Greatest Hits

Right after I had the little human, I took to watching a WHOLE lot of the series “LOST.” There is an episode late in Season Three of this twisted series entitled “Greatest Making a list, checking it twice ... via Chud.comHits” and no, this blog post is not a review of this particular episode (which, if you’re wondering, yes, is a good one.) Not that you should care, but in this episode a character dies and he knows beforehand when and how he’s going to die. In preparation for this, he reflects on his life and proceeds to jot down his life’s greatest hits – i.e. best or most memorable moments – on a piece of paper so that this little scrap can later be given to his lady love upon his death.

The idea has motivated me to think back on my greatest hits thus far. Leaving aside the morbid reasons behind the tv character’s motivation, I find it interesting to sit back and reflect on moments when I’ve felt particularly happy or fulfilled. Peaks that irrevocably warrant bookmarks between my chapters of life. In doing so, it helps me to step back and take a look from afar at the type of life I’ve lived so far. Has it been a life jam-packed with friends? With travel? With partying? With family? With walks-of-shame I’d rather forget? (Thankfully, no on that last one.)

Greatest hits imply the best of the best, but by no means am I implying that the moments in my life that are anointed as “great” are far and away the most mind blowing experiences out there. They don’t include daredevil feats like skydiving or once-in-a-lifetime moments like, say, chanting with the Dalai Lama (does he chant?). In fact, you might not think they’re all that impressive but that’s not the point of this. We all have greatest hits in our lives – moments we recall such nostalgia and even happiness, that you just happily place a mental bookmark so as to make your way back to that memory whenever the going gets tough. I can’t tell you where my greatest hits start and I certainly can’t tell you where they end … they vary in time and space but have the common denominator of being emblematic of a moment in time that I wouldn’t mind landing in via the DeLorean from “Back to the Future.”

Even as it was happening, I knew buying our bed was an important step. I took this picture during the actual purchase!

For instance, for some reason one of the best moments in my life that stands out time and time again is, ridiculously enough, when I first moved in with G and we ventured out to buy our bed. When you think about it, it’s got to be one of the most basic of things – shopping for a necessity such as a mattress. Who cares, right? Except it was so symbolic in my life. I had never before lived with a guy, let alone gone through the process of furnishing our home together. I had just arrived in Chile and was sublimely happy to be reunited with my fiancee after months and months of trying to hold together a relationship long distance. And there we were, giddy, in love, and starting our life together from scratch.

Then I take a moment and think back to grade school … Catholic school, to be exact … and for some reason sitting in church singing “Immaculate Mary” always registers in my mind as a happy moment in time. As an adult I wonder why, but if I remember what it was like as a kid, all I can remember is … FUN. I know, it makes no sense, but for me, school was a good time and singing in church meant we weren’t in class and back then, any time we weren’t in class was fun. Things were just that simple back then.

Girls gone road trippin’!

Road trips with friends obviously make it onto my greatest hits – there were many in my young adulthood: road trips to San Diego, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe … even Lake Havasu in Arizona (THAT was long ass car ride, let me tell you). The road in front of you, the wind in your hair (or face), some groovy tunes and some good conversation sprinkled with cackles of laughter, typical of girls when they get together. What did we talk about anyway? What did we listen to? How did we find enough topics of conversation or enough music to cover 6-10 whole hours of riding in a car with three other people? Maybe we were bitching out Kate Winslet’s character, Rose, in Titanic, for not hauling her huge butt over so as to create enough room on the floating door for Jack (in all seriousness, he could have survived if she’d only moved over!) However it was that we passed our time riding along in our automobile, my memories of road trips morph into one memory for me and it reminds me of a time when I literally left “all cares behind.”

Other greats…:

The exact, precise moment when G proposed – on a catamaran, in the middle of the ocean between Cancun and Isla Mujeres…sun, ceviche, a bottle of wine and some bling.

Said balcony before we moved in.

I also remember our first apartment ever when I first moved to Chile and I recall the balcony with great nostalgia. (Hear me out.) The view was great but moreover, the countless times we bbq’d some chicken and shared a bottle of wine on that balcony, during the hot summer nights. Those moments were by far even greater. Our apartment now is  bigger but I’d argue that it’s hardly better. Something about that small balcony, with eternal sunlight that just always takes me back to moments when G and I just took a breather in the presence of the view.

The first time I ever held Obi. Even then I knew that this dog, for better or for worse, would be like my first-born child. And even after actually having a child (a human one, that is) I still feel that Obi is my eldest – my baby boy and little tub of love.  The day I ever have to look at our little family without him in it, will be the day a small piece of me dies. He’s almost three years old and weighs close to 52 pounds, but the first time I held him, I knew this little bundle of fur was going to teach me a thing or two about patience and unconditional love for a beloved pet.

Licensing Show 2008. You know how I feel about my past life in licensing. I adore my

Actual pic from “after hours” during LS 2008. My future husband was dating another woman back then.

current job and company but if ever I was given a chance to return to licensing, a quick “hell yeah” would resonate loud and resonate proud. Licensing Show was where I was first exposed to international business – sales and negotiations across geographic boundaries. By the time my very last Licensing Show rolled around (2008), I had the game down pat. I knew the who, what and where and I finally felt as though I was actually GOOD at something… was I good at negotiating? Sure, though certainly not the strongest. Was I good at schmoozing? Maybe. But certainly not the most charming. I have fond memories of each Licensing Show I was fortunate enough to work, but why is LS 2008 marked as “the best” in my book? Two reasons: 1) it was the last time it was held in NYC and there are few places better than NYC and 2) it was where I ran into the man who would be my future husband.

I’d also go back in time in a heartbeat to my best friend Jen’s apartment, circa 2004-5 and relive the moments in her living room where we’d pretend to be Las Vegas sleazy lounge singers, doing our best rendition of John Elton’s “Daniel” for our audience of one.

I now know that one of my all-time most empowering moments in life occurred when I was in preschool. I stepped in dog poop and my ever-so-gracious preschool teacher told me I had to take care of the situation myself (I was 4 and it was the 80s. No way would that fly nowadays). I realize now that even then I had amazing powers of persuasion because SOMEHOW I was able to convince a little friend I had been playing with when this dastardly thing occurred to take responsibility for my dog pooped shoe and actually clean it out for me! I convinced her that I’d do the same for her – only her shoe was poop-free – and the little dumb ass BOUGHT IT.  To this day I fondly recall the image of that poor little girl washing my shoe in the sink while I happily picked at her spotless shoe. I know it’s mean, but as an adult, I look back at my young self and proudly conclude that I was a born smooth-talker. I’ve had far more empowering moments, but this one, this one was my first and every time I think of it, I smile (ok, I smirk, but still).

Mini me and me, just this week.

And finally … I know that one of my greatest hits moments in life is right now. Right now that my little human is six-months old and I work part time so that I’m home with her every afternoon by 2:30 pm. Right now that she recognizes me, smiles when I walk into the room, cackles when I kiss her tummy and talks back to me in her own little language. Right now that I feel happy, having passed the PPD – the darkest moment lived  (thus far) – and am working out, feel stronger, and look better than I have since giving birth (according to me, myself and I). In short, I feel good and I’m enjoying the little bundle of belly fat that I call little human. The dark times have passed and I’ve moved on to this: looking at her and mumbling “thank you, thank you, thank God for you” a-la the Bette Midler movie “Beaches.” I’ve reached gargantuan level cheesy-mom proportions. And hey – that’s ok! (If you tell anyone, I’ll be on you like white on rice.)

So there you have it, my good people. A smorgasbord of greatest hits in the life of me. Oh, but there is so much more! The time I worked out overlooking Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. The time my friend Jen and I ventured out in NYC, looking for its “seedy underbelly.” The time I was snowed in in NYC after Toy Fair (at the time it felt detrimental but at the end of the day there’s no such thing as too much time spent in the Big Apple.) Exploring the Louvre alone … Taking the train into San Francisco for work everyday … happy hours at wine bars with friends after work … Giants games, whether they won or lost … bouncing in the water like a buoy in Surin Beach, Phuket … the time I visited Chile in the summer of 2001 and spent two fabulous weeks in Totoralillo with my cousins … singing in the church choir when I was in fifth grade … the end of the day, in bed, next to hubby, watching “That 70s Show,” “Arrested Development,” or  “Sex in the City” before drifting into delicious sleep.

At any moment in time these memories, and countless others, serve as reminders that, thank God, I’ve had a good life thus far. Greatest hits I’m happy to play over and over again.

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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.)

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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. “Oh.my.God.” 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.”

WHAT THE MOTHER-F*CKING WHAT??!!

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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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.

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Chile, 100 years ago

I love the magazine inserts that come in the weekend editions of “El Mercurio” (Chile’s primary newspaper). I rather enjoy reading them and finding out about all things related to the Chilean culture and the happenings in Santiago itself.

This past Saturday’s edition of “Sabado” Magazine. A Bicentennial special.

I grew up learning the in’s and out’s of American History: the wars we fought in, the important figures that helped shape our country, the geography, the movements and the changes we encountered and the obstacles we overcame to arrive where we are today, whether good or bad. So when I moved to Chile last year, I realized that I arrived with very limited knowledge of why Chile is the Chile it is today, who was involved, which historical dates were the most important and who played a role in shaping society. Of course I know who Pinochet was, who Allende was … but what did Pratt do? Is he the naval hero or is it Bernardo O’Higgins? And mind you, the only reason I even know the names Pratt and O’Higgins is because every city in Chile has streets named after these two so I gather, they must be important, right? There are holidays that randomly come around and G will have the day off from work and I ask “To what do I owe the pleasure?” and the response will be the likes of “El combate naval de Iquique.” (Iquique’s – city in northern Chile – naval combat.) Oh. Right. That.

Apparently baby’s got a lot to learn about her new home.

Which is why I was particularly happy that this past “Sabado” magazine was a special on the Bicentennial and as such, many fun and interesting historical “datos” (or facts / information) were featured. My personal favorite from last weekend’s issue: “Chile Puertas Adentro: Como han cambiado nuestras costumbres.” (Chile behind closed doors: how our customs have changed.) The article gave a very top-line but interesting look at how family life has changed, what tendencies have been left behind and which ones still remain intact in Chilean family life.

The article first begins with stating what we know of Chile today: 60% of families consist of both a mother and a father and 27% of families are single-parent; the woman not only works outside the home but makes up 50% of the Chilean workforce. We read that there are now more divorces than marriages, that Chilean women begin to have children at about age 30 (give or take) and the average woman will not have more than 2 children. Further, it is now a viable option to just have one child.

From here, the article takes us back 100 years to what the family life was like at the turn of the century. The most fundamental difference between families then and families now is that the men and women of the last century did not typically marry for love. Rather, they married to procreate (how romantic.) Couples were introduced and were pressured to marry based on family preferences (either personal or professional) and this led to the majority of husbands turning outside the marriage for sexual satisfaction and even love. As an outsider, I still see a little of this in Chile in that many, many couples I know have been together for 5,6,7 or more years BEFORE ACTUALLY GETTING MARRIED. Then they seem to get married because it’s the logical next step. Yeah, I gather that they must love one another but after 7 years together, at some point there must be way more family and societal pressure to marry than there is heart-wrenching, burning desire to do so. Nowadays I wouldn’t go as far as to say that men opt to cheat since I’ll take the information regarding growing divorce of evidence that greener pastures will be pursued sans infidelity. Plus, in the more elite circles of Chile, I am willing to bet that little has changed with regards to family preferences and who a man or woman chooses to marry. If they come to say it doesn’t ever matter … I call LIAR!

The article then moves on to talk about where the family spent the majority of their time. Since central heating systems are still lacking in Chile, and chimneys weren’t introduced until the 1930s, the majority of Chileans used “braseros” to heat their homes at the turn of the century. I had to look up what a traditional brasero looked like and this is what I found:

Typically coal was burned (indoors) to provide heat. Hi, intoxication!

These were used across all social classes and the primary consequence of this less-than-cozy apparatus is that it forced the family to spend the majority of their time together in one room of the house. The article then states that family members would wear coats to move about other areas of the house … which got me thinking that it doesn’t seem to me that that’s changed much nowadays. I’m pretty sure we aren’t going to see coals warming the homes of the average Chilean but I’m fairly certain that no matter the social class, the lack of heating in Chile forces everyone to walk around the house looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man…


…or Randy from the movie “A Christmas Story” …

What have you.

Santiago, with a population of about 544,000 people back then, was a considerably smaller city than it is now. Hence, people either walked from Point A to Point B or rode around in horse drawn carriages. The men worked, went home for lunch, took a nap and then went out to work again. Mind you, this concept of closing for lunch is still relevant outside Santiago and it’s like you’ve been in the DeLorean and have been shuttled back in time when you encounter a sign that tells you the store will reopen at 3 pm. Happy hour seems to still be around since back in the day the men would go to their “club” after work (whether it be La Union, Club Hipico, a Mason club, firefighters club, etc) and to quote Kate from Titanic, I imagine they were also inclined to “congratulate themselves on being masters of the universe.” Woman had their little get togethers as well and after a long day of duties at home, would invite other women over and partake in a little gin rummy and conversation. It sounds to me like they may have also dipped into their husband’s wine and may have gone crazy showing one another their ankles. Call me crazy.

Other interesting tidbits about the article include:

  • Children did not eat at the same table with their parents until they reached puberty. Since this term wasn’t coined until later, those that had reached it were identified as those who no longer wore “short pants.” I guess young boys wore shorter slacks back then … the article doesn’t mention anything pertaining to females (as I’m sure they didn’t go around wearing long or short pants, ever) but I gather once the girl began menstruating, she too got the privilege to eat with the adults. Though how embarrassing. You arrive at the table and not only does your brother know what’s up with your body but so does your dad! Ewww.
  • The term “mama” actually came about from the elite’s use of wet nurses back in the day (taking from the verb “mamar” which means “to nurse or feed.”) The name and idea of a “nana” is actually as recent as 30 years ago and has gained popularity as the times have changed and more women pursue interests and goals outside their home.
  • Back then 98% of Chileans claimed to be Catholic, with at least 50% of them being practicing Catholics. Now, observing Catholics make up 7% of the population.

The article concludes stating the one thing that hasn’t changed at all in the last 100 hundred years here in Chile: women continue to be the ones responsible for “keeping” the home and that “domestic co-responsibility” is something that continues to be non-existent in the majority of Chilean households. This despite the fact that women now work outside the home and like I said, make up at least 50% of the country’s work force …

Thinking, thinking, thinking ….Hmmm … why does that sound so familiar …?

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