Here’s my problem recently … in fact it’s been a problem for a while now and I suspect it’s a deeper rooted problem than I care to consider: the move to Chile has propelled me into adulthood.

When I moved here, I embarked on a whirlwind of adult themes – living with a significant other, having a household with a significant other (complete with a shared checking account), getting a dog with a significant other, getting married, and finally, being a stepmother to significant other’s children. Prior to all of this, I was a single gal living in the San Francisco Bay Area, traveling a heap for work and going out with my friends whenever the hell I pleased. No one to take into account besides myself and living the single life in my fabulous little apartment in the sunny outskirts of San Francisco. I traded all this in for the sake of love and moved to the bottom of the Earth to… become an adult.

The thing is, adulthood is fucking lonely. I’m nostalgic more than I care to recall and I miss my former life more than I care to admit. Then I consider that perhaps adulthood, introduced firsthand while living in a foreign country, is made far worse by the fact that I have to “learn the ropes” in this new country and adjust to society and culture here. What does that mean? Personally, for me, it means being the odd-man out 24-7. Combine this with “adult” responsibilities like planning for retirement, saving, planning kids, paying bills, saving for a future home, and seriously I just want to curl up in a ball and fall asleep next to my dog. All of it seems dry, all of it seems boring and ALL OF IT makes me miss my friends back home more than I can possibly express in one post.

Here’s the thing: while most of life is happening around me and I try to navigate my own life in the best, most successful way possible, inside, I’m like Peter Pan. I literally am the kid that never wants to grow up. Outside I’m 34 years old; inside I’m 24. In fact, call me crazy, but I still recall – FONDLY, mind you – the ’80’s Toys R Us commercial:

Indeed, all I want in life is to continue being a Toys R Us kid.

But those days are long gone and I’m not a Toys R Us kid. I’m not even a Falabella kid.

I guess what really makes adulthood a fucking drag right about now is this: I’ve had a really hard time making significant connections with people I’ve met here in Chile. Yeah, I LIKE some people I’ve met and think they are, in essence, pretty cool people, but I’d say it’s a far cry from actually connecting with said people. Sure, there are all kinds of variables, the most obvious one being my demanding job that pretty much sucks my will to do anything else besides come home and crash most of the time. But there are all kinds of other variables to consider too: age, priorities, responsibilities, work, time and space, just to name a few.

I know that my best friends back home are also tackling adulthood head on. They’re watching as other friends have children, buy homes, buy second homes, have second children, move up in their careers, etc, etc. Entering adulthood in Chile, for me, has been like starting a new school. I’m alone, I don’t really have any friends, I’m going through changes that feel weird and awkward and it seems everyone else is either 1) not going through the same changes or 2) breezing through said changes. In fact, I attended Catholic school for a hefty amount of time and when I started 8th grade in a public school in a new city, for the first time ever, I recall feeling a similar sentiment.

At times like these all I want to do is go somewhere where everybody knows my name … yeah I’m recalling the theme song to “Cheers,” but OH MY GOD does it ring true and comforting right about now.

Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.

[Why yes it does take everything I have and more so living in a foreign country where more often than not, all things seem backwards to me.]
Taking a break from all your worries, sure would help a lot.

[WHY YES IT WOULD!! I could potentially prolong my sanity, I think.]

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

[Yes. Ideally to San Francisco or New York where my best friends are living. Given this, I’m thankful for an upcoming trip to NYC in September.]

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

[I used to live a life where I frequented places where many people knew me. Now I live the most anonymous life I can fucking conjure up.]
and they’re always glad you came.

[This line is the one that gets me. So many places I know I can walk into right now and KNOW that people will be happy to see me. But, fuck, more importantly, that people will actually GET me. I won’t be the odd man out, I may just fucking blend in. That or people will actually know me. Such a far cry from my life in Chile right now.]
You wanna be where you can see,
our troubles are all the same

Misery loves company? Happiness loves company too, though. I’ll take either one here in Chile, but I’m so missing those connections. ARE people the same here as they are there? Do they have similar troubles? Do they go through the same things?…. Fuck if I know.
You wanna be where everybody knows
Your name.

[I do!]

You wanna go where people know,
people are all the same,

[As much so here as there? Probably but then again, what do I  know?]
You wanna go where everybody knows
your name.

[What does it mean to go where everyone knows your name? Common bonds, that’s one. Relatable history, that’s another.]

There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with people who know your history, people who knew you “way back when.”

The most recent example of this:

Text message via Whats App with Amanda Aug 13, 2011

What the hell does all that mean and why should you care?
You shouldn’t care actually. If you do, I’ll call you a crazy stalker.

But what I’ll share with you are simple facts:

1) Amanda is a really, really good friend I met in college . In fact, we lived together our senior year.

2) I used to be the agro friend who had her hair done (highlights and cut) every nine weeks on the dot. I also used to have my eyebrows done on a monthly basis. (An impossible feat here in Chile since, after having lived here 2+ years, finding a decent hairdresser continues to be a Holy Grail-esque quest.)

3) With this personal standard, I took it upon myself to alert all of my friends of their unruly hairs (whether on their heads or faces) whenever said hairs reared their ugly natures. I was what Amanda used to refer to as a “crotchety old aunt.”

Yet despite that annoying trait, this good friend of mine, along with another dear friend, remembered me when they passed by the hair salon where I used to get my hair ‘did back home (said reference to Trio). So much so, that they sent me a text message alerting me to the fact, despite the thousands of miles and the times zones that divide us. To me the idea  of being “where everybody knows [my] name” and to know people are “always glad I came” is something that is embodied in this text message I’ve shared right here on my blog.

I envision the me right now, grappling with being an adult and taking on the adult responsibilities that are coming at me left and right, stepping into the car with my two good friends, hearing them say “Dre!!” (if you ever watched “Cheers” you’d get this reference. If not, then here.) Seriously, I think that’s all I’d need to dust myself off and face the craziness of this new adulthood (in a foreign land.)

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In Chile, the Concert-Going Me

Like most people (who aren’t Captain Von Trapp), I really like music. Now, by NO MEANS do I consider myself to be a music snob, like these guys:

"...I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like... Books, records, films - these things matter. Call me shallow but it's the fuckin' truth..."

(Actually the video is much funnier.)

Music, in all its shapes and forms, has served my life in so many ways. I guess that in short, music is my diary. It keeps me company and has been my best friend during the loneliest of times. I listen to music constantly and since the invention of the ipod, there has not been a place where music wasn’t right there with me. Not just any music, but MY music. Again, not the most fantastic of music, not the most genius, but it’s the most comforting (to me.)

But here’s a weird thing to ponder, considering my like/love of music – concerts weren’t really my thing when I lived in California. In fact, after having lived there for 29 years of my life, I’ve attended the following concerts: Billy Joel, New Kids on the Block, Dave Matthews Band, Tibetan Freedom Concert …. and I think that’s about it. For reals that sums up my entire concert going experience during my time in California. Why didn’t I go to more concerts? I don’t have the answer to that because I honestly don’t know. Considering I lived near San Francisco, my excuse can’t be the lack of good concerts – EVERYONE and their mom was in concert at some point or another in San Francisco. If I had to pinpoint one possible excuse, I’d probably blame economics. I mean, who has $200 to spend on Madonna concert tickets? Yes, I wish I’d seen Madge live but the fact is, those $200 were better spent on rent, groceries, bills or even clothes (which would last longer than just a night.)

All this changed when I moved to Chile.

I’ve lived in Santiago for just about two years and already I’ve been to as many concerts as I attended while living in California. I thank G for this because he loves going to concerts. The mountain of concert DVDs he owns (not pirated, mind you) are a testament to this and so of course, each time a band or singer he likes announces a tour stop in Santiago, within in a matter of days I hear the magical chime “Cosita, do you want to go to a concert with me?”


Sister *IS* fierce.

The first concert we attended together (and in fact, my first concert-going experience of my Chilean life) was a birthday gift from him. None other than larger-than-life, POP/R&B-holier-than-thou Beyoncé. It was her first tour through Lat Am and arguably right at the peak of her career (thus far) with the success of “I Am …. Sasha Fierce” humming across the world to the tune of “Single Ladies.”
In the simplest terms, she was amazing. It was the first introduction to Beyoncé that G experienced (if we don’t count his daughter’s countless practices in front of the tv as she attempted to master the Single Ladies dance moves). Owning up to her alter-ego titled album, Ms. Sasha Fierce herself most certainly did not disappoint and literally had the fans, Chilean and not, enchanted with her singing, moves, personality and engagement with the audience. Of course for me it was the ultimate experience considering I have been a fan of Beyoncé since her days in Destiny’s Child (and by that I mean when DC had four members and not the three people normally recall.) Yes, there was once a time when there were four of them… during “Writing’s on the Wall,” their 2nd album released in 1999. G came away from that concert completely and totally in love, 100% assured to the fact that Beyoncé was, if not the single, most attractive woman in the world, then surely the second one (after yours truly, why of course.) I walked away in awe as well and simply appreciative of the artists who perform an entire concert without lip syncing and dancing until the very end. Truly a performance we’d repeatedly attend.

Our second concert-going experience was one that initiated with what I now come to know as the “pretty-please-go-with-me-because-I-love-this-singer/band-and-no-one-else-will-go-with-me-if-you-don’t” look.

Um, Tom Jones? Sex Bomb?

Oh, the Tom Jones concert. It was like we fast-forwarded into our mid-40s and met up with similar middle-aged people, ready to “rock it” with good ol’ Tom. And I’m talking G was right there  with the best of them, swiveling his hips to the croons of Tom Jones, singing and clapping along, completely and totally mesmerized. It was a good concert actually, despite the fact that I wouldn’t dream of attending another one, and the crowd was pleased with his stage charm. They went wiiiiiild when he finally performed “Sex Bomb,” an experience completely in line with the cliché of being in a foreign country still trapped in the 80s. I can always count on G to take me out of my routine and for introducing me to old-yet-wildly popular artists (in Chile) I’d otherwise never know. So much so, Tom Jones might very well have been super popular in the U.S. and I simply had no idea.

Moving along to the worst concert G and I have attended thus far – Luis Miguel. Here are my two cents regarding his concert:

1) He performed a perfectly calculated concert, simply inserting the word  “Chile” about five times throughout the performance to the point that I wondered if he was merely saying “Chile” so as to remind himself of where he was in the world. Because, I mean, obviously we knew we were in Chile. Did he?

2) He couldn’t be bothered to engage the audience. There was no conversation, no anecdotes. Not even a whole sentence!

3) He went from one song, to the next, to the next, without so much as a pause. It was as if he was checking songs off of some list he had tacked up on a wall somewhere backstage… “No Sé Tú” – check!

4) He didn’t encore!!!! Call me crazy, but if fans are screaming for me, I’d go out and give ’em more!! (Everyone else does it, even Beyoncé! I do believe Bey-Bey and Luis Miguel are equal parts diva … one is just rude and a totally flat performer).

Mish! … moving on … to one of my favorite artists of all time (G says I say that about everyone, but in this case, it’s true) – Dave Matthews Band.

Image courtesy of - DMB live in Santiago, Oct 2010.

Now, let me preface by saying that I’ve seen DMB perform twice before in California. When I attended his first concert, I knew all of one song “Crash Into Me” and I could barely consider myself a fan at that point. Last October when DMB came to Chile (for the first time ever, mind you), it was the third time I had seen them live, but this time around I could call myself a full-fledged DMB fan. As hard is it was for me to believe, when a girlfriend here in Chile sent an email to a group of us asking who would be interested in attending, she and I both learned that we were the cheeses that stood alone on with any love for DMB – no one else was interested in going!! In the end, she and I went together and we Clearly my other fellow expats friends and acquaintances have no idea what they’re missing. Dave Matthews himself sounds just as good live as he does on his recordings and his band is AH-mazing – from the drummer, to the sax player to the guitarist and um, hi, the ever famous violinist! Those boys sure know how to carry a good diddy and certainly know a thing or two about showing a girl a good time at a concert.

On tap so far in 2011 …

A couple of weeks ago G asked me if I wanted to go see an Argentine tribute band to Queen called “Dios Salve a la Reina” or “God Save the Queen.” This experience was about as close as I’ll ever come to seeing Freddy Mercury live and the lead singer seriously FLOORED us. His appearance, his moves, his voice – eerily similar to the videos and images I’ve seen of Freddy Mercury performing with Queen and it’s a testament to the dedication this guy has surely injected into his art. If you ever have the chance, this singer is worth seeing … however … his band falls ridiculously short. Seriously, their talents PALE in comparison, both as back up singers and as musicians. Again, I’m no music guru and my knowledge of music is pretty limited, I get that and I’m not pretending otherwise here. But the talent the lead singer of this band has is so overwhelmingly good that even if the musicians are any good or have decent voices, we simply couldn’t tell. Freddy Mercury v.2 was just THAT good. He carried the show. Below, a very short video I took during the concert. See what I mean about his voice?? Freddy Part Deux.

Mmm-mmm-mmmm, man do I enjoy some good vocals on a skinny dude.

And finally, we come to the biggest surprise of them all when it comes to concerts.

About a month ago G once again came to me with that “pretty-please-go-with-me-because-I-love-this-singer/band-and-no-one-else-will-go-with-me-if-you-don’t” look. I said, sure, what band? He tells me Mr. Big.

Mr. Big, huh? That 80s glam one-hit wonder band whose one song is known by every single person who grew up watching MTV videos in the 80s and 90s? I didn’t even know that they had other songs (I don’t include their remake of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” mind you because I’m not particularly fond of that version, but that’s just me), let alone enough songs to warrant an entire concert. But hey, I totally dig their one song so I thought, “Cool, let’s go see them live.”

Right now, right here, I’m fully disclosing my rock ignorance. I know this, I embrace this and I’m willing to remedy this. You see, what I was expecting was a long-haired band, rocking out on a soft and breezy acoustic guitar, almost singing a Capella versions of “To Be With You” and “Wild World.” What I got, was this:

(This video is obviously not from the concert we attended last week but trust me, it’s a fairly accurate account of what the concert was like.)

Now, I can’t say that I’m all of a sudden a huge Mr. Big fan, but I can certainly appreciate a good guitar rip and I can most certainly become entranced when one goes on and on and, finally, I can certainly bow down to an IMPROV guitar jam by two great artists such are the guitarist and bassist of this band. This is what the Mr. Big concert was like and let me tell you folks, if you were like me and thought that Mr. Big was a ballad-loving 80s glam rock band, you are sorely mistaken. Let me be the first to tell you that this band is quite a bit more than that. Eric Martin, the band’s lead singer, has an amazingly solid rock voice, wailing like a champion without so much as a crack or a quiver. Even though I was completely lost, as far as concerts are concerned, with absolutely NO idea what was going on between one song and the next,  with no knowledge of the song lyrics or the music I was listening to, I had a really good time. The singer and the band in general were – yes, that word again – engaging. And you know what, somehow, thanks to this, the language barrier just ceased to exist.

There are actually some pretty good artists that are making their way down to Chile these days. In fact, just a couple of months ago Chile hosted the one and only Lollapalooza (first time in Lat Am) and due its success, a 2012 concert has already been confirmed. Though we didn’t attend the festival which was held in April of this year, G and I continue on with our concert-going plans, pumped like flannel-wearing teenagers to go see Guns N’ Roses as well as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, both of whom will be in Santiago between Sept and Oct of this year. Not to be eclipsed by our shared love of 80s and 90s rock, our taste in pop is also well represented as we most definitely plan to check out Lady Gaga in 2012, awaiting her official dates to be confirmed so that we can add that notch to our concert-going bedpost. Other groups that have also been announced thus far this year include Judas Priest, Whitesnake, Erasure, Aerosmith, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, Limp Bizkit and dumb ass Avril Lavigne (whose bright idea was that? I’ll only care if she comes with Brody Jenner. G will only care if Brody happens to bring his stepsister Kim Kardashian. Otherwise we aren’t interested NOR can we imagine how she plans to fill Movistar Arena with said fans.)
Though G and I aren’t planning to attend any of the above-mentioned concerts (Guns and Chili Peppers aside), it’s great to see such variety exists here in Chile. One less thing to miss from back home and that’s always a welcomed, guitar-ripped, cherry on top of life as an Expat.

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When Surprise Visits Make Your Weekend

One of the things that really, truly bummed me out when I got married last year was the fact that none – literally none – of my friends back home attended. I understand why, of course, and can even explain to you the reason behind their absences. Mainly it had to do with the fact that initially G and I were planning to get married in November 2010 and instead, moved the date up to April 2010. I communicated this change about five months in advance but of course, I understand that Chile is far, it’s expensive to travel and that they (my friends) had every right to prioritize their spending. After all, I was the one who randomly switched the date on them, regardless of the advance notice.

Truth be told, it hurt a lot. I couldn’t believe that I was finally – FINALLY – getting married and not one single friend was there. The sting was lessened because I was completely and 100% happy to have had the friends I had made in Chile present, almost symbolizing the here and now. I was also really happy that my most favorite person in the whole wide world came: my Tio Pato.

Only the most amazing uncle of all time.

I grew up in San Francisco, far away from where the majority of my blood relatives lived – Chile. On both sides of the family I happen to have many aunts and uncles and a ridiculous, only-in-Latin-families amount of cousins. The thing is that they all lived down here while I was happily growing up in Northern California. The only family I had while growing up were my mom (obviously), two-great aunts, my Tio Pato (my mom’s brother) and my Tio Pato’s son (and my cousin), Tony.

Tony and I shared a similar story actually. He was born in the U.S. but his mom had moved there from Chile in the late 70s/early 80s and like me, Tony had family down here but rarely saw them. He once traveled with my aunt and uncle to Chile but apparently he was too young to remember and it wasn’t until he was well in his teens that he finally began to fully embrace his Chilean roots. Again, a little like me.

Tony and I also grew up a lot like brother and sister. He’s an only child and though I have a sister, she didn’t live in the U.S. with us and as such, I also grew up pretty much as an only child. Since my mother counted her brother as one of the very few family members with whom she could share things with, we spent a lot of time with my aunt, uncle and cousin: camping trips, 4th of July bbqs, Chilean asados, birthday parties, Christmases, New Years, etc. There was even a time when my mom and I went to live with them, result of a nasty separation she was going through. The point being that Tony and I share a lot of fond memories of growing up in the late 80s and early 90s.

My First Communion. I was 7, Tony must have been all of 3.

When he was a toddler, he was an annoying little sh*t who cried for no reason and when my mom used to babysit him, she’d quiet him down by literally sitting his naked little butt in a sink of ice, cold water. (This was the 80s and the ‘time-out’ business parents use now wasn’t the norm.) When he got his first Nintendo, we played Super Marios Bros until we couldn’t see straight, well past our bedtime, defiant until the end (we needed to raid the castle to rescue the princess!) Rumor even has it that Tony got stoned for the very first time with one of my high school boyfriends! I told him everything he needed to know about high school: dances, lockers, class schedules, popularity, cheerleaders, newspapers, what-have-you and assured him that since I was going through high school first, I would make sure to be super popular so that when he got there, it would be a breeze for him (he ultimately ended up going to a different high school. Good thing because I don’t recall ever being the said Miss Popularity I promised him I’d be!)

We even fought like brother and sister. One time, I was (per usual) making fun of his name – not Tony, but his full name, Domingo Antonio. I ran around his apartment laughing and taunting him “Ha ha, your name is Sunday, your name is Sunday!” I must have been 14, he was probably around 9 and in response to this taunting (which I smugly found to be brilliantly humorous), he did what any 9 year old would do – he punched me in the face. I remember cupping my cheek and looking at him, totally in shock and with my mouth gaping open. “” I said to him. “You… are.. going…. to… be… in… so… much… trouble… I’m totally going to tell on you!!” And I ran off and locked myself in the bathroom for a good half hour. It didn’t really hurt, you see. I just wanted to make him suffer and for that entire half hour, I was pleased at myself as I heard him banging on the door freaking out “Don’t tell my mom, don’t tell my dad, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” (In the end, I don’t even remember if I ended up telling on him, but I’ll never forget how much he freaked out after punching me.)

I’m guessing I’m 19 or 20 and he’s 15 or 16. This was years after punching me in the face but actually it occurred in that apt!
Tony and I as tourists in Valparaiso in December 2006.
Tony and I at my uncle’s 60th bday in Jan 2006 – buzzed hair not a good look for you, primo.
Does anyone else feel like I’m equally chronicling Tony’s hair through the years?

Tony didn’t make it to my wedding either, but this was mostly due to bad timing on our part. You see, Tony moved to Australia to work for a magazine right around the time that G and I got married. I was

sad that he wasn’t there because even though there were many cousins in attendance, he was the one cousin that really, truly mattered. The last time I saw him was in 2009, during a trip to CA, before he moved to Australia. All that changed, one random day, about a month ago.

Now, let me preface this with telling you how Tony’s evolved as he’s stepped into, yes, manhood. For one thing, post-high school he chose to use his birth name both professionally and socially. He is not known as “Tony” to anyone that has met him post 20-years of age; he’s known as Domingo (yes, Sunday!) It’s funny because the difference is clearly marked. His high school friends and his entire family call him Tony … everyone after, calls him Domingo. Also, he’s turned into an amazingly cool guy. Meaning, that same kid that was kicking and screaming outside the door, freaking out that I’d tell on him for punching me, would now be like “whatever, dude” and somehow manage to turn the situation into nothing, simply by being charming or saying something bogus and out there (perhaps he’s mastered the Jedi-mind trick, who knows?) He’s a little bohemian, a little hippy-ish, a lot artsy and definitely an outside-the-box thinker. He isn’t a planner and more so follows the moment, the high (life high, that is), the movement, the flow, what have you.

This is the guy who randomly called me on an insignificant Friday in May – OUT OF NOWHERE – and said “Hey cuz, it’s me, Tony. I’m in Chile.”


Yes, he was in Chile and yes, he’d been here for about a week, doing his thing and, as usual, going with the flow. Venturing out and randomly landing in Chile. Such is life with him. He didn’t have time to see other family members and so it meant that much more to me that he called to make sure we saw each other before he returned to Australia.

The bearded cousin, circa now.
Our signature go-to awkward smile-for-the-camera. Years of perfecting this, people!

I’m not sure any other visit would have made me quite so happy, truth be told. We only hung out a few hours, three tops. We all went out to dinner to a typical Chilean restaurant and basically hung out, shot the sh*t and had a nostalgia-filled time. We reminisced, just like old people. We called my uncle (who, by the way, nearly cried at the thought of both my cousin and I hanging out after so much time living outside CA.) We laughed, we drank wine, we called each other “dude” one time too many. All we needed to make the night complete was a round of Super Mario Bros. And as silly as it may sound, I was happy because I was able to share my life now, time with my husband, my apartment, my dog – everything – with someone who has always meant very much to me, through the good and through the bad. The only thing that would have made the night complete, would have been to have my uncle right there with us.

That’s ok, though. Mantuvimos al Tio muy presente. Even force-feeding Gonzalo in the same manner Tio Pato is known to do (with family and complete strangers, mind you.)

Open wiiiiide! Who doesn’t like sea urchin, anyway?

Dear cuz: Thanks for the random call, thanks for the extra time. See you in your neck of the woods in October.

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Rock Star Kids!

I’m intrigued by kids, especially those with imagination and drive. This is because on the other hand, I’ve seen my fair share of the typical kid and his/her antics. I know it’s not their fault these kids have nothing new to offer; it’s mainly their parents fault and in light of that, I think the majority of parents today are really proactive about how their kids develop and how they are stimulated. It’s a sign of the times, I believe.

Which is why it’s no surprise that some very close family friends back home have accomplished something that I too hope to accomplish when I have children: they’re raising women leaders who wish to make this world a better place.

I reject the idea that if one is a girl, that girl needs pink and needs dolls and needs cutesy this or that. Girls aren’t bubbles, fragile and likely to burst if poked. Further, girls, just like boys can very well be encouraged to run, explore, climb, question, think, laugh, build, rearrange and a series of other active verbs that right now escape me but that are traditionally seen as boy behavior.

Our family friends have three girls: Kylie (11), Devon (10) and Piper (8) and these three girls think big. They started a club called Earth Savers Club for Kids about two years ago, initially with the belief “think globally, act locally,” with the purpose of picking up trash around their neighborhood in Northern California. But big thinkers and doers don’t just settle on the first idea that comes to mind, no matter how old or young they may be. No, they decided that to go BIG would mean reaching kids in other parts of the State, country and world and encouraging kids to pledge their commitment – however they can – to saving the Earth. Some kids pledge (via the website) to eat as much organic food as possible, others pledge to pick up garbage and recycle more, while others pledge to save the Earth by simply walking more. Um, did I mention these are KIDS making said pledges?? Rock star kids, all of them.

A local newspaper called “The Almanac” did a short report on these three girls and their hope for the future. But the real gem that lets one truly appreciate where these girls hope to go and what they hope to accomplish is the actual Earth Savers Club for Kids, a colorful, interactive website that invites kids from all over the world to join the global effort to save the Earth’s natural resources. As 10-year old Devon reminds us in the article she wrote for an e-magazine, “the Earth can’t be saved without kids.” Call me crazy, but if I were a parent, I’d definitely use this site to encourage my kids to participate in their own way.

An epilogue to ponder ….
On a personal note, I’ve known these girls since they were babies. In fact, I’ve known Kylie since she was 4 months old and I “met” Devon and Piper days after they were each born. My mother used to be their nanny when we lived in California and we were as much a part of eachother’s lives as any blood-related relatives. We’ve had the opportunity (and honor) to watch these girls grow up, celebrating with them, vacationing with them, sharing with them and to watch them individually become exactly who they chose to be … They are the reason I reject the notion that girls – and women – aren’t capable of excelling beyond our everyday imagination (and expectation). I’ve seen it first hand numerous times and in the simplest of forms, such as conversations with them or everyday play with them. In any case, I’m proud of them and of the girls they have become … I look forward to marveling at the women they will be and I hope that one day, if I have a girl, I too can accomplish the feat of encouraging her to look around and consider how she can help make things better.

Kylie and me in St. Thomas, USVI.

Devon and me playing on their backyard’s swing set.

Piper and me in Disneyland.

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One year ago today

One year ago today was the last time I would wake up in my own apartment; the last time I’d be living my single life; the last time I would drink the best latte in the world from the best neighborhood cafe in the world (Borrones); the last time I would have a sleep over with my best friend, where it would be just me and her in my apt.

A year ago today, I left California and boarded an American Airlines flight to Santiago, to begin my new life here.

It was the last time I walked down the tree lined streets of Menlo Park.

The last time I could call California my home, with a permanent address and a mailbox that proved I lived there.

It was the last time my Uncle Pato ever went to pick me up at my apartment.

It was the last time I walked through the kitchen, the living room, my bedroom … and realized that what I had accomplished alone was passing. I had gone from being a pathetic mess over one failed relationship after another, feeling like a failure who lived with her mom for so long and couldn’t branch out on her own, feeling like my career was going nowhere and in short, feeling stuck … and I turned a new leaf and began to own my life and my choices in a way I had never done before.

That apartment embodied all of that and all four small rooms contained a memory of each and every little accomplishment I had ever set out for my single self.

My bedroom the day before I left California.

The same bedroom only six months earlier.

Leaving California was hard. It was hard to see my beloved apt reduced to nothing more than wall-to-wall carpeting and window blinds. It was hard to say goodbye to my best friend, knowing that I would NEVER, for as long as I would be away, ever form friendships as strong as I have in California.

It has been hard adapting to a country that has amazing resources and great potential, but that, realistically, is light years behind more developed countries like the U.S.

I miss home and sometimes G gets sad when I tell him that. But the thing is, he’s the reason I’m here. He’s all the reason I’ll ever need to motivate me to move from Pole to Pole. I said to him the other day: “I would follow you to Afghanistan and back, so long as I was with you.” And it’s true.

But the reality is that to me, being in Chile is not an accomplishment and it’s so far from where I thought I’d be in life, it’s almost comical.

However, HE is the accomplishment and what we have together is also so far from where I thought I’d be in life. I was convinced I’d never find someone like him, amazing in so many ways. I am truly blessed with him – because of him and because of who I am and who I want to be when I’m with him. Just better, all around. Does he make the move to Chile worth it? A million times yes.

But as an independent woman, someone who values strength and autonomy as well, I want to find my own path in this narrow land … so far it’s been hard.

One year later, I’ve taken steps, but I’m miles (or kilometers) away from making strides.

Pretty much the last view I had of my apartment, my life in California, on July 17, 2009.
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Red Asphalt is missing in Chile

When I was 15 and in high school, I was required to take one semester of driver’s education as part of the basic curriculum of all students. This practice is all but gone in many schools across the U.S. but during the 70s and well into the early 90s when I was in high school, the course was alive and well. We all looked forward to this semester our sophomore year because it was the first step we embarked on towards the freedom that a California state Driver’s License offered us.

Part of the excitement of Driver’s Ed was the mystery that surrounded the infamous “Red Asphalt.” Red Asphalt is a series of instructional driver’s education videos produced by the California Highway Patrol. And to put it bluntly, all it did was feature gruesome scenes of bloody accidents, most of which were caused by drunk or speeding drivers (or both). Before Driver’s Ed, we’d only heard about the film, which supposedly featured bodies cut in half, strewn on lawns, cars a wrangled mess of metal with blood splattered on the windshields and seats … and all we had to frame our own reactions of the film, were those reactions of students older than us. Some were overly dramatic and claimed to have had to walk out of class; others were sadistic and took it all in gladly. In either case, it was the talk of the school whenever the sophomore class had seen the film that particular week.

Below is an 8 minute clip of the original Red Asphalt, though I can’t recall if this was the one we saw in 1992/1993. I doubt it, but even if we had a more updated version, what they would have updated would be the statistics… the general idea of the video is nicely conveyed in this short clip, should you wish to take a gander.

So not only did we have a semester’s worth of learning California driving laws, but this was mixed in with curriculum focused on scaring the living sh*t out of us by outlining every possible factor that could result in a deadly accident the minute we stepped foot behind the driver’s wheel. I’m not condoning nor am I criticizing this tactic, I’m simply stating how it was presented to the general student population at our school, and from what I hear, how it was presented in general in the State of California.

Further to this semester of education and scare tactics, our school also hosted “Drunk Driving Awareness Week” once a year. This involved assemblies where we’d hear first hand about how real people were affected one way or another by drunk driving, movies featuring images of drunk driving accidents and also included what was left of a car on our school’s front lawn. This was an actual car that had been involved in an alcohol related collision, mangled doors, shattered windshields, dried blood – the whole nine yards – on our front lawn so that every day for a week, we saw it on our way into the building. I have memory of the cars looking something like this every year:

Perhaps not this exactly, but similar enough that I recall thinking “How did anyone survive that?”

And so, if it isn’t already obvious to you, my conclusion about all this is that, in the early 90s at least, California CLEARLY favored educating teenagers about the rules of the road while at the same time, scaring us into never wanting to step into a car either as a driver or a passenger for the remainder of our lives. And at least with this teenager, fear tactics work their “magic” in such a way, that I’m like one of those dogs who wears those collars that send electrical charges through them whenever they bark.

As we got older, the messages surrounding driving under the influence continued. They evolved into more sophisticated messages of the “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk” nature and stopped featuring gross, bloody scenes that bordered on resembling bad Hollywood movie types. The bottom line being that in California, we were constantly fed, via the formal education system or the media, messages that it was simply NOT OK to drink and drive. Even if one had done it, that person carried with them the GUILT learned through all of the above, because it’s embedded in our brains that no matter how you slice it, it’s.just.plain. wrong. And trust me, I’ve seen that guilt scare the few people I know who have driven drunk into NEVER doing it again. Those are the happy cabby people (i.e. they take taxis left and right a la Paris Hilton post jail stint).

THEREFORE, dear blog reader, you can simply IMAGINE my disgust at the seemingly culturally accepted tendency in Chile to drive regardless of the number of drinks one has consumed. I’m not talking about evidence on the news (which, believe it or not, shows bloodier scenes than in the U.S.!) but occasions I’ve witnessed FIRST HAND of this acceptance. The “no he’s fine, he hasn’t had a drink in an hour and I just gave him a cup of coffee.” Or “no she’s fine, she lives just about five blocks from here, and I asked her to call us when she gets home.” And I’ve experienced FIRST HAND being in the car with someone DRIVING who has whipped out a can of beer to drink it while driving (that time, I made him stop the car, I got out and told my two cousins who were in the back seat, after refusing to get out with me, peace out. Baby don’t play that game.) The shadiest part about that story is that the guy driving is a DETECTIVE for the Investigations arm of the Law Enforcement here in Chile. Nice, right?

No one wants to be the “mala onda weon” who tells an inebriated – or even buzzed – friend that maybe he shouldn’t be driving. AND no one wants to be the “mala onda galla” who tells her friends she’s only having two drinks because she has to drive home. That would be met with immediate looks resembling “WTF is wrong with you? Did you have a lobotomy, is that it?” If someone WERE to stick to their guns and not drink or continue to drink (and be responsible, at that!) I’m certain the general public would immediately disregard him/her as someone cool and fun. And God forbid promoting the idea of designated drivers here in Chile. Not once in my personal experience have I ever been to any social gathering here where someone merely stated “Nah, I’m good. I’m the DD tonight.” Unless that person was a pregnant or nursing woman, everyone drinks and there is simply no limit.

Anyhoo, what’s the moral of my story today? Nothing really. I can only do so much to change perceptions, which is limited to those directly around me, and even then, I can only influence so much. I’m not condoning scaring teenagers in Chile from getting behind the wheel because as it is, a good lot of them never learn to drive and when they do, it’s later on in life. Nor am I saying that California had it right because God knows I’ve witnessed those same Californians doing some stupid, stupid things related to drinking and driving. I’m not sure that in general, those scare tactics used in my high school even worked. Yeah, they worked on me for the most part but that’s because my mother’s M.O. as I was growing up was the use of scare tactics. Thus it’s the sure way to discipline me. The whole notion of “If you do/don’t do ABC, then XYZ will happen (to you).” Gets me every time!

Plus, can I also attribute all this “awareness” to the fact that California as a state is all about making us aware? Aware of the effects, aware of the surroundings, aware of the aftermath, aware of the consequences. We’re an aware bunch in CA, or at least, our government aims for that. Does that mean Chileans are, in comparison, unaware? No. I think they’re a very aware bunch as well … it’s just that they’re quick to forgive or turn a blind eye to something they are aware is bad.

THIS is the biggest issue I have with the culture right now.

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My competitive landscape in Chile

My competitive pool is much smaller in Chile.

Granted, this is perhaps directly correlated to the fact that Chile has a population of about 16,758,114, of which, about 85% is urban dwelling… i.e. the majority of them are crowding my space here in Santiago.

But I spent days wondering, how many of these 16+ million are in the same competition pool with me? I’m not going to say that I’m schooled in what the AVERAGE Chilean person, man and woman, aspires to because I’m sure it varies from person to person and social bracket to social bracket. All I can really base my assumptions on are family members, either close to me or not, as I observe what they accomplish in life and what they set as priorities.

Back home in CA I’m from a very, VERY competitive landscape. We’re talking Silicon Valley, Sand Hill Road: the venture capitalist mecca of the world, Stanford University, Nasa Ames Research Center, UC Berkeley and the San Francisco Financial District all within a good 60 miles from one another. And I lived (and grew up) right smack-dab in the middle of that. On top of that, I was also living in the DIRECT outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., where, according to this year’s Forbes report, San Francisco comes in as the 4th most expensive city in the U.S., following NYC, LA and White Plains, NY.

It comes as no surprise (to me at least) that my high school graduating class consisted of sons and daughters of bank owners, hedge fund owners, partners of VC firms, notable investors, reputable doctors and lawyers, etc, etc, what have you. And that was the crowd that surrounded me in a PUBLIC school of the area… I can’t begin to imagine the company kept at the local private schools!

The competition I felt throughout my years in California was fierce. Seriously, something I wonder if many Chileans can understand. Right now, couples I know are purchasing homes that cost upwards of $2 million DOLLARS. Yeah. Couples that are between 31-35 purchasing homes or even ASPIRING to purchase homes in that price range. And even if we never dreamed of doing such things, we still have/had a pretty skewed view of what it meant to be successful. Ok, so MAYBE not a house worth millions of dollars but a two bedroom apartment/townhouse/flat that costs ALMOST $1 million. Trust me, this is NORMAL where I’m from because unfortunately that’s our reality. We either strive to make it or … we keep striving to make it (fortunately I don’t have friends who are quitters.) And I believe that we ALL went through a kind of crisis between the ages of 27-30 when we felt like we’d accomplished only a fraction of what we set out to accomplish and we held our heads in hands because we felt like we were ‘lagging behind’ when compared to our peers.

When I lived in CA I had decided that I didn’t need to live in Hillsborough or Marin County or even in San Francisco itself. Perhaps it was because I felt overwhelmed by the ridiculous competition and I knew that if I wanted to be in that race I had to keep on studying and add another degree to the arsenal. Unfortunately (or not) where I’m from, every other person has a Masters degree of some sort and it was quickly becoming a state of Bachelors = high school diploma. The only exception to this rule that I personally saw was with innovative people who created either a new service or a new technology (and in Silicon Valley, trust me there were many!) I didn’t find myself to be particularly creative – not in a core-shaking kind of way – and I certainly didn’t attend a top-tier university and the combination of both of those ‘setbacks’ made me feel that the ONLY way I could remain in the competitive game was to keep studying… but then again, choosing to study resulted in another set of suffocating avenues I had to weave through. Primarily, which school, what to study and PRAY TELL how would I pay for it!!??

But now I’m here in Chile … something that I hadn’t planned on years ago when I was mapping out the would-be actions I wanted to take to arrive at the life I wanted to have. In fact, during high school, college and as I entered the work force, all my decisions were based on living my life in the U.S., just as I had been for as long as I could remember. My frame of reference was that which I noted above and yes, I would adapt myself accordingly (perhaps in a fashion I now see as “settling” when compared to what my peers were setting out to accomplish) but my life would reflect SOME aspect of what was the “norm” around me. Said norm being where even over achievers fade into the background in the highly competitive environment.

All of the above brings me to this: I’m starting classes at a business school here in Santiago in April and I decided to focus on Marketing. Whereas in the States I would have probably chosen an MBA program due to the competition around me, here I feel that I already have an edge given that my undergrad degree is from a U.S. university so I decided to do something I was actually interested in. And so I sit back and think that all my prepping in an UBER competitive landscape in CA is going to serve me well here in Chile. I speak fluent English and Spanish, I work in a multi-national company where I manage an entire region, I have an undergrad degree from the U.S. and now I’m going to work hard for a Masters in Chile. I’m already wired to be an agro competitor, no holds bar, the “I-will-not-allow-you-to-be-better-than-me-without-a-fight” kind of mentality that I HAD TO HAVE growing up where I did. I don’t think it will be easy to charge ahead and become a leader of some sort here in Chile and I know I have a LOT of things to learn before I become one.

But I can say I do believe, 100%, that my competition pool here is much, much smaller than it was in the SF Bay Area. My mentality and focus hasn’t changed, my environment has … and it will be interesting to see what I accomplish and learn because of that.

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California Love

I’m looking forward to my last fun-filled weekend as a full fledged California resident: a bachelorette party for my friend C, who is getting married this coming August. Her sister organized the bulk of it – cruise stylie with events, outings and meals planned – at this amazing house in Sonoma County. Can’t wait to go, even if my tan from my trip to Playa del Carmen is fading (while I perceive myself to be “white” my real “white” friends find me to be quite dark!)There is nothing I enjoy more than celebrating my friends and in this case, I am so happy to be there, given that in TWELVE DAYS, I’m leaving for Santiago. Can we say a Charlie Brown style “Ack!!!??”

Keeping in mind this upcoming weekend – one weekend – I can pinpoint SO MANY things I’m going to feel nostalgic about when I move. Almost like those cartoon drawings in the magazine “Highlights” where you have to find what’s different/missing in one picture when compared to another. Off the bat, allow me to briefly state just a morsel of things I’ll miss/grieve/look upon fondly on:

1.) Sonoma and/or Napa County. While Chile does have it’s own wine trails and tourist attractions with regards to wines, nothing beats the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. Especially when you’ve grown up taking trips with girlfriends to go wine tasting. This is the kind of stuff that people from the Bay Area take for granted. I know because that’s me! It’s always there, so what’s to miss? Growing up in San Fran and then in the Bay Area, it’s like a right of passage to head to Napa with the girlfriends, sometimes even going all out and renting a wine bus and/or a limo, just for shits and giggles.

2.) Road trip with girlfriends. The first road trip I can recall going on was with some friends from high school, including one of my current bff’s – S. That kid was a rebel child disguised as one of those goody two shoes, ballet/drama style kids. I loved her to pieces for the ball of drama that she was then and love her to pieces more so now. We decided to go with some other gf’s to Carmel – of all places – and when we got there, we practically passed out from boredom. What did we do? We
decided to take the car down to the next town over – no less than Santa Barbara. You don’t need a map of Northern California to know that Carmel IS NOT and never was, the next town over from Santa Barbara. I guess we had fun though, but the next year beat out any fun we may have had in CA, when we decided to drive to Lake Havasu, Arizona for no other reason than because the MTV Beach House had been there the year before. I don’t recall much about that trip except laughing about the town of Blythe, California. It’s the last town before you cross on over to Arizona, and let me tell you, there is NOTHING to see here. In fact, we

tapped into “Wayne‘s World” and just kept repeating “Hi, we’re in Blythe” all the while walking in place, waving like Queen Elizabeth. Come to think of it, this one event sums up many-a-less-than-stellar encounters I’ve experienced in recent years. The whole “WTF” thought process can easily be replaced with “Hi, I’m in Blythe.” A void encounter. No jazz-hands, if you will.

Wait – speaking of road trips – there was also the time we drove to San Diego, crossed over to Tijuana with some random people and consequently GOT DETAINED there when I failed to show my Chilean passport to the border authorities (why would I carry that thing on a road trip?!!). They asked “What is your country of citizenship” and all I had to say was “United States” but I just couldn’t LIE!!! I couldn’t do it man… and still can’t!! Ugh! I was almost left there to rot and right now would not be telling this story, were it not for S and some random peeps paying the Federales a good $200 to see me through the border to the other side….
Hmmmm…on second thought, let’s never speak of this incident again.

Where was I?

3.) Sha-MONE!!! A couple of people will know precisely what I mean by this and for the rest of you let me just say, I’ll miss the road trip mix CDs/tapes/iPod playlists. I would go into more detail than this but after I finish explaining it I’m just going to move on to realize that you had to be there and then I’ll wonder why I bothered taking up blog space.

4.) Sunny California… there’s a reason we’re the object of bitter envy and jealousy. We’re from California and no other place is as bad ass as this one. Mind you, I’ll find and embrace the beauty that Chile has to offer having already been lucky enough to witness a lot of it…but something like California? No way. The cheese stands alone.

I feel like I’ve veered off topic but the object of this blog entry was to remind myself (and you while I’m at it) of all that I take for granted being a native Californian. Stuff that I wonder if I’ll ever embrace again with such casual ambivalence as I have done so my entire life here. Or will I just come back and forever more be the returning tourist, wearing the San Francisco fleeces (or worse, socks and crocs – aaaaaahh!)

Oh my sweet, dear, chocolate covered, Cali … what homage can I pay to thee that the great ones haven’t already paid?

(And by ‘the great ones’ I do mean, Dr Dre and Tupac. Naturally.)
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