As I walked through the supermarket the other day I noticed a back-to-school display, the prototypical sign for students that less of summer remains that has passed. I’m used to seeing back-to-school sales in August, not February, but you can’t deny the signs of the times: it is summer in Chile. I suppose you don’t need a back-to-school display to tell you that. Maybe the consecutive days with highs in the upper-90s would be enough. Or the past month without rain. Or the fact that everyone is working in the vineyards to harvest grapes.
My January was dominated by the big projects of missions with St. George and CEVA summer camp. February looks more relaxing, but of course raises the question, “What are you doing?” I wonder that too, sometimes. The answer is that I’m keeping busy, though probably not in the expected ways. Life here slows to a pleasant crawl during the summer for many people. Schools are out of session, which puts kids at home. It’s not uncommon for people to have European-like month-long holidays during the summer. Plus, the sweltering heat—largely unmitigated by fans or air-conditioned cars and houses—makes you slow down.
The flipside of the slower Chilean pace during the summer is it means less available work for Associates here. We are at home often during the day. In the past, summer has been a time for house projects and relaxation. And that’s what we’re going again this year, until the end of February when we will head south again for a building project with Habitat for Humanity. Here’s a sampling of what I’m up to.
With the dog-hot summer heat, you would think staying warm would be the last thing on my mind. Wrong. I remember how cold the winter was here when we visited in August and I have hopes of weakening winter’s grasp on the house this year. Since the primary souce of heat in our house is a wood-burning furnace, that means chopping wood now. I got some pointers from our friendly neighbor Luis and I’ve been sawing and chopping firewood until my arms are sore and I’m covered in sweat. When that happens, I reflect on how it seems fitting that I pay for our heat in the winter with an excess of heat now.
My housemates and I are also fighting an epic battle against ants. We apparently have problems every summer, but this year is pretty bad. Every so often I sweep the floor into a pile that moves itself. Emily and I have begun a house-wide investigation—somewhat like CSI, but with ants—where we map out the ants’ position and then make tactical strikes. Friday was the official start of Operation Black Rain, which is what it looked like after I launched a few strategic Raid blasts. I read online that a mixture of sugar and boric acid is an effective deterrent. The ants eat the sugar, as ants are wont to do, and ingest the boric acid at the same time. Shortly therafter, they die. I may implement this plan if a) I learn how to say boric acid in Spanish, and b) I figure out where to buy it.
Some of our time is also spent adjusting to living in a new place and doing things in new ways. One of the pillars of Holy Cross Associates is simple living. Practically that means a variety of things, one of which is that we live with a self-imposed, small monthly food budget. That doesn’t mean we’re hungry by any means, but it does mean that we prepare a lot of meals from basic ingredients that cost less and take more time to prepare. Now w have extra time so we are also experimenting with various recipies to use during the year. I am presently exploring teh culinary world of beans. One roadblock: canned beans aren’t sold here, so using beans is a matter of soaking dried beans and boiling for an hour or more. One success: I put together a critically aclaimed chili with Roy and Tom.
I’m also filling my time with plenty of reading and writing. Right now I’m reading Midnight’s Children, my sister Erin’s favorite book which she sent for me to read. Plus I’m planning a number of vignettes about daily life in Pocuro that you’ll see here in the coming weeks. I won’t offer a preview because the subject matter may seem dull at first glance. Rest assured, however, that my blogging philosophy (though you’d never guess it from this article) is, “Write it short and include lots of pictures and they will come.” I know that’s less catchy than “build it and they will come,” but let’s face the facts: I’m no Kevin Costner, whatever that’s supposed to mean.