Some perceptions & women’s roles in Chile

I’m a stranger in a strange land and because of this, I spend a lot of time learning and observing my new home (well, relatively new since pretty soon it will be a year since I arrived in this narrow land.)

Of particular interest to me is the role of women and perceptions of women’s roles here. Heavy, I know but I’m guessing it’s due in part to my own generalizations of women, men and traditions apparent here that can’t be sawed apart, no matter the force applied. Of course I consulted my friend Google and found a very interesting article from ReVista, The Harvard Review of Latin America on the contradictions apparent in women’s lives here in Chile. The very first sentence of this article made me want to pack up my bags and leave the country immediately … it reads:

“Seven out of every ten Chileans (69%) believe that “Having a job is fine, but what most women really want is a house and children,” according to a July 2003 study by the Santiago-based Centro de Estudios Públicos.” In my usual P.I. way, I decided to go straight to the source and actually review this study conducted by the CEP, Centro de Estudios Públicos or in English, Center of Public Studies. The CEP is basically a type of think tank and they perform various kinds of studies on behavior, society and culture in Chile. It has several publications and the one I consulted was Estudios Públicos, (Public Studies) which is a quarterly journal containing essays, studies and commentaries by academics and specialists in various fields of study.

And yes, I found that this study, conducted in December 2002, truly does demonstrate the ideological chasms that exist regarding the subject of women and the workplace, not only between groups of people but within the same person!

The majority 40.7% of those questioned in a survey about Women and the Work Place are relatively CLOSED to the subject of a woman working outside the home and only 12.3% are completely open to the fact. And the thing is, these numbers are pretty evenly divided between men’s opinions and women’s. Interestingly enough, those that are open to the topic of women working outside the home are between the ages of 18-24 BUT what’s MORE interesting is that the second most supportive group are 55 and older! I attribute this to the moms and dads that age who themselves put kids through college and are eager to see them succeed in the workplace.

Here’s the picture on the following question: “Taking into account all the good and the bad, family life is negatively affected when the woman works full time.”

Do you see that big red line? That’s Chile! That’s the majority of people agreeing with this statement! The bottom five, those who agree the least, are the U.S., England, Sweden, (East) Germany and Canada.

Here’s a picture with the opposite lay out …

Except the question associated with the graph above is the following: “A woman who works can establish as much of a solid and profound relationship with her kids as a woman who doesn’t work.” And as you can see, Chile agrees with this statement the least. THE LEAST! Am I in the Twilight Zone, people??!!

Sigh. I might be.

This study goes on for 42 pages and if you’re interested in seeing it in all its gory detail, you can download it here. It’s presented as a Power Point so it’s fabulously easy to read. Not all of it is horrible, but it’s insightful and quite a demonstration on the conflicting views that Chileans have on various topics regarding women and her role in the Chilean society.

Another topic, independent of this study (though I’m sure it’s covered within a study done by the CEP), is that of maternity leave in Chile and how women are perceived as a result of it. President Piñera has created the Women, Work and Maternity Commission which is made up of men and women tasked with providing recommendations on the following: should Chile allow for longer maternity leaves or should Chile allow for all women the right to maternity leave?

The answer, to me, is obvious. All women should have the right to maternity leave, NOT JUST the 50% who have long-term contracts with their employers. As it stands, women who have temporary contracts or who work seasonal jobs, don’t share the same benefits and they can easily be fired once their government backed 18 week maternity leave is up. On the other hand, women who have long-term contracts are protected for ONE YEAR after their maternity leave, in which these women cannot be fired from their on-going, full contract jobs. This discrepancy is ridiculous with obvious favoritism towards those fortunate to have a long-term contract.

Here’s what works against women in Chile: Employers are complaining of the numerous costs associated with hiring women of childbearing age (i.e. me, you, many women I know). Examples of such costs include not being able to fire women during maternity leave (that whole year), the need to hire replacements when women abuse medical leaves to care for ill infants, and the loss of productivity for the one hour daily the women are given to feed their children under two years. Can I just toss that last one in the garbage since I can’t imagine that a company loses all that much in one hour. But those first two are certainly actively putting up walls around any advancement women may have in the workplace. Why would an employer hire a woman when it’s far less risky to hire a man – he’s only allowed 5 days maternity leave and will be back at work in no time. Because the government pays for the woman’s salary during her maternity leave, the option of working from home isn’t really an option. I guess the government wants you suckling your baby or something. Or vice versa. And I’m sorry, I’ve heard firsthand of how women DO abuse the maternity leave bit and literally FLAUNT their immunity in their boss’s faces. Despicable on all fronts but especially for women’s strides in the workplace. I wish such women would just quit their jobs like they truly want to and allow the rest of us to work our way up the corporate ladder.

THERE MUST BE room for women like me to move their way up in Chile and allow for perception of women in leadership roles to shift. In a perfect world, the women who want to be at home, full time with their kids, would have the ability to do so. Because in that perfect world, the roles and corporate positions that those women merely take up for the sake of taking up, would be freed for women who are career oriented and ready to dedicate their time to the company.

And perhaps THEN there wouldn’t be any room for men and women alike to judge women as incapable of excelling in one role or another. We’d be give a break and allowed to excel in whatever we put our efforts in…

Call me crazy.

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No balls

During a time when the country – no, the world – is obsessed with balls and where they can go (i.e. World Cup fever), I’ve had a ball-centered weekend myself. Except my weekend has more to do with the REMOVAL of balls. That is, my dog’s balls (to my more conservative readers, sorry for such a crude way of putting it!)

Last Friday, G and I had Obi fixed (neutered). While we’re completely and totally ok with this decision, it’s been a mini ordeal in Chile, a country where neutering a male pet is simply unheard of. Even G wasn’t too keen on the idea when we first got Obi so my mission was clear: at least in our home, in our own way, we’d do what we could to be responsible pet owners and do our share to help control the pet population in Chile. It’s easy to shrug off the responsibility of helping the pet population (in both dogs and cats) but the reality is that said responsibility starts with each and every pet owner.

So when I set out to “convince” my dear husband that neutering our male pet was the best option, I did my research. According to various reliable, online sources (such as The Humane Society, ASPCA and the likes), these are the most convincing reasons (in my opinion) to fix your pet:

1) Neutering your pet can help it lead a healthier life and in males, eliminates testicular cancer.

2) The female dog won’t go into “heat” and the male dog won’t feel inclined to wander away from home (in search of said female dog in heat.) The overwhelming sexual urges just don’t kick in and your dog is free to be your dear, sweet, family pet. Isn’t this the reason you got the dog in the first place?

3) A neutered male dog will be much better behaved because they focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs may mark their territory all over the house.

4) Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering (Obi was neutered at six months, the earliest recommended age to neuter pets.)

5) Finally, the most important reason: everyday, animals die because there is no one to care for them or are killed by euthanasia because no one wants them. There is simply no excuse for allowing pets to breed unless one is a responsible breeder who knows what he/she is doing!

With all this, G was of course convinced. He let go of the learned reaction he had for so long as a Chilean who grew up in Chile: it has nothing to do with being more manly or less manly. It’s a dog, for Pete’s sake! We are not removing the MAN’S testicles, we’re asking a professional to remove our pet’s testicles for the reasons stated above. Further it’s not “cruel” of us to “deny” him the experience of a sexual encounter or the experience of being a father. Again, he’s a DOG!! He still has his penis and as far as we can tell, it works despite the neutering! Furthermore, having done our research, we know that this particular breed (bulldogs) don’t innately pursue procreation. Most female bulldogs needs to be artificially inseminated because it’s not part of their DNA to go around shacking up with every dog they see!

My dear husband is a smart guy and with proper research and argument, if someone’s right, someone’s right. In this case, I was right and once we had this important discussion, not only was he convinced it was the right thing to do with Obi, but he defended (and continues to defend) this decision to every person who has something negative to say about it.

But frankly, I’m SO SICK of the weird looks, shocked questions and concerned expressions some Chileans continue to give me. Today in the elevator my neighbor made a comment about how “particular” Obi was being because he was barking at her. I told her he had just had surgery. When she and her son asked why, I debated on what to say … finally I just said “I had him castrated.” Their looks were priceless. I’m sure that they had a field day forming a very vivid picture of what my family life with G was like … I was very proud of myself for causing such shock to my fellow (narrow-minded) neighbors but quickly found myself EXPLAINING why I had done it (basically “blamed” it on cultural differences and that where I was from, fixing a dog was considered normal.) In any case, they continue to think I’m a weirdo and I’m sure I didn’t help in easing their opinion that my dog is “weird” too.

Just for the record, my fellow Chileans who think this is such a horrible thing to do to a dog, Obi’s a-ok. In fact, the only thing that has him feeling less than stellar is the pain medication. We quickly discontinued it, of course and now he’s on his favorite rice and chicken diet.

Of course, immediately AFTER the surgery he looked like this:

In his e-cone and doped on his recent dose of anesthesia, he looks like a pot head, druggie dog! He was super uncomfortable and couldn’t find any way to sit … but he’s since then conquered the situation and he’s looking more like this:

He’s laying low, not really going outside and chilling with me and G in-house. AND he’s not even noticing the operated area … some websites indicated that he might lick or scratch the site, but he hasn’t and he doesn’t seem to be feeling any kind of pain. He’s running and jumping and eating (now that he’s off the pain meds).

G and I are happy with our decision and we know that in the long run, our little guy will lead a healthier, happier life as our dear family pet. Yeah, I’m still super annoyed with the majority reaction here but it doesn’t make what we did less appropriate. We’re being responsible and we’re assuring our dog’s happy life from now on.

The question is: are you doing the same for your pet?

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"Clueless" and its effect on my communication skills

I’m about to go off on a tangent with this blog entry and whenever I’m inclined to feel bad about not discussing topics pertaining to Chile, I’m quick to forgive myself as I’d like to draw the reader’s attention to the “Welcome” section of my page. I pretty much included a clause that allows me to write about irrelevant topics. Therefore, I feel satisfied in having warned the reader and ready to dive into my tangent. [Will that disclaimer look good on court transcripts?]

Watching the movie “Clueless” really makes me miss a moment in time when my friends and I basically adopted the language of the movie and injected it into our everyday dialogue, whenever we could and with whomever we could. The movie came out in 1995, when my friends and I were either juniors or seniors in high school (I myself was a senior and incidentally, I went to high school with the lead actress in the movie, Alicia Silverstone) but I don’t recall quoting it to a pulp until about 3-5 years after its release. The screenplay was written by Amy Heckerling (of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” fame), a woman who has a pretty outstanding talent for writing about young adults. I say this because, in my opinion, a marker of said talent is when your writing jumps off the screen and into everyday life as was the case with me and my group of friends AND with subsequent women I met in walks of life thereafter.

All right, so what’s my point here? Basically a simple walk down memory lane: recalling certain lines of the movie and when we applied them to our everyday lives. A simple trip that I’ll enjoy taking you, the reader, on with me.

The most obvious one being the use of the word “Whatever.” We all remember Ambular doing her little whatever sign during her debate with Cher (which I’ll get to in a second, by the way.) If not, here’s a looksie for reference:

Maybe “whatever” was something kids said in the 70s and 80s but if that’s the case, I’m willing to argue that the tone of the word was much more “I’m high” rather than “I’m super annoyed with you.” I picked it up in the 90s with the latter pitch and of course, it took us by storm and every other word out of our mouths was “whatever.” Oh, you don’t have nonfat milk? Whatever. You’re charging me for returning the movie I rented five minutes after it was due? Whatever. My car ran out of gas and I am now in a ditch at the side of the road? Whatever. Though now my “Whatever” has since evolved into a tone that sounds more like “I’m bored” or “you bore me” more than it does annoyance as it did in the original debut. Hmmm, incidentally I wonder if this sounds similar to the “I’m high” Whatever from the 70s…

Moving on.

The debate between Amber and Cher during (duh) Debate Class is a really key piece when analyzing the way this movie altered my communication with peers and the world around me. In this scene, the debate is about allowing Haitians to find refuge in the U.S. and what that would mean to America’s resources. When Amber’s character can’t figure out what the hell Cher said in her debate, the following dialogue develops in response to her teacher, Mr. Hall’s, request for a rebuttal.

Mr. Hall: …. Uh, Amber, reply?
Amber: Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party.
Cher: Hellooooo?! It was his fiftieth birthday!
Amber: [while doing “W” hand motion] Whatever!…. If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine.

Working a little out of order, I’d like to share that I use this version of “hello” on a regular, if not daily, basis. It either means “Helllooooo (you’re a total moron)” or it means “Hellooooo (I know you and I love you but you’re having a complete and total brain fart right now and I need to draw your attention to it before this conversation goes any further.)” This movie’s debate scene really does contain some gems (or so we thought when we adopted their language.)
Now, with – Mr. Hall, how can I answer that? The topic is Haiti and she’s talking about some little party – the possibilities are limitless, really. Say someone asks you a question that’s loaded, or asks you a question that has 20 possible answers … this quote totally applies. In fact, I used this just the other day when I was telling a friend of mine that someone had asked me when I thought I’d be ready to have kids. Seriously, Mr. Hall, how CAN I answer that? Who the hell knows?? Is anyone really, truly ready to have kids?
I use – If she doesn’t do the assignment, I can’t do mine. – when someone doesn’t come through on what was promised. For instance,I was promised that we’d get the mock ups of our wedding THANK YOU cards by last week and I certainly did not get them…therefore I’m delayed in sending them out to our guests and those who got us wedding gifts. Do you see how this accurately applies to such a situation? It can also apply when someone doesn’t verbally give you the correct facts for any given situation, such as driving directions, steps through bureaucracy and so on.

There’s also:

“I have insight, Mr. Hall” – Travis Birkenstock says this in reply to Mr. Hall’s question on “futher insight.” I use it whenever I have a piece of information to share or when someone has asked my opinion on something.

“Suddenly a dark cloud settled over first period …”
– Cher says this when she discovers she got a C in Debate … I say this whenever things have taken a turn for the worse or when something unexpected happens. For instance, putting on a shirt only to later realize that it was dirty from the start! (Always an annoying realization and worthy of stating that a dark cloud has settled over first period.)

“Fluke accident during a routine liposuction” – Cher states this when describing how her mother passed away. I say “fluke accident” whenever I’ve f*cked up in a ridiculous manner.

“I so need lessons from you on being cool…tell me that part about Kenny G again.”
– Cher says this while making fun of her former stepbrother/future boyfriend. I say this whenever someone is trying to be better than me but failing miserably. As is the case with women who have mullet haircuts. I digress.

“Here’s the 4-1-1” – Dionne says this to Cher when giving her the scoop on their teacher, Mr. Hall. 4-1-1 is the three-digit phone number you dial in the U.S. for “Information” on phone numbers, addresses and other details about businesses. One calls “Information” when they want to know the number to the Italian Restaurant in ABC City. Therefore the use of “4-1-1” in daily life is pretty self explanatory.

“He earns minor duckets at a thankless job.” – Dionne says this to Cher about Mr. Hall. Since my friends and I started using these phrases right about when we graduated from college, it was pretty applicable to our own situations at the time, earning minor duckets at thankless jobs.

“I was surfing the crimson wave. I had to haul ass to the ladies’.” – Cher says this to Mr. Hall in defense of an alleged tardy to class. I use “I had to haul ass to the ladies'” generally speaking when I have to get somewhere STAT. Anywhere, mind you. Not just the bathroom. And just to clarify, the crimson wave has NOTHING to do with my use of the quote. Just so that’s clear.

“That doesn’t make any sense. I’d have to get off the freeway, I hate that.” – Elton says this to Cher when arguing about who will take who home after the Val party. I say “I hate that” when … I highly dislike or hate something. True, the three words are generic, but in my mind, TRUST ME, I’m giving mad props (or snaps as we’re talking about Clueless here) to the movie.

“I-a not a Mexican!” – Cher’s housekeeper yells this at her when Cher tells her that she doesn’t speak “Mexican” (as opposed to Spanish.) Since the housekeeper is from El Salvador, obviously she flips out. I just used to say this all the time because several times I was met with blank stares when I told people I was from Chile. It was as if being Latin was equal to being Mexican. In fact, my friends used to say this to me all the time, thinking they were being funny.

“That was way harsh, Tai.”
– Cher says this to her new friend, Tai, when Tai says something really mean to her. It’s applicable in real life in similar situations. Not that it necessarily needs to be used when a PERSON is mean, but in general when any given situation is plain whack. It can be shortened to “way harsh Tai.” A crowd favorite.

It’s crazy to think how certain movies affect individuals. I wonder how many movies have affected entire generations! But I don’t think it’s unheard of. I am willing to bet that everyone has a movie or two that really speaks his/her language. Or whose language they understand so well, said language is adopted. This was the case for me with Clueless… though some phrases I’ve dropped, there are many I continue to use. Further, there were terms in the movie I outright refused to adopt as well! “Betty,” or “I’m outtie (perhaps Audi like the car, who knows!) and “As if,” among others.

Had I studied linguistics as opposed to Communications in college, this would have been a really interesting thesis … but I digress. I have to haul ass to the ladies.

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I’m officially sucked into World Cup fever

Why in sam hell is soccer not more popular in the U.S.? What’s the matter with us? We’re the only country that doesn’t use the metric system (though we tried) and we’re the only country that doesn’t really, truly care about soccer.

Let me rephrase. We care about soccer for our kids. We like them to partake in AYSO and all the yuppie moms feel like they’re cool and different for having their girls playing soccer alongside the boys. That much I get, and coming from that world, that much I can obviously relate to.

It’s true that we’re a product of our environment and with that being the case, when I lived in California I was totally in tune with the Super Bowl and the World Series. After all, even for those of us who didn’t follow football and baseball during their respective regular seasons, the two championship series were reason enough to paaaartay Lindsay Lohan style. With that, what’s not to love about sports in the US?

Truth be told, I do know a thing or two about baseball and had been known to watch entire games all on my own. I can thank an ex-boyfriend who was an obsessive baseball fan for that. But I could never get into football, even though I also ended up having a (different) boyfriend who was ALL about the dumb sport. Frankly, I could never be bothered. It seems so mundane, awkward and … what’s the word I’m looking for … Neanderthal (ish). Clearly not for me.

Now that I live in Chile, I’m taking note of this fabulous little game called soccer (or “futbol” as it’s known everywhere but in the U.S. – go figure.) I don’t know much about the sport, really. I know the basics: one team tries to kick the ball into the goal which is protected by the goalie from the other team. You can’t use your hands, there’s 11 players on the field and halfway through, each team switches sides. Those of you who are experts out there, feel free to correct me and add more insight to my thwarted soccer knowledge.

The real reason I am taking note is because the World Cup starts tomorrow… and starting right now, tonight, the night before, I’m ALL OF A SUDDEN SUPER STOKED on this! Who am I? It’s contagious, what else can I say? First of all, more than half of my social media peeps are talking about it nonstop – how can I ignore that? Second of all, Chile apparently has a really, really good team. At least for Chilean standards and considering the history of Chilean World Cup teams. I hear that much of this is thanks to the new coach, which brings me to the next reason I’m particularly keen to the World Cup lately… my brother-in-law works for Bielsa, the Chilean World Cup soccer team’s coach and I just think it’s SUPER cool to watch the news and catch glimpses of him on tv!

And let’s not disregard the media. HOLY sh*tballs the media is having a field day with the World Cup. Each and every television network has a team in South Africa and they do “special reports” everyday about everything under the sun related to South Africa and/or soccer. We’re spewing World Cup out of our noses and South Africa out of our rear ends. And the department stores are having a ball with advertisements that speak to the consumer who just “can’t possibly watch the games on a small-screen tv.” It will be interesting to know just how many tv’s have been sold since World Cup fever began …

Finally, speaking of frenzy and contagion, even the government is helping out! Chilean Labor Minister has said that her Ministry would like employers and employees to reach an agreement so everybody can enjoy the matches of the Chilean team. Is that insane, or what? Trust me, this is NEVER the case in the US with the Super Bowl or the World Series. The rationale behind this request is that workers will be more motivated to work if they are allowed to watch their national team in the most important championship of the sport. The end result? A motivated employee is a productive employee. But it’s not just the professional world! The Chilean Education Ministry has authorized elementary schools and high schools to allow their students to watch the matches during school hours. To the point that they even suggested starting the school day at 7:15 am. Wha-wha-what? Higher education isn’t about to be left behind either… Most universities have placed big screen tv’s throughout campuses so that students can watch the matches. In some universities they even agreed to change class TIMES so that everyone could watch the games!

If this is what’s going on with “regular” games, I can’t even imagine what Chile will come to if La Roja (what Chileans affectionately call the Chilean soccer team) makes it to the second round!

I’m imagining a “Turn around and go back. We’re closed until further notice” sign at the airport and borders for all new arrivals.

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Patience in the land of the impatient

I know I’m going to age myself here yet again, but there’s a commercial I remember from 1987 (when I was 10, mind you) for Heinz Ketchup (note that in searching for this video I just now realized that that the actor in it is Matt LeBlanc. Who knew?)

Don’t ask me why, but from the first time I ever saw this commercial, I took note of the message and have constantly reminded myself of this tried and true cliche over and over again. Seems rather heavy that a 10-year old would take to heart such a sophisticated message and further, that said 10-year old was able to see past its use in a commercial advertising the thickness of ketchup. I can’t say that many things (experiences or people) have truly shaped my life, but believe it or not, as weird as it sounds, this commercial really did shape my ideology, at least in some aspects, and sort of gave me this comforting philosophy I could grab on to whenever I was feeling anxious or desperate for something to happen NOW.

So you can just imagine what it feels like for me to live in a country where it would seem that the general population lives their life going against the grain of this message.

For instance, the manner in which most Chileans drive. I’ve seen it all, really. Running red lights, swerving around pedestrians crossing the street – so close that the car actually rubs against them, needing to make a right hand turn at the next light but too impatient to wait their turn so they get into the left hand lane to zoom past the line of waiting cars, only to block traffic as they try to turn right FROM THE LEFT HAND LANE. All this sh*t annoys me and I fight with people constantly (from the safety of my car with windows rolled up, naturally). But one of the things that bothers me the most (aside from the 92% of Chileans thinking that turning on their hazard lights all of a sudden gives them the right to stop ANYWHERE on the road), is to see a car that is driving behind me at a comfortable pace, suddenly speed up to go around me only to fit him/herself SNUGLY in front of me and continue driving. WTF? I seriously wish I could ask the person what the motivation is behind doing something so.lame. He didn’t gain any distance on me, nor did he find himself with tons of road in front of him giving him a chance to gun it down the road. All I can conclude is that, to him, it’s all about doing things quickly, getting sh*t done, no matter how he goes about it. Therefore, shaving the four seconds he gained by going around me, makes him feel like king of the world. If he’s in such a hurry, how ’bout leaving the house earlier, buddy? Novel thought. So as you can imagine, I end up driving behind this dumb a** a pretty long while… until he decides he needs to make a right hand turn so he gets into the left hand lane in order to get there sooner.

Also, there’s the quick fixes applied to any and all things. If something breaks around the house, a heater, a lamp, the tv – what have you, the first part of the solution doesn’t involve taking it in for repair, or even considering buying a new item. The first option, because it’s the quickest, is to try to fix it yourself. Duct tape here, a nail and hammer there, a little rewiring here and pretty soon the thing is “as good as new.” Of course this comes with a price, such as only being able to plug it in to the wall from the outlet in the bathroom (“the electrical current in there is lighter” – probably from a fix-it job on the light fixture back in the day), or the having to watch tv at an angle or something because the pressure to left helps align the collapsed tube inside. The same item will probably go through about two to three rounds of home fixes before its decided that it was too old anyway and that a new one is in order. In my world, the moral of this story is that sacrificing a little time at home without the broken item and allowing someone more qualified to actually take a looskie and fix it, would probably have resulted in quicker turn-around AND money saved. But, that’s just me.

Yesterday after class, when I arrived at my parked car in the school’s parking lot, I realized that the person who parked next to me had parked at an angle, completely blocking my entrance into the car. You know, so that I had to open the passenger door and climb in that way. No, he/she hadn’t scraped my car or even remotely touched it, but in a technique I’ll never truly grasp, he/she managed to park the dumb car about an inch away from mine. I’m not even going to try and assemble the math involved with accomplishing such a feat, but it REALLY.PISSED.ME.OFF. But let me tell you why … this person, like me, had class on Tuesday mornings, maybe even had class all day long. Like me, this person had to get up super early, fight traffic, fight the crazies who make right hand turns from the left hand lane, dodge pedestrians, go around the hazard-light-using lame-O’s who stop in the middle of a busy intersection, and all the countless things that make driving in Chile hazardous to one’s health. So what gives? Running late I guess and in running late, arriving to find that the parking lot closest to campus is full, except for this one, teeny, tiny, cramped spot next to my car. ANY NORMAL person who wouldn’t mind parking just a little further away would rationalize that in parking their car in this teeny, tiny spot, the person next to them (me, in this case) wouldn’t be able to get out. Of course we now know that this f*cktard didn’t rationalize and parked there anyway. I can forgive that he/she might have overslept and because of this was running late. I can understand that he/she might have been faced with a nana who also arrived late at home and couldn’t leave the baby alone until she arrived. I can relate to a car that didn’t start until about the 5th attempt. WHAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND and what I CAN’T FORGIVE is the imprudence and stupidity that erupts from being impatient! Because this person was late and couldn’t be bothered with taking an additional 30 seconds to park just a little farther where there were more spots available, he/she decided to remain close, park in the glove-compartment of a spot which left me crawling through my car to reach the driver’s seat. God forbid he/she actually walked through the scenario.

Naturally, I left them a note on the windshield. It read:

“Hey Partner,
Did you bother to see how you parked? You left me with no room to get into my car and I have to now crawl in through the passenger side. What’s the matter with you? Where did you learn to drive? Iraq?
You’re about as ridiculous as they come.”

Here’s what went through my mind right before writing this note. “It’s almost 2 pm. I’m really hungry. The drive to my house will take about 40 minutes and I have to go to the ATM first. I should hurry up because I need to get to work AND I need to take my dog out. Plus I have a test on Tuesday and I’m so behind on reading. I should really get going.”
However, I decided to take the two minutes it took me to open my notebook, find a blank sheet, whip out the writing instrument, write this note in ALL ITS GLORY, rip the sheet out and place it on his/her windshield; put everything away, close my school bag, walk around the car, crawl into my seat and drive off.

Smug? Yes. Unnecessary? Maybe. Satisfying? Hell yeah.

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Constant highs

There are a few things in life that give me that all time, happy, elated feeling. The “I’m-so-hiiiiigh” happy feeling that can only be equated to that moment when a long, hard, belly laugh suddenly becomes just a small chuckle that escapes once every 30 seconds.

This weekend I’ve been reacquainted with a few of those things, moments, tastes. Things like playing “Clue” (the boardgame) and slipping the cards that determine “whodunnit” into the little yellow manila envelope marked “Confidential.” There’s a technique to doing that, you know. It involves putting your entire hand over the card being inserted and dragging it face-down along the table so no one else even THINKS about peeking, then, inserting it into the envelope and hiding the envelope beneath something else. I love that sense of anxiety as you start eliminating the elements of the whodunnit as each person started to share their hand (of cards). Clue is an oldie but goodie and though it wouldn’t dawn on most of us to whip a board game out to play, I did so this weekend, and suddenly remembered how awesome it was to just sit around and play a game with people. This is what the original board game looked like when I used to play. The image alone brings back great memories. I was always, and continue to be, Mrs. White.

Another thing that I recalled this weekend is how much I enjoyed going to the mountains and being in the snow. Now, mind you, by NO MEANS am I a snow bunny in any way, shape or form and I can hardly ski and am a joke on a snowboard. Regardless, having lived in California, I made the trek to Lake Tahoe on MANY occasions and I always had a fantastic time. There’s an electric energy in the snow that only multiplies when you’re surrounded by like-minded people who enjoy getting “out there” and doing their thing. While I still have high hopes to make it past the bunny slopes on a snowboard, I’m certainly not there yet, and I’m COMPLETELY and TOTALLY motivated to continue to make the best of my life here in Chile and that means, in my mind, taking advantage of the Andes mountains and the snow life it can provide! With that, I’ve succeeded in motivating G’s kids to go and try either skiing or snowboarding (their leaning towards snowboarding – good kids!) and even G himself is loving the idea of a family-style vacay to the snow. I used to just sit at the lodge (or at home) and drink warm drinks, bake sweet things and watch 80s movies – all of which just the memories alone make me happy… and I’m not about to let that one go. In fact, I’m going to take it up a notch and I’m going to learn to snowboard well enough to graduate to the next level. The all-around goodness that brims inside me being on the snow, with the sun shining overhead, is priceless and hardly comparable to anything else.

Then there’s just your basic, all-around, brilliant comedian. When was the last time you just sat and watched a comedian do his/her thing? In fact, who’s “in” when it comes to comedians now a days? (I’ve always thought this was a hard gig!) Whoever it is, old or new, this weekend I once again became reacquainted with a routine by Eddie Izzard and his take on the “Death Star” (i.e. Star Wars) and what the everyday in’s and out’s where like on there. The routine is brilliant enough, especially for someone like me who quite enjoys all things Star Wars (hello, my bulldog’s name is Obi-wan Kenobi). But when someone (who knows now who!) sent me this routine with a homemade Star Wars Lego video animated to it, I just about died and went to heaven. If you haven’t seen it, prepare to have your life changed. If you have, prepare to remember that moment in time when your life changed. Let’s all take a minute for that.

“This is not a game of who the f*ck are you.”

Eddie Izzard and your “Death Star Canteen” … all I can say is, I’m eternally indebted to you. No matter what, you bring that high roaring back time and time again.

Finally, sweet, chocolate-covered, awkward David Sedaris. Have you read his books? If not, I’ll slap you silly until you run out and buy any one of his many published works. In fact, if you live close enough to me, I’ll even lend it to you. That’s how much I feel this person needs to affect your life in some way. Forget Elizabeth Gilbert and her IMMENSELY unrelatable memoir “Eat, Pray, Love” (seriously who has the time or money to get up and leave their life in order to travel to Italy, India and Bali?? Puh-lease.) David Sedaris is priceless and he writes to you in a manner that’s equatable to a friend sitting across from you at the kitchen table. I’ll humor you with some excerpts that might tweak your curiosity. If they don’t, and you don’t find yourself typing in the words of ‘amazon’ on a computer keyboard, something’s wrong with your brain.

Taken from “Me Talk Pretty One Day”:
“Over the coming years I would find a crack in each of the therapists sent to train what Miss Samson now defined as my lazy tongue. “That’s its problem,” she said. “It’s just plain lazy.”

My sisters Amy and Gretchen were, at the time, undergoing therapy for their lazy eyes, while my older sister, Lisa, had been born with a lazy leg that had refused to grow at the same rate as its twin. She’d worn a corrective brace for the first two years of her life, and wherever she roamed she left a trail of scratch marks in the soft pine floor. I liked the idea that a part of one’s body might be thought of as lazy — not thoughtless or hostile, just unwilling to extend itself for the betterment of the team. My father often accused my mother of having a lazy mind, while she in turn accused him of having a lazy index finger, unable to dial the phone when he knew damn well he was going to be late.”

From “Dress Your Family in Courdory and Denim”:
“Out in the hallway I could hear my mother straining for something to talk about. “A boat!” she said. “That sounds marvelous. Can you just drive it right into the water?”

“Actually, we have a trailer,” Mr. Tomkey said. “So what we do is back it into the lake.”

“Oh, a trailer. What kind is it?”

“Well, it’s a boat trailer,” Mr. Tomkey said.

“Right, but is it wooden or, you know . . . I guess what I’m asking is what style trailer do you have?”

Behind my mother’s words were two messages. The first and most obvious was “Yes, I am talking about boat trailers, but also I am dying.” The second, meant only for my sisters and me, was “If you do not immediately step forward with that candy, you will never again experience freedom, happiness, or the possibility of my warm embrace.”

By the way, not that it had anything to do with this past weekend, but speaking of David Sedaris, if you happen to be a fan, I highly suggest his wicked, twisted sister Amy Sedaris. She’s probably known by the mainstream as one of Carrie Bradshaw’s book publishers in SATC (alongside Molly Shannon), but really, I believe her claim to fame is the all-too-genius “Strangers With Candy,” which ran on Comedy Central for three seasons in the late 90s. Basically, each show is a parody on an after school special told from the perspective of a middle aged high school student who used to be a crack whore. I mean, how do all those elements NOT spell success??

I don’t know. I feel like I’ve given you some really valuable gems here, dear blog readers. I can’t tell you how happy all of these things in life make me and more so when I can share each and every one with others.

So go ahead, take a gander at all of the above. Go skiing, make snow angels, watch “Strangers With Candy” then read a book by David Sedaris and make your own conclusions as to why that family so JUST.SO.WEIRD. After that, take a look back at your favorite comedy routines and watch them while playing a good board game brought to you by the former Parker Brothers.

Down a little vino, do a little dance, make a little love and get down tonight.

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The good Chile

The other day, I received a pep talk from two sources: my dear husband and a friend here in Chile. Both made their points well and I heart them both for taking the time to break it down for me. Without getting into specifics, both gave me some perspective on different things I was worrying and/or complaining about and basically allowing said worry to surrender me into the ‘woe-is-me’ mentality.

It’s not my intention to constantly throw myself a pity party at every last thing that goes wrong in my life because in comparison to a large percentage of the world, I have many things to be grateful for in life. I’m not going to list them since that’s what my Thanksgiving post was about. Instead, I’ve decided to showcase the things that make Chile a pretty cool country. After all, it’s not like I’m living in Afghanistan or in some obscure country village of China (though I’m sure both have their charms). Believe it or not, there ARE things I do like about Chile and some things that used to bother me now have become part of my norm (i.e. weighing the vegetables in the supermarket BEFORE arriving at the check out stand).

In fact, here’s a short list for you to ponder and do what you will with:

Chilean seafood: Call me crazy but Chile has got some of THE BEST seafood I’ve ever eaten. It’s fresh, it’s tasty and it doesn’t matter if you go to an expensive restaurant or a “picada” (some hole-in-the-wall restaurant), the seafood is fresh and tasty almost all of the time. My favorites are ceviche, reineta, machas a la parmeseana and …

locos (Chilean abalone) with mayonnaise

and Centolla (King Crab)

Chilean wine
: When I was single, living alone in my tiny (but cute!) apartment in Northern California, I never purchased CA wine … reason being is that I like white wines as opposed to reds and in CA, only the Chardonnays (not a fan) and Zinfandels are worth the buck (in my humble opinion). As such, I purchased a lot of wine from Australia and New Zealand. Why? They made better Sauvignon Blanc – within my price range of $8 – $12USD and available at the local Trader Joe’s. In Chile all that changed … for someone who loves Sauvignon Blanc as I do, Chile is a wine-lover’s heaven! Some of my favorites include Casas del Bosque Reserva (where we got married!)

Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc (the wine of choice on the catamaran in Mexico when G proposed) and Santa Ema’s Merlot Reserva. Granted this last one isn’t a white but my WORD is it a tasty piece of processed grape! The first two are definitely available in the U.S. from what I hear and so I highly recommend them!

There are of course all the destinations and the amazing geography (Atacama Desert, the Lake Region and Patagonia to name a few). None of which I’ve visited but have heard amazing things about all and more! But the great thing is that there’s pretty much something for everyone in Chile with regards to leisure. Granted, I’d argue that we don’t really have amazing beaches here but then again, I’m from San Francisco where the beaches were also non-existent and cold.

I also like the tomatoes here. I wasn’t such a huge fan of tomatoes when I lived back home, but would dabble in them with the occasional lettuce here and there. Since I’ve moved to Chile this has completely changed! I eat tomatoes, literally, on a daily basis. They’re sweet and have a very distinct tomato smell and taste. Never grainy and always juicy (but not too ripe.) Just perfect. Ahhh, the perfect tomato!

In general, people here are friendly, even if (in my opinion and for what THAT’S worth) there’s too much predictability among the GENERAL public. But even this lends itself to a pleasant surprise when you do meet people that are more out-of-the-box than the norm, such is the case with many of the people with whom I attend school. I was relieved to speak with women who were career focused, not family focused (yet) and who are all pretty much close to my age. I continue to find similar things in common with people there and it truly does give a feeling of not being alone in this big, bad, less developed world. Also, the people are more “en confianza” (trusting, comfortable in knowing you) and when you do spark a conversation with them more than once, eventually they’ll open up a much deeper side of their lives than their counterparts would in the U.S. Sure it might seem inappropriate at times, but mostly it’s engaging. After all, if some little old lady is telling me that romaine lettuce gives her awful gas, I can’t help but laugh!

Also, people here just like to hang out and talk about whatever. There need not be an agenda on topics, they’ll talk to you about the stop light and how it hasn’t worked in three weeks. Some of these people like to ask about your entire lineage – how are they? Did your aunt get over that hip issue? did the dog recover? Can you believe she’s pregnant? And so on. You gotta love the openness in sharing everything AND the constant desire to interact.

And the little old ladies here are a hoot for the most part. No, they shouldn’t be driving, but then again they shouldn’t be driving anywhere … but her old school views on the world, her knit sweaters and the way she truly believes that her dog (a poodle, naturally) will get “jealous” if she is seen petting another dog (ie Obi) is really endearing. Plus, you gotta love the fact that they wear “medias” (stockings) even on warm days.

Chile is actually really modern and considering how small it is, I find it to be quite globalized. I’ve noticed that there’s all kind of restaurants out there and even all kinds of ingredients to make the most far out recipes you can think of… or that might just be my experience since I’m not that daring in the kitchen in the first place. And modern – the fact that one can get on the bus and metro by simply placing a card against a sensor that “beeps” and deducts your money, to me, is brilliant. Considering that Caltrain and Muni back home are still working off a system that was surely invented in the 80s. Meaning, I still have to count change in order to pay for tickets on both. The retailers issue credit cards, with VISA logos, on the spot. There’s no waiting for the bank to send it to you in the mail in 5-7 business days. And when you pay at a restaurant, they don’t take your credit card to the machine to swipe and then bring back your receipt… no no… they use these nifty machines which they bring right to your table

Where you can add tip, confirm the amount and wa-la! Receipt prints out and you’re good to go! Maybe this exists in the US already … but I’ve never seen it so I think it’s brilliant of Chile. Granted, the reason this is done is safety. It wasn’t and isn’t considered ‘safe’ to let your cards out of your sight. Where once it was offered as more of an added-value, I think later it turned into the norm it is now.

And finally, I’ll add that one more good thing about Chile is how the little carts at the airport are free. In the US, you have to pay $5 bucks for them! What a rip off!!

So there you have it, my short, though not all-inclusive, list of what makes Chile cool. There is more, of course, lots more. But I think the other stuff warrant exclusive posts.

But more importantly, what do you think? What makes Chile cool? Talk to me, goose.

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I’m all growns up

Being a grown up is hard. This coupled with the fact that I can no longer take comfort in the phrase, NOR THE MERE IDEA of, “When I grow up…”

Too late! Adulthood, here I am. I got here a while ago I guess but when you’re single it’s so much easier to pretend there’s a point in time somewhere in the future when you’re going to be all growns up. Looking back, when one is single, it’s really much easier to accept being down or having things go completely awry. You still have the future, some point in time when you’ll be married and run a home and have a dog, share debt with your sig other and hell, maybe even have offspring.

I look around and confirm that yes, I’m already there, minus the the kid part. So it makes it that much harder when things aren’t going well in a particular area in life because I tend to be pretty hard on myself and I wonder, “Where is the baller lifestyle I once dreamed I’d have?” This notion has nothing to do with not being grateful for what I have: my lovely husband, my wonderfully cozy apartment, my cute albeit high maintenance dog, my health, that of my family’s etc. These are all things I’m particularly happy to have going well. In fact, so much goes well, I often feel bad for wanting more in other areas.

I’m stuck somewhere in the middle of the life I willingly and wholeheartedly chose (here in Chile with all that it implies) and the life I thought I’d have given the people I know and where I grew up. Something is just not adding up.

I wanted to be a relatively young, hip mom. The kind who does yoga, cares about what she wears and always leaves the house with little heels on. The kind of tells her kid to question the status quo and who dresses her girls in black vs the typical boring pink so many moms choose. In my head this mom has most avenues of her life in line which is the main reason the kid exists in the first place. In my mind, this could have been me if only certain things would have worked out a little bit better than they have thus far …

The older I get, the more I fear that opportunities are farther from my reach. There’s challenges in both being old and young, but here in Chile the challenge is more with those of us who are old. Unfortunately here in Chile, my age is considered middle age… adult, old, kind of over, where you are is where you’ll be, kind of thing. There’s more to why I feel this way but those thoughts will remain offline … Unlike CA where this same age means prime time of life. It’s a little weird to adjust to that. Everyone I know socially in Chile is younger than me. My uncle always tells me that this is the best thing, associating one’s self with younger people as this too keeps one young. I definitely agree. But I look at them in wonder at how the pages of their lives aren’t yet written because they’re young. If they stay here, they have an advantage. If they leave, they have time to get their act together back in the US so as to be in tip top shape for their prime time 30s. What a win-win situation, I think.

On a nostalgic note, I used to want to be a writer. In fact it used to be one of my life’s goals, the idea of writing a novel. I used to really like to write and imagined I’d one day be the next Isabel Allende. Obviously that didn’t happen and the writing is now limited to this blog, which of course, is better than no writing. I once had this idea to write about an airport and everything that happens there. The different stories behind why each person is there. I thought it to be quite interesting since some people go to see their kid’s off to college; some go to see their lost love’s leave; some go because of work; some because they’re trying to find their path somewhere else. So many stories that I thought for sure it would make for a good novel. Then I thought it would be really cool to write about my family’s story with the idea being to go back about two generations. You might not believe the story of my family and all I can equate it to is Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits.”

I once thought I’d be a journalist too. This was the reason I studied Communications in the first place. Lo and behold I come to find out that such a degree means nothing here in Chile and it’s as if I merely graduated from high school. This is the main motivator behind deciding to go back to school again for a graduate degree. Maybe it would have been easier to have just kept on with the Journalism bit back in the day. Now of course, I’m too old.

I’m an adult and in Chile, I’m a middle aged adult. This is the hand I’ve dealt myself and I’m learning to adjust. I say this because in my head I feel like I’m still young and on top of the world. IN MY HEAD. Outside my head the reality is different.It would make it far easier for me to have certain things work out in a slightly more positive manner but I’ll remain hopeful that this will soon be the case. Absolutely nothing in Chile is easy and I was delusional for thinking it might be.

But don’t mind me … right now I’m just a little scared of having arrived at the Adult phase without all of my equipment.

Fast forward to minute 1:15. This sums it up.

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Date on, evil woman! Date on!

I know a lot of you have been wondering about a certain element in our lives – a plague, a tumor, a zit on the face of humanity …how’s it been since the wedding, you ask? Not that G shares any kind of insight on that dark side of existence but I’m happy to share something that’s becoming more and more evident as days pass:

It would seem b*tch face has a boyfriend.

Since this blog is relatively public and whatever I write can (and would) be used against me (or G) by said b*tch face, I’m going to have to leave it at that. If you know who I’m talking about and what it means for there to be a sad little man in her life right now, join me in a happy dance!

Happy, happy, joy, joy. Happy, happy, joy! Second verse, same as the first!

Oh but I do feel sorry for said sad little man, for he knows not what’s to come if he stays. Though, for our sake, I do hope she’s charming enough, for long enough, to nail him down. And I hope he’s stupid and tolerant enough to propose marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I wish them a lifetime of everlasting love but the reality is that SOMEONE’S true colors are going to come flying out. I just hope she keeps a lid on them long enough for them to make the thing LEGIT. I’m not gonna lie.

That’s my news – short, sweet and totally vague. Let’s pop some bubbly to that, mkay?

And happy dance!

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The recession’s a b*tch

Today it officially “went public” that my current employer laid off 40% of its workforce yesterday in an attempt to respond to the financial crisis surrounding most businesses in these times. In a sweeping motion, about 55 people lost their jobs … and I gotta say, it’s a sad, sad day for us all, even if these cuts don’t necessarily affect me.

I currently work for this company as an independent, so I’m not technically on their roster of employees and of course, I’m not included in the overhead of additional costs such as insurance, medical, etc. I began working for this company in January 2004 so I’ve seen it through it’s highs and lows and even barely survived previous lows when lay offs were necessary. All in all, I’ve been nothing but grateful for my chance to continue to work with them even from afar. I’ve commented on this a few times on my blog, actually.

It’s sad to watch this company go through another set of lows, this one by far the lowest valley it’s walked across since I’ve been involved with them. I know it’s not a matter of the company itself but more so, the company’s reaction to its environment. In fact, article after business article seem to echo the sentiment that things are going to get worse before they get better. There’s even an entire website dedicated to listing which companies have laid people off and how many were laid off. Check it out for some depressing statistics.

I remember my company’s highest high (that I’ve witnessed anyway) and it was in 2005 or 2006, I believe. We had just merged with another company and to commemorate that, a huge party was thrown for all of our partners during one of the biggest conventions our industry holds. To this day partners still talk about that party – the location (NYC), the food, the drinks – it was really memorable. Following that, we acquired one of the most popular brands to come out of Japan – EVER – and with that came a roller coaster ride of success. Those were good times. Because we had this NEW BRAND in our portfolio, we rubbed elbows with big wig companies in our field and were wined and dined by many just so that they could be a part of the NEW BRAND team. I look back with nostalgia because at that moment in time, it seemed we could accomplish anything (dare say, could we be the Disney of Japanese animation?) Our reality was big enough to hold our dreams.

2009 and 2010 have brought on a completely different reality that folds both the economic environment and the declining sales of our products into a burrito called LAY OFFs.

My company had a cool working environment because the people were from different walks and so many of them were these brilliant, creative minds. The people made the company brew with life. And I imagine that those who didn’t return to the office today are going to miss that the most. I know because I went through that too. Nostalgia kicks in, you feel medicated with it and for a second, you just remember all the good times, all the everyday crap you used to take for granted and even all the annoying walls you’d hit working with the bureaucracy that surrounded us. And even those who do return to the office today (aside from lucky them for having jobs) it’s a b*tch to return and see your colleagues gone. It kind of makes your heart sink, actually. Again, I know because I’ve been at both ends. I’ve had to walk away from the company, the comfort of the everyday gig, the joy of the weirdo people and I’ve also had to go into the office and look around me only to find empty seats of the former team members who once occupied them. There’s such a weird, emotional, sad and depressing feeling about layoffs and I think that it’s not about the money lost or the hassle of paperwork. If you’ve been there long enough, being removed for whatever reason, feels like being kicked out of your home. Or like someone broke up with you.

But I guess I’m looking at it through my experience and trying to understand the whole landscape of what just went down. I truly believe the people who run the company are good people and I am willing to bet that the decision to make such a drastic move didn’t come easy. For those who today are at home, searching employment websites, I offer this: the upgrade is inevitable. I hope that all those who are no longer with the company do find that moment when they look back and think “I’m glad that happened, otherwise I wouldn’t be here.” [wherever ‘here’ happens to be.]

And if I knew you, my personal sentiment to you is this: whatever comes next, will be amazing.
(Now, if you happen to be stoked on all that went down, then my message to you is: carry on. Drink a beer and be on your merry way!)

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