Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Get Ready, get set, POSE!

I recently had the opportunity to attend a yoga championship. I know! Isn't that an oxymoron? So, being the curious creature that I am, I felt I had to be there to better understand what a yoga competition is.

So here's the breakdown of the rules:
  • They have to complete a set of seven poses (five standard and two optional) in under three minutes.
  • They are judged on a scale of 0-10 per posture.
  • They can't fall out of the posture or they get marked down.
  • They must try to get as close as possible to the standard posture.

In response to many queries about why one would even have a competition for an activity that is considered spiritual and internal, a woman talked about the fact that this competition was more of a challenge to the self. They are all not "really" competing against one another (though there is a winner). Really, they are competing against their limits. Testing how far they can go.

Below are the photos of the coolest frickin' postures I have ever seen in my life! These are the poses I practice when I go to Yoga class but I never look this good doing them.

Finger stand

Hands to Feet Pose

Toe Stand Pose (incidentally, i actually did this pose in class--I know, I find it hard to believe as well)

Bow Pose

Standing Head to Knee Pose

Half Moon Pose

Standing Bow Pulling Pose

Spine Twisting Pose

I believe this is a variation on the standing bow pulling pose.

Camel Pose

Bow Pose

So there you have it! People contorting their bodies in an effort to...contort their bodies. Simply fascinating. I stayed for three hours but eventually even this got boring and left before they announced the winners. But these were my favorite of the contestants. I hope one of them won.

Maybe in a few years I'll compete too.

Que te vaya bien!

C in C

Summer Christmas Eve

Well, here it is, Christmas Eve in Chile. While the Chileans are outside frantically searching for those last-minute gifts—or trying to close up their register before another frantic shopper comes racing up to their lane—I am here in my house writing this blog. In three or four hours, I will be heading to Kanke’s parents house to spend a very weird Christmas Eve swimming in their pool, drinking wine and trying my best not to zone out when I don’t understand their conversations.

The Chilean tradition consists of a dinner and then opening presents at midnight to correspond with Jesus’s birthday. I asked my professor where Santa came into this tradition, and he said his dad would sneak out after dinner, pull all the presents onto the front porch, ring the doorbell and run.

I have been avoiding the whole thing like a plague. Summer Christmas isn’t any fun!

As much as I’m happy that I’ve survived four months here, I feel like this last week has been just hard. And it’s not that I haven’t been going out and meeting with friends—on the contrary, I’ve been out every night of the week until one or two in the morning. It’s just that I realized recently that I’m a visitor here. And these people are really not my people. As much as we try to bridge the cultural gaps between us, as much as I enjoy spending time with my Chilean friends, as much as I love learning new things, I am American, with American ideas and American culture, and I wish I could have been home for American Christmas. There’s nothing like living abroad to make you love your own country and your own traditions.

The silver lining to this week has been a long phone call with my best friend who did a very good job of reminding me of who I am, what I want, and why I’m here (Thanks J!) and several packages from my parents, including a long letter from my mom. The tiniest connection to my friends and family has felt like a weight lifted from my shoulders—that I am not alone…just really far away.

The other silver lining is all the fun I’ve managed to have in between moping sessions.
The last five days, I’ve been out and about, meeting with friends who are on their college breaks, practicing my Spanish, and attending a Carabineros (policemen) ball.

Below are some photos from the Ball. It was in a beautiful location on La Reina hill with a gorgeous view of the city. The men were dressed in their special uniforms, the women wore dresses ranging from cocktail dresses to full ball gowns. I managed to have an okay time.

Here I am with my date, Carlos. And below, it's me and Carlos again!
My roommate Caitlin acting crazy with her crazy date Claudio.

Our dinner table of Carabineros, the ladies in front and our dates behind us. I told everyone to act really crazy. I guess for carabineros, this is as crazy as you get.

Tomorrow, I head to Peru for a Christmas adventure. It will be my first time flying on Christmas Day. Should be super fun!
So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I've got a really great post for you coming up in the new year about the yoga championship I went to but it'll take a while to put together which is why it isn't written yet.
Enjoy your holidays! Cuidate mucho!
Que te vaya bien,
C in C

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rapa Nui Dancing and the Mavi

With all the Christmas weirdness here (wilty plastic wreaths, no smells of pine in the air, the sun shining a perfect 75 degrees) and with my roommate now headed home for Christmas instead of south with me, I've decided that a fair bit of denial about Christmas is in order. Instead, I will show you photos!
My Rapa Nui dance class ended last week, and I managed to get some photos due to J's cousin who visited class one day. Thanks J's cousin!
Nunu is the girl in red--our teacher. She's a native pasquence (native to Easter Island or what they call Rapa Nui). And behind her is of course me.
Here I am with J! She's headed to Rapa Nui this Christmas...I'm jealous.

I just thought this was a super cool pic!
The gals doing the circulo (circling their hips).

Another group shot...
Then, on Sunday, as I was wandering around Lastarria, I found an museum hidden in the back of a beautiful courtyard. Even better was that since it was Sunday I could get in for FREE! I spent an hour or more wandering around four floors of really interesting art. I snuck a few photos in for your viewing pleasure.

This art piece was part of the youth recycled art collection. This one is a beautiful landscape scene made entirely more interesting painted on a canvas made of cardboard layers glued together.
This one was a photo by a Columbian photographer (I think--sorry about being vague on the details, I was just so excited to take the photo without being yelled at). I just love this photo. What a contrast between the type of woman advertisers are trying to sell (a woman who buys a lot of their clothes and make up) and the real woman standing in front of the ad. I think the real woman is beautiful.
And just for as a model for Kanke's dresses. Me in polka dots...I never thought it would happen!

This one was my favorite of the dresses, really a good fit for my body.

I also went to a Yoga competition which was so darn fascinating that I'm saving it so that I can dedicate an entire post to stay tuned!

Que te vaya bien (did you know I can finally say this without stuttering? I know, it's so cool!)

C in C

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Four Months is All it Takes

On December 12, I will have been in Santiago for four months. Four months. A quarter of a year. A solid chunk of time.

As I walked to the corner store to stock up on honey and fruits, I considered my four months here. And it came to me that four months is my mark. I now know that four months is the amount of time it takes for me to move from my home country to a foreign country and feel like the foreign country is home.

I know this by a few important indications. These indications might be something that applies to everyone who makes an attempt to live elsewhere, but since I don’t know everyone, I’m claiming these ones as mine:

Indication #1: I’m dreaming of something other than Chile.
The thing about living out one’s dream is that suddenly there’s space for new ones. Currently I’m dreaming of becoming Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote Eat, Pray, Love—basically someone who writes their personal stories and gets paid for it! I feel like I have trained my whole life for this career as I have something like fifteen to twenty journals chronicling my dull years of 13 through now. This dream of course means that I will be needing a second career to earn a living until I become like Liz.

Since this idea has come to me, I’ve spent many evening hours trying to research magazines where I could write personal essays. So far, I have found one magazine offering $35 per essay…if they accept it. Being like Elizabeth Gilbert will be slightly more difficult than I originally thought. But I am not deterred.

Every night when I stay up till 1am writing and have trouble sleeping because I’m so excited about it is another day that seals the deal for me. There’s nothing else, besides friends and a good solid dance party, that keeps me up that late.

Indication # 2. I feel lonely.
I feel lonely but it’s a different kind of lonely these days. Not nagging homesickness, but a familiar loneliness. The kind I felt when I had my own editing business and spent many hours wandering the small hall of my apartment, trying to get through 400 pages of a mediocre manuscript. Freelancer loneliness has found me. This has strangely buoyed my spirits. It means that instead of the feelings associated with travel (survival thoughts of food, clothing, shelter and transportation), the feelings associated with living have come to call.

Indication # 3. I’ve yet again decided I need to exercise more.
I love to exercise. I’m either walking or running or dancing or yoga-ing at least four out of seven days. But my mental health depends on all seven days occupied with exercise. I know this. So this thought of exercising is like a slightly annoying yet dear friend coming to stay—comforting, sure, but you kinda wish she’d leave. (I might have to exercise more to get rid of her).

Indication # 4. I don’t pay attention to metro maps and signs anymore.
This one is funny. I’m so absentminded these days on the metro, that sometimes I get on the wrong side of the tracks and head in the completely opposite direction of where I want to go. Or other times, I’ll be so excited to continue my day, to get home, to be somewhere, that as soon as the doors open, I step off the train. It’s only when the doors close behind me that I realize I have exited two stops early. When I first got here, I was so worried about going the wrong direction, but now I know how easily fixable such a mistake is. In fact, it’s so easily fixable it doesn’t really seem like a mistake at all but rather a pleasant detour on my daily journey through Santiago.

And so, after four months, I am here. All of me, including all the worries and familiar thoughts that have consistently followed me here, like invisible balloons permanently tethered to my head.

In some way, I kind of wish I left some it at home. But I guess we don’t just bring our good parts with us when we travel, do we?

Where ever we go, there we are.


Que te vaya bien,
C in C

Monday, December 8, 2008

Museums and Dinner Parties and Modeling

I thought I would take a detour from all these deep revelations and just show you some photos of what I've been doing lately.

Below is this really ostentatious church that rises from the modern streets like a magnificent piece of cake.

Then there is the terribly ugly Christmas tree in front of La Moneda. The red balls on the tree all have the Coca Cola logo on them.

This is the great La Moneda, the center of the governement.

Below La Moneda is a museum which is where I went to see the Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition:

Frida Kahlo in my opinion was much more twisted than Diego's work. This one below is Frida with a mask over her face.

This one was a portrait of Luther-something. Note the the roots connected to the body in the ground. Weird!

In contrast, Diego was much more of a "realist" though he did like to change the size of things. These flowers are actually really much smaller than the woman in real life--there was a drawing of his original intentions with this painting. I've seen as a print but it was only standing right in front of it that I saw he had made the flowers enormous.

He also exaggerated women's eyes in his portraits. An example of this is below. Note the banner above her head--both Frida and Diego did this in their work. It has the title of the work on it.

I also thought it was interesting to see that Frida had many drawings of Diego but on the Diego side, we were shown many portraits of women (who weren't Frida). I wondered whether this was a reflection of a dynamic in their relationship.
I've been trying to get the perfect shot of the parrots (parakeets?) that live in the park. Below is finally a shot that shows how green its feathers are.

Then, for Thanksgiving, I decided to have a small dinner party. I've been learning to cook, so I made veggie sushi rolls, guacamole and veggie lasagna.

Here I am with my first veggie lasagna.

A close up of the veggie rolls.

Kanke, my house mate, is a clothing designer and designs clothes out of recycled materials and sells them in her clothing store. She asked me to model some of her creations. Here's me in a really fun dress.

She's made cowells to sell in San Pedro (the Atacama desert) where they often where this style. I had a hard time figuring out how to wear them but this was also lots of fun.

So, I guess that's it for now. I stayed up late last night hanging with friends as today was a religious holiday here in Chile so my ability to write anything more interesting is at a zero.

Hopefully I'll be more inspired--and awake--tomorrow.

Que te vaya bien!

C in Cs

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Blunders of an Overachiever/Perfectionist...and Then Forgiveness

Trying to be perfect sucks. It’s taken me thirty years to admit this. I’ve had plenty of time to try to be perfect, and of course, I’ve failed miserably (as all overachiever/perfectionists eventually do).

My overachiever/perfectionism started in early childhood. When I was four or five, I was learning to make my bed. I dreaded it with a passion because, unbeknownst to my parents, I was spending toddler-hours making sure the sheets were perfectly smooth. I had tried to smooth them with my tiny hands over and over, but wrinkles remained. Can you imagine a five-year-old trying to make sure the sheets had no wrinkles in them!

I remember the relief I felt when Dad showed me a trick: you could put the sheets together with the blankets and pull everything over the bed at the same time. And—get this!—wrinkles were okay. If I had learned to accept wrinkles in all areas of my life, perhaps this story would be different. But it’s taken me a long time.

My attempts to be more “wrinkly” with world began about a year ago, coinciding with a realization that my life was no fun and filled with too many chores/work/responsibility. With the help of some of my more wacky friends, I attempted to cast off my normal mode of being consumed by details, to reject the responsibility I normally embraced. I am sure this will be my lifelong project because I have slipped many times into super organizer mode since then.

Recently I felt I had a breakthrough coinciding with my blog entry about the wild dogs that attacked me. You can imagine the conversation I had with my parents afterwards which stopped just short of “Get your ass on a plane, young lady! You’re grounded until you're fifty!” All parents must wish for the ability ground their children well into adulthood.

So, my breakthrough was that, for the first time, I actually admitted that I had made a huge mistake to myself and to them. What a relief to be able to say to my parents and to myself, “Hey, I’m human. I messed up.” Perhaps the dogs scared me into humility, perhaps church has made me aware of the beauty of asking for forgiveness, but suddenly, I found it easier to say “I’m sorry” and mean it. I found it easier to forgive myself for mistakes, and conversely, forgive others theirs.

This newfound power to apologize and forgive has helped forge a new friendship with A that I would not have attempted at any other time in my life. Perhaps you could say I was a fool for accepting his apology, but there is something magical in the act of forgiveness, in the power to forgive, in the healing of being forgiven. This concept has made me reevaluate my judgments regarding the choices my friends have made, especially in the areas of love. Perhaps forgiveness is an important part of love that I have overlooked. Perhaps it is the most precious of gifts—after all, it can be the hardest thing to ask for and the hardest thing to give.

I recently found out that the girlfriend of my Chilean friend, C, had cheated on him. The cheating had happened three months ago, but I could see it still hurt him, that forgiving is not the same as forgetting. Of course, his friends and family were not happy that he returned to her. Though he had forgiven her, his friends and family were not so willing. C is a relatively new friend of mine, but I felt the same way, a reticence to forgive this woman who had hurt this incredibly kind man. I had a heavy heart that day. At the same time, I was very proud of him too, for his ability to love and forgive in the face of betrayal. Maybe some might call him a fool, but we could learn from him too. His act of forgiveness might strengthen their love. But if that love breaks, he can walk away knowing what he's made of, knowing his own inner strength.

Well, that's all I got for now...please forgive the amateur philosophy. I hope you enjoy and find it in your heart to forgive a little today too.

Que te vaya bien,
C in C

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm thankful for things I'm thankful for

At first I wasn't going to write a Thanksgiving blog, because I never like to feel forced to be grateful. But then I thought about it, and I do feel grateful, so why the heck not write about feeling grateful on Thanksgiving day?

First of all, I feel incredibly lucky to be in Chile at all since it seemed like such a distant dream when I first began thinking about moving here. Sometimes I have to stop and I really in Chile?

I am absolutely and positively grateful for this house and my roommates. I have everything I need a walk or metro ride away. And when I'm home, I get to talk with Kanke and Caitlin who are two wonderful, understanding, insightful, powerful women. I am especially thankful for Kanke's cooking lessons and Caitlin's supply of library books.

I'm thankful for the job I have right now. Finally, the perfect amount of working!

I'm thankful for my camera and my computer and my ipod; the electronics I knew would keep me sane and give me something to do when I felt lost.

I'm thankful for all my friends, back home and now scattered throughout the world, who have helped me feel less homesick with their emails and phone calls.

I'm thankful for my family and their compassion and concern.

This is of course a very short list and I could continue, but I'm also thankful for feeling sleepy, so I will leave you with a thanks and a goodnight!

Happy Thanksgiving!
C in C

Monday, November 24, 2008

Cajon de Maipo Part II

Continued from Part I

...I wanted to be prepared for anything...

As I made my way up the mountain, slipping and sliding in my stupid tennis shoes (what was I thinking!), I thought of the stories that my parents had told me: our neighbor falling and hitting his head and having to be led out of the forest by his son, their friend going off on a morning run without telling them where she was headed (fool!), people found wandering in the forest after being lost for weeks. I reasoned that the front desk knew I was going up there, though, now that I think about it, they wouldn’t have missed my absence, just the absence of the key they had given me to open the gate into the private habitat.

My opportunities for gorgeous shots were plenty—the silver lining to this dangerous hiking trip.

With map in hand, I wound around the hills and through groves that contained millions of cicadas. I’ve been on so many hikes, I’ve lost count, but I have never, in all my life, heard and seen this many cicadas. They were so plentiful, they roared like a cataract. I walked through the bushes and would disturb the branches, making thousands of them fly up and around my face. When they’d pass by my ears, it would be like a motorcycle driving by my head. I was totally grossed out. I ended up covering my ears while I walked.

I made it to the top, called Mirador, far past where I had expected to walk. Again, the views were amazing:

It was not until I began the hike down that I realized that my tennis shoes were going to be the death of me. I fell twice on my butt, both times catching my body with my hands. I felt my wrists take the impact of my body, and I was thankful that I had been doing push ups (though the girl kind) every day and yoga. I would have injured my wrists had my arms been weaker. Scratched by every kind of thorny bush that seemed to all exist on that cursed mountain, hot and sunburned, dusty and now slightly bruised, I was very ready to get down the mountain, at any price.

I was almost back to the bridge when I heard the dogs barking. I saw two of them around the corner and felt relief. I figured someone was walking their dogs up the hill. But then, something about the way the dogs were barking at me made me stop. There was no human with them. These dogs were not the lovable kind. I stared long and hard at them as I slowly pulled my pack around and pulled out my pepper spray.

Then one ran right at me, its teeth bared, growling, low to the ground, hunting me. I stared because I could not fully understand what was happening. Were these coyotes? Were these wolves? Some kind of unidentified fox? They didn't seem to be dogs; they were so wild.

I had heard that if you ever see a mountain lion you’re supposed to make yourself look as big as possible so I pulled my backpack above my head and roared. The dog backed away a little but saw that I had not hurt it and began its attack again. I screamed, I cried for help, I growled. It was then that I really felt I was in trouble. They were blocking the trail down the mountain, and I had no energy to go back up. I didn’t want to back away for fear I would trigger their attack drive further. I knew I couldn’t outrun them. I had to go through.

I don’t know why I didn’t use the pepper spray right away. I guess I felt it was a last resort. It would be admitting just how much trouble I was really in. When the second dog joined the first and tried to circle around me, I knew it was time to use the pepper spray. My hand was shaking terribly. It was me or them. I sprayed, first a little spritz because I had never used the pepper spray before. They only backed off a little so I sprayed more and prayed that the wind wouldn’t blow it back in my face. Little by little, they gave way, and I inched forward, them still barking with a ferocity I had never seen in a dog before. I never turned my back to them, and I had my eye on them for a long time as I walked down the mountain. I was ready for a surprise attack through the trees, for them to silently hunt me. But the pepper spray had begun to burn their noses and eyes, and suddenly I was more like a skunk or porcupine, not worth the effort of the hunt.

I felt strangely numb after that. Shaky. On edge. Around the bend, I came across two cowboys coming up the mountain on their horses. Why hadn’t they heard my cries for help? I tried to warn them in my bad Spanish.

“There are two dogs up there. They were barking at me. They attacked me.”

The guy said, “Those are perros vagos. They are friends to man. They bark but they don’t do anything.”

I couldn’t believe that was all he said. I said nothing, but I thought, “Friend to man when man has gigantic horses with him, when a man isn’t a vulnerable woman alone on a hike.”

The reaction was the same at the registration desk. No reaction at all. I felt like they thought I was lying. Or wondered why I was complaining if I was standing there completely unharmed. I wouldn’t have even bothered but I was worried they would give that same bullshit line to some other woman alone. Would she have pepper spray too?

Given the reactions of the employees there, I felt like maybe I had dreamed the whole thing, except for my upper lip which burned from where I had touched my face after using the pepper spray. Traces must’ve been left on my hand.

I walked back to the hostel, weak, tired and embarrassed. After a quick shower and time spent reading quietly on the patio, I went to the pool. As I swam in the pool, surrounded by the few families and couples there, I felt more lonely than I ever have. My traumatic hike, which was supposed to be a triumphant solo experience, had only served to remind me that I was alone and 30 and not capable of doing everything on my own. Or maybe, it proved that I was capable of doing everything on my own, including defending my life, but it made me acutely aware that I didn’t want to do it alone.

I didn’t want to do this life alone.

I wanted more than anything at that moment to find “the one” and just be done with this whole single business. Traveling alone was never in my dreams. It has been a product of my determination not to be limited by being a single woman and circumstances that have led me to singlehood.

I was in such a state by that night that I found myself staring at the ceiling of my hostel bedroom, thumbing through my music on my iPod and wishing A would call. Wishing anyone would call.

But, as I listened to some of the fun and lighthearted music I had downloaded just before I left for Chile, I was reminded again of my New Year's resolution to have more fun. It was then that I laughed. It was the first time I had laughed since I had arrived, and the sound surprised me. This was such a ridiculous trip! I was not having fun here! This trip was a bust!

This simple idea helped me fall asleep that night. I decided that the following day, I would go on a horseback ride if I felt like it (and if there were going to be people), and if not, I would go home and forget all about this trip.

Luckily, I met some Jehovah’s witnesses who were staying in the cabins in the back of the hostel on Saturday morning. They spoke English and were from America, and I felt so happy that I decided I would sign up for the horseback riding after all. I thought it was appropriate that I was given the horse named Milagro (or Miracle). I felt that it was a good sign.

We took the same trail I had hiked the day before. I wanted to see those dogs again, only so I could prove that I hadn’t made them up. But soon, I forgot about the dogs and focused on making sure my horse didn’t walk off the mountain. Considering my experience the day before, I wasn’t sure of anything anymore.

By the time we returned to the hostel, I was feeling much better. Human interaction is so important, isn’t it? This is me with one of the horse guides, Leo.

I decided to stay Saturday night as I had originally planned and spent the rest of Saturday at the pool and in the back of the hostel reading.

If I had been stressed before I’d left, the reading and the pool would have been the perfect weekend. But it was too tranquil for me…and when it wasn’t tranquil, it was traumatic. I was either fearing I would die from mauling or my horse tripping off the cliff or that I would die from sheer boredom.

Several lessons have presented themselves to me which I will recap here:
1. Don’t hike alone (yes, mom and dad, you did tell me so).
2. Don’t go to camping-like resorts alone (it’s really, really boring).
3. Sign up ahead of time for group tours and activities (see number 2 when in doubt).
4. Just because I am physically capable of doing something, doesn’t mean I should do it. (see number 1 when in doubt).
5. Figure out how to get along with men so someone else can protect me for awhile.
6. Take self-defense classes in the event that I am unsuccessful with number 5.

On Sunday morning, I finished the book I had been reading out on the patio. I then quickly grabbed a colectivo and was back at home by the afternoon. It felt so good to be able to talk with my roommates. I called my brother to wish him a happy birthday. I hung out and watched a movie in the evening.

But even with all interaction, the residual feelings of the weekend were with me as I crawled into bed. A loneliness clung to me. It felt like something in me had cracked open when I had pushed the pepper spray button, like the last of my youthful illusions of immortality had died. A realization that my life, our lives, are so vulnerable, terribly at the mercy of the caprices of nature.

That incident on the mountain had made me lonely for all the things that haven’t happened to me yet—all the children I have not had, the relationships yet to be woven, the experiences of a lifetime yet to be lived. I longed to live life sped up on fast forward so that I could be reassured that my most profound wishes will come true—that I will be married, have a family, that I will live long and be fulfilled, that I will die of old age in my bed.

But, that doesn’t always happen, does it?

Que te vaya bien (and go buy pepper spray ladies!),
C in C