Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Fuck It. I'm Going Out.

One humid summer evening, after my third year at Iowa, I got talked into going out.  I was gross from the hot and sticky day, but I changed my shirt, put on some deodorant, and called it good enough. On my way walking downtown, I ran into someone I knew, and he told me, “You look like you said, ‘Fuck it; I’m going out.’”  I thanked him for the great confidence boost and went on my way.  I guess I appreciated the honesty.

A couple of years later, during a spring storm, the power went out.  Travis crept downstairs with a candle to find me, and took me up to his apartment.  When we went outside to see the storm, we realized that we were the only block around that didn’t have power (and there wasn't much of a storm to see).  Since the rest of town had power, that meant that downtown still had power.  We decided that it would probably be best if we just went downtown where there would be lights, so we got ready in the dark and played a couple of rounds of fuck the dealer and pyramid by candle light and went out.  We called it Blackout Friday. 

Here in Tanzania, every time we go out, it feels like a combination of these two nights:

First, I always feel like I said, “Fuck it; I’m going out.”  Sometimes, this is actually the case.  I never spend too much time getting ready, and the clothes I am wearing are rarely clean (and by clean, I mean I hand washed them, which I am terrible at, so they really aren’t that clean even when they are “clean”.  I try to pick clothes that don’t smell too bad though).  I don’t have anything too fancy to wear, so I am never really flossy flossy.  And the nicest things I wear are probably the clothes I borrow from Jenni.  But fuck it; I still go out.

Second, I am usually getting ready without power (and therefore no lights or hot water, and sometimes no running water), just like on Blackout Friday.  I think there has only been one night* when we had power while getting ready, and it actually didn’t come on until part way through our getting ready and eating.  Here is me trying to wash the Masai market dirt out of my hair before getting ready to go out for Jenni’s last Saturday night. 

Bucket Washing
Even though we had to wash our hair and legs out of a bucket, we all shined up like new pennies (or should I say Tanzania shillings?).  Look how safari-like we look

The Safari at Empire Bar- Sema Yes Rasta!

 And here is one of me helping Kelley wash her hair before that distaster of a night at Via Via where we met a creepy Barak Obama/Tiger Woods look a like, but also did some intense bonding.

Me and Kelley Washing Hair
Again, I would say we ended up looking pretty good.

The Crew Outside Via Via

It makes me smile to think that I regularly get ready for a night out in the dark, and the smile gets even bigger when I think about the fact that a bunch of other people are in the same boat.  Half of Arusha could be without power, but the club will still be poppin’.  The club might not even have power, and it will still be poppin'.  It seems weird to me now to think of getting ready and putting makeup on with lights on.

*This sounds like I go out all the time, but this is not the case.  I have only been out a few times; it isn’t like I am going out dancing and making an ass of myself at Masai Camp every night of the week.  And the one time the power came back on, we had already brought water in and washed our hair out of buckets because we were so dirty from being in town. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

We Aren't Going to be Friends Anymore

Back when I was looking for TEFL jobs and finishing up my certification, I was spending a lot of time upstairs with (who I consider to be) my good friend, Travis.  We hadn't been good friends for a long time, despite the fact that we both been involved in debate for several years.  This being said, our friendship was young and fragile, but I kind of enjoyed being friends with him.  I assume he kind of liked me being his friend as well.

Does this not look like a friendship that will last?

And then I started looking for jobs teaching English abroad, and when I found out I actually got a job, Travis told me we wouldn't be friends anymore.  His reasoning was simple: Friendship is dependent on convenience and therefore, proximity.  Being 5,000 miles apart would not be conducive to furthering our friendship because I would just be too far away.  My love of Latin America ended up winning out over my love of Travis, and off I went.  And our friendship lasted.

But I have thought a lot about this since Travis told me we wouldn't be friends anymore.

First of all, I think a lot of the friends I made while in South America and Africa were made for the exact reason that Travis said we wouldn't be friends anymore: convenience and proximity.  I obviously wouldn't have made these friends if I had gone somewhere else.  And I was probably initially friends with most of these people only because we were living in the same area and didn't know another living soul (or at least, we didn't know very many other living souls).  This is not to say that I didn't appreciate these friendships.  Just that the initial connection with these people was thanks to convenience. 

Which brings me to why I daily think about what Travis said to me: I have been terrible at keeping up with my friends.  I have find it increasingly difficult to stay caught up with what and how my friends are doing.  And time zones makes this even more difficult.  Being so far apart means that every aspect of our lives are different, which means either 1. The level of commonality between my friends and I has dropped significantly, 2. A shit ton of explanation is needed for any life events, or 3. A combination of 1 and 2.  I think it's the latter.

On a more lighthearted and fun note, I get to go visit one of these friends!  Luckily, she only lives in Chicago, which makes the proximity issue much more manageable.  It should be a blast and then some.

I miss all of my friends from all over the world.  Well, I guess only 5 continents, but close enough to all over the world.  I hope I get to see you all again soon!  Reunions need to happen.

Peace and Love

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hawk Fans Around the World

The extend of Hawkeye fandom never ceases to amaze me.  Not that all of the people I have met that recognized my Iowa hoodie are necessarily fans, and not that the people I see wearing Iowa clothing are necessarily fans.  The case is probably more that they have no idea what they are wearing, they just want to wear this cool American sporting gear they saw in the shops.  In fact, if you talk to many of the people wearing clothing with American sports on them, they probably have no idea what they are wearing except that it is American and has something to do with sports.  So I have two stories:

When I was in Chile, there were several stores around that sold second hand clothes, and, I am not at all kidding, LSU and Drake (yes, Drake*) t-shirts were about $15.  Second hand.  But never would I have thought a young Chilean man would come up to me, of all the people that club, and ask me to dance when he was wearing an.... Iowa State t-shirt.  I had to explain to him (in terms of Chilean soccer rivals) that I couldn't dance with an Iowa State fan like that.  I couldn't dance with the enemy.  He kept insisting that he had no idea what this "Iowa State" was on his t-shirt, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt and danced with him.  Here we are before I finally gave in and danced with him:

Chilean Iowa State Fan

Let's cross the Atlantic, to Africa.  While I was in Tanzania, I got the opportunity to go out to the middle of nowhere to a legit Maasai market.  You can read more about the Maasai people on the Wikipedia page.  But out in the middle of this market, in the middle of nothing, Tanzania, I found a young girl wearing a... Hawkeye t-shirt.  I was so excited.  I wanted to take her picture, but since the Maasai believe taking photos of people also takes their soul, she literally ran away when I asked if I could take her picture.  However, I was sneeky and pretended to take a picture of something else when really I was taking a picture of her.  I really hope I didn't steal her soul.

Maasai Hawk Fan
I know it is kind of hard to see, but there is deffinately a tiger hawk on her shirt.  Amazing.

Hopefully, this will inspire Iowa to play well and not make me fret so much. 

*As a side note, I think Drake clothing is the American clothing for a university I have seen the most when abroad.  I have seen t-shirts and sweatshirts at least in Chile, Argentina, and Tanzania.  I also haven't seen any professional sporting teams so well represented either.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Fredship Story

You may think I accidently misspelled “friendship”, but that is not the case.  Because a Fredship is so much more than a friendship.  A Fredship involves a goat-friend named Fred and ends with Fred being thrown on the fire and everybody eating him.

First, you have to meet Fred.  We journeyed out to the mbuzi (goat) market to find ‘trollin’ for a nice looking (and reasonably priced) goat to take home.  It was quite an experience, and I don’t think I can quite fit it into words.  The market itself was just an open area with goats and men in their shukas scattered all around.  But when the mzungus and the rasta tumbled out of the minibus, they grabbed their goats and started to show them off, yelling “Mzungu!  Mzungu!  Rasta!  Rasta!”  Jenni settled on a nice spotted fellow that she lovingly named Fred.  


We tied Fred up in the back for the ride home where he pooped a lot and made a bit of a mess.  He was bleating a lot at first.  I think he was just wondering what kind of party he was getting taken to with this bus load of mzungus, but he quieted down after a bit.  Every once in awhile, he would have to bleat to remind us he was still there though.  And everyone would kind of laugh at the situation of being in a minibus with a goat tied up in the back to take home to slaughter. 

Fred, in the back of the minibus with the coal he will be cooked over

 We got him back to Peace Matunda, and he had a great time hanging out  with us.  Jenni and I really bonded with him.  We both fed him and I even tried to ride him.

Jenni Feeding Fred

Me Ridding Fred

This is where the Fredship story starts to get a bit graphic, so I will warn you now: you probably want to turn back now if you have a weak stomach or are a member of PETA.

Banana leaves were laid out for Fred’s (literal) death bed.  But I think he was slightly confused about what was going on because he kept trying to eat his death bed.  I guess I might keep trying to eat my death bed too if it was made out of banana leaves.  So, I stood next to Fred and kept my leg out to keep him from the leaves.  This got Fred really excited, and he even put the excitement in his mouth.  I never knew I turned goats on so much, but I am  Capricorn, so it makes sense.  And I did try ridding him, so maybe he got the wrong idea.

Fred met his death with a quick slice across the throat, and our watchman cut him up and skinned him.  It was actually amazing to watch, and not nearly as bloody or messy as I thought it was going to be.  Some of the kids even hung out to watch with us.  And Corfield got right in there and claimed the hooves for himself.

Corfield with Fred's Feet

After Fred was all skinned and cut up, he was ready to marinate and cook.  And once the sun went down, we threw him on the grill, and the party got started. 

Fred on Fire

I am a vegetarian, but my dietary decisions are not deeply rooted in the idea that eating meat is cruel to animals.  There are other reasons that come well before the cruelty to animals argument. This being said, I decided to try a bite of Fred (because eating Fred is not really in serious violation of my vegetarian decisions).  And I still have absolutely no desire to eat meat again (unless it is to try new and unusual species).  I also kind of enjoy the face Sean is making at me as I put the meat in my mouth.

Eating Fred

To top off the evening, we had the pleasure of experiencing a total lunar eclipse!  It was so beautiful, and it was kind of amazing to see a lunar eclipse in Tanzania.

Currently listening to: Bongo Flava (again).  I am practicing learning two of lines, but the hard part is trying to rap that fast in Kiswahili.  I will succeed though.  I will succeed.  (As an update, I did succeed.  I can now sing in Swahili.)

PS- Danielle kept Fred's beard, and I think she still has it.  I don't remember what she said she did with it... maybe gave it to the dog or something?  I will have to investigate and let you know.

Making Kahawa

Spoiler Alert!  This story gives away what I am going to be bringing back for my grandmothers, so if  you are one of my grandmothers and you want it to be a surprise, stop reading now.  If you are not one of my grandmothers, feel free to read, but don’t tell them what they are getting.

Besides tourism, Tanzania is also known for it’s coffee (or kahawa in Swahili) industry.  Here at Peace Matunda, cultural tours are offered, and part of the tour is making coffee.  As in roasting and grinding by hand. Not putting some grounds in a percolator.  Since both of my grandmothers like coffee, I thought it would be cool to make them some while I was here so I can take them back some coffee that was ground with love.

Here is a picture of the beans and the flower from the coffee tree.  

Kahawa Beans and Flower

 But when you buy it at the market, the outer shell has been taken off and it has been dried.  After waiting for the beans to dry, you have to grind them to get the flaky outer shell off the beans.  And to separate the flakes from the beans, you flip them up and around and let the wind whisk away the flakes and leave the beans.  I was completely unable to do this, but Bella is a pro.

Bella Flipping Beans  

We were finally ready to start the roasting.  We put the beans in a small pot over a fire and stirred and stirred so they didn’t burn.  We were allowed to stir for shorts periods of time, but we were always told to give the spoon back to let the experts do it.  I was never pole pole enough.   

Me Stirring Kahawa Beans

Once they turn a nice dark brown color, it was time to dump them in the grinder thingy and start pounding.  Pounding the roasted beans by hand could become a tedious process, and it was definitely an arm workout.  And we had 10 kilograms of coffee to roast and pound.  Even though it was tough, we split it up over a period of several days (and really, it was more like several weeks), and made a rule to not drink any bokery or banana beer until the roasting and pounding of the day was done.  Here is me getting serious about the pounding:

Serious Pounding

From Tanzania to the States: The Numbers

From Tanzania to the States: The Numbers

24: Number of hours spent in Cairo

1: Number of flights barely missed

18: Number of people on the flight that was delayed

10: Number of minutes we missed the flight by

3: Number of times my eyes swelled up with tears before I even got out of Tanzania (The first was when we were driving by Phillip’s because I was really hoping to see the minibus parked outside; the second was when we were going through Arusha because I knew I wouldn’t see it again in a long time; the third was just at a random spot along the road where I was admiring the landscape of Tanzania.)

5: Number of hours spent on the shuttle from Arusha to Nairobi

11.5: Number of hours spent waiting in the Nairobi airport for the plane to show up (I was only supposed to have to wait about 8 hours, but the plane we were taking was late arriving, ironically enough, from Cairo.)

1: Number of Masai women that gave me a “gift” bracelet at the border and then asked for it back when I wouldn’t buy another one for my mother

87: Number of times I regretted not buying that bottle of Absolut vanilla in the duty free shop in Nairobi (Spending the afternoon in the sun always warrants a nice cold drink of sorts, and then when your night gets ruined by The Notebook coming on after Back to the Future II, a drink is just that much more warranted.)

3: Number of times I got a big smile on my face that wouldn’t go away (The first happened when we passed where the real Masai market is and I remembered when we went there and it was Sean’s first time driving in Tanzania and he drove with no hands; the second one was when we passed where we got dropped off and told to wait until Kaaya and Nelson came back with the papers they forgot in Arusha because TIA; the third was when we got to the town where you turn off the main road to go to Gilaibomba because I saw the name of the town and it is not nearly as weird and complicated as Scott and I thought it was but I still can’t remember what it is.)

1: Number of hot dogs that came with my breakfast on the plane

2: Number of men that have oogled over my eye color

2: Number of desserts I had at the buffet dinner (I couldn’t pick just one, and they were both delectable- one chocolate cake and one chocolate creme shit; plus, I kind of almost justified it because I had swam laps and my stomach was growling like no other and I had only had tomato soup, a plate of veggies, and some fruit for dinner.)

1: Number of people I saw snorting blow in a phone booth at the JFK airport

13: Number of hours I got to spend with Danielle while starting my adjustment to life back in America (I should have spent a day and a half with her, but EgyptAir just isn't cool enough to get me to New York on time.)

1: Number of flights canceled going from La Guardia to O’Hare (Meaning we could have woken up an hour later and still had plenty of time.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The 25th Hour

(Please keep in mind that TIA ((This Is Africa)) when reading this story.)

This story starts with a 4:30AM wake up.  We were scheduled to leave at 5AM (or 5:30- the time changed a couple to times in the course of an hour the night before) to head out to Gilaibomba, a Masai village out in the middle of bum fuck Tanzania (BFT) where there is no power and dust is literally everywhere.  We were leaving before the sun was up (and predicting to be back well after the sun had set), so we had to bundle up in our warmest wind-proof clothes.  I looked like an absolute moron, but I wasn’t too cold (until the ride home).
Scott and I bundled up
We finally got on the road around 6AM and actually headed out of Arusha by 7, only an hour or two behind the original schedule. (TIA moment number 1- running late.)  (We had to stop a couple of times to pick up people that were going to be joining us on this fine journey.)  This was doing relatively well, considering the last time they went out to Gilaibomba, it was after 9 when they actually left Arusha.  So off we went, when somebody figured out that they had left some documents back in Arusha that were necessary for the hunting that was going to be happening while we were out in BFT.  They dropped us by the side of the road to wait.  (TIA moment number 2- forgetting important documents and leaving people at the side of the road to wait while you go get them.)  We only had to wait about 45 minutes or so before they were back and we were back on our way.

Once out of Arusha, there is close to nothing.  It is mostly just dust and some plants here and there- a totally different terrain than what I am used to up here on Mt. Meru where everything is green and lush and there is an abundance of banana trees. The sun had started coming up, providing us an amazing view of the Tanzanian bush.

Tanzania sunrise
To get out to Gilaibomba, you have to turn off the main tarmac road onto a dusty path-like road.  Once you turn off the main road, there is even less around, and if you have to pee, you have to squat behind a bush and hope a random Masai person doesn’t wander upon you.  I also got to experience my first ever dust devil!  They were amazing to see except when we drove through them and I got dust all up in my business. 

Dust Devil!!!

There was also some hunting going on on, and what is hunting without having a few Kilimanjaro beers?  (TIA moment number 3- using weapons while drinking alcohol.)  Watch for my future blog entry entitled Hunting with a Vegetarian for more highlights.

We finally arrived in Gilaibomba around noon, and we were sent out to go see the school that people from Peace Matunda helped construct earlier this year.  Frankly, I could have done without seeing it considering I have seen 17,000 photos of the place, but the walk was nice.  As Scott and I were leaving to go to the school, the others from the group were leaving to go hunting.  There were rumors they would either be back before we were or around 4 (which in Africa time means 5 at the earliest).  After we got back from the walk, we only waited about 3 hours until 5:30 rolled around.  That is when the safari jeep finally pulled up carrying not just the rest of our group, but also a nice sized wildebeest and a couple of gazelles.  (TIA moment number 4- sitting and waiting hours for people to come back, and then when they finally do, the vehicle is full of dead animals and blood.) 

The spoils of the successful hunting trip had to be cut up and divided before we left, and of course some had to be cooked for a pre-going back to Arusha snack.  Wildebeest liver, heart, and kidney were on the snack menu with Safari beers to wash it all down.

We finally got on our way back to Peace Matunda, but on the way out to the main road, we had to stop and hunt some more because they could still get some dik-dik with their hunting permit.  It took us three hours to get from Gilaibomba to the main road.  (TIA moment number 5- taking 3 times longer to get somewhere than it should actually take.) 

Once on the main road, we were flying.  We had to be going at least 100 kilometers an hour, and once we hit the wall of cold, it was well, really cold.  I was glad to be wearing long sleeves and two coats, along with two pairs of pants, shorts and a shuka over my head.  Just outside of Arusha, we get pulled over the police.  I don’t blame them considering the picture: Two mzungus riding on the top of a safari jeep and Bella in the back cuddling with a bunch of dead animals and a gun at 11 at night.  Kind of shady looking, I’d say.  But it was good they pulled us over because we were also out of gas. TIA.

While we sat on top of the safari jeep waiting for someone to come back with some more diesel, Scott said, “If I wasn’t sitting here right now, I never would believe this happened.”  I probably wouldn’t have either, so I am hoping you all believe this story because, well, TIA.  Anything can happen.  And it does.  We continued waiting, and all of a sudden we start to coast.  Scott and I were just sitting on the platform on top of the vehicle, and all of a sudden, we were rolling down the highway.  I think the funniest part was that it didn’t phase us much that were coasting down a main highway while sitting on top of a safari jeep.  TIA.  We actually coasted for quite a distance (just short of 5k or so), but when we finally had to stop (because there were no more diesel fumes left to start the vehicle with) I got out and peed next to a water drain pipe.  (TIA moment number 7- getting pulled over by  the police and having to ask them for help getting to a gas station because you are out of gas and then attempting to coast your way as far as possible on the fumes that you have left and then when you can’t go any further, get out and take a piss wherever you feel like.)

Finally, around 2AM we arrived back at Peace Matunda.  (TIA moment number 8- arriving back a few hours after expected.)  We watched Bella drag in the wildebeest and gazelle meat and put it in the kitchen.  It smelled terrible.  Bella got to go to bed after that, but Scott and I had promised Paul and Kelley we would go to the airport with them at 4, so we didn’t go to bed.  We boiled some water, had some tea and coffee, and road along to the airport.  Both of us were doing ok until the 25th hour came along.  That is when we got kicked in the balls and fell asleep in the minibus leaving the airport.

Sleepy Scott

  Gilaibomba is full of dust, and ergo, so were we.  After bathing my head finally hit the pillow around 7AM, and I was up again at 9 to do my washing.  Despite the absurd TIA moments, I had tons of fun, and I would probably do it again.  I would just remember to take a deck of cards to keep me occupied while waiting for the hunters to come back for us. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hakuna Matata, Rafiki

My first day here in Tanzania, someone told me “hakuna matata” and I realized I knew more Swahili than I thought.  I always try to learn some basic (and helpful) phrases from wherever I happen to be, and it has been particularly easy here in Tanzania (or at least, easier than it was in South Africa, where there are 11 official languages).  If you have seen the Lion King, you already know some Swahili: simba (lion), rafiki (friend), hakuna matata (no worries).  Swahili also uses a lot of words from other languages (I have already founds words that are the same or almost the same in Zulu, Spanish, and Arabic), which makes it easier to pick up on words people are saying.  I am starting to wish I had actually studied it when I was going to Iowa instead of just joking about it.

Hakuna matata is such a wonderful phrase (please excuse the terrible Lion King reference).  I think it perfectly describes the mentality of the people in Tanzania, and it is amazing.  People really do not get worried about anything here, and they are constantly telling you “hakuna matata” and “pole pole” (slowly slowly).  It is completely different from the Western mentality of hurry through life and constantly worrying about everything.  There are certain things I think it is good to worry about (like when I first got here and had no way of getting any cash in a cash only country), but I think I have quite fallen in love and in synch (at least as much as I ever will) with the hakuna matata mentality. 

Hakuna matata; peace and love

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rude Boy

Africa loves Rhianna.  Like, insane amounts of love.  I was never the biggest Rhianna fan, but after spending a few months in Africa, she will definitely have a special place in my heart.  Every day I hear “Oh na na, what’s my name?  Oh na na, what’s my name?”  at least 178 times.  No joke.  And if we hear part of the song, everybody (or at least the volunteers) join in to have a sing a long to finish the song.  Rhianna is like a god here. 

(And since everyone here loves her so much, we are going to make a video of the kids dancing to one of her songs ((we will try to find one that is at least kind of appropriate for kids to dance to)) and then have the kids write her a letter.  Then, when I get back to the States, I am going to send it to her.  And Ellen.  I will let you know how it all turns out.) 

Rude boy is not only the name of a Rhianna song, but it is also how some of the boys here act when they want to dance with you.  Here, like in Chile, I am foreign and exotic, and boys want to dance with what is foreign and exotic.  However, there are a couple of differences between the boys here and the boys in Chile.  First, the boys in Chile would always ask if I wanted to dance.  When I would tell them I can’t dance or that I don’t dance with other people they would be very persistent, pointing out that I had just been dancing with another person and it was going rather well.  So, after I was suckered into dancing, they would actually dance with me, spinning around and moving around.  Not just grind their junk on my leg. 

Here, nobody asks you to dance, they just creep up behind you, like the rude boys they are.  Saying no thanks doesn’t work well; they will just keep dry humping your ass.  And most of the dancing is just bumping and grinding.  (I quite enjoy going out dancing with the people from Peace Matunda though.  They aren’t quite so rude and they are just a fun group to be around.)  Everybody loves dancing though, and there is dancing going on all day to accompany the daily activities.  And a night out of dancing will last all night and well into the morning (much like Chile).  It’s amazing and I love it.

I am seriously going to miss the dancing from Chile and Tanzania, and I am not sure what I am going to do when I go back to Iowa and there is nowhere to dance after 2AM and nobody wants to dance with me because I am not foreign and exotic. 

Currently listening to the song Bongo Flava.  My friends should probably prepare themselves to be terribly annoyed by this song and me dancing to it all day long when I come back.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

24 and Still a Virgin!

We had a braai (that is South African for BBQ) with some of the women from the office at the center I was at in South Africa, and it was tons of fun.  The weather was beautiful and the company was pleasant.  And of course, we had to comment on my love life because it is apparently pretty fascinating and freakish to the South Africans.

People in South Africa found it very hard to believe that I am single.  The reason being that I am 24, so I should clearly be in a relationship and popping out kids by now.  Never mind there are things that I want to do and having a guy around would probably prevent me from doing them.  (Seriously, who would want to wait around for me while I am off doing all the things I want to do?)  But that is not the way things are in South Africa, especially a South African township.  Women are expected to want (and actually want) to have kids and a family, and they don’t waste any time getting started on it. 

The whole time I was in South Africa, people would ask me questions about why I was single and why I didn’t have or want kids.  My answers were that nobody wants to date a girl going around the world doing stuff and isn’t entirely sure what she is doing with her life.  And my answer to not wanting kids was that they are a lot of responsibility and I am too selfish to take care of a child for any extended period of time. 

So, back to the braai and the reason for this blog title: we were sitting around talking about how I am single, and one of the women randomly shouted, “24 and still a virgin!  Yo!”  (“Yo” is something they would always say when they were surprised or frustrated with something.)  I just kind of laughed and let them going on talking about my love life.  About 5 minutes later, the conversation had moved on to my sleeping habits.  The person I was sharing a room with told everyone that I don’t really sleep in, no matter what time I go to bed.  I was told that if I found a boyfriend I would stay in bed and sleep more.  As soon as I find a boyfriend, I will let you all know how this theory works out.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You need a Spoon

Pretty much every place I go, I find some kind of food that I fall in love with and miss like woah when I leave.  Here, (at least so far) that food is pap (or, since I am apparently Shona now, sadza). 

It’s made from mielie meal(or corn meal stuff), and has the consistency of Play-Dough.  (The process of making pap involves you first making porridge, and then adding more mielie meal for the thicker consistency.)  And the funnest part (at least for me), you eat it with your hands.  Everybody eats it with gravy and chicken, but I prefer beans, spinach, and cabbage.  You grab a piece off the pile of pap on your plate, dip it in or scoop up your chosen pap-accompaniment, and then you hope that not too much falls all over while you try to quickly get it into your mouth. 

The first few weeks I was here, everybody would always ask me if I needed a spoon to eat my pap, and my response was always no.  If I am going to eat traditional food, I am going to eat it in the traditional way.  Everybody would give me a doubtful look, and then hand me my plate.  And nobody can believe I actually enjoy eating these foods that they eat all the time.  I have gotten some laughs because I apparently eat my pap funny (I think it is the split second of panic that it is all going to fall on the floor before I get it into my mouth that contributes to the hilarity of me eating pap), but in my defense, I have only been eating pap for a few weeks, and these people have been eating it their whole lives. 

Since I first ate pap, my pap-eating skills have been improving.  In fact, I have even moved on and  learned to cook it (so some people can get excited about me making fun food we can play with).  Last night, I made pap all by myself, and it turned out fantastic!  (Despite the fact that the family that lives here got home when I was in the middle of mixing in the last mealie meal, and the dad wanted to finish it for me.  I told him no, I am making it.  How am I supposed to learn to make it if I am never given the chance to make it?  And the mom said I did a great job.)  So look out for my mad pap-making skills when I get back.  And hopefully my pap-eating skills will improve some more and become mad as well.

As an update since I originally wrote this: I have made the pap almost every day.  And every time I make it, "it's nice."  FTW

Hot Water and Civilization!

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  Being on an organic farm in the middle of Nowhere, Argentina with no hot water and questionable safety standards, I was excited when I got back to Mendoza. 

After the first week we went back into Mendoza on Saturday morning.  First things first, we found internet to check in with family and friends to let them know we were alive and safe.  Then we found a hostel, and after checking in, the first thing on my list of things to do was take a hot shower.  It was the best hot shower you can imagine.  After a week of showering in cold water with no water pressure, you would think it was the best shower ever, too.  Our night in Mendoza consisted of an adaso at the hostel and going out dancing, of course.  Our Sunday in Mendoza consisted of wandering around, discovery of a park (and having a moment similar to an experience I had on the beach in Barcelona), and a late lunch with friends.  I decided I liked Mendoza, and I was excited to come back the next weekend.

The next weekend I had planned on staying in Mendoza for a couple of days before heading back to Santiago.  When I got there Saturday morning, I went back to the same hostel, checked in, and took another one of those best hot showers ever.  (This one  might have been even better because although it is disgusting to admit, I hadn’t showered in about 3 days.) 

I met some people from the States that were living in Santiago, and they told me that there had been an earthquake and the passage to Santiago was closed.  I was hoping it opened up in time for me to go back when I was planning on going back.  I was also hoping that the earthquake wasn’t too big, and everybody I knew was safe (which they were).  I spent the evening with the people from Santiago, and we made friends with the Romanians and an Argentinian that were going to climb Aconcagua.  Early in the evening we passed some mate around, so that pretty much set up the buena onda of the evening.  

I hadn’t really decided what I was going to do with my full day alone in Mendoza until I got there.  Since I had my January paycheck money, I wanted to do something fun, but I couldn’t afford to spend that much money.  So I went rafting and did zip lines.  It was so much fun!  Even though I was by myself, I had a great time.  I learned that tons of people travel and do things like that by themselves, so everybody is friends with everybody.  I am ready for more adventure tours, I just have to wait until I have the cash money.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

Upon my arrival at the farm I was going to be staying at for two weeks, I realized there was no need to be nervous because it was just like Grandpa’s house.  Random stuff sitting around everywhere, a bathroom door that didn’t close all the way, and no shower curtain were just a few of the similarities.  One of the main differences was that the water from the sink drained into a 5 gallon bucket, and when the bucket was full you took it into the bathroom to use for the toilet.  (There were more than a couple of accidents with us not paying attention and having the bucket overflow.)  I could handle it.  I also found out there was another young female volunteering for two weeks!  I wouldn’t be alone!

The work wasn’t too hard.  The worst part was learning that I am allergic to fig leaves.  I didn’t entirely mind picking the figs though because I would take lots of breaks to eat fresh figs and admire the view.  You would too if you had this to look at:

Snow Capped Mountains

I also got to learn about wine making.  We picked the grapes, plucked the stems, and smashed them (sadly, not with our feet, like in that classic episode of I Love Lucy).  We put them in a big barrel with a frozen water bottle in it, and after about a week, we got to try the wine.  It was still really sweet, and it tasted a lot like juice.  I thought it would be good for tailgating mornings or kegs and eggs. 

Luck tends to be on my side (sometimes), and I was lucky enough to be on this farm when they had some visitors, which made things more exciting.  The main visitor was a French chef who owned a restaurant in Buenos Aires.  He had come to see and learn more about organics.  He brought his mother and two daughters with him.  The chef knows French, Spanish, and English.  The daughters know French, Spanish (their mom is from Argentina and they live in Buenos Aires) and some English, and the mom knows French and English.  It was a really interesting experience to have.  The mom even gave me her address so I can go visit her in France. 

All in all, it was pretty fun.  I am glad there was another person there, and I made a new friend.  It was a purely Spanish two weeks (except for when I was talking to the woman from France who didn’t know Spanish), so I learned a lot and gained some confidence in my Spanish speaking abilities.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Cuddle Time and Pillow Talk

Let’s flashback for a moment, to January 30th, when I left Santiago for a grand adventure into the Argentine countryside.  Part of my contract at work was that I got a free bus ticket to Mendoza, Argentina when I quit.  As part of my work visa, the Chilean government requires there be a one way ticket out of Chile guaranteed in my contract, and the institute I worked for chose to give a one way ticket to Mendoza.

I decided to take the next two weeks to volunteer on an organic farm (via WWOOF)somewhere near Mendoza.  I know a few people that have done WWOOFing in different places, and I have heard good things.  The only thing I was nervous about* was going by myself, but if I could make it in Santiago de Chile for 5 months by myself, I could make it for two weeks on a farm by myself.  So I wrote down the directions and got on that bus, and I was off.

On the bus ride to Mendoza, I fell asleep right away.  (I chose an overnight ride for the way there, and then I would take a day bus back to Santiago.)  The only thing I really remember was the winding curves up to the border.  I honestly thought the whole ride was like that, but on the way back I figured out it wasn’t. 

Now for the cuddling and pillow talk: The man sitting in the seat next to me kept trying to cuddle and make pillow talk with me at the border, and I was in no state to be functioning in any capacity (or language).  He wasn’t actually cuddling, but he did keep invading my seat space.  There was no need for that considering the nice semicama seats.  And the pillow talk was just him being chatty and friendly.  He was telling me about the book he was reading and his life story, and after learning I studied political science, he offered to show me around the political science department of the university he worked at because he was a professor (and this wasn’t a lie- he gave me his business card).  I wasn’t talking much, mostly just nodding along- it was something like 3AM and I was woken up on the top of a cold mountain to go through customs. 

When we finally arrived in Mendoza, I got off the bus prepared to look for the bus company of the regional bus that would take me to Rivadavia, the next stop on my journey.  My chatty seat neighbor was worried about me getting there safely, so he talked to the person in the office of the bus company.  He explained to the man that I was from the US, traveling by myself, and I didn’t know any Spanish, so I was essentially doomed.  (Please, keep in mind, he didn’t know any English, so every word we had exchanged was in Spanish.  Also keep in mind, that as I am listening, he is speaking Spanish to everyone.  I, by no means, think that I know that much Spanish, but I do think I know enough to get around.)  While we waited on a bench, he started telling this random woman the same thing.  She started asking questions about me, and when he didn’t know the answer, I chimed in and answered her question.  She seemed a bit surprised that I had been following and understanding their conversation, considering I “didn’t know any Spanish”.

*As a side note, I was also slightly nervous about getting through customs.  You may remember me mentioning my friends that tried to go to Mendoza one weekend, and they had quite the situation.  I did not want any border problems.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

I Love World Cups

I have decided that any sport that has a World Cup is good in my book, (so everybody should get ready and excited for the rugby World Cup later this year).  Since my arrival here in South Africa, I have started watching and paying attention to the ICC Cricket World Cup.  Of course, I am rooting for South Africa to win.  They play their last group stage game tomorrow, and they have to win to stay in.  Here are some things I love about cricket:

1. They use funny words: The stick things behind the batter are wickets, and when they get hit and the batter is out, it is called a wicket.  The person that throws the ball (like the pitcher) is called the bowler, and their throw is called a bowl. 

2. They have “drinks break”: I think it’s great that they promote staying well hydrated when playing such a long game in the heat.  I love taking breaks for drinks.  Plus, a Gator type vehicle comes out with a giant Gatorade cooler thing on the back.

3. They are all really really ridiculously good looking: As with soccer players, cricket players are possibly the best looking athletes out there. 

4. Games go on forever: This could be annoying, but I think it’s great.  Games last for hours and hours, so if there is a game that starts in the late morning (while I am at work), I know it will still be on in the afternoon (when I get back from work).  And chances are, there is still a fair amount of the game left.  Plus, I don’t think you really have to tailgate.  The game moves at such a pace that you have plenty of time to discuss odds and rankings and statistics, but there is enough action to keep you engaged. 

My Tan Line is Fading

I really miss Santiago, and I knew I would.  But right now, the thing I miss most is having some level of independence.  A driver comes to take me to work in the morning and he brings me back home at the end of the day.  That part is nice.  I like not having to worry about getting there myself considering public transportation is terrible.  But after I get dropped off in the afternoon, I am not supposed to go out by myself.  It’s not safe.  I understand why I can’t go out by myself, and I don’t.  But that doesn’t mean I am not getting claustrophobic and cabin fever.  We don’t go outside with the kids at the center, and not being able to go out and do anything on my own means my tan lines just keep fading.  I am really hoping the pool gets cleaned soon so I can go swimming in the afternoons when I get back from the center.

As an update: There is going to be a woman staying at the house with me that will be there all day, so when I get back from work, if I want to do something, she will be there to take me out.  Hoorays!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Back in the USA

I went to the grocery store today and was completely overwhelmed.  It was so big with so many options!  There were thousands of salad dressings and millions of cereals to chose from.  And don't even get me started on the cheeses!  I about pissed my pants just looking at all of the cheeses.  I think I wandered a bit looking fascinated by everything the great Dahl's had to offer.  This is only one of the many things that I am facinated by or confused by or keep trying to do wrong since I have returned to the US.

One thing I can't seem to get used to is putting the toilet paper in the toilet.  You may or may not remember one of my first blogs where I talked about forgetting to ask if I could throw the toilet paper in the toilet and ended up clogging the toilet.  Now I can't seem to remember that I don't have to throw the toilet paper away.  My hand always starts to creep over towards the trash can to throw it away, but I have to remind myself that I need to put it in the toilet.  Perhaps I will get used to it before I leave next week.

I got my car back the day after I got back.  It was really weird driving at first.  Especially going from Iowa City to Ankeny.  I felt like I should be on a bus with at least one crying child.  Not driving myself halfway across the state.  It's been fun though.  I can listen to the music really loud and sing and dance, and I don't have to worry about people looking at me like I am crazy because I am dancing my way down the street.

Although I have been loving seeing my friends and family, and I am enjoying the tasty cheeses available, I do miss Chile.  When I was spending my last couple of days in Mendoza, I was thinking, "I got home in a couple of days."  And then I would remember that I was only going back to Santiago, and I wouldn't be living there anymore.  After being away for a couple of weeks, I loved Santiago again, and I was truly sad to leave last week.  I am already looking forward to the 10 year reunion.  Now I just need to start saving my monies so we won't have to be ballin' on a budget.

PS- I have so many stories and pictures from Argentina, and as soon as I get a chance, I will tell you all about it.  For now, just know that it was an experience, and I loved it.  

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Less Than a Week Left

So I have spent the last couple of weeks in BFA (that´s Bum Fuck Argentina), and I have so many stories to share.  But I also have lots of photos to go with the stories, so you have to wait until I get back in Santiago de Chile to hear about my two weeks away from civilization and hot showers.  I think there will actually be a series of posts about my experience becuase frankly, it was far to much for one blog post.

It has just hit me (as I sit here checking up on civilization and generally trying to waste another 45 minutes before I can check into my hostel and dump my bags off) that I am going to be back in Iowa in less than a week.  And I can´t believe it.  I am not at all ready to leave South America.  There is too much I haven´t seen and done yet.  (I haven´t even had the opportunity to go up Cerro San Cristobal after the rain!)  Although Santiago was begining to get daunting after not having been able to leave for so long, it feels like I am going home on Monday.

For now, I am super exctied to spend the next couple of days in Mendoza and hang out.  I have decided that I need to just live it up while I am here (and live it up some more when I get back to Santiago before I have to leave.)  And I think it is all going to seem even more fantastic and exhilerating after not having had a hot shower in over a week. 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Ska in the Park

As part of Santiago a Mil, the Melbourne Ska Orchestra played last night (and they are playing again tonight and Saturday I believe, for those of you interested.)  We gathered a crew and headed out to see the FREE performance, and it was pretty fun.  There was lots of dancing, of course, and the park it was in, although far away, is really nice.  One thing I found really funny was that the lead guy didn't know any Spanish beyond "hola" and "muchas gracias" (unless he just wasn't demonstrating his full knowledge of the language.)  So he would say things (in English), and most people in the crowd wouldn't understand what he was saying.  For that matter, I could barely understand what he was saying at times, what with the Aussie accent and all.  The performance was overall pretty legit.

They did some great covers, and for their cover of Bob Marley's "Simmer Down", a guy came out and played this crazy half guitar half harp thingy.  It was pretty legit.

There were lots of people, young and old, having a great time dancing and kicking their legs about.  My favorite people were these two old ladies standing in front of us.  They were rocking out like it was nobodies bidness.  I aspire to one day be like them.

One final reason the Melbourne Ska Orchestra performance was so great, is it kicked off my despedida, or going away.  I guess that is not a great thing because I am kind of sad to be leaving, but it was a great way to start the end. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Smile! (And We Will Know Your Nationality)

So, I have lots of motivation from this runner's high I have going on, and I just read this really interesting article about smiles.  You can also read it here.  What really interested me was the part at the beginning where there is a story about a woman who is talking to a Russian reporter who tells her Americans all have fake smiles.  (And French smiles are all real.)  Now she is doing research on smiles.  It's a facinating article, and I encourage you to read it.

I thought I should include a picture of several nationalities smiling so you can try to find the differences in the smiles.  I think we all just look happy, and I apologize for not smiling.  There is one American and one Brit- can you tell the difference from the smiles?

Teaching the non-Americans about Halloween

But back to Americans having fake smiles.  I think that Americans are capable of having real smiles, and if they aren't, I don't know what a smile is.  Part of being able to tell if a smile is real or fake is based on our ability to mirror the smile being made.  I think I have mirrored real smiles of other Americans.  But, I guess I am American, so maybe I have no idea what a real smile is.  If that is true, it makes me sad.

I know there are lots of conceptions about people from the US and I wonder if this is something that people really think is true.  (And if it is actually true.)  I did a quick Google search (and now have lowered my critical thinking skills a little more) and found some interesting results.

First, was from an annoyed American who had lived abroad, and when he went back to the States to visit, he/she had issues with Americans always smiling at him.  You can read about his/her annoyance in his great Yahoo Answers question.  He/she says that everyone smiles as they pass you, and he therefore questions the genuineness of the smiles.  Then he/she quotes Baudrillard: "Like the Cheshire cat, the smile continues long after the emotion has died."  There are some interesting answers for him/her.  It makes me wonder what other Americans that have gone abroad think about this, and what other nationalities think about this when they are in the States.

Then I came across an interesting article about the differences between the way people from the US and the way Britons smile.  This article gives an overview of the study and talks about the different ways the NYT (from the US) and the Sunday Times (from the UK) present the findings.  (Links to the NYT and Sunday Times articles are provided in the article.)  The two smiles are distinct and use different muscles in the face.  (And yes, Clarie, I went back and looked at pictures of you to see if your smile fit the British profile.  It's too late for me to make a decision on that.)

I also came across a several blogs that only briefly mentioned Americans and their smiles.  Mostly, the consensus was that Americans smile too much, and therefore, the smiles are fake.   If someone greets you with a smile on their face, tells you to come back soon with a smile, and invites you over to have tea with a smile, they are clearly faking their smile.  (And it apparently really pisses some people off.)

Finally, I found a cool website where you can test your own ability at spotting fake smiles!  It doesn't take too long, and it was interesting to see how many I got right (17 out of 20, in case you were wondering).  You can take the BBC test here.

Peace and Love from Santiago

PS-I started packing, and it's kind of sad.  I have less than a week of looking over my living room balcony to a beautiful sunset behind Cerro San Cristobal while listening to the sounds of happy summer time coming from the park.  Less than a week!

Monday, January 17, 2011

The 1AM ER Visit: Or How I Witnessed Another Lesson in Privilege

I had my first free and reduced clinic experience, and it was... an experience. 

The experience starts with me sitting in my room when my flatmate bursts through the door with a deranged look in her eyes and breathing heavily.  She told me she couldn't breathe; she thought she was having an allergic reaction to the medicine she was taking.  (She has been sick the last few days, so she went to a pharmacist and got some drugs to make her feel better.)  I told her to sit down with her hands over hear head and concentrate on breathing, while I grabbed us some jerseys and some water and prepared for a trip to the ER.  We got out to the street and found a cab, and we were off. 

When we arrived at the "ER", the first thing I noticed was the smell.  Inside held that fantastic smell of stale cigarette smoke.  There were people standing outside (of course), and that smelled like fresh smoke.  But inside the ER smelled  worse than the Tobacco Bowl... and staler. 

Checking in was no problem, and neither was waiting to get in to "triage".  (I put triage in quotes because the room we were in ((which was labeled triage)) was like an elementary nurse's office.)  We had to wait less than 10 minutes.  There were people in wheel chairs and a man covered in sweat going to the bathroom every 5 minutes, but my friend only had to wait about 5 minutes to get in.  There could be two reasons, and you can pick your favorite: 1. The gringa recieves special treatment.  They don't want gringas dying on their watch.  2. My friends descriptions of her symptoms of feeling like she was dying were taken seriously, and they really thought she was dying. 

Once in "triage" my friend sat in a chair and talked to the doctor (who spoke fantastic English).  We learned that the drugs she took were nothing more than generic Tylenol spiked with caffeine.  I was not able to go any further with my friend on her adventure through the hospital (where she would learn nothing was wrong, making the whole situation rather humorous), so I went back to the waiting room. 

When we were leaving I grabbed my iPod, assuming the wait would be hours long and require more paperwork than I was willing to think about.  (See my previous entry, Por Favor, Espere for more details about waiting.)  I have been having this issue lately of not knowing what to listen to, but I settled on some (crappy) random Kanye/Ludacris mix I made.  As I bobbed my head, I started looking around at the people that were also waiting. 

There was a family sitting in front of me.  The father went to the bathroom a few times between our arrival and our departure.  I could see the beads of sweat around his temples, and his wife had a wet cloth for holding against his forehead, neck, chest, and inner elbow.  He did not look like he was having fun, and his kids looked like they should be in bed resting for school in the morning.

A nice young man, who I would guess is about my age, was hanging out in a wheel chair behind me.  He never appeared to be in much pain, and I am not entirely sure why he was there.  I think he had something going on with his leg.  I was trying not to stare at anyone, so I could only check it out from the corner of my eye.  He asked me to hand him a bottle of soda sitting on a chair half way into the row and smiled nicely.  He couldn't have been in much pain, but still, he was there before us and he was in a wheel chair.

 The final person I noticed and observed was a (I assume) homeless man that usually hangs out between my metro stop and the next one down.  He has poofy hair, wears a suit, and has a backpack and briefcase-like bag.  You may or may not know who I am talking about.  He was "doing paperwork" while he waited.  I have absolutely no guesses as to why he was there.

As I checked out the happenings of the Salvador ER waiting room, listening to my Luda-ye (or would it be Kan-acris?) mix, I thought about how crazy lucky some of us are that that is not our everyday reality.  Although that is where I would end up if anything happened to me here, I know I have access to much better care than that if I need to. 

Currently listening to: The crowd of gringos outside in my park playing guitar and loudly singing Cee Lo Green songs.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Terremoto is Spanish for earthquake.  Terremotos happen here in Chile in two ways: First, there is the traditional earthquake where the earth shakes and you feel weird.  The second kind of terremoto is a drink, and after one, you are a little shaky on your feet, just like in a traditional terremoto. 

A terremoto is made with some special kind of fermented white wine and pineapple ice cream.  It sounds horribly sweet because they are.  And frankly, they are kind of gross until the ice cream melts a bit and you can mix it all up.  Then it's not so bad. 


Normally, after a terremoto, one would order a replica (Spanish for aftershock) for the second round and call it a night.  A replica (one half liter) is half the size of a terremoto.  If you have more than one terremoto, be prepared for it to measure pretty high up on the Richter scale- I would say one would put you at a 4, at least. 

Neither Jemma nor I had tried one of these über-famous Chilean drinks, so we decided that for her going away/start of my birthday (she left on my birthday!) we had to have the terremoto experience (specifically at La Piojera, the place in all the guide books, and by recommendation by one of my students as a typically Chilean place to go for my birthday).  On the evening of January 5th, we headed out for our terremoto experience.  And experience it was.  We got to feel the shaky ground after our first drinks, and there was a great pan flute player that was dying for our attention.  (We sat down at a table because some people also wanted to eat, so the flute player kept getting kicked out by the waiter.  He kept coming back though, saying all sorts of crazy things to us.)  He even professed his love to us, and when he tried to kiss me on the cheek to tell me good bye, I just gave him the peace sign and a smile.

Currently listening to: OK Go. Daytrotter had some great free downloads last week.  That's mostly what I have been listening to the past few days.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

You know cafe con piernas?

I had a great discussion with one of  my classes today, but first I should explain the context of where the conversation came from.  We are on a unit about making ethical decisions, and frankly some of the examples in the book are kind of dumb and nobody would want to have any prolonged discussion about the ethical calculus they use to make decisions in those situations. 

So today we did a telephone activity, where I got into another room and call each student and have a conversation with them.  This is a challenge for both them and me because you can't see each other and there is interference from the phone.  One of my students said that she was kind of sick today because she went to a party last night.  We all chuckle and discuss the dangers of too much pisco, but when I got back into the classroom is when things got interesting.

We continued talking about the party- she told us a dancer was ordered that also took her clothes off.  All of her clothes.  I think it is important to note here that some/all of the males in the class were very excited about this.  This party sounded pretty bitchin' to them.  I was also informed that you could only look and touch- it was not, as we would say in English, "full service".  This is where things started to get really interesting, and I only want to highlight a few things I found interesting.

First, you can legally get "full service" here.  Prostitution is essentially legal, but you have to go through a company and not a pimp.  Pimping is illegal.  (The students did not know the word for pimp, but after asking what to call the person that administers over the "bitches",  I figured it was just best to have them say pimp.) 

After learning about the legal status of prostitution in Santiago, my students told me that a politician (or group of politicians) are pushing to create a "red light district" (I forgot the phrase they used in Spanish, but it was not red light district) here in Santiago.  I am curious to learn more about this and how the Catholic church, ever present in this city, feels about it.

At one point, a clear line was drawn to distinguished what was considered the objectification of women and what was not.  Looking at them and touching them while they dance naked is not objectification, but once you cross the line of actually having sex with them, you have crossed the line and  objectified the woman.  I thought it was an interesting line to draw, especially considering it was ok to touch. 

I really enjoy when students ask me if I "know" a place.  More often than not, they are asking if I have been there.  When I was asked, "Teacher, you know cafe con piernas?"  I had to smile and say I know of cafe on piernas, but I have never been to one.  They are coffee shops with waitresses that wear very little clothing.  It's like Hooters, only less clothes (from what I understand).   It was also brought to my attention that there are cafe con piernas, and then there are cafe con piernas where they wear even less clothing and you have to know the right places to go to really get the full experience.  Since I have this blog marked as not containing adult content, I am not going to post any photos of what cafe con piernas looks like.  When I asked if these places should be consolidated into a red light district, it was decided that they should not be because now, spread throughout the city, they "keep a low profile".  Like I said, you have to know the right places to go to get the full experience. 

Students also talked about how there is a strange sort of dichotomy between the naughty side of Santiago and the conservative Catholic side of Santiago.  Students thought the church seemed to "put their hands over their eyes" and ignore what was going on.  And then there is the naughty side that will always be around...being naughty and whatnot.  It was interesting to see the students themselves recognize a strange dichotomy existing in the Chilean ethical psyche when it comes to sex and sex related things. 

All in all, I would say that today was a much more stimulating discussion than talking about what you would do if you got undercharged for your dessert or what you would do if the cashier gave you too much change.  I even learned a few things, and I got to see into the minds of Chileans and their views on many a sex-related topic. 

PS- Don't worry.  I asked if there are male strippers like Chippendale's, and there are.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

I Couldn't Resist Making This Short List

I always miss things when I have to leave a place.  I miss my car in Iowa, the olives and fresh orange juice in Spain, the requests to sing Yankee Doodle in the UK, and the tacos in Mexico.  I miss things from everywhere I have been, and Santiago will be no different.  As the date of my departure creeps up on me, I have been thinking about all of the things I will miss.  Here is that list.

1. The steady drone of reggae-ton: Every day I hear reggae-ton when I am walking down the streets.  Sometimes it is blaring from someone's car, other times it is coming from someone's phone.  But wherever it's coming from, it's always there.  I was never really into reggae-ton.  I listened to it, but it was never something I would regularly seek out.  Since being here, I have accumulated a reasonable collection of this über-popular dance music to listen to as an audio reminder of Santiago.  And besides the reggae-ton, the song "We No Speak Americano" will also hold a special place in my heart.  

2. "¡Los ojos!  ¡Qué lindos!":  I get comments quite a bit about my eyes wherever I am in the world, but I get comments about thirty thousand times as much here.  My light color eyes subject me to lots of stares and comments about what beautiful eyes I have.  Of course some of these comments come from dudes at the club, but lots of old women also make comments.  Honestly, it's a bit of a self-esteem booster when old women can't stop staring and tell me how beautiful my eyes are.  I will be kind of sad when I go back to Iowa were nobody cares nearly as much about my eyes. 

3. Street food: One thing I don't like about my job is that it never takes me to where the street food is, but even though I am not around it a lot, I will miss being able to grab a sopaipilla or empanada on the run.  And having the ice cream man jump on the bus peddling his frozen goods to the hot bus riders.  At times, the abundance of food readily available can be bad for your budget.  It is very easy to grab food here and there, and you could easily spend more than you realize.  Thankfully, I don't make it to the street food infested parts of town often enough to worry about breaking my budget with empanadas and sopaipillas. 

4. My students: I think after spending so much time with a group of people, you are going to miss them a bit.  They are all fantastic people.  I have loved getting to know them and watch them learn English.  And of course I love some of the mistakes they make along the way.  Of course they say dirty things without meaning to, but one of my favorite mix-ups will always be switching kitchen and chicken.  It happens a lot.  And it is especially funny when they can't decide which one to use, so they just keep saying, "Chicken.  Kitchen.  Chicken.  Kitchen." until they finally look at me for an answer.

5. Every day being 80-85 degrees and sunny: Very rarely is there a day in this city that it is not in the 80s and sunny out.  It has rained only twice (maybe three times) since my arrival in mid-August, and there has not been a day where it was cloudy all day.  I like that I never have to guess what the weather is going to be like here.  I am sad that I missed out on fall in Iowa, and I really hope there will be snow back home when I get there in February.  But overall, it's kind of cool living someplace with pretty mild weather.  It means bad weather won't stop you from spending all of your afternoons like this:

6. Amazing free entertainment: At times, the free entertainment is not that great.  Take for example the holiday parade put on by Paris.  After Barney was stuck in front of us for about 15 minutes, we deicided to give up and leave.  (We later found out that Popeye had deflated and the crowd had stormed the Sesame Street float, creating the hold up.)  And then there are the changes to see the national ballet beautifully perform The Nutcracker.  And let's not even start on the fantsticness of Santiago a Mil.  (But if you do want to start on it,  you can read my previous entry Santiago a Mil is a Win.  There is even a video of part of the performance!)  I got to go to the opening ceremony, and I am excited to get to go to more performances my last month here.

I could go on and make this list really long.  But I figure I should be reasonable because nobody wants to read that much about things I will miss when I leave Santiago.  I am also going to miss the people I have met while I have been here, but most of them are leaving or have already left.  But that just means I will have to make plans to visit them wherever they may be in the future :)