The Astromaid Chronicles

Slow Travel, Creative Living, and Speculation

Tag: ohio (page 1 of 2)

Beware The Onion Look-Alikes!

Shannon here, after a very long hiatus, after a very long and productive spring.

I have one message for you all:


What does this mean? you might be asking. Let me explain.

A few nights ago, Jorge wanted to cook a meat-and-veggie stew. He’s very good at these. It’s definitely something we’ve planned to offer in our eventual Argentinian restaurant. The sauce, the veggies, the meat, the spices–it’s all so very delicious and subtle and mixing.

However, when Jorge set out to make this stew the other night, he told (re: whined to) me, “But Shannon, we’re out of onion!”

“Go to Kroger and get some yourself,” I said. “You have a truck and legs. Go on.”

He didn’t go to Kroger. Instead, he set out to make the stew onion-less. I admit, I was a little disappointed. Onion makes everything better, for some reason. The same reason why I get a little sad when someone tells me they didn’t have garlic for a particular dish. Like, come on, people–these are basics. It’s a sad day when you run out of onion or garlic and can’t replace it.

But I digress. I was working upstairs in my office this evening at my newer part-time job, so I wasn’t around for much of the cooking part. When I came downstairs later to check in on all the tantalizing smells wafting upstairs, an exuberant Jorge greeted me.

“I found onion,” he tells me. “Look!”

Inside the pot, slices of onion simmer alongside potato, carrot and steak bits. I nod appreciatively. “Where did you get it?”

“From outside.” He swirls the spoon inside the pot.

I think about this. Duh. We have green onion outside in the planter, growing, healthy and green, lovely and onion-y! Of course! I take another look at it. But that bulb looks way too big to be the green onion I’d been cultivating. Those onion roots are usually slender and small. This root was bulbous and hefty.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm...delicious.

Small, slender roots of the green onion. Mmm…delicious. [Photo Credit:]

But I didn’t say anything. I figured, hey, what do I know? I planted those green onions last September. Their underground parts might have gotten very large in the interim. Who am I to judge an onion’s private soil bits?

Dinner was served. We sit down and enjoy a delightful stew. Everything was delicious–until I ate the onion slice. It was a horrible taste–so bitter and strange. I swallowed it down fast. I figured it was just one of those random disgusting tastes that sometimes inexplicably crops up in meals. Like, I dunno–a slip of the cook’s hand, something innocuous but gross, a weird bit of potato, who knows? Everything else tasted fine, so I didn’t think much of it.

Dinner ends, and I hurry back upstairs to continue my work shift. Meanwhile, Jorge cleans up downstairs, turns off all the lights and tucks himself into bed. I am working in my office for awhile, and about an hour or so after we’d eaten, I begin to feel really strange.

I’m dizzy. I’m unable to concentrate. And God help me–I feel like I could puke. I NEVER. EVER. PUKE, either.

“Jorge?” I call out. “I feel sick. I feel like I might puke.”

There’s a few second’s pause on his end. Then, he replies, like in a horror movie, “Me too. I really feel like puking.”

Three minutes later, while I’m sitting at my desk trying to convince myself I’m just hallucinating the nausea, Jorge rushes from our bed to the bathroom and begins puking his guts out.

“I love you,” I tell him feebly from my office, which is right next to the bathroom, while he retches his face off. “I’d come help you if I weren’t afraid of puking my guts out too.”

“It’s okay,” he tells me between heaves. “Stay in there.”

I wait for him to finish, intent on consoling him once he’s done retching. But once I hear the water running as he’s rinsing his mouth out, I feel a familiar sensation. A hot rush of sick barreling from stomach to throat. Dizziness, heat, and discomfort creeping through every cell of my body. I rush to the bathroom, put my face into the same toilet he’s used for the past ten minutes.

And I puke my face off, too.

“IT WAS THE ONIONS,” I wail as I empty the contents of my stomach. “THEY WEREN’T RIGHT.”

Later, once the puking has subsided slightly, he tells me the onions were slimy at the base. I google a little bit and read about others’ horrifying encounters with eating slimy onions. Vomiting, nausea, and the like. I feel distantly consoled. Like the internet is telling me, Hey, this happens to everyone. It’s okay. It was just bad onions.

I remind myself of this as I continue to vomit from midnight until 8 am every hour, on the hour.

Every thought about the stew I had eaten, or any form of any onion ever, makes me distantly nauseous, though.

Finally, I’m able to roll onto my side without puking around 8am, so I snag a few hours’ sleep. Once I’m up and about the next day, my first order of business is to uproot and dispose of all these slimy green onions I’d unknowingly cultivated. What horror in the garden! I storm outside, eager to upend all of these sinner scallions, to let them die a painful, shriveling death in the sun as a penance for our illness the night before.

When I get outside to the planter where my green onions were…I notice nothing missing.

As in, there are no green onions that had been pulled for yesterday’s dinner. Jorge had put something else into his stew. AND I HAD NO IDEA WHAT IT WAS.

When Jorge returned home that day from work, I showed him the green onion planter. “There’s nothing missing. What did you put in our stew, JORGE?”

He insisted it was onion. Onion growing on the side of the house. He gestured toward the back garden, the one up close to the house. The area of the garden where I had definitely, decidedly, never planted onion ever.

As we were walking down the driveway, he gestured toward a plant in the front garden. “It looked just like that,” he said. “Just like that onion there.”

My gaze landed on the plant. It was no onion at all. I never planted any bulb onion in my garden, front or back. I never planted anything but the slim, slender, totally innocuous, non-vomit-worthy green onion.

Jorge had pointed to the daffodils.

We ate a motherfucking daffodil in our stew.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Jorge pulled the daffodil in the middle stage, without the flower. Just when it looks exactly like a green onion.

Now it all made sense. Why else would we have puked our guts out like some modern rendition of the Exorcist: Food Edition? We had literally poisoned ourselves, as evidenced by any google search on Daffodils:

All parts of the bulb are toxic to people and animals, but the toxicity level is low unless you eat a large quantity. For example, a handful of bulbs is considered toxic, while one bite may lead to an upset stomach. If you accidentally ingest lycorine, you may begin to have stomach problems, such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain, as well as salivating, trembling, depression, convulsions and tremors. [Why Are Daffodils Dangerous?]

We had nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, salivating, trembling, and a whole lot of depression regarding WHY IS THIS PURPORTED ONION TRYING TO KILL ME?

Yeah, just an accidental dinner-time poisoning. OOPS.

Jorge felt horrible throughout all of this, I should mention. He stayed up with me while I puked the night away, and felt so badly for causing all of this terror from one simple stew. Once we found out it was a daffodil instead of a rotten onion, he felt even worse. Who harvests daffodils instead of onions? It’s a mistake anyone could make, I suppose, if you aren’t well-acquainted with your wife’s sprawling garden.

At any rate, we’re much better now, and definitely on the healthy side of our unintentional daffodil poisoning.

We’ve both learned what slimy onions can do to someone’s gut as well as the accidental daffodil, so I hope all of you will take all of these lessons to heart and avoid both rotten onions and perfectly good daffodils during your next home-cooked meal.

5 Things I Forgot About the USA

Pretty frequently these days, Jorge and I look around with wonder and think, How the hell did we end up here? Three months is all it takes to change hemispheres, get married, rent an empty house, and fill it with love and random crap you forgot was hiding in your dad’s spare bedroom.

To be fair, this isn’t the first time we’ve attempted such a feat. We did something pretty similar in Valparaiso, where we found an empty, four-bedroom house, bought a couple things to put in it, and set to work really making it our space, full of love, friends, and random crap I forgot I had been carrying in my backpack.

That is, after all, what it’s about. To cultivate home, wherever we are. Because this house will not be the last. Our lease will expire, our desire to be in OH might expire as well. Who knows where we will be in a year, or a couple years, or ten of them?

Nobody can say. But home comes with us, inside our hearts, inside our backpacks, inside the special touches that we add to make any space really ours, for whatever length of time.

But there’s something to be said for actual home. The place where my family and friends reside, that little place called northern Ohio. Unfortunately, those people don’t pack up as easily into my backpack, though I might be guilty of having tried once.

Cultivating home on the road is a special feat; one that is equal parts gratifying and difficult. By the same token, being back home, away from the road, is its own mixture of gratifying and difficult. And here are some of the top things I totally, completely, freaking forgot about since living pseudo-permanently abroad.

1.  DEAR GOD, THE ALLERGIES. Late summer is one of my favorite times of year. The cicadas crackle their special song, the evening sun hovers on that cusp of fall-time and July-time. Heat waves are delirious yet appreciated, because we all know winter is slinking up on us like a poison viper. And then, somewhere in late August, just when you thought life couldn’t get any more beautiful or spectacular…the allergies begin. FALL ALLERGIES, the bane of countless millions’ people’s existences. I tried to hold off as long as I could this year—first using nothing, then just the regular-grade Claritin, and then by early September, I broke. The pollen count exploded, and all those little allergen assassins reached up into my face and strangled my sinuses. I bought the Claritin that you can use to manufacture really illegal drugs, because that’s the only shit that works.

2.  EFFING CARS. I don’t mean the mere existence of cars on the road; no, no, the USA is a breeze when it comes to traffic and general rule-abiding on the road. Jorge has had a wonderful time driving around here, because not only do we use our blinkers, 95% of the cars are automatic transmission, so like, what are we really even doing behind the wheel? Basically just fiddling with the radios. Anyway, the point is this: being back here means I need a car, and having a car again SUCKS. As in sucks GAS, sucks TIME, and sucks MONEY. Jorge also bought a cute little truck (The Danger Ranger), and between our two cars, they’ve already both been in the shop at least once in three months. Here, body shops. Let me just give you a $5,000 advance right now, because surely you’ll be bleeding it out of me over the next few months as my car finds new and creative ways to completely foil my savings plan.

3.  Fall is coming! Yeah, yeah, pumpkin latte whatever-the-crap, but seriously, you guys. FALL. IS COMING. (Actually…hang on…*checks calendar* FALL IS HERE.) WHY IS FALL SO EXCITING AND INVIGORATING? The same reason why spring approaching is so invigorating, and summer approaching is so invigorating, and winter approaching is, well…an inevitable and soul-sucking portion of the year through which we all must struggle to survive. What I love about this region, and what was sorely lacking down there *nods discreetly at Chile and Peru* is the fact that we have four marked seasons, and they all are wonderful and special and distinct (yes, even winter), and that is so rare, and so lovely, and some people in the world don’t even know the crippling joy of transitioning from snow piles into the first blossoms of spring, and isn’t that sort of sad?

4.  The Corner Store is DEAD. This has a lot to do with all those newfangled automobiles roaming around the paved areas, and our general abuse of spatial organization when it comes to suburbia planning. Corner stores are, I dare say it, the backbone of Latin America. Are you in the middle of baking a freaking cake and have realized halfway through that what you thought was baking powder was actually salt? What about getting home after a hard day’s work, tired to the bone, just collapsed in your favorite chair, and you realize, Oh, shit! Nothing for dinner!

These are the times when the neighborhood corner store saves your ass. You walk 20 feet out your front door, and BAM—baking powder, bread, eggs, a small selection of vegetables, even some over-priced beers for dessert. (Just don’t get the deli meats out of that refrigerator that looks like it hasn’t been turned on in 20 years.) I miss this, deeply. Now, when I realize I forgot something, I’m looking at a minimum 45-minute endeavor between driving the car (which will probably find a way to cost me more money on the way) to Kroger, parking, perusing a billion different brands of the same product, navigating the traffic once more, and then finally making it home. Sometimes, the thing I need doesn’t even warrant the money or time spent in going back out to the store. This is a product of our far-flung lifestyles, especially in smaller cities or regions.  When everything is densely packed together, like in most Latin American cities, and even larger USA cities, getting what you need on foot is much more feasible.

5.  Nobody is touching. I still feel incredibly awkward when people enter my home or a general social gathering, and I am socially required to NOT hug them or physically acknowledge them. I hug my friends when I see them, so there’s no issue there. But what I love about the Latin American Social Warmth Policy is that this extends to EVERYONE—people you’ve never met, that random acquaintance you feel lukewarm about, your third-cousins-twice-removed, even your brother-in-law’s cousin’s wife who you maybe met once but can’t remember. EVERYBODY is embraced or politely kissed when entering or leaving a social space.

If this sounds uncomfortable or time-consuming to you, well, you know what? It is, at first. But after a while, benefits are reaped. And what it fosters is a greater space of acknowledgement—I see you, I recognize you, and you are part of this environment. I miss this when participating in social spheres here, because I feel like we Americans have a tendency to overlook people we ‘don’t know very well’, or pretend like we haven’t seen them/don’t care. Which, whatever, is fine. But this is why a lot of cultures describe us as ‘cold’. Acknowledging people around you, despite how well you know them, really makes you feel good—both for the acknowledger, and the acknowledged.

There are good parts and hard parts to every chapter, every place, every transition in life. The important part is that things feel and fit right–and here, back home among my loved ones and my community, things feel so right. 

IT’S GOOD TO BE HOME! Just expect a lot of bitching about maintaining a car again…

From Backpacks to Three Bedrooms

It’s September, folks! So that means a couple things. One, summer is beginning that slow grind into fall, the time of year that you invariably get stuck behind the slowest school bus EVER, when my father supposes he can shut down the pool right before a 90-degree heat wave comes through, and I wonder whether or not tanning is still a thing because of the tilt of the earth, or whatever (I’m guessing, yes).

It also means that Jorge and I have officially occupied our new home. Hallelujah! My gracious and loving father let us stay at his house while we got ourselves established in town, and having our own space to ourselves again is lovely (though we miss you and Storm, dad!). This means I can finally walk around naked for most of the day, and leave all the lights on that I please. I’m paying the electricity bill, so YES, I can afford the softly-lit-kitchen mood lighting! SCORE!

Okay,'ll look nicer soon, I swear.

Okay, well…it’ll look softly-lit soon, I swear.

Jorge and I are no strangers to occupying (and then un-occupying) homes and apartments for lengths of time. We’ve flitted between homes in Valparaiso, Chile, Lima, Peru and Cusco, Peru. And between them all, we’ve run the gamut of living spaces—from mini-apartments with about 300 square feet, to multi-bedroom houses with wood floors. This will be our first American home, and the differences are enormous.

Here’s why: there’s this little nagging gnat called a wedding registry that’s been buzzing around my head since the second we announced we’d be getting married. Most people look either shocked or totally relieved when I say we don’t have one. Others give me a knowing smirk, to tell me Yeah, I expected that. It’s not that we’re opposed to receiving help around our wedding time. It’s just that, accumulating lots of shit doesn’t help us right now.

We do need shit, though—don’t get me wrong. We need things to put in our house, and our kitchen, and our bathrooms, etc. We need those basics like a bed and a dining room table and toilet paper and a slightly inaccurate map of the world that makes Russia look like the largest mass of land on the globe. But all of those things were provided for when we moved into the house. Seriously—we amassed an entire house of necessary shit before we even moved in, and it all came from friends and family, or those friends and family knowing someone else who was giving away said thing for free, etc.

So between the generosity of friends, family, and strangers giving away their own STUFF that they didn’t want anymore (nothing purchased new, minus silverware and plates), we were able to outfit the entire house.

Majority of these things were lent or gifted. Imagine that!

Majority of these things were lent or gifted. Imagine that!

Talk about feeling blessed.

At the same time, it’s been hard. Because a couple years ago, I gave away all my STUFF (or most of it, at least). Having lived out of my backpack for the past couple of years, it’s been slightly upsetting to watch my possession count swell. To see that my backpack can be filled and emptied several times before the entire load is moved from one house to the next.

So this is why we will be asking for no gifts from our general public when the reception invites are sent out (which should be this week!). Wedding and reception gift-giving is about helping the new couple get on their feet, and it’s a lovely tradition that I have seen put into practice in an astounding way.

Without the directed and invested support from my family and friends, this type of move-to-the-USA-and-rent-a-house undertaking would be impossible. But part of the glory has been that we receive the help where we need it most—in cash, or used furniture, or assistance with our reception planning and wedding make up, or frequent runs between Dad’s house and New House to bring all those hangers I forgot, or a special trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick out my first (and probably last) set of silverware, and on, and on.

I’m not interested in combing through fifteen million objects at the local stores only to receive a bunch of hand towels and cutesy spoon rests that I don’t actually need.

That’s just a waste of our time, and the thought of showing up at Target or Penny’s and saying the words “I’m here to start a wedding registry” makes my skin crawl.

But that’s just me—because in our particular instance, we received a LOT of objects and items either on loan or gifted. And I cannot repeat it enough: I feel so, incredibly, stupidly, otherworldly blessed. And frankly, it’s not that important to me that my hand towels match a purported kitchen décor. Though I do admire houses that have a discernable decoration theme and demonstrate a lot of attention to those details.

Living in a house with three bedrooms isn’t directly contrary to the backpacker philosophy, even though we can’t pack all this stuff into one literal backpack. After all, we use these things every place we go—whether it’s Peru or Argentina or India, etc. Even though it feels like a weight with each new thing that enters our house, I remind myself that as long as I own the stuff and the stuff doesn’t own me, everything will be fine.

Not getting too attached to objects was one of the reasons I moved abroad in the first place. I wanted to sever those emotional ties.

Now I’ve got a pretty great chance to find out whether that lesson has been learned.

An Affair in Two Hemispheres: Wedding Woes & Wonders Pt. 1

Q: Where does an astronaut mermaid celebrate her wedding? In the deep azure sea, or in the twinkling reaches of outer space?


I’m going to be writing for a while about some of the aspects of the wedding industry, the way they make my gut grumble, and some of the more traditional aspects of our non-traditional approach. Something of a Wedding Series, if you will, but without the majority of the trappings of regular wedding stuff, like, you know…the engagement party, the wedding shower, the wedding party, the registries, the religious ceremony, the ring exchange, or the white wedding dress.

OK, that sounds like the bulk of what constitutes a wedding, but I swear we are actually doing some traditional things. Though, now that I think about it, the only traditional part might just be the marriage itself.

At any rate, I want to share our plan with you. And in a nutshell (or, in my case, a helmet), we’re going to be doing the deed, and doing it DOUBLE!

Both countries, both families, two very distinct and totally awesome celebrations.

Wedding Meme

The unfortunate truth is that our worlds are very far apart. The flight between Miami, FL and Santiago, Chile (a convenient airport to getting to Jorge’s homeland) is 8 hours alone. That’s not counting the additional flights between FL an OH, the layovers, the furtive Cuban empanadas consumed, nor the various ceremonies and magical spells needed to ensure all flights arrive on time.

Furthermore, it’s hard to travel so far. Not everyone is cut out for it. International travel involves a lot of preparation and a lot of MONEY. Most of Jorge’s family hasn’t been on a plane before, and arranging an endeavor of that nature would be extremely stressful. Some of his family members get anxious just thinking about a plane. It wouldn’t be fair to have only one celebration in one country. So we must have two!

But first thing’s first: Jorge and I are going to have a small courthouse ceremony this month to get the show on the road. Then in December, we’re going to throw a big bash in Ohio for all the friends and family that can make it.

In February, Jorge and I will be in Argentina to tie the knot over there the same way we did here, with an intimate civil thing. Days later, we’ll have a big party (in high summer, no less!) with all of his friends and family down there.

We both wish that it were more feasible to bring both sides together for one roaring celebration. Maybe if it were a matter of bus rides instead of plane rides, it could work out. Jorge’s mother so wants to meet my parents, but I’m not sure that will be a possibility. And it breaks my heart that our parents might never meet in their lifetimes.

These are some of the difficulties of finding your love in a different hemisphere. Will our families ever know one another? Can our friends hang out? Will our two communities ever have a chance to meet?

The answer is, unfortunately, probably not. Maybe here and there friends can visit, but on a larger scale, our worlds might remain firmly separated. If the flight prices weren’t exclusionary enough, the fact that all of his Argentinian friends and family would need to apply for a tourist visa makes the endeavor even less likely. If it goes anything like Jorge’s experience, they’ll be rejected, and flush both time and money down the drain via embassy appointments and paying the application fee various times until the approval comes through.

All money aside, it’s much easier for North Americans to visit Argentina than for Argentinians to visit the U.S.A. And that tiny detail packs a huge punch. It might mean that nobody ever comes up here to visit. And I can totally understand why.

These are the realities of an international relationship. When we are one place, we miss the other. When we are with one family, there is another family wishing we were with them. And when we are marrying in the north, there is a marriage waiting for us down south.

Despite the difficulties, we are literally trembling with excitement for all the celebrating that awaits us. There will be nuptials; there will be a reception on Lake Erie; there will be a Pan-American buffet (more details on the Ohio-side planning later); there will be a group trip to Argentina; there will be every manner of gaucho meat options; and there will be two marriage ceremonies in two countries. (I can’t wait to report back about the differences in bureaucracy!)

When we marry, not only will we forge friendship between two nations, our flags will also dreamily melt into one.

When we marry, not only will we forge friendship between two nations, our flags will also dreamily melt into one.

Next time on the Astromaid Wedding Woes & Wonders: The Dress!

Another Jaunt to the USA

Folks! I apologize for the lengthy and unexplained disappearance. While there were no mysterious fogs that consumed me, nor an unintentional overdose on ceviche, there WAS another trip to the United States of America.

And boy, was that joyous and action-packed!
It started with a harrowing all-the-worst-things American Airlines flight (two delays, flight switching, late boarding, engine failure, flight cancellation, hundreds of angry passengers and no way out of Lima, an inexplicably *closed* Lima airport???, passport stamp cancellations, long lines, sleepless night, to name just a few) that somehow managed to deliver me not to Baltimore as I originally scheduled but to D.C.-Reagan. I made it to my family by the hair on my neck, and we attended my cousin’s wedding as planned. A great time was had by all.

After a few lovely days in D.C. visiting family and the headquarters of my day job for the first time EVER, I flew back to Ohio, which began a whirlwind explosion of friends, family, and fall! 
There were dinner parties, shopping sprees, cleaning sprees, art nights, family visits…

…and road trips…

excellent time with soul mate friends…

good quality OHIO moments…

reunion of best friends…

this dog…

and best of all, a surprise 60th Birthday Party for my beloved father!! And he didn’t even suspect it! 

The time was, as always, a desperately fun and fast-moving, delightful whirlwind. By the time I felt settled in the USA once more, it was time to leave. The only thing that made my departure easier to bear was that a certain Argentinian was waiting (VERY patiently, I might add!) for me in Lima.

Experiencing fall in the USA again was, as suspected, almost too much for my fair Midwestern heart to bear. When I arrived to Baltimore in early September it was basically high summer still, though within a week or so it firmly switched to fall. I was able to drink apple cider, sometimes spiked and sometimes not, touch pumpkins, crunch leaves, and witness gorgeous tree transitions. The crisp fall airs at night, too, were appreciated.

And as though Ohio was making sure I left the country completely satisfied…the day of my departure, it felt exactly like spring.

Thank you, friends, family and homeland, for yet another delightful, inspiring, and nourishing visit!

Weather Whining and Other Truffles, Part One: EARTHQUAKES

Every place in the world has its own special terrifying natural event that will completely uproot the fabric of existence every once in awhile.

In Ohio, it’s tornadoes. In southeastern USA, it’s hurricanes. In Alaska, it’s snow and ice for 8 months and grizzly bears.

Haaay, Ohio funnel cloud!  Time to go collectively shit our pants.

But down here? In Chile, the natural disaster of choice is earthquakes.

When I first moved to Chile, I didn’t really know a lot of earthquakes happened down here. That was mostly due to my own ignorance. But then as time wore on, especially once I moved to Valparaiso, I would hear comments like, “Did you feel that tremor last night?”. And I’d be confused. Because I never felt any tremors.

They usually occurred at night. Strong enough to feel and comment on — for most people at least. But I slept through them.

In retrospect, this doesn’t surprise me. I hit Snooze roughly 8 times every morning without knowing it, and I sleep so deeply I always had a sneaking suspicion I could sleep through the ground moving.

But I felt gypped. If I live in earthquake land, I want to at least recognize that something is happening with the ground and seismic and tectonic and stuff.

You know what they say…Ask and you shall receive.

Approximately three months ago, I started to feel tremors. And it is not as fun and thrilling as I thought it might be.

It is terrifying. It is counter-intuitive. It is completely jarring. It is a cold fear that creeps across your entire body, starting in the pit of your stomach and going in all directions at once. It is a horrifying realization of ‘Where…the hell…do I go?”.

And to be perfectly honest, I still haven’t even felt a big earthquake. All those feelings right there? That’s just from tremors.

Tremors make me think this is happening below me.

The first tremor I ever consciously acknowledged was during the day — about 5-7 seconds in length, enough for me and all my roommates to run into the common area and scream “OKAY, NOW WHAT?!”. That was about 3 months ago. But about three weeks ago, they started increasing in frequency, and all at night, around midnight or 1am. There were a couple small ones. At this point, nothing to get ruffled about.

But then about a week ago, there was a big tremor. And when I say big I mean the thought crossed my mind that this would probably be the time I had to go crouch in the doorway and crap my pants like all my Chilean friends had instructed me (well, they instructed me on the doorway part, at least). I was prepared for more, like let’s get ready to hear glass crashing and steel warping because the earth isn’t just clearing its throat, it’s vomiting.

That little tremor on March 6th, 2014 turned out to register 5.3 on the Richter scale. Nowhere near the earthquake that hit Chile in 2010 (8.8) or in 1960 in Valdivia (9.5, also the number one earthquake since like, the earth was born).

This happened in Concepcion in 2010. This was at the epicenter.

Let’s just restate the obvious: I cannot imagine what either of those feel like.

The tremor on March 6th inspired me to write a goodbye email to my family, just in case something happened and they never heard from me again. I mean, hey, if enormous seismic activity were to strike three days after that and they never heard from me again, I’d be happy I had the foresight to send them a little bit of love before I was gulped into the earth.

But, that hasn’t happened. And though it could, I’m not sure it will. Valparaiso is pretty dang prepared for this sort of stuff.

Every place is prepared for their own natural disasters, after all. While tornadoes would have a field day with everyone here, in Ohio we got that covered — BASEMENTS. But no basements in Valparaiso! Yet if you turn the tables — earthquakes in Ohio? — you’re screwed. Buildings aren’t prepared for that sort of movement the way they are here in Chile. These buildings are BUILT to sway, rock, tremble, move and otherwise resist up to something pretty high on the Richter Scale.

After all, my house is still here, and it’s way older than 2010. It survived the effects of that 8.8 earthquake, and the cracks in my kitchen prove it. There was a battle — but the building won.

CHILEAN STORY TIME: A good friend of mine, a porteno (i.e. from Valparaiso) named Bernardo, has lived here his whole life — and lived through the 2010 earthquake personally. I pestered him with questions recently, fascinated to know what an 8.8 earthquake might feel like compared to the measly 5.3 sneeze from the other night.

Bernardo told me that he remembers being woken up in the night, and his first thought was that it was just a tremor — like they usually are. But it didn’t stop after the normal amount of time. And it kept getting stronger. And stronger. And then he got out of bed, and noticing the floor was undulating. Like the waves in the sea. His ears were filled with the sound of creaking, grinding, crunching. Light bulbs started to explode.


My thought in response to an earthquake used to be get the hell out of the house, go outside and plead helplessly into the sky, but according to Bernardo this is not the recommended course of action. He says it’s best to go for doorways, but if on a higher floor of the building, GO DOWN — and then to a doorway. That way, if roofs cave in and things otherwise collapse on top of you, the doorway protects you.

That night, he was on a higher floor of a multi-level building. So he bolted for the stairs. And on his way downstairs, he saw the staircase moving back and forth in the air, which he says looked like the stairs were dancing. Bold and fearless (I’m imagining him like a superhero in his pajamas at this point), he careened (or perhaps hopped like a character in a video game, because this is what it’s sounding like by now) down the staircase, crouched in the doorway at ground level, and waited.

It finally calmed down. And once it did, the next phase of events began: the streetlights flickered out, water lines began to explode. And what remained for him was the moon, which seemed to hang low and huge, enough to illuminate the night even without electricity.

But the earthquake protocol doesn’t end there. That night, Bernardo stayed at his house (with no light, and no water). But people in other areas of the city — specifically, closer to the sea — were abandoning their houses and fleeing upward into the hills.

Because, you know, that’s just one of those things you have to think about after an earthquake on the ocean coast.


These Chileans are seasoned veterans when it comes to earthquakes. The tremors that make me write goodbye emails to my family are they same ones they laugh at and roll over to go back to sleep.

Though it’s just part of really living in a region.

I think back to plenty of severe thunderstorms in Ohio, evenings that went from sunny to pitch black in ten minutes, the heavy weight of humidity and pending doom in the air, something close to funnel clouds in the distance, and me, sitting on the front porch watching it all with a glass of wine and enjoying the cool breeze of the rainfall while the tornado siren wails tirelessly in the background.

Maybe Chileans there would be wondering about basement protocol.

But we Ohioans know what’s scary and what’s not. We know to wait for that unnerving stillness in the air.

It’s all about where you grow up.

Greenwich Vs. Candelaria

I know I already wrote about Candelaria, the tiny pueblito from whence my boyfriend comes, but there’s more to be said. For this round of Contemplations On My Boyfriend’s Hometown, I’m going to compare Candelaria, Argentina to Greenwich, Ohio (the village where my mother and the family were raised).
It deserves this extra post because when I went there, I was intrigued by how similar the place feltto the hometown of my mother, aunts and uncle. The more I got to know the city, the more weird similarities I found.  And then when I started researching deeper, the similarities multiplied like single-celled organisms and this blog post was born (or perhaps spawned spontaneously).
Population Background: Candelaria’s population according to Jorge is around 3,000 people. Greenwich’s population estimate for 2012 was around 1,500. calls Greenwich “100% rural”. Interestingly, has nothing to say about Candelaria.

Realtime Family Background: All of Jorge’s family was raised on the outskirts of Candelaria (not even seen in the map). Jorge is the youngest child and was the first child to be born to electricity in the house in 1986. Three out of his five siblings continue to live and raise families in ‘downtown’ Candelaria (two left for the capital city). Of the four children my grandparents raised in Greenwich, all left to pursue families and careers in other cities and states. All of them were born to electricity in the household throughout the 60’s and 70’s.
Other Facts: Candelaria (in the state of Ayacucho) was founded in 1870; Greenwich’s first settler arrived in 1817 but it was formally incorporated in 1879. 
Now let’s get to the good stuff…

Valley Beach vs. El Muro: Looking for a fun summertime spot to while away the blistering Ohio/Argentinian peak weather? Valley Beach sits about 15 minutes outside Greenwich in a city called Norwalk, Ohio; and about a 15 minute drive outside of Candelaria sits El Muro (in English, “the wall”) in Quines, Argentina. Both are dedicated to daytime grilling, summer passage of moments and cooling off in bodies of water. Valley Beach features grills scattered along the landscape, while El Muro has one dedicated asado center which looks more like a mausoleum. Valley Beach is flanked by deciduous forests, and has cement pools with an exciting array of diving boards, slides and ancient ropes for swinging into said bodies of water. 
Valley Beach: Whoo Hoo, Childhood!

El Muro, however, is flanked by the unimpressed and unmoving  face of the Sierra (Andes mountains); bathing options include natural rivers and inlets that end in a waterfall that apparently everyone knows not to go over (lifeguard usage is unknown). Editor’s Note: El Muro would be expressly forbidden if it were in America.

Totally fine and permissible unsupervised waterfall area
at El Muro in Quines, AR.

Another view of El Muro — truly a spectacular daytime hangout.
Mausoleum-style asado area not featured here.

The Green Witch vs. La Heladeria: Need a spot to cool off, sit down and eat some damn ice cream? Both countries got this one. The Green Witch in Greenwich kills two birds with one stone, allowing patrons to both buy ice cream AND wash all those sweaty summer undergarments at the attached Laundromat. 
Best dang Oreo Flurries in the land.
Not so sure about that peach shake, though. 
Or whether it doubles as laundry detergent.
In Candelaria, the local Heladeria offers no such multi-tasking efficiency, and their tasty treats have nothing on the Green Witch’s exciting array of both hot and cold consumables (note: does not include the laundry detergent next door). La Heladeria only offers about 10 flavors of ice cream. Both establishments are run by the daughter of someone your grandparents are close to, and both maintain that weary air of one regretful owner trapped in a small, dark room amongst the whirring machines in the peak of summer.
Well, it’s better than nothing, I guess.
In true first-world problem style, it looks like you’ll have to
wash your sweat-encrusted unmentionables outside of the establishment.
Soy Vs. Soja:  Candelaria’s list of growables (and whatnot) includes: berries, watermelon, wheat, soy, corn and potato. The town also has a startling amount of sheep, cows, horses, goats, and chickens.  Jorge’s family alone deals with the majority of these items. Most of the people operating these farms and businesses are recently immigrated Italians or purebred Argentinians (which means, of course, partially Italian, and prone to excessive gesturing and consumption of Fernet).  
Farmland in Candelaria, Argentina.
In Greenwich, the production is mostly the same—soy, wheat, corn, hogs, chicken, and dairy operations. The majority of the farms fall outside of the village limits, and are run by one of two camps: the Mennonites, or the Children of People Your Grandparents Taught.  
The sprawling farmlands of Ohio.
Siesta Vs. The Food Coma: Americans don’t participate in the siesta (basically translates to “socially acceptable adult nap time”) on a cultural level but for a couple times a year: July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Shannon, what the hell are you talking about, you might be asking. I’ve never taken a siesta in my life. But you have, my dear American friends! The American Food Coma is the closest approximation we have to the siesta. And I point out July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas as the most definable moments of when you overeat yourself into a coma and then crash on grandma’s couch for a couple hours afterward. And in Greenwich this occurs without fail, especially for July 4th celebrations and that ridiculous amount of GMZ Deviled Eggs/Potato Salad/Anything Fried from the Downtown Festival.
The Siesta in Latin America falls between 3 to 5pm (give or take), and occurs after lunch—right when you were getting sleepy anyway. This works out in Candelaria because that time of the day is also the hottest – and we’re talking a heat where even if you wanted to do something, you couldn’t. Air conditioning is not utilized. Add onto that the ridiculous amount of rural, home-cooked Argentinian food, plus red wine (BECAUSE IT’S ARGENTINA), and, well…you’re looking at waking up in the early evening with a thick layer of sweat and a desperate need for a shower.
America Smalltown vs. Argentina Smalltown: Both towns in question feature population’s small enough to allow easy face recognition for anyone that passes by, along with at least one juicy bit of common knowledge family history. Whenever I call to the local floral shop to order surprise flowers for my grandparents for a variety of occasions, I only need to say the first fifth of the address before they exclaim, “Oh, you must be the granddaughter of…!” And while the residents of Candelaria might remember me for awhile due to the fact that I am gringa and have dreadlocks,  I heard plenty of similar exclamations amongst locals while I was there: “Oh, you’re the second cousin of…!” And as in much of smalltown America, in Candelaria as well the weather is the first topic of conversation – always.
Another big difference?
Greenwich and Candelaria hit summer at opposite times of the year.
January 14th: high/low in Candelaria: 96F/67F, winds N, sunrise 6:31AM, sunset 8:32PM.
January 14th: high/low in Greenwich: 42F/24F, winds SSW, sunrise 7:53AM, sunset 5:26PM.

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