Religion

After going through the hoopla of wedding planning, and further, realizing what it means in Chilean society to get married in a Catholic Church, I really started to examine my faith. Does this sound weird? Hold on, give it a second. Let me elaborate.

I grew up Catholic and spent the first part of my school years attending Catholic School …and I LOVED IT. Seriously I have THE BEST memories from that time in my life. I attended a small, relatively unknown Catholic school called St. Monica’s in San Francisco and as far as I can tell, the uniforms and curriculum are still the same. The principal has changed (now it’s a man vs. a nun) but for the most part, things look pretty much as they did back in the early 80s when I attended. I remember the school yard and being separated from the boys until 6th grade when we were finally allowed to mingle together. I remember roll call in the morning in the school yard, each line according to class and each person according to last name. The Student Body President (an 8th grader naturally) would read the announcements and lead the school in a prayer and Salute to the flag. All this after declaring: “Attention” (when we’d all drop our school bags to our feet); “Arms Distance” (where we’d each put our right hand on the right shoulder of the person in front of us – you know, so as to be at arm’s distance), followed by something else that I can’t quite remember right now but it led into a prayer and then the salute. Good times!! I love structure, even to this day! I remember all the fun stuff, even Choir rehearsal and attending Church. I loved singing and even being called to read a passage from the Bible at the podium. The music and choir teacher was a nun who was evil as sin and mean like the Grinch … we all hated and feared her – Sister Miriam Jean … it was awesome! Further, I remember having to stand up next to my desk, alongside all my classmates and address each person who entered the class “Good afternoon Sister Margareta Marie, Thank you Sister Margareta Marie.” Ahhhh … classic. In 5th grade we had a teacher (a nun) who made us stop and pray each time we heard a siren on the street and given that the school is located on Geary, one of the busiest streets in San Francisco, you can imagine the disruption each and every day. Finally, sex ed, which started in 6th grade, was referred to as “Family Life.”

From the outside looking in, I know all this sounds crazy … too structured and archaic even. But I had a blast and thankfully, also received a really solid education due to the structure imposed on us by the nuns. When I first began attending public school in 8th grade, I was floored at how many people couldn’t spell basic things! All in all, a very positive experience for me, that Catholic school.

So why is it that now I feel the farthest from the Catholic church?

In fact, I’ve seriously started considering Judaism as a source of faith that I can actually believe in. Yeah, Charlotte York style but minus the Jewish husband.

I can’t say for sure that this is where I’m headed because like all things in my life, all major decisions, I need to research until their are no more texts left on the Internet to research. I want to know from A-to-Z what the Jews believe, what their customs are, how that differs from what I’ve known and what that may mean to my future kids. The sad part is that I’ve very casually looked online to see what’s out there in Chile …. and I’m not even sure there’s a temple here!! How is there no Rabbi in this country?? How can there be so few Jews that no one has insight??

The point of all this is that I’ve lost a lot of my faith. Though I’m at the beginning of a quest to change that because I feel that there is something more to life than just us humans. I believe in God and I believe in a greater power. Where I focus this belief is still an unknown to me. But despite all that, because I was taught from a very young age that faith and spirituality enrich your life, I truly believe this to be the case. And this is why I’m determined to find out exactly what it is I believe in. I can’t imagine my life being complete without something to believe in, something to comfort me and something to guide me. But hey, that’s just me.

In the meantime, I still think it’s really weird that G’s kids gloat about going to Church every other Sunday (when they’re not with us) and that they randomly bust out in Catholic songs while doing the most ordinary of things. The me now thinks it’s really, really weird and all I can think is “Dear God don’t let my kids be one of them” … even though I know that *I* was one of them back in the day!!

I just want something to believe in that makes sense to me. Something that I can encourage my kids to believe and participate in as well.

Incidentally this by NO MEANS includes Mormonism. Those who know me know what I have to say about that … but I digress. Though I do invite you to laugh a little …

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You mess with my dog, you mess with me

See this face?



Believe it or not, more often than not, people in this twisted country are SCARED OF IT. And I have to say that I’m getting pretty fed up with the whole notion of it.

When G and I take him downstairs in the elevator so that he can run around outside in the grass, we’ve experienced everything from kids screaming in fear, to women backing up in the corner so as not to touch him, to people literally looking into the elevator when it stops on their floor on our way down and saying “We’ll catch the next one.”

Does he bite? Absolutely and definitely NOT. Does he jump up and get excited around people and other dogs? Yes, very much so. But then again, he’s FIVE MONTHS OLD. He’s learning that jumping up is bad and he’s also learning that pulling on his leash to get closer to a person so that they can pet him (in his mind obviously that’s what they want to do) doesn’t get him any closer to the person. In fact, when before he used to pull and pull and pull, now he pulls and sits when he realizes he’s not advancing. He weighs 25 pounds, yes he’s a big dog but if one more person looks at him and says “Wow, he’s big. He’s going to grow even more?” I’ll seriously punch them in the face. The story is getting old, people. Can your square minds conjure up something a little more creative?

One thing I was stoked on when we decided to get a dog was that in SOME WAYS, Chile is pretty pet friendly. Upon further inspection I realized that this only applies to two things: 1) pretty much everyone has a dog and 2) there are a whole lot of vet options. Other than that, I feel I was led astray under a false pretense. Chile is NOT the dog friendly place I once thought it was, considering that you can’t really take your canine anywhere that’s not a park or a street. You can imagine how I felt in New York where dogs, in comparison, seem to wander free, checking out the spots and drinking mocha frapuccinos with skim milk (not lowfat because that’s a West Coast expression) next to their owners.

I’ve taken to completely ignoring my neighbors when I’m downstairs or outside with Obi. They can’t be bothered with him and therefore I can’t be bothered with them. G and I are already foreseeing that people who live in the building are going to complain and what they’ll mostly complain about is their fear of the aggression they anticipate Obi will have when fully grown. They believe this because he jumps around when he sees other people and pulls and pulls to get near them. Um… cut to the point when (and if) the person allows Obi to get close and he puts his face on the floor so that they can pet him. Yeah – super scary, square heads!

But the biggest indicator of his personality now and in the future is how he acts with G’s kids. Again, when they walk through the door, Obi is jumping around FREAKING OUT happy to see them. After a while, he’s over them and carrying on with whatever his business happens to be. The kids pet him, play with him, brush him, love him, HUG him, get on the floor with him and as far as I can tell, the kids go home to their mom after the weekend in ONE PIECE.

The problem isn’t Obi, it’s Chilean custom and society. Bulldogs aren’t the norm anywhere but LEAST OF ALL here in Chile. It’s beyond these people who dislike him for no reason that Bulldogs EVERYWHERE are a status dog and hello – not a guard dog or a fighting dog. Further, unlike SO MANY people in this world (many Chileans as well) I did my research on this dog and can surely have experts testify (I’m all geared up for court, peeps!) that this breed is passive, non-aggressive, calm, LAZY, good with children and ideal for apartments (due to their almost-non-existent need for exercise). So when the people in my building wonder if he’s a good breed for an apartment, excuse me, but can I just yell “DO YOUR F-ING RESEARCH BEFORE YOU TELL ME ABOUT MY DOG, B*TCH!”



Sorry about that, blog readers. That was mostly aimed towards the woman who lives on the 8th floor and my neighbor across the way. Both of whom look at my dog with disgust and apprehension…But now that we’re on the subject of them, I’d like to share that the neighbor has two sons, both college age. The woman on the 8th floor has a little girl, about one year. I’d like to complain that the neighbor’s sons play music as if IN A NIGHTCLUB all hours of the day when the parents aren’t home and once even had a party where their drunk friends started pounding on MY DOOR trying to get in. Did I complain? No. And though the woman on the 8th floor keeps her kid under wraps, as a person with no kids, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve refrained from complaining about children. I don’t have them so I can’t relate but trust me, I’m aware of them more than you know and I keep it to myself when annoyed.

And speaking of the problem being Chilean culture, the poodles have GOT.TO.GO. There are about 1,294 that live in my building alone (slight exaggeration) and they YAP YAP YAP at everything and everyone. Mainly owned by square couples or old people, they poop all over the place and their delightful owners NEVER clean up after them. Again, do I complain? No.

These people would pass out in a city like New York, where you see every breed imaginable and they all live in apartments (or if they’re lucky, town homes and penthouses). I’m talking Great Danes, German Shepards, Bulldogs, Pugs, Collies, Chihuahuas and everything in between and no one cares! They have boutiques dedicated exclusively to pets and it’s the only city in the world where I feel comfortable enough asking if the collar comes with a matching leash (it did). This city and its attitude towards dogs would, in short, BLOW THE MINDS of the people in my building. Sweet buttermilk biscuits, I wish I could blow their minds …

Dear 50% of the Chilean population (or more, who knows) and Dear People who live in my Building:

Yes I have a bulldog. Yes he’s a puppy and he’s going to grow even more, maybe reach 50 pounds as a fully grown adult. Yes’ he’s funny looking and walks like a crab. I don’t expect you – or even WANT you – to think he’s cute. I get that he doesn’t look like an Ewok or those fuzzy, cuddly Gremlins and I’m ok with that. I’m sorry he’s in his jumpy, happy-to-be-near-people-phase but I’m working on teaching him that jumping up is bad. People good, jumping up bad. Just as I imagine it took you some time to teach your kid to walk, my dog needs time to learn to behave. Just like your kid, mine is a kid and he deserves to have the chance to act like a puppy. Just as I don’t look at your kids and scorn the fact that he/she’s there, please don’t look at my puppy that way. Like it would you, it breaks my heart. He didn’t ask to come here, I brought him here and the bottom line is that he makes us very happy in our home.

What’s that you say? You don’t care and highly dislike him anyway because you IMAGINE he bites? Oh, and you continue to look at him with disdain, as if he’s ugly and gross?

You mess with my dog, you mess with me. And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned …over her bulldog.

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The question always asked

I thought I’d shed a little 411 – or at least some subjective perspective – on the question of G’s kids. It’s the question that always comes up and even if it doesn’t, it’s the question that people quietly ponder. How is it with the kids … or, how do you feel about the kids?

G has kids from his previous marriage. Like many couples in Chile, post-college marriage is the next step for a couple who has been dating for years. This was the case with G and lucky for me (perhaps not so lucky for the former wife), things didn’t work out as the case may be for many. Sh*t happens. Mainly it’s that Chile has these crazy societal pressures about getting married if you’ve been with someone longer than 2 years. Or maybe it’s the lack of opportunities present at the time being, that marriage seems like a viable option. Not to belittle that LOVE might actually be a player in this decision, the fact of the matter is that MANY times, it’s not love as we like to think of it (romantic, butterflies-in-stomach, can’t-breathe-without-eachother kind of love.) Though I’d like to take this opportunity to point out that the love I just put in parenthesis up there is the kind of love we feel right now … I’m so blessed to have gotten married with THAT kind of love. I’m not going to pretend to know the kind of love that existed when G married the first time, at the tender age of 25, but I CAN attest that it was NOT the kind of love we have for each other.

Then again we’re older – I’m 33, he’s 34. We’ve seen the world – literally been to countries on the other side of the globe. We’ve worked our a**es off in our careers to advance as much as possible. We’ve looked for higher education – these are all things that weren’t present in his first relationship as a husband that are present now. Experience, age, wisdom, desire to succeed, worldliness. Call it what you will, my point here is to build a picture for you, the reader, of the differences in time, people and circumstances surrounding his first marriage and his second (and final) marriage to me.

What occurred in the first marriage that is for now absent in our marriage is the subject of this blog: his children. He has one little girl and one little boy, born respectively.

My objective thoughts on them are these: they are very well-behaved, highly educated, highly charismatic children. If I were to hold any feelings of contempt for his ex-wife, I’m not an idiot and can recognize that she has done an exceptional job with their children. They are, in short, pleasant. Of course Gonzalo deserves credit as well, but be it as it may, laws in Chile don’t usually allow for joint custody, split 50-50 and as such, the kids spend the majority of their time with their mother. I’m right in saying “Hats off” to her for how she has influenced her children for the most part.

Hand-in-hand goes how G has been as a father. Being the product of divorced parents myself, I can attest that G is by far – literally by far – THE BEST father children from a divorced family could ask for. To say that he’s present as much as allowed by his ex is saying the truth. He calls EVERY DAY – literally every day no matter where in the world he is … that’s when he’s not actually WITH THEM. Otherwise, he has a set schedule of when he’s with them and he adheres to this schedule as much as his life allows him to (considering he travels for work and sometimes travels with me as in honeymoon). But even then, he always plans any trip considering the weekends he has the two kids. And when he’s with them it’s not simply “ok here’s the DVD player, what movie do you guys want to see?” It’s full on INTERACTION. Whether it’s planning an educational trip (like the zoo), or a family lunch with his mom and brother or just playing Wii – he’s RIGHT THERE with them, always. I simply can’t reiterate it enough – he’s an amazing father to his kids. AMAZING. And even THAT word falls short.

So what’s it like for this gringa to be a third wheel in all this? I’m not gonna lie – it ain’t easy, kid. Selfishly, I want G all to myself. Even at my own wedding, I feel I danced with him and was PHYSICALLY with him less than 50% of the time. That’s hard for any new bride at her wedding; I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Further, as with most little girls and their fathers, his daughter adores him and wants him all to HERSELF. After all, she doesn’t get to live with him 24/7 like I do. This means that when I’m with him and they’re here, there are no me-and-him seconds … the kids have radars that go off if I come within two feet of him! I’m exaggerating here but it’s as if this were indeed the case. I make it a point to be more distant when they’re around (so as allow father-child time and not interfere) but the second I forget that distance and move in for the hubby/wifey time with a mere kiss – INCOMING!! Children are at our feet … with no particular point or question in mind … just that they want to be present more so than I am in his eyes.

If you think about it for a second from my perspective I hope you understand how awkward this can be. I will understand your gut reaction to defend their actions and reactions so I hope you take JUST ONE second to empathize with the awkwardness that ensues all around me when the kids are around. I’m this random third wheel. Yes, their dad didn’t live with their mom for many years before I came around so (THANKFULLY) I’m not the woman who “replaced mommy.” But instead, I’m the woman who stole their dad’s time and 100% devotion. So there’s this CRAZY competition for his attention.

Competition is the wrong word because it implies that I participate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. I SO don’t participate, that I go in the extreme opposite direction and basically build my own life and agenda on the days the kids are here. My thought being “Go, be with your dad! Run wild and free. I’m peacing out.” Which of course, to G, is a nightmare. Basically our main reasons for arguing is this that I’ve just described. I go one way, he goes another with his kids … but he’d rather that I go WITH him in the direction he goes with his kids when they’re here.

I know it’s the logical thing to do, the family thing to do (after all, he and I are now family), the RIGHT and loving thing to do … but I’m not there yet.

For us, I hope to get there sooner rather than later. I know he suffers when I distance myself because he misses me just like I miss him. The weekends the kids are with us literally feel like days I haven’t seen him. Yes, we’re in the same apartment, sleep in the same bed and basically move around the same areas, but it’s NOT the same.

I hope time bridges this gap and eases all awkwardness.

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Normalcy

Wedding stuff is over, the event itself as well as the mini-honeymoon we took to NYC this past weekend.
I wrote an email to my friend back home and stated that things were heading “back to normal” … and all afternoon I’ve felt weird.

What the hell does “back to normal” mean in Chile, anyway? At least for me …

See, I moved here because I’m in love and naturally the long distance thing can only lead nowhere when one is in love. Yeah, the relationship can last for a while but it can’t move forward without being IN one another’s lives physically. So ok, I moved. And then of course there was the whole wedding planning thing, which I’ve warmly and accurately cataloged here in my blog.

I’m married now and legally (technically too) I have a family of my own. In which case I need to do something with myself so I can not only be a contributing member of society but also a contributing member of this household. I’m went back to school for a graduate degree in Marketing. I had/have two intentions with this: 1) I’d like to further my education, especially here in Chile, so I know what’s up and 2) I want to open my networking possibilities. The thing is, the way I feel about it, it’s like I’m back at square one with all this … like when I went to school the first time and wondered what would become of me when I was all growns up.

So that’s how it feels now…yet … I’m…33. Time is inevitably NOT on my side. And I’m not talking kids here by any means … I’m talking career. In Chile age is a huge factor and I have 2.2 seconds to make something of myself that might somehow resemble something successful.

Success is relative, I know. And the irony is that I am going back to school so that I can learn what it means – AND what it looks like – to be successful here in Chile. It’s ironic because what’s successful here isn’t necessarily what I grew up thinking was successful. I feel like I’m speaking in tongues right now, but trust me, it all makes perfect sense to ME. I’m working it out, bear with me.

See, it’s not enough for me to watch my husband be a bad ass at work, despite all the headaches, stress and pressure that come with being said baller. In fact, it sometimes infuriates me that the majority of ballers are men in the corporate field here. I will fight the good battle with this society to be there as well but … to do so… here I am again, at the bottom. What am I doing right now (well, writing this blog but besides that, what I should be doing) is studying. Reading chapters upon chapters of marketing crap IN SPANISH, which let me tell you, isn’t an easy feat for me. Every other sentence I read makes sense only 20% of the time.

Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, normalcy.

I’m just not in a “normal” place here in Chile, as related to my regular normalcy back home… Or actually even when compared to my normalcy before school and the wedding. And the dog for that matter.

Ok, so maybe where I’m going here is that my normalcy has changed quite a bit in the past year. Each phase of “normal life” that I live lasts a short amount of time, relatively speaking, and I don’t find that I have enough time to adapt. These next nine months, post wedding, are actually going to be the longest stretch of “normal” I’ve encountered since before moving here.

So is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Stay tuned.

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Hitched

Married muffin over here … had a blast last night … enjoyed celebrating with every single person there…and eternally thankful to my husband and friends back home for the video that made me cry like a baby…

More on all that later.

For now, here’s a preview of what’s to come (visually.)

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What´s on tap today ….

No big deal but…today´s the day … that which has been the bane of my existence as well as the light at the end of the tunnel. Today is.the.wedding. Boo-yah, I made it! WE made it!

A quick summary of the days that have passed: family arrived from the U.S. and my sister and nephew arrived from La Serena and since then, it´s been chaos and running around. I rather enjoyed it actually because my day-to-day is really, really standard. G´s kids are with us so that´s good news and it would seem that up to this moment, the b*tch face hasn´t reared her ugly head.

I decided to spend the night at my mom´s house to be with her, my sister and nephew and also to have that extra level of anxiety and excitement for when I see G at our “First Look” session with our photographer (and friend), Kyle. The fantas-great hair and make up guy will be here at 10:30 (so in about an hour) and I´m still in PJs by the way. Who cares? I´m the bride, yo!

Last night´s rehearsal dinner was fun, though of course couldn´t have passed without a family glitch (that would have been too perfect) when during our speech to the family we realized we hadn´t coordinated a dance combination for my mom (i.e. couple´s, uncle-bride dance, groom-groom´s mom dance) and she was, in a word, PISSED. What can I say? It totally slipped our minds… plus with three dances already ocurring, we wanted to keep it short! If G´s dad were alive and if my mom were married then there would surely have been a moment during the ceremony dedicated to both couples… but that´s not the case and as such, we just adapted… I guess without thinking about hurt feelings. ACK!

I loved being with my family though… and mixing them with my husband-to-be´s family. I had a great time and it finally hit me that HOLY SH*T baby´s getting married and these people are here just for us!! That´s a great feeling, ps.

In short, today´s the day peeps… we´ll see how it all turns out. The good thing is that the sun is out and SHINING like no other. It rained yesterday for the first time in months so I´m especially stoked that not only is it sunny, but it´s clean and clear! Although, to be honest, a little rain would still have been cool.

I´m going to miss my friends there but I know they´ll be with me in spirit and I know they´re all happy for me.

IT´S MY WEDDING DAY!!
Crrrrazzzzzyyyyyyy!!!! And crazy in love too!

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It’s occurred to me …

… that I’m getting MARRIED in 2.2 seconds.

The whole reason I’m here in Chile, the culmination of months of planning, wanting to pull my hair out and cry and all things in between IS HAPPENING this Saturday. Crrrraaaaaaazy.

I can’t say I feel like a bride who’s about to partake in her wedding. I still don’t feel that. I do feel really excited that my Uncle Pato is here and it’s becoming more of a reality with tomorrow night’s impending Rehearsal Dinner with the fam. I’m having a Rehearsal dinner??? There was once a time when I was sure I’d NEVER get married. Who’d want to marry me? The one who’d been cheated on and who could only manage to find guys that needed all kinds of maturing?

Ah yes, but this one did find an awesome guy and this one IS getting married. In exactly 48 hours I’ll be someone’s wife and I’ll have acquired a husband – just like that!

This week has been full of sh*t to do for the wedding … starting with Monday when we had to go to Casablanca (the small, nowhere town where the winery is located) to do the “manifestación,” where one goes and gives the information of the witnesses who will bear witness to the actual marriage on the day and also to confirm the time and location of the wedding. That was fun… especially that one part when we realized the car had died … in the middle of nowhere, farm town Chile. I was sure the evil-ex had some voodoo doll of us and was messing with our technical fluidity when out of nowhere my fully charged iPhone just DIED due to “low battery.” Strange things are afoot at the Circle K … for sure. Needless to say we made it back to Santiago. And today has entailed ALL KINDS of running around – the kind of stuff I’ve read about on other blogs and have heard brides talk about when they discuss their wedding … that was my day today and OMG it’s my day tomorrow. Don’t even get me started …

In between all that I have to 1) work and 2) study for a quiz on chapters I need to read for class … of which I’m about 3 behind … and each one is nothing short of a zillion pages long – IN SPANISH just for sh*ts and giggles. Oh – and did I mention I have a high maintenance puppy??

Yes, I’m personally stressed but I have to say that the Chilean vendors did pull through and rally these last two weeks before the wedding. It would seem that all things are in order – thankfully enough. I’m sure you all remember my previous rants about said topic… I digress.

The bottom line is this: I’m going to be a married muffin and I really, really adore the guy I get to marry. Simply put – he’s the best. I can’t believe that I’m going through this amazing experience of planning a wedding and then partaking in everything we planned so diligently and put so much thought into.

No, I’m not the ultimate Bride.
Yes, I’m currently more stressed about school than I am when thinking about Saturday.
No, I don’t have wedding vows yet.
Yes, I’m a slacker.
And no, you can’t borrow my chapstick.

Until Sat then folks … single me has ass to kick and names to take.

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What kind of Chilean man marries a Gringa?

Back in February, my friend Kyle posted the most offensive blog I’ve read thus far this year! Actually, as you’ll see, it wasn’t really HER sentiments that offended but rather, the sentiments of random weirdos who contact her via her blog (unfortunately one of the pitfalls of blogging is that you’re “out there” in the cyber world and anyone, anywhere can contact you to say pretty much anything). In short, her blog post contains clips of emails she received from certain people stating how the only reason any Chilean man would consider dating an American girl would be for “purely sexual reasons.” And that mostly, Chileans want to “try Gringas” in the same way, he states, that one would want to test drive a new model car. Then there’s the mention that only women who have zero luck in the States run off to South America to try their hand at love, but that too will backfire since men here treat women pretty much the same way they did in the 1800s. Pretty much at ANY moment the “true colors” of Chilean men will come out and WHAM, SLAP, BAM! Abusive husbands!

Don’t believe me? Click on the link and read her blog for yourself then get back to me (or her) about how appalled you are. (If you aren’t appalled, step away from the computer and away from my blog.)

In 8 days I’m going to be married and as I’m writing my vows (or attempting to do so because I’m failing miserably) every so often I’ve remembered this particular blog entry and now I’m seriously thinking of each and every Chilean man I’ve met who has married a non-Chilean woman – my own Chilean man as well – and what motivates them to marry us or have a serious relationship with us. And as far as I can tell, neither the man nor the woman in each scenario is anything less than awesome in their own right.

I’ll speak of the women first since as a woman, I’ve got more material. To begin with, I don’t know a single non-Chilean woman who lives here that has come “running” from her home country in order to desperately find love here in Chile. Having made the move from the US to Chile less than a year ago, I can attest that there is no such thing as merely “running to” Chile. It’s not easy for us here, even if we have found love! Some American women I’ve met don’t even speak Spanish fluently yet they still manage to make their lives as best they can here. These type of women, in general, are not those who run away from something but in my opinion, run towards something!

In my own experience I believe that the women I’ve met here, myself included, are courageous women who have their head on straight and who know what they want and who go after it. We’re not the kind of women who sit around and cry “woe is me” about having a long distance love, but who pick up and go to see where destiny and fate take us. Further, many of these women initially came to Chile on study abroad programs when they were very, very young – even before love was ever an option in Chile! They left their comfy college surroundings, the light fare of everyday (or every other day) partying to trek to this land at the end of the world and to live with a random Chilean family (random at the time, mind you.) Hello – guts!!! Excuse me, but I know very few Chilean women – or women in general – who have done something like that.

In addition, these women all have jobs here and many are on the road to long-term careers. They’ve made friends, maneuvered their way through bureaucracy (and trust me, Chile has lots) and on top of that, we constantly prove ourselves to the fellow Chileans to counter any pre-conceived notion they may have about Gringas. Whatever that may be, we have to constantly fight to have them remove those stigmas from their minds and to look at US as individuals, not as part of a whole.

In short, the non-Chilean woman who finds herself in this narrow country next to a Chilean man is NOT weak-willed or running away or insecure or shy. We’re not full of issues that can “explain” why we’re here in the first place and we’re not the kind of women who will conform to what any society or culture says of us and how things “should” be. At least, this is my view of the women – myself included – I see. I see go-getters; I see strong-willed; I see adapting; I see adventurous; I see respectful; I see women who literally go to the ends of the Earth for love… And I’m sorry, but Chilean women do NOT hold the official, exclusive license on these attributes (don’t mind me and my unabashed use of work-speak!)

So then I ask you (particularly those dumb asses who posted on Kyle’s blog), what kind of Chilean man marries such a woman?

A ROCK STAR Chilean man, that’s who.

The man who prefers a strong, unique, adventurous, determined, committed and hard-working woman is not the kind of man who would even be interested in dominating such a woman! The man next to us is just as strong, just as determined and takes pride in having a partner he can be on par with.

What if I were so bold, so controversial so as to say that the man who chooses to be with a Gringa isn’t interested in Chilean women in the first place? I say this because I take G as an example who was once married to the quintessential Chilean woman back when he himself was SO NOT who he is today. And today, as a bad ass in his career, a guy who has his act together, confident and engaging he tells me that in general (GENERAL, people) Chilean women as partners bore him. Hello!!! BORE HIM. Then again, my Chilean guy is SO NOT typical, it only makes sense that he and I are together. In fact, we’re so made for each other, we first determine what is standard or “envasado” and we request the exact opposite – almost always.

In the end, there are all kinds of women out there, Chilean and not, as is the case with men.

But being 8 days away from getting married, I’m happy to conclude that the kind of man who marries this Gringa is – simply put – amazing. What makes him unique is that he loves me for the bizarre mix of customs I myself am. Being “American” but with “Chilean” ancestry and family, I’m a smorgasbord of characteristics and ideologies (some good, some annoying) and regardless of being Gringa or Chilean or what have you, he makes me always want to be a better version of me.

Here’s hoping I do the same for him!

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The postgrado

Um … school in Chile is weird.

Ok, I should rephrase that since I’m not technically in “school” or “colegio” but at a university getting a post-graduate degree (postgrado). In short, I’m dabbling in Graduate studies. And for someone who was raised and who received her entire education (for better or for worse) in California, studying in a foreign country is weird, overwhelming and scary all at the same time.

Adolfo Ibañez University is considered one of the top private business schools in the region (so you can imagine my surprise when I was accepted) and their professors stem from various educational and professional backgrounds, including MIT, Harvard, Columbia, Yale, Universidad de Chile, La Catolica, etc. These are (unfortunately only) men who serve on Boards of Directors, own their own companies, are Gerente Generales or of similar titles and who, for some reason or another, also teach courses in Integrated Marketing (what I’m studying).

Yesterday was my first day of class and there are about 45-50 students – people who also come from different walks of life and careers. Yesterday’s professor was the head of the department and the same man who interviewed me when I applied to the program. He’s charismatic, energetic and seems to really know his (version of) business. The program is going to be demanding and what I’m realizing is that it’s going to be hard to adapt my thinking to that of Chileans. Half of my motivation for doing this is to understand how Chileans think, how one can market to them and what kinds of consumers they are. So yesterday when the professor was speaking, I found myself thinking “No I don’t agree” or “No, it’s not like that” and then had to stop myself and REMIND myself that “oh yes, this is what the typical Chilean thinks, this is how he acts and reacts.”

For instance, he was talking about why JC Penny or Sears didn’t make it in Chile when they attempted to expand their business in Lat Am. Or why Wal-Mart hasn’t decided to change its name to just that and continues to hide behind the local name “Lider” (Wal-Mart bought out the local hypermarket chain, Lider last year). The tend to look down on the big corporations but at the same time embrace the status said corporations bring (think Starbucks, which incidentally has take this country by storm.) Chileans are rock stairs in the retailer arena (it’s the only country with less than 20 million people that has over three department stores who compete in a healthy environment.) And the likes of Sears and JC Penny didn’t thrive because Chileans are much too loyal to their brands. So as I’m sitting there thinking “But no – there’s bigger and better out there.” I have to remember that in Chile there’s no room for bigger and better if it’s not Falabella. Enough said. I can’t beat them, I need to join them. Integrate and then work in crazy, unconventional ideas! It’s my master plan (insert wicked laugh.)

Seriously though, I find myself arguing with the professor in my head though who am I to argue when the reality we’re talking about is Chilean and I’m here to learn about that? It’s not the time to fight the power, Andrea!

Then there’s just the idiosyncrasy of many Chileans, which will slowly become apparent in each class. For instance, in yesterday’s class the professor was making a point about perception and he projected a slide with one image of Tiger Woods in mid-golf swing and the other picture of Eminem and 50 Cent together. He asked the class “How many of you find it strange that the world’s number one golfer is black? Or that one of the best selling rappers of all time is white?” AND OF COURSE there were a handful of people who agreed that it was “weird” that the best golfer in the world is black. The most outspoken woman in this group stated that it just seemed “raro” (or strange) because it made more sense for a white, blonde man to be the best golfer.

WHAT WHAT WHAT??!!!

As one friend correctly pointed out last night after I told this story, back home even if someone was thinking the same thing, NO ONE would say it! And here it’s like “Oh yes, he’s black and rich and that’s weird.”

Of course I’m smart enough to know that MOST LIKELY these sentiments don’t stem from any malicious part of the Chilean psyche or character. In fact, it’s so homogeneous here, blonds are MORE idolized than normal AND it just so happens that many of the blonds are also from affluent families. The Chilean reality is just different … and I’m here to learn about it and to try to influence it.

First and foremost, I need to sit down and shut up and learn about how they tick. How do I market to them so that they can eventually expose themselves to “weird” things … realizing of course that “weird’ to them is having “too many” milk options. I kid you not there was a discussion yesterday on why there is any such thing as Lactose Free milk and even Soy milk – THE HORROR!!! :o)

Ok, theories and idiosyncrasies aside, I’m also going to HATE MY LIFE with all the reading material I have – IN SPANISH. I can’t even begin to imagine how I’m going to write an actual term paper IN SPANISH or contribute to a group effort when half the things they say go over my head! I fear being the dumb one in the group … seriously. Ack!

The upside is that I have my own Gerente to bounce ideas off of … when I arrived home from class yesterday, a beautiful ENORMOUS bouquet was waiting for me at home, accompanied by a note telling me how proud he was of me and how he intended to fully support me through this tough year ahead. :o) (Sigh… bliss!) It’s not going to be easy but then again it’s been a while since I’ve done something that was this hard. Life can get pretty boring if one doesn’t challenge the status quo. And life can get pretty tense if one is always fighting the foreign mentalities and actions. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

I’m seeking knowledge and understanding of the people who surround me. If anything, so I can learn to sell them on a different way of thinking! :oP

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I’m cool with it

Sixteen days before my wedding and I’m wondering if I’m supposed to be FEELING something about that.

Everyone keeps asking me if I’m “excited” or “nervous” and wondering about how I feel regarding “the big day.” And I’m like … well… remember that one episode in Sex and the City when Miranda was preggo and everyone else made a big deal about it except her? She mentioned “faking a sonogram” when she learned that her baby was a boy. Squeals from everyone – even Carrie! – ensued.

That pretty much sums up how I feel. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say about the wedding at this point except the truth – which is: it feels like I’m planning an event that I’ll be attending and kind of hosting. Except for the hosting part, it feels like I’m attending someone else’s wedding.

It’s not how I feel about G because THAT FOR SURE makes me giddy. Just thinking of seeing him all dapper in his clothes and knowing we’ll be married makes me happy, simply put.

I just can’t be bothered right now with feeling or saying anything other than “going to a party on April 17th.” I’m stoked on the party since it will have all my favorite things so that will be cool. How many people attend parties where everything is exactly as they want? So that in and of itself has me looking forward to April 17th for sure. I’m also happy to be seeing people I know all dressed up, eating, drinking and generally being merry. And I’m FOR SURE eager to see my Uncle, who, if all goes well, will be arriving in Chile a few days before. Each one of these things makes me eager and happy to be involved with the festivities surrounding the wedding.

I’m going to conclude all this speculation of “What’s the matter with me?” and just say that I’m truly not the bridey bride AT ALL. I don’t typically like to be the center of attention in such an obvious way so that itself puts me in a different league than many other brides. I’m not even frantic about last minute anything. We don’t have our table descriptions, menus, favors, etc and only about 30 people have RSVP’d but I’m not even worried!

Although, it’s nice to see that people are excited for us. THAT also makes me really happy. I like to make others happy … G, my mom, my family, my friends. Making them happy makes me feel content and pleased. So if anything, I’m happy to give people a social life on April 17th, too!

The short answer to the “big day” question is this: I’m cool with it.
I’m stoked on marrying G and cool with the actual wedding. I’m grateful we can gather all the people who will be there and spend the TIME with them celebrating. I’m happy to see everyone around me smiling and sharing with us.

If this is a weird answer, I just repeat that I’m a weird bride, man. But I’m cool with it.

[Note: in exactly two weeks I reserve the right to post a completely different and completely opposite blog. One that oozes with stress, worry, anxiety and excitement, all at once.]

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