For The Birds…Part 1

White-Tufted Grebe

I have been able to go through the photos of our trip to Chile, and thought that some of you might enjoy some of the photos I was able to take of the bird life there.  If you think I’ve misidentified a species, please let me know.  To see a larger image, just click on the smaller one.  I hope that you enjoy looking at them nearly as much as I did seeing them…I’m sure that you will enjoy looking at them more than I enjoyed figuring out how to edit them and put them in the blog!

Spot-Flanked Gallinule

Rufous-Collared Sparrow

Green-Backed Firecrown (Hummingbird)

Green-Backed Firecrown (Hummingbird)

Monk Parakeets in the nest

Monk Parakeet

Southern Lapwing

Chimango Caracara

White Backed Stilt

Bristle-Thighed Curlew

Tufted Tit Tyrant - looks like he got up on the wrong side of the nest!

Great Grebe

Hats Off to Santiago!

As we prepare to leave Santiago and head north to the next leg of this journey, it occurs to me that we really haven’t talked much about the city where our adventures are taking place: Santiago, Chile.

If you are the kind of person who wants maps, details, and statistics, you can read more about Santiago and its environs.  We were very surprised by the immensity of this city.  The population of the metro area is about 5.5 million people, which makes it a touch bigger than, say, Philadelphia (metro area of about 5.2 million).  It is nestled between the western base of the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean, and while I´ve been in large cities before, I don´t know that I´ve been in one that has felt this sprawling.  Mandy and her family live near the center of this metro area, and we have remarked time and time again as to how much time people must spend in their commute.  Every road seems to be congested. The major arteries have three or four lanes for traffic and two for buses and taxis only, and still, it’s always crowded!  Yesterday, as we drove from a shopping center in the north of town to a site in the center of the city, after we’d been on the road for about forty-five minutes, I asked JuanK if we were close.  He looked bemused, and said, “No, not really.” I have never – anywhere – driven for an extended period of time in such traffic.

Santiago at dusk from the hill of San Cristobal

One of the reasons for this may be the fact that if the city has a series of beltways or parkways, we haven’t discovered them yet.  Every trip is marked by endless stoplights and lane changes – which makes driving this minibus a real adventure.    A side effect of the traffic is the tremendous amount of smog that envelops the city each day.  In the photo below, you can see the Andes – just barely.  Chileños have commented as to how nice it was to get out of the city to a place where we could see clearly – as we did the other day, when we visited a park about two hours away.

Another view of town with the Andes barely visible through the smog

Ariel & Mandy at the Rio Clarillo National Park

The Rio Clarillo, simply begging for a trout fisherman...

Uncle Eduardo and JuanK with HALF the meat that was ordered for our party of eight!

Monk Parakeets are an invasive species from Argentina and common throughout the city.

El Zorro - one of two foxes to greet us at the National Park

After telling me that "Being Indiana Jones isn't cheap", Mandy bought me the hat!

No matter what we say about the city itself, we are very grateful for our Chilean family.  Last night Elizabeth and Juan Carlos hosted a farewell party in our honor, and it was a real treat to meet (or reconnect with) so many of Mandy’s family.  There were probably thirty people there, and  while very few in attendance were bilingual, we had a blast!  Delicious food, wonderful beverages, a few speeches, a lot of one-cheek air kissing, and great laughter made the evening truly memorable.  Juan Carlos and Elizabeth have told many of their friends of our visit and this blog, so most of the people there had heard the saga of the yellow hat.  As Ariel said, “You know, nothing rescues a party from a language barrier like a little physical humor!”  We tried to capture some of the spirit of the gathering.  Take a look:

If the hat fits...our South American family gets in on the fun!

So later today, we’ll head to the airport having said hasta luego to Juan Carlos, Elizabeth, Mandy, JuanK, and the rest of our friends and family here.  We’ll get on a plane and head north to Lima, Peru – but more about that tomorrow.  For now, we are grateful for having had this opportunity and eager to see what will grow from the seeds that have been planted.

You know, when I left Pittsburgh, I threw the yellow hat in my backpack because I didn’t want to be another American in a baseball cap viewing the world. And, I thought, maybe, the hat would keep the rain off me.  Who knew that it would be the source of so many jokes and laughter?  Look for pictures of Ariel in it in the days, weeks, and months to come.  And when Mandy caught me eyeing up the new headgear, and threw in a comment about Indiana Jones, well, I thought that it would make interesting fodder for reflection as to who gets to decide who I am.  How wonderful that a part of who I am now includes these memories and this laughter.  I am grateful for the gift of growth and for new opportunities to become a new person.  You´re a part of that, and I appreciate it.  For now, we’ll sign off from Chile and say thanks for your prayers and support.

The Winners in the 2010 Hat Poll

Los Peces:1 Dave:0

My first visit to the southern hemisphere was in 1995.  I went to Malawi then, and every time since then, hoping that someone would offer me a chance to go fishing.  I hung around guys with nets, I took rides in other people’s fishing boats, heck, a couple of times I even asked.  The thing is that not many people go fishing for fun.  If you fish, it’s because it’s your job.  And every time I went to Malawi, whenever it was “bring a mzungu to work” day, I hung around with the pastors.

But not this trip, baby.  This time, I’m on sabbatical.  This time, I’m making my own schedule.  This time, I’m going fishing.

Mandy and her family said that they would do everything that they could to get me out on the water.  Just to be on the safe side, I brought my own emergency back-up fishing equipment, including a telescopic fishing pole, a reel, and a few lures.  Just in case.

That's me, telling fish stories to a guy who does it for a living. Sometimes I annoy the heck out of myself.

We got to the beach house in Laguna, just north of Viña del Mar, which is just north of Valparaiso, and, true to their word, they introduced me to a real-live fisherman, Eduardo.  The man earns his living by fishing those waters.  Except in the winter.  “Nobody fishes in the winter”, he told me.  He had to go to his construction job.  However, I did trade him a jar of home made apple butter for a rig he said was sufficient to catch a few little ones in the lagoon that emptied the river into the Pacific.

Nobody was happier than I to get up and hit the water.  The rest of the family all slept, but not me.  I had a date with destiny.  Fishing in South America.

That's me. Fishing. In South America!

Turns out fishing in South America, so far at least, is a lot like fishing in Lake Arthur – which is to say, it’s a lot like fishing in the Dead Sea.  Nada.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Couldn’t buy a bite.  But man, it was a good day.  I was alone in a beautiful place.  I added at least a dozen new birds to my “life list”.  Then, Sharon joined me and we took a walk.  We saw more birds.  On the way back, four dogs came out of nowhere and walked with me for half a mile or so – running and playing in the sand and making me wish that our old dog Betsy was still around.

Then, we went back to the beach house and attended worship.  Our hosts were joined by Mandy´s aunt, uncle, and two cousins, and we had a delicious barbeque with more meat than I’ve seen in six months.  During the meal, we watched the World Cup finals game, and at the end of that, we were able to view an eclipse of the sun visible in the Southern hemisphere.  We didn’t even know that the eclipse was coming, but we were in a great spot to see it.

Juan Carlos, Mandy, Ariel, and me preparing for a great meal

As I said in an earlier posting of this blog, there’s a reason it’s called “fishing” and not “catching”.  This weekend, I didn’t catch a thing.  But I was fishing.  And that made it a great day.

The eclipse, viewed through 3 pairs of sunglasses. The latest technology.

A man and (not) his dog.

The group of eclipse and cup-watchers: L-R Juan Carlos (Mandy's dad), Mandy, Ariel, Me, Eliana (Mandy's cousin), Consuela (Mandy´s cousin), Aunt Isa and Uncle Carlos

A Bristle-thighed Curlew

Rufous-collared Sparrow

Starting Sabbath with an old friend…

Sharing our country with Mandy

The Journey begins with a reunion in Santiago Chile. Some of our friends will remember the year that we hosted Mandy Arriagada Dolz when she was a senior at Schenley High School. Mandy came to us through the offices of the good people of AFS, and we enjoyed a wonderful year introducing her to various aspects of our lives, including family holidays, tubing on the river, Primanti sandwiches, and so much more!

This one didn't get away. You didn't think she was here for a year and NOT fishing, did you?

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We are eager to meet Mandy’s family (including her fiance, Mathias!!!) and learn more about her life in Chile. We will be in and around Santiago for about ten days – not nearly long enough to take in Chile, but we hope it will be plenty of time to get a taste of her world (and expand ours a bit).

Atop the Washington Monument