Shake, shake, shake …

Poor Chile. What a bad rap it gets sometimes.
As a seismically active country, Chile has its fair share of tremors (“temblores” as they’re called here) and they occur almost every day in any given area. Granted, they’re not all major quakes, but regardless of how “big” they may be, the fact remains that there are tiny earthquakes each and every day here. It’s part of our everyday life and if you are thinking of visiting or living here, you need to KNOW this is an everyday occurrence.

Earthquakes registered by year along Chile's coastline.The latest earthquake was actually a “replica” or an aftershock and it occurred on April 2nd in Iquique, coming in at 7.6 on the Richter scale. The reason this aftershock was considered as such and not a full blown earthquake is because on April 1st the northern part of Chile was rocked by a magnitude 8.2 earthquake … i.e. anything less than that is obvi an aftershock (so it would seem).

Anywhere else in the world the 7.6 aftershock would have been labeled a full blown earthquake and a state of catastrophe would have been issued. Anywhere else in the world, half the city (or more) would be a crumbled mess and chaos would ensue for weeks, if not, months. Back in February 2010, I wrote about my experience living through an 8.8 earthquake here in Chile. The aftershocks of that earthquake were NUMEROUS and the strongest one, if I remember correctly, was somewhere between 6.5 and 7 on the Richter scale.

Like some people back home wonder, you’re probably also wondering: “How can you live there? It’s like you’re constantly stressed out wondering when the next big one is coming! No thanks!”
I’ll use five words to try and explain how this is possible …

It’s part of life here.

Allow me to further explain because those five words obvi don’t provide much solace to anyone wishing to visit – or worse – anyone who finds themselves having to move down here for whatever reason.
Recently an article was published about this same issue and the title is pretty clever considering Chilean’s reactions to so many earthquakes: “Why don’t Chileans run when there are earthquakes?” The article goes on to state many reasons and (if you read Spanish) I think it’s worth a read because it gives you a glimpse of what the culture is like in general in response to a natural disaster such as an earthquake.

In the almost five years I’ve lived in Chile, I’ve experienced more earthquakes than I ever did in the 29 years living in the San Francisco Bay Area (the largest and ONLY earthquake was in 1989) and they’ve ranged anywhere from 4-pointers to almost 9!! That’s a whole lotta shakin’ and through it all I’ve learned that my own reactions have begun to mirror the reactions of true Chileans who have lived here their entire lives.

Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!
Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!!

When the earth starts shaking here, the first reaction is, simply, wait it out. True story. You sit and wait to see if it’s going to stay tolerable or if it’s going to get bigger. Most of the time it stays within a reasonable range and by adopting this “wait it out” policy, you spare yourself the embarrassment of doing the weird things people do when they freak out. I think this, combined with the fact that Chileans grow up with earthquakes and earthquake drills in school, makes it seem like Chileans are unfazed by earthquakes. That’s not the case. I know that earthquakes are scary and most Chileans will tell you that they don’t like them, but they’ve learned to live with them mainly because they’re part of everyday life here.

Also, if you have to live with earthquakes, there really is no better place than Chile, architecturally speaking. Chile has some of the strictest building guidelines EVER! Need proof? The 2010 earthquake that struck Léogâne, Haiti caused over 100,000 deaths and annihilated a great part of the affected area’s infrastructure. That earthquake measured 7.0 on the Richter scale. In comparison, the structural damage caused by the most recent earthquake in Chile (remember, it measured 8.2) a few days ago is minimal in comparison.

That doesn’t mean that Chile hasn’t learned lessons along the way. As mentioned, in 2010 over 500 people died mainly because the President of Chile, Michele Bachelet, and her advisors, didn’t give evacuation orders in a timely manner (most people died in the tsunami that hit post earthquake.) I guess you can say that this time around the dear President (the same one!) and her peeps were overly cautious and as a result, gave evacuation orders almost immediately! Hence, despite Chile’s most recent natural disaster and the destruction it caused, the death toll remains at six.

Don't let them know you're faking it!
Don’t let them know you’re faking it!

So come on down to Chile. Frolic, run and be free. Have a grand time because when the ground shakes (and it wiiiiilllllll) just know that you’ll most likely be ok. Just do as the locals do and you’ll be fine. You know – blend.

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2010, all eyes on Chile

When I lived back home, I don’t recall Chile ever being in the news (more so, editorials regarding wine and travel).

Yet in the span of one year – even less, really – Chile has been in the news twice: both reasons due to major events that catapulted us to the forefront of world news and updates.

An 8.8 earthquake and now the unprecedented rescue of 33 miners who have been trapped below ground since early August. With these two events, Chile has shown the world its strength, its integrity, its ingenuity and its perseverance.

From the bottom up, in both cases.

But this brief blog is to say, hello there Florencio. We’re happy to see you up top and we look forward to seeing all your fellow miners here soon as well. Thank you Chile. Thank you God. Thank you Minister of Mining, Laurence Golborne. Thank you U.S. for the help and equipment you provided from Day 1.

You all brought tears to my eyes tonight, one amazing and unprecedented image after another.
Who’s just as proud to be Chilean as she is to be American?

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"All 33 of us are fine in the shelter."


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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Lovely ladies

Can I rave a bit?

After writing an entry about how no one from the States was going to be traveling to Chile for my wedding and how upset I was about that, last night, three of them got together to throw me a bride’s dinner … just to remind me that though none of my friends could be with me during this time before (and during) my wedding, they were there with me and they are happy to celebrate with me.

And though I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – I’ll look around on April 17th and be SO VERY happy to see the friends I’ve made here in Chile there with me when I get MARRIED! Married!!! There was a time when I first arrived when I thought I’d never even make friends with anyone, let alone have people care enough to show me that I’m not alone. But this year has proven just the opposite of what I thought when I first arrived. Between having them come out for my surprise birthday happy hour, sharing a joint bachelorette party with two fellow brides, attending their weddings and so many other little things in between, 2010 may be a year with below-par customer service in EVERY WAY, but the friendship category in 2010 is proving to be humbling.

Lovely ladies indeed … as my life forms in Chile next to the one I love, having a solid set of good girlfriends leaves me asking for nothing more. Mad props to them! Thanks for the pastel de choclo, algae flowers and ice cream!

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Five more minutes & a blog post later

When I lived in the U.S. and used to wonder when and if I’d get married, I worried that the majority of my family wouldn’t be able to make it to the iconic event (iconic in my life, that is.) After all, I’m by NO MEANS from a wealthy family and most of my relatives are lower-middle class who can thankfully afford to live their everyday lives but who unfortunately can’t afford to live beyond that. Meaning, had I lived in the States, they most likely would not have been able to attend my wedding there.

Now that I’m in Chile, I’m seeing another side of this coin materialize. I’m going to get married without ANY of my good friends present. I’m serious. Zero. I’m talking college friends, post-college friends, best friend, family friends who are like blood relatives and those who have known me (and vice) versa since I arrived in the U.S. back in 1980 when I was 3 years old. Not one of them will be present on April 17th when I finally get married to the awesome guy I get to love forever more.

In short, I’m sad.

I’m not saying this in a “woe-is-me” fashion but in a very matter-of-fact kind of way. It saddens me that my closest friends won’t be here and that I can’t share this wonderful day with them. And while I’m not the first bride who isn’t going to have everyone she cares about present (hello – I’ve had to miss many weddings of people I consider myself very close to), I do think (perhaps incorrectly) that most brides have at least SOME of their friends present, if they can’t have them all. In my case, NONE of my U.S. friends will be there. So I’m here writing about it, as I drink a glass of vino, and in about five more minutes, I’ll move on from this sad realization and carry on with all that’s good about my wedding and life. That’s all I’m giving myself, people. This blog entry and five more minutes to feel sad about it.

The fact of the matter is that none of my friends are purposely NOT attending my wedding. There is so much that comes into play when a friend chooses to get married outside city limits. First, it’s time. Their time is as valuable as mine and of course coming to Chile automatically means at least 4-5 days of their time that they have to peace out from their lives. They might have a whole lot going on that just doesn’t allow for that kind of check out from their every day. I completely get that. Then there’s the earthquake. If there was anyone who was remotely considering coming down, the earthquake and all they hear about it on tv surely deterred them from acting on travel down to Chile. Finally, the all-encompassing issue about money. We all get that. I get that completely! One of my close family friends got married in Scotland and I wanted to cry when I couldn’t attend!! Why? Money of course! A ticket to Scotland, hotel in Scotland, food and other miscellaneous outings would have put my cost for that wedding upwards of US$2,000. At that point in my life, I just couldn’t do it even though there was nothing I wanted more than to see this person get married.

Cognitively I completely understand all of the above. Further, I’ve been on that end before and have lamented not being able to attend a couple of very important weddings. Logistically I TOTALLY get the reasons why travel to Chile is short of impossible at this point in time. In fact, it used to be that I was going to get married over Thanksgiving holiday this year. Then G and I decided “Why wait?” I know for sure that the change from November to April threw a good handful of people off. People who might have otherwise attended.

But I’m still sad (for the remainder of this blog entry plus five more minutes.)

For a second I even thought about doing a type of “reception” or “party” in the States in June when I’ll be there for work. But then I thought “Why?” My wedding is in April and that’s when I’m going to celebrate it. Yes, I’m sad that people who are very important to me can’t attend, but that’s just how the cookie crumbles. I’m not going to do one thing after another just because they can’t come down here. My wedding is April 17th 2010 – that’s how it will stay.

Alas – life goes on. And my life, in light of recent events here in Chile, gives me little reason to complain. I’m fortunate through and through. I’ve met great people here and I’m happy to know they will be there when I get married. After all, my life is here now and they get to embark on that new part of my life WITH me. I’ll be happy to look around and see their faces – I really, really will be. And my family will be there, not all of them, but the ones who matter most to me, will absolutely be there. How awesome is that?? Two of the three family members I have who still live in the U.S. will be traveling down to be with me – how can I complain?

It’s all good in the hood. I’m just a wee bit sad to think of my special friends who won’t be here … but starting now, that sadness is fleeting … five more minutes and it’s gone.

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Ack! Earthquake in Chile!…and I live here.

Sweet BeJeezus, that was scary!!

I’m not talking the “normal” kind of earthquake scary either … the kind I knew before today. After living in the SF Bay Area for over 29 years, I thought I was pretty accustomed to feeling the ground move every so often.

But no matter how accustomed you think you are … nothing prepares you for 2+ minutes of NON-STOP 8.8 ground movement and subsequent shaking, thundering, crashing and breaking that occurs with it.

Obviously we were in bed, G and I… and actually I had just gotten into bed after a bathroom break (TMI). I was commending myself and my dog for breaking the 3am barrier – i.e. the dog has stopped waking us up in the mornings whining from boredom. It was 3:15 am, baby was tired and we had a full day of wedding planning ahead of us…I closed my eyes, ready to enter my sweet lull.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand cue in the earth rolling … like riding a wave, I imagine. Except being from an earthquake zone (SF Bay Area) one always first determines if the quake is going to stay put or suddenly get all agro on you.
In the most abrasive of manners I jolt G up with “It’s an earthquake.” He sits up with me to proceed with the analysis: is this going to roll along like this or is this going get ugly?

OH. And then it truly got UUUUUUUUUUUUGLY. Now, mind you, at this point we’ve been rolling along with the wave for a good 30 seconds and as each 15-second interval ticked by, the once-rolling motion proceeded to turn into sharp movements, jolting us back and forth. We live on the 11th floor, the topmost floor of our building, and since buildings in Chile are “earthquake ready,” on the top floor you tend to feel each and every roll and jab TIMES TWENTY. And the thing is, the quake didn’t stop… it didn’t ease up or roll into a slow sweep… it not only kept going but it kept getting STRONGER AND STRONGER as each second, then MINUTE, ticked by. One by one I could hear things from other rooms crash to the floor; glass breaking, water splashing; thud, thud, crash, thud, shatter…and alongside those noises you hear the immense, RAW POWER of this monstrous earthquake that’s taking you on this SOOOOOO-unsolicited ride.

I was at the door frame, holding on until my fingers hurt … G was across from me in the bedroom holding our TV in place so that it wouldn’t fall on our puppy below (who by they way, was FREAKING OUT.) I remember thinking “it’s going to stop… it’s going to stop, it HAS TO STOP, it’s been so long” and realizing that the quake just kept going and going and getting stronger and stronger. At which point I seriously, cross-my-heart-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye thought to myself “Oh my God, I’m going to die in this earthquake. This building is going to fall and we’re going to die.” And NEVER, EVER have I had a thought like that, where for a second it was this peaceful-type realization that “this is it.”

And then, of course, thank God, it did stop. And that’s when the panic set in.

Our mom’s live in the next “comuna” over, each in her own apartment but in the same building. Once I realized we were ok, all I could think about was my mom and her insane fear of earthquakes … and the fact that she was alone. Quickly, G and I got dressed, grabbed the dog, ran down eleven flights of stairs IN THE DARK, dove into the car and raced through disabled stop lights to get to our moms’ homes. Our moms where upset, of course, but once we got there and everyone was gathered outside, there was a sense of security. Unfortunately that security didn’t lend itself to the other issue at hand: mobile phone connections and land lines were collapsed and G’s kids were outside Santiago with their mom. For more than two hours G tried to get through just to make sure his kids were ok–> and NOTHING. No calls were getting through. He finally decided to drive the hour and a half drive to where they were – not that he had clear directions on how to get there (he was working off memory). 40 minutes later he calls me to tell me that he can’t get through… the roads were closed due to collapsed overpass pedestrian walkways and crumbled pavement that ran for stretches at a time. I can’t imagine the torture he was going through not knowing if his kids were ok …and it was torture for me to know there was nothing I could do to help… [Update: his kids ARE ok and yes, he was able to talk to them. They’re shaken and freaked out, but ok.] In the end he came back to my mom’s apartment … by then, none of us had eaten for over 12 hours and we certainly hadn’t slept. But the sun was up. It was morning. Electricity was back at my mom’s house. Those three things combined brought some feeling of security back. So we packed up our dog, his things, my mom (who came over to help clean up) and we headed back home, ready to face the mess that we briefly saw on our way out at 4 am.

Considering how fierce the earthquake was and how intense it felt, I’m surprised we didn’t have more damage. At most we lost some cool picture frames. At best we have a crack going down the wall of our apartment’s foyer to forever remind us of this atrocious event. We have friends here in Chile who live waaaaaaaaaay higher up than we do and the damage to their apartments was far worse … not so much in terms of structure (like I said, Chilean buildings are “earthquake ready” thank God) but in terms of stuff thrown everywhere! We were spared, I think. In more ways than one.

The table in the front foyer, as you walk into the apartment. Plant and picture frames on the ground; area rug soaked. The crashing of this vase to the floor was not a welcome sound during the ‘rolling-with-the-homies’ episode.



The scene as we walked in to the dining room/living room area. Picture frames, meet the floor. Charmed, I’m sure.

This was a fun sight … our yet-to-be-thoroughly-paid tv toppled over. That’s the center table leaning in to kiss it hello. [Btw, we now know the tv is fine. And she’s ok!]



And my office… which actually, now that I think about it, kind of always looks like this. Maybe slightly less messy.

In the end, my review for “Earthquake Chile 2010” is a big, fat, thumbs down. Please don’t ever let me/us have to go through another 2.5 minute event that has us literally holding on for dear life. I’d like to take a “pass” on the aftershocks that continue to shake the city (and the country for that matter), most of which feel as if they’re 5-6 points, given how high up we are. But on the other hand, I was amazed at how the Chilean people came to one another’s aid in this crisis – even if it’s to merely ask “hey, how are you?” (Which, by the way, is precisely what our neighbors did after the shaking stopped.) There’s security in talking about what you went through and a feeling of safety in knowing that others went through the same thing. And I do have to say that the outpouring of concern and well wishers on my Facebook page was humbling. While I would rather never again have to go through what we went through at approximately 3:30 am Chilean time today, it serves to remind me how forever grateful I am… and in this case, I’m grateful that we survived.

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Me lately

I’ve never looked or felt frumpier. You know those new moms that you see walking down the street and you think to yourself “Geez sister, pull yourself together. A little eye make up would work wonders on you right about now. And while you’re at it, pull that scrunchie out of your hair.” I’m on the receiving end of that. For the first time in my entire adult life, the roots of my hair are over two inches out. In fact, my hair is about two months overdue for even a haircut! … ask any of my close friends if that’s normal for me and they would assure you that you’re talking about someone else. I was formally known as the persnickety old aunt-type who liked to point out when someone needed to hit the hair salon STAT. I felt like I was offering a public service, really. Well the irony is that now, I’m that person I used to call out. Oh life, how you mock me! (and while we’re on the topic, hi uni-brow!)
And don’t get me started on my nails, both hands and toes…or the fact that I haven’t dressed up and worn any type of heels in daaaaaaaaaaays (to be read, “months”).

In a way, I am a new mom with the arrival of Obi-wan Kenobi on the 12th of this month. And I’m not sure having a puppy is all it’s cracked up to be. First of all, he surely hates me. I’m not sure why he doesn’t like me but he’s taking to growling at me (the mean kind, not the playful kind I keep reading about) and, of course, he’s taking to biting me. Let’s add that to the fact that I spend about 8 hours a day cleaning his waste so that he’s not running around in filth, making sure he has clean water, trying to remember to feed him every six hours, attempting to keep him clean, trying to train him to be a proper dog in a few months AND all the while waking up at 3 am EVERY morning because of his cries/whines. Of course I get myself out of bed and play with him and cuddle him as much as I can so that he feels secure and loved…And the thanks I get for all that? Bites and growls. Forgive me if for the time being I’m not quite understanding the whole “man’s/woman’s best friend” bit. I’m not saying that getting him was a mistake because I do have faith that things will get better. When he’s a little older and outgrows this stage he’s in, coupled with being able to take him outside so he can run free and mingle with other dogs (he doesn’t have all his shots as of yet) I really do believe that life will be pleasant. That’s part of what motivates me to keep training him, to keep teaching him right from wrong, to keep trying to make him a happy, well adjusted dog. But right now it’s no picnic. In fact, it’s downright dreadful.

I’m allergic to him, did I mention that? Yeah, I break out into hives whenever I hold him. I was having breathing issues too for a bit but then started taking Allegra AND we bought an air purifier with HEPA filter so things on the respiratory end are much more pleasant. For the hives I’m using a cortisone cream but unfortunately I can only apply it for a week … that means until today since a week ago I went to the doctor for said prescriptions that enable me to be near our puppy. Here’s a pic I took yesterday … this is WITH the cortisone cream. Though in its defense, I did initially fail to apply it to this region …

In case you haven’t noticed the tone of this post, I’m feeling slightly depressed and glum. This is why I closed comments on this particular entry. There’s no need to tell me that you relate to me, that you understand or that you’re sorry. Also there’s no need to tell me I need to snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for myself. I know all of the above and really, do appreciate any sentiment or time taken to express that sentiment. I’m really writing this because I simply just.felt.like.writing. After all, it’s one of my 2010 proposals/resolutions so I thought it to be quite appropriate.

My wedding is in less than two months and I feel like things are wrapping up nicely. Summer is coming to an official end here in Chile so I hope that means that vendors are finally going to be responsive and available. Though here’s a typical story… in November G and I went to the place where we want to get our cake and they told us that we were seriously too early to begin planning for the cake and that we should come back in February or March. All righty. So I called yesterday to ask about going in for the tasting and after answering the “when is your wedding” question, I’m met with:
“Oh honey, you should have come in a while ago! We’re taking orders already for next year! What are you waiting for?”

FML and F-them.

Needless to say we’re going this weekend.

But I have to say, despite all the planning and all the hoopla surrounding me in regards to weddings (two friends here are getting married in a couple of weeks, within a week of one another), I continue to feel like my own personal wedding is this event I’m planning in general and that I’m just attending as a guest. Like my own party I guess, but nothing major. In part I’m thankful for this feeling because it means I’m not stressing over details. Another part of me feels as if I’m cheating myself though! For myself personally, I pretty much have nothing. I don’t have a bouquet, I don’t have shoes, I don’t have “something blue” and I don’t have accessories. Yeah I have a dress and yeah, I like that dress, but it’s certainly not the over-the-moon sentiment I thought I’d have about my dress. It’s nice, I like it, I guess I look ok in it and that’s about it. Something tells me that’s NOT NORMAL!!!

The only constant is G and how much I love him and how much I love our life together. There’s no one in this world I’d rather be with and no one who could make this depressive, blue state I’m in even remotely worth treading through. But all that other blue stuff makes me kind of numb… similar to the affect my skin has with the cortisone cream.

In general, sometimes my life in Chile feels like it’s smothered in cortisone cream. I walk around not really being a part of this society and culture. I guess that sounds weird to those who don’t know how the stuff works. It’s more of a personal observation, I guess. I have a lot of them because when you don’t really integrate well in a society, you mostly live in your head… which later results in diarrhea of the fingers on a keyboard within a blog entry.

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I’m a Citizen … hear me Roar!

My country tis of thee… Good LORD did I have a patriotic week last week!!

As some of you may already know, I became a U.S. Citizen last Thursday, after many, many months of waiting and weaving through bureaucratic mazes, it finally happened!
In the simplest of forms, here’s what’s involved:

1) somehow you become a Temporary Resident of the US and you get a nifty card that says so. (I was young so not sure how it officially happens)

2) After a year (I think) you get your permanent residency and you get another nifty card to replace your old one. (Incidentally, this is how I lived for years – Permanent residency and living life, paying taxes, going to school, working etc, etc. The only thing I couldn’t do was vote.)

3) Apply to become a citizen after 5 years living as a permanent resident. Send a check for about $800 million dollars. Just kidding, it’s close to $700 – and then you wait.

4) A letter arrives asking for your finger prints. The FBI wants to see what’s up.

5) Another month passes and a letter arrives telling you they want to test you on American history and civics and “interview” you. Of the 1 million questions I studied, they asked me 6. Yes, just 6. Supposedly it’s 10 but if you get 6 right in a row, they stop “due to time constraints.”

6) Another month passes and you get a letter with your appointment date and information on where to take your Oath as US Citizen. Yay!!

Obviously there are people who wait months and months, if not years, to get from #3 to #6, but I gather that since I lived in the U.S. for so long and am, of course, and upstanding citizen, my wait proved to be shorter. And I thank you, U.S. Government!

The ceremony was held at the Masonic Temple in San Francisco (which kind of makes you wonder if all that jazz in “National Treasure” holds true) and there were 1,275 people from 109 countries there to take their oaths as U.S. citizens. It bothers me to say that many of these people could barely speak English … this really bothered me though it’s a topic best left to another post by another blogger all together. I’ll just leave it at that.

We were seated in an auditorium facing a stage. Like this:

And there were many of us in the crowd:

And we listened to all kinds of people talk about what it means to become a citizen, social responsiblity, government regulations, etc. This was done by an officer and colleagues of the local USCIS office in San Francisco.

We watched videos about Ellis Island, which talked about how the U.S. was founded on, created by and run by immigrants:

Then we took our Oath as U.S. citizens… one by one, each country represented was called out. I stood up proudly when Chile was called and waited as countries ranging from Afghanistan to Uzbekistan were called and their soon-to-be former citizens stood up. Once everyone was standing, we were asked to raise our right hand and say the oath which automatically made us U.S. Citizens.

Once we entered the auditorium, we were given U.S. flags which we all waved once the Oath was read:

We then sang the National Anthem (which I never sang so proudly before) and recited the pledge of allegiance. I’m sad to say that many, many people around me didn’t know the words to either … but I’m not the one who calls the shots on who gets to become a citizen and who doesn’t. All I can say is that I know the words to both and recited them loudly and proudly! Following this, we saw a video of President Obama welcoming us as Citizens of the U.S.

After all that, our official certificates proclaiming that we were U.S. Citizens where handed to us:

My story to get here is something out of a movie – a type of Sundance-nominated indie film. Not many people know it but suffice to say that this moment captured in the last picture above is a culmination of years and generations of sacrifice. And I’m happy to say that I’m one of the few people in my family who can claim to have the prestigious title of U.S. Citizen (out of over 60 family members, five of us are citizens of the United States). And I don’t feel that I’m cheating my country (the U.S.) by becoming a citizen later in life, because I know that I’m a model citizen, with hopes and dreams, and one who works honestly and who works hard. I know my country’s history, its language, symbols and customs more than I know that of Chile’s, the country of my birth.

I’ve never been so proud to be an American and I’ve never been more accepting of leaving my Chilean citizenship behind. For years, I completely associated myself with being Chilean, even when I had been a permanent resident of the U.S. for years and years. Now I know that any success I find here in Chile will be directly attributed to the successes I had in the U.S. I got into one of the best business schools in Chile – why? I’m willing to bet it has to do with my U.S based work experience and education. After all, that’s what sets me apart here in Chile… so nothing short of a FAT thank you is appropriate for the U.S.

And as much as it means the world to me to be a citizen of the United States, it means more to me that my children will, by default, also be U.S. Citizens. The opportunities I can extend to them because of all this are priceless. No matter where we live, I will teach them to be proud of their heritage, both Chilean and American. I will teach them to strive for that American Dream, just as I was taught to do many years ago… the same striving that has brought me much happiness and success today.

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The dog post (introducing Obi-wan)

G and I have found ourselves welcoming a little bundle of joy and thankfully it’s not a result of me being pregnant and carrying a human life for nine months. No, no. Contrary to that nightmare, we’re excited that in about a month we’ll be welcoming a little English Bulldog puppy into our urban dwelling here in Santiago.

Everyone, say hello to Obi-Wan Kenobi.


I mean, he’s pint-sized and I’m not exaggerating when I say that in several pictures I have with him, he makes my hands look like ginormous man-hands. It happens when you’re all of 28 days old, as he was in this pic above.

Chile is quite the dog lovers country. In fact, in that sense I truly equate Santiago with New York City, where everyone has a dog and most housing is dog-friendly because, truly, there is no other option than to accept the furry friends. (I say this because San Francisco was certainly not a dog lover’s city…not unless you owned your place.) The difference I see between Santiago and New York in this sense is that in NYC I see dogs as more personalized, where most dogs truly do ‘match’ their owners and where dogs are pretty much divas in their own right in some way, shape or form. In Santiago, well, that’s not so much the case.

Isabelle Allende wrote an exaggerated version of dogs in Chile in her memoir “My Invented Country.” She writes:

“In our house, as in every Chilean home, there were animals. Dogs are acquired in different ways: inherited, received as a gift, picked up after they’ve been run over but not killed, or because they followed a child home from school, after which there’s not a chance of throwing them out. This has always been the case and I hope it never changes. I don’t know a single normal Chilean who ever bought a dog; the only people who do that are the fanatics of the Kennel Club, but no one takes them seriously. Almost all the dogs in Chile are called Blackie, whatever their color, and cats bear the generic names of Puss or Kitty.”

Note that G and I are automatically not considered “normal Chileans” in Allende’s mind since we’re actually purchasing Obi-wan…Obviously it’s her memoir, her nostalgic view of what she remembers Chile to be like and of course that gives way to the almost ridiculous exaggeration describing dog acquisition as noted above. I do agree that most Chileans don’t buy their dogs and that yes, they are somehow “adopted” or become part of the family in a very seamless, more organic way than how Obi-wan Kenobi will come to us. And usually when this happens, the dogs aren’t 100% of a certain breed but rather, a mix of one breed with another. Though I do know that the opposite has become more and more true: one family who has a certain breed (more likely than not, a poodle) finds another family friend with the same breed (and opposite sex), mates them and wa-la!! – a litter is born! These are then either ‘sold’ or simply given away to friends and neighbors. Those are the two ways that Chileans typically welcome dogs into their home and as such, there has certainly been a deviation from what Isabel Allende remembers. I personally think that the first method is noble, generous and humane and that the second method is ever-so-slightly irresponsible. The whole notion of giving a dog as a gift to people who aren’t prepared to have a dog just blows my mind … but that’s six of one and half a dozen of another, as a friend’s grandmom would say.

G and I have met with the same question over and over again when we tell friends about Obi-wan. They (mostly the Chileans) ask “Why a Bulldog? They’re so ugly and weird looking.” Of course my initial thought – IN MY HEAD, mind you – is “and a poodle isn’t?” Oh and Chileans just HEART their poodles! I’ve always loved dogs but now that we’re actually getting one, I’ve taken to noticing other people’s dogs more and more. And what I’ve noticed, at least on the surface and quite superficially, is that Chileans love Poodles, Dachshunds and Maltese. In other words, Chileans are partial to little dogs. This makes sense given that there are so many apartment buildings in this city and how cruel would it be to have, say, a German Shepard or even a Labrador in an apartment? But I find the question “why a Bulldog” kind of ridiculous.

Unlike perhaps half of the dog-owning population in Chile (or more!), G and I have researched this breed extensively and we’ve determined that a bulldog makes complete and total sense for our lifestyle – both now and in the future. (Do you expect less from someone who puts most things in Power Point?) Bullies are perfect for apartments because they don’t require too much exercise (once a day for about 20 minutes), docile, friendly, good with kids and other pets, ridiculously loyal and hello – of all breeds, is one of the few with MINIMAL BARKING (G’s nightmare dog is a small one who “yaps”). Of course their snoring makes up for the fact that they rarely bark but, hey – we think that’s super cute! Obi-wan has been thought out and we truly believe he reflects us, our lifestyle and that he will be an integral part of our lives and who we are as a couple. We’re looking for a pet, a companion, a friend and a dog who’s “one of us.” Obi-wan fits the bill. We like that we can’t find a bulldog around every corner and we like the fact that Obi-wan is considered “different.” It already makes us love him more.

Bulldog puppies are cute – few people can argue that. But so are adult bulldogs! I mean look at this muffin excited about pool time (p.s. Bulldogs can’t really swim so all the pools have to have very shallow water.) He’s so excited, he’s snorting!! Hahaha!

If all goes according to plan, G and I can welcome Obi-wan by the third week of February … and yes, I already foresee boring you with silly posts about him – our apologies in advance but you’ve been warned. Until then, I’ll leave you with some Obi-wan cuteness to take with you …

(Obi’s on the right, with a brother or sister on the left)

Rawwwrrrrr!!

And finally …having a hear-to-heart

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