Friday, December 10, 2010

Por Favor, Espere

Latin America is known for having long lines, and it is very true.  I noticed I had to wait longer for everything when I was in Ciudad de México years ago, and I really notice it here in Chile.  It really makes you realize that patience is a virture.

I have to call work every night to find out if any of my classes have canceled.  (I think this is a really stupid system, but I find that procedures that could be relatively simple are made to be as complex as possible in this country.)  When I call, there is this big shpeel (in both Spanish and English) about if you know your party's extension you can dial it.  Then, if you don't know your party's extension, you are asked to please wait (por favor, espere) and you will be connected to the operator (the night secretary that tells you which of your classes you actually get to teach tomorrow).  Everytime I hear the recording tell me "por favor, espere" I wonder how much of my time here is spent waiting.

I wait for buses and metros occasionally.  They come fairly regularly, but those moments of waiting surely add up.  I was really glad that the metro strike didn't effect me much, and I didn't have to wait longer or ride in a more crowded metro to get out to Manquehue in the mornings. 

Planning a trip to the grocery store must be strategic at times if I don't want to wait in the check out line for a half an hour.  Going to the grocery store at the wrong time is (generally) when everybody is on their way home from work and trying to buy things for dinner.  Sometimes you can't guess that the lines will be long, and you just get stuck.  This happens to me occasionally.  I feel like it is Latin America's way of telling my gringa ass to suck it; there is no way around the esperando (waiting).

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Putzy Cat: Update

I thought about starting off my showing you a picture of my foot, but after the reaction I got from showing someone, I thought maybe I should just keep it to myself and let your imaginations soar. 

Clearly, I am not a putzy cat.  And my feet clearly reflect this.  Since originally writing about Putzy Cat, my feet have acquired very large blisters on top of blisters under callouses.  There has been two levels of excitement with these blisters:

First, the popping of the blisters.  The first one just oozed.  It was so disgustingly intriguing.  The second one was a squirter.  I think I let out a bit of a yell when I poked the hole and it started squirting- it was a bit of a suprise.  After yelling, I laughed.  A lot.  A blister squirting liquid across the bathroom is kind of hilarious.  The last one was a bubbler.  I couldn't help but stare and watch.  This whole process was amazing.  Feeling the relief of the blisters being popped was beyond words.  I was having serious issues walking for any length (and putting shoes and socks on) before popping the blisters. 

Since the blisters have dried up and started to callous, I have started to cut off the dead skin, which is kind of awesome, both literally and metaphorically.  It is literally awesome because I don't walk around feeling dead skin re-arranging itself on the bottom of my foot anymore.  It is metaphoraclly awesome because it is like I am peeling away a layer of myself that is gross and ready to go away.  Something rather disgusting and alarming has been left in place of the dead skin, but someday (when I don't have to walk 8+ kilometers everyday) something beautiful will be left in its place (hopefully).

Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Wrong Sort"

I was sitting here listening to my new favorite (Hanukkah) song.  No, I am not Jewish, but I have had a slight obsession with them since Evil Bear Buddies (one of the most ridiculous professors ever) deemed them "the wrong sort".  I have always found Judaism interesting, but EBB calling them the "wrong sort" made the even more interesting.  So I was listening to this song about and by the "wrong sort" and started thinking about how we think about who the "wrong sort" are, how we treat them, and how we talk about them.

First, I want to explain what I mean by "the wrong sort".  I by no means think any group of people are "the wrong sort" except perhaps those that hurt others or something.  And even then, I don't think they are necessarily inherently a "wrong sort", but they could just be misguided individuals and are crying out for something.   And it is no reason to create preconceived notions about certain groups of people.

Back to who "the wrong sort" are.  I took a class called Topics in Identity and Culture: The Racial Dimension of America or something like that.  What I learned was, unless you are an Anglo Christian American, you are the "wrong sort".  Take for example myself.  I am Irish Catholic.  I am the really wrong sort.  Let's start with the Irish part: I (supposedly) drink entirely too much whiskey, go to work drunk, get drunk after work, and after spending all of my money on drinking (instead of feeding my family), I go home and beat my wife.  And since I am so busy drinking whiskey and getting drunk, I don't have time for civic participation.  Then comes the Catholic part: My allegiance to the Pope calls into question  my allegiance to America.  It creates unstable democracies. 

There really isn't a "wrong sort" literally speaking.  Instead, it was a term the professor used to describe the mindset of the American people at certain points in history.  (Although, it is fun to think about how wrong of a sort I am.) 

So now that you (kind of) understand where my thoughts are coming from... I have noticed some conceptions of "wrong sorts" since I have arrived here in Santiago.

One of my students is rather vocal about who he deems as "the wrong sort" in class, and frankly, it makes me more and more uncomfortable with every class.  He makes a lot of comments about certain people or things being "gay", and it is pretty clear he thinks they are not worthy of being equal to other "right sort" people.  This is really uncomfortable considering how many of my friends are gay.  Also, I am essentially told that I should make the student happy by most any means, so I feel like I can't say anything to harsh when he makes those comments.  I think this reflects a larger perception in Santiago of intolerance toward gay people- they are the "wrong sort".

Indeginous people are almost always the "wrong sort", and it is no different here in Chile.  The Mapuche are the largest indiginous group here in Chile, concentrated in the South.  (There are also Mapuche located in Argentina, and one of my favorite songs is sung by an Argentinian Mapuche woman.  You can listen to it on YouTube here.  There is also a photo montage, so that always makes it worth the watch.)  You can read about the Mapuche in this Wikipedia article  or this independent study in athropolgy.  As with many indigenous groups, the Mapuche have suffered injustices, and they are still fighting for recognition of rights and equality.  Currently, there are land disputes caused my Mapuche calling for stronger control over ancestral land claims.  This article briefly explains the recent campain to regain ancestral lands, and how some of their tactics have lead Mapuche people to be imprisoned as terrorists. 

At times, I feel like being gringa is one of two extremes: either I am the "wrong sort" or I am fascinating and exotic.  I get looks and comments occasionally, especially when I don't know the exact word I want to use in Spanish.  I hate feeling like the "wrong sort"- I have enough Irish and Catholic guilt, I don't need gringa guilt on top of it.  (The being fascinating and exotic part is kind can be saved for another time.)

Really, I just hope that some day we can stop thinking of people as being the "wrong sort" and all just get along.  Not in the "Everybody Is Finally Anglo American and Christian and Speaks English" sort of way, but in the "We Are All Different And We Can Peacefully Co-Exist Despite our Ethnic Differences" sort of way.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Gringa Can't Shine on $6.55

Now, I make more than $6.55 (I think), but it still ain't enough to shine on.  Since I don't really make that much money, my time here can be best described as "ballin' on a budget".  Although, it is kind of hard to be "ballin' on a budget" when there is essentially no budget to be had- the last check I got was the first one that covered rent, bills, and had some left over.  They even took a photocopy of my passport at the bank because I was cashing such a huge check!  Holla! 

I was never under the assumption that I would be rolling in dough, but I was under the assumption that I would make enough money to live.  (I was under this assumption because I asked about it in the interview, not because I thought any company would be so generous as to make sure we were living comfortably.)  What I failed to realize was how long it would take to be able to live comfortably, and even then, not really because you are too worried about all the savings you had to spend the months before while you were waiting for a paycheck that actually covered your rent. 

At the end of November, I was poorer than I ever have been before.  I had to count out my last bits of change to find enough money to buy some toilet paper, and that was the only thing I could buy until I got paid.  It also does not help that we only get paid once a month, at the end of the month.  It is kind of annoying, but I guess that is how they roll here.

This possibly sounds like I am just really irresponsible with money, but that is not the case.  Shortly after completing my training, I heard that business was slow, and there weren't a lot of classes coming in.  To make it worse, the week of September 18th came in the first month I was hear, and all of my classes were cancelled (meaning I don't get paid for them).  My first check had to be subsidized because I didn't make the minimum guarantee laid out in the contract.  This did not even cover my rent.  October came around, and I didn't have any cancellations and only one holiday.  My October check covered my rent and bills.  This is around the time when I decided to swear off public transportation.  It wasn't fitting into the budget.  Finally, November came around and I actually kind of felt like I was working and had a good number of classes, and when my balance finally came in, I had enough for rent, bills, and more!  Having to get through November was tough though.  My goal for November was to cut way back on eating (and therefore, groceries), and I succeeded fairly well, all things considered.  (Although, considering October's goal was to star walking everywhere, I do require some level of sustenance in order to not pass out while walking around this city.) 

So now it is December, and I finally have a little extra money from my check.  I have figured out rent, bills, and groceries, and I think there might be a little left over after these necessities are bought.  I might consider a new pair of shoes since mine have holes in them.  I should also probably buy new clothes at some point since mine are getting holes in them and super faded where my backpack rubs for hours a day.  I have also splurged on some fancy grocery items, like shredded cheese (I want to make a pizza).  I don't think I am going to start taking public transportation again on a regular basis any time soon though.  It does save quite a bit of money, and it kind of works out since my schedule is really random and I don't get time to run.

Besides not having nice clothes, being able to buy whatever I want at the grocery store, and do go out and do social things with friends, being poor was (and is) also very time consuming.  I had to plan every peso I spent, and when the pesos were running low, I had to think hard about what to buy.  Do I buy the loaf of bread or do I buy toilet paper?  And walking everywhere obviously becomes time consuming.  It only takes about an hour to walk to my furthest class (although, I just got a new class, which might take longer to get to), but when adding all that time, it gets to be a lot.  I spend more time walking to and from that class than I do teaching that class. 

I hope that being poor now brings good karma to me in the future.  I don't need to be rich by any means, but it would be nice to make enough money to live comfortably and do fun things sometimes. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Putzy Cat

First of all, I miss Kitty.  However, I am sure he has long forgotten about me since he only loved me because he had Stockholm Syndrome.  :(  There was a kitty on the metro the other day, and it reminded me of Kitty.  (Critters ride for free on the metro, don't ya know?) 

Neither of these are Kitty, but they look a lot like him

Putzy Cat is the name of a pet shop I walk by on my way to and from one of my classes.  I 1. Love the name, and 2. Love looking in the window at the pets and pet accessories.  Not to mention the fact that it is really fun to say "putzy cat"- it will put a smile on your face. 

Today as I walked by Putzy Cat, I thought it would be really nice to be a putzy cat in this city.  I would have soft pads on the bottom of my feet instead of having callouses and blisters.  Plus, it wouldn't matter that all of my shoes literally have holes in them (and the fact that I can't afford a new pair) because I wouldn't have to wear shoes.  Today I walked holes into yet another pair of shoes.  So now, no pair is safe.  I also walked my heals into a lot of pain; the skin feels like it is being burnt off.  I don't think I would have these problems if I was a putzy cat. 


I am currently listening to Kanye West.  Fuck you Kanye.  You just make such catchy tunes, I can't help but listen sometimes.  Especially when you let me download them for free, legally!

Stumbling Across Some Answers

I just got done with a unit in one of my classes about color, personality, and birth order.  We spent a lot of time talking about how certain colors make us feel and what we associate with certain colors.  Two of my students kept talking about how they associate green (and specifically a blueish shade of green) with death.  One student thought about it and decided it was probably because the head stones are painted with that color. 

The other day I was Stumbling, and I came across this website that just has a bunch of random information on it.  I was clicking around, and I found that in South America, the color green is associated with death.  Check out the color wheel of cultural color associations here. 

I initially wanted to share the color wheel with somebody who would find it interesting, but then when I saw that South American Culture associates green with death, I wanted to share it with everybody.  I have no idea why green is associated with death, and frankly, I don't care enough to look it up. 

I love using Stumble, and I love when I learn something from Stumbling. 


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Do I Look Like I Know What Is Going On?

First of all, I think the answer should be no.  I don't really look like I know what is going on, any more than any other person. 

I want to paint you a picture of what I look like walking around this city.  I normally have my backpack, which does not have Ernst & Young or anything embroidered on it, so it looks strange.  I only have about 3 outfits I rotate around to wear to work, and none of them are a suit.  So again, I look out of sorts.  Add to this I wear my tennis shoes to walk to class.  (I walk at least 3.5k each way, to and from class.  You would wear yo sneakas too, foo.)  No female wears tennis shoes unless they are running.  Especially when they are wearing semi-dressy clothes.  Plop me down (wearing hand-me-downs and sneakers) in a city where women wear high heels all the time and everybody is lookin' super fly and classy.  Would you think I look like I know what's up?

Apparently, people think I do.  Because I get asked for directions and the location of things more often than I ever would have guessed I would have been asked.  Just today I was on my way to class, and this woman asked me if there was a metro close to where we were.  I told her it was straight ahead, about a block away.  I have been asked where the metro is, where buildings are, and things I can't even understand by people speaking neither English or Spanish.  (Some German guy started talking to me in the metro one day, and I just shook my head with a confused look on my face.  I think he got it.)

There are, of course, the crazies that come up to you and try to say crazy things and beat you up and rob you and whatnot.  I stay away from them.  Obvio po.  But why do people think I am a good candidate to give them directions in this city?!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Extranjeria or Cattle Auction?

I would like to start by saying, this story of the experience at the Extranjeria is not just mine, but it is also my friend, Jemma's.  I will start at the beginning.

Early last week I got an email saying the letter came saying I could go get my visa stamp!  I was so excited!  I had Spanish classes last week though, so I didn't really have time to go.  So, I planned on going on Monday morning and getting in line at 7:30AM.  Gross, I know.  But it became less gross when I found out that Jemma also had to go!  I would have a friend to wait in the god-awful line with!

Jemma has had quite the difficulties in obtaining her visa.  Since she didn't make it to Mendoza a couple of weeks ago, she found out (on Friday) that she would get kicked out of the country on Monday if she did not get her visa renewed/upgraded/whatever.  (It is all a bit confusing to me.)  This is only to keep living in Chile.  She can keep working here until the end of December.  Please, don't ask me about this.  Nobody understands why.  It's because it is Chile.

So we decided to meet and wait in line at 7:30.  We got in line, and it finally moved at about 8.  We were herded, literally, like cattle, into the building.  Then we were herded, like cattle, into the waiting room where we were instructed to sit in order in the chairs provided.  It is important to note that you may not sit in any empty seat you find because the man in a suit will yell at you for budging.  You must sit in the same order that you were in in the line.

After sitting for a bit, we got herded again.  This time we had to file back to the entrance, in order, to pick up a number.  Why not just make us wait at the door and then take a number as we come in?  I have no clue.  It's Chile.  Now that we had our numbers, we had to wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Then, while we were waiting some more, we smelled the stench of urine.  I am guessing someone peed their pants because they thought they couldn't leave their seats.

So at about 10:15, Jemma was finally next in line!  w00t!  I watched her go up there and sit down at the desk, and it was kind of like watching my first empanada get fried.  Then the lady got up from the desk and left the office.  That is when Jemma turned around shook her head, and gave me thumbs down.  There was another visa situation. 

When the lady came back, Jemma motioned for  me to come into the office.  Carlos, the wonderful boss at work, had forgotten to change Jemma's contract so it had the correct minimum salary in it.  The lady said that she might be able to use my contract since we work for the same institute.  No such luck because I signed my contract after Jemma.  Jemma now had to wait until Carlos could get a new contract drawn up for her, sign and finger print it, have it notarized, and bring it back to the extranjeria before she could get her visa.

While Jemma was on the phone with Carlos figuring out what was going on (the lady was soooo nice and called Carlos to figure out why it was the wrong salary), the lady hooked me up with a visa stamp.  I feel kind of bad because this process has been relatively beyond easy for me compared to what Jemma has been through.  Hopefully she will have her stamp by the end of the week though.

After getting my stamp I registered with the international police, which was mostly like a faster version of renewing your license at the DMV.  It was oddly efficient.  And next I get to go apply for my carnet!  I gots to get up early and get my hair did so I don't look like a beaver in my carnet picture.  'Cause I looked like a totally doofus in my picture at the international police.  The lady even laughed at it.

So that is my story of the extranjeria and how it is like a cattle auction.  And how someone (probably) peed their pants.  Everybody, please send good vibes to Jemma this week so all goes well and she doesn't get deported.  I can't handle another one leaving this soon.

Peace and Love

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Don't worry friends, I have not forgotten about you.  The last two weeks have been busy because I finally got to take my free Spanish classes!  Woo hoo!  I am actually going to really miss having class, despite the fact that it was a slightly higher level than what I tested at, and therefore, a little challenging at times.  It was however, lots of fun.  I now know how to use the pluscuamperfecto and the subjuntivo (kind of...).  My friend and I decided to keep practicing, so once a week we will get together with our books and be nerds practicing our Spanish.

The other thing that has kept me busy this weekend is Clea leaving :(  I am sad to see her go, but I will get to see her again in March!  Horrays!   We had dancing on Friday night, music and move sharing on Saturday, and we went to the airport with her today.  It was like watching my first empanada get fried.  So sweet and emotional.

I went back to Valpo (and Viña del Mar) last weekend, and nobody got robbed!  Horray!  It was actually tons of fun.  They have these big bubbles on the beach in Viña that you get into and play on a pool of water.  Here are my friends having fun in the balls:

It was a lot of fun watching them until it started to rain, so we headed to the bus station to come back to Santiago.

I also got to experience Halloween here, and I learned that Halloween is really an American holiday.  Like, seriously.  There were hardly any decorations out or candy displays in the supermarket.  However, it is becoming more popular.  I went to two parties, and I saw some interesting costumes.  There was Freddy Kruger, a ghost, Blues Brothers, grapes, Chilean miners, a pink unicorn, crabs, vampires, the Joker, and a Chilean.  (Keep in mind that most of these people were gringos, or at least friends with lots of gringos.  There were very few Chileans out and about dressed in costume.)  It was really fun seeing some of the things people came up with, especially the poor teachers trying to find a costume on a budget, and the non-Americans that weren't quite sure what was going on.

Speaking of non-Americans wanting to see what all the hype about holidays... Thanksgiving is coming up, and we are going to have a delicious potluck/pool party!  I am sooo excited!  Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday because I love mashed potatoes and green bean casserole.  Neither is quite as good without cheddar cheese though. 

Tonight I get to enjoy some Chilean theatre, and tomorrow I get to stand in line for hours at the Extrajeria to get my visa stamp.  Luckily, my friend also has to wait in line, so I will have a buddy.  Expect to hear some great stories about that.

Peace and Love

Stray in Viña del Mar

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Familiarty is Funny

The other day I was Skyping with my friend (who was in Iowa) when he went through a drive though.  When he drove up to order, the person on the other end of the speaker spoke English!  I was taken off guard and found it really weird, and that is when I realized: Santiago is now familiar to me.

I no longer look at street signs when I am going to class.  I don't have to figure out which direction I have to take the metro to get where I want to go.   Buying leche descremada in a box and leaving it sit in the cupboard until I am ready to use it is completely natural.  Going back to the States is going to be weird, and that is kind of weird.  It will be weird going to Target and being able to buy new socks, a box of granola bars, and new pencils all in the same place.  I won't have to find three different places to make my purchases. 

Ultimately, I have a love/hate relationship with this familiarity.  I love that it is so easy.  I don't have to look at map to get around, and I don't have to try to adjust to new things.  I hate it because it isn't as exciting.  It has become routine.  And that is boring. 

Current Tunes: Speakerboxxx (I really like this album, and I get excited when I rediscover it.  And then part of me gets sad because I remember I have the clean version for some reason.   I am also excited to actually get to listen to Big Boi's most recent album.  I have only heard a little bit off it, but from what I hear, it's pretty legit.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ladies First

When I ask my students, "Who wants to go first?" I sometimes get the response, "Ladies first!" and a hand gesture toward the female in the class with laughs all around.  (I have 4 classes.  Two of them have only one female in them.  One is only a man, and the other has 4 females and a man.)  This seems rather comical, until you realize that here, ladies really do go first.

Chile still has strong gender roles, and chivalry is far from dead.  It kind of reminds me of Mad Men... Only women hold the same positions as men, and those positions require university degrees*.  And there was slightly less (explicit) exploitation.

Let's talk about segregation of the sexes first.  At work, we have ridiculous amounts of paperwork to fill out.  It's Chile, and they really love their paperwork.  There is not getting around it.  But we actually have files that are separated by gender.  There is a folder that holds all of the papers I have to fill out for my classes on any given day.  (Once that day passes, the papers go to various other places, and I have to remember to go find them and fill them out or I get yelled at.)  These folders are separated by gender.  No joke.  The men occupy the first half of the system, and women occupy the second half.  It is kind of convenient for me because I start the second half (It goes by first name, not last name).  But really?  Even during our "training" we were told, "It's Chile."  That is why we are separated by gender... and then alphabetically.  Instead of just straight up alphabetized. 

The next place I most notice gender roles is in the "chivalry" when riding an elevator.  Chivalry is not dead, folks.  It is alive and well.  I no longer find it strange that I need to be one of the first people off the elevator because I am female.  Men hold the elevator for me all the time.  Even when I am at the back of the elevator.  There are men that step aside and motion for me to go first, and I no longer find this weird.  I just know that I am supposed to get off the elevator first.  Part of me is greatful because I don't have to wait behind slow people, and part of me is annoyed that men wait and hold the door for me to leave before them.

Finally, I hear more whistles and horn honking here than I know what to do about.  Men even whistle at me.  Yes, most of it is because I am a gringa, and they are just looking for some kind of response out of me.  But I also hear a lot of whistling and horn honking towards Chilenas.  I become more and more infuriated every time I get whistled at.  Especially when it is a man on his bike because it would be so easy for me to stick out my foot and watch him fall. 

*This is not true all around, but I am writing more specifically about the things I experience in the professional world.  I see these gender roles not just in the company I work for, but also in the companies I go teach at.  This means, I am essentially writing about the upper-middle class (and me and the other poor folks that teach them).   I am not speaking about super extremes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wind Me and Grind Me Valparaíso

I really wish I could make the title of this blog a picture because I found this awesome painting with Valparaíso's name, and I think it would be a great title for this blog entry.

The reason it is so perfect for the blog entry, you ask?  Simple, I found it wandering the curvy a swervey streets of a city covered in graffiti.  Beyond that, the city had so many colorful houses to go along with the colorful graffiti.  It is really a city full of color.  (And colorful characters that will rob you.)

Yesh and I spent much of the afternoon wandering around, taking pictures, and letting fate decide where we ended up.  Of the endless graffiti we saw, I think this was my favorite. 

Graffiti Girl
Some of the graffiti had a message.  Like this one.

The Pope
I think one of the coolest things about the graffiti is that it is actually good.  It is not just gangs marking their turf, but there is actually a lot of quality in most of it; it is actual art. 

When we left Santiago, it was really dreary out, but I told Yesh it was going to be like when we went to Cajon de Maipo and the sun would shine as soon as we go to Valparaíso.  I was right, which just made everything so much more colorful!  Besides the graffiti being so colorful, the houses were as well. 

This picture has a lot of browns in it, but you can see that there are some colorful houses.  You can also see how damn hilly it is.  For those of you from Iowa, think of an intensified Dubuque.  It's crazy.  And the streets are a hot mess of winding around.  The city was actually pretty big and well established before it every actually became a city, so there weren't any rules or planning for the streets. 

I have been trying to find a picture that demonstrates the rich/poor gap living side by side.  You know, those images you think of when you think of Chile.  Friends from back home have also been asking me to try to find pictures of this juxtaposition of income.  I kind of found one when I was in Valpo.

Colorful Homes of Valparaíso
You can see the house in the foreground is literally falling down.  And right next to it (across the street, behind the tree) is a nice blue house lookin' mighty fine in the sunshine.  When I see some of the houses here I can't believe some people live in them.  I am amazed. 

But then, I also see literal shacks made of cardboard and people sitting in open fields next to a fire with a blanket, and I am even more amazed.  It acts as a reminder that I am a very privileged person.  Even though I am really poor right now, I mean that in the sense that I have had to use a lot of my savings, and I still have a few thousand dollars worth of credit to fall back on.  I actually have a lot.  Like food and shelter.  Every time I leave the city, I go by these reminders. 

Despite the fact that I got robbed, I still liked it there, and I would go back.  There were interesting things to see around every corner, and there was so much character! 

Peace and Love

Current Tunes: My iTunes literally just switched from Norah Jones to Notorious BIG... Norah Jones was great to blog about Valpo to, and Biggie is great to think about supper and cook to.  Perfect.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Que Será, Será

I think yesterday when I was robbed proved to make the quote I have in my blog truer than ever.  My body literally collided with the the earth.  Yesh and I bore witness.  We grappled with the limitless kindness and the bottomless cruelty of humankind. 

Let's start at the beginning.  Yesh and I went to Valparaíso for the day because neither of us had class, and neither of us had been there yet.  We had been walking the winding streets enjoying the graffiti, scenery, and colorful houses all afternoon when we decided that we wanted to sit down for a minute on a bench at a park.  I took off my backpack and put it on my lap with my arms over it. We were sitting there not even for 5 minutes when a man came up, pushed down, and yanked the bag out of my arms.  I stood up and took about two steps, slipped, and fell.  Thank you Tom's Shoes, for not having the least bit of tread.  This is the part where my body collided with the earth, we bore witness, and we grappled with the bottomless cruelty of humankind.

And then we grappled with the limitless kindness of humankind.  Not two seconds after the man stole my bag, there was a woman on the phone with the police.  When she got off the phone with the police, she waited with us.  Her daughters picked us flowers to cheer us up.  When she saw police walking by on the sidewalk about a minute later, she ran over and got them.  She told them what happened and they went to see if they could find the guy (obviously in vain).  She waited with us while the police went to look for the guy and made small talk (who says Chileans can't do it?!). 

When the police came back, they obviously said they didn't find him.  They asked me what I had in my bag and how much things were worth.  There wasn't really anything of great value.  The backpack itself was even getting pretty beat up.  There were small holes starting in the bottom.  Here is the complete list of what was stolen:

Black Old Navy Zip-up Hoodie from Megan
35mm camera
Bip card (with about 300 pesos on it, so not enough for a ride anywhere)
My phone (with about 100 pesos on it, so no enough to make a call)
Pomegranate Burt's Bees lip balm
Rice with veggies
Home made honey roasted peanuts
Blue and black scarf from Spain (at least it wasn't the black and yellow one!)
Wallet with about 1000 pesos in change and my credit card
Bracelet I bought in Pomaire (which you can find everywhere here)
Return ticket to get back to Santiago

The police told me a couple of things.  First, since I didn't claim anything when I came into the country, they couldn't really do anything about getting my stuff back.  (I wasn't expecting them to be able to do anything anyway, but that is a dumb rule to have.)  Second, it would take about 6-8 months to process a report if I wanted to file one.  Neither of these things was that big of a deal because I was not expecting to be able to do anything. 

I at least got to practice my Spanish hardcore trying to talk to the police about all of this.

Yesh decided that we needed to have a drink, so we found a nice little pub and had a few drinks.  I asked one of the bartenders if we could pay with a credit card (Yesh was not robbed, and thus picked up the tab).  He could not understand me.  He asked me to repeat myself about 3 times before he asked another bartender if he could understand me.  He understood me the first time.  I have never had problems with someone understanding me like that.  And it wasn't because what I was saying was wrong.

We make our way to the bus terminal stopping to buy empanadas and sopapillas, and stocking up on Super 8s and corte americano chips for the ride back to Santiago.  Once we made it back to Santiago, I called to cancel my credit card, and they said it hadn't been used yet.  Amazing.   Then, we obviously had to keep drinking.  So more drinks and dancing it was. 

All in all, things could have been so much worse.  I am just glad I didn't have anything of great value on me, and everything is replaceable.  Yesh was also very supportive, and once I got back into Santiago, my friends were all very helpful and supportive.  Thank you all!


Obligitory "The Minors Are Free" Entry

So, the whole world was excited when they started bringing up the minors.  But nothing compares to the sense of patriotism and solidarity here in Chile.  It is amazing how emotional everybody gets about wins and losses in this country.  One person's loss is the country's loss, and one person's win is the country's win. 

The night they started bringing up the first miners, the statue of the Virgin Mary on top of Cerro San Cristóbal was lit up like a disco ball.  The light was flashing all crazy like.  Then, when they brought the last miner up, things went nuts.  I was watching coverage on the news with friends, and we could hear Plaza Italia explode with excitement.  There was honking and cheering.  People were circling Plaza Italia with flags (and people) hanging out of their windows.  Everybody had a flag in their hand and there was plenty of clapping. 

Chileans Celebrating
There were people of all ages there (although most of them seemed to be high school aged).  There were even small children playing in the confetti flying around the plaza.

Children Playing with Confetti

Of course, like good Chilean visa holding temporary citizens, we had to get in on the action.  We got in there to chant and clap and throw confetti for the celebration.   

Action Shot of Confetti Fight

 It was kind of  amazing seeing the celebration and how excited people were about the miners being free.  In my classes the next day, my students talked about how great it was that they had finally be rescued.  I don't think we have that in the States.  Of course we hear about news, and we talk about it, but we don't celebrate and mourn together the way they do.  The only time I think anything like that has happened is 9/11. 


Current Tunes: Iron and Wine (Sometimes, I forget about how much I like them until I start listen to them.  And then I can't stop listening.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Thanks for My Popcorn and Peanut Butter

I had a fantastic experience with customs today. 

I got a letter slipped under my door sometime between 1AM and 4AM saying that I had receved a package from Ankeny, and it was being detained in customs for inspection.  I needed to get a letter saying it was clean and santitary.  I had no idea (and I still have no idea) what that meant (means).  It said there was popcorn in the package, and that was what was causing the problems.  Reading this letter at 4AM after having only slept for 3 hours could only make me laugh. 

So this afternoon I got back from class and sat down to eat lunch.  That is when we got a call that there was a package for me downstairs.  I thought it was the package that Grandma sent me because the one Mom, Doug, Keaton, and Carter sent was detained.  But it was the package from Ankeny!

I have no idea why I got the notice telling me it was detained, and I have no idea why that notice came only 12 hours before I got the package.  But what I do know, is I got a package with some fantastic goodies including popcorn and... PEANUT BUTTER!  So thanks, Chile Customs!  I appreciate you letting my package through!


Current Tunes: Modest Mouse (I saw those boys live, and it was raining.  And they remind me of Alexa.  Just so you know.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nerding Out

I have been nerding out like whoa the last few days.  Well, it probably started about a month or so ago, but it has gotten intense the past week or so.

First of all, I have really been wanting to watch the original Star Wars trilogy. I have been wanting to since shortly after I got here.  (I am guessing it was because I was playing LEGO Star Wars, but now my charger won't work, so I can't play and I am having Star Wars withdrawal.)  It really didn't help that I woke up the other day, looked out my window, and felt like Luke Skywalker when he crashes in that bog after that Hoth battle.  It was all foggy/smoggy out, and I couldn't even see Cerro San Cristóbal from my window.

View of Cristóbal or Dragonsnake Bog on Dogabah?
Another way I have totally been nerding out is my excitement for Africa.  It's not just that I am excited to visit Africa, but the fact that I will be unbelievably disappointed if I don't end up getting to see some hominid fossils.  I have been looking up tours, how much they cost, and how I will be able to get there.  The fact that I might get to go to the Cradle of Humankind and see where Mrs. Ples was excavated gets me all sorts of excited and giddy.  I just wish I had my Human Origins book with me so I could do some reviewing. 

One thing I do have with me for reviewing are the readings from my Spanish American literature class.  I got on ICON yesterday, and I started re-reading some of the stories.  I felt kinda nerdy for going back and re-reading things from school, but at the same time, I really kind of liked some of those stories.  Besides, I had to remind myself what the word for bat was.  (It's murciélagos, in case you were wondering.)  I still think my favorite story from that class was Monterroso's El dinosaurio.  (It used to be considered the shortest short story, but now that title goes to El inmigrante by Luis Filipe Lomelí.  I quite enjoy this microcuento as well.)  

I also miss debate sometimes.  I do enjoy reading Melanie's status updates that let know her kids records and about her aff voting streak.  I was kind of hoping it was going to last all season, but I knew it wouldn't.  It is really weird for me to not be surrounded by debate right now, and I feel really left out of it all.  I don't even know what the LD topic is right now. 

Peace and Love

Current Tunes:  Kanye West (Fuck you, Kanye. Why do you have to have such catchy beats and "fuckin' ridiculous" ((He has this series of free downloads, and the most recent, called "So Appalled" just keeps repeating how everything is ridiculous.)) rhymes?)

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dear Chile

Don't worry.  This isn't going to be like a "Dear John" letter.  I am not trying to break up with you.  I just wanted to let you know a few things.

First of all, you are a strange, strange place.  Some of your words and phrases are baffling to me, and I don't always understand what you are trying to say to me.  I am, however, learning.  So this is progress.  I hope that some day I will be able to understand everything you try to tell  me.  

Your words are not the only thing that is strange.  Your fashion is also rather different, and I don't understand it.  What is with all of the crazy flower prints on leggings?  And why do so many people where parachute pants (and pants inspired by parachute pants)?  This strange fashion is  making me like things I normally would not like, and I am not sure how I feel about that.

Beyond these superficial things, you have provided me with a great personal service.  I have come out of my shell and grown as a person.  Because of you, I have forced myself to meet people and be outgoing.  I came here not knowing anybody, and I made friends.  From all over the world.  (Except Asia...)  This is a miracle for me.  Thank you for showing me I can do it.

Chile, when I do have to leave you, I will miss you and everything you hold.  I will miss the friends I have made.  I will miss having to remember to get my bread weighed at the grocery store.  I will miss having to light the stove to make my french fries.  And I will deeeeeply miss the pebre, sopapillas, and empanadas.

Thank you for being everything you are Chile, you strange, silly place, you. 


Currently Listening to: Hilltop Hoods (Again.  I can't help it.  I like them.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beaches and Baking

I just made some banana bread, and I didn't even have to come up with alternatives for any of the ingredients!  It turned out pretty good.  I made cookies about a week ago, and it was slightly more challenging than the banana bread was.  Mostly because the recipe called for brown sugar.  They don't have that delightful, moist, molasses infused, joyous sugar here in Chile.  I thought it wasn't too big of a deal because I could just get molasses and make my own.  Except they don't have  molasses either.  So I needed to find an alternative to the alternative.  And thanks to the internet, I found one.

Azúcar y Miel = Brown Sugar Alternative

Yes, honey is an alternative for molasses.  So, instead of using brown sugar in my cookies, I used extra white sugar and honey.  They turned out pretty good, but they definitely tasted different.  They seemed sweeter and not quite as moist.  I am not sure if I had the ratio right.  The Chileans loved them though, so that was really all that mattered. 

I went to the beach with my new flatmates last weekend.  It was chilly, but the chill didn't take away from the beauty of the coast.

Chilean Coast
 Despite the fact that it was rather chilly (I had on my hoodie and scarf), I still had to put my feet in the Pacific.  Everybody thought I was crazy for wanting to put my feet in the water, but that didn't stop me from being the crazy gringa that I am.  I didn't do much frolicking though.  I will save that for Beach Time when it is warmer out.

Freezing in the Pacific

We stayed in some cabins just outside of ConCon, and of course, there were some strays.  We fed them,  and then banished them from the porch.  Although, they kept coming back up... I wonder why...

Dog Scratching Himself- How Manly
 Peace and love!

Current Tunes: Camera Obscura (I am still sad I didn't get to see them when they were in Iowa City.  It was hard enough to get people to go to The Envy Corps with me though, and I don't think I could have pulled off getting people to go see music they didn't know two nights in a row.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Everything Here Is About Food

Santiago is weird.  There is no other word to describe this city.  Ask anybody.

Last weekend I went to the beach with my new flatmates.  It was definately interesting.  Both of my flatmates are from the States and bilingual (one has lived in Chile for 4+ years; the other has lived in Chile for over a year, and her family is from El Salvador), and the rest of the group was Chilean.  It was Spanish the entire time (except for the couple of times I had no idea what was going on and someone had to explain what was going on. 

The fact that it was all Chilean all the time made it a challenge, of course.  But what was also challenging about it was being dropped into a group of close friend without really knowing any of them.  This made me realize how much this move has made me grow as a person.  I never would have done something like that in the past.  This experience has really made me come out of my bubble.  I want to thank Santiago for that, despite its high level of weirdness. 

I got to try a fantastic new food last weekend!  They were patties made out of carne de soya, so it was kind of like a Boca burger or something of that nature.  This was so much better though!  Carne de soya is much like dehydrated tofu- you soak it in water and then mix it with stuff and it picks up the flavors of whatever you mix it with.  We mixed it with egg, onion, and bread crumbs, formed it into a paddy, and grilled it.  I put the grilled paddy on a toasted bun with palta (avocado), tomate, and lechuga (lettuce) and had a burst of flavor in my mouth.  I am going to get some carne de soya the next time I am at the store.  It is a great source of protein and can easily be added to almost anything. 

One last share about the fondas from the celebrations for the 18th- it can prove to be challenging to be a vegitarian, especially on the last night of a fonda.  There were no vegetarian dishes left at the fonda I went to the Monday after the 18th.  There were tons of antichuchos with more meat than any one person should eat (I thought Americans ate a lot of meat, but they have nothing on the Chilean anticuchos), but nothing sans meat.  I found caramel corn though.  And mote con huesillo.  It is this fantastic sweet drink.  They put mote (boiled wheat stuff) in a cup, and then they put a dried peach and peach juice in the cup.  It's fun.  Look:

Mote con Huesillos

I found a recipe, and I want to try to make it (for those that might be interested in trying such an ethnic beverage) when I come back to Iowa.  It might turn out right though because I hear the closest thing we have to mote is hominy.

I, along with many of my friends, feel that all we think about is food and what our next meal is going to be.  I am always thinking of what I can try to make (because half of the time I have to alter recipes and find alternatives- remind me to tell the story of  baking cookies).  I also love thinking about the new and exciting foods I get to eat while I am here (i.e. carne de soya).  Tomorrow I get to check out a Thai place with some friends.  We will see how this goes.

Finally, I just want to say that I think Travis is right (to some degree) about only being friends with people because it is convenient.  If you aren't right there, people kind of start to forget about you.  I have to decide if he was right about the part where you just stop being friends when the distance becomes to inconvenient.  I really started to think about all of this last week when all of my classes were getting canceled and I was starting to get bored out of my mind. 

Peace and love

Current Tunes: Dresden Dolls (I am in the process of moving all of my music from my iPod to my computer, so I am being reminded of all the great music I started to forget about.  I have been listening to this fantastic "faggy" (in the words of Travis) music while walking to classes today.)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

¡Feliz Cumpleaño, Chile!

I wanted to share a few more things from last weekend with you all.  And this time, it is mostly photos and video.  I hope you enjoy.

I went to a couple of fondas (see my previous entry if you are wondering what a fonda is), and there were some interesting things to see.

First of all, there was so much candy and candied fruit!  It was overwhelming!  It was not only an insane amount of sweets, but they were so pretty, too!  Look!

Candy, Candy, and More Candy

And this was only one side of the candy booth.  There were two more sides filled with candy, just like this!  And look at all the candied stuff!

Candied Manzanas, Frutillas, Crezas, Malvaviscos, y Más

Clea, Jemma, and I got to talk to a huaso (think Chilean cowboy) about the insane spurs he was wearing and the outrageous price of huaso clothing.

Jemma, Clea, Huaso, Me
Crazy Huge Huaso Spurs

They also have traditional dances from different parts of Chile.  Here is some video of the dances from Rapa Nui (Easter Island), which I thought  was the coolest.  These videos don't capture it, but there was definitely a lot of pan flute action and pelvic thrusting at other parts in the dance.  I am sad I didn't get it.

And this one is the females shakin' their groove thangs.

I got to play one of the coolest games ever.  It is called Squatter.  It is the classic Australian board game of sheep herding.  It is kind of like Monopoly, only tons better, and much more educational.  You are a sheep farmer, and you have to try to upgrade your land to the highest level and fill it with the maximum number of sheep pens allowed.  It sounds kind of easy, but not so much when you can only buy and sell sheep when you land on stock sale spots, and sometimes the market isn't very favorable to buy and/or sell sheep.  Then you have to repair fences, fix water lines, dip for fleas, and much much more.  I think it more accurately deals with the situation farmers and businesses face.  (And I think I know someone named Travis who would like the way it deals with market fluctuation and natural disasters).  When I grow up and have a house with a game room, I am for sure going to have Squatter in my game collection.

Squatter: The Classic Australian Game of Sheep Herding

Sunday, September 19, 2010

¡Chi-Chi-Chi le-le-le! ¡Viva Chile!

This weekend was (well, I guess it kind of still is) Chile's bicentenario.  Yesterday was their independence day and today they celebrate the military.  The whole weekend has been filled with shenanigans and celebration.
Thursday afternoon we had party at work.  It was cool to be able to talk to some other people from work.  We don't get to see each other much because we are usually out and about at businesses teaching.  There was an insane amount of kabobs as well.  Like, bajillions.  And people ate bajillions.  There was also some really good bread and pico de gallo salsa type stuff for those of us (and by us, I mean me) who don't eat meat.  I am pretty sure I am the only person there that didn't eat meat.  That's fine- more bread for me!  There was drinking and dancing and eating and an all around good time.  It was much like Independence Day in the States, except they have traditional dances here that they do. 

Thursday night a group of us decided to see the light show at La Moneda.  It was pretty sweet.  It told the story of Chile's history through lights and sound.  If you know anything about Chile's history, you know it is kind of intense.  The energy was really intense too.  There were sooo many people there, and they were all feeling Chilean and patriotic.  It was definitely something to experience.

I also went to a fonda, which is just like a fair (think Iowa State Fair only slightly smaller), except there are stages where people do this traditional dance.  I don't really understand the dance.  It has a whole story, and it is very specific and generally confusing.

Today is the military parade.  I decided not to go.  I am not really that into watching the military march down the street.  Besides, I have the convenience of watching it on TV right now.  I don't think I am too disappointed with missing it.

Both Friday and  Monday are considered part of the holiday (I am assuming because it fell on a weekend?), so most things are closed.  I don't have work, which is kind of ok, but then I don't get paid.  It also kind of sucks because I really want to go to the grocery store.  I have some potatoes to eat, and that is about it.  There are a couple of places open today, but that is literally it- a couple of places.  And from the sounds of it, there isn't going to be anything open tomorrow either.  I really just want a Hy-Vee right now.  It would make my life (and by life, I mean belly) significantly more full.

Finally, please follow my volunteering blog, Allison Volunteers.  When I contact businesses, it will look better for me if more people are following my blog.  It looks like more people will read my public thanks for my businesses sponsors.  So follow me.  You should also like my cause on facebook.  It has the same effect.  Finally, you can follow me on Twitter.  This also has the same effect.  It's really not hard, and you only have to put up with it for less than a year.  Besides, it is for a good cause. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The last couple of days have been a whirlwind of activity, and I like it.

First, I have gotten two, yes TWO, more classes!  I am super excited.  One started yesterday, and it went well.  It is in a fancy office building out in Las Condes.  The building is pretty snazzy, much like a nice American office building.  The view is fantastic.  The other class I will be starting next week.  It is a night class for a group from Ernst and Young.  The fact that they work at Ernst and Young is kind of intimidating, but then I remember, I know English, and that is why I am there.  I believe Ernst and Young participates in the government subsidy for English classes, which means I am going to have to be really good at filling out paperwork.  I can't cross things out or use white out.  I am super excited to have more classes now!

Even though I have more classes assigned to me, many of the classes aren't actually happening.  The bicentenario  is coming up on the 18th, so everybody is taking long holidays.  Friday and Monday are also national holidays, so everything is shut down.  So yeah, I had to work on American labor day, but I get two days off for the bicentenario, and end up with a 4 day weekend.  Not to mention the fact that my Wednesday class got canceled, I don't have a Thursday class this week, and my early Tuesday class will probably be canceled as well.  I essentially have more free time the next few days than I have had since I got here.

That is probably a good thing because I will be moving to a new apartment!  It is actually kind of a big mess, so I don't really want to talk about it.  I am just glad things are (kind of) progressing.  I am hoping that once I get moved, everyone will stop telling me about how dangerous it is for me to be out by myself after dark near my apartment.  I understand things can be dangerous, but I apparently live in a real seedy part of town after dark the way people talk about it.

I have also been trying to work on my volunteering things.  It is intense.  I have been busy making lists and making profiles and generally worrying I am not going to raise enough money or something disastrous is going to happen.  You can read all about what is going on with that bucket of stress at Allison Volunteers.

Today, I got to go arbing with Clea.  We went out to Pueblito de Los Dominicos.  It is a bunch of shops that have hand crafted Chilean stuff.  It is really cool, and there is a nice variety of things.  I think sometimes things like that get to be all of the same thing over and over, but there was lots to look at out there.  They also had flags hanging up everywhere for the bicentenario.  It was cute.

Chilean Flags at Pueblito de Los Dominicos

Current Tunes: Crystal Castles (I keep listening to them because I am sad I can't afford the 25.000 pesos for the tickets.  I also don't have my carnet yet, so even if I could afford them, I don't have a RUT to buy them with.  I just try to tell myself that the universe has it's own way of doing things, and if the universe doesn't want me to see Crystal Castles, there is no way I will be able to.)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

You Can Help Me!

As my first step in raising  funds for my volunteering, I have installed a button here in my blog.  It is really easy to use.  Just click on donate, and the button takes you to the PayPal site to make a donation.  You can chose the amount you are willing to donate.  It really is easy- I promise.  I know some of you do not have an excess of cash flow, but even something as small as a $5 donation is much appreciated. 

Another way you can help is to spread the word about what I am doing and encourage others to donate.  Tell people about my blog, Allison Volunteers, where I will blog about how my preparation for volunteering is going (and eventually the volunteering itself).  From there, people can click on my donate button!  If you or someone you know would like to make a larger donation and would need a receipt and other paperwork for tax purposes, please let me know.  I have the proper forms and procedure available.

Yet another way you can help is by donating materials I can take with me.  There are very few resources available at the school and orphanage, and those that are available are often not in the best condition.  Some ideas include: toothbrushes, toothpaste, vitamins, first aid supplies, balloons, games/puzzles, anti-bacterial soap, bubbles, markers/crayons, child scissors, cassette player with children's music, pencils/pens, books/coloring books, and pavement chalk.  If you would like to send any of these supplies with me, please let me know.  It is greatly appreciated.

Again, I would love to hear any ideas you all have for fund raising.  It is going to be a challenge raising money from down here, so I would love to hear of any creative ideas you might have.

Peace and love

Current Tunes: Nothing.  My head feels like it is going to explode from thinking about the next year of my life.  Sometimes, silence is golden.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Next Adventure

Some of you might know I have been thinking about volunteering abroad for some time now, but I have never really had a good time to go.  I could have gone for a week or two here and there, but I wanted to stay someplace for an extended period of time volunteering.  I have this mentality that I need to stay for several weeks to make a real impact on anything, and I think it makes a bigger impact on me if I can stay and experience the culture for an extended period of time.

I have finally found the opportunity to go.  When I come back from Chile, I will be home for about 2 weeks before leaving for South Africa for 2 months and Tanzania for 11 weeks.  This means a few things.

First of all, everybody needs to mark their calendars for when I will be home (February 17- March 3).  There is clearly going to be a Hello/GoodbyeIowa party, and there will clearly be another "Dollar Dance" involved.  I have yet to decide if party panties will be required, banned, or simply accepted.  Nobody wore them last time, and look what happened.

I also would like to ask for your help in the process of my volunteering.  I am going to be doing fund raising to cover costs, and I think it is going to prove to be challenging to do this fund raising from another hemisphere.  Costs include program fees, flights, visa/entry/exit fees, etc, and right now I am thinking I am going to need to raise about $7000 (this is a rough estimate) by the middle of January.  The organization I am going through, A Broader View, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, which means my expenses and donations made to my trip are tax deductible.  I would love to hear about any ideas you have for fund raising or opportunities you hear about for possible funding (like grants and whatnot).  You could also just send me money :) 

In both South Africa and Tanzania I will mostly be working with children.  In South Africa I have signed up to work in the education field, and I would help with teaching, upkeep of the school, and mentoring students.  In Tanzania I have chosen to work at an orphanage.  At the orphanage I would be involved in helping with every day routines (brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating, etc), and I will have the opportunity to help with teaching the children.  I also might get the opportunity to help with construction projects, which I am really excited about. 

I am really excited about this new adventure I am going to have because I will be able to encounter first hand the harsh reality that these people live, and I will be able to offer them help.  I will be able to see and experience a completely new way of life.  I also hope that I will be able to share my experiences through my blog and enrich our understanding of how the world works. 

Finally, I changed the name of the blog.  I figured since my dreams are actually become reality, and I am going to get to travel more and experience new and exciting things, I should make the blog more all encompassing.  The title can't be exclusive to Chile if I am going to blog about things beyond Chile. 
Besos y abrazos :)

Current Tunes: Hilltop Hoods (I am totally digging them.  They are an Australian rap/hip-hop group.  They also do work to help get aspiring rap/hip-hop artists make CDs.  Solid.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Working for the Man

I got my first paycheck the other day.  Since I started at the end of the pay period, my check was for one class.  It was kind of bad ass seeing a comma in the amount the check was for, but then I had to remind myself I see a comma when I buy a bag of peanuts at the grocery store.  My next check should have 6 digits though- three on each side of a comma.  Holla!

I finally have more classes!  They were supposed to start this week, but they got pushed back to next week.  Today we got to go see the office and students.  The office is ballin'.  On one side of the building there is an amazing view of the Andes (or what I would imagine would be an amazing view after the rain/sans smog, although it is pretty nice even with the smog).  The office is really nice too.  The purpose of us going there today was to introduce the students to the company and hand out their books.  We (the teachers) just sat there and looked pretty.  The two directors that took us did all of the talking. 

I really like the teaching experience.  I like watching the students figure things out and help each other when they aren't sure about something.  There are lesson plans outlined in the teacher edition of the book, and we don't need to veer to far off of it.  We aren't expected to either.  It's really cool to see them engaging in dialogue and being able to express and defend their views in English.  It's an awesome feeling when I realize I am helping them be able to do that more and more effectively. 

My Equifax group is fantastic.  I love working with them.  They are really good at using English.  There is one student who tends to use Spanish when he doesn't know the English word for something, but the other students point it out and tell him to use English.  They also do a good job of explaining things in English to each other when someone doesn't understand the vocabulary or grammar point.  My job is pretty easy with them.  They use English and they participate a lot.  So far, this job is a big win.  I hope my new group is as awesome as my Equifax group.

Peace my friends :)

Current Tunes: Emiliana Torrini (I actually discovered this at the library before I left, but I really like her.  I listen to her and St. Vincent almost every morning when I am getting ready.  It's good stuff.)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

About That Triathlon

Before leaving, I told Cindy I would consider doing a triathlon with her when I got back to Iowa.  She suggested I plant the seed of the genius idea in Stacy's head as well, so I did.  I know; I'm going nuts.  After telling them I would consider it, I started getting up in the mornings and swimming for 45 minutes or an hour, and after that, I would go for a mile or two run.  It got to be pretty easy, and I even enjoyed it.  I felt amazing, and it felt really good that it was that easy for  me to do.  I started to get my hopes up about doing this triathlon bidness Cindy had planted in my mind.

Then I left Iowa, arrived in cold-ass Chile, and kind of laid off the running.  I didn't bring warm running clothes- it was too cold to run in shorts.  I most definitely walk a lot here, although there were a few days where it was so cold, I barely got out of my bed, let alone out walking.  But after those few super cold days, I have been out walking, and walk at least an hour every day.  But no running...

Until today that is.  It is about 73 degrees here, and the sun is out.  It is georgous.  So I put on my new running shirt (I bought a long sleeved one at the market yesterday) and shorts and headed out.

I didn't run that far.  I went over to Parque Bustamante and just ran around it.  (It is a park, but also functions as the median of the road.  It is a big median, but a median nonetheless.  The parks here are strange, and I don't know exactly how to describe them.)  It ends up being about a mile on uneven awkward terrain, and it wasn't too bad except it was really different.

First of all, there was no sweat.  One of my favorite things about running (and working out in general) is the massive amount of sweating that goes on.  I love feeling the sweat rolling down my face and back.  Since there is no humidity in the air here, I don't get to sweat.  It makes me sad.  I guess on some level I should be happy because my clothes aren't going to be soaked and have to dry before I can put them in the dirty clothes.  And they won't smell atrocious after I wear them once.

Another thing that happens with on humidity is you get dry.  My mouth and face felt really dry.  It was like I was spitting dust.  And then someone was sucking all the moisture out of me and replacing it with a bunch of Sham Wows.  My lips were chapped, and I could feel the skin on my face drying up and getting tight.  It was strange.  I decided that I need to drink excessive amounts of water to get hydrated enough to run in this city.

Obviously, the shin splints were killing me, practically before I even started running.  But that will get better soon because if I keep running, they should at least lessen in severity.  

Overall, I am thinking it is going to take some getting used to, but I should manage.  I have made it a personal goal to be able to run up Cerro San Critóbal (and maybe even back down) before I leave this city.  I know many of you don't know what that means.  It is a giant hill.  Check it out on Wikipedia: Cerro San Critóbal.  And here is a picture from Wikipedia en español:

So, what I want Cindy and Stacy to know, is that I am not saying no to the triathlon.  I am just saying it's though going right now.  I also don't have anyplace to go swimming at, and no crazy friends to go running with and motivate me (Stacy).  Despite the lack of sweat, I will keep running and see how things progress.

Peace :)

PS- I have decided to start telling you what I am currently listening to.  I got some new music from a friend from South Africa and a friend from Australia.  I thought I could let you know what I am listening to, and if you are interested, check it out.

Current Tunes: Little Dragon (I like them.  They are from Sweden.  And the Envy Corps was one of their opening acts when they were in Iowa City.  Legit.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

So Fresh, and So Clean, Clean

I want to make sure everybody is aware that they need to say "so fresh and so clean clean" in the same manner that Outkast says it.  That being said...

It rained!  It is amazing how clear things get after the rain.  I was going to walk up Cerro San Cristóbal and take pictures to post for everybody back home, but I got part way up the hill yesterday and found out my camera was out of battery.  So, sorry guys.  You are going to have to wait longer for clear pictures of the city.  It really is amazing how much more clear you can see things after the rain.  I live not far from Cerro San Cristóbal, and when I stand in Plaza Italia, the top of the hill is usually hazy.  But not yesterday or today.  I could see clearly now the rain had gone.

Another note on the rain: The drainage system here in Santiago sucks.  Last night it rained pretty good, so there was water everywhere.  By the time I got back to my apartment, my legs were soaked up to my knees, and I had to lay my shoes by the fire (aka my heater) to dry.  I love the rain though, and I loved that made Santiago so fresh and so clean clean.

The other thing that got so fresh and so clean clean yesterday was my laundry.  Self-service laundromats are not the norm.  Instead, you take your clothes in and have the employees there wash/dry them for you.  It cost me a precious peso*, and I normally don't like when other people do my laundry because I have been doing it myself for close to a decade, and I like it done my way- This is MY house!  But my clothes were so amazing when they came back! They were perfect!  They were folded so nice and in such a neat pile.  I just stared at them for a bit.  Then I put my face in them, inhaled, and thought, "Damn, these are so fresh and so clean clean!"  The lady was also super nice and helpful when I didn't fully understand the process of getting my clothes cleaned.

Can you spot the stray?

*It was really not that expensive, I am just kinda poor right now, and I didn't want to spend money on taking my clothes in to get cleaned.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Made In USA 1987

I would like to first tell the story concerning the title of this blog entry.  I wanted it to be a play on the tattoo Ricky Stanzi (the Iowa Hawkeye quarterback) even though pretty much anyone that will read this blog would not get it.  I thought it was a good way to title the theme of the blog, so I went for it.  The tattoo is on his back and says Made In USA and underneath 1987. I was also made in the USA in 1987.  (Ok, actually, it was 1986, but I was born in 1987, so whatever.)  Anyway, I googled "americanzni" thinking something about his tattoo would come up because both "Americanzi" and his tattoo are linked to his absurd patriotism.  Google thought I was confused and thought I meant American, so the first 5 sites or so were American Airlines, Anglo Americans in Chile, and things like that.  When I finally got down to the hits I was really looking for I found Black Heart, Gold Pants, I knew they had a picture, and I found what I wanted (and then got distracted reading random postings).  I just thought it was a funny story of how Google is silly (American Airlines) and creepy (Anglo Americans in Chile).

You might remember this shirt from the 9/11 Patriotic Party

So, I was made in America, and I have been lucky enough to hold on to my citizenship.  I also hold a US passport, which I have a nice cover for.  The cover not only protects it from getting beat up in my travels, but it also hides the front that says United States of America on it.  I don't like having the United States of America readily visible because I think it could allow for people to hassle me.  There have only been a couple of times I have gotten any grief for being American (we won't even mention the death threat in Glasgow... that was a whole new level of grief), but I don't like the idea that people can see where I am from and make quick judgments about me.  I also don't like when they ask me to sing Yankee Doodle and when I refuse, they go ahead and sing for me.

The judgments that get made and the questions that get asked are almost always concerning American foreign policy.  What is frustrating is when people ask why the US enacts certain policies.  I cannot answer all of those questions.  I have no clue why we invaded Iraq; I straight up have no clue.  I understand wanting to have an open conversation about policy, but I don't like the assumption that I agree with all of the policies of the US.  Spend 5 minutes with me and you will discover I can be critical of US policy.

This is not to say I don't love being an American.  I understand the privlige that comes with being an American and holding a US passport.  First of all, I am allowed to live comfortably in one of the richest nations in the world.  I can participate in open discourse and vote in elections.  I don't fear for my life and I don't wonder where my next meal is coming from.  I live under a stable government that provides me with adequate education and roads to drive on.  I am free to travel anywhere in the country, and I do not have to worry about clean water.  I do not have to worry about polio, malaria, or typhoid.  I understand this list goes on forever, and I realize how lucky I am to live in the US. 

Beyond just living in the US, holding a US passport also opens doors.  I can go pretty much anywhere I want in the world without much hassle (at the border, not necessarily from the citizens).  I might have to pay a reciprocity fee.  (I paid one when I got here.  I understand they charge US citizens because we charge them, but I don't think either country should have the fee, especially considering there is a free trade agreement.)  I might need to apply for a visa or some other minor inconvenience, but I am not restricted from going pretty much anywhere I want (with the exception of North Korea and Cuba, and even Cuba is easy to get to.)  I really am thankful for that.

I always have been.  However, I don't think it really hit me until I was telling Clea why I like to keep a cover on my passport.  The converstation moved to how US citizens are able to go wherever they want without much trouble.  She looked at my passport and said, "You're really lucky." 

I understand and am greatful for the benefits of being an American.  I also understand that sometimes I act like a spoiled American- like when I get annoyed that I have to turn on the califone to take a hot shower or when I look at the open flame on the propane heater and think how dangerous it is.  But I don't think my "American-ness" extends to the point that it should stop people from liking me just because I am American.  Please don't look at my passport and pass judgment- at least get to know me a little before you decide to hate me.  Or preferably, just don't hate me.

Peace and love from a grateful American.