There has been quite a bit of rain in the arid northern desert region of Chile this week. The amount forecast was “moderate,” but the amount that fell was disastrous. As of today, ten people have died as a result of flooding, and dozens are still missing. It is a disaster on top of disaster, since a volcano is already erupting and there are 40 wildfires burning in the south. 

Everyone is talking about how awful it is. Kids at our children’s school have family members who work in the mining industry up north, and within 24 hours of the start of flooding people were asking what we were going to do as a community to help out. 

Chileans are great at mobilizing individual contributions in the face of disaster. As I mentioned, this country is no stranger to the whims of nature – be they fire, flood, earthquake, or something else. Schools, churches, companies, and neighborhoods are gathering supplies to send north. Ryan suggested that this level of solidarity exists because most people here have lived through some sort of emergency themselves, and I agree. 

Our school is doing a “lightning campaign” on Monday and Tuesday to collect toiletries, diapers, blankets, and big jugs of water. I took the photo above at the supermarket yesterday. You’ll notice that there is plenty of water, but the bottom shelf – where they typically stock the 5 liter jugs we are being asked to send north – is picked almost clean (and yes, that lone jug found its way into my cart). I saw three other people in the diaper aisle doing the same thing as I was; namely, buying a few packs in different sizes, clearly not for a baby at home. One lady’s cart was totally filled with an assortment of diapers and formula. Unless she runs an orphanage, she was buying that stuff to send north. 

Stores across the country are selling out of the water jugs in particular. So many people want to do something to help. 

The government has been criticized for being unprepared to deal with the disaster. As I drove home from the store, I listened to two commentators hold forth on the radio about their view of the crisis. One said that she found it “ridiculous” that people in Santiago should be buying water and sending it to the north instead of the government being equipped to supply the affected regions with aid. 

I can certainly see her point. But what she’s missing here is that people have an almost urgent need to collaborate and do something tangible to ease the suffering of these people. Yes, Chile could use a few more helicopters and a strategic supply warehouse. But the human impulse to give? That’s far from ridiculous. 

Well Understood

Tonight is the last night of summer vacation. Our sweet lovies start back to school tomorrow. The Big Girl will be in kindergarten, with big chairs and big tables and four textbooks – and feels a big responsibility to visit her teachers from last year every day. The Little Boy has expressed his deep hope that this year, he will fly a hot air balloon at school. I hate to disappoint him, but…

Ryan and I made it. We survived the summer. We had many wonderful moments and made some beautiful memories (more to come on those), but I personally struggled a bit with parenting. It was a lot more “togetherness” that I’m used to. And let’s not forget that parenting little kids is just…hard.

Which brings me to this.

The readings at mass today fit together nicely for my current state of mind. (I love it when that happens.)

First reading: the Ten Commandments. At least five or six of them should be pretty familiar to most folks today, even those who don’t hold the Jewish or Christian faiths. But I will freely admit to having memorized the version that appeared in my Catholic school religion textbook, and not having spent much time with the actual scripture.

Here’s the part that caught my attention: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may live a long life in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you.” (emphasis mine!)

Let that sink in.

Gospel: Jesus drives out the people doing business in the temple. Fr. Jim Martins has a really nice reflection on the depictions of Jesus’s anger in the gospels (read it here). The passage ends with the news that many saw him and began to believe, but that Jesus “would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

I take a deep breath. And despite the long days, and the bickering, and the threats of being locked out of the promised land… somebody gets it.

Flat Visitor

Flat Visitor

Do you know Flat Stanley? Stanley is the protagonist in this delightful book about a boy who is accidentally flattened (and unharmed), and then he’s able to mail himself all over the world. Teachers have been using Stanley to help teach geography and world citizenship for years. Students often make a paper version of themselves to be mailed somewhere and returned with information and pictures of their flat self’s adventures. I first encountered Stanley living in San Francisco and my flat nieces and nephews started arriving to be photographed in front of the Golden Gate Bridge and sea lions at Pier 39.

Last week, Flat Edda from Boise, ID, came to visit us in Talagante, Chile. Unlike San Francisco, Talagante does not have a lot of distinguishing landmarks, architecture, or animal life. It’s kind of a farm town. So I really had to think about what is interesting in Talagante, something that makes it different from Edda’s hometown. Then it occurred to me, something that we almost take for granted now, having lived here for six months.

We headed to the feria (street market).

The feria happens three times per week on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. Typically our kids do not love to attend the feria for a variety of reasons.

First, there are a few vendors with cheap plastic toys and knock-off Disney coloring books, and we never buy them those things.

Second, the streets are almost exclusively filled with adults, especially at the weekday markets. Since our kids are still small, they are often unseen and get bumped into a little bit because people are looking at items for sale at the stands, not looking down where they walk.

Third, it can turn into a good bit of walking for their little legs, so Krissy or I inevitably carry Caleb for a decent chunk of the time.

This time when the kids and I went to the feria they had a welcome distraction. They were to be Flat Edda’s tour guides. They helped me choose most of our photo locations.

Caleb finds something he’d like to take home from the feria.

The result was a good learning experience for my kids. They took more notice of the sights and sounds around them. Maybe they realized that this is a pretty unique part of our experience living in Chile.

And since Flat Edda was such a great guest, we took her to the park, too.