Some perceptions & women’s roles in Chile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a picture with the opposite lay out …

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

Sigh. I might be.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Call me crazy.

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No balls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Patience in the land of the impatient

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The good Chile

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

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

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

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

locos (Chilean abalone) with mayonnaise

and Centolla (King Crab)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, where was I?
Oh yeah, normalcy.

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

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

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

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