Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Rains Bring Disaster in Northern Chile

The rains might have been welcome, and pleasurable, here in Santiago, but on the coast and in the north of Chile they've brought disaster.
            The Atacama desert is - normally - one of the driest places on earth, with an average annual rainfall of just 15 ml.  It is so dry that wet doesn't register as a potential state of being.  When we lived in Antofagasta, and we did get a few drops of rain, the interior walls of buildings would be peppered with rain-spots, because nobody noticed the cracks in the roof and the walls.  (Earthquake zones do that.)
            Up there in the north, even a few drops of rain can be a problem.  The dry earth forms a thick layer of dust, and without plants to break down the surface rock, water doesn't soak into the ground; it sits on the top of the ground and forms a muddy slurry, and when the drops turn into a rainfall, and when they fall on a slope, the slurry gives way under its own weight and you get landslides.
            In 1991, not too long before we moved there, a storm had caused a slide to come roaring through - unheralded, in the middle of the night - and taken out a whole group of houses, with the inhabitants inside.  
            This week the rain tracked unexpectedly north, and the heavy, southern-suitable rains are doing the same thing - gathering into a thick muddy slurry and pouring through towns. At least six people are dead across Chile, and clear skies down here in Santiago feel like a heck of a price to pay for all that.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Gustery, Blustery, Oooooooh....

This winter has been a rotten one for Santiago. With the exception of a storm on the 12th of July, we've had almost no rain at all. The occasional apologetic drizzle doesn't count for much, and day by day the air has gotten fouler and measured in how far the amber air-quality alert shades into emergency-red and by which license plates are allowed on the road in today's restricción vehicular.
            It's been absolutely awful.  Nobody in the city has dared to hope for more; we've been continually promised breaks in the weather, but the sheer act of hoping has caused the clouds to perversely sheer off and go somewhere else. 
            But this week it happened.
            Mum called me on Monday.  "The satellite says you're getting rain this week." 
            "It's going to be enormous. The temperature is going to drop, and then it's going to pour-" 
            "I'll believe it when I'm walking through it. Until then, I'm not interested. Seen any good films lately?" 
           "-and it's going to last for days.  Aren't you excited?" 
            "Of course I'm not excited!  We've been refusing to get excited about it for days now!  Stop talking! Please! If you keep talking, you'll scare it away!" 
            Mum took no notice and kept talking, but somehow, the rain still came. Not even the weight of seven million tentative, tremulous enthusiasms didn't turn it from racing straight toward Santiago, and when it hit, it hit hard. 
            First the wind, howling and snarling and flailing the trees, and then the rain, bursting bedroom windows and flooding overpasses.  That was Wednesday. Thursday was bigger than Wednesday, and Friday was bigger than Thursday,  and I sat in in our living room with the whole apartment sealed tight and the curtains swelled and billowed while winds whistled through -
            The reality of living in an earthquake zone is that a sealed building envelope is more of a concept than an actual thing. Every quake shifts the walls and windows and doors subtly out of alignment, and the cumulative effect is - well, in big storms, it's actually rather fun.  We can enjoy the dynamism of the weather without having to be out in it!
            Today, the fourth day of the storm, was a howling torment. The curtains on the (sealed) living room windows billowed and snapped. The venetian blind on the (sealed) bathroom window clattered so loudly we wound took it all the way up and then we stuffed a sock between the (closed) bathroom door and the door frame to stop the door banging and driving us irretrievably demented. Outside it poured, and it blew, and we went back to bed with books.
            Sometime around four it stopped. Just stopped. The clouds blew away and the sky turned cerulean blue and a golden light illuminated a world that for once was fresh and clear and bright clean out to the mountains, which stood up stark and crisp and heavy with snow.
            It was magical.
            And half an hour ago the clouds came back in and the wind began to rise and the trees are bending and the evening is flat and grey - not evening dark but storm dark.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Please Join me in a Moment of Silence

 - In the memory of my dear, departed Elna 3003.
It passed away on Tuesday last at 7:54 in the evening, with three seams left to sew.

Sympathies have flooded in:

Rest in Peace, dear old machine!
You left an uncompleted seam.
Now go to your eternal rest
while I hand-sew the arms and chest

Tessa telephoned and sang Mandy -

Ohhh Elna...
How you gave and you gave without failing-
How I neeeed youoohoo 

Ohh Elna…

One tasteless wit even offered a pun - "say it ain't sew."  It was briefly considered, but then a firm decision was made: we can't encourage that sort of thing.

It was all very moving. 

And now, pray, bow your heads with me and give a muffled curse in the name of the sewing machine that after all the tender love, care, fresh bobbins, fresh spools, screwdrivers, damp q-tips, machine oil and delicately voiced entreaties in Santiago, could not graciously consent to last just one more damned half hour.

(Epithets will be acceptable in lieu of offerings.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Today it Rained. Lots.

A large city surrounded by mountains is not necessarily a pleasant place.  Santiago's air has been foul this winter. The contaminación has been at its absolute peak - the worst it has been in sixteen years.  When the sun hits the air, clear vision extends for about twenty meters, and then there's haze. Across the street is fuzzy, the air tastes foul and scorches your throat and causes nasty gnawing headaches that linger for days.  Wheee.

            Since our one decent rain back in April, we've had nothing.  Bone-dry and static cling. Sweating through these last months before the winter rain has become an exercise in spiritual endurance - closing one's eyes and closing one's windows and steadfastly - for want of alternatives - not thinking about the air. We've had driving restrictions (40% of license plates ordered off the roads) for the first time in almost a decade, but as a solution it's cosmetic, and ignores the lumbering elephants of root causes and tacit acceptances of levels of industrial and auto output that could (and probably has) choke a horse.
            But last night the rains came. We were woken at 4:30 this morning - a tremendous gale had set off car alarms up and down the street.  The rain began, and the wind began to howl and whine and squeal through our (closed) bathroom windows and set the curtains on our (closed) living room windows flapping and billowing. (Living in an earthquake zone renders perimeter seals more of a theory than an actual thing. It doesn't help with the
contaminación either.)
            By ten this morning  the storm had blown itself out and settled down to a persistent, drenching rain. The streets and sidewalks were invisible - you could hardly tell where one started and the other stopped, because the platano orientale trees, which normally hang onto their brown leaves all through the winter, had had almost everything blown off at once!
            The poor concierges of all of the apartment buildings have had their work cut out for them.  Santiago possesses (in the spirit of possess insisting on too many esses) a mania for keeping one's pitch impossibly immaculate. A gentle autumn breeze is the concierge's bête noire- the most particularly dedicated sort will spend whole afternoons hovering just outside the front door, rake in hand, primed to pounce on each leaf as it drifts to earth.  It's personal.  

            Solid freezing rain wasn't going to put them off clearing their lawns.  No, Sir -
            But the rain fell and the leaves kept dropping, and wet sacks of sodden leaves in a sea of more leaves took on the most sad, futile aspect - 

            And by mid-day pretty much everyone had given up.
            Mr Tabubil and I splashed out through the rain and leaves up to our local supermarket, and came home and made the best brownies in the world and roasted a chicken and left the window open while we ate.  Fresh, clear air is worth dinner in down jackets, as often as we can get it!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Copa América

Anyone foolish enough to run out of dish soap on the day Chile plays in the final of the Copa América deserves what they get. The shops are bananas.
            With extra banana.
            This is the first time in 99 years that Chile has made it to the finals, and the whole city has gone joyous fruit-salad levels of happy.

This afternoon I needed to go hop the metro for a run to the divine Tostaduria Talca.  The metro was utterly mad- trains slow, trains interrupted, trains jam packed past the gills with vuvuzelas spilling out the doors!
            The streets were even madder.  Hoots, horns, every other male in a tricolor hat or Red National Team Jersey.  team shirt. No tacos (traffic jams) however; that would interfere with getting home in time for kickoff.  It was the politest set of crazy streets I've ever seen!
            The wooden shelves of the tostaduria (a hole in the wall paradise, home to the best nuts, spices and dried fruit in the city, and purveyor of  dry-goods otherwise unknown and unobtainable in Chile) - were bare and echoing.  Not a single thing that could be even vaguely considered to fall into the category of a snack product was left.  The staff were weary and pushing shut the doors - I grabbed three packets of pecans (Pecans! Pecans in Chile!) that had been overlooked in a corner, and bolted.
            Coming back, the metro was even more ridiculous, but no chance of a taxi - the few yellow-topped cabs on the roads waved me off - they were heading out of the city and home as fast as polite traffic would carry them.

So I went back down into the metro and patiently waited for a train - and sat and dreaded my next stop, the supermarket  - for dish soap  - where I'd been reliably informed that the queues were worse than Dieciocho (18th of September - Chile's national day) or Christmas.
            In the crush of the train, there was a young man beat-boxing with a microphone.  The sound was bouncing off the walls, gonging off our eardrums, but he wasn't busking - just riding so high on anticipation that not singing was entirely out of the question.
            The supermarket was worse than I could have anticipated. Checkout queues half-way to the warehouse, and carts piled high with cuts of meat, crates of booze, and house-size packets of potato chips like the world was coming to an end and it was potato chips that would see us through the apocalypse and out the other side.  More potato chips than I could have believed possible.
            And I walked home through waving flags and car horns.
            And my whole block smells like BBQ and beer.
            Life is tremendous.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Six Shots, Three months, Sleep.

All of them, backdated to yesterday. Or there will be repercussions. Morning breath - lots of it. All the time.

via. catmoji

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Introducing Surf Sounds: Poems by Roger Higgins

Today is all about a party invitation – 

I am very proud to be introducing Surf Sounds, the newest volume of poetry by Australian poet Roger Higgins!

Tonight we’re celebrating the book’s south American launch.  Please join us the Café Musetti in Providencia for an evening of fine wine and finer words!

Jenno, the fabulous new owner of Musetti has selected some seriously nice wines to sip on his primary-colored sofas, and the evening is going to be as solidly pleasurable as Roger’s poetry. 
Come on by!

Date: Thursday 23 April 2015

Time: 20h30 – 23h00 

Venue: Cafe Musetti, Santa Magdalena 87, Local 1, Providencia, Santiago 

Roger Higgins is an Australian who has traveled widely and lived in (alphabetically) Canada, Chile, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, and the USA.  Roger is an engineer by vocation, and has utilized his pen rather more than his camera on many of his travels, bringing together his physical and emotional responses to the environments and situations which he has encountered.  First versions may be written on paper napkins or pieces of paper tablecloths, the backs of boarding passes or the notes screen of a mobile phone. Roger has been published in both magazines and journals. His irst collection Hieroglyphs, was published by Friendly Street Poets 2008. His most recent collection Surf Sounds, is published by Liquid Light Press 2014.

Roger Higgins' poetry is both day by day and exotic. The poet washes his socks and jocks when he showers. He prefers description, narrative and irony to self-dramatization; there’s a lot more to Surf Sounds than ocean, beach and desert.
~ Graham Rowlands, Poet

Surf Sounds can be purchased through amazon, Liquid light Press and Lulu.