Sunday, January 14, 2007

the heat in la granja

It's summer now, and whether I've learned the conversion from farenheit to celsius yet or not it doesn't really matter because I know it's hot. Hot enough to fry an egg on your head? Maybe. Or maybe just hot enough to put a fried egg on your head. It's a different kind of heat than in Chicago, where you lie in your little bedroom at night nearly drowning in your sweat with a fan in the window that's really doing nothing because the houses are too close together to stir any kind of air circulation. I lived in a 3-bedroom flat once on the second floor with two friends, you know the kind, with the bedrooms in a row along one side of the apartment, the front room, the dining room, bathroom and kitchen in a row along the other side. During the worst heat we would all pile into the middle bedroom, the one with a bay window, and try and make a wind tunnel with two box fans, forcing the stagnant, heavy air, sopping with humidity, to move through my friend's room. I remember when she borrowed another friend's window air-conditioning unit. We had sleepovers every night. But here in Santiago the heat is drier and it's directly related to the presence of the sun. During the afternoon, specifically between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, you don't want to do anything except hide in the shade somewhere and eat ice cream. I can't say that I've been eating a lot of ice cream (mostly due to budget constraints) but it's surely what I'd like to be doing. These Chileans, they love their ice cream. Before, I thought I understood but I never really understood why certain countries have a history of closing down for ciesta during the afternoon and pushing all their meals around-- but now I completely get it. You can't breathe in the afternoon sun let alone think about eating. I just ate dinner at 10pm and finally I can sit down in the computer room and do some work-- and it's after 11. Without the sun, the temperature drops to I'm not sure what but something much more agreeable. And while I still wake up in a sweat, at least I can go to sleep at night.

I've moved out of Hogar San Francisco for the summer as the girls have traveled to the sister hogar outside of Santiago. I will be working instead at Aldea Maria Reina for a couple of months directing another photography taller with some girls there. When I'm not at the Aldea I will be working here in Domingo Savio, where I am living, on some videos for VE to use to explain who we are to potential donors and volunteers. I'm not sure what will happen in March yet when the girls return and Club begins again the this community center Domingo Savio. A lot can happen in a month and a half, a lot more than what used to seem to happen in a month and a half back in Chicago. I like that. I like the fact that I don't always know what's going to happen each day, that I have the time to enjoy what I'm doing, that there is stimulation and challenges in nearly every activity in the day even if I'm just asking where the dustpan is, for example, because if I'm asking where the dustpan is I'm asking in spanish, and I might not know that word yet. Except I do know the word for dustpan, pala, because I have to know the word for dustpan as we use the dustpan all the time.

Domingo Savio is an interesting place to live. In the comuna of La Granja, it's very different from living in the city center at San Francisco. You are likely to hear all your reggaeton favorites (hello, Daddy Yankee) blasting as if it were coming from your radio at any hour of the day (and night)-- listen here. I can walk directly across the street and buy fruits and vegetables at one house, including perfectly ripe avocados, and I can walk to the corner house where there's a little store selling milk, eggs, butter, and "Sprim", a lovely powdered kool-aid type product affectionately called juice. Around the corner the other way is a panadería where I like to buy bread, cheese, and yogurt. Nobody has screens here on the barred windows which are always kept open as well as the doors. You end up feeling like you are outside even when you are inside, a sentiment which seems to be mutual for the various bugs and currents of dust that seem to feel very welcome in our house. I mind the bugs, but I don't see them as much as I see the dust. You sweep, you mop, you may even polish with the crazy polishing machine that breaks your back as you bend over to use it, but still, inevitably, the dust returns. It doesn't give up. I'm beginning to think it will always win. Even though we try, we try. We have two dogs that live with us but really one can escape through the bars when she's not pregnant, which is a problem because then she becomes pregnant, which is why we have been caring for her latest batch of 8 perritos. I wish I could say they are cute. They are cute, but really they are quite ugly. Probably because they are a product of (I'm so sorry to say) the one dog in the world I don't like, Nasha, the mother who can fit through Domingo Savio's, and some random street dog that hangs out in La Granja. I can't say that street dogs are really dogs either; there are some of them that break my heart, but others are so disgusting I'd like to disinfect everything I own only after just looking at them. Nasha, when not getting pregnant outside of Domingo Savio, hangs out with Jackie, our other dog who is primarily black and a lot cooler and larger then Nasha. They still are outside dogs, however, and not exactly the kind with which to cuddle. One day past volunteer Max took 44 ticks off of Nasha-- I don't remember how many were on Jackie. Jackie likes to sit on people chairs and to listen to our conversations through the window. This is not an easy task for two reasons: one, she is a big dog as must contort her body in a strange way to balance on the chair and two, I don't think she can understand our conversations. But she likes to try anyways, and she does it all the time. I don't blame her, really, with a playmate like Nasha... nobody likes to feel alone all the time.

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