to Home Center, a store similar to Home Depot, to pick up a couple things for the yard. The whole store is ready for summer - all the outdoor furniture, plants, pool stuff, garden stuff and camping gear is out on display. I got a warm, fuzzy feeling walking through the store! :)

We went back today to pick up a few things to get us ready for summer: an umbrella for our outdoor table and a few plants for the backyard. We didn't want to get too many plants since we'll be in Canada for most of the summer, but we got some lilies to plant around the yard and a couple of smaller plants for Kirsi to plant and take care of. We also got some seeds that Der and Kirsi are going to plant so Kirsi can what her own flowers and carrots grow.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Return home

Saturday was our last day and we were supposed to take one last horse ride before leaving the hacienda. I had arranged it the day before but obviously, the message didn't get to the men in charge of the horses as there weren't any waiting for us at 9:30 like planned. Thank goodness Kirsi is the kind of kid that is OK with plans that fall through, as long as you have a good explanation and an alternative activity. She was like, "OK, horsies not ready. Go jump on the trampoline!" So we spent our last morning there playing at the playground, which was tons of fun for Kirsi. Packing up didn't take long as we had started it the night before and had things somewhat ready to go. Der is the master packer, taking after his dad. :)

The drive home went pretty well. It made great time for the first half of the trip but by the afternoon, both kids were sick of being in the car so we had to make several stops. We got some good shots of some of the scenery that we had driven through earlier in the week. Chile is a beautiful country with some fantastic scenery, a lot like Canada is. We were glad to have been able to see another area of this country that is so different to what we know. If you want to see more pictures, you can go to our Photobucket account and click on the folder called "Norte Chico".

Valle del Encanto

On Friday morning, we decided to go to the Valle del Encanto, where there is a significant collection of petroglyphs (carvings in rocks) from the El Molle culture, which lived in the area between 100 and 600 A.D. What is so interesting about these petroglyphs is that the people look very alienlike, with faces with large, wide eyes and wearing headdresses.

We got there mid-morning and it was packed! Everyone was still celebrating their national day so the picnic area was overflowing with people who were barbecuing and enjoying a day out. Since it was so crowded and it was hot already so we decided to look at the petroglyphs quickly and not spend the recommended two hours there. We climbed up and over lots of rocks and found some of the petroglyphs in great condition and others that were very difficult to see. We didn't go to one section of them because there were so many people and we would have had to park the car quite far away. We were pleased with what we saw, though. It's amazing how long these petroglyphs have lasted, especially in such a climate (with lots of wind and sand erosion).

In the afternoon, we went for a drive east of Ovalle, along the Rio Hurtado, which also offered beautiful scenery.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fray Jorge National Park

On Wednesday, the markets were crazy with everyone buying meat for their barbecues (asados) for the Dieciocho celebration. Everyone gets out the charcoal and fires up the grill and cooks copious amounts of meat. We went in to Ovalle, the main town in the area, on Wednesday to pick up some food so we could make our own sandwiches for supper. At the hacienda, supper service only started at 8:00 pm and the kids were sleeping by then so it was just easier to have sandwich supplies and store them in the mini bar. :)

Thursday was September 18th, Chile's national day. We figured it would be a bit crazy in the towns around where we were staying so we decided it would be the perfect day to go the Fray Jorge National Park. It was about a 45 minute drive to the park and the scenery was lovely. Lots of rolling hills covered in springtime flowers and plenty of cacti too. We passed through a few small dusty villages before getting to the park. We noticed that kite-flying is a huge activity at this time of year. Everyone was flying kites, young and old alike. Once in the park, we had about 10 km to drive before getting to the forest that is a protected UNESCO world biosphere reserve. At first it was quite a leisurely drive through more rolling hills. But then we really got down to business and had to climb up, up, up before getting to the forest. Check out this sign:

That was not very encouraging! We got up to the top to see the small cloudforest, which resembles Valdivian forest found in the south of Chile. It's such a sharp contrast to the semi-arid landscape filled with cacti and small shrubs. On top of the hill, you enter the low clouds and mist and you feel like you're in Scotland and not Chile! This fog is called the camancha and it is very dense, which is what allows this type of vegetation to thrive.

Some scenes from along the way and up at the forest:

In the afternoon, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at the hacienda and then went for a walk up in the hills behind the hotel. We also spent some time on the trampoline and at the playground.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Andacollo, Ovalle and an Earthquake

Yesterday, we packed up and left La Serena and headed to the small, mountain, mining town of Andacollo. We spent some time looking around the two churches there, one of which is blessed by the Vatican. We then drove up to an astronomical observatory, which had some great views of the surroundings and of the Andes mountains.

We then headed down the mountain again and headed through Ovalle and then on to the Hacienda Santa Cristina. We spent the rest of the day unpacking and playing at the playground. The highlight, for Kirsi, was the trampoline that they have there.

This morning, Kirsi and Daddy went for a horse ride. Not long but Kirsi loved it. Her bumb did get sore. We did some shopping in Ovalle so that we could make our own suppers for the next couple of nights. The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to get Kirsi to nap, which didn't work. Instead we went out for a walk and came back early for supper. A quick bath for Kirsi and Aidan and then an early night for Kirsi. She's doing great but was short on sleep.

Just after Kirsi went down, we had a pretty decent earthquake. It shook the hacienda room pretty good!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

La Serena and Tongoy

Cloudy Monday morning was spent casually wandering around La Serena's streets, churches and markets. When the city was being built, the order was to build the buildings in an old Spanish architectural style. All of the churches here are built of stone, which is unusual for Chile.

Except for a short stretch on Daddy's shoulders, Kirsi walked the entire time. It showed in her appetite as she downed 4 cheese empanadas and an entire ice cream all by herself.

Kirsi just didn't want to go down for a nap in the hotel so we hopped in the car and headed for the beaches south of La Serena. About 7 blocks later, Kirsi was out like a light.

We spent a little time collecting shells on one beach in Tongoy and the rest of the time driving from little fishing village to little fishing village before returning to La Serena for supper.

I did forget to mention that on the Elqui Valley tour, we had a short visit with a couple of my students and their mother. They showed us their hosteria, which had a couple of llamas (pronounced yamas here) tied up. We got to pet them and then one tried to steal Kirsi's cap. She got a kick out of that.

Elqui Valley

After one of the best sleeps that we've experienced in a long, long time we had breakfast and drove out of La Serena and headed due east in to the Elqui Valley. First though, we had to let 4 of the hotel staff fawn all over Kirsi and Aidan, the vigor of which put shy Kirsi between my legs.

The Elqui Valley is known for many things: grapes for pisco sour (a popular, traditional alcohol here in Chile), fruit such as papaya, astronomical observatories because of the clear skies and a magnetic energy because some believe that this is the magnetic center of the world (it used to be in Tibet but apparently moved here on a whim).

The Elqui River itself is quite small this time of year but has been dammed up further upstream to genereate electricity for the area. The drive itself, from La Serena to Pisco Elqui is a little over 100 km but it passes some beautiful scenery and several quaint little towns.

At first, the day started out very cloudy but it cleared up as we headed inland. The valley narrows and the mountains become steeper as you head away from the Pacific Ocean. Up the dry mountains, vineyards have been planted every where but past the vines, it is nothing but short brush and cacti. It is the land of a million cacti, easily.

We first stopped to get a view of the dam. Nothing like Manitoban dams but it was big enough. Then we made our first stop in Vicuna, a small city with a beautiful Plaza de Armas. We stopped and walked around there for an hour or so. By walking, I mean Dana feeding Aidan and Kirsi running every where...the girl is like Forrest Gump: she likes to run. Run Forrest, Run!

We stopped at some small artisan booths around the plaza and ended up picking up some nice artwork of a couple of the aboriginal gods. The region here is known for their interesting gods as they all look very UFO alien like.

Then we continued our drive inland climbing higher and higher into the mountains. All of the towns were small and centered around the Plaza de Armas and the town church. Most houses were small and made out of brick, plastered and painted bright oranges, yellows, blues or greens.

We went as far as Pisco Elqui before returning to La Serena. Kirsi had her nap in the car so the rest of the afternoon was a driving tour!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

La Serena

Hola from the second oldest city in Chile! Just two blocks from downtown Plaza de Armas, the Hotel Londres is our home for the next three nights.

We had a great 7 hour drive to get here. The drive from Santiago cut through or followed the coastal mountain range while teetering on the Pacific Ocean every now and then. For the most part, short grasses, cacti and small shrubs were all the greenery that we saw. Jagged bits of boulder or spires of rock dotted the landscape as well.

This area is well know for the foggy skies that hover over the land and, in some cases, provide most of the moisture for the plants.

We broke up what should have been a 5 hour trip with Aidan's feedings and Kirsi's first roadside poop! The kids did great on the trip with Kirsi providing some backseat entertainment for Aidan.

First impressions of La Serena is that it is indeed old. The buildings reflect this. Once we're settled and the bathroom breaks are completed, we'll take a walk to the Plaza de Armas and view many of the stone churches in the vicinity before looking for a place to grab a bite to eat.

More tomorrow!

Love D, D, K and A

Monday, September 08, 2008

Fiesta Huasa

Saturday morning we went to visit our friends, Brett and Nicki, at their new place in the mountains. Kirsi and I made a raspberry coffee cake to take with us and then we headed out. It was a great morning, very relaxing and great company. Kirsi acted just like she does at home there, which is very surprising since she's usually very shy and reserved around people she doesn't see often. She was dancing up a storm and talking all the time. :)

In the afternoon, we headed to Nido to the Fiesta Huasa. Every year, the school hosts this event to celebrate Chile's national day on September 18th. There is lots of dancing, singing, Chilean food and entertainment. The highlight, though, was the horses. Kirsi loved watching them do different events (though we didn't see many in the time we were there) and petting them. The most exciting part was when Kirsi got to ride on a big, brown horsey. She was sooooo excited!

Friday, September 05, 2008

One Year Ago

It was one year ago today that we found out that one of our former students had passed away. Reto was such an energetic and charismatic young man and both Der and I remember him fondly. I got to know Reto as his homeroom teacher in Grade 7, our first year in Sri Lanka. Though he regularly tried my patience, I enjoyed having him in class and getting to know him as a person. Der got to know Reto through basketball (he also taught him IT for two years). Reto was one of his boys and always went to hang out in D's office before school started in the morning. We were so shocked to hear the news and many tears were shed. Reto crosses our minds often and we have such good memories of the times spent with him.

Monday, September 01, 2008


We've been trying to get Kirsi to go to sleep on her own at bedtime for a few nights now. Last night was so tough - she was sooooo upset with not having someone lay down with her. She cried and cried and was so worked up. It was really hard to see her like that. In the end, Der sat beside her bed and sang her a few songs until she fell asleep. Tonight, we were expecting another long night but it went surprisingly well. We all laid down in Kirsi's bed for stories, prayers and songs. I stayed in a little longer after Der and Aidan went out and I just talked to Kirsi and gave her a little more one-on-one attention. She was sad but she did OK with it...just a few tears. The good night turtle that has different star constellations that Auntie Kristin gave Kirsi for Christmas was a great diversion for Kirsi tonight. I only had to go in one time to put Kirsi back down. I laid down with her, sang her one more song and just cuddled with her. And I had to put her blanket up by her cheek, just like Aidan likes. And that was it. We heard her talking for a while in bed but she went down no problems.

It was like this when I transitioned her for nap time too. There was one really rough day and since then, she's been great at going to sleep on her own. Let's hope it's the same for bedtime.

Oh, and she got her cake at the birthday party. She was so excited for the cake, that's all she wanted to eat! :)

Birthday party

This afternoon we are invited to the birthday party of Caitlin and Nicolas, who will be turning two. When Kirsi heard that we were going to a birthday party, her eyes lit up. "Birthday cake?" Guess what her first priority is!!

Yesterday, we finally bought a bike for Der. He's been wanting one for quite a while now but we were holding off because a decent bike here is really expensive. And we can't get just any old bike because Der is just so darn tall!! So, we went to Mall Sport - a mall with shops for all kinds of sports and activities, a pretty cool idea actually - and we looked at all the bikes there. Can you believe there were bikes that cost $10,000?! I nearly peed my pants! I cannot imagine spending as much on a road bike as you would for a car. Wowzers! Anyways, we ended up finding one that Der likes and that fits him. He had to ride it home because we don't have a bike carrier (that's for another day) and it wouldn't fit inside the car. He took the long way home because there was less traffic but since it was his first time on a bike in years, you can imagine that he was quite sore after the half an hour ride!! Poor Der!

We also found a bike trailer here for a pretty good price, Chilean standards of course. Two kids fit in there and it hooks up really easily to the bike. The rain cover is included too. It can also convert to a double stroller, though more for going for walks than for closed in spaces because the bar doesn't fold in. We know Kirsi will love going for bike rides with Daddy (and maybe Mommy if I get back into shape!) and Aidan will too in a few months.

Here are a few pictures of the last little while: Kirsi at the beach and some of Aidan and her.

Phuket - Be Nice or Get Out

The second part of our December break was spent in a little AirBnB 3m from the beach in Phuket, Thailand. The majority of our time was spe...