Thursday, May 6, 2010

daily life

I live with Steve, another WorldTeach volunteer, in Valparaíso, Chile. We live on Cerro ("hill") Rocuant, in Barrio ("neighborhood") O'Higgins. (Bernardo O'Higgins is the great hero of Chilean independence.)

Our "host parents" are Oscar, the sub-director of my school, and Ximena, a Spanish teacher there. They're educated and urbane and not terribly traditional in most ways, so we don't experience most of the stuff we learned about as possibilities in a Chilean family: overprotectiveness or lack of privacy. We call them "Oscar" and "Ximena" instead of "Mom" and "Dad" (as many of our colleagues do with their families) because that's more of the relationship we have.

Aurora is Ximena's mother, lives here and helps with keeping house. I assume she goes out and plays poker or something when we're not looking, she's pretty active.

Ignacio is Oscar's son, age 13, who lives with us full-time. He's pretty quiet and plays a lot of video games, but has relaxed around us more over time.

Jaime is Ximena's older son, a very tall and athletic 17, who comes for weekends or half-weeks.

Álvaro is Ximena's younger son, age 11, quirky and charming. He loves to say "Hello, Chris,"and I think that's the only English he knows.

Three very odd dogs: El Duque, La Princesa, and La Chiquitita. Like everyone else's dogs, they're there to bark at people who walk past the house. They don't like dry food, so Oscar actually "cooks" something for them every night, which is vegetable trimmings and human-food leftovers and wheat flour and I don't know what else, simmered. Sometimes it smells good. Sometimes it looks and smells like that soup made out of human body parts in James Earl Jones's evil serpent temple in Conan the Barbarian.

We're down to three cats (they found a home for a kitten): La Sacha, Comepoco ("eats little," seemingly the parent), and Comenunca ("eats never," the kitten). They're all outside cats, but would very much like to be inside cats, so they find their way in through slightly open windows, or they lie in wait by the front door and run past on their way in. I'm allergic and so is Jaime, so they're not allowed in, but they're incredibly friendly, and they understand that once inside, they will be removed. They always let themselves be evicted, with no scratching or struggle, just a stream of resigned, reluctant meows.

In the mornings we have breakfast, which is tea or coffee, and bread. Steve and I usually eat at the dining room table, because that's where they put out stuff for us, and I guess it's expected; I'm not really sure what's up with that. Dinner happens at random times between 7 and 8:30 PM, and that is also usually just me and Steve, at the dining room table. Oscar and Ximena eat in the kitchen as part of their couples-chatting time, and Ignacio eats in the kitchen, in front of the computer, at the dining room table--who knows. Occasionally Oscar and Ximena join us at the dining room table, especially for lunches on weekends, which seem to be the family times. I think this is probably representative of an educated, two-working-parent blended family in Chile.

I have very few classes right now, which I'll try to remedy now that I've kind of got my bearings a bit. I have time for 40 minutes of morning zazen every day except Wednesday, when I have class at 8ish and I go down the hill with the family at 7:15. Right now I have Thursdays free, which is pretty great. Thursdays or weekends, I go eat something nice, and have some espresso, and read Don Quixote or write blog entries, run errands.

At different times I miss Anna and J and aikido and my sangha and good coffee, but it's a life. I like it.

No comments:

Post a Comment