Chile: Part Two

I’ll tell you first that I’m grateful that I didn’t die or even get injured in the earthquake I was in.  I wasn’t near the epicenter. I didn’t lose anyone I love, or my home or even a house I had grown to love because I walked by it every day.  Hell I only lost power for part of a day.  There are  a million (2 million they’re saying right now) people who had their lives changed in terrible ways when this quake struck.  I wasn’t one of them.  My story is a small one, but it seemed important at the time, and the only head I’m really inside is my own.  Forgive my self-absorbtion in advance. I’m a tiny stick-figure of a person.

A tiny stick figure under a house of cards on a wobbly table.  It always surprises me- and it shouldn’t- how fragile our little shells are.  How much they are not geography, even if our minds come to lean on them as if they were.  My house is no less real to me as I come down the back stairs than if I were on a mountain path and my house were the mountain.  It seems inviolable and permanent. I try to imagine some times where the ‘home’ that’s filed in my head as a real and permanent thing would go if my address burned to the ground.  Kind of like wondering where the soul of someone you knew very well went when their body died.

But even the mountain path and the mountain are less permanent than our minds can easily accept.  I say this not to be poetic or dramatic, but because it’s part of what made my little experience in the Chile earthquake so very hard.  It isn’t that I was killed, or saw someone killed.  It’s that I was reminded how tenuous our grasp is on everything.  I didn’t die, but when I was standing in a too narrow street under sparking electrical lines I realized I am going to die.  Even if it’s not now, I will die.  I can die.  A mountain can move, the earth can shrug off entire tracts of land.  That can and does, and will happen.  It  opens up a box of complicated ideas and thoughts that I find make it hard to function in the world I share with people. It doesn’t get opened up often without trauma, and I’d rather it didn’t get opened up at all.

Santiago

Landed around 9 this morning.  Vibrating badness from the right wing quadrant was a little alarming to many of the uninitiated on board.  The attendants on LAN weren’t much concerned.  We landed, so I guess that’s the important part.

Overnight flights in coach suck.  We were packed in there like smelly little sardines.  And let me tell you, by the time morning rolls around, that plane and everyone on it stinks of effluvia.  Not good.

Annie is happy to show us around her new town.  She’s newly self-confident and seems to be perfectly comfortable chatting in her second language with almost anyone.  Remarkable when you think about it.

We picnicked at a sculpture park and got to watch a young couple lay on the grass and make out for at least a half an hour.  They just laid lay lain on the grass and were eating each others’ tonsils the whole time.  I think I would have been about done with that action in about a minute.  Annie says it’s because young adults all live with their parents and so they have to make out in public places.  But do they have to do it for so long?

We’re having an ongoing tension about what Diane and I need to do to stay healthy.  Annie is of the school that we should pick things off the ground and neglect to wash our hands because we’ll build up resistance more quickly.  I am disinclined to take her advice given the medical problems she has had on her way this this new found sturdiness.  We’re only going to be here ten days.  I don’t want to build immunity.  I want to avoid getting sick. That’s my plan.

My camera doesn’t turn on, I’m thinking my new batteries aren’t so good.  If I get it going, I’ll take pics to post.

HAL Micro-loan

We have a family in our neighborhood.  The patriarch is old and not in good health. He lives with his son, his daughter, her husband and the daughter’s two kids.

They have an immense trampoline in their tiny back yard.  Only a few parents allow their kids to jump on the trampoline. The family spends a lot of time in the summer sitting on the retaining wall or the porch, watching the neighborhood. They don’t just watch it go by though, they wave and say hi and smile.  The greeting isn’t always warmly returned.

The older boy (Todd) graduated from high school and usually works the State Fair and some maintenance jobs for the city during the summer.  He’s heavy and outgoing in a kind of earnest way.  This winter he’s been shoveling for some money.

A neighbor friend of mine got an idea which he brought up during one of our regular (unscheduled, but some how regular) card games. “That kid wants to work. He’s got nothing to do in the winter. I’m sure he’d like some money too. What if we all chipped in and bought him a snow blower? He could get more done faster and he could pay back the loan by doing their snow clearing. ”

It was one of a million ideas that we’ve thrown against the wall, but this one stuck for some reason. Part of it might have been that I knew someone who was pretty down on their luck and needed to get rid of a snowblower in exchange for cash. We got a good deal. Andy bought new paddles and spent a couple miserable hours putting them on to get the thing in good working order. Our initial investment was about $200.00.

We put the idea out to the larger neighborhood group and it was incredibly well received. In the end 18 neighbors donated money.  They each donated 15 dollars. We had enough money to pay for the machine and parts, plus money left over to buy a gas card for Todd.   I made a list of who donated and their addresses. We had money left over so I bought a fuel card from Super America.

In the meantime, our buddy Gary went to talk to Todd and see if he was interested in this deal: He’d get the machine and the gas card.  To pay back the “loan” he would do the front walk of everyone on the list once (across the sidewalk and up the front walk to their door).  After that, he’d be free to hunt customers or sit on his butt.  It would be his enterprise.  Todd thought it sounded like a pretty good idea.

Today is the first day we’ve had real snow since the kid got his snow thrower. I’m really pulling for him. I’ll let you know how it goes with this project.

Update number One:

Turns out Todd is out of town on the day of the first snow.  Had to update the hood about that. After sending that email out, Todd’s mom and her husband came around with shovels.  They wanted to get going on getting Todd’s stuff done while he was out of town.