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Notes from Underneath: September 2009

Notes from Underneath

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Coming back

I've spent the last few days basking in the glorious sun of California (also doing some ever important U.S. Citizenship procedures), as well as hanging out with my fabulous uncle - and I have to tell you, I really lucked out with the weather the past few days. A sublime 90 degrees in the Peninsula and an amazing 80 degrees in San Francisco. It has really made me miss the Bay Area and I realize now how much I took for granted about living here. From my drive to the office, which included views of Alcatraz, the Bay Bridge and a daily run down The Embarcadero to BAGELS!!! (I know, right? Who knew I'd miss those carb infested treats so much?!)

My first few days here were bittersweet and as I mentioned several times to G, kind of like being thrown into the Twilight Zone. I was home but I wasn't really HOME. Not sure if that makes sense but I'll try to explain myself: the streets, the smells, the people, the environment, the day-to-day and so much more, were in ALL SENSES OF THE WORD, home to me. This is where I grew up; this is where the coffee shop I've been going to since I was 19 is (my favorite latte EVER) and this is where the mall I always go to is located. I have memories that literally line the streets here and I have a story about several of the spots along the road from SF to Menlo Park. YET - my home, in the physical sense and in the sense where one lays their head to rest, isn't here. And where I was laying my head to rest has been in a bed and a home that isn't mine (though quite comfy nonetheless.) Whereas Santiago by NO stretch of the imagination feels like home to me, I actually came to miss it due the fact that 1) G is there and 2) my STUFF that makes my home is there. Unsettling to say the least and there have been several times when I have wished to MESH both worlds so that I could have both aspects of home, in one. Obviously that's not possible and I've surrendered to the fact that I have to make Santiago as much my home as Menlo Park and San Francisco feel like home because the fact of the matter is that my home is now there, not here, and no willing (as much as I may try) will result in all my stuff - and my fiancee - being magically transported to my former apartment on Fremont Street.

I've enjoyed spending time and seeing people that live here, namely my dear Uncle Pato, Shannon and the Yates - Holland families. I've really enjoyed looking at the Holland girls and realizing, with a mixture of nostalgia and awe, how much they have grown up. I met the oldest of the girls when she was a mere four months old and used to don a crazy, Last-of-the-Mohicans-style-mohawk (don't ask how, but her fine blonde hair used to stand up - literally! It was quite the sight and too cute!) Now, as I'm typing here, I turn to my left and she's a tall, bright eyed 10 year old who's playing "Spore" on her family's computer. When did that happen?? When did she grow up and begin to tell me about the comic books she enjoys reading or about how much she doesn't like soccer? Her younger sisters I met the instant they were home from the hospital and I have memory after memory of playing with them in their backyard (something called "Tickle Monster" that made no sense to me but kept them laughing for hours). They've grown into such smart, engaging and bright girls that when I have a conversation with them, I find myself completely intrigued by what their answers will be and what they'll point out about the world around them. I mean, of course they're little girls and sometimes just say little girl stuff...but at the same time, they're more like little people (not in the "Little People, Big World" kind of way.) I've never adored any other kid as much as I adore these three girls and though I try not to freak them out with the shows of affection I shower on them when I get them to spare five mins of their time, I have to say that sometimes I just want to burst with so much awe, love and pride I feel when I spend time with them. I'm just going to put it out there that it MIGHT be possible that I won't love my kids QUITE as much as I love these girls and if that's the case, it's simply because I met the girls first and it's no fault of my own. There, I said it.

Speaking of immeasurable love, I have one word for you: Target.
When I lived here I knew that I really liked Target. I may have even said the word "love" a few times. But now that I'm back I realize that this goes above and beyond anything the "L" word can conjure up - it's more about devotion and adoration. I hit up Target like you wouldn't believe, buying up items left and right that I took for granted when I lived here. In no particular order:

1) Glade Plug Ins. - I bought about 10 of them, not because they don't exist in Chile, they do. However, the only option that exists is "smells likes ass" and "reeks of designer impostor perfume." Obviously, we aren't too pleased with the Chilean selection of Glade Plug Ins. Whereas in Target, there is all the Vanilla one could want and, my personal favorite, Lavender Vanilla. Fabulous.

2) Swifter - dry and wet options. Smog and dust bunnies seem to go hand in hand in Santiago and to combat this (in between nana visits) are Swifter wipes. I can't wait to swifter away!!

3) DVDs - Mad Men Season 1 and 2, The Holiday, Mallrats, Stand By Me, The Notebook, The Game and Mr. Mom. All great and all equally absent from Chilean supermarket shelves. These will go fabulously well with my 42 inch tv!

4) Goldfish. You know, the cheese crackers we all grow up on in the U.S. They lack cracker creativity for their kids in good ol' Chilsters and so I have to bring some back for G's kids. I mean, how can kids grow up without this stuff? They are deprived and don't even know it!! I'm trying to remedy the situation, one Peppridge Farm bag at a time.

5) Dryer sheets. I've mentioned this phenomenon before but they don't exist in Chile probably due to the fact that most people don't have dryers. Well we do. Hence we need the sheets.

I made some other purchases as well: organic dish soap, organic deodorant and organic mac and cheese. I'm sure that if I requested this stuff at any Jumbo or Lider in Santiago I'd get the usual "weirdo" look I tend to get from the average Chilean (and let me tell you, MOST are AVERAGE.) In fact, I bought regular and organic mac and cheese because this is another thing that children are deprived of growing up down there. You can get these lame Safeway brand mac and cheeses that have been on the shelf for about 5 years, but then again, it's no Kraft Cheese and Macaroni.

Finally, I also bought Sourdough bread. Yeah I said it. I love it and it doesn't really exist in many places outside of SF so I went to Boudin in Fisherman's Wharf and bought three round loaves. They're mine and no, you can't have any. Ok, well maybe if you're super nice. MAYBE. Oh and that's if they let me into Chile with them. Customs is so agro, who knows what they'll take from me. For all I know they'll be anti my organic deodorant!

In summary, it was bittersweet to be back but the bitter lasted only a couple of days. I wish we had the stuff that makes living here so great (as mentioned above) and I also wish that Santiago was as remotely picturesque as San Francisco is. I also wish there wasn't the dense smog that constantly covers the city and that the ocean was a mere 30 mins away as it is here. I wish that the people I love were closer to me and I wish I could find cute clothes for under $30, as I can at Target. I wish I could find a latte that tasted as good as Borrone's latte tastes and I wish I could get dungeness crab at the snap of a finger. I wish I worked in an office with many, many coworkers so that I could have a daily social outlet and feel like I work for a common goal with another person. I wish lots of things and I miss many, many more.

But no matter what that list of wants and wishes includes, living here would mean being without the one person who makes leaving it all behind SO worth it. And well, I've been here and done all of it. So now my home is Santiago, next to him and I'm happy with that decision because no Target in the world and no amazing view of Alcatraz can replace what we're building there. And with that, tomorrow I'll happily carry my oversized suitcases filled with aisles of merchandise from Target and head back home - to Santiago.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Things I SHOULD be writing about

I'd just like to start out by saying that I feel sick and crappy today so my blog is going to be less than stellar. I know, I know - super great of me considering I haven't updated it in FOREVER and there does seem to be much to blog about.

The thing is, I feel like total crap so I can't get into the nitty gritty of it all but here are some top line mentions of things I would have normally written pages and pages on but can't bring myself to do so now:

1.) Chilean Independence Day and that crazy law that is still left over from Pinochet days, where each and every property needs to be waving a Chilean flag in plain view. I believe they also have to do it BY a certain day. I noticed that our building has yet to put the flag up outside, but I'm sure it's going to appear by Wednesday. Not sure when the actual cut off is, but I highly doubt they would rather a fine than putting it up. Hmmmm, perhaps my bldg establishment leans more left?

2.) Feeling less patriotic here than I did in the U.S. I remember feeling so much pride around being Chilean, that I purposely added that not only was I born here, but that I still had the Chilean citizenship. Now? Who cares! I have no idea where this said patriotism went but it might have to do with the fact that I'm adjusting to living here and not there. I read Facebook status updates from Chileans who still live in the U.S. and GOOD LORD, their pride makes my internet pages burst at the seams. I envy that pride since I don't have it anymore. I'm thinking that I'll balance out and a year from now I'll have just enough pride to actually host an asado. By then we'll have our furniture too. It's always good to have somewhere to sit. G tells me we'll be going to a "funda" or "fonda" whatever it's called. It's a place where they celebrate the 18th apparently. I can't recall much more than that but it's supposed to be quite symbolic of the 18th here. I'll have chicha and an anticucho and what not...I'll watch the cuecas and clap along and what not...I'll let you know how it goes. Oh yeah, the one good thing is that we get this Friday off!

3.) Went to a Chilean wedding this weekend which I heard wasn't that stellar. I thought it was just me but then the groom's family (G's side of the family) were the ones who mentioned this. It helped me to realize that I don't want a day wedding because I'm all about people dancing at my wedding. And people tend to want to dance at night.It also helped me to realize that it doesn't matter how beautiful the place is...if you don't add your own personal touches to the wedding, it just turns out bland. The couple I'm talking about were fabulously in love of course, but they didn't bother to personalize a single thing (that I could tell.) It's as if the winery showed them the "standard" items and they took them all. PERSONALIZE people!!! 'Nuff said.

4.) I found my wedding venue and it's SPECTACULAR and I am so in love with it that I do a happy dance in my head when I think of it. I can't provide much info on it since G has sworn me to secrecy but I feel like this ONE picture should be fine. Since you can't really tell what it's a picture of or even if it's a picture of our venue... I'll create a picture scavenger hunt and make you guess - how 'bout that? No, maybe not. Still - this is a picture I took over the weekend. Whether or not it has anything to do with our venue is up to you to decide.

And on that note, moving on to number 5...

5.) Civil weddings in Chile. Um, they are just about the most boring, most UNROMANTIC piece of crap you'll ever come across. That is, unless, you do what most American or non-Chilean women tend to do - PERSONALIZE. I can't stress this enough. I'm all about it. If I were to opt for what the Chilean gov't insists I do at the wedding - and ONLY THAT - I'd have someone in front of me stating my full name WITH my social security number, my fiancee's full name with HIS social security number, then our witnesses' names with THEIR social security numbers and then a bunch of legal codes pertaining to the authority to marry someone. Are you with me here? Yes, that's right. The wedding ceremony sounds like a sequence of numbers from the Dewey Decimal System. And frankly, that's not for me.


6.) September 11th and what it means in Chile. It's such a long and winded topic and there are so many sides to this political debate that I just can't physically get into it right now. But just know, that if I could, I would blog about it. Though in my time of feeling like crap, can I direct you to my friend's blog "Don't Call Me Gringa" as she does quite a nice job of laying out for you what the 11th is about and what it means in different minds. Check out the blogs I follow and you can link to hers and read about this topic, which I find she eloquently describes and tells.

7.) Becoming a bride. I realized that the most anti of anti-brides becomes a full fledged planning maniac (to some degree at least) once she has a venue picked out. From then on, as G would say, "Empezó la fiesta!" Meaning, it's full speed ahead from that point, on.

So as you can see my dear little blog follower/reader, the purpose of this blog is to list a bunch of things I would normally be super inclined to blog about but since I feel like crap today, I simply can't. This is my vain effort to show you that I still have it going on in my HEAD even if I can't get it on to my BLOG for you to read about.

Now, who has some Sudafed for me? That would be dope right about now...

Friday, September 4, 2009


Bikram yoga in Chile vs in the U.S.

I finally made it to my first bikram yoga class in Chile yesterday. I felt like I was finally getting on with my life here because I put myself "out there" and picked up a somewhat hobby I had initiated back in CA. Also, I was really proud of myself after class for taking the metro home as opposed to a cab, even though I was probably super stinky. Oh well, sucks for the people on the metro next to me. (That's neither here nor there by the way.)

Anyway, the class was difficult, as bikram tends to be, but it was kind of a different experience doing yoga here vs having done it in CA. Here are some of the differences I noted in my first class:

1. The studio itself was STIIIIINKY!! I got there kind of early and while I was sitting on my mat waiting for class to start, I tried to analyze why it was so darn stinky. I concluded that the most probable culprit was the carpet in the studio. Who puts a carpet in a bikram yoga studio???!!! It's disgusting how much sweating goes on in that room AND because it's bikram, you can't like, AIR OUT the room since you have to maintain the temp. Hello??!! Did the peeps running the studio NOT get the memo on that?

2. More men seem to take bikram in Chile than in the U.S. At least that has been my experience thus far. And the men who are taking the class aren't the gay/questionably gay/metro men you might see in the studio in CA. These men are MANLY men who stand ever-so-slightly too proud and who have lots of hair. And they are ALL ABOUT the bikram. It's not like they were dragged there by some gf who begged them to partake in the single most important activity of their lives. They are there of their own accord and LOOOOOVING every minute of it. They were agro. I even saw two young-ish men (late 20s) come in together... in the same manner you might see them go to the weight room at the gym together.

3. Chilean bikram-ers are COMPLAINING MACHINES. I've never heard so many grunts and complaints as we moved through one pose after another. Of course there were grunts in the CA studios I attended but never like this. It was like a fantastic chorus of questionably perverted sounds coming out of about 75% of the class!! Well, at least no one farted...

4. The instructor shows no mercy. At the beginning of class she immediately called out my name, looking around trying to spot me. I raised my hand and she began drilling me on whether I knew the poses or not. I said yes, not that well but that I had taken a few bikram yoga classes back in the States. As we moved into the routine, every so often she'd call out my name "Arms straighter Andrea" as if I was the only one doing it wrong. I know she was just helping me along in the maternal manner that is innate in many of us, but it was awkward to say the least. Especially when we got to a pose that I'm not that comfortable doing. She looked at me and told me to do it and I said "it hurts" and she told me to do it anyway. What??! In the U.S. there was this general rule that you pushed yourself only so far, but every yogi is all about "knowing one's body and one's limit" and so one never felt like you HAD to do a pose. That wasn't the case for me yesterday as this instructor was adamant about people doing the poses no matter what. I rebelled of course and only did the pose 20% of the way. What can I say? I showed her who's the boss of me!!

I guess for now those are the main four differences I found between bikram here and bikram there. I'm going again tonight so maybe I'll have a completely different experience than I did yesterday, depending on who the instructor is.

There is one thing I hope to avoid when I go back though... one of the men in yesterday's class was stretching before our class started and there I was, minding my own business on my own mat when I inadvertently looked at him and his PENIS stared BACK AT ME!!! There it was, laying on his leg for the WHOLE world to see as he continued on with his stretching, completely unaware that his unit was checking out the scene. After that I didn't know where to look of course and obviously I almost choked trying to hold back my nervous laughter. How did he not notice that happened? I know I would notice if some part of MY body just wandered off ... !!

But who knows...maybe that's just how bikram rolls here in Chile? I guess I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


What we're gonna do right here is go back.

I was just thinking the other day how random it might seem that I'm here in Chile at all right now. A California girl in most senses of the term and I'm HERE?? Of all places, here???!! Well, there IS a story to be told of course, that involves two people, living their random lives, and randomly, coming together to realize "oh yeah, I love you!"

Obviously I'm talking about how Gonzalo and I "met" and fell in love. I say that we "met" because really, we "remet" since we were first introduced back in June 2005 during a convention in New York City (see logo below for your viewing pleasure).

He was married back then (in the typical Chilean fashion, where getting married at 25 is no big deal, and having kids at 27 is even lesser of a deal) so when we met it was all about work. In fact, I can't even recall our meeting together though I'm sure I talked about Naruto or some other brand and he talked about his company and the cool notebooks they make.
My schedule at that convention was jam packed. The reason I know is because every year at that convention my schedule is packed, so I can assume that 2005 was no different. And also I'm pretty sure I was dating someone --- let me think --- oh yeah, I was, though of course now he's an inconsequential person who was merely there to divert my attention while I waited for the man of my dreams (AKA Gonzalo) to come along.

Cut to June 2008, same convention, different year.

His reality: dating someone.
My reality: had recently been annihilated by a spineless little fraction of a man and my entire belief in the concept of love had plummeted to the depths of the Titanic in the cold Atlantic.

So perhaps I sound a little melodramatic ... but let me tell you, I was devastated and the concept of throwing about airs that I was fine and dandy, while attending to business at this said convention, left me exhausted. Though obviously that didn't stop me from partaking in the festivities of 230 Fifth one of those evenings, where I happened to run across my future fiancee.

See a pic of us having a good time at that said encounter.

But he had a gf and I was somewhere else...and though we shared a cab to our respective hotels that night (and I think we may have flirted for the first time ever) he was a pure gentleman and he dropped me off at my hotel before whisking away in NYC's yellow cab finest.

That was the first time I had seen him out of his "nerd" element. Seriously, in the work capacity I don't think anyone compared in the NERD ALERT category. And during meetings? DRY AS A BONE. I think he may have cracked had he tried to smile at any given point during a meeting. So you see? This encounter at 230 Fifth in Manhattan, though brief, was ultimately important because a saw a lighter side of him...and it was cute.

Fast forward to October 29, 2008. Bellavista. Santiago. Chile.

I was still living in CA but my mother had moved to Santiago after 28 years living in the SF Bay Area. In October she had been in Chile for a little over two months and on this particular day, it was her 60th birthday. I was in Chile on business and was going to tack on some much needed vacay time to spend with her. On October 29th a group of us went to a restaurant in the Bellavista area of Santiago to celebrate my mom's bday. One of my friends (and work associate here in Chile) who happens to also be good friends with Gonzalo, invited him to join us at my mom's dinner. Random? Perhaps. But the sentiment that evening was truly that of "the more, the merrier." Up until that point my only encounters with Gonzalo were either all about work and then that one time at the rooftop bar in NYC. That's it. And now he was on his way to have bday dinner with my mom and my sister??? Yes, slightly random but again, the mood was festive that night so it didn't dawn on me to be anti.

And of course he showed up in a manner in which I had NEVER seen him before. Mr Nerd Alert NO MORE... now replaced by Mr Jokes and Life of the Party.

Note the pics of that eventful night:

And what about this one? Look at my face!

Ahhh good times. You can tell I was taken aback by this "new" Gonzalo before me. And what of our realities at that point in time? Him - single. Me - finally getting over the ultimate annihilation from months before and ready to MOVE ON! Of course back then I had NO inclination that moving on would be with someone who lived in the other extreme corner of the globe! But that comes later ...

I was in Chile for two weeks, vacationing, as I had mentioned and seeing my mom's new life in Santiago. In that time, Gonzalo and I went out - in groups - twice. Once we went dancing... see pics here:

Or Mr Dancing Queen here:

We had a blast, but being the lady that I am, I excused myself at about 3 am and headed home..leaving him to continue dancing with friends.

We went out one more night during that trip, seen here in a pic that at present is framed in our home office (we didn't know that this would be the case when the picture was taken. Geez we hadn't even smooched at the time it was snapped!)

And then I went home to California...and there was this emptiness that went with me. I later figured out that it was because I REALLY liked him. REALLY REALLY TRULY liked him. So we did what any normal long distance couple does: we Skype'd day and night, whenever we could, we were on Skype. Skype allowed our relationship to evolve and I will forever be grateful for that little piece of technology. Daily Skype calls, phone calls, Facebook messages (and I mean LOOOOONG EMAILS via Facebook mail), emails, text messages, carrier pigeon - what have you - led to his first visit ever to SF, as seen here in this self portrait at Twin Peaks:

That trip was a good time! We made French Onion Soup from SCRATCH together! Yum!

We also had some profesh pics taken by this AWESOME photographer in Napa named Sarah Lane... TRULY amazing work... and our favorite pic of that session:

Yes, that's really us.

Ahhh memory lane. Such a sweet walk it is. :o)

That led to a quick rendezvous in Mexico where he had to go for work and heck, I figured that I might as well take advantage of the fact that he was a mere 4 hours away from me on a plane, rather than the usual 14+ it takes to get from SF to Chile. And so I flew to Mexico City for a stay that lasted only a little over 36 hours...

Well, to make a long story short... all of the above led to this:

Followed by this:

Which led to THE EVENT which you all know about due to the pics I've most likely made you view not once or twice but more like three or four times... but it's nice to remember (ooooh warm fuzzies!):

And THAT, my friends, brings us up to speed to riiiight about now.

That there, is a love story that took less than six months to unfold but which began with two people, living their own lives, who happened to meet over four years ago at a random convention in the best city in the world - NYC. Two people who, for the next few years, would go their separate ways and live their own lives, unaware of the existence (to a degree) of the other person... but where on one fateful night over four years later, in Bellavista in Santiago Chile, everything changed.

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