The land of samba: insights from my recent trip to Brazil

A few blog posts ago, I wrote a quick note from Brazil as I was on a business trip on behalf of the company I work for in San Francisco. I kept in mind a few things about Sao Paulo that really caught my attention on this trip because I realized that despite various trips I had taken previously to the country, there were just some that completely escaped my all-too-analytical eye. I thought about why this could be and it occurred to me that perhaps I never gave Sao Paulo much mind (aside from the agonizing traffic and congestion) because I always looked at it from the eyes of someone who grew up in San Francisco. After all, what could be better? Picturesque city where the liberals and conservatives alike have seen it all.

After living in Santiago for a little over a year, I landed in Sao Paulo only to realize a fraction of a second later that I LOVE IT THERE! Obviously this outrageous claim comes from someone who lives here, not there and it’s coming from someone who didn’t have to partake in any of the bad things about the city (namely the traffic and the crime.) Furthermore, I was living in a hotel. Ease and plush included. Adding in the fact that I ate out at every dining chance and that my dinners were initiated by a caipirinha each time, you’ve got to ask yourself, what’s not to love about that country?

Here are some reasons why Brazil has a gold star next to it in my book, despite having taken this long (about eight trips) to appreciate it for all it’s worth:

Have you met happier people? It’s true that one of the first things I learned to appreciate about Brazilians is how happy they always seem. They could have been sitting in traffic, NOT MOVING AT ALL, for a complete hour and still, they arrive at their destination with a smile. And even if they’re upset about something, a lighter view on the topic is never far behind (“Aw, it will be all right. Probably just my turn in the day to sit in it. When I head home it won’t be the same.”) Whereas, in the same situation, I’ve been known to throw down a few f-bombs, laced with a little shiz-nat here and a d*mmit there. They’re always smiling, always cracking jokes, always finding the lighter side of the coin. It’s amazing and inspiring. Why can’t I be like that? Why do I take a sour situation and turn it into the worst, life-altering, apocalyptic situation that could have possibly befallen anyone? Whereas they take the same sour situation and turn it into Spanish Fly, offer it around and start a party! I’ve decided I needed a little more of them and a little less of me in said situations.

By far, they’re the most diverse group in the entire region. True story. It turns out that they’re history brought people from far and wide to their ginormously large country and as a result, one sees people that are dark, or light brown, or pale and blonde or … aisan! Specifically, Japanese or Japanese descent. The point being that they aren’t a homogeneous crowd, at least not in Sao Paulo which is an EXTREME 180 to the reality you find in Santiago, where pretty much everyone has dark brown hair (or regular brown hair), stands at about 5 foot 3 and shops at Falabella. Oh and Chileans only wear black, brown or gray AND they wear boots until about October. Open-toed shoes are unheard of before then, as is going sockless. Because of this diversity, they too are the kind of people who have seen it all – kind of how I equate San Franciscans. What does that translate to? Brazilians DON’T STARE!! They probably don’t stare because they have either seen someone 1) prettier than you, 2) uglier than you 3) fatter than you 4) just overall better/worse than you. Do you know what a relief that is for someone who comes from California to live in a foreign country? The fact that not one person stared at me – not at my shoes, clothes, hair, make up, bag, iPhone, etc – seriously had me as a happy as a clam! I could just blend in the way I always remember blending in. Sure that might sound boring and sad, but it’s not. In fact, after a year of living in Santiago, I find it boring and sad that EVERYTHING seems to catch their attention and everything is “novedoso” (or newsworthy) either because it’s weird or because it’s cool. I miss the anonymity the States grant you and appreciate the anonymity Sao Paolo lent me while I was visiting that week. Upon returning to Chile, since I’ve been trying to enforce observation #1 listed above, I’ve tried to conquer the overwhelming feeling I get to b*tch slap obnoxious starers. So far, it’s going ok. No one’s been hit this week.

So here’s another theory: because Brazilians have it all and have, as a result, seen it all, what else does that translate to? Brazilian fashion is, in a word, awesome. Whether awesomely atrocious and weird or awesomely fabulous, it definitely makes its mark and it invites you to view colors, lines and styles in a way that might blow the minds of the average Chilean. It blows my mind and I lived in California all those years – of course I’ve seen weird stuff! But really, the fashion and the designers themselves, speak quite a lot to the country’s diversity and it’s a shame that Chile can’t make a home for local designers in the same manner. Raise your hand if you’re sick of including Saville Row as the one-true Chilean designer? Word.

But here’s what I find most attractive about Brazil: the confidence that exudes from the majority of the Brazilian women. A confidence, that from what I can tell, isn’t laced with envy towards anyone else. This observation actually struck a chord with me some time ago – about 5 years ago actually. I went to Rio de Janeiro on business with my boss and since we had an afternoon free, we went to Copacabana Beach. I remember seeing the quintessential itsy-bitsy bikinis that have become infamous and synonymous with Copacabana and Ipanema beaches… except I saw these bikinis on women who were … “entraditas en carne” or as we say in English “big-boned” (in short, a nice way to say that someone was slightly overweight, to say the least.) My first reaction is one that I’m now ashamed of since it slaps me across the face as quite typical – something I hate. My first reaction was a snotty, obnoxious “Ew. WHAT is she wearing? She shouldn’t be wearing that.” That reaction lasted all of five minutes and here’s why: as I watched these women, one in particular, move gracefully from their towels, to the ocean, speaking casually to their neighbor, laughing and soaking in the sun, I realized how completely, wonderfully, 100% relaxed they were in their own skin. That is something that I’ve seen very few women pull off, no matter how thin they are or how great their boobs look in a bikini top. In fact, TO THIS DAY, I conjure up images of this one particular woman just to remind myself that confidence doesn’t come from six pack abs (which I don’t have), sculpted legs and perky breasts (which, sadly actually, I don’t have either). It comes from somewhere else … somewhere called Brazil…

Of course, it’s not like I’m packing my bags and about to hop a plane to Sao Paulo hoping to start my life anew yet again (Egads, no! I’m just now getting accustomed to living in Chile.) But the few things I pointed out above really make Brazil stand out in a way that Chile can’t possibly aspire to achieve. Not that Chile is worse in comparison. It’s like I told my professor the other day when he asked me about my Finance final … I told him “Hey, I have many strengths. Numbers happen to fall way below the top three.” (He vehemently agreed, much to my disappointment.) But this blog isn’t about Chile’s strengths, as some of the top things about living in Chile were well documented back in May. This is about my newly-found appreciation for Brazil and my hope to highlight some of what makes that country and its people so refreshing.

But you know me … a little dark, a little pessimistic, a little rebellious …Here’s what’s super weird about Brazil (again, just some minor points.)

  • Avocados don’t make the list of what they would consider top foods in their diet. In fact, most Brazilians have eaten avocados with SUGAR! Yes, as in a dessert. That, or their mothers used to mix the avocado with MILK and serve it in a smoothie. Coming from a country and a culture where avocados (“paltas”) are like the Emperor’s Child and we all form circles around it to show our gratitude and awe, this to me is really, really weird. The “churrascarias” (Brazilian steakhouses) have amazing salad buffets … yet are missing one, crucial element. The palta. Nope, Brazilians just don’t do their salads (or their salty’s in general) with avocado. Homey’s don’t play that. I wonder how the Chileans who live there adapt?? (Seriously I can’t begin to emphasize how much of this fruit Chileans eat.)
  • Pedestrians REALLY don’t have the right of way. Ever. I used to think that it was just Latin Americans, or specifically Chileans, who were so rude about pedestrians, but now in comparison I really believe that Chileans are quite courteous to the two-footed beast crossing the street. In the U.S. our noses are rubbed into the notion that pedestrians always have the right of way, whether we like it or not. Yeah in Brazil this never holds true, EVEN IF, you have a green light. For instance, I was crossing the street, green light in my favor, as cars begin to turn left and of course, I almost got hit. Not once, but twice. That was my first day in Sao Paulo. By the last day I took to watching the locals who only crossed the street when NO CARS were coming. Screw the light. This little morsel might save your life in Brazil so, seriously, I advise you to take heed. Watch the locals and do as they do!! Don’t go thinking that just because you have a green light means you’re entitled to walk. Or live, for that matter.
  • Personal space doesn’t exist in the world of the Brazilians. This is huge for Americans. We like our personal space. And since I’m kind of Latin, even I used to cross comfort zones when merely talking to someone else… however Brazilians take it to a whole other level and this, on many occasions, gets awkward. They speak much closer than I’m used to, use hand gestures that invade “my” space and generally tend to be all up in my grill (really close to my face.) I’m not saying that Chileans are keen on respecting the space of others, but in comparison to the general experience I’ve had in Brazil, I have enough space to set up camp for a night or two here in Chile. Brazil’s notion of personal space only allows for tenement camps.

I feel like Brazil is a must-do regardless of the good and the bad. Actually BECAUSE the good and the bad combined make it such a unique place and because I feel (and again, my own humble opinion) it offers more diversity than I’ve seen since the Meatpacking District circa 1990s (during it’s peak transition period.) Or perhaps I’m just once again projecting what I’d want on to others. In fact, I guess if you’re coming from a pretty diverse area, seeing only Chileans or only Argentinians or only Peruvians is just what one might want. Maybe that’s why I never really regarded Brazil as diverse as I see it now when I lived in California and worked in San Francisco. But man, oh man. Try living in the most homogeneous of societies and watch how quickly you begin to miss people who look different than you, act different than you, are extreme and weird or sophisticated and priceless.

Hmmm. Extreme might just be the word here. The idea that something is so far beyond the norm, it stands out to infinity and beyond (Buzz Light Year style).

Yeah … I miss that feeling of seeing the extreme and not batting an eyelash.

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Working from home when living in a foreign country

When I tell people that I work from home the usual response is “Wow, you’re so lucky. I wish I had that gig.” Or something of that nature.

True, working from home definitely has its high points. I don’t HAVE to wake up early, I don’t deal with rush hour traffic (and in Santiago it’s awful), I get to hang out with my dog all day long, even while I work and I never have to deal with sharing bathrooms with coworkers (and the discomfort and too-much-information THAT entails.) Among other things, of course.

I admit that when I told my company that I was moving to Chile, their response was better than what I had expected. “Work for us down in Chile.” Sweet! After all, my position with them requires me to manage the Latin American region so the fact that I was moving to Chile (where we also have partners) made more sense than if I were moving to, say, The Netherlands. It definitely allowed me to cross one thing off the “to-do” list upon arrival, which was “find a job and a way to earn a living so you don’t end up living in a van down by the river.”*

However, as awesome as working from home can be, when you move to a new country, working from home actually TAKES AWAY the much needed social connections you are forced to have with coworkers when you work outside your home. Since I didn’t have that on arrival, it took me much longer to make friends and, a year later and still working from home, I have friends of course but I’m sure I’d have a few more if I worked outside. Further, they’d probably be Chilean, something that’s definitely lacking in the friend department for me right now.

In any case, I could go on and on detailing the pros and the cons of working from home, especially when throwing the fact that I’m new to the country into the mix. But, don’t pictures speak louder than words? I was on Facebook last night and saw that a former colleague of mine in the U.S. posted a comic strip that accurately describes (visually, since it’s what we all like) the good and the bad of working from home. I have to share it because, at least in my case, it’s oh-so-true. Sweetly adorable, chocolate covered truth … Check it out here. (Thanks to the creator of The Oatmeal comic strip for this and to my former coworker for sharing it on FB.)

[* This reference to Chris Farley’s SNL character “Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker” will only make sense to those who 1) either appreciate all things SNL and therefore watch episodes regardless of date and time or 2) you watched SNL religiously during the late 90s, as I did. Here’s a YouTube link for your viewing enjoyment. ]
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"All 33 of us are fine in the shelter."


I’m not the kind of person who is moved to tears easily. Unless I’m watching a cheesy commercial then of course, all bets are off and the waterworks begin. However, this story about the miners and how they were found to be alive after 17 days trapped 2,300 feet below ground, under the San Jose mine near Copiapo Chile, moved me. Of course I cried.

I cried because these human beings, after living 17 days in a small area I’ve read is similar to a “small flat,” have genuine hope in their eyes. Putting myself in their position, in the faintest of ways, I’m sure I don’t come close to the relief they felt when the probe finally reached them and they had the first opportunity to communicate with the world above. And they did so with the note above which simply reads “All 33 of us are fine in the shelter.”

“Fine” is a relative term. They’re fine relative to what the other option could have been which is … a dreadful extreme. I always think logistics and really ridiculous details most of the time, though. In this case I wonder what it feels like for them to not shower, to not have a beer, to not watch soccer, to not smell freshly baked bread, to not drive … to not change underwear, to not brush their teeth, to not hug their wives/girlfriends. Now that this has happened, do they regret the decision to work in the mines? Is that even an option for these experienced miners or is it just their way of life, the way trains or “ferrocarriles” were a way of life for my grandfather.

They haven’t yet learned that it will take anywhere from 3-4 months to build a shaft wide enough to bring them up one by one. I was thinking that by the time this is finally accomplished, it will be Christmas time here … isn’t that perfect timing? Not for them though. I’m sure they wish they could be with their families for the upcoming Independence day celebrations (Chileans are a patriotic bunch, especially on the 18th of September and ESPECIALLY since this year marks 200 years since Chileans won their independence from Spain.) I’m sure they wish they could just have their own space, up top, right NOW.

How will they feel once they learn that they have to keep surviving, keep their sanity and keep each other going for at least three more months, probably four? Four months can fly but only with activity and experience. Four months ago it was April (the month I got married) and it definitely puts the length of four months into perspective.

When they pull the miners out one by one in December, flash forward to the future when you see those same images on a screen, reciting a story. This is for sure the story of a made-for-tv movie. Or a tell-all book. In the meantime, I hope the most basic of things for them right now – sanity and comradery.

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Our trip to Pucón

I’d been to Pucón a few years ago when my mother and I lived in the States and flew down to visit family. My cousin lived there at the time with her husband and though it was great to visit her and see a new part of Chile, I went when it was wet, cold, miserable and windy. Needless to say, I wasn’t sure I saw the hype in Pucón.

Fast forward four years later and G surprises me with a trip to Pucón to celebrate my 1-year anniversary in Chile. We arrived in Temuco on Friday and the weather was insanely beautiful – a complete 180 from my former experience there. The idea was to take a “transfer” or a cab to Pucón, which is about an hour/hour and a half from the airport in Temuco. I remembered having heard from various people that the best bet when traveling outside of Santiago was to rent a car and just follow your nose (it always knows) and so I suggested it to G, who immediately agreed.

One Hertz agreement later, we were off to the hotel Enjoy of Pucon. Since the Enjoy chains have a reputation for being new and hip, stocked with lively entertainment (all hotels boast casinos) we were pretty excited to have the best of all worlds: nightly entertainment, daily ski or spa trips and beautiful scenery everywhere. The 9th Region of Chile didn’t disappoint with its natural beauty and provincial ambience. Rows and rows of fields, topped with trees galore and speckled with livestock reminiscent of “The Famer in the Dell” : cows, lambs, pigs, horses … ahhhhh country. I never imagined I’d be stoked on it but after living in smog central for a year, I’m ALWAYS happy to leave the busy, dirty city behind for a few days.

Views on our drive from Temuco to Pucón. Cows are where it’s at down there.

Lovely change from the Santiago traffic. Green everywhere and zero congestion.

High on fresh air and in the company of each other, G and I could not have been happier. We were excited to go skiing the next day, excited to venture out to unknown territories and excited to find hot springs to soak in until we pruned. Yeah … all that happiness came to screeching halt when we arrived at the Enjoy Pucón. It turns out, the Enjoy Pucón has only one thing that’s truly in line with the marketing and positioning of the Enjoy chain – the casino. It’s a brand new, asymmetrical building that definitely conveys the notion of a fun time to be had inside. HOWEVER … the hotel associated with this casino is actually the Gran Hotel Pucón and I’m not gonna lie: this hotel is older than my grandmother (if I had one). In fact, we later learned that its claim-to-fame is that Queen Elizabeth had stayed there. When? Circa 1962 when I could actually begin to imagine that the old, dilapidated hotel that stood before me was actually a grand hotel worthy of the word “grand” in the title? G and I don’t come from wealthy families and our upbringing could be described as middle-class AT BEST. Yet when we arrived, we realized that no matter what our background, silver spoons or no, the hotel was a joke. He was being charged a pretty hefty amount of money for a hotel whose lobby looked like a retirement home’s and whose rooms had a king size bed NEXT TO a twin size bed, covered in bedspreads that had me conjuring up images of Fräulein Maria making play clothes for the Von Trapp children in “The Sound of Music.” Not to mention, the bathroom had mold everywhere … Whether we’re annies or not, the fact of the matter was that G had paid for something promised in marketing, advertising and positioning messages of the Enjoy hotels. What we saw was completely the opposite. We checked in and immediately checked back out. (Thankfully the staff was very accommodating even if the rooms were hideous). There we were, G pissed and feeling like he had let me down (he hadn’t), no hotel room, hungry and with nowhere to go in the middle of Pucón. Standing outside in front of the car I said two things to G: “Thank goodness we rented a car” and “Later tonight, over a glass of wine, we’ll be laughing about this.” (At that moment he only agreed with the first statement.)

All’s well that ends well though. The truth of the matter is that we DID have a chuckle over the way our mini-vacation had started out. But things happen for a reason and it’s good to remember that no matter what one encounters, significant or not, things happen just as they should. G and I ended up staying at the Villarrica Park Lake Hotel, which was AMAZING … the joke being that the nightly rate at the 2nd hotel was less than at the Pucón Gran Hotel yet the amenities and the comfort can’t possibly be compared! The spa, the beds, the environment, the location and the views:

View from our hotel room’s balcony at the Villarrica Park Hotel.

Which of course led to complete and total relaxation on said balcony.

The rest of our vacation included a trip up the Volcan Villarrica for some skiing … we actually snowboarded and though we had a really good time, it’s safe to say that we both suck at snowboarding. Yeah we looked cool with all the gear but it’s apparent we need at least 2 more runs up to the mountain before we can walk the walk we intend to talk on the subject of snowboarding. I’ll be fair and say that G actually did really well and I’m particularly excited that after trying both skiing and snowboarding, he’s agreed with me that snowboarding is a million times better. The ski resort itself is small but I actually really enjoyed it – much more than Valle Nevado, simply because there was less people. The lift is a pretty long one since the actual slopes are further up the mountain than where the equipment is rented but it provides an amazing view of the lakes surrounding the volcano.

The lifts and the view of Lake Villarrica in the background (pic taken from the mountain).

Someone looking like he knows a thing or two about snowboarding, despite being a first-timer.

Which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for myself (and I’ve snowboarded before!)

Our last day in Pucón was dedicated to submerging ourselves in water and floating until we wrinkled like little prunes. Mission accomplished with Termas Geometricas and Termas Menetue. We first went to Termas Geometricas and all I can say is WOW. Words can’t really do it justice so I’ll provide pictures. At one point, it actually started SNOWING while we were in the water and it was as if we were in the middle of someone’s movie shoot. Walking through the termas, I felt like I was in The Shire of “Lord of the Rings.” Just serenely, beautifully, naturally amazing and wonderful. I highly suggest.

Just one of many pools in the termas, containing water ranging from 4 – 40 degrees Celsius.

Adding to the already-cool environment: snow.

You might be wondering if we were freezing before and after getting in the water (and more so, after.) The reality is that it’s not that cold at all. Your body temperature rises enough so that when you step out and go to another pool, you aren’t freezing. By the time you submerge again, you barely remembered if it was cold or not.

After that, we headed to Termas Menetue, which I had actually been to when I first visited Pucón. I wouldn’t say that these “termas” were bad because that would be a complete lie. In fact, they’re a great option for families and those who wish to actually stay overnight (or a few nights) because they have a hotel/resort right on site. The thing is that after Termas Geometricas, it was really hard to adjust to a very family-friendly environment. In short, it was simply a completely different experience to be had: one was definitely more in line with nature and a rustic outdoor experience, while the other (Menetue) had enclosed “piscinas termales” (or pools with thermal water) and with a completely different target audience in mind (hence so many families). There is an “adults only” area which was recently opened (two years ago, I believe) and it was definitely nice but to arrive you had to venture through the kid friendly pool area and that was pure chaos! Their spa, where G and I each received massages (his with a Reiki session) was nice, albeit small, though again, it’s based on the comparison with the spa in our hotel. It seems unfortunate that our experience at Menetue was overshadowed by comparisons of the experiences we had just hours before, but despite our personal experience, I do believe that on its own, Menetue is a great place. Even more so if you have kids.

By the time our mini-getaway ended we had pampered ourselves into a relaxation coma. Thermal waters, massages, spas, nature = one happy couple and one relaxed G (he’s the most stressed of the two of us.) I was (and am) so grateful for the gesture on his part and that his gift included one more gift incognito: the fact that he took two days off work to travel with me. That itself is amazing because my dear husband is the epitome of a workaholic. In fact, he had barely signed his name on the credit card slip during the check out when I caught him in the middle of what he does most: work.

Pic taken in the hotel lobby before hopping in the car to head to the Temuco airport.

It served to remind me that the true gift in all of the above was the time he took to be away from his job to actually enjoy the trip with me and to completely disconnect himself from work.

On a final note, um, can I just say THANK GOD I don’t live outside Santiago … and I mean absolutely no offense to those who do because trust me, I’m the first to value your way of life in compared to mine. But when it comes to the little things, towns outside the big city just function at their own pace and on their own time. Example – we arrived at the airport relatively early because we thought we could grab a bite to eat before taking off. Oh no, no, no. Temuco Airport is having none of that. The flight to Santiago departed from Temuco at 4:50 pm and the airport shops, airline counters and lone restaurant opened at 3:30 pm. Before that, this is what it looked like:

Believe it or not, this picture is actually almost of the ENTIRE airport. It’s that small.

Oh Provincia (as the towns outside Santiago are known). I know that for the small towns this mode of operation makes total sense. After all, what’s the point of having an airport running at 100% when only 5 flights arrive per day? It was still a minor inconvenience to the two big-city dwellers who were hoping to eat at the airport and who didn’t eat breakfast in hopes of just that. I learned that next time we need to stop in Temuco to get a bite to eat and arrive at the airport at exactly 20 minutes before boarding. I highly suggest you do the same.

I’ll conclude by saying that this part of Chile is amazing – something I’m sure that most people who are planning a trip down here already know. I was very much impressed by the nature, the people and the environment in general. It was a fabulous break from the all-too-often grimy and stressful Santiago living and it made me hungry for more adventures of the sort. I love it when I realize that Chile can be (and on many occasions, IS) a pretty cool place to live.

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The promise-to-write-more-soon post

I’m in a tizzy.

But more importantly, I’m sleepy and can’t possibly write more than what I’m about to write, so don’t hold your breath that this blog entry is going to be life altering. (That was a few posts ago and apparently, it seems you’ve missed it.)

I kid.

Seriously though … I’m writing from my hotel room in Sao Paulo right now where I’m eyeballing that bed over yonder that’s looking ever-so-cozy right about now. It’s been a long day. After a whirlwind arrival from Pucon, which is where G and I went this past weekend for some skiing and some hot spring submersion, I hopped another flight to the land of the happy people, otherwise known as Brazil.

I just want to jot down a few things that I want to touch base on in full detail post this Brazilian business trip. Call it a teaser for you avid readers out there (you know who you are … all 10 of you!)

In no particular order:

Termas Geometricas:

Our hotel in Pucon/Villarrica (before AND after):

The Lake Region in the South of Chile:

The fact that I’ll most likely be failing out of my masters program next week:

Life (as I see it) outside of Santiago as suggested by this shot of the Temuco airport at mid-day:

Me. Snowboarding…

…on Villarrica’s volcano …

Until I can give the proper attention due to all of the above, I’ll miss you snoochie-boochies. Don’t forget about me during this week’s hiatus!

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Epic fail

I’m not gonna sugar coat it for you. I suck at taking tests. I mean, who knows, maybe I’m just really, really dumb but I’d like to give myself a little more credit than that, considering I’ve made it this far in life and I’m still intact. Also, I’ve witnessed some mad problem-solving skills in real life come out of this brain of mine and trust me, there’s a thing or two going on up there. Thus, all I can conclude is that I’m just a terrible test taker. Or I’m having a stupid week.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

I had a record-breaking two bombs explode in less than five minutes this past Tuesday: 1) a quiz on four chapters we had to read and my subsequent reaction to it, and 2) our Module II final exam grades were announced.

Which of the two proved I had a momentarily lapse in intelligence?

In reference to #1, I knew the quiz was coming and my group decided to divide the reading assignments – four of us, four chapters. I had the chapter on competition among business/industries and competitive strategies and I think I did a pretty good job of summing up 30+ pages on how businesses compete. Talk about sugar coating! There was certainly little I could to to make that chapter any more fun to swallow. I received the summaries from my group and of course they were all good … I studied as much as I could considering life, work, my (sometimes dumb) dog and other school projects tend to get in the way. In fact, the Friday before this dumb quiz, we had a 9+ hour brand management simulation where our main objective was to achieve the highest net sales and highest stock price compared to the other groups. And of course, all this decision making, strategy and planning resulted in a final grade that accounts for XX% of our final grade in the course. Hello – other things to think about besides the stupid 4 chapters we had to read for Tuesday’s quiz!!

When Tuesday morning arrived and as I walked into class, I knew I wasn’t going to prove anything that morning when taking the quiz. I certainly wasn’t going to prove I was the new “matea” (star student) of the class. However, I wasn’t prepared to not be able to answer either of the two questions in the most minimal of senses. When the paper landed in front of me, I stared at it for the 30-minute time limit the professor gave us. Just stared and stared and stared. I couldn’t believe that even though one of the questions was based on competition between business/industries, the topic I had to cover for my team, I still couldn’t – for the life of me – remember one single possible answer. Not even to B.S. my way through it!! I resigned myself to the fact that I had reached an all-time new low in my test-taking experience.

When I was in grade school I remember going through the same thing. Preparing (or so I thought) for a test and realizing, upon receiving the actual document, that I may as well have studied the steps required to perform a lobotomy because none of the questions looked familiar to me. And I would squeeze the pencil in my hand and proceed to cry. Not because I was sad, but because I was frustrated and wanted to scream. Crying was the only proper solution to that considering I was in a class full of kids who all seemed to know the required steps in performing a lobotomy (so to speak.) And as dumb luck would have it, I seemed to always be seated next to the proper “mateo” in class and that only pissed me off even more! What the hell was he writing so much about??!!

Anyway, this past Tuesday, I went through a similar thing. Except I didn’t cry. I decided I couldn’t very well hand in a blank piece of a paper. It was one thing to not know the answer, it was quite another to not even try. I decided to land somewhere in between both and wrote the following, in English, on the very first page:

“There is no way I could memorize all of this and I’d much rather focus my time on my marketing project. :o) I did read though.”

It’s not funny, nor is it clever … and it wasn’t even written in SPANISH! I’m not sure what possessed me to write something so lame and pretty much inexcusable … I’m in grad school, not 8th grade! All I can conjure up is that I was feeling lame and stupid, coupled with defiant and rebellious because I didn’t want another Chilean institution making me feel like a complete incompetent. And this was my attempt at delivering the “I’ll show you” message, which of course, isn’t the right message at all. Geez, if anything, I may have gotten half a point for writing a marketing message that was a little more convincing – of anything!!

Ugh.

To make matters worse (because sometimes that’s the only way matters seem to work), I received my final exam grade for the 2nd Module of the course and my grade on the Finance section was so low, I need to take that part again! The silver lining is that pretty much the entire class has to retake it because everyone’s grades were ultra low. Those who managed to pass did so just barely … At least in that case I’m not the dumb a** who stands alone, like the cheese in Farmer in the Dell.

The moral of this blog entry is this: I’m having a stupid week. At least I hope it’s just a week. It’s one thing to study, take the test and ultimately not do well; it’s quite another to write 8th grade messages on my grad school quizzes like a whiny teenager. In any case, it seems my stupidity roll is coming to an end because I did learn my lesson about doing such lame things in an academic setting.

Geez, why can’t I do smarter rebellious things on campus? Next time, I’ll engage in proper defiance suitable for the likes of a prestigious academic setting and invite everyone to go streaking across campus like Frank the Tank.

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Peacing out of this joint

I’m sure that expats everywhere have those days when you all of sudden TRULY wonder just what the hell you’re doing in your host country. Any backwards, freaky, scary or frustrating experience can trigger it and though I have days when I am pretty convinced everyone in this country has got it all wrong, last Wednesday I hit a limit with Chile and was about one online purchase away from hopping the first one-way flight back to SFO, bulldog in tow (naturally).

I’ll spare you the details and play-by-play’s of what happened that consequently pushed me over the edge, but suffice it to say that it entailed Chileans and their oh-so-wonderful ways behind the wheel and on the road. I made detailed references to some examples of their bad habits back in June but on Wednesday it was so bad, so rude, so frustrating and so unfair that I couldn’t imagine living another day in this country, with these people who apparently go out of their way to make you feel bad. Mind you, this is how it felt on Wednesday when it was literally happening just like that: some guy going out of his way to make me feel bad for something that wasn’t my fault. Do people like him really exist out there and why is it that I have to have the misfortune of crossing paths with them? To make matters worse, it would seem that about 85% of the men in this country are convinced that women are hands down horrible drivers. So you can imagine my horror, my raw, irrational frustration with this guy who not only wanted to make me feel bad but who also went wild insulting my gender!

Of course there are all kinds of drivers and the term “bad driver” is also really relative. I happen to think that someone who manages to maneuver around cars in order to cross a recently-turned-red light is a pretty bad driver. Maybe some idiot guy would think that’s a “capo” (capable) driver. Po-tay-toe, Po-tah-toe. Back home I happened to think anyone could fall into the bad driver category: me, you, women, men, African Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Malaysian, Greek, Jews, Italians – and so on. I was an equal opportunity labeler of bad drivers and gave no regard to sex, religion, race or political party. The problem in Chile then is that it’s SUCH A HOMOGENEOUS country they can only categorize and label based on sex: man = good driver; woman = bad driver. This annoying belief which happens to be embedded into the psyche of the general male population here is what truly had me at the point of packing my bags less than a week ago.

When I lived back home, I remember meeting expats from Chile who had relocated in California because of jobs, schools or in general, in an attempt to better themselves one way or another. Many of them found California, the Bay Area, to be really backwards. Gringos were considered “cold” and “too busy” to bother with each other. We were the type who seemed to only care about money and our jobs and didn’t take time to be with family or with our neighbors. Many were surprised to realize that they would never really know if they had neighbors in their U.S. apartment buildings or not. They were also taken aback by how restrictive California seemed: last call at bars at 1:30 a.m., no smoking anywhere and don’t even THINK about littering or jay walking or a ticket would surely slap you silly across the face (in fact, my mom got a ticket for jay walking once, after having lived there more than 20 years). “Que cuaticos son los gringos!” or basically that we make mountains out of mole hills and dramatize even the smallest of things. So we were square, workaholics who didn’t like to really party, who cared more about our environment (and dogs) than we did about forming bonds with the newly arrived Chileans who were calling California their home. In fact, I remember many Chileans I had met going back home to Chile only to later find out from one of their family members that he or she “just couldn’t adapt to the U.S. way of life.”

Aside from the horrible way Chileans drive and the despicable view on women drivers, my problem with Chile is that I don’t quite get their priorities. What makes them work? What’s really important (and of course I mean besides faith and family because I realize that’s a given here.) In the Bay Area I can tell you it’s about being the most successful, the healthiest, the most giving and socially conscious you can be, the customer is (almost) always right … all that and of course vacations are a big deal to Californians too, whether fancy or simple camping. Many other things are important but these are some examples. What’s a big deal here in Chile? … it’s so bizarre what people will truly give you a hard time about and THAT’S what makes living here so hard sometimes.

Why is it that at Starbucks they make a fuss about giving you a sleeve for your coffee, stating that only customers who order drinks “extra hot” are entitled to said sleeve? What part of their brains makes saying “no” to a customer whose hand is burning such a priority? And what part of their brains justifies offering a whole cup to put under the original cup as the solution? Don’t they know that a cup is much more expensive to the company than the sleeve? What’s the priority there? Who are they making the priority? Why spend the 15 minutes arguing about this when handing a sleeve is all it would take to make the customer happy and to get him out of the employee’s face STAT?

Why is it that when I run on the path designated for bikes (for all of a few seconds so I can run around others who are in the way of my regular path), twice already I’ve had people yell at me to get off since it’s “for bikes only.” Why do they care? Since when are rules so respected here that I need to get yelled at repeatedly for making my way around those who are going a tad slower than me?

Are Chilean societal priorities like restricción vehicular? [In Santiago there is a system known as “restricción vehicular” where private vehicles may not be driven on certain days, defined by the final digit of their license plates. Failure to comply with this restriction is punishable by fines.] See, if I had the legend to when certain things are enforced and when they are disregarded here, I would probably have less and less “F-U Chile, I’m peacing out” moments. In fact, it would make adapting here a much smoother process for expats like me and trust me, it would make us less “weird” to everyone else. If cars have a legend that tells them when they can and can’t be driven depending on the day of the week, I’m sure we can come up with something similar so that I can go about my daily life in a much more relaxed manner.

Here’s what I’m envisioning as regular, daily enforced priorities:

Monday
This is the day when customer service is put on the back burner. If you just paid US$30 for lip gloss, you’re absolutely not entitled to one-on-one service at the cash register and you are definitely not entitled to eye contact or to the asking of any questions. In fact, we aren’t sure why we’re the ones having to ring you up. This place better get self-serve registers pronto.
Tuesday
Today we’re focused on denying any requests for anything extra at restaurants or coffee shops. If you want a sleeve for that steaming cup of coffee that’s currently causing blisters on your palm, you’re going to want to ask for that little number “extra hot.” Said request on your part will undermine any rule we have regarding sleeves.

Wednesday
No matter what you do, today is the day Santiago has decided that you are the biggest moron it has driving around its streets. If you happen to be following transit laws to a tee, we’ve decided that you are supposed to have skipped the odd numbered pages on that guide so anything covered on those pages is currently disregarded today. If you violate this decision on our part then today also states that anyone, anywhere can yell at you and make you feel dumb. If you happen to be a woman, said badgering will happen for more than 5 minutes and we reserve the right to insult your entire gender.

Thursday
In any type of office or retail environment, today is the day we focus on telling you exactly the opposite of what we told you two days ago when you came in. If we told you that your pants were ready today, we actually meant Monday. If we told you that you didn’t owe money to the I.R.S. equivalent, actually we changed our minds and you do – double the amount previously thought. If you called and asked us if we had XYZ product/service before making the 40 minute trek to our store/office, we lied. Sorry!

Friday
Today is the day dedicated to random conversations and spontaneous sharing of too much information, sometimes by complete strangers. If you happen to be standing alone, or even if you’re with a friend, it’s more than likely someone will come up and start a conversation as if halfway through. Or you might run into your mom’s best friend’s great-aunt. Be sure to pay special attention and nod accordingly lest you offend the person sharing the story about the boil that developed right over his tailbone, which is now gone, thanks to the neighbor’s son who was visiting from the south where he goes to medical school. Upon concluding the random information sharing, the person may invite you over to his/her house for “once” (tea) but don’t worry, this is just his/her way of saying bye. For the LOVE OF PETE don’t actually confirm your attendance to said “once.” That would just be really weird of you.

Saturday & Sunday
Free-for-all, anything goes. Though note that these days there are always ample amounts of staring and bad customer service. Regardless of your reaction to anything on these days, note that 85% of the time we’re right and you’re wrong. However we’re happy to offer you the following: specifically on Sundays, we’re committed to making your driving experience in Santiago pleasant and accommodating. Since most of us aren’t out driving around OR we happen to already be at the mall, the streets will be pretty empty so LIVE IT UP out there! It’s our thanks to you for choosing Chile as your home.
We hope you enjoy your weekend with your family. God bless!

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Children’s Day (Día del Niño) – friend or foe?

In my attempt to understand the concept of Children’s Day (Día del Niño) which seems to be a big deal in many Latin American countries, I took to the Internet. I found out that Children’s Day is an idea adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954. The main message of this day is to recognize children, pay homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well being. Politically speaking, the idea of Children’s Day was enforced to promote the rights of all children around the world.

The Declaration of Rights of a Child, simply put:

1. All children have the right to what follows, no matter what their race, color sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, or where they were born or who they were born to.

2. You have the special right to grow up and to develop physically and spiritually in a healthy and normal way, free and with dignity.

3. You have a right to a name and to be a member of a country.

4. You have a right to special care and protection and to good food, housing and medical services.

5. You have the right to special care if handicapped in any way.

6. You have the right to love and understanding, preferably from parents and family, but from the government where these cannot help.

7.You have the right to go to school for free, to play, and to have an equal chance to develop yourself and to learn to be responsible and useful. Your parents have special responsibilities for your education and guidance.

8. You have the right always to be among the first to get help.

9. You have the right to be protected against cruel acts or exploitation, e.g. you shall not be obliged to do work which hinders your development both physically and mentally. You should not work before a minimum age and never when that would hinder your health, and your moral and physical development.

10. You should be taught peace, understanding, tolerance and friendship among all people.

I completely and totally agree with these rights granted to all children around the world and further, would personally work vehemently to always ensure that children are protected from any and all types of harm. In addition, I agree with the general mission of the UN’s General Assembly’s purpose behind promoting a Children’s Day: “a day of worldwide fraternity and understanding between children.

Truly it’s a great principle, great mission, aims to teach great values and promotes the fraternity among children and the safekeeping of all children. What cold be wrong with Children’s Day??

I’ll tell you: the retailers and their aim to make you feel like a guilty mofo if you don’t go out and get your kids presents they’ve come to expect. These retailers, and their marketing strategy, aim to make you out as the best parent/uncle/grandparent/cousin/friend/what-have-you if you buy the child the latest and greatest gadget “available only at XYZ store” and for a “limited time.” The underlying message here is that if you don’t go out and buy said toy or gadget, you’re weird and plain wicked for not appreciating kids and how important they are to society.

Oh but the retailers aren’t at fault, really. Society believes the hype as we believe the hype about Christmas and birthdays and Valentine’s Day. If you were to encounter someone who say, never celebrated birthdays or gave gifts on someone’s birthday, I’m sure we’d all conclude the guy/woman is a nut and carry on our merry way. In this case, I’m the nut because in the States, I don’t recall ever celebrating – or even hearing about – Children’s Day. As I got older and began to work in the children’s entertainment industry, from a revenue generating level, I welcomed Children’s Day in other territories as a prime time to make some “holiday” cash by selling our goods and helping my bottom line. See? Even I succumbed to the hype surrounding Children’s Day, only it was from the worst angle possible! Using their desires to generate income for a business purpose. Ugly, to say the least.

From a more objective perspective one thing is decidedly clear: based on the advertisements I see on tv and in print, it appears that the Chilean retailers don’t embrace the true nature of Children’s Day. Perhaps they don’t because the consumer goes out and buys what’s necessary because it’s what has always occurred and what’s expected. I certainly get the retailer side of things and the fact that it’s all based on the general public’s actions and needs. I wonder if I’ll even see some kind of organized activity that truly embraces the nature of Children’s Day as the UN General Assembly had hoped: promoting fraternity and understanding between children.

Obviously I’m the big weirdo fighting the power here, and I’m ok with that. I stated on Facebook that I was anti-Children’s Day and I’m sure more people than not thought I was a b*tch for writing that. The thing is, I’m fine with being a weirdo because after some researching, I’m even more adamant about NOT going out and buying kids gifts this coming Sunday! Yes it’s partly due to having never celebrated Children’s Day growing up (though believe it or not, there IS an actual date dedicated to this back home) and yes, it’s partly due to not having kids of my own. But having worked in the children’s entertainment field, I can completely and totally attest that this day is nothing more than a marketing scheme embraced by retailers and all companies that make and sell children’s products. They all want to make a buck off you. Sorry dear parents, but it’s true. Much like Christmas and what it’s become to those who aren’t really celebrating family and/or the birth of Jesus Christ.

Someday in the future this will become a point of contention between G and me. We’re taking his kids snowboarding this weekend, which in my humble, non-parent opinion should suffice as celebration for their contribution to society and their mere existence. But of course, we were at the mall yesterday and he got them each a gift for Sunday as well. So be it. They aren’t my kids and I’m not about to force my wild opinions on him and influence how he is as a father to them.

But trust me. Someday with my own kids I hope to make Children’s Day more about getting along with other kids and less about what the hell I can buy them at Falabella or Jumbo.

Call me crazy.

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Gradutate School in Chile, Part I

Higher education in Chile is blowing my mind.

I can’t decide if it’s because my undergrad college choice was as poor or if my undergrad major was poor. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. What’s clear to me now is this: I’m in my first year of a Masters in Marketing here in Chile and I’ve learned more in the past three months than I learned in my entire four years of college back home.

The marketing program I’m doing is divided into two years: the first year results in what is called a “Diplomado” which is a mini-degree of sorts. Not quite a Masters but definitely considered post-graduate studies. Upon completing the second year, you’re granted a Masters. The good thing is that I can finish my first year and decide to return for my second year FIVE YEARS from now and I’ll still be able to follow the initial rhythm. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t wait that long (I might forget everything!) though I’m still debating if I’ll do my 2nd year right away.

Anyway, in short I’m very happy I decided to do this because I’m learning things I never knew! And now that I think about it, I wonder how many of my friends knew things I now know, but back before I didn’t know them? For instance, and the most basic of all concepts, when I imagine the word “marketing” I imagined the advertisement of a certain product or service, the commercial, the little picture you saw in the grocery store, the slogan or the Buy-One-Get-One-Free gimmicks associated with a product. But that’s not it at all. Marketing is as simple as this: creating a need in the mind of the consumer and satisfying that need, all the while reaching sales goals established by your company. And that pretty much sums it up.

Education here (as I’ve experienced it thus far, mind you) is much more structured than I remember undergrad in California to be. There’s a process and an evolution and the idea that one thing is connected to the other. First we learned about Marketing as a concept in general; creating added value for the consumer, the internal client and the external client, what’s involved in a sales strategy vs what’s involved in a marketing plan. We talked about how different products in the same company can mean different things to that company and that in and of itself, require completely different strategies (think toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash, all under the umbrella of the Colgate-Palmolive company. All three mean different things to them.)

This was then followed by more detailed business concepts in general. Examples: overview in Statistics (for the purposes of market studies), Finance, the mind of the consumer and what propels him/her to purchase something, and finally, an overview on the different kinds of Market Research tools available to companies. We’re in Module III now (the year has 4 in total) and from what I can tell, we’re looking at things from an eagle’s eye view with the purpose of applying everything we learned in Modules I and II and honing them.

While I had heard and read about SWOT analyzes, I had never done one until Module I when we had to read a case study on the car company, Renault (unheard of in the States, I know.) I was on my mini-moon in NYC and I had to work remotely with my assigned group for the year to deliver on what was expected of us the following week. I bugged G a lot during that time because NOTHING made any sense to me. The 4 Ps? What’sthat? (Now I know). SWOT analysis – um how do I begin do that with this car company I’ve never even heard of? I was convinced I was the dumbest person in class.

We’ve read and done analysis on topics such as Harley Davidson (you tell me: what do they sell?), an XYZ Argentine textile company, Hummer and their H1 model, Mattel and their marketing of toys to boys vs. girls. We’ve seen examples of how different products aim to strike at the different motivators within people (i.e. are you motivated to be a good mother? Are you motivated to belong? Are you motivated with the idea of a certain status?) and learned how the Coca Cola company has been able to target all IN ONE COMMERCIAL, one message. And coming up soon, we’ll all be behind computers, with our groups, doing a Product Management Simulation game which will supposedly drive home the 4 P’s of marketing, all the while teaching us about brand equity and marketing planning for a product/product lines. The objective of this simulation “game” is to have the highest net worth and highest company stock price compared to the other groups in our class.

And the cherry on top is this: we have a year-long project where we have to present a marketing proposal for a business or product of our choice. And I cannot tell you the amount of research and work this involves. Let me just say that I know way more about our chosen topic than I ever cared to know ….

Wait, what?? I sound all professional and sh*t.

But that’s the point, right? That’s why I’m paying over US$800 each month and that’s why I deal with having to write PAPERS and work with my team to produce presentations that demonstrate things we’ve been learning since early April. So that tomorrow (whenever that may be) I’ll be an added value myself to whatever company I’m working for at the time.

It does make me wonder if undergrad in Chile is just as structured as Graduate school seems to be. If it is, then it would result in candidates who are a million times more prepared and better educated than those of the United States. I wonder this recognizing that I have absolutely no basis for comparison on either, really. I never attended undergrad here and didn’t attend Graduate school there. But should my theory be correct, and Chile does produce people better equipped to enter the work force, it would explain why the labor market (at an executive level) is so competitive here.

I’m even more inclined to think that the public undergrad education I received back home was less than stellar (and I repeat, this could be due to my poor choices on institution and matter) when I hear my fellow Grad School classmates complain about the low quality education we’re currently receiving at one of the most expensive, most prestigious universities in Chile (and in Latin America for that matter.) To be fair, I do agree that too much information is being crammed into a period of time that is much too short. After all, I do believe that an “overview” of Finance should entail more than 7 hours of class and that said overview should include more than the Balance Sheet and General Ledger. But if many of my classmates feel and truly believe that in some ways we’re being “cheated” of a good education right now, what does that imply about their experiences in undergrad? Here I am just amazed at how structured and plentiful the education is and they’re saying that what we’re learning – and mainly how we’re learning it – is a crock! Certainly an example of looking at two different sides of the same coin.

In the end, there IS one thing that remains consistent with what I believe about higher education in the States. The name – the BRAND, if you will – truly matters. Can we deny that there are many who choose Stanford, Duke, Harvard, Brown, Berkeley and on, primarily for what that name implies to others once they’ve graduated? I believe the majority of us followed the same road when choosing where we’d receive our graduate studies. We looked at our options here in Chile, figured out the top three and opted for the best in this particular field (Marketing/Business.)

So even if some would argue that the system is a crock (as you read, I don’t agree), aren’t we truly then just paying for the name of the university and all that it implies? Discuss.

(Playing devil’s advocate and answering yes to the question stated above, from a marketing standpoint, it would seem my university has done wonders.)
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My history in music

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a single blog post about music to file under my so-called “general malaise of irrelevant topics” that “I trust you’ll enjoy.” To quote myself. [For those out there just itching to read about my version of Chilean life, don’t worry. I have a blog brewing on my experience in Graduate studies in good ol’ Chilsters due up next.]

Now, I’m not about to proclaim that I’m anywhere near being a music guru and I am certainly no Rob Gordon (John Cusack’s character in “High Fidelity,” which, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, get off this blog and go watch it immediately. You’ll thank me later.) With that disclaimer in full effect, I can attest that music has always been central to my life and many times, I find that I can remember certain periods in my life just by the music that’s playing. Also, depending on the type of music, I can even remember the point in time, historically speaking, in which it was released (or at least, was popular to me.) A great example of that was Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” album which was released in 1984, when I was a wee tyke of 7. I remember the MTV Music Video Awards when she did that risque song on stage. Pure art.

The first song I’d like to highlight from my past is one from ABBA. Man, did my mom LOVE that group and I can’t begin to tell you HOW MANY TIMES, I heard this song:

My mom obsessed doesn’t begin to cover it.

As I grew up (in the 80s, mind you), cheesy 80s love songs were released by the multitude. Elton John, Air Supply, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Atlantic Star, Billy Ocean, Lionel Richie and many, many more flood my early 80s memories and none more so than this one:

I actually owned this cassette and played this song on repeat, just as my mom had done with ABBA. Obviously, I learned it from her. Play, Repeat.

My most significant music memories during the late 80s were related to Poison, George Micheal’s “Faith” album, Madonna, Guns n’ Roses, Bon Jovi (“Wanted Dead or Alive” poignantly stands out in my mind), and of course New Kids on the Block. (Don’t ask me what one had to do with the other as it made perfect sense to me to like all of the above at the same time. ) The late 80s also weaved in some Paula Abdul…

…and this particular song was quite popular when I was in 7th(ish) grade because the popular radio station back then, X-100, had a DJ named “Super Snake” and as you can imagine he was in his 7th Heaven with this particular song and as such, he played it constantly. Naturally I danced to it like mad in my room and watched the video incessantly. And for all my younger peeps out there, yes, Paula had a career before American Idol even became a pilot being pitched to Fox.

Believe it or not, it was also around this time that an 8th grade friend of mine introduced me to N.W.A. and I was so moved by the sheer naughtiness of the lyrics that I immediately went out and bought myself their “Straight Outta Compton” album (on cassette, of course) and I’ve since then been a fan of that particular release.

Then the early 90s hit and it seems to me that his was the time when Rap and Hip & Hop were beginning to inch their way from the city streets to middle-class suburbia and beyond. Bel Biv DeVoe were immensely popular in the early 90s and as horny little 8th grade kids attending school dances, we were all about “freaking” to this song …

and need I remind you all of this song, which came out during my 8th grade year (1990-1991)…

Yo, VIP!

As you can see, and as I recall, during this time, the good came with the bad. Boys II Men came out during this time and they made singing a Capella pretty damn awesome and not to mention, popular. But the bad came with the likes of Right Said Fred and their “I’m Too Sexy” which seemed to take the country, and definitely my high school, by storm.

But how can we even mention the early 90s without highlighting the two most important music genres to come out of that decade: Grunge / Alternative Rock and Gangster Rap. Loves and loves!

Anyone who remotely knows me, knows that I have an affinity to all things Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupack Shakur. Frankly, with musical geniuses such as these, how can one not? As I mentioned, I had dabbled in some of Dr. Dre’s earlier work with N.W.A. but his collaboration with the likes of Snoop Dogg seriously blows my rap-inclined mind.

On the other side of this coin lies the influence of grunge music on my life at the time. I can’t say that I was fully anti-establishment and it’s not like I threw my school work out the window and blew the joint to go out and buy Doc Martens. I was never a big fan of Alice In Chains but particularly enjoyed Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana and did my part in wearing cut off shorts with thermals underneath, v-neck tshirts, flannel shirts and in sum, look like a total mess.

By the time I graduated high school, the gangster rap genre had evolved a bit to include the likes of Coolio…

[Incidentally, the library scenes of this movie were filmed at my high school.]

…and also included the fun-loving Naughty By Nature.

When I started college, alternative rock was in all its glory: Bush, Butthole Surfers, Weezer, STP, Sonic Youth, Beck, PJ Harvey and the like were our cups of tea.

But nothing (and no one) takes me back to the early days of college like this group:


A simple message really … life IS too short, so love the one you’ve got.

College progressed, great songs were released: “A Long December” by the Counting Crows, “Love Rollercoaster” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Criminal” by Fiona Apple and of course, Dave Matthews Band became wildly popular. All of the above marked me in some way but two of the songs that stand out the most from those days in the late 90s are ones that were actually released DECADES before …

and

And every time, these songs take me back to driving on the California roads, dancing (or grooving) in the car with my best friends, sun overhead and our hair blowing.

The remainder of college contained music from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Smashmouth, Ricky Martin, Destiny’s Child, TLC, Blink 182 to name just a very few that I was particular keen on. Grunge and even Alternative Rock had subsided and with the likes of Eminem, a funnier version of Gangster Rap emerged…

And from then on, I of course became a fan of the Dr. Dre protégé!

Sigh. This felt good. I like looking at snapshots in time via music that touched me in some way. There is SO MUCH MORE too! “Son of a Preacher Man” was a huge deal for us after the movie “Pulp Fiction” came out and in fact, that whole soundtrack was a must-have at our college parties. Then there’s the music associated with the ex boyfriends, whether my own or that of my best friend’s (we each made the other listen to music relevant to our romantic relationships.) And I feel like I hardly touched on the pop music scene that exploded with the inception of “Hit Me One More Time” by Britney Spears. But honestly, who has the time for all that? I could on and you could go on reading and we’d both get nowhere relevant to the now.

But now that I think about it … if I was able to spark a little something in you, a memory, an “I remember that song!” exclamation of some sort … or better yet, if I motivated you to go back and dig up some old tunes anywhere, even via You Tube, I feel immensely satisfied as I feel I’ve done this world some service. Again, by no means do I claim to be a musical genius and I’m quite aware that you are much more likely to have further, more elaborate insight on the music of our generation.

I hope you share it with me and others. Sharing music and living music, whatever strikes your fancy, is a-ok with me. To conclude, I’ll circle back to the beginning and leave you with one last song from ABBA that really quite sums it up. At least for me.

[p.s. These You Tube videos seriously crack me up. Especially the first ABBA video with the snowman!]

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