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.