Monday, May 19, 2008

It's Been a Looooong Time..............

Since my last post, things have been really rocking along. Let's see, first I was not able to ride in the 2007 Hotter'n Hell 100. Unfortunately, I had to travel on business that week... Santiago, Chile. Poor, poor pitiful me. ;-)

The South America trip was a neat deal. I was down there for the first time setup of the High School Musical ice show. I performed the structural analysis on the stage lighting roof grid. I was asked to make the trip to verify that it was put together and loaded the way we intended. The country is beautiful. The city has a very interesting feel mixing old world and modern.

The people are reasonably friendly, but are very non-plussed by Americans. While not as unfriendly as I understand the French are concerning the barbaric, English-speaking Americans, they have no interest in even trying to understand English. Rightly so! I was in their country and needed to make the effort to make myself understood in Spanish. I only wish that immigrants to our country would have the same consideration. I did fairly well at recalling the Spanish I learned in high school and at construction sites. Making the effort, however haltingly, to speak the language, had most people acting pretty friendly. Only a few of our party knew much Spanish. Sadly, I was the most frinedly. There were a few comical misunderstangs, but no tragedies. I think that if I were immersed into the language and culture, I would be fairly fluent in a few months.

The one thing that made me stand out most was my size. The Chileans are the most uniformly short of any people I had ever been around. The Mayans in southern Mexico are shorter (sub 5 footers), but there are plenty of other, larger, Mexicans around to even it out. Pretty much everybody, male and female, was about 5'-2" and about 130 pounds. The people also had fairly uniform coloring and features. I was told that this in large part due to the fact that the racial mixing happened a long time ago. The Spanish and the natives interbred centuries ago and there has been relatively little influx of other groups since. The Andes and the ocean prevent casual crossing of the border by other South Americans. I am a 6'-3", 240-pound mut. I literally stood out in the crouds. A few women on the subway would turn their children away from me as if I was going to hurt them. I actually asked one taxi driver where he guessed I was from. He said that if my Spanish was better and Chilean accented, I might have passed for one of the members of one of the few European enclaves living in Chile. Otherwise, he would have guessed me to be from the Netherlands. I've always assumed I looked overwhelmingly American, but since we Americans are muts, that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

The least appealing part of the trip was the very open attitude of the Chileans to sex and any of several alternative lifestyles. There were what amounted to pornographic photographs on the front page of the paper at all the newstands. One set of parents had no problem with their little one thumbing through a pornographic magazine. I'll grant that I am from the American South and am a conservative Christian. This colors my perspective. Even so, the fact that children are so apparently typically exposed to that makes me very uncomfortable.

I had one day during the trip to see a lot of Santiago. I traveled around the town with one of my clients and his wife. We traveled via the amazingly clean subway to many (though by no stretch of the imagination, all) parts of the city. We went to the old town square. We saw the ancient (by New World terms) main cathedral. It was a beautiful piece of architecture. We went to the main museum outlining the history of the city. We went to a very modern mall. We ate at typical Chilean restaurants. We ate a McDonalds. We ate at a Brazilian churascaria. We even ate at an English pub. Now let me tell you, the Chilean interpretaion of already bad English food is really bad.

When I was to leave, the plane broke. Yes... broke. When they went to start the plane, it fried the electrical system. We were pushed back an entire day. So, we had a day to go tour some of the amazing wineries in the countryside within 50-60 miles of Santiago. They were tucked into the foothills of the Andes. The scenery was beautiful and the wine was amazing. The shear amount of land under cultivation for grapes was amazing.

As for the rest of the last year: work has been very busy and profitable; our family has had a lot of fun together; our kids of done amazing things in and out of school; and I have managed to fit in a decent bit of riding, if not as much as I might have wished. I'll expand on the other family happening later. I'm tired of typing at this point.