Progress Isn’t Cheap

It’s rainy season in Valparaiso again. Torrential downpours for three straight days means no sun. No sun means no solar power for the house for a little while. We’re fully stocked with cut wood for the wood stove, soup fixings and enough red wine to keep us warm and happy. Unfortunately though, our work schedule doesn’t allow us to be indoors all day as we would like, installed in front of the wood stove and instead must venture out into the rainy, muddy days. An added bonus is the fact that our car is again in the shop being fixed as it turns out the ‘great mechanic’ we had here in Laguna turned out to be a real jerk and a bad mechanic when our car’s engine almost exploded last week. What’s new.

But it’s been much worse. Two years ago this month we were entering the beginning of the hardest time down here (and that pretty much lasted for a year). Progress has been measurable.

June 2010 started off with me changing employers and starting a new, intense English project with LAN Chile (the airline). Hubs had just quit his job and began coming out to the property in Laguna Verde during the week to build. He would return to Santiago on the weekends to shower, wash his clothes and get a break from his construction diet of potato chips, beer and peanut butter sandwiches.

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My husband officially got a little help (for 4 days) when it came time to do the framing for the house. Juan, a neighbor and the ‘resident sector security guard’, worked very slowly but conscientiously. Hubs didn’t know if he could pay him the entire sum for his work at once, so he suggested he might have to pay him in two installments, half upon completion and half a week later when he got his next check. He brought this up on day three of work and Juan seemed to not take it well. So, as hubs felt like he had made a deal and he owed him the money, he went to the bank, took out the money as promised and paid up in advance to keep him happy. The next day Juan disappeared, never finishing the work we paid him for and leaving hubs to finish the roof alone.

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We had had beautiful weather up until this point going into July 2010 but in the back of our mind we knew any day the rains could start. We needed to get the roof on ASAP to protect the newly set floors and the frame from swelling and warping. The bad news was that our savings was non-existent and since we had both switched jobs and had a little lag time in between last and current jobs, not much money was coming in either. So, we did what any resourceful person would do – we started selling our belongings on the street. Our English and Spanish books were sold on a blanket outside our apartment in Santiago (thankfully books in Chile are expensive,) and even my husband’s beloved Canon digital SLR camera had to go. He sold that to a pawn shop in downtown Santiago for 120,000 CLP which was just enough to finish the roof we so badly needed.

Entering August 2010 the roof was up but there was absolutely no money to spare. Food during those months was rice with soup packets (even for poor Japhy the dog) and the occasional free dinner from friends. We begged family members at home for help too and they were gracious and thoughtful enough to help when they could. Without some of those Santiago friends and family at home (or friends at home that seem like family,) we wouldn’t have made it through the first year, I’m sure of it. Any extra cash we had went straight into the house for paint or extra panels to complete the sides of the house.

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Slowly but surely, we were making progress.

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