Sundays in Santiago

Um…so where do all the people run off to on Sundays? Like, all those people who crowd the downtown area near where I live? Where there are so many pedestrians, that it takes me a whole five minutes to make a right turn ANYWHERE?
And the taxis? The buses? Just – poof, gone! Seriously?

For a country, like most Lat Am ones, where close to 50% of the population resides IN THE CAPITAL, it’s mind boggling to me where these people go on Sundays. Do they head for the hills??!! The Andes don’t particularly look that welcoming or endearing this time of year actually… so what’s the deal?

The stores that line the busy streets are all closed, the kiosks are shut down, most Starbucks are closed, no one’s selling fruit/artichokes on the corners and even the guy who sits there and juggles apples, or what have you, at every intersection – gone! It’s actually rather spooky. Kind of like that short story by Stephen King called “The Langoliers,” where passengers on a cross-country red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Boston wake up and find that the crew and the rest of the passengers who weren’t asleep, have disappeared. Creepier yet, is that THEN they discover that they’re the only people remaining on the planet – PERIOD. (Very eerie story, check it out!)

Yeah, Santiago on Sundays kind of feels like that. If there are about 16 million people TOTAL in this country, and about 7 million or so live in Santiago, are they all just sitting at home? If so, then MY WORD they take this “day of rest” bit seriously…

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The difference a year makes

Here we are again. October 29th.

I must say – if ever you feel your life is just atrocious and sh*^&y, like there is no way things could possibly look up and shine a bright shine on you – hear this my weary friend: A lot can happen in a year.

Channel Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go.”

I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.

2008 was a rough year for me for several reasons but two stand out. I’ll spare the details of one but will leave you to ponder just the worst stroke of luck in love you can possibly imagine. Now, take that thought and multiply it by 500 while adding a kick in the groin, a punch in the boob and a finger sliced inside an armful of lemon juice. I was involved in a situation I knew I shouldn’t have been involved in but yet I went in, blindfolded. The result? Well, all I just happened to explain. I spent the first half of 2008 playing the fool and basically not developing my FABULOSA-ness as I should have.

You’ll be on your way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights.

All the bad love crap was over as of June 2008 and I was on my own, no strings attached and free to feel happy or miserable of my own accord. Except the countdown was on. My mother – my dear, sweet, chocolate-covered mother – was leaving me behind in the U.S. to embark on her return to the motherland, Chile, after 28 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Good for her, but sad, sad and more sad for me.

I found myself in a flurry of activity that kept me busy throughout the summer. Between mending a broken heart, realizing I’m too fabulous to even BOTHER with a broken heart, enjoying my friends and my social life, going to New York, and packing my mother up for a long haul back to Chilsters, my summer indeed flew by. With that, I reached the end of August 2008.

Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! There are points to be scored. There are games to be won. And the magical things you can do with that ball will make you the winning-est winner of all. Fame! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole wide world watching you win on TV.

…which quite describes the new state of Singlehood I found myself living. I had my first apartment alone and though there were many a times I’d find myself with just me as company, where I’d talk out loud just to make sure I hadn’t randomly lost my voice from lack of use, it was a time to roll out of the ugly dust I’d been enveloped in earlier in the year and just enjoy MY LIFE as ME with ME and not allowing outside influences dictate how I was going to feel about myself or how I was going to live my life.

All Alone!
Whether you like it or not, Alone will be something you’ll be quite a lot.

And when you’re alone, there’s a very good chance you’ll meet things that scare you right out of your pants. There are some, down the road between hither and yon, that can scare you so much you won’t want to go on.

Despite learning to find myself from June to August – whether with friends or not – September and October 2008 weren’t about to allow me to feel alone for too long. It was the busiest travel season I’d had in a while at work and I was off to Tokyo, followed by Brazil, Argentina and Chile –> all for work. I’m sure those two months alone won me Elite Status on American Airlines with all the miles I accrued.

My business trips were amazing and productive and with each one, I became more and more my own person, realizing my time was my own and that I held the door knob to the door in front of opportunity. Of course I didn’t realize all THIS then, but now, looking back, I do.

Tokyo was a hoot (Sept 2008)

Brazil, with its mix of business and one afternoon of fun, was a holler (Oct 2008)

Argentina, as per usual, was fun-loving (Oct 2008)

And then, on October 29th, the same day as my mom’s 60th birthday, I flew to Chile… and the result of that trip was life-changing. It’s what bring us here. You and me. For were it not for that fateful night, when Gonzalo showed up at my mom’s bday celebration dinner, the events that followed that led to my being here, would never have happened. Had they not happened, this blog wouldn’t exist, and well, my dear reader, you and I would be somewhere completely different in Cyberspace.

Gonzalo, someone I’d kind of known for four years prior, but only via work, showed up in all his never-before-witnessed glory, and despite all efforts, reasons, logic and geography, what now is, came to be on that night, one year ago, today.

So you see? I went from one extreme to the other in ONE YEAR. From heartbreak and loneliness to happiness and awareness. The lesson to be learned is this: no matter how things look today, trust me, tomorrow can bring something completely different. And no matter where you are in life now, next year, you may very well be living it up in the last place you ever considered you’d be.

You’ll get mixed up, of course, as you already know. You’ll get mixed up with many strange birds as you go. So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)

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Going to the doctor in Chile

Well now. There certainly is NOTHING more pleasant about being a woman than the annual visit to the hoo-ha doctor.

And as much as I usually hated it in the U.S., I was 2.2 seconds away from freaking out about it here in Chile since today was my first doctor’s appointment since moving here and as luck would OF COURSE have it, THAT was the first doctor I had to see. Oy.

You’ve heard (or read) my rants about the inefficiencies here and trust me there are tons. The bureaucracy that exists here to do the simplest of deeds leaves the U.S. in the scope of living, say, in Candy Land. I was expecting the same thing when visiting the doctor, but I was, thankfully, pleasantly surprised.

To begin, contrary to the norm in the U.S. (and thus all I’ve know), “clinics” in Chile = good and “hospitals” in Chile = not so good and even bad. I realize that there are people that aren’t fortunate enough to go to clinics and thus may have a completely different version of events I’m about to describe. However, I went to Clinica Las Condes which is by far, the most modern, efficient and aesthetically pleasing medical facility I’ve ever visited. Granted, it’s one of the top medical centers in the country so of course, what was I expecting? Cows in the lobby? Probably.

But that certainly wasn’t the case.
I located the appropriate building (there are many) and the floor where my appointment was and checked in by introducing myself and merely placing my right forefinger on a sensor. With that, and the equivalent of my SSN, the medical attendant located all the information they needed about me on the computer screen in front of her: my age, where I live, my contact info, the doctor I was seeing, what I was seeing the doctor about, my insurance and hell, probably my bra size!

The doctor was running a little late but when we were finally escorted back, I was expecting a regular exam room where I’d find the usual patient half-bed covered by white paper, cupboards (gray), a scale, a blood pressure machine, etc, etc and a computer and chair for the Doctor. This is what I saw back home. However HERE, we were escorted into the doctor’s OFFICE. Yeah…OFFICE. Now, call me crazy and perhaps unfortunate but I don’t think I’ve EVER been in a doctor’s OFFICE. In the 50s and other decades I’m sure, this was probably normal, right? I mean, I see it on Mad Men so it must have been real. Anyway, the doctor’s office was connected to the doctor’s personal exam room, which also had it’s own, private bathroom. Um what?! It’s like as big as my apartment back in CA!!

The cool thing was that she sat down with US – not just me, but US – and asked me all kinds of questions and took her time to get to know me. What? I’m not being shuffled in and out of an exam room as if on a conveyor belt? And the thing is, after hearing me out, hearing my past, hearing about my plans for the future, jotting down family history, etc, etc she didn’t just decide to do a regular exam but she asked for tests and exams that I’ve never had done in my life! [Ex: I come from a long line of diabetics in my family and though I don’t currently have diabetes, I have to take blood tests ALL THE TIME in order to monitor this. She asked for a test that involves my blood being taken on an empty stomach AND a test where they themselves give me sugar and test how my blood reacts to that sugar while still in my system!] Sure it MIGHT sound to some like too much trouble, but I was stoked! A doctor actually CARES?! Wow.

This did have a hefty price though and I felt it. I have insurance (however, should you have an issue with your insurance for any reason, the clinics conveniently allow insurance or “isapre” companies small desks/office areas on the premises of said clinic – imagine if we had that in the States!) but unfortunately my “isapre” only covers 60-70% of the costs. That means that the remaining amount comes out of pocket! Ouch! I do have the option to have some of the more day-to-day exams done by smaller clinics (not affiliated to the one I went to today) and that will save me ton. And instead of having the tests results “forwarded” to my doctor, I pick it up instead and make an appointment to see my doctor after I have them. Thus I save the cost of being forced to take these tests at the expensive clinic. So on one end, they do allow some flexibility.

But I’m done boring you to tears about the in’s and out’s of going to the doctor in Chile. All you need to know is that there aren’t cows in the lobby and I didn’t have to sit in the waiting room with a woman holding a rooster.
It seems I’ll actually be able to go to the doctor and have things flow… well at least this seems to be the case on the UBER expensive end. We’ll see what it’s like when I go to the less expensive clinics to get tests taken. It might be a WHOLE different ballgame.

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Hello! I’m the anti-Bride.

I wonder if anyone else thinks it’s weird that I haven’t really mentioned anything about planning a wedding in this blog I created in order to document my move to Chile and subsequent wedding. Except for that one tidbit I wrote about when I seemingly found a venue, I haven’t peeped so much as half a syllable about this said wedding planning that’s supposed to be taking place, like, now. The word “wedding” is even in my blog title and yet rarely shows up anywhere else on this blog. Well, this paragraph doesn’t count.

After months of deliberation,back and forth, deep soul-searching and the occasional joke about the matter, I’ve finally come to the conclusion – AND I’M EMBRACING – that I’m the anti-bride.

What does that mean, exactly?

As Austin Powers might so eloquently state, weddings just aren’t “my bag, baby.” The whole concept of a wedding – and PLANNING IT – is just beyond me. More so, it’s JUST.NOT.ME.

I finally concluded that the main reason I was even planning anything, deciding on a venue and discussing bridesmaids dresses, was simply so that LATER in life, I wouldn’t feel regret for not having had a wedding. I also wanted pictures (still do). But those two reasons, do not a bride make.

There are people around me who have either planned their recent nuptials OR are in the midst of planning and they seem to genuinely enjoy it. I’m really happy for those people because I’m sure that to them it IS fun. But when I tried to get into the groove of this said planning, it was like I was the new girl in the “I’m-engaged” sorority and was trying until I was blue in the face to fit in. Except all I ended up feeling was that I was that annoying girl, Patty Simcox, from Grease who tried in vain to get the Pink Ladies to like her but who just ended up getting kicked off the bench in song “Summer Lovin.”

My point being is that I finally accepted that wedding planning is not for me. In fact, me at my OWN wedding isn’t for me. Me in a white dress and my friends in their colored dresses and fufu hair, is not me. Invitations aren’t me. Flower girls and their dresses, aren’t me. Venue hunting? Not me. Trying to get lame Chileans to give proper customer services as you try to connect the dots in this wedding planning fiasco? Not me. Save-the-dates, wedding websites, registering and all that’s involved with that, is just not me. Well now that I think about it, registering might be me, but how can I expect gifts when I won’t let the guests watch what they paid for?

Here’s what IS me. My fiancee becoming my husband and me becoming his wife. Waking up the next day after having gone to the city-hall-equivalent and knowing he’s my husband forever. Our wedding bands. The first kiss we share after being legally and knowingly married. Having my mom, my uncle, some other close family members and the friends that can make the trek to Chile, right there with me. Going out to dinner right after and celebrating with people who KNOW ME and who LOVE ME. Throwing down some serious cash for first class ticket and hotels on our honeymoon? Oh yeah. That’s me. In fact, that’s US. All of the above is more “us” than anything “Brides” magazine has to offer.

Here’s the thing: I can play devil’s advocate. So maybe one can argue that I’m less intrigued with wedding planning because I’m already living with my fiancee. Or perhaps one can argue that I’m less than enthused because I’m in a country where customer service is almost non-existent and I have no idea how things work, especially in the wedding planning department. But not one of those reasons fit either. Whether I was planning a wedding in Paris or one in San Francisco, the entire ideology and wedding bit isn’t me, no matter where I find myself. And, well, as for the reason of living with my fiancee, in my opinion it’s just silly NOT to live with him, especially if I have the ability and desire to do so. And I know myself. If I want something badly enough, I will learn Chinese, climb Mt. Everest or learn to hand sign Swahili in order to get it. It’s just that I don’t want to plan a wedding all that much. In fact, I don’t WANT a traditional wedding at all.

At the end of the day all Gonzalo and I see is each other and our lives together. The future we’re forming, piece by piece, right now. Even if I someday look back and think “I should have had SOME kind of event” I know that I’ll never regret marrying him, even if we opt for the simplest way to do it. I don’t NEED or WANT to plan an event and I know that people don’t need to see us commit our lives and our love to one another in order to believe in what we have and what we can do together.

I feel fortunate to have people around me who will have or have had weddings. I can live vicariously through them and enjoy what makes (or made) them happy.

But me? I’m the anti-Bride and that’s ok… as such, I GUARANTEE my honeymoon will be just about as bad ass as they come!

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A funny thing happend on my way about my life…

The past few days in Santiago have been pleasantly warm which is a great deviation from the weather when I first arrived in Chile. Spring is coming and I can feel it (aside from the itchy eyes and constant sneezing due to the breeze blowing pollen, I mean.)

My apartment, which once looked like this:

and like this:

and then when my stuff arrived it initially looked like this:

Is now looking like the home I’ve always known and at the same time the home I always wished to have with the siggy other (minus, let’s face it, the kids room but I have to say, even that’s a cute room too.) And the most important feeling of all, I realized a short time ago, is that now this apartment – smack dab in the middle of Providencia and sometimes a bit too noisy – feels like home to me. Of course now it looks a lot better since we have, you know, STUFF in it. So what was once bleak, now looks like this:

and even my office feels like MY office and work space:

At first it was super weird to work from home. Even now, I do miss the ritual of getting myself to an actual office. I also miss that once there, it’s a bit social and a bit work, all rolled into one. I don’t have that in my day-to-day right now and sometimes I really miss it. But overall, I am adjusting to working from home even if sometimes it means I’m on conference calls at 7:00 or 8:00 pm my time because it’s three hours earlier in CA. There were times when I felt like a slacker even though I have always gone through the “trouble” to “get ready” for work. I’m never in front of the computer without actually looking like I might work outside my home office. This is key for the mental part of working at home. And I’ve been busy with work since I’ve moved here and as I get more and more busy, I feel less and less slacker-ish. Then today I reaped the reward of a job I’d been working on for over a year in that I finally got a proposal that I’ve worked SO HARD to get. And so today I realized that not only can I work from home, but I can also be productive while working from home. I can be present at my old office while still working from home (even if via email and phone) AND I can still catch a glimpse of that “I’m a bad ass” feeling when I succeed in something that’s taken me a lot of effort to accomplish. Aside from the social aspect, who needs an outside workplace, I ask you?

And that there brings me to another fun little tidbit about my new life here: dare I say I THINK I have a blooming social life. Now, I’m no life of the party and I’m not claiming to be, but I do like me some social outings with cool people. In my last blog post I mentioned that I’ve meet a very cool group of Gringas (their word, not mine so don’t think I’m insulting them) and I have to tell you, there is no remedy to homesickness and adjusting to a new country, more potent than establishing some kind of social life and rhythm. Whether it be eating a hot dog, mani/pedis, pisco sours at lunch, drinking too many bottles of champagne or dancing until my feet hurt (and anything else in between), I’m happy to say that I’ve found people I like being social with and so far, it seems they like to be social with me. I’ve put it out there that I’m an undercover computer game geek and yet they STILL seem to like me. Go figure! But I’ll take it! A social life is nice and I am very grateful for it.

And then there’s mi amor whom I can’t say enough good things about without sounding like a giddy 15 year old. The other day, on the 7th, he took me to this great Peruvian restaurant – a surprise – to celebrate the 11-month anniversary of our first kiss. I don’t know why he likes to celebrate that date because the reality of the first kiss wasn’t all fireworks and passion, but this is who he is and this is why I love him. The food was delicious and it was such a treat to go out to dinner with him, randomly, on a Wednesday night.

In short, what I’m trying to say in this blog, is that I realize that I have a life here in Chile and it happened just like that. I don’t feel homesick for CA anymore, at least not in the way I used to when I first got here. I miss my friends but via email, IM and the telly, we keep in touch and I keep them close always. But I’m here, at home, living my life in Chile!! And when I look out the window and see the trees lining the streets, I think “There’s my street!” and I’m happy. There are things about Chile that really annoy me but there were things about SF that REALLY annoyed me (Hello, the Dirty 30 anyone?) but the funny thing is, I’ve started my life here now and well, stuff is going to annoy me no matter where home is for me. That’s just the persnickety, old lady in me I guess.

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Wanted: Cool Chilean Women

I have a huge bone to pick about a certain general type of woman that exists here in Chile. Now, of course I’m going to do my obligatory PC disclaimer and that is: no, not all women are the same. In fact not all Chilean women are like what I’m about to describe (or vent about) in one part of this post. I get that, I appreciate that and I respect that. In fact, I’ve met about three CHILEAN women who are pretty cool and this doesn’t include some members of my family. My point being that I UNDERSTAND that there are all kinds of people on God’s green Earth and among those people there are women that rock my world (and yours for that matter) and women who I just want to throw rocks AT.

However –

IN GENERAL, I have a huge issue with a certain type of Chilean woman. Though most of you who know me will completely understand where this issue stems from (and as a result you too might have an issue with this particular type of Chilean woman) especially if you are to use the example I’m using as I write the first half of this blog. This issue is independent from a completely other ‘non-issue’ I have with Chilean women in that I just can’t manage to meet any cool ones to be friends with. But let me do this in two parts.

First, my issue:
Let me just sum it up by saying that baby’s momma’s drama is so Whiskey Tango. Seriously. You belong on Jerry Springer with that hot mess.
There is nothing wrong with you having a little more pride in yourself, your work and what you bring to this world and there is certainly NOTHING wrong with stopping your ridiculous demands for more comfort, money, convenience and deviating from the general malaise you feel about working for your own sh*t. I know it might be news to you but you should take a look around this big, bad ass world and realize that women have made ENORMOUS strides to mark their accomplishments and further, establish their own sense of self. In short, you should be ASHAMED of yourself for putting out your hands and demanding the man support/feed you and your reason for living. Furthermore, contrary to what you like to think, you are NOT always right Ms-Bad-Example-of-a-Chilean-Woman. Though I am a huge advocate for women and mostly feel we are always right, you’ve really made me become an advocate for the man lately and it’s a bit sad for me to lose that sense of advocacy for my fellow women. What can I say? It’s a constant struggle to not become a heavy hater given all the BS you fan about your surroundings. In the simplest terms I guess what I’m trying to say here is that you are embarrassing. Furthermore you should take responsibility for the LIFE YOU CHOSE to live and the decisions you’ve made that have brought you here, to this day and time. I feel that RESPONSIBILITY AND CHOICE are two freedoms you take for granted and when things don’t go your way, Ms-Bad-Example-of-a-Chilean-Woman, you blame those around you who, really, have very little to do with your decisions in the past. So instead of holding your head high, taking some pride in yourself and your life (DECISIONS), you grovel, and you whine like a little baby and you blame the man, the man, the man. ABC and XYZ would “NEVER” have happened if only THE MAN hadn’t done this, this or that. Let me tell you something sweetheart, there’s a reason you’re where you are and it has nothing to do with the man. Again, I advise deep introspection and true consideration for the freedoms you have, that which are: Responsibility and Choice.

So that was/is my issue about a certain kind of Chilean woman (and trust me, they’re out there). Here’s my non-issue:

I have a met a very cool group of gringas here in Chile. Seriously they are very awesome (even if one of them did manage to make me like “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus. I’m not holding that against her.) I like them because they’re independent, strong women and I need no more evidence of that than the mere fact that they left their comfy homes back in the US to make their lives (thus far) in a completely foreign country. And I do mean that they are MAKING their lives and doing it well. They have careers, they dominate (to different extents) another language and some of them even date or are married to Chilean men. As I said, they are completely making their lives here.
However, try as I may, I can’t for the life of me make any Chilean female friends. I go through an internal battle of “Is it me? Is it them? Is it me? Is it them?” because honest to God I can’t for the life of me figure out why that is. I have my SUSPICIONS but by no means are they based on anything other than something I feel in my gut. In fact, mostly they’re a mixture between paranoia and delusion. For one thing, I think (most) Chilean women are mean first and nice later. So no matter in what manner you approach them, they give you the evil eye before you’ve even opened your mouth! That’s certainly not going to make me want to be your friend especially since the way you’re looking at me makes me think you’ve already decided you don’t want to be mine. It’s a vicious cycle.
Also I don’t think Chilean women deviate from the norm. While granted, I realize that birds of a feather stick together (hence my gravitation towards American women living here in Chile), but it seems that they are forever friends with their neighborhood, school and at most, college girlfriends, and everyone after that can just take an number. In short, there seems to be no room for one more female, especially if she’s not from around here. And in the event that you DO meet a cool Chilean woman who seems to want to be your friend, then HER friends don’t necessarily like you.
Another thing: I feel that some (maybe most but certainly not ALL) Chilean women are intimidated by non-Chilean women. It’s like they automatically feel they have to compete with the likes of us (for what? The guy they’ve been dating since they were 7?? Trust me honey I don’t want him) Just because we have lived elsewhere, studied elsewhere and/or know other cities and cultures? Whereas, I’m ALL ABOUT having friends from all over so that I can learn about their customs and ways of doing things, it seems I’m shunned for having been raised outside of Chile. [There IS an exception to this observation and that’s of Chilean women who themselves have traveled. They are way more open-minded and accepting than the non-traveling kind.]
Case in point: ask any NON-Chilean woman (American, European, other Latin) how many Chilean woman friends they have and I am almost willing to guarantee that most will state that they have no more than two really good Chilean women friends. Sometimes it’s just one. A lot of times it’s more like “Um, I have this ONE friend but she has this boyfriend so we don’t really talk all that much now.” Sometimes they studied abroad here so they have more than two and that’s a little more usual, but again, they were in college together – the final frontier for making friends no matter where you live or who you are.

In short, all across the globe there are different kinds of women. I’m sure that Ms-Bad-Example-of-a-Chilean-Woman exists in Detroit, Qatar, Paris and onward. By that token kick ass women are also everywhere. However, I JUST WANT TO FIND YOU HERE IN CHILE!! Where are you, bad ass, Chilean female? Can we be friends?? If you’re out there, email me snoochie boochies. Can’t wait to meet! ;o)

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Coming back

I’ve spent the last few days basking in the glorious sun of California (also doing some ever important U.S. Citizenship procedures), as well as hanging out with my fabulous uncle – and I have to tell you, I really lucked out with the weather the past few days. A sublime 90 degrees in the Peninsula and an amazing 80 degrees in San Francisco. It has really made me miss the Bay Area and I realize now how much I took for granted about living here. From my drive to the office, which included views of Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge and a daily run down The Embarcadero to BAGELS!!! (I know, right? Who knew I’d miss those carb infested treats so much?!)

My first few days here were bittersweet and as I mentioned several times to G, kind of like being thrown into the Twilight Zone. I was home but I wasn’t really HOME. Not sure if that makes sense but I’ll try to explain myself: the streets, the smells, the people, the environment, the day-to-day and so much more, were in ALL SENSES OF THE WORD, home to me. This is where I grew up; this is where the coffee shop I’ve been going to since I was 19 is (my favorite latte EVER) and this is where the mall I always go to is located. I have memories that literally line the streets here and I have a story about several of the spots along the road from SF to Menlo Park. YET – my home, in the physical sense and in the sense where one lays their head to rest, isn’t here. And where I was laying my head to rest has been in a bed and a home that isn’t mine (though quite comfy nonetheless.) Whereas Santiago by NO stretch of the imagination feels like home to me, I actually came to miss it due the fact that 1) G is there and 2) my STUFF that makes my home is there. Unsettling to say the least and there have been several times when I have wished to MESH both worlds so that I could have both aspects of home, in one. Obviously that’s not possible and I’ve surrendered to the fact that I have to make Santiago as much my home as Menlo Park and San Francisco feel like home because the fact of the matter is that my home is now there, not here, and no willing (as much as I may try) will result in all my stuff – and my fiancee – being magically transported to my former apartment on Fremont Street.

I’ve enjoyed spending time and seeing people that live here, namely my dear Uncle Pato, Shannon and the Yates – Holland families. I’ve really enjoyed looking at the Holland girls and realizing, with a mixture of nostalgia and awe, how much they have grown up. I met the oldest of the girls when she was a mere four months old and used to don a crazy, Last-of-the-Mohicans-style-mohawk (don’t ask how, but her fine blonde hair used to stand up – literally! It was quite the sight and too cute!) Now, as I’m typing here, I turn to my left and she’s a tall, bright eyed 10 year old who’s playing “Spore” on her family’s computer. When did that happen?? When did she grow up and begin to tell me about the comic books she enjoys reading or about how much she doesn’t like soccer? Her younger sisters I met the instant they were home from the hospital and I have memory after memory of playing with them in their backyard (something called “Tickle Monster” that made no sense to me but kept them laughing for hours). They’ve grown into such smart, engaging and bright girls that when I have a conversation with them, I find myself completely intrigued by what their answers will be and what they’ll point out about the world around them. I mean, of course they’re little girls and sometimes just say little girl stuff…but at the same time, they’re more like little people (not in the “Little People, Big World” kind of way.) I’ve never adored any other kid as much as I adore these three girls and though I try not to freak them out with the shows of affection I shower on them when I get them to spare five mins of their time, I have to say that sometimes I just want to burst with so much awe, love and pride I feel when I spend time with them. I’m just going to put it out there that it MIGHT be possible that I won’t love my kids QUITE as much as I love these girls and if that’s the case, it’s simply because I met the girls first and it’s no fault of my own. There, I said it.

Speaking of immeasurable love, I have one word for you: Target.
When I lived here I knew that I really liked Target. I may have even said the word “love” a few times. But now that I’m back I realize that this goes above and beyond anything the “L” word can conjure up – it’s more about devotion and adoration. I hit up Target like you wouldn’t believe, buying up items left and right that I took for granted when I lived here. In no particular order:

1) Glade Plug Ins. – I bought about 10 of them, not because they don’t exist in Chile, they do. However, the only option that exists is “smells likes ass” and “reeks of designer impostor perfume.” Obviously, we aren’t too pleased with the Chilean selection of Glade Plug Ins. Whereas in Target, there is all the Vanilla one could want and, my personal favorite, Lavender Vanilla. Fabulous.

2) Swifter – dry and wet options. Smog and dust bunnies seem to go hand in hand in Santiago and to combat this (in between nana visits) are Swifter wipes. I can’t wait to swifter away!!

3) DVDs – Mad Men Season 1 and 2, The Holiday, Mallrats, Stand By Me, The Notebook, The Game and Mr. Mom. All great and all equally absent from Chilean supermarket shelves. These will go fabulously well with my 42 inch tv!

4) Goldfish. You know, the cheese crackers we all grow up on in the U.S. They lack cracker creativity for their kids in good ol’ Chilsters and so I have to bring some back for G’s kids. I mean, how can kids grow up without this stuff? They are deprived and don’t even know it!! I’m trying to remedy the situation, one Peppridge Farm bag at a time.

5) Dryer sheets. I’ve mentioned this phenomenon before but they don’t exist in Chile probably due to the fact that most people don’t have dryers. Well we do. Hence we need the sheets.

I made some other purchases as well: organic dish soap, organic deodorant and organic mac and cheese. I’m sure that if I requested this stuff at any Jumbo or Lider in Santiago I’d get the usual “weirdo” look I tend to get from the average Chilean (and let me tell you, MOST are AVERAGE.) In fact, I bought regular and organic mac and cheese because this is another thing that children are deprived of growing up down there. You can get these lame Safeway brand mac and cheeses that have been on the shelf for about 5 years, but then again, it’s no Kraft Cheese and Macaroni.

Finally, I also bought Sourdough bread. Yeah I said it. I love it and it doesn’t really exist in many places outside of SF so I went to Boudin in Fisherman’s Wharf and bought three round loaves. They’re mine and no, you can’t have any. Ok, well maybe if you’re super nice. MAYBE. Oh and that’s if they let me into Chile with them. Customs is so agro, who knows what they’ll take from me. For all I know they’ll be anti my organic deodorant!

In summary, it was bittersweet to be back but the bitter lasted only a couple of days. I wish we had the stuff that makes living here so great (as mentioned above) and I also wish that Santiago was as remotely picturesque as San Francisco is. I also wish there wasn’t the dense smog that constantly covers the city and that the ocean was a mere 30 mins away as it is here. I wish that the people I love were closer to me and I wish I could find cute clothes for under $30, as I can at Target. I wish I could find a latte that tasted as good as Borrone’s latte tastes and I wish I could get dungeness crab at the snap of a finger. I wish I worked in an office with many, many coworkers so that I could have a daily social outlet and feel like I work for a common goal with another person. I wish lots of things and I miss many, many more.

But no matter what that list of wants and wishes includes, living here would mean being without the one person who makes leaving it all behind SO worth it. And well, I’ve been here and done all of it. So now my home is Santiago, next to him and I’m happy with that decision because no Target in the world and no amazing view of Alcatraz can replace what we’re building there. And with that, tomorrow I’ll happily carry my oversized suitcases filled with aisles of merchandise from Target and head back home – to Santiago.

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Things I SHOULD be writing about

I’d just like to start out by saying that I feel sick and crappy today so my blog is going to be less than stellar. I know, I know – super great of me considering I haven’t updated it in FOREVER and there does seem to be much to blog about.

The thing is, I feel like total crap so I can’t get into the nitty gritty of it all but here are some top line mentions of things I would have normally written pages and pages on but can’t bring myself to do so now:

1.) Chilean Independence Day and that crazy law that is still left over from Pinochet days, where each and every property needs to be waving a Chilean flag in plain view. I believe they also have to do it BY a certain day. I noticed that our building has yet to put the flag up outside, but I’m sure it’s going to appear by Wednesday. Not sure when the actual cut off is, but I highly doubt they would rather a fine than putting it up. Hmmmm, perhaps my bldg establishment leans more left?

2.) Feeling less patriotic here than I did in the U.S. I remember feeling so much pride around being Chilean, that I purposely added that not only was I born here, but that I still had the Chilean citizenship. Now? Who cares! I have no idea where this said patriotism went but it might have to do with the fact that I’m adjusting to living here and not there. I read Facebook status updates from Chileans who still live in the U.S. and GOOD LORD, their pride makes my internet pages burst at the seams. I envy that pride since I don’t have it anymore. I’m thinking that I’ll balance out and a year from now I’ll have just enough pride to actually host an asado. By then we’ll have our furniture too. It’s always good to have somewhere to sit. G tells me we’ll be going to a “funda” or “fonda” whatever it’s called. It’s a place where they celebrate the 18th apparently. I can’t recall much more than that but it’s supposed to be quite symbolic of the 18th here. I’ll have chicha and an anticucho and what not…I’ll watch the cuecas and clap along and what not…I’ll let you know how it goes. Oh yeah, the one good thing is that we get this Friday off!

3.) Went to a Chilean wedding this weekend which I heard wasn’t that stellar. I thought it was just me but then the groom’s family (G’s side of the family) were the ones who mentioned this. It helped me to realize that I don’t want a day wedding because I’m all about people dancing at my wedding. And people tend to want to dance at night.It also helped me to realize that it doesn’t matter how beautiful the place is…if you don’t add your own personal touches to the wedding, it just turns out bland. The couple I’m talking about were fabulously in love of course, but they didn’t bother to personalize a single thing (that I could tell.) It’s as if the winery showed them the “standard” items and they took them all. PERSONALIZE people!!! ‘Nuff said.

4.) I found my wedding venue and it’s SPECTACULAR and I am so in love with it that I do a happy dance in my head when I think of it. I can’t provide much info on it since G has sworn me to secrecy but I feel like this ONE picture should be fine. Since you can’t really tell what it’s a picture of or even if it’s a picture of our venue… I’ll create a picture scavenger hunt and make you guess – how ’bout that? No, maybe not. Still – this is a picture I took over the weekend. Whether or not it has anything to do with our venue is up to you to decide.

And on that note, moving on to number 5…

5.) Civil weddings in Chile. Um, they are just about the most boring, most UNROMANTIC piece of crap you’ll ever come across. That is, unless, you do what most American or non-Chilean women tend to do – PERSONALIZE. I can’t stress this enough. I’m all about it. If I were to opt for what the Chilean gov’t insists I do at the wedding – and ONLY THAT – I’d have someone in front of me stating my full name WITH my social security number, my fiancee’s full name with HIS social security number, then our witnesses’ names with THEIR social security numbers and then a bunch of legal codes pertaining to the authority to marry someone. Are you with me here? Yes, that’s right. The wedding ceremony sounds like a sequence of numbers from the Dewey Decimal System. And frankly, that’s not for me.


6.) September 11th and what it means in Chile. It’s such a long and winded topic and there are so many sides to this political debate that I just can’t physically get into it right now. But just know, that if I could, I would blog about it. Though in my time of feeling like crap, can I direct you to my friend’s blog “Don’t Call Me Gringa” as she does quite a nice job of laying out for you what the 11th is about and what it means in different minds. Check out the blogs I follow and you can link to hers and read about this topic, which I find she eloquently describes and tells.

7.) Becoming a bride. I realized that the most anti of anti-brides becomes a full fledged planning maniac (to some degree at least) once she has a venue picked out. From then on, as G would say, “Empezó la fiesta!” Meaning, it’s full speed ahead from that point, on.

So as you can see my dear little blog follower/reader, the purpose of this blog is to list a bunch of things I would normally be super inclined to blog about but since I feel like crap today, I simply can’t. This is my vain effort to show you that I still have it going on in my HEAD even if I can’t get it on to my BLOG for you to read about.

Now, who has some Sudafed for me? That would be dope right about now…

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Bikram yoga in Chile vs in the U.S.

I finally made it to my first bikram yoga class in Chile yesterday. I felt like I was finally getting on with my life here because I put myself “out there” and picked up a somewhat hobby I had initiated back in CA. Also, I was really proud of myself after class for taking the metro home as opposed to a cab, even though I was probably super stinky. Oh well, sucks for the people on the metro next to me. (That’s neither here nor there by the way.)

Anyway, the class was difficult, as bikram tends to be, but it was kind of a different experience doing yoga here vs having done it in CA. Here are some of the differences I noted in my first class:

1. The studio itself was STIIIIINKY!! I got there kind of early and while I was sitting on my mat waiting for class to start, I tried to analyze why it was so darn stinky. I concluded that the most probable culprit was the carpet in the studio. Who puts a carpet in a bikram yoga studio???!!! It’s disgusting how much sweating goes on in that room AND because it’s bikram, you can’t like, AIR OUT the room since you have to maintain the temp. Hello??!! Did the peeps running the studio NOT get the memo on that?

2. More men seem to take bikram in Chile than in the U.S. At least that has been my experience thus far. And the men who are taking the class aren’t the gay/questionably gay/metro men you might see in the studio in CA. These men are MANLY men who stand ever-so-slightly too proud and who have lots of hair. And they are ALL ABOUT the bikram. It’s not like they were dragged there by some gf who begged them to partake in the single most important activity of their lives. They are there of their own accord and LOOOOOVING every minute of it. They were agro. I even saw two young-ish men (late 20s) come in together… in the same manner you might see them go to the weight room at the gym together.

3. Chilean bikram-ers are COMPLAINING MACHINES. I’ve never heard so many grunts and complaints as we moved through one pose after another. Of course there were grunts in the CA studios I attended but never like this. It was like a fantastic chorus of questionably perverted sounds coming out of about 75% of the class!! Well, at least no one farted…

4. The instructor shows no mercy. At the beginning of class she immediately called out my name, looking around trying to spot me. I raised my hand and she began drilling me on whether I knew the poses or not. I said yes, not that well but that I had taken a few bikram yoga classes back in the States. As we moved into the routine, every so often she’d call out my name “Arms straighter Andrea” as if I was the only one doing it wrong. I know she was just helping me along in the maternal manner that is innate in many of us, but it was awkward to say the least. Especially when we got to a pose that I’m not that comfortable doing. She looked at me and told me to do it and I said “it hurts” and she told me to do it anyway. What??! In the U.S. there was this general rule that you pushed yourself only so far, but every yogi is all about “knowing one’s body and one’s limit” and so one never felt like you HAD to do a pose. That wasn’t the case for me yesterday as this instructor was adamant about people doing the poses no matter what. I rebelled of course and only did the pose 20% of the way. What can I say? I showed her who’s the boss of me!!

I guess for now those are the main four differences I found between bikram here and bikram there. I’m going again tonight so maybe I’ll have a completely different experience than I did yesterday, depending on who the instructor is.

There is one thing I hope to avoid when I go back though… one of the men in yesterday’s class was stretching before our class started and there I was, minding my own business on my own mat when I inadvertently looked at him and his PENIS stared BACK AT ME!!! There it was, laying on his leg for the WHOLE world to see as he continued on with his stretching, completely unaware that his unit was checking out the scene. After that I didn’t know where to look of course and obviously I almost choked trying to hold back my nervous laughter. How did he not notice that happened? I know I would notice if some part of MY body just wandered off … !!

But who knows…maybe that’s just how bikram rolls here in Chile? I guess I’ll keep you posted.

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What we’re gonna do right here is go back.

I was just thinking the other day how random it might seem that I’m here in Chile at all right now. A California girl in most senses of the term and I’m HERE?? Of all places, here???!! Well, there IS a story to be told of course, that involves two people, living their random lives, and randomly, coming together to realize “oh yeah, I love you!”

Obviously I’m talking about how Gonzalo and I “met” and fell in love. I say that we “met” because really, we “remet” since we were first introduced back in June 2005 during a convention in New York City (see logo below for your viewing pleasure).

He was married back then (in the typical Chilean fashion, where getting married at 25 is no big deal, and having kids at 27 is even lesser of a deal) so when we met it was all about work. In fact, I can’t even recall our meeting together though I’m sure I talked about Naruto or some other brand and he talked about his company and the cool notebooks they make.
My schedule at that convention was jam packed. The reason I know is because every year at that convention my schedule is packed, so I can assume that 2005 was no different. And also I’m pretty sure I was dating someone — let me think — oh yeah, I was, though of course now he’s an inconsequential person who was merely there to divert my attention while I waited for the man of my dreams (AKA Gonzalo) to come along.

Cut to June 2008, same convention, different year.

His reality: dating someone.
My reality: had recently been annihilated by a spineless little fraction of a man and my entire belief in the concept of love had plummeted to the depths of the Titanic in the cold Atlantic.

So perhaps I sound a little melodramatic … but let me tell you, I was devastated and the concept of throwing about airs that I was fine and dandy, while attending to business at this said convention, left me exhausted. Though obviously that didn’t stop me from partaking in the festivities of 230 Fifth one of those evenings, where I happened to run across my future fiancee.

See a pic of us having a good time at that said encounter.

But he had a gf and I was somewhere else…and though we shared a cab to our respective hotels that night (and I think we may have flirted for the first time ever) he was a pure gentleman and he dropped me off at my hotel before whisking away in NYC’s yellow cab finest.

That was the first time I had seen him out of his “nerd” element. Seriously, in the work capacity I don’t think anyone compared in the NERD ALERT category. And during meetings? DRY AS A BONE. I think he may have cracked had he tried to smile at any given point during a meeting. So you see? This encounter at 230 Fifth in Manhattan, though brief, was ultimately important because a saw a lighter side of him…and it was cute.

Fast forward to October 29, 2008. Bellavista. Santiago. Chile.

I was still living in CA but my mother had moved to Santiago after 28 years living in the SF Bay Area. In October she had been in Chile for a little over two months and on this particular day, it was her 60th birthday. I was in Chile on business and was going to tack on some much needed vacay time to spend with her. On October 29th a group of us went to a restaurant in the Bellavista area of Santiago to celebrate my mom’s bday. One of my friends (and work associate here in Chile) who happens to also be good friends with Gonzalo, invited him to join us at my mom’s dinner. Random? Perhaps. But the sentiment that evening was truly that of “the more, the merrier.” Up until that point my only encounters with Gonzalo were either all about work and then that one time at the rooftop bar in NYC. That’s it. And now he was on his way to have bday dinner with my mom and my sister??? Yes, slightly random but again, the mood was festive that night so it didn’t dawn on me to be anti.

And of course he showed up in a manner in which I had NEVER seen him before. Mr Nerd Alert NO MORE… now replaced by Mr Jokes and Life of the Party.

Note the pics of that eventful night:

And what about this one? Look at my face!

Ahhh good times. You can tell I was taken aback by this “new” Gonzalo before me. And what of our realities at that point in time? Him – single. Me – finally getting over the ultimate annihilation from months before and ready to MOVE ON! Of course back then I had NO inclination that moving on would be with someone who lived in the other extreme corner of the globe! But that comes later …

I was in Chile for two weeks, vacationing, as I had mentioned and seeing my mom’s new life in Santiago. In that time, Gonzalo and I went out – in groups – twice. Once we went dancing… see pics here:

Or Mr Dancing Queen here:

We had a blast, but being the lady that I am, I excused myself at about 3 am and headed home..leaving him to continue dancing with friends.

We went out one more night during that trip, seen here in a pic that at present is framed in our home office (we didn’t know that this would be the case when the picture was taken. Geez we hadn’t even smooched at the time it was snapped!)

And then I went home to California…and there was this emptiness that went with me. I later figured out that it was because I REALLY liked him. REALLY REALLY TRULY liked him. So we did what any normal long distance couple does: we Skype’d day and night, whenever we could, we were on Skype. Skype allowed our relationship to evolve and I will forever be grateful for that little piece of technology. Daily Skype calls, phone calls, Facebook messages (and I mean LOOOOONG EMAILS via Facebook mail), emails, text messages, carrier pigeon – what have you – led to his first visit ever to SF, as seen here in this self portrait at Twin Peaks:

That trip was a good time! We made French Onion Soup from SCRATCH together! Yum!

We also had some profesh pics taken by this AWESOME photographer in Napa named Sarah Lane… TRULY amazing work… and our favorite pic of that session:

Yes, that’s really us.

Ahhh memory lane. Such a sweet walk it is. :o)

That led to a quick rendezvous in Mexico where he had to go for work and heck, I figured that I might as well take advantage of the fact that he was a mere 4 hours away from me on a plane, rather than the usual 14+ it takes to get from SF to Chile. And so I flew to Mexico City for a stay that lasted only a little over 36 hours…

Well, to make a long story short… all of the above led to this:

Followed by this:

Which led to THE EVENT which you all know about due to the pics I’ve most likely made you view not once or twice but more like three or four times… but it’s nice to remember (ooooh warm fuzzies!):

And THAT, my friends, brings us up to speed to riiiight about now.

That there, is a love story that took less than six months to unfold but which began with two people, living their own lives, who happened to meet over four years ago at a random convention in the best city in the world – NYC. Two people who, for the next few years, would go their separate ways and live their own lives, unaware of the existence (to a degree) of the other person… but where on one fateful night over four years later, in Bellavista in Santiago Chile, everything changed.

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