Dear friends and loyal followers,
It took me quite awhile to recover from the Peace Corps reunion in Washington on September 24, the subject of my last posting on this blog. But we are about to head south to Santiago again, on January 12, for a nice long stay of three months. I have gone back through all my prior postings, and find that I have promised to follow up on several interesting themes, but have yet to do so; like oysters, mussels, earthquake recovery, some special wines we have heard about and want to try, and of course the continual search for old friends, colleagues, and haunts from when I was with the Peace Corps in Chile.
In the runup to the reunion on September 24, I received many interesting letters from others who spent time in Chile, with stories that deserve some research to determine at least approximate veracity, but also an update on circumstances around the people and places those stories relate. Peace Corps volunteers Larry Rector, Tom Scanlon, and Brian Loveman have written books about Chile over the years since their Peace Corps service, and I would like to visit their sites and see what they are like now, compared to what we hear about them as long as 45 years ago; especially Trovolhue where Brian and his wife helped a town move their village to higher ground to avoid annual flood waters from the river, and the area in the Araucania region of southern Chile where Tom wrote his letters home that served as the basis for his book “Waiting for the Snow”.
Also, Jim Dungan, who now lives in the Temuco area on his farm, wrote me a very long description of how he, when he was a Peace Corps Volunteer, was pretty much responsible for introducing Radiata pine to Chile. Since this introduced species has become the basis for a very successful forest industry sector in Chile (and the target of the environmentalists ire for contributing to the “sterilization” of the Chilean countryside), I would like to get Jimmy D. around a bottle of Chilean tinto and delve deeper into the true story of how this tree came to Chile.
And speaking of introduced species in Chile, we have made much of the role the US Peace Corps played in the introduction of salmon, as class of fish that has also, along with Radiata pine, resulted in incredible economic growth of an export product and a whole leading sector of the Chilean economy. But, some of the stories are short on details, so even though I have promoted the positive aspects of what has gone on in Chile with the introduciton of salmon, I would like to spend time visiting with long-time Peace Corps marine biologist counterparts I knew several years ago in Chilean Universities, like Alfredo Cea and Juan Carlos Castilla, if I can find them.
It seems there was one Peace Corps Volunteer in Valdivia who became a member of the community band that played in the town square every weekend. He is remembered not only as a friendly “gringo” who wanted to be part of his town, but also for the instruments he brought from the US and donated to the group. Just before the September reunion, we received a note from one of the band members, remembering fondly the Volunteer who lived up to the best people-to-people dimension of the Peace Corps. I would like to share a pitcher of iced white wine with peaches, clery, with this old Valdiviano and get a bit more flavor of the town band.
The last time I left Chile, I sat next to a New Zealander who has lived in southern Chiloe, near Castro, where he raises oysters, clams and mussels. He invited me to visit him and see how his operation has grown and how he is trying to raise these bivalves in an environmentally sustainable way. This visit is high on my list for this trip to Chile, if for no other reason than that I was so impressed with the New Zealander green lipped mussels when I visited that country for my Godson Joaco’s wedding, that I am sure this guy can do wonders with Chile’s best mollusks.
So, you have been forewarned….there will be much more coming. But I want to try something new this year. I am acceding to the oft-repeated suggestion that my postings are to long, and have decided to try to post more frequently, but shorter pieces. We shall see how that goes.
Until then, Happy New Year. I hope to see all of you in 2012, but if not, at least an occasional exchange of views and high thoughts.
Un gran abrazo,
Posted in Panama City, Panama on December 28, 2011