Avocado Republic — 29 September 2014

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“The Avocado Republic of Chile, Because it’s too Cold to Grow Bananas” is Chile’s ultimate tour guide.  Laugh-out-loud funny and insightful.  American writer sick of the pollution and noise in Santiago moves to the country for peace and quiet.  What he did not know is when you move to the country, you exchange one set of problems for another. Click through the arrows to read.

The Avocado Republic of Chile Chile Independence Day Dust and Dirt in Rural Chile
Chaos at the Local School The Market Earthquakes
Love and Romance in Chile The Chilean Concept of Time My Vegetable Garden
The Compost Pile There is no Heat in Chile Drinking Burgoyne
Chilean Food is Boring and Bland Rodeo in Chile The Caretaker
The Cactus Garden Watching the Southern Skies Oscar’s Adventures
Things Fall Apart Argentina’s Dark Culture Rene, the Communist
Chewing Coca Leaves The Mapuche Conflict Cuasimodo


Walker Rowe

29 September 2014.

I am reading the manual for a Fensa natural gas stove trying to figure out why the oven does not work. This is my second attempt to take it apart, put it back together, and try to get it working without blowing myself up. I have never seen a gas oven, only one that has burners on top with an electric oven below.

I thought Fensa came from Korea or someplace where they know how to manufacturer things. But this I think was made in Chile. If that’s the case then no wonder it does not work.

Chile manufacturers practically nothing. Instead the entrepreneurs here build mines and dig copper from the ground. Chile has the world’s largest reserves of copper. But this year the price dropped below two dollars per pound causing the businessmen to fret that the economy was slowing. Duh. If you build your economy around one natural resources and the demand for that falls off then the economy is going to sink.

I went to visit a winery a couple of month ago, Casa Romero, and they told me they could not find workers to help with the harvest. They had all gone to work in the copper mines where the pay is sky high. Now the demand is going in the other direction and copper miners have returned to the vineyards.

I ask why Chileans don’t they make wire out of copper or batteries out of lithium instead of just digging it up from the ground. They say wages are lower in China. Well, that was true before, but not anymore.

The few things Chileans do make, fall apart.

In the developed world there are regulators who oversee safety standards. But not here. I bought a convertor to convert electricity from 110 volts to 220. It started smoking and would have burned down the house if I had been sleeping.

Along McIver Street in Santiago there are lots of shops that sell lamps. None of them work. A lamp is just some wires and a switch, so how can it not work? Out of maybe 6 I bought there, 4 quit working.

Here in Curacaví I bought two brooms. I bought a second one because the brush on the first one I bought fell off before I could even get it in the house. I tightened the brush and then the aluminum shank bent if half. Why don’t they make them out of wood, like the blind in the Lion’s Club do in the USA? Because wood costs more. Why would someone have such little pride in what they do as to make the cheapest possible product that cannot last even one day?

Why don’t Chilean’s put screens in their house? When spring turned to summer my house filled with flies. This is probably because I have a dog and a cat and both my neighbors have horses. Or it could be that they are looking for water.

The bighting mosquitos called Zancudos you can defeat with Raid. But not flies are not bothered by bug spray. I bought a can of Chilean bug spray. The can ruptured and doused me with kerosene and Malathion. So I went back and bough the America brand Raid, which does not fall apart.

Then I made my own screens.

The Fly Invasion

Oscar has no screens; he doesn’t even have a window. His living room window blew in and shattered. The wind here in this canyon is that fierce. Oscar was too lazy to fix it for 3 months. It’s still broken. So zancudos I am sure have covered his family with welts and flies bother them all day. I don’t know why his wife doesn’t make him go fix these things.

Oscar lived on this lot, in the other rental house, for 8 months before I moved here. He did nothing to clear the mountain of debris that bulldozers had piled at the bottom of the lot when Sofia built these three houses. When I moved it, I cleared all that myself and put a vegetable garden there. Now I am growing vegetables, building a rose garden, planting bougainvillea, making a rosemary and lavender hedge, and planting a cactus garden. I have also planted ground cover succulents that should spread all over.

I kidded Oscar about how lazy he was not to have reclaimed that land. I must have wounded his pride, because he put in his own garden after that. But there’s no flat land here except for the bottom of the lot, which is mine now. So Oscar built his garden on a hillside. So when he waters his tomatoes, the water runs downhill.

Oscar also has a trampoline that he bought from Sofia. It too is located on a slope. When his kids bounce on it they are not catapulted off the mountainside, as he has managed to perch it atop a tiny spot that is level.

Oscar then decided he wanted a pool. We are reminded here every day in summer, as the heat bears down, that we have no pool. The family down below has a pool and their kids splash in it all day long. When I first heard all that screaming, I thought they were sacrificing virgins. Chileans, after all, descend from the Incas and there is a Pentecostal Church down there.  Dixon said I could use the pool on the next farm.  He is looking for a horse for me, so we doing are a little business as I will pay him to keep it there.

Anyway I asked Oscar where he planned to put a pool since we have no flat land. He said he would put it on the hillside. I laughed and asking him if he was going to put in a wave pool. After the first wave passed through, his kids would be washed over the side.

It wasn’t a permanent pool but a plastic one. The kids swam in it for a week and then the water turned green. I told Oscar he needed to put chlorine in it. I took my tape measure using the formulae π * (rʌ2) * h and calculated that he had 2,000 liters of water. Then I got a bottle of chlorine. The label said that it was 5% sodium hypochlorite, which is what kills bacteria in the water. You need 5 ml of 5% chlorine per liter of water to clean a pool. So Oscar needed 0.005 liters * 2,000 liters = 1 liter of chlorine.

But the bottle was sold by weight and not volume. It was 1 kilogram. A kilogram is weight not volume. I was confused because of my lifelong use of the American system of quarts, pint, and gallons.

Evidently the Chileans are not at all confused about this. I told Maria Jose that she needed 1 KG of chlorine and she said, oh,1 liter. I told my wife the same thing and she also said 1 liter.

Now, I studied math in college and continue doing that as a hobby. Chlorine is not water. It does not have the same density. One kg of water equals 1 liter at 20° C, which is what makes the metric system symmetric and easy. I am still stuck on that puzzled how 1 kg of chlorine could be one liter. It cannot. So it must be the case that the bottle was not 1 liter. I don’t know since it only lists the weight on the label.

Anyway, all of this was an academic exercise as Oscar just dumped the water out rather than rid it of the green color.


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