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.)