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Notes from Underneath

Notes from Underneath

A California girl in Chilsters (that's Chile to you)

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I love you

I love you and the fact that you read me.
But I'm done here and want to invite you here.

It's not about being an expat but it's about being me (either a bitchy version of me or a lame version of me.) If you come on over, thanks!

If not, then might I suggest you do what I do. Once I finish a book and/or movie, I go back to the beginning and start again. It's nothing short of genius and I highly recommend it.


Monday, November 15, 2010


The end of another "era"

On Friday, I posted the following on my Twitter account: "Auto reply stating I no longer work 'there' is set and in full effect. Pretty much an era (career-wise) is over. Crazy."

An end of an era for sure. I spent almost seven years working for a Japanese- American company and selling the rights to our library of Japanese animation to various partners around the world. It was a good time and I learned quite a lot about brand management and life cycle, negotiations, selling, customer relationships and planning ahead. But as I mentioned before, there were lots of reasons why I decided to make the move to find a job here in Chile and though I'm starting to get really nervous about my first day at a new job, I still feel it was the best decision I could have made.

Then I started thinking about another said "era" that's come to an end and that's the written story about the California bred girl who moved to Chile to marry the love of her life.

In other words, this blog.

I'm not sure I have any more to say about my transition to Chile, my adaptation and my journey navigating this wicked system. I realize that anything else I have to say about life here has already been said - and quite well - in so many other blogs by expats who live here as well. These men and women continue to do an exceedingly amazing job about describing the life, culture and everyday of living here. (One has even written a book for the Kindle!) So much so, that I turn to their blogs for information and perspectives from a fellow gringos. Sure, my perspective might differ and sure, there are probably people out there who want to read about that (I think), but I feel that I wrote about all I wanted to write about with regards to my move and my life here in the first 18 months.

In making this decision, I looked back and thought about everything I wrote in the past and I think I did a pretty decent job of chronicling what it's like to move from the U.S. to Chile and organizing the pieces of your life here and there. I covered:
- how I met my husband (why on Earth I moved here in the first place)
- leaving California
- opening a bank account
- making new friends
- missing old friends
- planning a wedding
- becoming a U.S. citizen
- getting a dog
- getting married
- Chilean nuances and idiosyncrasies, such as staring and opinions on responsible pet ownership (to name a few)
- dealing with my husband's wicked ex
- starting a post graduate program at a Chilean university
- the process of finding a job
- everyday things such are supermarkets Jumbo and Lider
And of course, many many other things.

The whole purpose of this blog was to write about my new life here and now that I look back I feel content that I've done just that. Anything else after this post isn't really about an expat living in Chile. Maybe to an extent it might be, but it wouldn't be my main message. I think that anything after requires a whole new blog, something with a broader scope and something that would allow me to write more than just about my day-to-day (in the end, how interesting could that be?).

The reality is that my observations about Chilean life as an expat aren't all that interesting nor are they revolutionary. Yet I bet that if I dig deep down into my bag of tricks, I can come up with something far more brilliant than what I've concluded here. That's not to say I'm not sad about leaving my first blog behind. Part of me wonders if I'm copping out prematurely. But then I think, what the hell is left to say about being a Gringa who moves to Chile and adjusts to life here?

This blog had a life cycle and an expiration date from the start. And by no means do I plan to overstay its welcome. Even so, I'll never stop writing and it may be that I'll never stop blogging (at present, tbd of course). But in this age of constant online sharing and TMI of one another's life, I offer the loyal followers out there an invitation to 1) join Twitter and 2) follow me there. There happens to be an inverse correlation between my blogging and my Twitter use.

What can I say? Maybe micro blogging's my new thing...


Saturday, October 30, 2010


Work and travel, travel and work

My husband's a busy guy. On top of that, he actually loves to work. So when it came time to plan yet another business trip to China to attend the Canton Fair, he went full throttle and built his agenda to include back-to-back meetings with suppliers, as well as back-to-back viewings of showrooms, booths and, in some cases, even factories. Meaning that even though he'll be in China (including fabulously sophisticated Hong Kong) for two weekends, he's left himself absolutely no time to sightsee, let alone rest.

Such a 180 from my days of international business travel. There were many times when I found myself working over the weekend and I've most certainly had my share of working on major holidays. Running from one meeting to another, schmoozing and negotiating from one client to the next, waking up at 6 am and going to bed at 1 am, and in between sitting in absurd Latin American traffic for hours on end. But despite this, I always found time to dabble in the sights, sounds, food and culture of the different countries where I had the privilege to do business. In fact, even my superiors were ok with mixing business with cultural expansion. Maybe it had to do with the fact that in knowing the culture, we were learning how to sell and market to said culture. Whatever the real reason (maybe we were all just slackers?) I'm thankful that I had the opportunity to travel for work for a good part of my career. Moreover, I'm in eternal debt to those who sidelined slave work for a moment and who shared the experience of being tourists with me, if only for a few hours.

Coworker and me on the beach in Cannes, France.

At Monserrate, a Church overlooking Bogota, Colombia.

Banderitas Mexicanas ... yes, that's Tequila and yes it was lunch time.

Well hello, Louvre!

Intersection outside the Shibuya station in Tokyo, quite possibly the most
congested pedestrian crossing in the world.

I see you Cristo Redentor!

And a dabble here and there in Leblon.

Hey, I know you!

Viva LV! I started with US$15 at the roulette table and proceeded to win US$420.

Traveling for work might seem 100% fabulous to those whose job doesn't require them to travel. I agree. To a certain extent it IS fabulous. But it's more like 20% fabulous, 50% stressful, 30% exhausting. The kind of exhaustion you just don't recognize in your day-to-day life because when you're at home you usually aren't trying to adapt to different cultures, languages, business etiquette and so on. When traveling for work, you have to be on your toes, 100% of the time. Even sleeping isn't necessarily all that great since half the time the hotel bed is a lumpy ol' mess, no matter how fancy the hotel.

I hope that G finds a balance during his million-hour stay in China and that he comes back telling me about something amazing he saw, ate or did while he was there. So far, I've heard some stories but unfortunately they're all still related to work. I guess it's a good thing I'm not there with him right now ... I'm not sure he'd really get the work done that he's expecting of himself.

Actually, I'm pretty sure that if I ever traveled with him for work, I'd be the rotten apple, bad influence, Chileans-Gone-Wild instigator of the trip. As depicted below:

Downtime during a layover in Sydney before heading off to China (about three years ago.)

My version of downtime (business trip in Buenos Aires, night before heading home) About 2 years ago.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Strange things are afoot at Dario Urzua*

Holy son of a motherless goat.

I just had the weirdest experience with the world outside of my apartment.

When I stepped into the elevator to take Obi outside for his evening stroll, I found this flier taped to the elevator wall:

It's a call to prayer to the entire "community" (i.e. building) in honor of the "Month of Mary." Said call to prayer is taking place ALL MONTH LONG in November, starting November 8th, Monday to Friday from 7:30 - 8:00 pm.

It was like a Twilight Zone version of the fliers one sees in college dorms. Specifically the dorm where the characters in the movie Saved! would eventually go to college. A call to prayer? All month long? I'm officially freaked out.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not freaked out by the notion of praying during the month of Mary (though I AM confused because as a former Catholic school student, I'm pretty sure the month of Mary is in May, not November.) What bothers me most about this is the invasion! In fact, I immediately got off the elevator and demanded to the front desk person "What if I'm Jewish?!" He answered that it wasn't obligatory. Um, well then ... this building has THAT going for it in that we aren't all forced into month-long prayer with our fellow neighbors.

But seriously, if this were the U.S., this would be so unacceptable, it would border on illegal. In fact, I imagine that in the U.S. the buildings need to first reach consensus to allow such a thing to take place and furthermore, if we were going to be issuing a call to prayer during the month of Mary, we'd certainly have to organize the blowing of the shofar during Rosh Hashanah AND invite everyone to the Iftar meal when Ramadan ends.

I can't put a finger on why I am so bothered by this but I can describe it as a feeling of invasion and it angers me that a few in the building would feel at liberty to air that in public, in the apartment building where my home is located, without so much as a single thought of concern for anyone else. Why are these few allowed to impose their will on the rest of us who live here? What if I put up fliers stating the Top 10 things that annoyed me about my neighbors each week? Am I free to do that just as they are free to put this flier in each elevator? What's next? Will I find a rosary and a monthly Missal in my mailbox? "Oh you know, just because!"

What do you think? Am I being overly sensitive or does this reek of imposition?

Oh and the other gnarly thing I had to witness while I was outside was a taxi driver relieving himself on one of the tree trunks of our quaint tree-lined street. Sweet.

Stay classy, Santiaguinos.

[*Dario Urzua is the name of the street I live on.]

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Landing a job in Chile

We all need our lessons in humility; it's good for the soul and puts hair on our chest. Though I've never been the kind of person who's too big for her britches (in fact, I generally need a dose of self confidence more often than not) there are some aspects of my life that I tend to regard with a level of self assurance. In the past this has namely involved my career and my professional accomplishments. I generally felt secure in what I could do and what I could offer and never doubted for a minute that I could keep accomplishing one thing after another.

This outlook was immediately readjusted when I began looking for a job here in Chile in May of this year and I have since then learned a great deal about the job search process in my new home, all the while learning to reassess my strengths and weaknesses in relation to my career objectives. This year has already been chalk full of lessons in humility and picking myself back up again, rejection after rejection.

Let me rewind and clarify that during this process I've been fortunate enough to continue working for the company that employed me back in California, something I've referenced on a few occasions in this blog. I'll always maintain that I am beyond grateful to this company for the opportunities they extended to me, including the possibility to work remotely when I moved to a foreign land (i.e. Chile) so that I could marry and be with the love of my life. I'm sure this sentiment of gratitude will not waver. What unfortunately did waver back in May was my sense of stability when, due to the economic downturn and other reasons I'm sure I'm not familiar with, the company I work for downsized. Suddenly I was in the dark and had no idea if I had a job, who was left at the company or even who would be my new boss (sadly, my former boss was let go.) Ultimately following the massive changes that took place, a level of normalcy was once again reached and I learned that I indeed continued to have a job, (thank God). However that feeling of uncertainty didn't waver. In fact it began to consume me - how much longer would I have a job? What if the business in Latin America doesn't grow? What if this market becomes completely incapable of generating income? What if they move the management of the territories in-house? In plain English I realized just how fragile my situation was and though I had years of experience working with the Latin American teams, I realized that in the blink of an eye, anything and everything could change, JUST AS IT HAD FOR MY COWORKERS WHO WERE NO LONGER THERE.

There is no sure-fire way to guarantee job security. G and I discussed that his situation was just as fragile as anyone else's and he's fortunate enough to head a department at his company. True, no matter the situation, I could never be guaranteed a job for an unlimited amount of time. However, I rationalized that I could help the cause by securing a job here in Chile. That way, should the worst case scenario someday catch up with me (i.e. unemployment) I would at least have Chilean work experience under my belt. So it was decided and the Chilean job search began.

Nothing could have prepared me for what I was going to face when looking for a job here in Chile.

I've used this anecdote on various occasions when describing the general process here in Chile. Take, for example, a fruit stand in search for a tomato seller (yes, someone who sells tomatoes.) The fruit stand will post an ad that specifically asks for candidates with tomato selling experience. They will ask that this candidate have a degree in Botany, specifically with emphasis in Pomology. They will stress the importance of having graduated from X, Y or Z university and they will punctuate their need for someone with experience selling in fruit stands. As a candidate, you will be overlooked if you don't have experience with tomatoes. Yes, you may have experience with lettuce but hello moron - a lettuce is NOT a tomato! And forget about applying with experience in bananas - banana's aren't even ROUND! How could the two possibly translate? How could you know ANYTHING about selling round products when your bag of tricks only contains banana experience? You also need not apply if you happen to fill the tomato selling requirement but have only done so in supermarkets. What part of fruit stand did you NOT understand? Oh you have a degree in Pedology? Yeah, that won't do.
[I have a real life example to offer you in lieu of this fictional anecdote: G and I were passing by a Chinese restaurant the other day and outside, there were various "wanted" posts offering employment with the said restaurant. One of the posts read "Looking for a server with experience waiting tables. Must have experience in Chinese restaurants." Chinese restaurant. Not Italian, not French, not Japanese. Chinese. Otherwise, move along.]

Once you are able to find something that somewhat fits your work experience (tomatoes!!) and education, the next step involves the Headhunter. This is the team (or person) that places the ad for the company and proceeds to do the narrowing down of candidates. Narrowing down means calling you in (once your resume and experience has been screened, of course) and asking you the typical questions one expects of a job interview. The frustrating part is that the Headhunter doesn't work at the company you're applying with and usually has a very top-line idea of what the position involves and demands. Further, many times the Headhunter won't even tell you what company you're being reviewed for until your 2nd meeting with them. It's happened to me on various occasions that I've gone in, met with the Headhunter, didn't satisfy and to this day I have no idea who the companies were that were looking to hire! In the off chance that you pass the Headhunters screening and you make it to the actual company for interviews, expect a series of interviews (something like 2-4). Also expect, in many cases, having to prepare a case study related to the position you're applying for (as was my case with the searches I was involved in.) One thing is certain: of all the resumes the Headhunter receives for any particular opening, in general, only 3 candidates pass on to the company itself for further interviewing. So if you make it to that, congrats! You at least beat out a plethora of candidates before you! Note that if you're a woman, you'll most likely the ONLY woman passing on to the next level. Rarely have I found myself in the top 3 with another female.

During the interviews, they want to know everything - literally EVERYTHING - about what you did, what you've done, what you want to do and how you do it. They want to know about your significant other and they want to know what you do in your free time. They want to know where you see yourself in five years and they want to know what your supervisor would say about you and your working style. They want you to take them through your typical day at work and they want to hear about a time when you faced confrontation and how you approached it. In my case they've wanted to know how I would feel working with a team, outside my home, adhering to "office hours." They also wanted to be sure that I was here to stay and not about to hop a plane back to CA at the drop of a hat. And finally, one of the most shocking things they want to know about you as a woman is if you're thinking of popping out any kids some time soon ... if so, that could immediately disqualify you as a potential candidate.

Somewhere along the lines, either before making it to the company itself for interviews or shortly thereafter, comes the biggest twist of all when it comes to interviewing for jobs here: the psychological assessment. Otherwise known as the "B*tch-better-not-be-crazy" test. I've been scrutinized, analyzed and prodded with inkblots ("tell me what you see here, first thing that comes to mind"); color selection ("of these eight options what's your favorite color? Next favorite? After that? Next favorite? What's your least favorite?"); drawings ("draw a picture of a person in the rain"); handwriting analysis ("write a letter about anything you want") and finally, S.A.T. style logic tests that serve to give an indication of your math and problem-solving skills. Needless to say, in the last six months I've become a guru of psychological tests.

The verdict is still out on whether or not I'm crazy. However, I'm happy to share that despite the difficult selection process, the daunting psychological exams, the torturous waiting game and the devastation of defeat, I've finally landed a job here in Chile - after six months of searching. It's actually more than a job - it's definitely a career builder and an important stepping stone to whatever lies ahead for me professionally.

I've never been through so many series of frustrating events in my life. I've never worked so hard to make something happen for myself and I've never learned more about adaptation than I have with the experiences of the last few months. I've learned humility and patience as well. It took me SIX MONTHS to find something, with a few near hits along the way that ultimately didn't pan out. I had to learn how things are done in this system and I had to mold myself to fit into their processes. After all, I'm looking for a job in their market - who am I to parade around thinking that just because I'm American they should be chomping at the bits to hire me? The fact is that they aren't chomping at the bits to hire me just because I speak fluent English. Chileans are better prepared in universities than we are back home and if you add post-graduation work experience to that, they are BY FAR better candidates than many of us out there. Of course circumstances vary. One could be a recent college graduate, looking for an entry level position and entry level pay and that person may very well have a much easier time than I did. If that's the case for anyone, awesome!

Ultimately though I think that this experience taught me to truly define what it is I wanted to do with myself professionally, where I want to be now and where I want to be 5, 10 or 15 years from now. It also made me slow down and truly think about the kinds of companies I'd be best suited to work for. Where would I excel and where would my skill set be most valued? I think the wait was worth it because I learned a LOT. I'm excited about this new career opportunity, the company itself, my future role in the company and the compensation offered. Yeah I've been dragged through the mud in this process but then again, keeping my eyes on the prize turned out to be the best strategy I could have possibly adopted.

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Sunday, October 24, 2010


25 Random Things

In March 2009, I was tagged in one of those Facebook Notes entitled "25 Random Things." I thought it was pretty cool and so I did one myself and tagged 25 friends with whom I wanted to share my own version of the list. Over a year later (tonight), since I happen to be the biggest of winners (take a gander at my previous blog entry to understand my history of uncool), I decided to clean up my Facebook page a little and once again came across my list. I'm both pleased and surprised at how true all points continue to ring, despite the time, distance and life that has marched on in the past 17 months since I first wrote them.

And so I thought I'd put them on my blog, share them with you and personally marinate in 25 random thoughts that continue to describe me and/or how I see the world around me. [Note that in this blog version, I did add a few clarifications below as noted in brackets ... ]

25 random things by Andrea Gonzalez on Friday, March 13, 2009 at 1:55am

1. 95% of people either bore me to tears or annoy me. If you're tagged, you fall within the 5% that I actually dig and feel bring some measure to this world. Nicely done.

2. I have an obsession with purses.

3. Of all my travels, by far the best food I've ever eaten has been in Tokyo.

4. I loathe the Dirty SF peeps, you KNOW WHAT I MEAN. [Bus line that runs through Downtown and Chinatown in San Francisco.]

5. I really enjoy making cupcakes. I even have a secret method. Truly, they are amazing. I might open a shop called Dre's Cupcakes (per Lauren's suggestion).

6. I hate The Gap. I kind of want to throw eggs at it. It baffles me when foreigners obsess over that dumb ass store.

7. I like 80s glam rock bands... Poison, Def Leppard, Motley Crue, Bon get the picture. I'm pretty sure these bands make up half my iTunes playlist.

8. US Weekly is THE BEST MAGAZINE EVER. And Time. I like that one too.

9. I never leave the house without makeup. That's just all kinds of not ok.

10. I believe my boyfriend has the best facial profile ever. If you see him, ask him to turn his head - you'll totally agree me. [Still 100% true except that this said boyfriend is now my husband.]

11. I find that watching Back to the Future over and over again is quite therapeutic.

12. I think porn is really funny.

13. In college I was known as the "grandma" among my friends. Actually this might still be the case, I'm not sure. They've gotten a lot nicer about pointing out my "Golden Girls" ways...

14. I sleep with socks on every night (per point #13)

15. I'm obsessed with Shiloh Jolie Pitt.

16. Anything romantic makes me want to laugh out setting the mood with rose petals and David Gray. Nothing is funnier than people trying too hard.

17. When I'm ready to retire, instead of knitting or playing with grandkids, I want a Harley so I can go ride with my husband. Seriously.

18. I'm getting married in a short wedding dress and red heels. [I didn't end up doing this but looking back, I should have totally stuck to this idea.]

19. I hate mainstream anything. If everyone is doing it, I want nothing to do with it. Peace out. [This holds true EXCEPT when we're talking social media.]

20. I'm obsessed with Mexican food, drinks, people... and beaches. Mexico might be close to the most perfect place on Earth.

21. I've kept a diary since I was 7 years old. I had some MAJOR problems back then. Grade school is a dog-eat-dog world...especially that one time my best friend stole my Hello Kitty pencil case. Biiiiitch.

22. I'm supposed to wear glasses everyday but I never do (have you seen me with them on? No. I rest my case.)

23. I can watch movies over and over again and never get bored. When I watch Back to the Future, I'm always stressed out that Marty won't make it back in time!! [Continues to get me every time.]

24. A glass of white wine with my boyfriend is my ideal way to end a day. [Again, my then-boyfriend is now my husband.]

25. My youngest nephew's name is Guillermo (we call him Memo sometimes) but I decided it would be funny to just call him Juanito. And will you believe that the six year old actually calls me Juanita back?? We're totally related.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010


The weirdo

I can't remember where it was I read that one of the key elements to writing a 'tween or young adult book was to make sure you had an awkward, relatively weird, outsider kind of protagonist. This made sense to me since teenagers, especially pre-teens, are all kinds of awkward. In fact, today we needn't think any further than Twilight and its leading lady, Bella Swan, who embodies clumsy, awkward and weird all in one package. When I was younger, I used to be drawn to these kinds of characters as well. Deenie, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Blubber, Ramona Quimby, Age 8, and of course, Anne of Green Gables, were all books that I adored when I was younger. I'd go to the library, check them out, read them, re-read them, take them back and repeat the process the following week all over again. I loved them because each protagonist was, in a word, weird. Since I considered myself to be weird too, reading about kids who were awkward and totally different from the norm allowed me to believe that I had a posse of like martians ready to hang out with me at any given notice. Books were my escape and my entertainment, more so than television or anything else available to me (which, let's face it, was very limited). I was constantly fighting against being different and desperately tried to be "normal" like everybody else.

When we first arrived in San Francisco, I can safely say that I didn't notice that I was different. My classmates were all different too. Some were Chinese, some were Korean, some where Russian, others Italian. I had a Mexican friend and a Filipino friend and I sat behind a red-headed boy named Billy in class who was probably of Irish-decent or something. We all attended Catholic school and as such, wore uniforms to school everyday. Because of this, no one noticed if someone had "cooler" clothes and the concept of "designer" anything just wasn't our reality due to our age and our different backgrounds. Then of course there was the ONE thing many of us had in common besides this: being the first generation "Americans" growing up in a major city. When we went home, yes, some of the kids spoke English with their parents and siblings, but many of us went home and spoke a completely different language! You'd see the influences of our parents' heritage in our packed lunches which ranged from PB&J to sushi to some kind of Chinese soup that was heavy on the cabbage. Sometimes you'd go over to a friend's house and notice the traditions there: removal of shoes before walking in, eccentric, colorful art hanging on the walls, spicy cooking and the rich smells associated with it and multi-generational households that included the grandmother and sometimes even the great-grandmother! We lived in a city so many of us took the bus to school and as is the norm living in a city, many of us lived in apartments or flats, not always houses. And you know what? Because of this, I don't recall any of my school mates and/or friends having pets.

To me, all of the above foster great memories of my childhood. I wasn't weird because we were all "weird." I wasn't any different than my Korean classmate who removed her shoes before going inside her apartment and who brought sushi for lunch. Whereas I went home and spoke Spanish with my mom and ate "lentejas" for dinner, my Chinese, Mexican and Italian friends had their own traditions and day-to-day at home that greatly differed from my own. Such was the melting pot of my early years that soon took a nasty turn to dullsville Suburbia when I turned 14. It was at this age that we left San Francisco and moved to the Peninsula, 30 minutes south of the city. With this move came a change of school and a new chapter of my life that took an eternity to shake myself out of: weirdo martian from another country chapter.

From the time I was 14 to oh, about age 28 or 29, it was a constant battle to be considered part of the crowd and "normal." I moved to Edward Scissorhands town and realized that the melting pot that had been my home for as long as I could remember, was no more. I found myself in a place, in a school, in a town, where every single person was "normal" and even those of a different ethnicity were, to the naked eye, diluted. I became self conscious of the fact that my mom didn't speak English fluently. I was anguished like only a teenager can be over the fact that we didn't live in a house like everyone else did. I didn't grow up playing soccer so I immediately signed up for AYSO soccer and made a fool of myself trying to perform with non-existent skills. At 14 I had never shaved my legs because my mom never told me about it (in Chile people wax and she grew up always waxing, something she obviously thought I would do too once I was old enough.) All of a sudden I was the brown, hairy girl who moved from SF! No I didn't have Guess jeans but realized soon enough that if I was going to be anybody at the new school, I NEEDED GUESS JEANS (is 14 too young to be sporting $80 jeans, anyone, anyone?) I didn't even know about the GAP until I moved to this said Edward Scissorhand town and apparently, by the time I hit high school, it was the only option for my wardrobe. That and Eddie Bauer's flannel shirts, what with the grunge thing in full effect.

I looked around and realized something that rang true in high school, college and some time after college as well. To be popular, interesting, solicited and listened to meant that you had to somewhat blend in and only stand out in the most traditional of ways. In high school this meant that I had to be in student government (all the cool kids were in student government.) It also meant that I had to be in drama but this only lasted through my freshman year and I gladly gave it up in lieu of the school newspaper (which incidentally, wasn't "cool" by any means.) So I ran for Student Body Secretary my senior year in high school and lost to one of my classmates who was (and continues to be) Ms. Overachiever (actually now she's Dr. Overachiever). That was a blow but thankfully, since I ran for a "big" office, I was given a pity prize and co-chaired something that had to do with school clubs (my co-chair was another popular girl, known more for her work in dance and performance arts.) I didn't wear the right clothes, didn't run with the right crowd (though GOD KNOWS it wasn't for lack of trying!), didn't play the right sports, I didn't dance or do drama (which in my high school was the epitome of cool.) I did manage to break into Honors/Advanced English (again bc all the popular kids were in that class) and ONCE even pulled off the 2nd highest grade on a term paper (the highest grade went to Dr. Overachiever, I believe.) Still, I felt I had proved something to the "right" crowd.

By the time I got to college, I'd somewhat mastered the wardrobe mess I had when I first arrived at a public school and found my own style (or lack thereof). This wasn't a major issue in college for me. The major issue was once again being the one "foreign" girl in a sea of ... politely speaking, non-foreign boys and girls. Many grew up in suburbia, had a mom and a dad (dad was always a lawyer or some corporate executive and mom was most likely a school teacher) and I just had my mom. My mom who was a nanny, a great one at that, for a very successful, very wonderful family. No, there was no dad. No we didn't take vacations to Tahoe every winter and summer. No, we've never owned an SUV. What was that? Was I going to Europe after graduating college? Um, no. I guess I could have done myself a favor and NOT gone out and join a sorority which only served to remind me how different, poor, weird, and non-mainstream I really was. Instead I DID join one, proceeded to binge drink to fit in, gain 15 pounds my first year at Davis, spend money I didn't have on monthly sorority dues and pretty much drag myself through the mud trying to "be cool" and fit in with those I considered to be cool. That's not to say or imply that people weren't NICE. They were nice, actually. It's just too bad that I was so awkward about being different that they couldn't get to know me for me. It wasn't their fault, it was mine. I assumed they thought I was weird and so I took that as fact and acted accordingly to try and fix it. The irony is that people who are NOW my good friends post-college are women who 1) weren't in a sorority or 2) are the "cool" girls I wanted to impress who are more impressed with my weirdo foreignness than whoever it is I was pretending to be in college.

Life works in the kookiest of ways, really. Post-college it was through work, my career, travel and my accomplishments in the workplace that actually helped me shed all embarrassment for being different. I was given opportunities at a relatively young age that NO ONE my age had and that made me feel like a bad ass. I ended up working for a Japanese company and getting to know a culture that was a million times removed from both my own and actually LIKING and APPRECIATING it. It dawned on me that different was funky and I liked it. It also finally dawned on me that "normal" was so boring, I could die. Yawn. It helped that I was back in San Francisco (albeit for work only) and that I could once again be reminded that the melting pot existed and that I was a fabulous part of that.

The irony is this: I'm now living in Chile and again, I'm reminded with constant lucidity of how different I am. I'm a gringa in a Chilean world. I'm weird, I'm a foreigner and I'm not "normal" (what's this about wearing open-toed shoes before October??!!! Owning a Bulldog? Not partaking in "once" and checking my blind spot when I drive?) That's ok though. This time around in life I'm fine with it. I'm actually in the process of maintaining said weirdness, working off it and finding my place in this Chilean world. I'm sorry to tell you Chile, I don't plan on playing the role I once did of fitting in. This is me, foreign and awkward, take it or leave it.

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