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 :)

Santiago a Mil is a Win

Being a poor teacher (after years of being a poor student), I am always looking for free things to do.  Luckily, Santiago has some cool things to offer, especially now that it is summer.  I went to the first performance of Santiago a Mil, and I was blown away at its amazingness.  There was a parade that ended at La Moneda, and then the performance started.  It was called Lluvia de Violines (literally Rain of Violins) and was put on by a French company.  People were performing while suspended in the air like mobiles.  That alone makes this a great performance.  Here is a video of the finale when all the groups joined together in song:

I wish the video could do it justice.  I am excited to go to more of the free performances put on by Santiago a Mil. 

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chillin' With Pablo at Isla Negra

Pablo Neruda was kind of awesome.  I did not have the opportunity to visit his house in Valparaiso either time I was there, but it is on my list of things to do before I die.  I also have not been to his home here in Santiago (yet).  I have had the pleasure of visiting his house in Isla Negra, which is said to have been his favorite.  And it was beautiful.

The house sits on top of a hill that overlooks the ocean.  In his bedroom, the bed looks out a huge window with a remarkable view of the sea.  I couldn't imagine waking up to that view.  Unfortunately, you can't take pictures when you tour the house, so I couldn't get a picture of the view from his bedroom, but I can show you a picture from right outside of bedroom.

What a view!
Pablo (yes, I am on a first name basis with him now) was known to be a rather eclectic man, and he had collections of the most random things you can imagine.  He had a collection of antique maps and a collection of sea shells.  The most inspiring collection for Jemma and I was by far the collection of giant colored wine goblets- because wine tastes better when you drink it out of a colored goblet.  We also found the unicorn horn he had entertaining, but the guide kept trying to tell us it was a narwhal horn.  She didn't know what she was talking about.

He also bought a little boat.  He was afraid to actually go out on the sea in a boat, but he got a lot of inspiration from the ocean and liked to admire it from the safety of the land.  Sometimes, he would sit in his boat and look at the ocean.  And with this view, I think I would do the same.

I'm on a boat!

Our adventure in Isla Negra was supposed to be topped off with an adventure to some statue of a head and an old pirate's cave, but either the map lies, or we are terrible at finding giant things on a beach because we never found either.  We also did not see a penguin on a rock.

Not a Pirate's Cave
All in all, it was a really nice trip.  Despite the fact that we did not find the pirate's cave, I decided I most definately would hang out with Pablo Neruda.  And I am even more excited to visit his house here in Santiago.

American Football vs. Soccer

I am sitting here eating a grilled cheese for dinner, thinking about what an amazing view I have from my apartment, and watching the Rose Bowl on ESPN Vivo (and yes, the commentary is dubbed in Spanish).  I didn't plan on watching the Rose Bowl, mostly because I didn't think it would be braodcast on any of the channels I have in my apartment.  I stumbled upon it, and as I watched, I started thinking about how some of my students describe bigger and more important soccer games here.  At some point, they usually tell me, "It's like American football."  I beg to differ.

First of all, even though many people like American football in the US, there is still the division between NFL and college.  I watch college games, but I don't really care about the NFL.  I will watch a game if it is on, but I don't pay any attention to who is playing when and what the scores are.  There is not a game that everybody in the country watches and pays attention to.  And there are tons of people that don't like any football at all.

Soccer here is different.  When the national team plays, everybody watches.  Everybody also watches if Universidad Catolica and Colo-Colo play.  I almost always have my window open, and I know when to check the scores of these games because the city explodes with noise when something really good or really bad happens.  And the next day when I go to class, everybody knows the score. 

Don't get me wrong- I am not saying there aren't big games played in American football.  I am watching one right now.  But there are also tons of people in the US not watching or caring at all about this game.  Even though it seems like everybody and their mother watches the Super Bowl, tons of people only watch for the commercials.  And you wouldn't be able to judge when to check score updates based on when you hear tons of noise coming from your neighbors.

The entire country also gets behind the national team.  I had my interview for my job during the FIFA World Cup, and during the interview, Carlos (my former boss who has since moved on to a new position in Argentina) said that pretty much everything would be shutting down that afternoon because everybody would be watching the World Cup match that Chile was in.  A lot of people in the US didn't even know that the US was in the World Cup, let alone set time aside to watch the matches they were in.  (I will admit that more people were more involved in the World Cup this year than in previous years, but that doesn't change the fact that it was still relatively few people that were involved.) 

There is definite excitement for American football in the States, but it is not the same as the excitement over certain soccer teams/games here.  The difference is hard to explain, but it is there.