Tuesday, December 15, 2009
1. Example 1: The Coddled Chilean Man Date
Recently my friend went out on a pseudo date with a 27 year old Chilean man. They planned to meet where he lived, in a town outside of Santiago. It took her two hours on a bus when she thought it'd take about a half hour (in a car it would have). When she arrived, she and her guy hung out with his friends in a plaza. Then they went back to his house, where he lives with his mom. His mom served once (tea) with maraqueta bread (kind of like a small baguette), butter and ham. My friend, being a vegetarian, only ate bread with butter. When she revealed that she was a vegetarian, it was a big deal...kind of similar to My Big Fat Greek Wedding "What? You eat no meat? You eat no meat. That's okay. We'll have lamb." Then they watched bad Chilean reality shows.
Low-key, free and involving his mom. The Chilean date.
The best part (or worst part) about dating a Chilean man is that really you're dating a Chilean man and his mother. You get the man and when you're tired of the man, you turn to the mother where you get free lunch or dinner, your clothes washed, and a trip to her second house at the beach. Wherever there is a Chilean man, there is always a caring (overbearing?) mom nearby.
Example 2: Biking the Cerro
I didn't really know it until now but biking to the top of Cerro San Cristobal is a feat that most of the Santiago population has attempted. I attempted on Sunday and would've made it (I swear!) if it hadn't been closed halfway up the hill due to the elections. I did however subir (climb up) the half of the hill three times with my friends, and so therefore enjoyed the speeding down as fast as you can before you get scared more times. As I watched the gringos at the bottom getting ready to ride the teleferico (tram) to the top, I thought, nope, that's the tourist experience. The Chileans go up by bike.
Example 3: Elections
Elections for president are a two-part affair. The first took place this past Sunday where they narrow the candidates from four to two. The second will happen in the new year, when they choose their president.
Here's how it goes: A month or two before the elections begins, signs start appearing everywhere, people's shining, smiling faces advertising their campaign. I have never seen more billboards and signs and faces in my life! It's Disneyland with a bunch of happy heads everywhere. Then people get tired of the posters and start vandalizing them. The faces start having missing teeth, horns, or parts ripped off. By the end, the signs are a sad state of affairs. My belief is that the guy with the most signs wins. If Pinera wins the final election, I'm right because this guy's mug is all over this city.
Also, on TV, they have the campaign ads. But TV is expensive here, so sometimes candidates can only afford a few seconds. Pollo was telling me that one candidate, Erika Arrica, or something like that, only had time to say her name, but even then it wasn't enough time, so it was only "Erika Arric". Another only shouted "Trabajo, trabajo, trabajo" during his three seconds of fame. Makes for fun TV.
Stay tuned, it's down to Frei for the left and Pinera for the right. If Pinera wins it'll be the first right-wing President to be elected since 1956. It's interesting because Chile is really divided between right and left. The right lost their land with the reign of socialist Allende. The left have family killed by Pinochet. It's a mess.
Politics--a hot subject here.
Example 4: Where I'm working
Sooooo, something kind of funky happened with our Internet at our house ( a certain someone might have forgotten to pay) and so I went on a wild search for Internet access. Being a very, very kind pololo, Pollo offered to let me use his apartment. But his house is such a bachelor's cave, that I decided I would try a cafe instead. A 20 minute walk to a cafe resulted in discovering that my internet didn't work there either. And sooo, where is the most reliable place for Internet in Santiago. Guesses anyone?
It's the gas stations. Almost every gas station has a place to work, including plugs and free WiFi. Go figure! So I'm working at a gas station, in a pretty comfortable chair, in peace and quiet. It's actually far quieter than a coffee shop. No coffee grinder sounds, no heating of the milk sounds, not even music. It's actually the perfect spot to work.
I know I'm forgetting so much more, but it's all I've got for right now...so now you know a little more about what it's like to experience Chile.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
1. Elevator Buttons: I'm stealing number one from Mari who one day commented on the joy of pressing elevator buttons. It stopped me in my tracks. I thought, "Hey, yeah, I doooo like pressing elevator buttons." My favorite kind are the older ones that have a little spring in them so that when you press them they give the tiniest little "click." Just thinking about them makes me want to get into an elevator and press all of them and then run out before I get stuck on all the floors.
2. Flowers: This one I know is a little lame. Who isn't thankful for flowers? Who do you know says, ugh, those flowers are gross? But I will be specific. I am thankful for bouganvillea and jasmine just a tiny bit more than how much I'm already thankful for the rest of them. Or, how about, I'm thankful that with just a glance at the flowers I have in a vase on my desk, I am uplifted. I am buoyed. I am a tinier bit happier to see them. It might be so small it is like the tiny click of an elevator button, but it still counts. Happier is happier.
3. Funny: My roommate Lua telling a long joke. She can't do it to save her life. It'll go something like this... "Okay, so two guys walk into a bar. No wait...maybe it was two nuns. Okay, yeah, two nuns walk into a bar. No wait, two priests, yeah, two priests walk into a bar and..............(long pause)..........shit, I think I just ruined the punchline."
And that's all folks!
I have started wearing my peach summer dress. I have pulled off and put away two of the four bedspreads from my una y media plaza cama (twin bed). Our daschund is in heat. Lua and I go to the fruit and vegetable market on Tobalaba and Ossa Saturday mornings, and the viejitos flirt with us. We run three days a week.
I went to La Serena over the weekend. We stayed at a house on a hill in Altovalsol, the beginning of Valle del Elqui, a very famous valley for camping (because it is sooooo beautiful). Imagine, if you can, Napa Valley on a beautiful spring day, grape vines soaking up the sun, their green leaves almost becoming transparent in the bright light. Undulating hills of green. Birds flitting and playing and chirping. A hawk soaring overhead in blue, blue sky, the kind of blue they call "calipso." I stayed in house that had a patio and a sun porch overlooking this view. It was a weekend of dancing and reading and staring awe-inspired into the depths of a grandiose scene. My favorite kind of weekend.
It was while looking at this view that I realized how lucky I am to have everything that I have. That life is not perfect. In fact, life's imperfections is what gives it its flavor. I also realized that maybe, though Pollo and I have our differences, it is our differences that give our relationship (or non-relationship, or whatever it is or isn't) its character, its fuerza (strength). Perhaps the blessing of life is not in its easy weekends but in the depths of the struggle, in the flesh that toils, in the collective power of our hearts and minds wanting, needing, striving.
Of course I thought all this while comfortably reading and doing absolutely nothing...so, um, maybe, the blessing of life really IS the easy weekend.
Friday, October 30, 2009
In these moments, you feel you are on the edge of something new. You are saying goodbye yes, but you are also saying hello. You hope with all your being that it will top what you have done, that your experiences will be better, that you will be better.
It also affects your relationships. You hold on a little tighter when your friends hug you. You start memorizing their details, devouring their uniqueness with your eyes, your ears, your nose, taking in all their information. You think, "After February, I may never see this persona again. Andres at the coffee shop. Jocelyn. Kanke. Lua. Pollo."
You realize while you were trying all the while to leave your mark on the world, the world was happily leaving its mark on you.
Chile has made me different. Its strangers have trained me to be more confident moving through the city. I am now capable of uncovering its secret language (and shoving my body into the smallest spaces on the metro).
Those who became my friends have given me even more.
Pollo once said to me, "If there's one thing I hope for you, it's that when someone asks you, 'what did you learn in Chile' you answer 'I learned to love again.'"
I love when I see a punk boy helping an older woman with a cart up a flight of stairs. I love when I see a young couple in their own world on the bus. I love when I see my friends loving and making mistakes and getting up again. In the honk of horn, I hear hello...or goodbye...or both.
Lua, my roommate said to me that she wondered whether it was even worth it to make friends here, knowing that she was going to be leaving.
I think it is. It may be temporary. But the effects of that friendship are permanent. It is imprinted on who you become. You may never see them again, but you feel them in how you give more, hug longer, love harder, and live with wilder abandon.
They are my invisible tattoos.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
He talks about people looking for miracles in inanimate objects:
"To me, the gathering of large numbers of people to view the semblance of a face on a window pane or a bulging burrito speaks to a great sense of powerlessness. Feeling so small and helpless in a world of chaos, competition and aggression, we seek the miraculous, desperately hoping that it will bless us in some way and ease our suffering.
It occurs to me that perhaps there’s a better way to go about this. Perhaps, instead of looking for the face of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary in inanimate objects, we should be looking for the face of Jesus Christ or the Virgin Mary in the face of every person who crosses our path.
If we were able to do this, perhaps we’d be less likely to be judgmental, resentful and angry towards others, in which case our lives might work more effectively.
In addition to attempting to see God in the face of everyone we meet, it might also help us to recognize the presence of God in everything we look upon, not just the faces of people or inanimate objects deformed by nature.
If we were able to recognize the presence of God in everything all around us — in animals, plants, insects, and objects — perhaps we’d treat them all with greater honor and respect, which would also likely lead to a life of greater harmony and balance.
Perhaps the miracle lies not in seeking God in odd and eccentric ways, but rather in seeking God in every moment and molecule all around us."
I wonder if he's ever read Rumi. That last line is Rumi all the way.
Monday, October 26, 2009
He smiled at us. We smiled at him and said hello. He continued to stare at us until our paths separated. He shyly asked his mom how to say adios in English. He said a very whispered "Bye" and ran off. It was as if he'd seen a celebrity.
Being a foreigner also gives you more freedom. After all, you may never see these people again...and if you do, you'll only see them for another six months and then you REALLY won't see them again.
I went for a walk yesterday. Sunday's are the best days for walks because everyone is out with their families. I had my ipod on, and I began to dance to the music as I walked. I was having so much fun that I didn't care who was watching. I just smiled at everyone who stared and continued dancing. Most fun 45 minutes I've had on a walk in a long time!
Would I have done the same in the U.S.? Who knows? But now that I've tried it, I surely will when I get home.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
The Andes hovered in the distance, sentries guarding the city. They were old friends of mine, welcoming me back to familiar ground.
The old man driving talked like the country Chileans do, a slurred Spanish that makes them sound perpetually drunk. My rusty Spanish served me well enough, but the words came to me slowly, as if underwater. I could not volley back anything. My vocabulary was officially in a body bag.
We drove past graffiti and dry, yellow grass and shanties constructed on the other side of the Mapocho river. Stray dogs sniffed along the river bed. Litter was everywhere. A bank of smog obstructed the distance.
The smell of Santiago is the smell of diesel fuel. I breathed in cautiously, then full deep breaths. It had been too long.
I tried to remember which direction the traffic would be heading on the street where I lived. From 7am-9:30am it ran north. The rest of the day, it ran south. I grinned again. So complicated. So Chilean.
I wanted to hold on to every smell, every scene that swept by my window. The park near Providencia and Bellavista with the art statues. The bridges leading into Providencia--my favorite part of the city. The little corner stands with fruits and vegetables, scarves and earrings, water and snacks. And all the people. I forgot all the people. People begging for money and selling band aids for donations, people in the streets juggling; yo-yoing; throwing, spitting, swirling fire; chucking chinese sticks, knives, and bowling pins high into the air. Payasos and drummers. Dancers. Flag girls. A guy selling posters, selling palo santo (cedar wood), selling mote con huesillos (peaches and oats), selling honey-roasted nuts, selling churros con manjar.
My roommate had once said to me, "Santiago is all about the hustle. If you're sitting on a bus, chances are the person next to you is selling something." I couldn't have agreed more.
I wanted it all then. The greed overwhelmed me. I wanted to possess it. I wanted to make it mine forever.
I wanted to brand my memory, to have a tattoo of this place on my brain forever.
I arrived at the little house in La Reina, first opening the condominium gate with a satisfying "clack". Then through to the inner gate, locked with a master lock. Kanke's dachsund Ayoom was there. She jumped and wagged her tail which made her whole back end waggle, like a horizontal hula dancer.
I stuck my hands through the bars, unlocked the lock with my tiny key, and walked into our garden. The rose bushes had grown twice as tall.
I stopped to pet Ayoom. "Hey girl, long time no see," I whispered. We bonded for a moment, but I was too excited to stay long with her. I was almost, finally, home.
Then, I unlocked the top deadbolt. I remembed when Caitlin and I had first arrived a year ago how we had spent ten minutes playing with the lock because we'd both struggled to open it. The trick was turning the key twice instead of once. Then I turned the key in the bottom lock and opened the door. The light of morning shone through the windows of our living room, warming our normally cool house. The faint scent of kerosene wafted from the portable heater, mixing with the base notes of incense and palo santo.
I immediately felt a sense of calm and peace. The house was a little part of me, and I had missed it.
My room seemed smaller and emptier. There were no posters on the cold white cement walls. The old dog pee stain on the carpet (that then became a much large spot after I cleaned it) looked larger in the empty room. Same business-grade carpet covering the cement floor.
I still had my clothes in the closet, my clock on the desk, my big desk. It felt like I was receiving tiny messages or gifts from someone. "Take good care of yourself. Have fun. Here's some things you might need."
It was the star lamp I had purchased right before I left that made me think of Pollo. Of how he had come to pick me up at the bazaar where I'd bought the lamp. And even though all his friends had been there, he'd only had eyes for me.
Then Lua came out of her room. Kanke came downstairs, too. I pushed Pollo from my mind and spent my first day back in Santiago, laughing and telling stories and eating pan amasado (fresh bread) and avocados.
I was ready to breathe life back into my little corner of Santiago. All I needed was a place to sleep and a place to write, and here, in the little house in La Reina, I had both.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Pictures, bigger thoughts, bigger ideas to come...
For now, just saying a little hello...
Monday, August 24, 2009
To tell you the truth, it's much easier to write about risky things you've done, things you've been thinking and new discoveries when your parents aren't in the next room reading your blog and asking you "what were you thinking?" Best to have some distance from the parental units.
But as a writer, it's hard to postpone writing for three months. So, here's what's been happening:
1. I am a writer, but I really wish I was an engineer because it would be sooooo much easier. I had a conversation with my dad where we analyzed just how tough it would be to be a freelance writer. It's virtually impossible to making a living at it. And yet, there's magazines filled with articles and bookstores filled with books, so someone somewhere is making it. I love writing and am determined to pursue freelance writing, in spite of my dad's really sweet analysis that I'm pretty much going to be broke. He's very likely right, and yet, I will continue on. I guess I just have this idea that I can live an extraordinary life. Some of the best things in life require a leap of faith and risk and adventure. Love, travel, careers in the arts. If I lived a risk-free life, I never would have gone to Chile. But living in Chile has been one of the best experiences of my life, right up there with falling in love. Full of risk. Super fun! Maybe for me, taking risks is part of living a full life.
2. Family and friends are like mirrors. They let you see yourself more clearly. You like yourself with your friends and your family. You accept your quirks. If you don't like yourself with your boyfriend, you're in trouble. So it is no surprise that:
3. I broke up with Pollo. I couldn't make him laugh, and in certain circles, I'm actually funny. Unfortunately I was not funny in the circle with the Chilean-who-only-speaks-Spanish-and-thinks-Family-Guy-is-hilarious. So I'm on a dating hiatus. Not even the cute waiter at Rock Bottom who looked like Slater from Saved by the Bell could convince me otherwise, though, I did consider turning on the charm for a second. I mean he was ripped and looked like Mario Lopez! Hello!
4. I had a moment. It was a very important moment. I swear. At my parents' 40th anniversary party (congrats guys!), I felt for the first time the inkling that I wanted to be home--to hang out with Eric and his new girlfriend, to be there for my little nephew or niece coming in January, to speak English and have an American life. I also still felt the pull of travel, to see Brazil and Australia before I started my American life.
5. I came up with a new rough plan: Australia for a few weeks, Chile, Brazil, any other countries I can afford to visit. Continue to write, offer private personal training to friends in Chile when I'm around. Back by February to begin my American life. Probably back to Davis which has been the city I felt most supported creatively and where I made my biggest strides in living an extraordinary life. (and I know! Davis! Go figure). Plus I can be a writer and afford rent.
6. My friend Mari began this thankful blog I LOVE! I'm considering adopting the format when I return home. Or 365 Good Deeds and each day my goal is to do one good deed. Send ideas my way! Or I might keep the adventure theme and look for the adventure in America.
That's all for now folks! Chao!
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Here are the shows I've gotten hooked on:
1. Ruby--a reality show about a 500 lb woman on a weight-loss journey. This appeals to me because I studied (and just passed!) to become a personal trainer. I'm most interested in working with obese clients so I wanted to know details on how I could possibly help them better.
2. What Not to Wear--I think I maxed out on this episode cuz they kind of say the same thing when you watch 20 in a row. Most women look better in a straight/wide leg jean, trousers should not have pleats, v necks for bust women, wider shoulder straps for supportive bras. Unfortunately, this hasn't inspired me enough to actually buy anything...I'm in desperate need of more clothes but I just can't bring myself to enter a clothing store. Literally, the clothes are falling apart as I'm wearing them...but so far, motivation is minimal. I need a personal shopper who will dress me without charging me a cent...like a fairy godmother only with a mastercard.
3. Dog Whisperer--Ceasar is magical...and kind of cute (don't tell Pollo I said this).
4. NCIS--quirky show, a little mystery with a little laughter. Good stuff.
5. Locked Up Abroad--My dad got me hooked on this show. What I've learned from it: never try to bring drugs into the country...and never accept a "gift" bag from a shady character...or even a nice character. And if something smells weird on your bag, it's probably the glue they used to seal the seams where the cocaine is now hiding. Stab your bag several times with a knife. If white powder comes out...do not take this bag with you on the plane! Words of wisdom people!
6. Tots and Tiaras--okay, this one weirds me out. Little girls dressing up to look like 18 year olds. Before their transformation, they have stringy girly hair, gaps in their teeth, little girl raggedy finger nails, bruises on their legs from climbing trees and pretending to be animals. They're little girls!
After, they're these smiling plastic dolls with hair pieces to make their hair look fuller, false teeth to cover the natural gaps of missing baby teeth, fake nails, spray-on tans, makeup that makes them look sexy at 7, ew, ew, ew! I watched this show Taboo about a ritual where women were whipped with sticks as a rite of passage for their male relatives. Our ritual of making little girls into sexy women at 7 is just as sickening.
7. Bachelorette--I admit it. I've always loved the Bachelorette. I watched the first one with Trista. I'm glad it's not on all the time or my Monday nights would be taken for the rest of my life.
For awhile, cable was threatening to take over completely. But I've turned over a new leaf. What a great reminder that TV, though fascinating, is not always fulfilling. But don't get me wrong...I'm turning it off completely because let's face it, I've got to get my TV viewing in now. In one month, I'm going cold turkey off TV when I head back to Chile.
Ddon't even get me started about the fact that there aren't any sofas, chocolate chip cookies and donuts in Chile--I'm going to have a sofa-loving, chocolate-chip and donut eating, TV watching day on the 13th of September, I swear!
Monday, July 27, 2009
- Watching too many episodes of What Not to Wear, Clean House, and The Dog Whisperer--my brain has become really fuzzy
- Selling my stuff on Craigslist--I can't believe we ever had garage sales
- Trying to read but electing for cable TV after a page--two boring books in a row, what are the odds?
- Talking to Pollo in Spanish via Skype and Web cam--the more I talk to him, the more I realize how lucky I am to be his polola--this one's a good one
- Partying: one Saturday, I got to go on a Party Bus with thirty of my closest friends (did I time my return home or what!)
- Studying for the Personal Training exam in August (today's my first official day of studying everything I've read--as you can see by this blog, I'm procrastinating beautifully).
- Getting my cats ready for the flight to the other side of the equator--my cat Toby is actually sleeping every morning in the crate! Woo hoo!
- Praying for Ross Abinanti. He was found (Yay!) but has been in ICU for dehydration. He ate real food for the first time a few days ago, but an email asking to pray for Ross makes me think he's not out of the woods yet.
- Visiting friends and family--I went to see Lucy who is now my cousin's dog. She's doing great. When I walked in, she was so excited, she ran three laps through the house: through the dining room and up on the couch around the living room. Although it was hard to say goodbye at the end of the day, I feel really good that she's in great hands.
- Missing Chile (except for the stray dogs. I don't miss them.)
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
He was last seen June 30. He has severe dementia, needs medication, and was last seen near downtown Campbell. Here's some links for more information:
Help Find Ross Facebook Page
San Jose Mercury Article
Every day, I have been posting 30 fliers around my neighborhood, which is the Abinanti's neighborhood too. It's amazing how many people are willing to help. There are over 1000 people who have joined the Facebook page. At the vigil last night, there must have been 100 people, at least.
Equally ridiculous have been the few corporations/chains who have refused to post fliers advertising Ross's disappearance--namely 24 Hour Fitness near Almaden Expressway and the CinePlex in that same shopping center. I don't want to live in a world where a corporation/chain forgets that it's made of individual locations and that those locations serve smaller communities...and those communities sometimes depend on local businesses for more than their menus and services.
But I don't want to focus on the negative here. I was happy to see that far more chains had a bulletin board for community fliers, or they allowed me to post the flier regardless of corporate rules.
Thank you so much to the following businesses in the Almaden Expwy shopping center near where the Old Safeway used to be:
Barber shop (near the Hooz Donuts)
Walgreen's on Koch Ln
Today is the day we find Ross.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
1. I feel weird when I throw my toilet paper in the toilet. "Really?" I think. "It won't back up?"
2. I picked up with my friends right where I left on ten months ago. True friends are like that.
3. I woke up today after having slept poorly on a extra-thick, fancy double bed. I'm use to the thin, cheap mattress in Chile. I remember in high school thinking I had this really small room. I longed for more space. I woke up today thinking, wow, my room is huge...and wow, I was super spoiled in high school.
4. I am rich. My parents are rich. Everyone in California is rich. No one has any idea that they are. Ridiculously rich. But I know it doesn't feel like it here. But it's true.
5. I love bagels and donuts and hash browns. I missed them.
6. I miss Pollo and Lua and Kanke.
I have three months to accomplish a few important things. Make sure my cats are healthy and glowing. Get an awesome North American haircut. Say hi to all my friends and family.
And get rid of my stuff that is being stored in the garage. I went through two boxes yesterday. I was so happy to see more of my stuff: pens, my printer, more clothes. I was having trouble letting go of these things when I realized that I haven't needed, wanted, or even thought of any of these things for 10 months (okay, i thought about my printer a little--it's awesome).
But really, I don't need any of it. When I lived in Pleasanton, as a way of trying to save money and resist the urge to buy, buy, buy, I remember thinking, "I don't need to worry. I'll accumulate more stuff the longer I stay here." This was a comforting thought to me.
How things have changed. I am now comforted by the thought that I don't need any of this stuff. I have always liked the feeling of getting rid of things that I haven't been using, of letting go. I understand better now why. In yoga, they teach you to learn to disengage yourself from your things, to recognize the power the material goods have over you, and in recognizing, learning when it's time to let go. And in the letting go, of your spirit being more and more free to fly.
This is my moment to recognize and to let go. It is my time to be free.
Wish me luck!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Recently, Lua, Pollo and I went to see Up, Up and Away in 3D (I had to pronouce it at the ticket counter "oop tres day por favor"). It was dubbed in Spanish and there was a moment when Senor Fredrickson first begins talking. He says in spanish "Beautiful view, eh Elly?" I couldn't understand why he had this strange accent. It took me a second to realize two things: 1) He had an accent because he was SPEAKING IN Spanish and 2) I understood the Spanish in that one sentence without translating from English to Spanish (yay!).
Lua said to me today: "Amazing that just as this little seed of Spanish comprehension is sprouting, you're going to uproot it completely by returning home."
I just laughed and said, "Yep."
At this point, I'm happy for all the things I have here and happy for all the things I have there and things are going to be what they will be.
I'm off to eat Peruvian food!
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Recently, I remembered this comment as I've started to feel the stretch of loving more than one country, many, many miles apart from each other. I'm nervous. The problem with traveling and living abroad is that 1) you want to travel more (which really isn't my problem) and 2) you feel comfortable everywhere (again, not much of a problem) and 3) you will never again be in one spot where you don't miss something somewhere else in the world (this is my problem).
Your favorite restaurant could be in Chile. Your favorite cookie in Los Angeles. Favorite modern dance company in Davis, California. Favorite hip hop class in Santiago. Favorite hostel in Mendoza. Favorite market in Peru. Favorite desert in Ushuaia.
Perhaps it is my motherly instinct rearing up in me, but it's a hard thing to accept that I will never have everything I've ever loved gathered up all in one spot. It is the sacrifice I've made to travel the world. I will see the world. I will love the world. And there will always be a part of me longing to roam and return to the places I love, no matter how many miles away those places are.
I think I'm okay with that.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Whenever I tell Chileans I've been in Chile for 10 months, they comment that 10 months isn't long at all. I laugh because it sure feels like a long time.
I don't know why I'm complaining. I guess I want a badge like they give in Girl Scout's. A foreign country badge. Proof that I survived. Proof that I'm prepared to take on more.
Because, even though I miss the U.S., I want to return to South America. To the possibility of a life full of adventure and desafios (challenges).
I'm returning to Chile in September for another summer there and maybe another year.
See all of you soon!
Monday, June 15, 2009
- Sofas! Really, really comfy sofas
- The ability to throw toilet paper in the toilet instead of the trash can
- Central heating and air
- Excessive extravagance
- Efficient thinking
- English! English! English!
- My friends and family
- Wii and video games
- Movies I can see when they premiere, not weeks later
- My cats, my cousin's dog (Lucy, now owned by my cousin)
- My Gerhardt house
- Baja Fresh, Casa Orozco, BJs pizzookies, Sophia's Thai food in Davis, Peet's Coffee
- Linda's dance class
- Cheap books in English
- Bookstores and coffeeshops with couches
- Bookstores the size of warehouses
- The gigantic leaves on the tree that I never saw before I came to Chile
- The ability to go everywhere without a car
- The people, especially Kanke, Lua and Pollo
- The kindness of strangers on the metro
- Marcella's house with its funky yoga room, tatoo parlor and general super hippy-ness
- Empanadas del horno
- The house in La Reina
- La Chakra, Emporio de la Rosa, Juan Valdez Cafe
- My gym-rat friends and Baile Entretenido
- My Pop and Lock class in Bellavista
- The lack of efficiency that used to bug me and now I find endearing (sometimes)
- The park near our house
- Movies dubbed in Spanish
- The challenge of buying medicine from the pharmacies
- The creative ways people work to earn money
- Street vendors
- Street performers
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Recently, I went to Mendoza for a few days. But something had radically changed for me since the last time I was in Mendoza in November. I stood behind two gringos while waiting to board the bus. Now most people have heard my complaints about how Chileans stand in line. They stand to the side of you or practically touching you. Oh how things have changed. I swear to you I wondered whether the gringos in front of me were actually in line because they stood so far back from the others. I wanted to do exactly what used to annoy the crap out of me--crowd them, cut around them, stand beside them. Woh!
Then, I was on the bus, sitting beside a kind viejita. Not only could I speak with her (if she talked slowly), I was more inclined to talk with her than the British travel journalist sitting across the way. I couldn't believe how self-righteous and arrogant the British woman was. I was surprised to hear how she lived in Italy and had been traveling for 10 months around the world writing a book. She acted like she'd never traveled anywhere in her life. So I ignored the Englander and chose to talk with the Chilena about her travels and her family.
At customs in the Andes, the workers only spoke Spanish. Other gringos asked me to translate. I was the only pseudo-bilingual person there.
I went on two tours in Mendoza (I wanted to spell tours "turs"). The first was all in Spanish. I met another sweet Chilena who took me under her wing. She said I reminded her of her daughter. I made no attempt to speak with the other Gringo on the bus. When I went on the wine tour in the afternoon, I was bored talking with the guy from Vancouver. I didn't care that he spoke English, which previously would have been enough to forge a long-term friendship. Instead, I wanted to talk to the woman from Paraguay.
What the heck happened? I've started to identify with the Chileans! I'm becoming Chilean for goodness sakes! When did this happen? Was I sleeping while suddenly my mindset changed from gringo to gringo-chilena?
Now, I'm equal parts sad and excited to be heading home for two and half months to pick up my cats and bring them back to Santiago. My life is how I want it to be, though it's a little inconvient that I was only able to make it happen really far away from the US. I can be a writer here without worrying about how I'm going to eat. I can take dance classes without breaking the bank. I have the gym I like, friends (though don't worry, they don't compare to my best friends and family in the US) and soon, my cats, too. And even better, I've met someone. Normally I don't declare these types of things publically and perhaps it's too early to tell, but what can I say, I've got a good feeling about this one.
And so, I pack my room with a sigh and hope for the best and look forward to all the good things to come.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Friday, May 1, 2009
So there ya go, the best of the best parent photos. They did a great job trying to speak Spanish, avoiding getting robbed, and taking public transportation all at the same time.
Monday, April 20, 2009
We ate manjar croissants, slices of chocolate mousse cake, helado banado en chocolate, handmade truffles, chocolate volcanoes, brownies, sweet popcorn. We sampled the best of Santiago's pastelerias and heladerias. My parents started calling their adventures here "Tur de Postres" or The Pastry Tour.
We had an really interesting discussion while eating dinner...or maybe while waiting for dessert...at Patagonia, one of the many fine establishments on the tour list. Mom was talking about the difficulty of getting Dad to cook meals for them, even though he's retired and technically has time. Let's just say, he's just not that into food.
I cannot even fathom what it's like to not be "into" food. To be sort of disconnected from it. My whole life is food! Just like Dad says that punctual people spell time with a capital T, I think I spell Food with a capital F...and maybe a capital OOD too.
At first I was offended (as always) when they teased about how our tour was starting to lean heavily on the entertainment value of food (how I managed to not develop a thick skin in my family is beyond me). But by the end of our trip, I began to be proud of my extensive pastry and food knowledge. Though Dad gets the benefit of a slim profile, the love of food is a thing to celebrate. Food is a great joy. It brings people together. It builds a sense of family and community. People gather around food.
It's the first time I've really thought about what a gift it is to love food. I've always felt it was such a burden, this constant stream of conscious commenting, rejecting and utlimately loving food.
Are American women afraid to really enjoy food? Afraid if we love it, we'll fall down that slippery slope of weight gain and with it self-criticism and body hatred?
As I begin to form an idea of what I would like to do when I return to the glorious land of the free and home of the brave, I believe this blog will be more and more about fitness, body image, and shape, as well as what I can discover around this topic in Chile.
Weigh in (haha, I couldn't resist) on what you think about this idea...I'd love to hear your thoughts.
Pictures of food and the parental units' adventure are coming...
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
I think it is probably the greatest lesson I've learned. It's also the one I need to relearn over and over again. Every time I forget, I look up from my book and realize that I'M IN CHILE and then I remember. Chile was not my plan for 30.
To be honest, I thought I would meet the man of my dreams in college and get married by 22. How this would happen was a bit fuzzy, but I spent many hours ballroom dancing in my room with my imaginary groom. He was perfect. Unfortunately, real-life men did not quite live up to my imaginary man. And as much as I wanted to get married early in 20s, it just didn't happen.
This is what frustrates me when I hear how "young people are waiting longer to get married." Every time I hear a comment like that, I just want to yell, "It's not like I don't want to...it's just that there aren't any takers..."
Okay, that sentence might've actually hurt a piece of my soul there...but just for a second.
I'm not sad that I'm here. I would never have gotten to Chile otherwise. I would never trade the path I'm on for the comfort of what I imagine marriage brings. You know, the ability to let yourself go a bit. To know that no matter how you look, someone has sworn to love you.
I'd like to think that I'm a wiser and stronger woman for being single. Capable of handling tougher situations.
I'd like to think that it was my newfound wisdom and not bitterness that made me want to laugh when I heard my friend's plans recently. My 28-year-old Chilean amiga told me she wanted to be married with kids by the time she was 35. I nodded politely. But what I thought was, "God's going to have fun with you."
I wish I had asked her what her plan of attack was, because I surely don't have one. I just wanted to know if she had some secret method of making sure she'd meet the man of her dreams by the time she was 34 (remember, she's gotta have kids by 35). I mean, it's not like you have a lot of control over who you meet, right?
I'm also confused about how you're supposed to know when you meet HIM. Is it some kind of zing? The men closest to HIM have been those that have somehow made me feel more ME with them than without--which is almost impossible to recreate. How is a man supposed to make me feel more like ME having just met me?
These thoughts make me wish that I were a man or at least had the brain of man where I might consider this idea for a milisecond before moving on to more pressing problems like how the Broncos should attack the draft.
I'm boggled just thinking about it.
Obviously, if I'm writing about, it's not completely out of my mind. I think about it. About a family. And then I think about living in Shanghai. Or traveling to Antarctica. Or joining the Peace Corps. And then I think about a family again.
Boggled. Hmmm...how should the Broncos attack the draft?
Sunday, April 5, 2009
Some times I just hate being an adult. It seems like the older we get the more our decisions are not black and white but infinite shades of gray, where none of them feel really right and good.
I don't like the idea of giving away my cats. I have taken care of since they were kittens. But my other options suck too. 1) come home in a bad economy to try to find a job in a field I'm not yet prepared to enter and find an apartment without even knowing where I really want to live. The problem with having lived in Chile is that my world has opened so wide that now I'm not sure how to transition to that stable life I had...and whether I even want it. 2) put them on a plane and subject them to the cargo hold for countless hours...twice and I'm not even sure I'm staying in this house...or even in Chile for long... 3) Find temporary housing for them or pay a fortune to a business that takes care of cats--$30/day for one cat I think.
When my parents suggested I possibly give them away, I cried. I have felt like such an asshole all day--mainly because I was relieved that it might be an option. That I wouldn't be a social leper for considering it as an option. It had crossed my mind more than once that I like not having a lot of responsibility. I like not having to take care of anyone. And if I do give them away, will I feel guilty for the rest of my life for abandoning them?
I can't decide whether I'm being selfish for wanting my freedom, for wanting more time to figure out how to make writing a career, to establish myself here, where I don't have to earn such a large amount of money to live or if I'm being responsible for beginning to recognize that my lifestyle doesn't really fit with having cats (and don't even get me started on my dog...I can't even think about that right now...). Perhaps I am both responsible and selfish.
I never thought I'd be the type of person who would give away my cats...in fact I remember being horrified by a story about a woman who after 8 years with a cat gave the cat away when she realized her soon-to-be husband was allergic. How could you possibly give a cat away? And here I am, contemplating giving away two.
The only way I can even remotely feel good about this is if a friend, a family member, someone I knew would take them.
So, I sincerely hope someone reads this blog and can offer me advice or my cats a permanent home...or a temporary one...or a suggestion I haven't thought of...
Please...someone's gotta have a good idea out there somewhere...
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It is April, and I am content. The tension I felt in January and February has dissipated completely. My roommates and I are getting along. I eat lunch with Kanke every Wednesday. Caitlin invites me to her friends parties. I miss Mari, but I'm dealing.
Every day, I wake up at 6:45am (on my own accord) and I write until 12:30 or 1:30pm. I write in my blog, travel articles, an essay for which I need to find a home, queries, copywriting. After a healthy lunch here (yes, I'm still vegetarian), I often go and read about journalism--in lieu of a second degree--though I'm contemplating that too. After the cafe, I head to the gym and either take class, life weights or ride on the bike. I have a super kickass ipod playlist that carries me through the worst of it. Then, sometimes I meet my friends for ice cream, sometimes I go home and read until it's time for bed. Then I do it all again. And it makes me incredibly happy.
Sure the metro at peak hours is super scary--it's a mob sometimes and I get carried by the crowd. Yesterday I almost couldn't get out and I had to yank my backpack past two people in the very front that wouldn't get off the train to let people by. (at that hour, I wouldn't have either--the rule is never give an inch...ever).
I read the whole time. It's my form of a personal bubble, my defense against the Chilean cutters and those who pack themselves like sardines on the trains. I hold my book up and don't look at the world. If someone gets to close to me, my book is liable to accidently rub against their hair, their face, their shoulder. Sometimes they glare at me. But I just smile and read on. They can move if it bothers them I've decided.
I've taken to reading not just on the train but during the walk to the transfer train and the walk home. I look up from my book only for stairs and streets. I'm sort of surprised I didn't discover read-walking earlier, after all I love both activities. Occasionally I trip over over a root or run into someone, but most people see that I'm not looking and get out of my way. This is by far better than trying to walk my own pace through the crowd. I'm happy, less stressed out, less frustrated with the strollers. I just walk and pay attention to the story unfolding in my head. It's the only way to do the metro at 6:30pm.
The weather has turned from unbearable to breezy. It's like a gift from the gods. My life feels that way too.
I feel lucky. I'm grateful for everyone that helped me here, helped me become who I am, helped me find my way. It is in these moments when I feel like no matter what happens, things will work out. They just have a way of working out.
That's why I'm writing to also say that if anyone, anyone out there can take my 2 cats for a few months, please let me know! I know it will work out somehow, I'd just like to know how :)
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
My first stop was Concepcion. Even though it's the second largest city in Chile, it is not a tourist town, and now I know why. There's not much to see and do, except go to the beaches located forty-five minutes away by bus. Even their famous bridge is nothing but a concrete freeway.
I got back on the bus the next day and arrived five hours later in Valdivia. It reminds me of the Northwest, a land of lakes and rivers and green...infinite green...and fish...
Here is the local fishmarket. Down at the water's edge are sea lions looking for handouts. On the roof are dozens of hawks also looking for handouts.
On my explorations out to Isla Marcena near Valdivia, I saw this boat. I don't think it's going to make it.
After a day and a half in Valdivia, I got back on the bus and made an 8 hour trek to Castro on the island of Chiloe. My first full day in Castro, I took a local bus to Dalcalhue and a ferry/bus to Ancud. I wanted to see the church the guide book said was quintessential Chiloe-ian wooden architecture.
I was a little disappointed with this church, mostly because it had taken me two hours of traveling to get there. I was expecting more I guess.
The most famous photos of Chiloe are the houses on stilts. These photos remind me of the book The Art of Travel. The author talks about how we expect a new place to be exactly like the photos we see of it, even though the photos are incomplete slices of a larger view.
What you don't see here (because I chose not to include it) is the enormous amount of trash floating in the pond. You don't see the more worn houses with wooden slats missing. You certainly don't see the main road right behind me, the cars, buses and trucks kicking up dust. You don't see the stray dog sleeping on the grass. Chiloe is picturesque and dingy too. Of course I prefer the picturesque version.
This is the Church of San Francisco in downtown Castro. Classic. The picturesque part.
It rained most of the time in Castro so after two days, I got back on a bus and arrived in Puerto Montt.
I walked down to the harbor called Angelmo and laughed when I saw the kid sitting in a boat on a boat. The best part of that day!
The next day, after having spent too many days on my own, I decided I needed to take a tour which explored Lago llanquihue and up to Lago Todos Los Santos.
I jumped at the chance to take a boat around the lake, so here I am with Volcano Osorno behind me.
We stopped at these Cascades where the views of the volcano were best. I wanted to hike the volcano but it sounded like a lot of trouble...special ice picks and shoes...you can forget it!
The next day, I abandoned my normal bus trip for a plane ride to Punta Arenas in Patagonia. I immediately booked a tour for Torres del Paine the next day (which was the best travel decision I think I've ever made).
Our first stop on the tour was the Cueva del Milodon. These explorers discovered bones of both humans and a gigantic bear (the milodon) in the cave.
This is my favorite photo because I'm actually in it! I'm a tiny point on the trail way in the back of the cave, almost exactly the center of this photo. Can you see me?
Then we headed to Torres del Paine. We stopped for lunch at a picnic table and I about froze my hands trying to make a sandwich. The wind ripped through the trees, it rained a little.
This is Lago Grey. It's an easy hike to the lake, more like a stroll, but the wind made it practically impossible. It picked up the gravel from the ground and stung my legs and eyes. The wind push so hard against me that occasionally I couldn't take another step forward. I took to walking to the lake with my back pressed against the wind. At one point, the wind was so absurdly strong I started laughing. I've never felt wind like that, ever.
And yes, that is an iceberg. It is also an example of global warming because 20 years ago, the lake was filled with icebergs.
Here's a good view of the Torres (the peaks in the background).
I think this one is called Point Balmaceda...I think.
In this last lake we visited, we saw a group of flamencos and a fox.
We were so lucky that the clouds cleared for these amazing views.
My travels weren't over yet. I took another plane (an hour only) from Punta Arenas to Ushuaia in Argentina. It's one of the last cities to the south and the launch point for cruises to Antarctica. It's the end of the world (though I thought Torres looked more like the end of the world than Ushuaia).
This is an old boat docked at the Beagle Chanel. You can see off to the left the cruise ship waiting to launch. I thought it was a nice touch--a little old, a little new.
My tours had been so successful that I decided to take another one to Tierra del Fuego National Park.
First we hiked through the forest and meadow. Tierra del Fuego, or land of fire, got its name from the explorers who came to the island at night and saw the land lit with small fires. The indigenous people had fire with them at all time. They even had a place to put a fire in their canoes.
What you don't see here is that I'm wearing a gigantic garbage bag called a Hippopatumus because it was raining and I didn't have a sufficient rain jacket, just a jacket for the cold. I was embarassed, but dry.
We were lucky enough to see a caracara as well, a hawk or eagle-like bird. The caracara has no natural predators on the island and was not even remotely frightened of us. Beavers on the island as well have no natural predators and have become a plague. They were originally introduced to bolster a fur industry. They are now destroying the slow-growth forest.
After the hike, we canoed! I was lucky enough to be in the canoe with two expert canoers. I can honestly say I did not row my fair share.
And the quiet sunrise I caught on the last day because I accidentally had my alarm clock set an hour earlier and didn't realize it till I was already in the shower. Thank goodness for mistakes!
Now I'm home in Santiago, writing as much as I can and working off the sizeable pancita (gut) I developed while on this adventure...
So much fun!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
It's an album of seven songs by this dj Kutiman who edited YouTube videos of people playing music and singing and turned them into entirely new songs.
What I like the most about the videos, besides the rockin' music, are the faces.
It's an intimate look behind the scenes of normal life: People are in their pajamas, taking care of babies, staring off into space while they play or sing--somehow seeing them all makes me feel optimistic about the world. It's very unassuming, very humble. My favorites are the last two: Wait for me and Just a Lady.
have at it!
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I have incredible photos I can't wait to show you from my trip to Patagonia but I'm nowhere near ready. So instead of talking about me, I decided I would show you these two photos (not mine) that I thought were really interesting.
This one I found on a blog (the hand hug). It is visual instructions for the hand hug. As you can see, you can use the hand hug for acquaintances where the hug isn't yet appropriate. Try this with your friends and coworkers immediately.
This second photo was in an article in BUST on this flash knitter group called "Knitta Please" that decorates cities with cozies and knit wear for signs, mailboxes, etc. This one was called the tank cozy. I think we need more of these.
That's it for today...hope you enjoyed the stuff that's been catching my eye!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
All three girls were extraordinary cooks. I felt I actually ate better than I ever have on this trip. Tortilla-like bread made from scratch, pasta with spices, Chai tea from scratch, stew, soy hamburger--all I can say is WOW! Check out the adven!
An incredible time with incredible company--and what a Spanish lesson--I've never had one last 10 days before.