Fake Chilena

Today I went out to lunch with a good gringa friend who lives here in Chile and we always joke around about how much more Chilean she is than me due to the fact that she’s been living here for about two years (going on more) and before that, had been traveling here for a good number of years to visit her then-boyfriend, now-husband.
Hand-in-hand with that feel-good joking, is the same joke about me being the complete opposite – in that really, I’m a fake Chilean. It’s kind of ironic considering that for many of the 29 years I lived in the U.S. I claimed to be thoroughly and 100% Chilean… I remember busting out my passport on occasion just to prove HOW Chilean I really was!

The reality is that aside from being registered as having been born in La Serena, Chile and having a RUT (ie a social security number), having family members who are product of generations of family members born in Chile and thus having family who has lived here forever, I’m not that Chilean. You might disagree with me after having just read all that makes me Chilean but I have evidence and facts that will support my claim and as this is my blog, I’ll lay them all out for you. Then, you can determine if I’m right or not.
I am not familiar with Chilean customs or everyday to-do’s. I just went to Tavelli for the first time ever and apparently this place is an every day go-to spot for lunch. Similarly, I’m not wired to order the lunch specials in most day-to-day restaurants. These lunch specials are much less expensive, offer more food for the buck and generally are pretty tasty. But I’m not wired that way. So I don’t know the restaurants or spots AND once there, it never occurs to me to order the lunch special.

Also, since it’s Christmas time (though you wouldn’t know it given that it’s 90 degrees here!) there’s many Nativity scenes around – in people’s homes or outside city halls or even in the mall! It’s a predominantly Catholic country so this makes sense, of course. Except that the other day I passed by one with G and I freaked out because there was no baby Jesus to be found!! “OMG they stole the baby Jesus! Who does that?” Because we’re in Lat Am and of course, stealing is more of a norm here than not. Yeah except that no one stole the baby Jesus. It just so happens that in Chile, the custom is to put the baby Jesus out the night of Christmas Eve – after the time he’s supposedly been born!! Ok, so that makes sense I guess but I had no idea that’s how they roll in Chile – Baby Jesus doesn’t make it to the party until the 24th.

Innately, I think it’s super weird to call just anyone “Tia” or “Tio” and I only think it’s ok if 1) you are directly related to them or 2) they’ve been in your life for so long, that you imagine they were in the delivery room when you were born. Any other relationship, in my mind, doesn’t justify calling someone your aunt or uncle. But get this – children in preschool call the preschool teachers Aunt This and Aunt That. Um….why? Don’t give me the “out of respect” excuse bc if it’s solely due to that, then I’ll argue that Miss/Ms. This or That shows tons more respect than Aunt This or That. Any day. Yet here I am, fighting the power, calling people by their first names or Miss/Ms So-and-So bc to me, this Chilean custom isn’t embedded in my DNA. It’s a losing battle, I’ve been told…

Maternity leave. No I’m not taking any of that as of yet (and for some time to come) but for the few months I’ve been here, I’ve heard stories and stories about pregnant women taking FULL fledged advantage of the time off they are legally granted. According to my friend Google, Chile allows 18 weeks of maternity leave! But wait, there’s more! Chilean women are further protected by the law that prohibits employers from firing pregnant women and making it illegal to fire a woman who has taken maternity leave for up to a year after she has finished this leave. Can we sit back and ponder that…just for a moment? For a full year, this said woman is basically SECURE in her job and that NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF performance she’s exhibiting at the office, she cannot be fired. She can show up late for ten days straight, miss important meetings, decide she no longer wants to work with excel sheets, etc etc and there is no way she can be fired.
Adding to this mix, I’d like to add that from insider scoop, I can attest that these women can also secure their jobs for longer by becoming pregnant with a subsequent child and thus securing further maternity leave and another year of employment after her second leave is over.
In my un-Chilean mind this is how I see it: 18 weeks is a nightmare and what the hell am I expected to do all that time?? I mean sure, I’ll like the baby and want to make sure it doesn’t get hurt or anything like that, but trust me, I’m not sure I like to be with MYSELF 24/7 for 18 weeks, let alone a baby. [Note, this is NOT where you insert jokes about my maternal instinct. I’m going to be a great mother! Hrmph!] I would also fear – FEAR – that during that time that I’m (forced) away from work, some other woman, man, older, younger, more experienced, more enthusiastic, what have you, will somehow “take over” my duties and excel at them! While I’m at home with a kid for a million years?? I think not. I did not go to school to be left in the dust by a man who isn’t even capable of having kids and my forced time off is not a pedestal for said person to excel in MY ROLE. I refuse to be anyone’s professional piggy back when I’m just as qualified.
Finally, from a supervisor point of view, how utterly annoying and UNproductive to have someone on staff who is protected by all these wonderful laws, but who abuses them by being quite half a**ed in her work. I’m just saying, I’d be pissed if I were the boss of such kind of woman (and I’ve heard they exist.) Needless to say, quite un-Chilean of me. G tells me that even if I were to beg my employer to let me work from home, chances are they’d say no. Thus, having kids = abandoning career. And THAT, my dear blog reader, is a thorn in my side that I will fight until the very end!! Can’t I just give five weeks to the next woman who likes to stay home with her kids in lieu of career advancement? That sounds like a nice trade.

On a lighter note, here’s some quick things that remind me of my un-Chilean-ness:

1.) I don’t eat ice cream three times, twice or even once a week. Chileans like their ice cream! The McDonalds’ here even have a special window dedicated to selling JUST the ice cream: sundae, soft cone, McFlurry, what have you.
2.) Also, I walk like I know where I’m going or like I have somewhere important to be (even if I don’t.) Whereas, on a daily basis I’m stuck behind women and men lallygagging on the sidewalk, asking one foot’s permission before moving the other! My heaving, annoyed sighs usually signal that I need to get by, and usually they allow me to do so … but not before they look at me as if I were ET.
3.) I wear nail polish on my toes.
4.) I forget to eat with my hands in clear view for everyone at the table to see. It’s generally considered impolite to eat with one hand on your lap (I don’t know, lest I be touching myself … or others??!)
5.) I’m not inclined to partake in “once” or tea time and I don’t have that custom in my home. Whereas most Chileans, at least families, do.
6.) I don’t have a Chilean mullet and go out of my way to tell my hair dresser that I want my hair cut STRAIGHT in the back and not in a “V” (thus resulting in the Chilean mullet). We gringas here make fun of this phenomenon often enough.
7.) I think Pan de Pascua is disgusting.

Though to end, I’d like to share that I did do something today that made me feel quite Chilean. For the application to the Masters program I’m hoping to attend, I need to submit a “carnet” or ID style picture (think passport picture.) Most Chileans take really bad, deer-in-headlight/mugshot type of pictures … and I’m happy to report that mine, was indeed, no different. I am now, truly, a Chilean and I have the carnet-style picture to prove it.

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My anti-Chile moments

Earlier I tweeted the following: “Totally disgruntled today. Am completely anti-Chile and it’s dumb bureaucracy. Today.”

I’ve been living here since July 18th and in a few more days, it will officially be five months since I’ve moved here. I lived through the freezing cold weather that July embraced me with upon setting foot here and I’ve learned to do the every day things that are part of living in Chile (i.e. weighing your produce BEFORE the checkout counter in the supermarket.) I’ve branched out and met some great people and dare I say I have a social life. In short, I’ve done well enough in my five months here that I feel like my fights with Chile are becoming minimal.

Oh, but sometimes … SOMETIMES Chile and I still have it out.

Back in October, a fellow gringa friend and blogger wrote about three things she’ll never get used to in Chile. I am completely on board with ALL THREE of those points because from a gringa perspective, those three are one of the hardest adjustments to living here. Usually the banks closing at 2 isn’t a big deal for me because I work from home and as such I do have the luxury to stand in line at the bank on any given day without my boss breathing down my neck as to where I’ve been for the past two hours (in line at the bank!)

In lieu of the bank bit, I’d like to add the following points. For whatever reason, today, I was thoroughly annoyed and DISGRUNTLED over these Chilean idiosyncrasies.

1) There are just way too many people in too small a space. Namely Jumbo (the GINORMOUS supermarket chain owned by Cencosud in Lat Am.) My Jumbo (everyone here has “their own” supermarket, meaning, where we generally shop) is like a Costco – most Jumbos are, hence the name. Imagine Safeway, but five times bigger, and with about 40-50 checkout stands. Yet, PRAY TELL, how on Earth do they cram – oh, 250,000 people – in one store?? There is no such thing as maximum capacity in Chile. It’s like what I’ve been told the subways are like in Tokyo. They actually have people on the platforms who CRAM the commuters into the trains. Yes, this is someone’s JOB! That’s what shopping at Jumbo is like, sans the person paid to cram people into the store. Except unlike most commuters on a packed train, I’m actually wielding a cart, my “green” supermarket totes (save the Earth!) AND trying to find food that’s remotely familiar to me! And this is when I’m not having to take a number for the deli, the bread or the sweets OR having to weigh my produce. I’m just saying there’s a lot to consider once I get myself into the Jumbo and it doesn’t help that there are TOO many people with once cart each, leaving them here or there, and stopping to argue over a kilo of tomatoes!! Grrrrrr!!!!

2) Customer service here is the equivalent of going into a store and having each experience be JUST LIKE your visit to the DMV. It doesn’t matter really where you go (ok, MOST of the time, not always) or how much you’re paying. More likely than not, the person helping you doesn’t want to be there, doesn’t like you, thinks your question is dumb, or some combination of all of the above. Now, that’s just a normal circumstance for any given Chilean. Add the element of being a foreigner and speaking with an accent (because apparently I have an accent I’ve been told. Who knew?) AND not knowing how things work half the time and viola – I’m everyone’s favorite customer! Needless to say, my shopping/customer service encounters are never truly stellar.
Just last week I went to a wedding dress boutique to try on dresses, and the owner proceeded to point to my stomach and tell me that “that” (the fat, I guess??) was the result of “too much rice and too many sweets.” Then, when she helped me put on a dress, she pinched my back fat and told me to get rid of it. Oh, and THEN she told me that each dress cost over $1 million pesos (USD$2,000). See? Mo’money doesn’t mean better service. Bottom line is that you just CAN’T expect service that’s above and beyond and no amount of money can make that happen for you. This is a hard pill in good ol’ She-lay.

3) The aforementioned blog from October touched on this but I have to include it in this post because it’s a constant source of grief for me here: the staring. Apparently Chileans (man, woman and child) NEVER GOT THE MEMO THAT IT’S IMPOLITE TO STARE. A couple of weeks ago I was going to a fellow gringa friend’s apt and as I got to the corner, about to cross the intersection, the light turned red so I stopped. Next to me, an older woman in her mid-to-late 60s pulls up (mind you, IN my personal space, but whatevs) and proceeds to blatantly stare at me. I wasn’t wearing anything “weird” and I wasn’t even walking about with no make up on or anything that might remotely cause alarm. I was just standing there, minding my own business, listening to my iPod and waiting for the light to turn green so I could continue on my merry way. And she just stared. And stared. First up to my face (profile since I didn’t actually LOOK at her though I should have), then down to my toes. She stayed with my toes for a while because they’re bright red and here in Chile it’s not a widespread custom to have your toes painted. In fact she stayed with my toes so long that I finally concluded that she was trying to peg me as a prostitute. Not one that was prostituting there on that corner that very second (in her mind) but one who most likely did so at night and that I was just going about my day “normally” during the hours the sun was out. The reason I concluded this is because after the toes, she once again stared at my profile, but then, scrutinizing. Trying to understand what kind of person I was and why I was on that corner next to her. How dare I be there?? ….Well, at least I’d like to think she was doing all that thinking about me. She stared far too much and for far too long for me to feel comfortable knowing she just stared for the simple act of staring. The staring is so obvious and so frequent and so rude, that each time I just have to look the person in the eye and either ask “what” or “Can I help you?” And every time, the person gets nervous, fumbles about and says something lame. In the U.S. we’re taught that it’s rude to stare and if we do stare, knowing that it’s rude to do so, it has to be something PRETTY MAJOR or REALLY different for us to justify the staring bit. Here apparently something as simple as being taller (which is easy in a country where a woman’s average height is between 5′ and 5’2″) or wearing red nail polish on your toes, gives people free reign to stare at you for at least three minutes straight.

I could go on with several more points (i.e. I made a dentist appointment for a teeth cleaning only to be called in for two minutes while the dentist KIND of reviewed my teeth and then proceeded to tell me to come back for two-part cleaning at later dates. Even Gonzalo thought this was dumb) but the thing is, Chile really isn’t a bad country to call home. I don’t want to give the idea that I hate living here, either. I don’t. I have a great life here and I would recommend that most people try living down here if they have the option to do so. But yeah it’s annoying sometimes and yeah, the culture differences repeatedly hit you like one brick after another smashing around you. From my point of view, considering how and where I grew up, sometimes Chileans have really weird and backwards ways of doing things. Sometimes they have forward thinking ways of doing things.
But the purpose of my blog is to highlight what it’s like to LIVE here and my adjustment to life here. And trust me, the backwards highlights always make for a more colorful entry. But once I’m done with that said entry, I’m neutral again, and my anti-Chile stance just melts away until I’m back to being Andrea in Chile.

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Wedding "Traditions" compliments of Falabella

Wedding planning is in full gear (I guess) and the other day Gonzalo and I went to Falabella to register in Chile. When we did so, we got a sort of wedding “starter kit” from the retailer, which included a type of planner, a CD rom with info on things such as dresses, venues, etc and a small little book that addressed traditions GALORE for the little event that would be a wedding.
Just to give some background on Falabella: it’s a Chilean holding company and one of the largest retailers in Latin America. They have stores in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru and here in Chile, it’s one of THE top department stores. But they not only dabble in department stores but also own a chain of home improvement stores (think Office Depot-ish) and a bank. They also offer all kinds of extras, such as trips (Falabella Viajes!) and a home shopping network (Falabella TV). I mean, truly, there is no Chile without a Falabella experience one way or another!

Anyway, I need to devote an entire blog entry to my reading material from last night, compliments of Falabella’s “I’m a Bride: A practical guide for the brides and grooms of Falabella.” (soy Novia: La guia practica para los novios de Falabella.) Within the first few pages of wedding advertisements, we find “Traditions that continue.” Here we find the traditional and historical bits on why we wear engagement rings, why we send invitations, why there’s a couple’s first dance, etc, etc. Actually it was kind of cool to read the historical element of each tradition involved with a proposal and subsequent wedding. This isn’t the part that I feel the need to share in my blog. I give you Exhibit A: the section entitled “Superstitions on the Big Day.”

– So that it doesn’t rain on my wedding day, pray to St. Clara and never eat food directly from the pot or pan.

– Don’t get married on a Tuesday. (Note that Tuesday in Spanish is Martes.) Since “Marte” is the god of war, the ancient Romans associated that day with disgraces and catastrophes.

– Celebrating my wedding in January, I risk economic disgrace.

– Don’t wear pearls on the day of the wedding, as they symbolize tears and pain.

– If I want my single girlfriends to also get married, I need to write each of their names down on a piece of paper and stick it in my right shoe so that they “approach” the altar “with” me. Now, if we want to know which of these girlfriends will be the next to marry, I must follow the Turkish tradition of writing their names on the sole of the right shoe and at the end of the night, the name most worn out will be the next one to receive an engagement ring.

– I must put a coin in one of my shoes to promote economic fortune.

– I have to make sure that my fiancee’s tie is on straight. For it to be slightly crooked implies that he will be unfaithful.

– When people see us go by on our way to the Church, people must make a lot of noise and honk their horns, so as to scare away evil spirits.

– To dream of my wedding day and see myself dressed as a bride, could signify disgrace.

– When a fork and knife fall at the same time, it means a wedding in the family ensues.

At first I thought it was really silly and I almost started this blog as an open forum for bashing old school, third-world superstitions. But then I thought, aren’t there many wedding traditions done partly in fear of something bad happening? Don’t we have our own superstitions in the U.S.? I decided to ask my friend Google what she thought about the topic and here’s what she had for me:

– If it rains on your wedding day, you’ll shed many tears during your married life.

– The bride should wear pearls on her wedding day to ensure she would not cry.

– When a newly married couple enters their home, the groom should carry the bride over the threshold because if the bride should stumble entering the home, it is a bad omen.

– Tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed’s car is good luck because the noise will frighten away evil spirits. [similar to the honking of car horns]

– If your dress is ripped on the day before your wedding, it means that your marriage will end in death! [um scary. I will take it off and put on sweats before I start dancing.]

– If candles are lit on your wedding day and they go out it means an evil spirit is near by!

– The Victorians believed it was lucky to marry on a day during the week the groom was born. But the luckiest day to marry was on the groom’s actual birthday.

– Say your vows when the hour hand on the clock is going upwards. This makes you work together in your married life together. If you say your vows when the hour hand is going down it is bad luck.

– In the Jewish tradition, it’s bad luck to receive knives as a wedding gift. In case someone should give knives, the bride should transform the exchange into a financial transaction by giving a penny or nominal sum for the knives.

– The bride is never supposed to practice walking down the aisle during her rehearsal or it will bring bad luck. The most popular alternative is to ask a close friend not in the wedding party to be your “Stand in Bride”.

– Put a penny in your shoe for wealth in your marriage. [hmmm, sounds like Falabella believes the same thing.]

– Dressing the bridesmaids is to fool the evil spirits–so they won’t know who is the bride and who is not. [uh, that sucks for the bridesmaids…]

There are tons more of course but Google is your friend too. I suggest asking her the same question to see what she spews out for you.

And as I was reading these said superstitions there were many traditions thrown in there as well… it was a medley of points and eventually I couldn’t tell a tradition apart from a superstition. The reason being, I’ve personally concluded, is because traditions we now recognize as such for weddings were probably BORN OUT OF superstitions back in the day. And in the end, it’s all meant to protect and preserve the happy couple, right?
In fact, I think that we can blame the actual divorce rate in the world on the fact that people aren’t sufficiently schooled on superstitions. If they were, it would be an entirely different story out there! Perhaps we should include this little Falabella booklet in all bridal shower goody bags from now on!

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The bodacious-ness of movie lines and quotes

I realized I was on to something with a portion of yesterday’s Thanksgiving Day post. While listing all the main things I was forever thankful for, I mentioned random and not so random movie quotes that allow me to partake in some verbal movie quote vomiting on a regular basis. But OBVIOUSLY that one little paragraph hardly did this topic justice!! Half of my vocabulary and means of expressing myself can be directly attributed to movies and the skillful writers who pen the most brilliant of lines.

And so, presently, it’s my great pleasure to give you a list of my most used and/or most favorite movie lines or dialogues I can think of…(by all means, please share ones you feel are equally as relevant. I may be missing out on some key phrases in life!!)

“I just want them to know that they didn’t break me.”

“There’s a rhythmic ceremonial ritual coming up.”

“Life is not whatnot, and it’s none of your business.”

“Sofa City, Sweetheart!”

“And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.”

“You wanna know what happened? Buy the book!”

“Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”

“Marie de Salle’s playing. You remember I told you about her. I like her. She’s kind of Sheryl Crow-ish crossed with a post-Partridge Family pre-L.A. Law Susan Dey kind of thing, but, you know, uh, black.”

“You’re an idiot anyway. But if you say you get along with your parents, well, you’re a liar too.”

“Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period… “

“You can dere-lick my balls cap-E-tan.”

“Allow myself to introduce… myself!”

“A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn’t deserve such a fine automobile.”

“His name is Blane? Oh! That’s a major appliance, that’s not a name!”

“I NOT A MEXICAN!!”

“I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”

“Todd! Are you not aware that I get farty and bloated with a foamy latte?”

“Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn’t take Lorraine out that he’d melt my brain.”

“This is my dance space. This is your dance space.”

“A eugoogoolizer… one who speaks at funerals…Or did you think I was too stupid to know what a eugoogooly was?”

“Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots?”

“Do you think I’d speak for you? I don’t even know your language.”

“Phat! Did you write that?”

“My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament.”

“Was I the only one listening?I thought it reeked.”

“Nice ma- nice manners, babe.”

“That was way harsh, Tai.”

“Games, Jake. Silly torturous games.”

“There’s that word again; “heavy”. Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth’s gravitational pull?”

“Tell me the part about Kenny G again?”

“Would you guys please hurry up, I’m breaking like 30 major laws here.”

“I’m Farmer Ted.”

“Darling is something bothering you? …you’re acting like… an a**hole.”

“That’s a Cosby sweater.”

“This isn’t life, it’s just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that’s just nuts.”

“He is totally enamored of me. I mean, I’ve had other men love me before, but not for six months in a row.”

“Charlie, you f*cking bitch. Let’s work it out.”

Nicholas Angel: You’re a doctor, deal with it!
Danny Butterman: Yeah, motherf*&ker!”

“I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.”

“Don’t worry about it, I don’t even have a piece of shit. I have to envy yours.”

“I rule!”

Oh (this is me talking now, not referring to a movie)… I also like that part at the end of Dirty Dancing when they finally get the lift right.

Good times!

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A pictorial look at things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving

It’s officially Thanksgiving and here it feels (and actually IS) like any other day, so it’s hard for me to tell that the holiday season is approaching. I miss that holiday feeling that Thanksgiving initiates for us Americans and I’ll certainly miss the preparatory traditions as the countdown to the 24th of December begins. Sad.

Nonetheless, I woke up this morning and held Thanksgiving day close to me and remembered all the things I’m forever grateful for…In no particular order, mind you:

Quirky television shows that are so amazing, that they fly over people’s heads and are canceled after about three seasons (or less)

and

and

Random (or perhaps not so random) movies and the ridiculously funny writing that encourages me to constantly vomit movie quotes (ok, so no pics associated with this piece of the world I’m grateful for, but you get it anyway, right?)

“I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies’.”

“Donger’s here for five hours, and he’s got somebody. I live here my whole life, and I’m like a disease.”

“It’s that damn Hansel! He’s so hot right now!”

“Yes. Yes, I did it. I killed Yvette. I hated her, so much… it-it- the f – it -flam – flames. Flames, on the side of my face, breathing-breathl- heaving breaths. Heaving breath…”

(Seriously I could go on and on and on…)

Pil
She drives me crazy and has a tendency for the overly dramatic, but my mom is nothing short of awesome.



Tio Pato

My mother has four brothers and one sister, but my Tio Pato is the one I grew up with in CA and since I never grew up with a father, he was the closest thing I had to a father figure. And he rocks. When I was little (as in 4) he used to tell me to just call him Pato. Errrr … it always confused me bc he insisted so much. Needless to say, I never really caught on to that. He also taught me things like “Portate mal para que lo pases bien” (Be bad so you make sure to have a good time.) Priceless, just like him.

Chile
Yes I have all kinds of complaints about my new home but I attribute that to not really getting how things work here (yet). I had/have a lot of complaints about San Francisco too, believe it or not (namely the weather). But Chile is a beautiful country and I live a great life here. Yeah I’m in Latin America and by default that comes along with all the frustrations you can assume are associated with it, but it genuinely has so much to offer and I’m thankful to live here (as opposed to, say, Caracas.) Note that the pic below truly is how Santiago looks…see? You can totally outline the smog.



Shannon

Sweet, dear, chocolate-covered Shannon. I TRULY love all my friends but this year I have to give a special Thanksgiving Day shout out to my BFF of 18 years. In my entire life, I can count on one hand the people that have shown the amount of strength and integrity she has shown. Despite personal hardships that would have the rest of us clawing at the ground, she’s held her head high throughout so much this year AND HAS STILL managed to be a good friend to me (despite distance) and be an amazing maid of honor at that as well! I’m thankful for her and that’s the simplest of truths. (yes I purposely chose the most hideous picture of us bc that makes it funny.)



My old friends back home…

Krellis, Cor, Mands, JoJo Bean and Lor (among so many others.) I’m thankful for you and the way each one is so completely different from the other one. I’m grateful that they have chosen to be my friends and have accepted my friendship. And now in life, I’m grateful that they keep me connected to my life in the U.S. because they take the time to share with me, despite the distance.




…and the Gringa friends I’ve met here

My life in Chile would be 1) depressing and 2) boring if it weren’t for the great women I’ve met here. Some will stay on for a while and some will be leaving to continue their lives back in the U.S. Even if I’ve met you for a second, we hang out all the time, or I’ve yet to meet you and become friends, I truly am thankful for the other “Gringuitas” that are here (who else am I suppose to speak Spanglish with and totally GET it???!!)

VIZ, my job, and the faith that my coworkers have in me. Three cheers and long live Japanese animation and comics! :o)
Cheesy? Definitely. But am I wrong for being awesomely grateful for being able to work in something I know and love given that I live on the other end of the world? I don’t think so.

And though there are so many other things I’m thankful for (my health, the health of those around me, the opportunities I have to travel, the ability to speak two languages fluently, Mexican food, ceviche, pisco sours and wine, to name but a few) I’ve come to the end of this blog entry.

To conclude the list of things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving, I give mad, thankful props to my sweet Gonzalo… and my life with him … and our fabulous, “grown up” apartment…and our wedding planning … and the way he makes every little moment about life seem rainbow colored…

Thank you for Gonzalo …

and Gonzalo …

and Gonzalo …

And DUH! Thanks to you for reading my blog!

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Why I hate Lan Chile

This dumb airline has been the biggest thorn in my side since moving to Chile. LONG GONE are the days of safe, reliable and feasible commercial flight alternatives such as Southwest, Jet Blue and Virgin.

Sure, there’s random airlines like Sky, but they certainly don’t get me where I want to go most of the time (namely outside of Santiago.) Southwest and the other airlines I mentioned didn’t do that either but at least they gave me options to get to ANOTHER major city, where, nine times out of ten, there would be some option for a larger carrier taking me out of the country.

Here’s the thing about LAN:

1) it’s basically the ONLY real option in Chile for national and ESPECIALLY international travel. Thus, they’re basically a monopoly. That means their prices are always the most expensive. And since there are usually lack of other options, you are forced to pay exuberant prices.

2) they have the worst – THE WORST – online customer experience EVER. 8 times out of 10, you can’t accomplish ANYTHING on the dumb site and when you call to figure it out with an actual person, they want to charge you for not having used their site in the first place.

3) their award travel is ridiculously hard to redeem and forget about MOLDING it into what you might need … if you want to book a one-way flight anywhere, you simply can’t. It will automatically charge you for an Round Trip flight, no matter what. Whereas American let’s you do whatever the hell you please, so long as you have the miles to do it and if not, the $$$ to buy the miles to do it.

4) The flight attendants are stiff and overly made up. It’s like talking to Mormon’s and watching them flinch when you say something they don’t like. They may bat their eyelashes a bit harder but their plastic smiles never waver. I’m sorry, but that freaks me out.

Now, of course, with the bad and the ugly comes the good:

1) Piggy backing off the flight attendant comment, I do commend them for having generally attractive flight attendants who aren’t disgruntled and who aren’t old enough to be my grandmother. While having flight attendants of ALL AGES is what I personally think would be best, they do have an extremely lopsided crew… leaning towards 35 and under. And also, Chile certainly isn’t a monument for fights against age discrimination laws. In fact, I’m sure LAN’s executive board is the one promoting the age range acceptance in job descriptions.

2) The planes are squeaky clean and very new. And they have TV’s with a laundry list of movies (old and new) and TV Shows, as well as games and music. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up! It made my 17 hour flight go by entertainingly fast!

3) Free food and free alcohol on all flights. Enough said.

Yet despite these three oh-so-fabulous points, LAN remains a thorn in my side for so many reasons and most have to do with just being the only option you really have in Chile. I hate lack of options. Especially when I come from a country where I had a million airlines to choose from to get from Point A to Point B. And here I find myself with just LAN…just good ol’ LAN. With their fake customer service and its circa 1999 website. Because they’re the only option, they can’t be bothered to fix their website, their travel award nuances and their scary, Valley-of-the-Dolls flight attendants.

And thus, I can’t be bothered with coming up with more than three good points about them.

Also – side note – one of Chile’s current presidential candidates used to be the President of Lan Chile. Is that good or is that bad given what I have just laid out for you here? Discuss.

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Oh really? Anti-bride? Ha!!

Fine, so maybe I’m not that much of an anti-bride… so sue me!

It turns out, I am kinda getting into the fun of this whole wedding planning. It’s not the usual, little-girl-dream of a wedding, but more so, it’s just plain fun to plan events and the details surrounding it. I realize this now. I can also now admit that it took finalizing Gonzalo’s divorce to truly propel me into the mayhem of the wedding planning.

My wedding date is set for April 17th and I have a venue and a photographer confirmed (btw, obsessed with both). Believe it or not I also have Save-the-Dates (to be mailed out in the U.S. AS WELL AS in Chile) and we have our wedding website. Further, we’ve registered for some items at four stores in the U.S. I feel like I’m ahead of the game for someone who some time back claimed to be the anti-bride.

I find that it’s fun also because G is super into it as well. Actually, it’s more like I research and find images of things we may both like and put them into a Power Point presentation. When he gets home we discuss and vote. A very corporate spin to things considering he’s too busy to actually do the researching with me. He *is* however, all about the discussing details and how we can make our wedding “different” for Chilean standards (which, let’s face it, won’t be hard with someone who’s basically gringa involved in more than half of it.)

I get a little unmotivated when I come across details that mean a big deal to me, for which Chile has LITTLE TO NO SOLUTIONS!! And by this I mean flowers. Hello?!! Where does one go in Chile to discuss the fabulous-ness of flowers with someone who isn’t about to throw carnations into the mix? I’m at a loss on this realm and it’s really frustrating me!! I’m not sure what I’ll do here … I’m hoping a solution falls in my lap… or at least I’ll wait until next week when I go to boutiques to try on wedding dresses. I’m sure someone there will have a lead to give me. If not, I’m sure you’ll hear about it since I’ll rant to NO END on my blog…

So that’s where it’s at right now. I’m glad to be planning this and nothing would mean more to me than to have people here to share that day with me. I did the registry thing just because it was advised that I do it rather than not do it. So there it is. But really, this is just as fun without gifts.

Oh except for the invitation part. That part truly sucks a**. I don’t recommend it at all and I’m treating it like taking off a band aid in one sweep.

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Pretty in Pink in my building

There’s a woman who works in my building’s “Conserjería” (front desk) who doesn’t like me.

From what I can tell, she works here five days a week, primarily cleaning each floor and the surrounding area of the building. Sometimes however, I think she relieves the door man during lunch and she’s sitting at the front desk when I come in from wherever it is I’ve been.

The way the mail works in most apartment buildings in Santiago (or Chile for that matter) is that each apartment has their own “cubby” down at the front desk and the “conserje” (front door/desk person) hands you the mail you may have. So you see, we don’t get our mail directly to our door or in our own personal mailbox where we personally retrieve it. Always, it’s handed to us. This also means that when you’re walking in and out of the building you have to take note of anything that may be in there. If there is, you approach the front desk and ask for your mail.

Every time I see her I say hello but I can tell she’s trying really hard to avoid saying hi to me. I remember when I first moved in that I was shy and felt awkward in general about being here so perhaps I myself gave off weird or mean vibe. I don’t know. But then as time passed, I’ve become more comfortable and definitely say hello to all the building employees and ask about them, their day or talk general current events. I try to do so with her as well, but to no avail. She just isn’t having it.

Then one day, I realized why she doesn’t like me: Coming in from having been at the gym, I went up to the front desk and asked for the mail in our cubby. She looked at me and said: “It must be nice to be able to ask for your bills.” I didn’t say anything besides “Oh, I just don’t want us to get behind,” but it was at that moment that I realized that she dislikes me simply because I have a different reality than she does and we’re the youngest couple/family in the building. She dislikes me simply because she thinks I’m a “cuica” (person with money, type of yuppy, with bad connotations) and people from “her” world naturally treat people from “my” world in this manner. [This “manner” is, simply put, that she’s not nice, she doesn’t smile, when she sees me coming, she avoids all contact with me, she looks at me with a smirk and she says ridiculous things such as the above to me.]

One of these days I want to force her to look at me and tell her that I grew up poor. That my mom and I shared a one bedroom for as long as I can remember during my childhood. That many times I didn’t really have Christmas presents. That my mom would eat canned food so as to give me better food. That I went to a scary public school during my first 4 years of school in the U.S. and only after IMMENSE sacrifice from my mom and lobbying for a scholarship, was I able to go to a private school. That my mom cleaned houses when I was little. That I never had a summer vacation because I had to get up with her and sit in these huge mansions everyday, in the kitchen, while my mom cleaned all day long. I want to tell her that I know what it’s like to have very little and to STILL be nice to everyone… and I want to tell her that I am where I am now because of my mom’s sacrifices and because of my personal efforts and desire to succeed. And I want to ask her, who does she think she is, making me feel bad for being successful?

I know that it’s easy to look at people who have more material wealth than you and snicker. It’s easy to be envious that their lives are so much easier and that they don’t literally sweat while they work. But when I’m feeling those pangs of envy about someone who never has to save and never has to plan for the future as I do, I stop short of assuming they’re bad people I can’t like. I stop short of assuming they were always that fortunate.

I have such a profound respect for people who have worked for what they have, whatever that may be. It’s all relative. Perhaps my friends are working hard for cars, or houses or careers, while right now I’m working hard for a nice wedding. Maybe someone who is a millionaire worked hard to become CEO of the company that made him or her a millionaire. Who am I to criticize where they are and where they want to be, if they have worked for it?

Of course there’s always the quintessential “cuica” who comes from generations and generations of “cuicos” and well, yes, they’re annoying and yes they’re even MORE annoying here in Santiago where there’s a huge chasm between have’s and have not’s and these cuicos tend to have no sense of reality. But the whole attitude going on with this lady who works in my building needs to be readjusted…it’s just SO cliche and SOOOO “Pretty In Pink.” Aside from the fact that it makes me feel BAD and then I get pissed that I feel bad in the first place because unlike the typical cuica that she thinks I am, I come from a long line of hard workers and I’ve succeeded due to work and effort!

Por ultimo (that’s to say, “in conclusion”), can we just consider Andy’s words to Ducky in “Pretty in Pink” when she tells him “Listen to me – if we hate them because they have money, it’s the same as them hating us because we don’t.”
Amen, sister.

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A side note on my gringa bubble

Last night I enjoyed a very nice happy hour with the lovely gringas I’ve met in Santiago. It’s funny because we went to a place called “California” that serves, what I’m guessing, is their version of California-style food (burgers, burritos, etc). Further, our waiter spoke English because he was from Monterey, CA! Finally, the tables around us, or at least the one next to us, full of gringos speaking their perfect English.

In short, last night I was basically in the U.S… but also a five minute walk from my house.

I can’t tell you how good that feels every so often. The – “where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came” – kind of feeling you get when hanging with peeps who GET what it’s like to live here but be from there.

Your friends back in the US don’t get it because well, they continue their lives in the comfort zone we all know as home. Trust me, there are many a times I want to run back to that comfort zone myself. Even the ones who have traveled and lived abroad (which in actuality are far fewer than you might think) don’t truly get it. Because what we’re doing here is MORE than just living abroad. We’re accepting families, customs, places and things as our own. Not just “hey, check me out, I’m living in another country!” In any capacity though, living in another country is a feat and of course those who have done it deserve a hats off. I think that’s probably the reason why those who do study abroad together in college become such close friends.

It’s a similar thing with the gringas here but a slightly more intense feeling of connectedness because we have relationships and marriages (for the most part) that we’re also living through with Chilean men. (And depending on the type of Chilean man you’re with, this can either be a slice of heaven or a deep, cultural shock to the system).

I might loosely “complain” that I’m having a hard time making Chilean women friends but I agree with a fellow gringa that stated to me last night that I’ve been here “all of a second.” Apparently she made her first Chilean friend three years into her life here so it would seem that I have time to get that going.

In the meantime, while I assimilate and wait for the right Chilean woman to come along (in a friendly kind of way!), I rather enjoy the gringa bubble that floats about in this grimy, smoggy city full of disgruntled Chileans with mullet cuts and questionable fashion sense (generalizing here, of course.)

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The evolution of friendships

It’s never easy to leave your life behind to start a new one in another country, hemisphere, etc. It’s particularly never easy to leave friends behind, especially those you’ve had for what seems a lifetime. But it’s also a kind of Darwinian experiment. Survival of the fittest friendships, if you will.

There are some friendships that are so solid that space, time, distance or WHAT HAVE YOU, would never really touch the quality of the said friendship. The necessary adjustments are automatically made. Email, IMing, and phone calls replace the regular lunch/dinner/happy hours you’d normally look forward to after any given workday.

It’s a curious thing, the evolution of a friendship.

I think back to the kinds of friends I had when I was in grammar school and most of those friends are ones I was in the same class with year after year in Catholic school. We were friends by default because we all moved through grades together. We played in the same yard, wore the same uniform and agonized over the same teachers. Not to mention the agony that brought us together with one said music teacher (who btw, was also a nun and just about the meanest old witch you can possibly fathom.) I had fun growing up with those friends from 2-7th grade. Still, our friendships ended really, when I moved to another city and transferred to public school. And just like that, we no longer had the common bond that held us together.

In high school I had a few really good friends whom I cherished but there exists two reasons (I recognize them now) for why we drifted apart. 1) They grew up waaaaaaay faster than I did and began drinking and attending parties before I did. 2) I started dating a guy who was a million times older than me (and not that cute, WTF was I thinking?) This guy never wanted to do ANYTHING with me bc my friends were all younger. The result? I chose him, not them. And they carried on with their lives sans me.

In college, and a little after college too, I finally made really good, solid friends. The type of people that really enrich your life. Funny people. Insightful people. People who didn’t really share my background but that’s why I find/found them fascinating. Do-gooders and achievers. Witty and smart. These friends are the ones proving to lead the others in the Darwinian experiment that automatically arises when you move to another planet – I mean, country. With these, more “grown up” friendships, it’s been easier to survive the life changes (and by that, I don’t mean menopause). Even though some went on to live with their boyfriends or went on to get married and even moved to different States, we mostly remained friends despite it all.

But NOW, even some of those friendships won’t last, I’m beginning to realize. Because if you aren’t “there” in the day-to-day, the fact of the matter is that life goes on. Without you. These friends will get involved with new life projects and all of a sudden there is little room for the relationship you once had with that person. And the thing is, it’s not because you don’t have the room in your life… that’s the most frustrating part about it. You begin to get the sense of “out of sight, out of mind” from the other end. And it’s really quite a sad realization.

In fact, I’m realizing an evolution between my friendship with my best friend right now. Not a detrimental, friendship-ending change, but a change nonetheless. She just got a new boyfriend and the thing looks mighty serious. Before my move to Chile, I was in the know of almost all the boys or men that went in and out of her life probably from the start. This time, when I meet him, it will be a done deal between them. Not that my blessing was ever needed for her to decide on dating someone but it’s weird to know that this guy MIGHT be the guy she marries and I’ll never really know him. To me he’ll forever be this random (albeit nice) guy she ended up with, no matter how in love they are (or will be).

Then I remember that she went through that first. And not only is Gonzalo the random guy that I ended up with in her eyes but he’s also the random FOREIGNER who, yeah, treats me well and adores me, but who also TOOK ME AWAY to another planet (I mean, country, sorry.) So in the end, what makes our friendship different is actually the common denominator we both share. Random guys who came into our lives!

It’s not all evolving in a bad way though. There are some friends that I actually keep in touch with MORE and feel more involved with BECAUSE of the distance we now have. These are the friends I engage in hour long IM sessions at least three times a week because I feel the need to catch up or else my week isn’t complete! And of course I can’t leave out the great people I’m becoming friends with while living here in Chile. It’s hard to say if some of these people I’m friends with merely because we have the “Hey I live in Chile too” common denominator but I do feel that though that is what brought me to them, some of these women are so cool, I’d be friends with them in Siberia, California, Casablanca or Helsinki. Just cooool peeps and I’m glad to have come across them.

Yeah friendships evolve and I guess that means that sometimes friendships end. But not always. As long as there is general interest from both parties to actually KNOW about the other’s new life, then most likely than not, the friendship will survive. It’s so easy really. Sincere interest and willingness to take the time to communicate, is all it takes. No matter which planet you live on or the times zones that separate you.

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