Memories of my Asian Vacation

Damn SKIPPY, shit changes in a matter of months, now doesn’t it?

Last time we were together (you and I), I was telling you about my upcoming trip to Southeast Asia. No longer “upcoming,” I can now say this trip was amazing, though ridiculously tiring, more so than I could have ever imagined. In the end, we didn’t even go to Cambodia due to the following scene stealer: a month and a half before the trip baby finds out she’s preggo.

We had to scratch Cambodia and opt for modern and clean Singapore instead and as such, this became the final destination on our trip. We began our festivities in Sydney, Australia, where my cooler-than-yours cousin showed us the sights. I had never been to Sydney and was thankful to Tony for showing us sights that are usually reserved for locals (though of course, as you can tell from the picture, we also hit up the usual tourists traps.) I was once again pleasantly reminded of what it was like to be in a place where a variety of food from different cultures was readily available – with the added bonus of it actually being tasty. Also the sense of security I felt in Sydney was welcoming after two and a half years living in Chile and never leaving the house without the angry “I-will-kick-you-in-the-shin-if-you-so-much-as-brush-past-me” look on my face (think of it as armor in this big, bad Santiago). Yes, yes, it was nice to give my face a rest from the perma scowl I sport on a regular. (Hopefully I was able to shave some years off with that facial release….)

After Sydney, G and I hopped an 8-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. What I can say about my limited time in Kuala Lumpur is this:

  • Only the City Centre, where the Petronas Towers are located, is truly modern. Outside of this area, the city experience is much more cultural and much more real.
    Petronas Towers – view from our hotel room
      • I fell in the love with the religious diversity that surrounded me. Do you need a Catholic Church? Just about three miles down. Do you need a Mosque? Right around the corner from the Church. Need a temple? Yeah, we’ve got that too. There were people walking past me in burkas, and next to them, people walking in tank tops and shorts. When you live in Homogeneous Haven (i.e. Chile), things like this really strike you and you begin to embrace with added passion that kind of diversity.
        • The KLCC Shopping Mall was a whole other experience in commerce. I’d never seen anything like it, not even in Tokyo! I particularly fell in love with the Isetan Supermarket located there even though my admitting this may sound rudimentary and ridiculous to some. Isetan is a Japanese retail chain in Malaysia, focused on offering “total lifestyle” options to its shoppers. In KLCC Shopping Mall Isetan spans five floors and offers everything a typical department store might offer and more! The “and more” is what appealed to me most, with its supermarket located on the first floor. Delightfully pristine and bright, I felt like I was Alice wandering around Wonderland. The retail presentation was neatly divided into segments (meat and poultry, frozen foods, health care, desserts, etc, etc) and reminded me of a futuristic Whole Foods. I fell in love. If only we had discovered it sooner so as to have guaranteed a larger chunk of my time there …

        We did see more, mind you. We even did those Hop-on Hop-Off bus tours so as to guarantee seeing as much as possible of the city during our short time there. But this isn’t a travel blog and I have no intention of delivering it as so. What I can tell you is that if you’re in Kuala Lumpur for a short time, like we were, the tour bus option is a great way to get a general overview of the entire city. It also enables you to choose exactly what you’d like to see with more detail in your time allotted by enabling the option of getting off at one point and picking back up where you left off some time after. And it spares your feet from massive amounts of walking!

      Our next stop was Phuket Thailand where we stayed at the Twin Palms Phuket located in the Surin Beach Area. Surin Beach was a great option for us because it was quiet, mellow and very laid back. Absolutely zero party vibe. If you’re into that sort of thing, which we are because we’re old folk trapped in 30-some-old bodies.  I highly recommend this beach. What struck me is that none of the hotels are located along the beach front, a la Mexico and its lovely Caribbean getaways. This is obviously a security measure that makes absolute sense after the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami which caused immeasurable destruction and loss to the majority of Thailand’s beach areas. This means we had to walk from our truly lovely hotel to the beach and though it wasn’t the most scenic walk, it was short and sweet and the view offered once you walked the 2-minute road was worth it.

      Crystal blue waters of Surin Beach.

      Now, if you’re anything like me, you like to bob or swim in the ocean until you prune. This is what I’m like even though I can’t swim (yes, you read that correctly.) I like to walk into the water until it hits right below my boobs and just … bob. I frolic and wade to and fro … it’s lovely and I have a grand ol’ time. Sometimes I hold my nose and go underwater, just for shits and giggles. Sometimes I do my super doggy paddle (my version of swimming.) But mostly I just bob like a human buoy. I find great pleasure in this and could spend hours and hours doing this, mixed in with some reading under an umbrella. I truly enjoy the view and experience and NOTHING makes me happier than being near (or in) a body of water. I think I was a guppy in my former life, but that’s neither here nor there.

      My husband is a completely different kind of animal when it comes to this. He views beach time as a “to-do” in a beach destination and once he steps foot on the sand, sits for five minutes and dips in the ocean for another two minutes, he figures he can check off beach time from said to-do list and move on to the more interesting parts of travel, walking around aimlessly and getting lost in the culture. Now, I’m all for the last part of this but HOW COULD YOU NOT SPEND MORE THAN 20 MINUTES ON A BEACH IN THAILAND??!! I concluded something is seriously wrong with him and that, truly, the swimming skill is vastly wasted on him. (If I had that skill I’d never leave the water!) He did his best for me though, and all together I think we spent a total of six hours on the beach (we were there six days, mind you). I guess that’s better than nothing.

      We then took a private tour of the island of Phuket for various reasons:

      1. Due to my annoying pregnant-state-of-being, we couldn’t do any excursions to nearby islands (bumping along in a power boat in the middle of the Andaman Sea isn’t advised, I guess.) This was so annoying and so unfortunate, I almost exploded in rage and in no way was I comforted by “but the baby will be ok by staying put” thoughts. I was pissed! Did this baby know how much money, planning, energy and time this trip took to plan??!! I’ll be having a word or two with it regarding the matter once it makes its lovely debut into the world
      2. The Northern Thailand floods were making all kinds of headlines during our two week trip to SEA and repeatedly we read stories about how the flood waters were entering Bangkok and how the majority of tourist attractions were closed to the public. G and I had two choices: risk continuing on with our itinerary to Bangkok, come what may, or stay in Phuket, switch hotels and beaches and just chill until our next destination, Singapore. It was a matter of “stick to what we know” or “wander into the unknown” and as a result, risk losing time and money. We chose to stay three additional days in Phuket and moved on to Karon Beach.

      Before that though, we took the cultural tour of Phuket Island itself. This was a welcomed change for G, given he was overdosing on beach time (how??? I have no idea) and since we wouldn’t have the opportunity to hit Bangkok, this was the next best thing during our stay in Thailand. We opted to hire a private tour guide from our hotel – whose name I forget because I’m horrible like that – but he was great! He took us to some mostly interesting places, such as:

      Old Town - Phuket

      As well as:

      Phuket's Big Buddha in Chalong.

      Fascinatingly enough, funds for this revered project in Phuket come almost entirely from donations. This is the reason as to why it’s taken literally YEARS for this project to be completed. The view from the Big Buddha, is, in short, breathtaking, as are most views from any hilltop in Phuket:

      It’s a little embarrassing to admit that one’s dear, sweet husband needed a “break” from such amazingly pristine water, but alas, such was the case.

      Another high point of our private tour was our visit to Chalong Temple, or Wat Chalong. This temple is dedicated to two very important monks and is a point of pride for many Thais.

      It’s a very impressive compound with various buildings (as well as various souvenir stands, ready to exploit well-intentioned visitors) and is an active religious site where many go to ask for a particular wish or need or show gratitude for a granted wish or need (clearly expressed by the sudden, loud firecrackers that go off – a noisy and startling sign of one’s gratitude.)

      Temple in Wat Chalong

      Our nice driver took us to other places as well, including the Phuket Butterfly Farm where I proceeded to have one anxiety attack after another and faced the realization that, thanks to the ugly moths that invade Santiago during certain times of the year, I actually HATE butterflies. I’m sorry, but aside from their pretty little wings, butterflies are ugly, hairy creatures. I recommend it only if you’re all about butterflies weaving in and out your hair and clothes … but I wasn’t at all impressed. In fact, I pretty much freaked out and have sworn off butterflies for the rest of my life.

      I could go on and on but I insist, this isn’t a travel blog and so, suffice it to say that traveling through the island was quite interesting and I highly recommend it if you’re ever in Phuket and have the time.

      A happy me on Karon Beach.

      After Surin Beach, G and I decided to switch hotels and head off to a more “popular” beach and so, we opted for Karon Beach. I did my usual bobbing and buoying in the crystal clear water, enjoyed fresh fruit under our umbrella (provided by the lady who rented the chairs along the beach) and pretty much sat in awe of the fact that I was sitting there (sweating balls, but there.) The one big downer about this beach was our hotel choice. While G and I normally stick to smaller, boutique style hotels, due to the short notice change in plans (i.e. not traveling to Bangkok after all) the only hotel we could find with vacancy was the Hilton. While the hotel itself is fine, it’s just a big chain that’s been around since DAY ONE on Karon Beach, and has its usual signs of wear and tear. Plus the grounds were just much too big for my liking and the final insult, in my opinion, was the fact that a chain hotel didn’t have a piece of beach designated for its hotel guests. It was fine, no big deal really, but it’s just a personal preference I have when staying in hotels near beaches. Even our small boutique hotel on Surin Beach had a small stretch of beach reserved for its guests. Perhaps we were just spoiled the first time around …

      And so, after six whole days in Thailand, G and I were pretty sunned out and ready to head on to Singapore. And that we did, bound for what we would soon find out would be the most freakishly clean and orderly city south of Tokyo.

      The first thing you notice about Singapore is just how modern it is. The next thing you notice is that it has absolutely no culture and no apparent history (at least, not to the naked eye). I kid you not,  Singapore could easily be “The Truman Show’s” city of choice – nothing and no one is out of place. Chinatown is a good example of this … of all the cities I’ve ever visited with a Chinatown, Singapore’s was the first where bargaining was just not done. G and I made HUGE fools of ourselves trying to haggle prices, only to be looked at with eyes of pity. We had just come from Thailand, where bargaining was the language of choice, where G and I honed our acting skills (walking away if our price wasn’t met, pretending we couldn’t care less for those fake Gucci sunglasses, when really, I did). How could it be that this country frowned upon bargaining in CHINATOWN??? It continues to boggle the mind. But hey, herein lies the glory of traveling – learning that not all drummers march to the same beat. What works in one Chinatown, simply doesn’t work in Singapore’s Chinatown.

      G and I were in Singapore for four days and split the time like this: two days in Sentosa Island and two days in Singapore itself. I’m not really sure what’s behind the whole concept of Sentosa Island but it’s a destination that’s supposed to be a type of fantasy island with various attractions, restaurants and things to do. On the island, the attractions you’ll find are a man-made beach, golf courses, five star hotels, as well as Universal Studios Singapore. We didn’t even step foot on the man-made beach, mainly because we had just come from Phuket and the idea of being on a fake beach in Singapore that boasted views of cargo ships in the short distance was just not an enticing option. I’m not really sure what I can highlight as positive or fun in Sentosa because I simply wasn’t impressed. In addition, I can’t see the mission in behind the establishment. It was neither relaxing, nor interesting nor fun. In the end, G and I left with a very “meh” feeling about it and the only reason I’d recommend going would be to hear other perspectives on it.

      Call me shallow, wickedly short sighted and 100% wrong when it comes to Sentosa Island but I much rather enjoyed Singapore itself in comparison. Though of course there’s still a part of me that is highly suspicious of how orderly everything is, in the end Singapore is a great destination for nature lovers and shoppers alike. Orchard Road is the main commercial street and is lined with numerous stores, high end, bargain and everything in between. Our favorite destination was Cold Stone Creamery, where G was introduced to the concept of mixing your own ice cream. Going to Orchard Road is a little indescribable because I really can’t find a comparison. How many places can you think of with 22 malls located on the same street??!! After going into two malls, we were pretty much over the mall scene and opted to focus on the other major city sites instead.

      Singapore Flyer and the views it offers:

      View of the city from the Flyer.
      View of the harbor from the Flyer.
      View of the harbor from the Flyer.

      Marina Bay Sands Skypark, though we didn’t actually go, we did enjoy the view!

      Marina Bay Sands Hotel

      What kills me about the Marina Bay Sands Hotel is, who thought it would be a charming idea to build three towers and place a large boat on top of them? Who was the intended target audience? Who thought of this and namely, who approved it? In short, what’s the point? These were questions that I wondered about when sitting in the park taking in this view from across the water. Yeah, it looks cool … but, I insist… a boat on top of towers?

      On the other hand, our visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens was AMAZING and for someone like G who brakes for plants and all things green, it was a short trip to heaven.

      Orchids from the Orchid garden.

      We of course did many more things, like ride the hop-on hop-off city tours and visit the Singapore Zoo (amazing!!!) but again, I’m no travel blogger.

      In the end, Singapore was an interesting country to visit and if given the chance, I’d probably go back. But one need not stay longer than one week because, after all, how much more time do you really need in a city state that measures 260+ square miles?

      This trip came about in the beginning of 2011 and it was our intention to do one last BIG trip, one that we figured would be very hard to do in the future if and when we had kids. Not so much because of Asia itself but because of the distance one needs to travel just to ARRIVE in any Asian country (believe me the air travel was loooooong). Neither of us had ever been to the countries we visited and it was, for us, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Was it relaxing? Not in the least. Maybe because I was in my first few months of pregnancy, but it was tiring mostly because our main mode of transportation was our own two feet. Plus hot, humid weather is not the best way to enjoy the preggo state of being, no matter what month you’re in. But I was a trooper (I believe) and beyond requesting a rest stop every so often (and an occasional nap thrown in), I marched on alongside my husband, like a champ. Was it relaxing? No, not at all.

      But was it amazing to see, learn and witness all that we did? Abso-fucking-lutely.

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Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia – Oh my!

If there’s something my blog ISN’T is a travel blog. It’s not because I haven’t – or don’t – travel, but because I feel you really need to have a special talent to write about such an experience. Traveling is three-dimensional, it’s taste-touch-feel and many times I wonder if I would have the ability to accurately describe travel experiences and the rich adventures that are related to it. I just feel that, personally, I’d repeatedly use the words “awesome” or “amazing” or “unreal.” Yes, there is always the option of pictures and in times past, I’ve very well incorporated them in my blog posts pertaining to travel in the past. So truly, trust me when I tell you that I’m not doing you any favors when writing about places visited and sights I’ve seen. I leave that to the experts (and there are many, many far more interesting experts in the blogging world today.)

Having said that, I WILL be breaking my own rules in exactly two months. I, of course, guarantee the overuse of rudimentary words such as “weird,” “stoked,” “amazing,” and “awesome,” and despite this, the main reason I want to write about it is because I want to be able to go back and REMEMBER as much as I can!

Married muffins during our mini-moon in NYC last year.

Here’s the story: when G and I got married last year, I was in the middle of school (post-grad) and we had literally ZERO time for a real honeymoon. Seriously, I had started school on a Tuesday, the following Saturday we were getting married, and the following Tuesday night (a week after starting classes) we took a few days off to travel to New York City. It wasn’t exotic, it wasn’t relaxing and it wasn’t by any means the type of honeymoon one imagines with the mere mention of the word “honeymoon.” It served its purpose though and to be honest, it was the first time we had been back to NYC – as a couple – since we first met, so it did mean a lot to us to be able to go back to the city where we first met so many years ago (even if the romance didn’t bloom at that time).  It was also the first time I had gone back since moving to Chile and it meant the WORLD to me to be able to see some of my best friends. Our mini-moon actually looked a lot like a mini-move to lovely Manhattan, complete with our (temporary) apartment in the Upper West Side, dinners with friends, date nights over cocktails, strolls through Central Park, visits to Whole Foods and, of course, tummy-filling brunches whenever possible. Yeah, actually now that I’m thinking about it, this mini-moon was pretty f*cking kick ass and though it was short, it was an awesome trip (see? Overuse #1 of the word).

However, said awesomeness (overuse #2) a honeymoon does not make. Yes, we’re lucky to have gone ANYWHERE and even more so, lucky to have had the chance to go to such an amazing city (arguably the center of the universe, really) and spend five days chillin’ like city villains. But the thorn in our side has, since the wedding, forever been that we didn’t really want a wedding and we don’t really know why it went down the way it did. In fact, though it was cool and we were happy to share, in the end G and I are much simpler creatures when it comes down to it and we’ve decided that a far better way to have spent that money would have been with a crazy, money-is-no-object, trip somewhere. Since we didn’t do this and we instead gave into peer pressure (provoked and self-induced) we’ve always looked back on our wedding hoopla with a wrinkle in our noses.


While we can’t change the fact that we did do the wedding hoopla and we can’t change the fact that we didn’t take a “real” honeymoon to some exotic place immediately following the wedding (though, seriously, who cares?) and really, there’s not much we can do about either, after almost a year and a half post-wedding, we decided to embark on the adventure of a lifetime (so far) with regards to travel: we’re off to Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.

Yeah, I said it.

Are we excited? Is Obi-Wan Kenobi a legendary Jedi Master? YES HE IS!!!!

This trip planning was no easy feat. We actually visited two different travel agencies and explained to both companies what we wanted and though they took down our information, wish-lists, emails and numbers, neither of the two agencies called us back (Chilean customer service at its best – I guess there was zero interest in the travel agency fee). So what other option did we have besides researching, comparing and booking every aspect of our trip ourselves? And though it sounds exotic and awesome (overuse #3), when we first sat down to plan our Southeast Asian itinerary, we were at a loss. I mean, there were so many places we wanted to visit and we knew that this trip would seriously be a once-in-a-lifetime chance (seriously speaking when will we EVER have the chance, time, resources, etc to do this again in the future? Who knows?!) – the pressure was on. We were determined to research as much as we could so that we could make the most informed decisions possible regarding places we wanted to visit.

So we sat down … where DID we want go? Where in the world did we ache to visit? What place (or places) were always tucked away in the back of our minds, filed under “SOMEDAY?”

Thailand was a no-brainer for us. We’re obsessed with Thai food, we’re equal parts scared and excited to visit the seedy underbelly of Bangkok (which we imagine is in all parts of the city), and in general, we’re quite eager to learn about the culture. And since we were already thinking Thailand the next no-brainer was, of course, the lovely, infamous and perhaps touristy beaches of this fascinating country. And though we’re fully aware that we aren’t going to find quiet, serene, untouched-by-humanity beaches, who can resist wanting to visit this?:

Photo courtesy of jacobssalon - Flickr photostream

Next on the list was a suggestion from G – Kuala Lumpur. And really, though it’s probably a city, full of sophistication, bustle and smog, as any other city in the world can be, again, I ask you again, who can resist visiting this?:

Image courtesty of haleyweb - Flickr photostream

The final destination changed from one month to the next during these past few months of planning. When all of this hoopla started, we were 100% sure we wanted to visit Tokyo as well. Then we decided Tokyo was too far so we contemplated Singapore and for a few months, this was a confirmed destination. Then we decided that if we were going to travel the distance, we should go to a far more cultural place than Singapore (not that this country itself isn’t cultural but, in the end, we were talking yet another city.) So we contemplated Vietnam because I’m obsessed with the idea of spending a night on a Junk, cruising along Halong Bay (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) – call me crazy:

Images of Halong Bay Cruises 365 (website)

That was then discarded due to limited time and distance involved. I’m a little sad about that because, truly, ever since I read an article on Vietnam and its development post-war, I’ve been enchanted by this lush, green country and I don’t know if I’ll ever have the chance to visit it. But the options are limitless and I’m not about to convey even an ounce of discontent because the destination that has officially been decided on, booked and all, is Siem Reap, Cambodia. We’ll be there a couple of days but it’s enough time to visit the main attraction (which I’m personally most excited about):

Angkor Wat

Post-trip all of the images above (of the places we’ll be visiting, of course) will be replaced by my own personal pictures. At least that’s the idea though I doubt my pictures will be half as lustrous or profesh-looking as these. I don’t think my post (or posts – who knows?) about the trip will be the most influential, mind-blowing travel writing you’ll ever encounter but I’ll be more than happy to share it, especially because, as I mentioned, I will look back on it fondly. I know what it’s taken for us to finally get here and all that was involved. I’m so thankful-slash-excited-slash-overwhelmed (but in a good way) about this trip, it’s nuts. I can hardly believe it’s an opportunity that’s awaiting us. So much so, I had to write about it BEFORE the actual trip, just to begin believing it.

But I still kinda don’t believe it’s coming up … somebody pinch me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wouldn’t you like to get away?

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

Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

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

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

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

[I do!]

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

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

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

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

The most recent example of this:

Text message via Whats App with Amanda Aug 13, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In Chile, the Concert-Going Me

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

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

(Actually the video is much funnier.)

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

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

All this changed when I moved to Chile.

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


Sister *IS* fierce.

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

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

Um, Tom Jones? Sex Bomb?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On tap so far in 2011 …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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When Surprise Visits Make Your Weekend

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

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

Only the most amazing uncle of all time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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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. 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.

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My Love Affair With Licensing

In my former life, I worked in licensing. I realize there are many people out there who have no idea what licensing is about and I know this because before I entered that world, I was one of those people.

In the simplest of terms, licensing is the act of granting permission to someone to do something. In my former life, I worked with authorizing, granting and allowing the use and release of animation – specifically Japanese animation.

I call to mind a phenomenon I take for granted everyone remembers: Pokemon.

Even as I incorporate use of this image, I know I don't have the right to do so.

Now, I wasn’t involved in any way with the evolution of Pokemon in our everyday lives and in fact, the first murmurs of the explosion-to-come were heard in the late 90’s (1996, I believe, though I could be wrong.) During that time, I was tucked away at college, figuring out my life and where I wanted to go with it. I had no idea what Pokemon was or even, what licensing was or how it would someday wrap me into its snug little world.

The point is, we all remember when Pokemon exploded onto the scene. We didn’t even have to have kids to know that every kid across America (and then some, I would later learn) was engrossed with collecting these devilish little Pocket Monsters. Based on a video game and then turned into animation, it suddenly seemed that the entire world was being taken over by 1) weird looking Japanese animation and 2) that yellow dinosaur/dog thing called Pikachu or what have you. Yeah, kids went nuts over this little animation property and you know what made said frenzy possible? Licensing!! Licensing the shit out of these images allowed said characters to appear on everything from notebooks, backpacks, toys, bedding, tshirts, etc. And I’m willing to bet that we can probably even find said Pikachu on vibrators and such (though of course, not legally licensed for such use.) And once there are things with an image on it, there is always somebody out there, a kid, teen or adult, who just CAN’T POSSIBLY LIVE WITHOUT THAT PIKACHU YELLOW PASHMINA!!!

Before Pokemon, we can remember licensing in all its glory with none other than our beloved Star Wars. Now there’s a licensing jackpot. Let’s think about this for a minute: though Lucas has, without argument, many wonderful creations (Indiana Jones, Willow, American Graffiti, to name a few) there is nothing that compares to the cinematic and licensing success of his mega empire called Star Wars. One of the biggest factors that lends to the success of a licensing brand, if it’s based on a movie or tv show, is its longevity. If it’s a tv show, everyone wants to know – how many episodes can we count on? Why? The longer the series or franchise, the longer someone has to make sure that notebook they develop has time to become a roaring success in retail as well. This is what makes Star Wars so f-ing amazing in the licensing world!! Back in the day there were only THREE movies – movies, not even episodes that air on a daily or weekly basis but a movie that lasts a mere weeks in theaters – and Lucas built an empire the size of China based on THREE MOVIES that came out THREE years apart. Think about it – would you buy merchandise based on Titanic? That was an explosive movie at its time yet it came and went, like movies do. Yet Star Wars remains. Brilliant.

In any case, the point of this post, along with offering you a little background into the world of licensing and how it pulsates around us, is to tell you that, once a year there is a convention dedicated solely and exclusively to the licensing world and it’s called – what else – Licensing Show. Actually its official title is “Licensing International Expo” but no one in licensing calls it anything else but simply and purely, Licensing Show.

The first time I attended Licensing Show, as an Exhibitor, was in 2004. Back in the day, this convention was held in the greatest city on Earth – New York – during the hot, summer month of June. It was nothing short of pure chaos, with people coming and going and my superiors presenting new brands that were on the horizon, compliments of my former company and its intended licensing efforts behind said brands. The following year (and for several years after), we exhibited yet again but this time with a booth twice the size of earlier years, with a reception area and five individual meeting rooms that accommodated six meeting members each. The chaos multiplied. Half hour back-to-back meetings from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm where one basically repeated brand information from one would-be client to the next. This was the typical DAY of the exhibitor and what followed once the convention doors closed (at 6:00 pm sharp!) was any number of cocktails hosted by well-known companies (Disney, Viacom, Cartoon Network, Hasbro, Mattel, etc), followed by dinner – perhaps with a VP of a television network or Creative Director of some sought after agency. One would trek through the trendiest of neighborhoods in Manhattan, from the convention, to the cocktail, to a the posh dinner, only to plop into bed at about midnight, buzzed off business and wine and hurrying into slumber to be in tip-top shape for the first 9:00 am meeting the following day. Past 6:00 pm the cocktails were hard to avoid. Meetings could continue past 6:00 pm but that meant that they were scheduled at a bar and usually, one reserved that prime-time for a favored company – one that allowed you to mix fun and work. It was an exhausting week, that one, but without a doubt, the one week I looked forward to each and every year.

I met my husband at this convention, actually. I don’t recall our first meeting but he tells me that I wore glasses and a white skirt (that’s all he seems to recall so I wonder if I bothered putting on a top that day.) We actually met years before we decided to like each other, but the year we DID fall in love (in November) we attended Licensing Show like always (the June before) and partied at a rooftop bar in NYC. Another splendid tradition: the last night of the convention, all the Latins (Mexicans, Chileans, Argentinians, what have you) got together for a celebratory, let’s-toast-to-another-Licensing-Show-gone-by-and-hey-it’s-awesome-to-see-you-again drink.

Me and future hubby partying circa 2008 at the rooftop bar. I look super sober.

And so, what’s my point with this? Tonight G is flying home from Licensing Show 2011 as I type. This is the first year he attends in which I am no longer involved in the world of licensing. I envy him. I remember what it was like to prepare for that trip, to wake up knowing you face a full agenda of the day’s meetings. I remember being a licensing rockstar if only in my own reality. I remember looking at all my fellow licensing colleagues from Latin America – sh*t, even from Chile – and thinking “Wow, how cool is your gig? In licensing and in Lat Am, what more do you need?” I remember the meetings, the cocktails, the dinners, the parties, the negotiations, the encounters and I Though I’m happy G is still a part of that world (I can live vicariously through him!) I can’t help but feel that I’ve fallen from grace.

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Note to Self

There’s a truly awesome blog I’ve been silently following for a couple of months now and through it, I stumbled across a writing project called Trust 30. Of course, my stumbling is never graceful and I came across it far too late to actually participate (because that would have been ideal, considering I really NEED something like this right about now in my life) so I basically had to settle for sitting on the outside, looking in. Again.

What it is (for those of you too lazy to click on the handy link I provided)  is a 30-day writing challenge that looks to help participants channel their inner beasts (and beauties, I’m sure), through writing.  Sounds pretty heavy, no? Well, it is. The idea is that each day, the participants are prompted via email with thought-provoking questions or scenarios and the idea behind this is to allow and encourage the person to write from within, with integrity and whole-heartedly, addressing or answering the phrase or question in the email prompt (as in, prompted to write). Now, in my opinion, the prompts, at first glance, initially serve the purpose of making me feel like monosyllabic moron… prompts that surely prove I’m nothing more than a master brain farter. However, in my case, this is due to the fact that I’ve lost my ability to look within and ponder questions that are hairy and scary.  Don’t get me started on the lost ability to write about said things (oy.) See? I told you I am the A-numero-1 target for this amazing project… and I missed it.


I’ve decided to cheat and go about this my own way however, because there is one prompt that is just too good to pass up. I’m going to write in parallel to those who are officially participating and answer a prompt that has really provoked me. That is: What would you say to the person you were five years ago?

Holy son of a motherless goat!

Is this question NOT too much for color tv? And I’m totally cheating, by the way, because the question actually has two parts and the second one is one I’m not yet able to tackle. And so, baby’s going to start out slow. I figure, at least I know the me five years ago and so it won’t be like I’m addressing a total stranger.

Huh. The irony just occurred to me. Obviously the me now is the complete stranger in this scenario because I’m starting from a point where I have the advantage. I know the me then. Do I know me now? I’m going through that crisis as we speak, truth be told. I don’t really recognize myself anywhere in this new world, as every role, including that of wife, is new to me. One thing I do know for sure is that I’m not handling any of the roles well.  But that’s six of one and half a dozen of another.

So anyway, without further ado, here’s a letter to me (five years ago) from the me (today), which, by the way, would be sent to me via email at my now defunct Yahoo address whose only purpose at present is to collect millions to trillions of junk mail.

In my case it would be 2006, but 1955 works too.

Hey…. so… I know this is going to sound all sci-fi and weird and a little too close to resembling a first draft of the “Back to the Future” script BUT, hear me out yo.

On August 18, 2006 you exchanged the usual emails with three of your best SF girlfriends (don’t deny you spent most of your time emailing with them, rather than working) and you wrote:

I am sooooo tired of hearing “can’t get enough of you.” It’s like, everyone says that to me and I’m like “what? I know… stop already.”  (to be said in a bored, Paris Hilton style voice.)

I have a few life goals and they are these (in no particular order): learn to sail, own a boat, write a book (even if it never gets published), own a townhouse in Manhattan, marry, have one, if not two, kids, and get an MBA. Sometimes I think I’ll have to surrender to the fact that I may not accomplish all these things but it seems to me that  of all these things listed here, the MBA is most within my CONTROL and most within my reach. I wonder if that’s true and perhaps it’s up for debate but I believe this.

I want to tell you something my sweet, little chocolate covered 29-year-old: right now, this very second you’re at the pinnacle of life as a single person. You really need to sit back and actually take it in and that complaining you do about not having enough money or enough to do at work or enough passion for something, you really need to put a sock in it. And here’s what needs to happen:

First of all, that boyfriend you have, though he’s the nicest guy ever (probably one of the only two nice guys you’ll ever meet in your life), he’s not the one. You know this already but you’re too scared to just own up to it. I’m not at all keen on revealing the future to you, but let me say this – that fear you have that he’ll meet someone totally fabulous and a million times better than you – it’s true and founded. He will meet someone better than you. But the thing is, she’ll be a million times more fabulous FOR HIM. Which, as you well know, is what he deserves. You’re wasting your time, jelly bean. His and yours. That second fear you have that you’ll never meet someone as nice, as generous as devoted as him and that you’ll never meet someone who will love you like he does, well, that’s a lie. You’re both wrong. He doesn’t love you as much as he’s capable of loving because that will come with his next girlfriend (and that’s a good thing) and you… my dear… you, will find someone who indeed is ONE MILLION times better than your current bf and that’s simply because he’ll be better for YOU. So shit or get off the pot (I KNOW you aren’t going to shit so get off already) and by that I mean, break up with the guy and get on your single, merry way. Trust me, it WILL be merry.

Three of the most amazing women you'll ever meet. Circa 2006 at the Lion's Pub.

Once you do that, after the sting subsides a bit, you’ll be set to truly and adequately enjoy your life as you want to live it in your present. Your priorities right now are your friends and your job – so stop dicking around and focus on those two! You adore your friends, not a second goes by that you aren’t planning something with them, texting them, calling them and most certainly, emailing with them. Planning trips to Tahoe, happy hours at Voda (hello! you know you’re all about their $3 happy hour specials between 5-7 pm) or happy hours at Americano. Next year your best friend, Jen, will be moving to New York – NEW YORK! Stop wasting time with things that don’t matter and spend all your time with them – later on, you won’t have that luxury, peanut. Sadly, you really won’t. These next few years should be about you and them and in parallel to that, you focus on your career. Trust me on this. Never again will you have a more fabulous job, in the most fabulous of U.S. cities, surrounded by the most fabulous women you Go to their birthday parties, go to their launches of anything, just be with them. Don’t flake, don’t let your wind die down at the end of the work day and make the effort to be there. Your friends are your life right now, and it’s as it should be at this moment.

The one thing I can tell you that you did a-ok with is your job. All I can say is – wow. At 29 you will have seen some of the best cities in the world, tasted some of the best cuisine in the world and will have worked with cultures from Turkish to Israeli to French to Brazilian. There is no better time than now for you, career-wise and all I can say is, you go guuurrrrrl. I hope you know that. Remembering correctly, I think you did kind of know that… but only kind of. Right now I’m telling you, that said “kind of” knowing needs to shift into “embedded-in-your-brain-and-injected-into-your-bloodstream” kind of knowing.

Finally, I just want to tell you – those goals you listed above – much too “by the book.” I realize that you felt pressure to succeed “by the book” and come to think of it, you’ve always been wired that way. You’ll even be inclined to think that way five years from your current now. But “by the book” becomes boring and trust me, one day, you’ll be looking at your Facebook wall and you’ll realize that those people who did it “by the book” look like clones of one another. The ones who deviated? Those are the ones that later on, you’ll wish you emulated. You’ll eventually quench that thirst for a higher degree, but it won’t be an MBA. And you know what? You’ll be fine with that. You’ll still want to sail and without giving away too much, all I can tell you is DO IT NOW. Someday in the future you may not live next to a body of water big enough to motor that dream … Oh, and about that townhouse in Manhattan … you’ll forever have that dream, pookie pie, along with about half of the world’s population. Dream big, sister.

Help the turtle, Andrea.

I could go on, of course. I could go into details like “don’t fall for the Mexican guy who will tear out your heart and stomp on it until it breaks into a million pieces,” – or – “don’t move in with your friend Dara because it will be the main reason you guys will stop being friends and that broken friendship will be felt enormously,” – or – “keep doing that bootcamp and never stop working out, make it a part of your life always” – “spend more time with Kylie, Devon and Piper because someday you’ll look up and realize they’re teenagers! – or – “just go with Jen on her turtle rescuing mission in the seedy underbelly of New York! It means a lot to her!” But really, the way you’re living life isn’t half bad and in general you’re doing a good job. The main flaw in you is that you’re too scared to be alone but trust me when I tell you, the period you do finally spend alone, will be the best time of your non-married life. You’re a good person, albeit a little insecure. There will always be people better than you but no one but YOU can be the best you.

Whatever you do, keep dancing.

I’ll tell you, with all my heart, I miss you and the life you’re living. Pop another bottle for me and keep your life moving just as it is (only with the changes I’m mentioned or else I’ll slap you silly)…

Oh, and invest in Google stock the MINUTE IT IPOs!!

Love you, snoochie boochie.

P.S. – though I know right now it seems like talking in that bored-out-of-my-mind Paris Hilton voice will never cease to be funny, it will. So stop right now because you sound like a jerk.

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Hello world!

“Hello world” is the automatic heading WordPress gives you as an example title of your first post. I’ve decided to keep it, knowing, of course, that we can’t call this my first blog post.

Self-imposed description of the blog I once offered.

In some ways we can and in some ways we can’t. As some of you know, I once had a blog devoted mostly to 1) leaving my life in California,  2) adapting to my new life in Chile and 3) living with my then-fiance (now husband). I liked that blog and it was a necessary part of my life as I learned to navigate this bad ass world called Chile. It also helped me meet many a new people, namely bloggers and online social folk like me. Then I had an existential crisis and decided there was NO WAY I could continue to have that blog when all of a sudden, a million months had gone by and I was no longer a newbie here.

So … I decided to start a new blog which, in my head, allowed me to write about ANYTHING. One that would allow me to deviate from writing about life in Chile, culture in Chile, people in Chile, food in Chile, XYZ and 1,2,3 in Chile. I didn’t WANT to write about Chile and everything “wrong” with this country. I was over writing a blog JUST about that. As a result of this crisis, I started a new blog. I wanted it to give me the freedom to be as “sassy” or as bland as I wanted to be. I switched over to another blog host, decked out a blog page and got to writing about whatever the hell I wanted.

And I did do that for a bit … really, a b.i.t.

Then all of a sudden I felt pressured to write something CLEVE

R each and every time. I went from pressure to write about new experiences and observations pertaining to Chile, to pressure about writing  mind-blowing, life altering anecdoes and any knock-down, drag out experiences that only I could serve. Um yeah, except my life is not that exciting. My top-3 things to write about continued to focus on hating Chile, hating my neighbors or loving my dog and his smooshy face.

I need an hour or so with this one.

Hardly sassy and hardly enough material to carry on an entire blog.

The fact of the matter remained, however, that not a day went by that I didn’t want to write. Just sit and write. I used to have diaries and those are fine and dandy, of course, but in this technology obsessed world I live in, typing takes less out of me than the whole pen-to-paper bit. I’m here again because that overwhelming desire to write, even if for myself, won.

A below-the-radar blog that suits me just fine. Kind of like Goldilocks and the three bears. Whereas I’m G-funk-meister herself and the blogs are the bears. This one is juuuuust right.

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I’m about to slap this day silly

How perfectly unacceptable has my day been? Seriously, from beginning to end (so far) it’s been less than stellar and I’m beyond depressed about it.

Actually only two things make the list:

A window washer guy, pissed at me for yelling a frantic “no” to him so that he WOULDN’T pretty please wash my windshield, proceeded to squirt the bottle of filthy soap water on said windshield, using his squeegee to smear this gross concoction all over it. All.Over.It. Spread, spread, spread … and then he walked away leaving my windshield with a film of dirty, crusty soap water through which I couldn’t see.

So, yeah. That was fun.

Then today my boss and I had a meeting with the Mall Plaza people in a section of Santiago called Huechuraba. Usually in cabs I never tend to put my seat belt on but today thankfully I decided to do so because, oh, about 20 minutes later another car decided to plunge into the driver’s side of the taxi we were sitting in, tossing everyone and everything about, except for me. I was strapped in you see, like a good Californian. I knew it was just a matter of time before I’d be in some kind of accident here in Chile. If you’re a follower on Twitter, you’re then keen to the fact that I live in a city full of asshole drivers and though I know I didn’t have the privilege of living  in LA where the rest of the asshole drivers live, I take what I know … AND WHAT I KNOW IS: Chile has got some A-S-S-H-O-L-E drivers. It’s just too bad that today I had to literally cross paths with one.

And to put the final cherry on top, today my husband hates me. Marriage is hard sometimes, all this cohabitation and getting used to the in’s and out’s of one another. I’ve heard that the first year is hard and I’ve got to say that I’ve been lucky in that I don’t really think that my first year has been bad. But today. Today has been coupled with all of the above. And though I’m sad that my husband just left without saying goodbye (yes, WITHOUT saying goodbye) I know that he’ll be back (after all, his computer is here) and I hope we can perhaps get off on a lighter foot. At some point. I hope.

Great. I just named three things when I thought there were just two. So now I’m more depressed. Oy.

For now I’ve decided that today was less than stellar and so, me and my glass o’vino blanco are going to my room to watch “Pulp Fiction” – newly acquire, but forever cherished.

That movie always makes me feel like a bad ass and I kind of want to act out this particular scene (minus the guns, of course):

Now, I’m willing to bet that this chick never feels like she’s had a bad day.

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