We’re on each other’s team

It wasn’t so long ago that I was obsessed with replaying in my mind what went wrong at my last job. After just three months there, I felt forced to quit because the environment was, to say the very least, becoming quite hostile. For a while, all the events that led up to this once unfathomable action pretty much haunted me. How did this happen? How did I get here? Or just … why? I’ve literally never quit ANYTHING in my life. Not one thing, least of all a job, and trust me, I’ve had some pretty hideous and tortuous jobs in my lifetime. I’m just not the quitting kind (not that anyone in their right mind would describe themselves as such.) I’ve endured pathetic relationships with past boyfriends that were (and are) complete losers just because I’m the kind of person that seriously sticks it out until the end. I’m pretty much that way with everything and this is the reason why my sudden unemployment because I quit my job just slapped me in the face over and over again until recently.

In any case, after prolonged consideration (or, obsessive thinking as my husband would say) I realized that the main reason I didn’t succeed at that company came down to one fact: not a single woman at that company had my back in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, the one woman who was tasked with guiding me and downloading all pertinent information to assure my assimilation and subsequent success, seemed to have “forgotten” to do so, leaving me to connect the dots on my own, grasping for answers in an environment I wasn’t familiar with and on several occasions, throwing me to the wolves as she sat on the sidelines and watched me pretty much falter miserably. Most of the time and generally speaking, she wasn’t a bitch and she wasn’t mean, but that’s how they come, you know. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. The fact of the matter is that she had the roadmap to my initial success in that position but she never handed it to me or even REMOTELY shared it with me and I now believe she did this on purpose. Why would someone act this way? Why – considering the long process of recruiting me, where she herself also participated in the interview process – would she simply decide not to share valuable information with me and just watch me cave, day after day?

Maybe the reasons are obvious:
1) I’m a decade younger than her
2) I have two university degrees, she didn’t have even one
3) I speak two languages fluently, she doesn’t
4) I’ve traveled the world, she’s traveled the country
5) She wanted the position I was hired for
6) In general I’m just a happier person

The first four points above are facts and the last two are subjective – some half ass reasons that make me out to be no better than her, really. But even if these reasons and many more were ALL TRUE, all I can think is: WTF?

Why don’t we, as women, help each other out?

I’m not free of fault either.

A few months ago I met one of G’s female colleagues at one of his company events. She and G basically have equal positions but at different companies and my first impression of her was that I just didn’t like her. Now that I think about it – WHY didn’t I like her? She seemed ballsy. She didn’t really talk to me, she just talked to G the entire time. She didn’t seem friendly. She seemed crass. And so on and so on and so on. A few months later G and I were invited to a work-related wedding (if that makes sense) and his colleague was also there. As fate would have it, she and her sig other sat with us at the same table. In fact that table included a few board of directors from both companies and the conversation was just as monotonous as you are probably imagining it… but you know what I realized in the hour I sat with her at that table, watching and hearing them all talk about the day-to-day business: holy sh*t it must be so hard for her to have this leadership position in a male dominated company, where she’s a relative newbie and all these men have been there for 10+ years (including G.) I suddenly not only had mad respect for her but I also felt kind of bad for her. Here I was, judging her and immediately not liking her, when it really came down to it, I’ve always encountered her surrounded by aggressive male peers and I’m thinking – that’s sure to mess with your friendly bedside manner when it comes to meeting new people, I’m sure.

It’s happened to me on both sides and I know it’s happened to other women I know. An expat friend, with toddler in tow, trying to enjoy a dinner date with another girlfriend and having to endure menacing glances from an older lady next to her just because her toddler was surely acting like a toddler usually behaves (I know because I have one of my own.) The older lady’s stance was simply “People shouldn’t bring their kids to dinner.” Forget any kind of human compassion for the stress she seemed to have caused my friend with her evil stares and tsks tsks. Maybe in that lady’s mind, women with children just shouldn’t go out if they don’t have anyone to leave their kid with. “You’re a mom therefore your life should just revolve around your kid and don’t even think about having a good time, least of all with that little one in tow. Oh, you want to try to have it both ways, baby and a nice dinner, well I’m going to stare you down all night and let you know I’m totally against you, your baby and your decision to eat out, how ’bout that? Make you think twice about doing that again.” Thanks lady… thanks for having our backs. Being a mom isn’t hard and unrelenting as it is. Now we can count on glares from women who seem to have forgotten that we’re people too. Fuuuuuuuuuun!

All of my best girlfriends have dealt with “evil women” out to get them at work. Some of my friends can take it with a grain a salt, a la “sorry you’re so insecure that you have to hate on me but I’m going to keep being the mad baller that I know I am! Have fun hating me for no good reason!” While others, like myself, have a hard time not getting worked up by these “evil” women. An article I once read talked about three reasons women were hard on women at work: competitive threat, collective threat and favoritism threat. You can take the time to read the short article but basically it’s about feeling threatened that in some way, someone is going to be better than you. If it’s a guy, fine – that’s expected, but if it’s a woman –> Oh hellllllll nooooooooooo. And thus, the evil woman at work is born.

The fact of the matter is that there will always be someone better than you out there, be it a man or a woman. The sooner we come to terms with that fact, the better off we’ll be.

So should we go around supporting women and their sometimes dumb and inexplicable antics just because we’re women and we need to stick together? Um, no. Respect, as we’ve all learned in our lives, needs to be earned. But geez, give a woman a chance to prove herself! Let’s be open to helping out, free of judgement and with an open mind. People are different and that difference sometimes compliments us. Let’s be open to learning new things and how about being patient when people don’t necessarily know the same things we know. Let’s share knowledge, how ’bout that? Geez Louise, let’s be human. It’s about putting yourself in another person’s shoes.

Let me tell you, if that woman at that company where I quit had been remotely willing to share knowledge, remotely willing to hear and implement my knowledge and just a tad bit less threatened by whatever it was that threatened her with my presence, I truly believe I wouldn’t be where I am right now. If she would have just realized I was on her team… But in the end, I learned a valuable lesson – I learned that I never, ever, want to be like that. Ain’t nobody got time for that nonsense.

Did you like this? Share it:

Thicker than water

For the past few weeks I’ve had family on my mind. I’ve been delving into all kinds of definitions and portrayals of family and here are a few of my faves and not-so-faves:

According to a simple Google search:
fam·i·ly/ˈfam(ə)lē/
A group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.

From Wikipedia:
In human context, a family (from Latin: familia) is a group of people affiliated by consanguinity, affinity, or co-residence. In most societies it is the principal institution for the socialization of children.

From Merriam-Webster:
a: a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head : household
b : a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock
c : a group of persons of common ancestry : clan

From the U.S. Census Bureau:
“A family is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together.”

After a while googling and contemplating two-dimensional meanings of the term family, I considered more entertaining portrayals of family, such as:

The Bluths. (and my personal faves) Photo courtesy of Womansday.com
The (new) Addams Family. Photo courtesy of Fanpop.com
The Arnolds! Photo courtesy of abcnews.go.com
The Hoovers from Little Miss Sunshine. Photo courtesy of IMDb.com

I much rather the depictions of family that Hollywood provides because the mom, dad, sister, brother, dog, cat realities that are out there are, frankly, a dwindling version of the kind of family that currently exists in the majority of households around the world.

When I was growing up in San Francisco, I didn’t really pay much attention to the family units of my classmates. When I moved to the suburbs, said family units were all up in my face and I quickly realized that my type of family unit was just…”weird” (for lack of a better word AND to use a word that an insecure, 14-year old might use.) I had my mom, of course, the solid rock in my life growing up. I also had a stepfather I actually really, really hated though I think I blindly tried to convince myself that I liked him AND, even funnier, that he liked me. I had a sister but said sister was always in Chile so I never really grew up with her and for the record, never, ever – to this day – bonded with her. I had aunts, uncles, cousins – all who lived in Chile, all with whom I never shared more than a week out of each year with. In short, I kind of grew up a loner (in the family sense.)

Given this, who, in turn, did I look to – and still look to – as my family? Well my well-intentioned, solid-as-a-rock, often-times-pain-in-the-ass mother, for one. And I could NEVER even utter the word “family” without immediately conjuring up images of my Tio Pato. Along that note, no image of my family could ever be complete without also picturing my cousin Tony, Uncle Pato’s son. With this, I also throw into the mix a handful of amazingly good friends and at that, we call it a day. For reals.

When I was younger, my “weird” version of family really bothered me because I compared myself to other people and what their families looked like – from the outside. But that’s just it – I saw their families from the outside and most likely projected my ideals onto them, even if that wasn’t necessarily their reality either. Who knows? Maybe their families were even weirder than mine! And of course, as one grows up and meets people from different walks of life, one begins to realize that all KINDS of families exist out there and that, just because I grew up in Edward Scissorhands-town where all family units seemed to be derived from the 1950s mold, not everyone had the standard, formerly stereotypical family. It felt good to realize this and it felt good to let it go.

That’s not to say that certain things about “family” don’t really toy with my emotions and/or generally piss me off. To begin, yes, it does make me a bit sad that my soon-to-appear kid won’t have little cousins and lots of aunts and uncles with whom to share memories with. I have one sister, divorced, (that I never see) who happens to have kids that are either 15 or 9 years older than my soon-to-appear kid; G has one brother who isn’t tied down and who doesn’t have kids. Between the two of us we have one aunt and one uncle to offer our kid and two cousins, both boys. It’s slim pickins’ for the little one, slim pickins’.

That makes me sad. What pisses me off is the fact that my father’s side of the family, father included (and yes, biologically I do have a father) kind of threaded through life pretending I didn’t exist – type of “out of sight, out of mind” just because I lived in another country. And the irony here is that THAT family is typical in so many ways and there are lots and lots of cousins and second cousins, etc that would MORE than make up for the lack of siblings G and I have to offer … but alas, that entire group is pretty much a non-issue due to the way things worked out in my life. As a result, they’ll be a non-issue for the soon-to-emerge kid.

My immediate family now consists of my husband, my beloved Obi and of course, my mom. Soon we’ll add a daughter. I think about G’s kid’s version of family and I actually think it’s awesome. They have an active mom and dad, they also have a stepmom (me) and will soon have a stepdad. Then they’ll have a half-sister (the current pea-in-the-pod) and I’m sure that their mom will likely have more kids and so then they’ll have yet another half-sibling. In addition to this, they have three or four uncles, all of whom have small kids ages 2 months – 6 years old. Despite not living in a “traditional” mom and dad household, they truly have a lovely version of what is family. For them, family get-togethers are truly family get-togethers.

I think the best those of us with the non-traditional sense of the word family can do is embrace the people that matter. I know this sounds simple and elementary but at the end of the day, I realize that as time passes the “traditional” family has morphed. It no longer includes JUST your dad or JUST your mom. It no longer includes only a sister and a brother, uncles, aunts and cousins. And it might just be a mom, dad and dog or mom and daughter. Or uncle and son. There are a million variations and everything seems pretty legit.

From my personal experience, blood does not a family member make. The proof for me is apparent in my reality. I have five uncles and aunts on my mom’s side of the family and in turn, through them, have 12 cousins. The reality is that of all those “family members” I truly only consider half of them family and only 2 of them true, immediate family. On my father’s side I have four aunts and uncles and through them about 12 cousins as well. Aside from my nephews, I consider NONE of them to be family (they should be so lucky.) And we’re supposed to believe that blood makes the relative and that relative makes the family? This truly is a subject matter that is up for interpretation and a subject matter that begs the redefinition of the concept of family.

Would you agree that the word and meaning of family is fantastically loaded? Do you think it’s open for real interpretation?

Discuss.

Did you like this? Share it:

Cheers

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.)

Did you like this? Share it:

The Gringa Exodus

I guess it comes with the territory when you live as an expat. The likelihood that some people you meet, get to know, like and eventually become friends with, are bound to call it a day in Chile.

One of the first stories one shares when meeting other expats in Chile pertains to how much time one has left in this country. You talk about what brought you here, what you’re doing right now and the approximate time left before you leave again. Sometimes X,Y,Z needs to happen (i.e. we’re waiting for the green card -or- we’re waiting for his graduate school acceptance letter) and sometimes it’s about sticking around while the getting’s good here (i.e. you’ve built a pretty solid life for yourself in Chile – maybe one that is even better than that of friends back home – so why quit now?)

This reality is always a bit of a downer because already there’s a clock ticking to the amount of time you have to spend with this new, awesome person you’ve met and, let’s face it, as we get older, the ability to bond and make friends becomes harder and harder. You desperately NEED quality, physical time together to allow the friendship to take off. You need outings, experiences, laughter and time together, just as you do with a romantic relationship. Personally as an expat, I found it to be quite fortunate that I had this common denominator with female expats – a group that “got” it and a group that would feel my pain on the idiosyncrasies of living in Latin America. Except that somewhere along the line I began to notice that one by one, the women I had met and started to become friends with, were slowly leaving Chile. Suddenly the reality of expat living began to sink in … how feasible is it to build a life here when such an important aspect, such is a social life and the friendships that ensue, is also quite temporary?

In about three weeks, I’ll be celebrating my two-year anniversary of moving to Chile. And in that time, five of the Gringa friends I made here, have left. That’s one friend that leaves every 4.8 months – this is my average thus far. How am I supposed to building long-lasting, stand-the-test-of-time friendships 4.8 months at a time??!! As it is, I’ve never been known as Miss-Social-Butterfly and personally, it’s really difficult for me to make friends. I’m not, by any means, crying you a river here, people. Not.at.all because, hey, that’s not me. But I’m as pragmatic as they come and I know what I know. And what I know about me is this: since starting my new job, I’ve had a hell of a time finding the balance between home life, work life, personal time and social time. It’s like I forgot how to make all those things work and let’s face it, I know it was easier back home because I held on to the same friends year after year. There was none of this new initiation process of friendships that, quite honestly, need time and commitment. Of course, all friendships deserve that, new and old!

Also, I realize that after living here almost two years, I have not gone through the Gringa exodus as others may have gone through it. I may have very little rights to complain about this expat reality when compared to those who have lived here 5, 10, 20+ years. I can’t even imagine the kind of friendships that have come and gone in their lives. Part of my problem (and yes, I DO recognize it) is that after seeing five amazing females leave before I ever really got a chance to throw down roots with them, I’m jaded about Gringa expat friendships now! It’s so unfair because I realize I’m not doing a good job about balancing my social life with work life, yet I find that I keep arm’s distance to everyone because, hey, they’re leaving at some point anyway!

I sound like a little kid, stomping my feet and shouting “I want my friends, I want my friends!”

Maybe the root of my internal issue is this: I see that everyone else has the option to leave, if that’s what they so choose and, in the end, we don’t share that same reality. In marrying a wonderful man who also happens to have an amazing job and equally amazing kids, I decided, forever, that my future didn’t hold the possibility of returning home. No wonder Chile seems to be a life sentence as opposed to a fabulous, wild adventure I’m living with my new husband. And I guess I wish I could also meet Gringas who are planning to base their life here as well. It would help me accept that life here can carry on quite normally and, dare I ever find out, quite exceptionally.

So in the end, the Gringa Exodus means this (to me):
1.) Friendships and people I’ve met thus far, aren’t long-term. At least not long-term while living in the same hemisphere (yes long term because they marked a period in my life and will never be forgotten -heyyyy!).

2.) This has directly caused me to hesitate in venturing out and (attempt to) build friendships or even acquaintances.

3.) Number 2 combined with the fact that I am learning to find balance between the new job and a normal life here has led to quite the stagnant social life since late 2010.

So what’s the point I’m trying to make here? Nothing, really. Just that it’s quite daunting to sit and think about the fact that I’ve met some cool people here … but a lot of them have already left Chile. I wonder, if we hadn’t been “thrown” together in this narrow land, would we have had a silver lining threading us all together? I do believe that in some cases yes, and in some cases no. But that’s what makes it all the sadder to realize they’ve left and have moved on to the next phase of their lives and that the phase of their lives that intertwined with mine is now over. It’s like I’m on this same path and different paths have weaved in and out of mine.

I see them in the horizon and remember them fondly (as well as the great times we once had here), but the eventual Gringa Exodus makes me sad, regardless of any pragmatic approach I take.

Did you like this? Share it:

Overdosing on nostalgia

There’s something that is quite evident between Chileans who live outside of Chile, something that I too used to share with enthusiastic vigor. There is a tendency to idealize this country and recall with a deep sense of nostalgia all the memories ever created during the time spent in this narrow land. It wouldn’t be fair to begin this blog immediately removing myself from this since in reality I spent the majority of my life in the exact same state of mind as those I now observe as quite nostalgic.

Growing up as “foreigners” wasn’t an easy feat in the San Francisco Bay Area, especially during the early 80s when being Latin wasn’t necessarily celebrated. Sure, it could have been worse (we could have been living in the middle of Kansas or Minnesota) but it took a bit before being Latin was actually celebrated. Even as I recall high school and certain “movements” by the Latino groups, this was mainly centered around Mexican-Americans, who, let’s face it, far outnumbered the Chileans. As such was the case, the small close-knit group of Chileans who lived in the Bay Area had a reduced network of neighbors and peers who “got” what it meant to be Chilean and who understood firsthand all the idiosyncrasies involved with being Chilean. My thought is that the likelihood of building and sustaining nostalgia bubbles involving all things Chilean was much, much greater because the real thing was much, much farther (it’s not like we could walk down the street and hit up a Chilean restaurant just like that.) Everyone who surrounded you felt the same distance, the same void, the same yearning to be closer, the same awe, the same patriotism and much, much more. The result was always the same when groups of Chileans got together: it was as if celebrating the 18th of September each and every time. Cuecas (Chile’s national dance), wine, “ensalada a la chilena,” a good asado produced our own little Chile no matter the occasion. – birthdays, anniversaries, marriages and even 4th of July resulted in the creation of a little Chile.

The fact that we were greatly outnumbered by Mexicans and Central Americans only perpetuated the nostalgia bubble. It was as if being the cheese that stands alone meant that it was our duty, our calling, our right, to show the world “We’re Chilean, dammit! Not Mexican! We don’t eat burritos!” (Actually, neither do Mexicans.) And in feeling this national pride, we tended to migrate towards others who shared like sentiments and who would join us in talking about how great Chile was or who would take the time to comment with us on the breathtaking, majestic beauty of the Andes Mountains. If we came across Chilean tourists it was if we’d been reunited with a long-lost sibling and we bombarded them with questions about “la patria” – now I realize that in acting this way, I’m sure that the visiting Chileans pretty much surrendered to the fact that Chileans who lived abroad were weirdos. We stopped at nothing, even inviting them to our homes for an “asado” because LORD KNOWS they must miss it, right? I mean, we did!

The distance between San Francisco and Santiago meant that when you took time off to vacation in Chile, you went for at least two weeks. Some people, like my mom, rarely went for less than one month. ONE MONTH of vacation, can you imagine? But people did this and no one thought anything of it. During that time, you jam packed your days traveling from north to south, to the coast and back again and made sure to visit each and every family member and friend who ever meant anything to you, even if that meant having back-to-back asados. It was great to visit, especially during summer in Chile, because the family would usually try to coordinate their vacations with yours. You can imagine the nonstop fun that resulted with a handful of people on vacation, ready to let loose, go to the beach and have themselves a whole heap of fun. You’d spend Christmas and New Year surrounded by family, enjoying the hot weather, eating, drinking, dancing and being merry. All of this was quickly compared to the cold, gray, desolate life you returned to when you went back home to the San Francisco Bay Area and of course, you quickly saw Chile as the only place in the world where you could possibly be happy.

Immediately returning from sunny, warm, family-oriented vacations, it was easy to recall the memories of a short time ago, when you were setting the table for “once” (tea time), going to the grocery store to pick out the meat for the asado in the evening, opening a bottle of red wine so that it could breathe or sitting down with a “pucho” (slang term for cigarette and no, I don’t smoke) ready to discuss the latest happenings with friends or friends of friends.

I was part of all this, an active part of all this. Nothing was better than Chile. Chilean wine was better, Chilean seafood was better, the Chilean way of life, the fact that people knew how to balance work and life, the proximity you had to others, the way people knew their neighbors … I would be in awe just standing in line at the supermarket, listening to the Chilean accents all around me. Each and every single vacation abroad was to Chile and when I returned, I’d immediately calculate when I could return again. Back home, I had an entire wall in my apartment dedicated to Chilean artisan crafts. I had a sticker on the back window of my Jetta with the Chilean flag on it. I had a notebook that I carried with me to all meetings, in SF or elsewhere, with a panoramic view of Santiago. In short, I was obsessed with my “patria” and made sure to say it loud, say it proud, every chance I had – “I’m Chilean!!!!!”

Then, I moved to Chile and began building my life here.

There are so many great things about this country, it would be unfair to say that I was completely wrong to idealize it when I lived back home. But it would also be unfair to not acknowledge that living here is considerably different than visiting. One of the first things I realized is that there really isn’t a work/life balance. People work a lot and they work constantly. Vacations are usually reserved for 1-2 weeks in February and a week in August – that’s it. It just so happened that when I would visit in December/January, family members would coordinate their vacations with mine. The food is good, but honestly, there is much more variety and richer tastes elsewhere – notably for me, in the U.S. Wine is amazing but then again, I miss not having the option of a California wine, New Zealand wine or Australian wine. It’s just Chilean, all.the.time. Also summer here is suffocatingly hot and most of the time, you have to endure it in Santiago because an escape to the beach is 1) expensive and 2) requires reservations far in advance during the peak summer months. Also, I don’t really see any difference in the way people live their lives here in that, most of the time, people go on their merry way, following the routine of their lives and rarely weaving in and out of other people’s lives. In short, it’s not all that neighborly as I once thought it to be. One more thing: we don’t do “once.” In fact, I don’t even LIKE “once.” There was once a time when I truly longed for it. Now I just find it utterly mundane to repeat breakfast a second time around. Finally, unfortunately enough, I take for granted the fact that my entire family is here and that, as such, I could pretty much see them more often than I ever could. If not more often, at least, much more easily than before. I’m as much of an “ingrata” (ungrateful or, in this case, absent) as everyone else in my family and because of this, we never see each other! And it’s a damn shame.

When it comes to Chile and the nostalgia it promotes in Chileans who live abroad, I’m on the other side of the looking glass now. I see them and I hear them talk about Chile with a sense of longing and a sense of pride that I no longer share. I see their pictures of the September 18th celebrations that were held back home, and they enjoy it with 100% more patriotism and passion than I’ve seen in the two dieciochos I’ve spent living here. Their Chi-chi-chi, le-le-le’s are louder and more heartfelt, especially compared to mine, which haven’t been uttered in well over a year. When I see these people on Facebook or in person, hear them over the line or in front of me, I no longer recognize those sentiments – ones that used to define me as a person! It’s like I’m looking at a picture of a great-great-great grandmother and trying desperately to find a nose-hair of resemblance.

I don’t recognize myself in them, or in their sentiments anymore, and I can no longer relate.

Did you like this? Share it:

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.

Did you like this? Share it:

Spilling beans?

Last night I had a few ladies over for happy hour and I have to admit, I got really excited about showing people my wedding stuff…to the point that Gonzalo kind of freaked out on me, asking me in an exaggerated tone if I was going to show/talk about all the details to such an extent that nothing would remain a surprise at the actual wedding.

SO SUE ME!!

Who else am I supposed to show the actual dress to? The shoes? The table descriptions? The wedding band? My friends aren’t here!!! They won’t be here! Isn’t it part of the excitement – and RIGHT – for a bride to show all the new jewelry she bought to girlfriends who can ooooh and ahhhh over it??

The thing is, I didn’t realize how much I wanted to share all this stuff until last night. Actually, I realized it yesterday afternoon. I was on a conference call with work and my mother answered the door. It was Fed Ex delivering my shoes and jewelry for the wedding. It was at that point, when I saw the items I had picked on my own, that I wanted to share with everyone and tell them “Look! Look! This is what I’m going to wear when I get married!” And that’s exactly what I did last night with the friends I had over. I may have gone a tad bit too far when I whipped out the wedding band but then again, it was a mere 8-9 women who saw it and of those, 3 are invited to the wedding … they make up a small fraction of the people we know and a small fraction of those attending … so I can’t stress about having bombarded them with wedding stuff. I just hope they didn’t mind! Ack!

The fact is, I’ve spent the majority of the wedding planning under wraps. Mum’s been the word! Gonzalo and I have picked things out together, decided on items, highlights, events, moments and everything under the sun – just him and I. I’ve chosen to not share many details about the wedding until only recently. It wasn’t until my final dress fitting that I even sent pictures to ALL my friends back home and it wasn’t until last night that more than two people saw my band, my shoes or jewelry. I can safely say as well that my hair accessories and how I’ll wear my hair has been kept mum … in fact, SO MUCH has been on the DL, now that I think about it. Some things, like my shoes for example, have made cameos on Facebook (as of today) and that’s ok with me. Why NOT share it? Again I ask, who else am I supposed to share all this with? And is it wrong to want to share?

Discuss amongst yourselves. Meanwhile, I’m going back to my secret life of a bride-to-be. :o)

Did you like this? Share it:

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!

Did you like this? Share it:

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.

Did you like this? Share it:

Happy Birthday to me

The 3rd anniversary of my 30th birthday was the best birthday celebration I can remember having since back in the day when my mom used to rent out the second floor of the local Round Table Pizza where I’d have endless options of pizza slices to choose from and I could run around playing video games with family friends (those were the days!) I remember I’d sport a foofy dress, socks with ruffles and white patent leather shoes. (Actually I think I may still have that outfit!)

Yesterday was my birthday: the first one I spent here living in Chile AND the first one I celebrated with Gonzalo (last year at this time we lived apart.) And if there’s ever any doubt as to why I would pick up my life in San Francisco and move to South America for the love of my life, let me tell you, yesterday – from beginning to end – reminded me [and anyone else who questions it] why.


The minute the clock read 12:00 midnight on January 5th, G jumped up to hug me and wish me the best birthday ever, to tell me how happy he was that we could be together and to tell me how much he loved me. Then he ran away … outside and down to his car to get me my presents. Awwww … and when I saw him coming I was most stoked about a card I saw in his hand, mainly because in Chile, cards are not the norm. Random, I know, but as G’s company is the official importer of Hallmark products into Chile, he told me of some crazy statistic that indicates that Americans buy about 8 cards a year (pp), the British buy about 15 cards a year (pp) and Chileans average about 1.5 cards a year per person! I expect no less from him though since 1) he imports Hallmark product into Chile and 2) he’s detail-oriented like that and he’d never show up sans card.

In the first gift were the cutest beach towels I’ve ever rec’d. Two of them and they’re mine – all mine!! Pink and purple and girly and fabulous!! Just like me (minus the pink and purple). For a split second I was confused as to why he’d chosen beach towels but then I remembered that we go to Pil’s apartment to use her pool in this ridiculously hot summer and I’m always complaining about not having large towels. Obviously then I was even more stoked! (It’s the little things that do it for me.)

Then I proceeded to open the second gift in front of me, and I’m not gonna lie… it truly made me wonder if he knew me AT ALL. For a second I imagined he thought we was about to marry Florence Henderson. I didn’t proceed to pull out necessarily the ugliest purse known to man, per se, but I will say that it’s got to be the blandest purse to grace the Earth. Poor muffin … I thought to myself “Oh well, he tried” … but then he told me that while he was purchasing it, he was telling the sales lady that I’d return it anyway. She apparently insisted that no, this purse was just “great” and that I was “sure to love it.” And he just smiled and shook his head and said “No la conoce.” (You don’t know her.) Yes, I too wonder why in the heck he’d buy it in the first place, but I think it’s because he wants me to have a new purse, so with this one, I can go back and get the one I like. A+ for effort, my sweet little muffin pants! BRAV-O!

Then I reached for the card … and aside from OF COURSE being the best birthday card a woman could ever receive (in the same manner that most moms think their kid is the most genius of all genius little kids out there) inside was a print-out of an apartment he rented on the beach … a five day getaway to one of the best beach areas in Chile. Knowing how much I love the ocean (even though I lived near one for almost my entire life, I took that for granted, I now realize) and how much I love seafood and all things related to the sea … by far, the best gift ever, from the best person ever.

Later, after we woke up, and he made me breakfast before he left for work… after I rec’d a call from the front desk of our apartment building alerting me to the delivery of a dozen roses … after eating half the chocolates in the box I rec’d while he was at the office (moo!)… after all that, it was time for my “romantic birthday dinner” – or so I thought.

Let me just preface this little paragraph by stating that G could never – NEVER – work as a double agent. I was on to him as early as Sunday – two whole days before my birthday. I knew something was up. Mainly it was because almost everyone I know here in Chile, except for about 3 people, wished me a very ‘by the way’ type of ‘happy birthday.’ Those who usually called me insistently on my bdays in years past, called all of once…and there were still others who called yesterday who previously had NEVER called before (would send happy bday emails instead.) And when I asked G what the name of the restaurant was called so that I could Google it, I found that there were various sites stating that the restaurant was closed (something he brushed off as pure fabrication when I pointed this out to him.)

Oh I knew something was up … but I was surprised – and nervous! – to see that he had pulled together as many people as he could from my new Chilean life to celebrate my 3 to the 3 over drinks and apps (and a waffle dessert…) Nervous because I tend to feel that way with groups of people who are together to celebrate me. Mainly this happens because I freak out over not being able to talk to them all as much as I’d like! And I was surprised because it was the first time I truly realized that I really did have a life here in Chile. I really do know people – great people – and they all wanted to come out and celebrate my birthday with me. My Chilean friends, my gringa friends, my family, alongside my fiancee – all of them were there to wish me a very happy birthday. :o) My friend who had just arrived from a very long trip just the day before, my friend who helped G plan a good chunk of it, to my friends who are preggers and can’t even drink cocktails, to my favorite cousins who trekked to a part of the city they never hang out in, and to the friend who lives at the other end of Santiago – all were there! And I was grateful for all of it.

Cut to me five months ago and I never thought I’d see the Chilean day when I would walk into a bar in Santiago and find a table full of people waiting to celebrate me! In the end, I know it was the sweetest thing G could have ever done for me to celebrate my bday because I know he did it to show me that I was ok here and that I really did have a life (outside of him) here. And that gift, my fellow bloggers and blog readers, is worth its weight in gold.

My “Gringuita” Friends (adore them!)



Including G’s partner-in-crime



My cousins (who traveled from afar!) and their boyfriends



…and a group shot following the waffle incident

Did you like this? Share it: