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Notes from Underneath: December 2009

Notes from Underneath

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

Thursday, December 31, 2009


Focus on 2010

There are five major tasks I have present in my mind for 2010 and I hope to embark, enjoy and excel at all five of them. (No pressure.) I'm not going to call them resolutions because I feel that I'll just be setting myself up for failure (and nothing depresses me more than failure) but I'd like to consider them as chapters of 2010. What I write in each chapter will literally be relayed in my blog but will also write a chapter in my life that I hope I can call "satisfactory" in 12 more months. Mentioning it in my blog now will only help me in determining how I approached and conquered each area.

1) Wedding and marriage.

For the love of all that's sacred and holy, I just hope I have time to enjoy and appreciate all the planning and all the money Gonzalo and I are currently putting into our wedding day. Sometimes I don't fully get the scope of the fact that I'm planning all this for me - for us. In fact, I see that I still handle it in the most corporate of ways, as if planning something for a boss. Case in point, I capture all images/ideas/suggestions in power point presentations and review them with G slide by slide. Discuss. Or don't since it's kind of pathetic/weird but whatever, it's efficient. I can't imagine what it will look like or how I'll feel that very day but I do hope that I have time to sit back, if even for a mere minute, and take it all in.
Wedding day aside, I do hope I'm good at the marriage part. I'm dabbling in it right now (some would call it living in sin, muahahaha) and here's what I've noticed about my part in married life: 1) I like to cook 2) I really do run the house 3) I need to work on my listening skills 4) I need to let others form - and express - their opinions before I go blabbing mine about 5) More hugs needed! Warm fuzzies if you will. They just make all things better. 6) Need to make sure that we keep up the spontaneous date nights/days. So far, so good with that just need to make sure it keeps up.

2) Friendships
"Some of you I know; some of you I'm meeting for the first time." (movie line, guess the movie and character). With that, I want to keep cementing the friendships that are forming now with people I've met in Chile BUT I'd also like to branch out and meet new people. Namely, I'd like to see about clicking with some Chileans. Weird concept, I know, given that it hasn't been easy thus far. I blame my lack of outside activity (I work from home) but I'll get to new opportunities for that in a bit. Or...wait. At least I'd like to blame my lack of outside activity and NOT think that I'm not clicking with Chileans because it's me, not them.
With that, I can't forget my peeps back home. Before I left CA I had an idea of who I would remain good friends with always ... but those things change and some people are really "out of sight, out of mind." That's their M.O. and God love them for it. There are others who remain the same people and the same kind of friend as before. And there are yet others who charge ahead in the friendship arena and come out shining as a friend you never thought you'd have. I'll reserve public op/eds on the three types of friends that evolve when one moves to another country but I will say that no matter what, I hope to be a good and present friend to all my peeps back home.

3) Back to School
I submitted my application to return to school for a Masters in Marketing. If all goes according to plan, I should be starting classes in April of next year (yeah, as in the same month I get married.) By then, it will have been a full ten years since I graduated undergrad and that's pushing it since I truly believe I checked out in 1999 and sort of skimmed through my last two quarters of college (a teacher once wrote "Senoritis?? Too bad" on a term paper that year. That's how awesome I was!) My point here is that I hope I don't freak out, I hope I learn to navigate the system well...and I hope the Spanish part of the studying doesn't throw me off. I would like to avoid any kind of indication of "Senioritis" from a professor during my Masters study, if at all possible.
Who am I kidding? This is going to be one intimidating mess for me but I hope I persevere and come out with a good education. AND, it would be quite nice to come out with at least one, if not two, friends. I'll be OUT THERE, in the Chilean system, learning from them about their ways (in marketing). Kind of "when in Rome" ... so my hope is to grab on to some would-be friends in that process. Now that I think about it, I should be hoping I have something interesting to contribute in the study groups I'll be in. No one wants to be the dumb one in study group.

4) Writing
A few days ago I was a lady who lunched (with some other fellow gringas) and one of them asked me what I had gone to undergrad for, meaning what did I study. I realized that back in the day all I wanted to be was a journalist. I even wrote for my high school newspaper and was editor of the "social" section. I went to Davis for a degree in Communications with the purpose of pursuing this journalistic goal ... that of course didn't pan out bc I took a different route during the dot com bubble. That office job led to another office job and before I knew it, journalism fizzled. Perhaps I would have been a kick ass journalist. Perhaps it's my parallel life a la the indie movie Sliding Doors. Maybe I'd be living in New York, working as an international correspondent for CNN. Oh likey that...Ok snap back to reality and obviously that's not the route I took BUT what has stayed with me nonstop is the thing that motivated me from day one - writing. Skits for school, short stories, poems, diaries and now a blog - I simply can't live my life without some part of it dedicated to writing. I do hope that in 2010 this writing becomes more focused. I have always dreamed of writing a story somewhat based on my family story, a mind-boggling one that is made for Lifetime television for women. When I read Isabel Allende's "The House of the Spirits" I thought to myself "I know this family. Oh wait! This is like MY family and their story." Except mine is less whimsical and more dramatic. Trust me it would make for some great poolside reading. Will I ever get to it? I don't know. But I hope to always be on the writing path that may allow me to stumble upon this story that's just waiting to be told.

5) Co-Baller

I actually coined this term the other day while I was lunching (the same lunch referenced above. Don't think I spend my days lunching like a proper Southern woman. I don't, though of course I wish I did!) The point I was making was that I too wanted to be a baller... meaning I hope to be very successful in my career so as to afford comforts that I didn't have the majority of my life. I have dreams I'd like to see become reality and goals I'd like to achieve. Perhaps some of these dreams and goals would seem superficial and materialistic to some while to others, they will seem like basic goals anyone should be striving towards. When I was in the U.S. I felt like I was on a path to making that happen. I went to school, got good grades, went to college, did the internships, extra-curricular activities, got a job, focused, got promoted, focused more, got promoted again, etc. A masters degree was in the back of my mind but since I was already a director at my company, it wasn't pressing. I knew the path, I knew the in's and out's of working in the U.S. and knew basically what I had to do in order to get ahead in the corporate world. Now I'm in a completely different country and though the basic how-to's are probably the same, I'm in a completely different playing field, with completely different players. I see it as starting all over again (though perhaps not from the VERY bottom as I was back in the day, straight out of college). And so, in 2010, I hope to regain my footing on my way to being a co-baller (by "co" I mean alongside G because to me, he's already a baller.) I hope I begin to understand what's needed to get there in Chile and that I learn what it even LOOKS like in Chile. That way I can put my eye on the prize and just work towards it. I feel confident that I'll achieve this, as I think going back to further my education will help immensely. Nothing like preparing yourself for battle, so to speak, on the same turf where one will be battling. I should come out much more aware and I hope to focus on that in 2010.

My focus list can't be too long though or I might just call it a day and not get anything done. I'll for sure dabble in trying to be healthy and being in prime physical condition but I won't kid myself into thinking I'll become one of those crazy, workout obsessed brides-to-be. That just ain't me, baby. So let's just say I have 5.5 things to focus on in 2010 and I'll be back in about 364 days to review this post and see how far I've come. I'll trust that I'll have conquered the world by then as my plans for world domination are coming along nicely.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009


My last rant about Chile for 2009 (that I'll blog, I mean)

A short one because I'm basically going to C&P what I just tweeted (it's all for you, my dear blog readers. I know you wish to know the in's and out's of living in Chile, and well, I couldn't finish my year without one more frustrating bit of info.)

With much love from me to you. :o)

Monday, December 28, 2009


2009 Year in Review

All right folks - the hoopla of Christmas is now safely behind us and thankfully we can now lend our attention to more important matters at hand: the upcoming close of yet another year.

You know, I remember when I was a kid and August rolled around... the thought of Christmas and the first time I'd get REAL time off from school, seemed SO - FAR - AWAY. Now that I'm older it seems that I blink and all of a sudden it's fall (well, spring here now) and then hello, it's Thanksgiving. And from there, it's a sleigh ride into Navidad and all its commercial glory. After New Year's it's Valentine's before you even have a chance to double check your resolution list and well, from there it's just a matter of seconds before you're planning your Memorial Day bbq's. I mean, the space time continuum has significantly shifted to high gear since I was a kid. I don't know. Maybe the 80s were just a slower decade... perhaps each decade before that was even slower! For all we know, maybe the 1930's took an entire 20 years to complete! I'm just sayin...

For this reason related to the speeding up of time, I'm especially glad that prior to my adventures in blogging, I kept a diary, a detailed account of my days really, ever since I was 7 years old. Just as I started to slack off on my diary entries, I started to blog. Somehow, somewhere, there is a full account of my life, should the case be that I ever become famous and a highly controversial public figure (as this will prove to be QUITE the arsenal in my life - either for or against me.)

In short, I can sum up this year of my life, from Jan 1, 2009 to these last few days remaining in December 2009, as having been full of love, growth ... and technology.

Leaving aside the egocentricity of my blog, right now I'd like to remember (as well as capture in writing) the love that bloomed for my dearest friends this year. Beginning with Amanda and Adam, who were married at the New York Botanical Garden on May 24th, 2009.

Followed by the marriage of my friends Corey and Chris on August 8, 2009...Happy, happy, happy couple!

And on December 25th (or 24th, not sure since I don't have the full scoop yet) my dear friend Lauren received the much anticipated proposal from her boyfriend (now fiancee), Mark. To say that I'm beyond thrilled is a fierce understatement and I won't even THINK such an inappropriate sentiment... I'm over the moon happy for them both and no words available to me in either Spanish or English can adequately sum up how happy I am for them.

Somewhere in between all the love my friends were getting (and giving) I myself got the proposal I thought I'd never, ever receive. I swear, there were times in my past life when I'd sit in my room, hearing story after story of college classmates who were dropping like flies into the realms of marriage. WHAT ABOUT ME??!!!, I used to think. What was wrong with me? Was I not lovable? Was I forever destined to be with men who didn't appreciate me, respect me or regard me? Or was I forever meant to be with boys who were about a mile short of becoming men? For the above-mentioned two type of guys were the only ones I seemed to land! So I spent time and again feeling sorry for myself regarding men and wondered if I'd ever have a husband and a family of my own ... until finally I came to terms with being alone and I was actually relishing the new found contentment about being single when LO AND BEHOLD, when I least expected it (as cliche as that sounds) in walks destiny.

June 7, 2009 - the day I wondered about for about two decades, the day I feared would NEVER, EVER come... finally came... :o)

Note that the first thing I said to my mom when we called her (about 15 minutes after this picture was taken) was "OMG mom someone wants to MARRY ME!!! Can you believe it?" That caused a good chuckle from her and him alike, but trust me, there was a part of me that was kind of in awe with this concept. Grateful, but in awe nonetheless.

But none of this love shmlove stuff could have POSSIBLY happened without the other two things that are prominent about my 2009: technology and the move.

Technology could only take Gonzalo and me so far. While he lived in Santiago, Chile and I lived near San Francisco, CA I'm not sure how long our relationship would have ultimately lasted with such a distance. However I do know that it lasted as long as it did despite being apart thanks to mobile communication devices (i.e. cell phones), Skype, email, Facebook and the Internet in general. I can't imagine it now, but my life pretty much evolved around my Skype time with him ... did I make plans after work with girlfriends? Yes I did. But trust me, they were far fewer than my life prior to Skype time. And well - what woman doesn't appreciate lugging herself up the steps to her apartment after work only to find a box from 1-800-Flowers containing tulips, or roses, or what have you, sent from her boyfriend living thousands of miles away?

Ultimately though, the only way our relationship would survive was for one of us to transplant themselves to where the other one was ... that person ended up being me since 1) I don't have kids and he does and 2) I speak both languages fluently, thus the likelihood of my adjustment being faster was greater. That move was well documented as it gave rise to this blog ... for more details on that part of my life, check back to past entries. Notably, those from July. Hence, one of the major marks of my 2009 was the move from the U.S. to Chile to be with my one and only. Obviously something so maje rightfully takes center stage this year.

The final element of 2009 that I mark with great significance is that of my job/career. I sadly watched as many of my coworkers were laid off earlier this year due to the flailing economy and our company's reaction to such a decline was that of self-preservation. This makes sense and when my coworkers left, I was (thankfully) left to step into roles that were left empty ... and these roles helped me learn a great deal about 1) being thankful to have a job, 2) adjusting to (corporate) emergency situations 3) appreciating that one's company has such confidence in the abilities of the (remaining) employees and 4)turning on auto-pilot and just getting things DONE. When I realized that it was time for me to leave California and move to Chile, once again my job showed me that life could go on with them in tow too, as they allowed me to keep my job even after I moved. Maybe it was because they need me as much as I need them but either way, it was a great moment in 2009 when I realized that my company really did like me. I like them too. Oh, I have my grrr moments (and definitely had them earlier this year after all the lay offs) but in general, it's been a good 2009 job-wise and I'll be forever thankful that I was one of the people that could say that about 2009. I realize that many people can't.

So now that the Christmas bit is over and I'm about three days away from welcoming 2010, I'm sad to see a pretty good year come to an end. Each year on December 31st, I'm anxious about the upcoming new year especially since past years haven't been as great as this one has. I hope 2010 is even better (hi, the year I'm getting married and the year I start my Masters program!) but even if it's just as good as this one, I'll be more than happy and equally as grateful.

So until 2010, fellow bloggers and blog readers, I'll leave you with all my best wishes for a happy, healthy and successful 2010, in all ways! And don't drink and drive. :o)

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Thursday, December 24, 2009


Merry Christmas Eve day

It's Christmas Eve and for all intensive purposes, today is Christmas in Chile. Since celebrations occur this evening, with dinner at about 10 pm and the opening of gifts at about midnight, that puts Santa's arrival at about 11:45 pm versus the 4 am timing that occurs in the States, allowing kids to catch some zzzzz's prior to the frenzy on the 25th in the morning.

Several things are on my mind today and I'm trying to sort them all out and/or make them happen.

The most pressing thought this past holiday season can best be described by channeling the Talking Heads and their song "Once in a Lifetime." Not necessarily the entire song, but definitely the first part of it and especially the end of that first part which asks "Well, how did I get here?" Here a snippet (compliments of Kermit the Frog since I couldn't find the actual video on YouTube. I rather think the Kermit one is more up my alley but that's six of one and half a dozen of another ...)

Yes, Kermit's voice gets slightly annoying towards the end of the clip but I do want to consider each point in the beginning of the song:

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
- well no, not living in a shotgun shack exactly. Apartment's nice and cozy.
You may find yourself in another part of the world - Yes, this part here is true.
You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile - No, no. The car is a mini little egg-type bit.
You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife - Why yes, in a beautiful apartment with a beautiful, nice smelling soon-to-be husband ...

How did I get here:

- I'm the woman of the house and in a way I've never known before. I may not clean, as we have help for that, but I direct the cleanliness and well-being of this house.
- I decorated for Christmas and have initiated traditions that I foresee being with us and our future family for a while.
- I'll be the hostess of our family's gathering for Christmas Eve tonight.
- We bought Filet Mignon and are about to embark in a full fledged hard-core prepping of a family dinner
- And we're going to try to create magic for G's kids tonight given that they believe in Santa and we have to keep this little lie alive (well, "we" is a term I use loosely actually. G will be doing most of the magic making.)

I bring this up because my mom has been keen to repeatedly telling me that she's so proud of the woman I've become and the house I'm "running" and the traditions I'm continuing for my "own" family. Sometimes I feel like she's talking about someone else since half the time I consider myself to be oh, about 16 and obviously a 16 year old can't manage all that - what, with boys and the entire cast of Twilight to consider. Who has the time? Sometimes I feel like I'm this teenage girl trapped in a big, woman world. Other times I feel like the same woman who was alone in her apartment last year during the Christmas season and inviting her girlfriends over for merry enjoyment of alcoholic beverages. I didn't even have a tree back then.

We're hosting family and friends at our grown-up apartment tonight and it's a big deal to me. It's a moment in time that captures everything I once longed for and thought was so out of reach: a man I love who loves me back equally; my mom seeing me in my own home as a grown up; the invite-ER as opposed to the invite-EE during Christmas; the hostess who makes sure that each one of her guests finds a gift under the tree. Sometimes I have split-second moments of freaking out (hence, how did I get here type thoughts) but the freak out is really the 16-year old/single woman me backing off to the woman-of-the-house/master-of-her-own-domain diva who is on her way to having it all. I'm not there yet - far from it - but I am certainly ahead of the curve I think. And that curve isn't one set by peers, but one that was set by me - versions of me that existed long ago and versions of me that I knew far longer than the me I am getting to know now.

This me is a grown up. This me is a woman. (Even writing that seems weird. What? Me? A woman? Surely, you must be mistake ...) This me has a fabulous apartment and is serving filet mignon for Christmas dinner!

Madge said it best... who's that girl?

Hee hee! Me I think. Except you know, a "woman" now.

To who we were and to who we are now... and to the path from A to B - Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


Google Earth: handy tool or useful stalking mechanism?

Last night G introduced me to what might be THE BEST invention ever ... Google Earth. If you haven't already, I highly suggest you check it out, download it and start sightseeing/stalking different parts of the world.

I'm OFFICIALLY obsessed!!

I give you my Google Earth's version of my apartment building (second bldg from the bottom right) Side note, I had NO IDEA that our neighbors had a pool on their roof!

So then we decided to check out all the destinations in Asia where we are planning to go on our Honeymoon - and THIS, was by far, the coolest thing ever:

See all those little blue squares? That's where people have uploaded pictures in that area! The more squares, the more likely it's a tourist attraction...


And one of the BEST TOOLS about this thingy is the street view option...not all destinations have this option but more likely than not, U.S. cities will for sure have it... here we have Tokyo (another Hmoon destination) and we also have a close up of a street in the Shinjuku as it zooms, zooms and ZOOMS!!:

Of course, I guess we can also see this as a scary Big Brother-type tool that allows people to stalk one another and allows big corporations (i.e. Google) to keep tabs on what we're doing and where we're going. Yeah, I guess we can go that route...but I'm pretty sure this has been going on for decades without us knowing and now it's open and free for us to use! For the moment, we better just sit back and take advantage of this little tool to help us find our destinations (long gone are the MapQuest days of simple "turn right here" and "turn left here")... I imagine that pretty soon they'll have live cameras set up somewhere actually MONITORING live. Next thing you'll know is that you'll look out the window and see some droid filming what you're presently doing, all because someone entered your building's address in Google Earth!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Fake Chilena Part II: What makes me Chilean

What gives me a huge sense of joy regarding this blog is that I can throw things out there and I have the privilege of reading people's thoughts/opinions about such things. I also feel an immense amount of appreciation for the blog community in general, mainly because it's perspectives galore! And who doesn't like third party opinions, I ask you?

Anyhoo, so my list of why I'm not Chilean (in my mind) can go on and on, but it's only fair to point out reasons why I AM indeed Chilean because there are quite a few. After all, with Pil as a mother, (who ever-so-nicely told me when I was 4 that I'd speak to her in Spanish only or she would never talk to me) - it's hard to forget where one came from.

1) Believe it or not, I really like Nescafe and I drink it once or twice, daily. Others may argue that it tastes gross, but coming from the U.S., where the majority of coffee tastes like Starbucks (yuck), I'm not really sure what the difference is between that and Nescafe? In fact, I think Nescafe is tastier! ... and I blame Starbucks and their gross coffee for this.

2) I grew up reading Condorito. Given that back in the day we didn't have much money, I'm pretty sure I wasn't getting the lastest Condoritos to read, therefore, I most likely learned to read in Spanish with the same three comic books - over and over and over. I really liked his nephew Cone and felt like he was my buddy. I liked Yayita too but her boobs and body weirded me out in a "please-don't-let-that-happen-to-me" kind of way (it did). Finally, I really liked that his dog's name was Washington. How Shey-lay-no!

3) I'm inclined to dress my salad with either lemon and oil or balsamic and oil. Granted, I'm not sure if this is totally Chilean, but I do know that Chileans more often than not, don't even have salad dressing in their fridge, let alone dump it on salads.

4) Me gusta chismear. Or, I like to gossip. But "gossip" actually has SUCH a bad connotation, I almost feel bad about lying in such a manner. I like to be "in the know" and like to know what people are doing and how they feel. Of course it's one of the MAIN reasons I love that my gringa friends have blogs - it's like being a fly on the wall. Mostly I like to hear about my family and what each cousin (out of 1049) is doing and how he got this or that person pregnant (heard that story about three times) or how he/she flunked out of their year in school (heard that one once, thankfully.)

5) Pisco sours and pan amasado. Yum, yum and YUM! If I could send a care package to all my wonderful friends back home, I'd FOR SURE include these two little concoctions because MY WORD, do they make me a happy Chilean! (Though currently limiting intake of both due to upcoming wedding. My own, I mean.)

6) The smog is slowly becoming second nature to me. I guess this is more of a Santiago thing. When I first got here I remember seeing the layer of smog SO THICK that I thought FOR SURE the knights of the Apocalypse were on their way to my house. Now I wake up, get my day going, see the smog, and carry on. I don't even think about it! Further, I went to a friend's house the other night to do our Secret Santa, and I realized that near her house I could actually SEE the Andes Mountain range! From my apt, I simply can't! With it, the dust and dirt that the smog brings into my apt is actually ALMOST taken for granted. Almost.

7) Family is important. To the point that I talk to Pil not just on a daily basis but about two to three times a day. I talk to my Uncle Pato who still lives back in the States, about twice a week! I have acquaintances back home who talk to their parents once every two weeks. ONCE EVERY TWO WEEKS??!!! Not to be morbid, but either person could be dead in their home, being eaten away by rabid dogs with so much time between communication! I'm just sayin...

8) Wine. It's not just for special occasions or sexy moments anymore. Oh no. This divine nectar of the gods has become a staple at most meals. When Pisco Sour isn't center stage, that is.

9) Tarjeta BIP. Live it, love it, own it. It's the electronic card that gets you on the metro and buses. I have two. One has BIP written on it and one is from the days when they were TESTING the cards... seriously, it's about 4-5 years old. I alternate, depending on which one has more money on it. (you recharge it periodically with more $$$). G has lived in Santiago almost his entire life and he doesn't even have one! Come to think of it, I just realized that I have NO idea what "Bip" even stands for! I wonder if it's to mimic the sound the card makes when you swipe it?? Hmmm...

10) I've gotten used to the fact that when I want envelopes, I don't go to a place similar to Long's and browse their office supply aisle for a box of letter sized, standard envelopes. I go to a tiny, itty bitty, office supply store which sells me the envelope of my choice INDIVIDUALLY. They buy the box and then sell each envelope IN the box, to the consumer. At first I thought this was weird. Now I just appreciate it bc honestly, who needs an entire box of envelopes? This is a GENERAL example of how I've gotten used to finding the exact store that will sell me exactly and precisely what I need. No matter how small the object or how cheap.

11) I REALLY, really, really (no, really) like 80s glam rock and I never complain when they play them over and over again at clubs (discos as they say here.) What can I say? I grew up in the 80s so the fact that Chile seems to be stuck there at times is A-OK with me!

Such silliness....As one gringa friend would say, "Oh She-lay."

And I'm this weird combo of gringa and She-lay-na ... so when people ask me where I'm from (and they do about 90% of the time because of this said "accent" I presumably have) I just don't know what to say anymore. I'm both and I'm neither.

Honestly my life would be MUCH easier if I could just direct all such questions to my blog. The answers are all here, folks. Hence, chileangringa dot blogspot, etc etc...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Fake Chilena

Today I went out to lunch with a good gringa friend who lives here in Chile and we always joke around about how much more Chilean she is than me due to the fact that she's been living here for about two years (going on more) and before that, had been traveling here for a good number of years to visit her then-boyfriend, now-husband.
Hand-in-hand with that feel-good joking, is the same joke about me being the complete opposite - in that really, I'm a fake Chilean. It's kind of ironic considering that for many of the 29 years I lived in the U.S. I claimed to be thoroughly and 100% Chilean... I remember busting out my passport on occasion just to prove HOW Chilean I really was!

The reality is that aside from being registered as having been born in La Serena, Chile and having a RUT (ie a social security number), having family members who are product of generations of family members born in Chile and thus having family who has lived here forever, I'm not that Chilean. You might disagree with me after having just read all that makes me Chilean but I have evidence and facts that will support my claim and as this is my blog, I'll lay them all out for you. Then, you can determine if I'm right or not.
I am not familiar with Chilean customs or everyday to-do's. I just went to Tavelli for the first time ever and apparently this place is an every day go-to spot for lunch. Similarly, I'm not wired to order the lunch specials in most day-to-day restaurants. These lunch specials are much less expensive, offer more food for the buck and generally are pretty tasty. But I'm not wired that way. So I don't know the restaurants or spots AND once there, it never occurs to me to order the lunch special.

Also, since it's Christmas time (though you wouldn't know it given that it's 90 degrees here!) there's many Nativity scenes around - in people's homes or outside city halls or even in the mall! It's a predominantly Catholic country so this makes sense, of course. Except that the other day I passed by one with G and I freaked out because there was no baby Jesus to be found!! "OMG they stole the baby Jesus! Who does that?" Because we're in Lat Am and of course, stealing is more of a norm here than not. Yeah except that no one stole the baby Jesus. It just so happens that in Chile, the custom is to put the baby Jesus out the night of Christmas Eve - after the time he's supposedly been born!! Ok, so that makes sense I guess but I had no idea that's how they roll in Chile - Baby Jesus doesn't make it to the party until the 24th.

Innately, I think it's super weird to call just anyone "Tia" or "Tio" and I only think it's ok if 1) you are directly related to them or 2) they've been in your life for so long, that you imagine they were in the delivery room when you were born. Any other relationship, in my mind, doesn't justify calling someone your aunt or uncle. But get this - children in preschool call the preschool teachers Aunt This and Aunt That. Um....why? Don't give me the "out of respect" excuse bc if it's solely due to that, then I'll argue that Miss/Ms. This or That shows tons more respect than Aunt This or That. Any day. Yet here I am, fighting the power, calling people by their first names or Miss/Ms So-and-So bc to me, this Chilean custom isn't embedded in my DNA. It's a losing battle, I've been told...

Maternity leave. No I'm not taking any of that as of yet (and for some time to come) but for the few months I've been here, I've heard stories and stories about pregnant women taking FULL fledged advantage of the time off they are legally granted. According to my friend Google, Chile allows 18 weeks of maternity leave! But wait, there's more! Chilean women are further protected by the law that prohibits employers from firing pregnant women and making it illegal to fire a woman who has taken maternity leave for up to a year after she has finished this leave. Can we sit back and ponder that...just for a moment? For a full year, this said woman is basically SECURE in her job and that NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF performance she's exhibiting at the office, she cannot be fired. She can show up late for ten days straight, miss important meetings, decide she no longer wants to work with excel sheets, etc etc and there is no way she can be fired.
Adding to this mix, I'd like to add that from insider scoop, I can attest that these women can also secure their jobs for longer by becoming pregnant with a subsequent child and thus securing further maternity leave and another year of employment after her second leave is over.
In my un-Chilean mind this is how I see it: 18 weeks is a nightmare and what the hell am I expected to do all that time?? I mean sure, I'll like the baby and want to make sure it doesn't get hurt or anything like that, but trust me, I'm not sure I like to be with MYSELF 24/7 for 18 weeks, let alone a baby. [Note, this is NOT where you insert jokes about my maternal instinct. I'm going to be a great mother! Hrmph!] I would also fear - FEAR - that during that time that I'm (forced) away from work, some other woman, man, older, younger, more experienced, more enthusiastic, what have you, will somehow "take over" my duties and excel at them! While I'm at home with a kid for a million years?? I think not. I did not go to school to be left in the dust by a man who isn't even capable of having kids and my forced time off is not a pedestal for said person to excel in MY ROLE. I refuse to be anyone's professional piggy back when I'm just as qualified.
Finally, from a supervisor point of view, how utterly annoying and UNproductive to have someone on staff who is protected by all these wonderful laws, but who abuses them by being quite half a**ed in her work. I'm just saying, I'd be pissed if I were the boss of such kind of woman (and I've heard they exist.) Needless to say, quite un-Chilean of me. G tells me that even if I were to beg my employer to let me work from home, chances are they'd say no. Thus, having kids = abandoning career. And THAT, my dear blog reader, is a thorn in my side that I will fight until the very end!! Can't I just give five weeks to the next woman who likes to stay home with her kids in lieu of career advancement? That sounds like a nice trade.

On a lighter note, here's some quick things that remind me of my un-Chilean-ness:

1.) I don't eat ice cream three times, twice or even once a week. Chileans like their ice cream! The McDonalds' here even have a special window dedicated to selling JUST the ice cream: sundae, soft cone, McFlurry, what have you.
2.) Also, I walk like I know where I'm going or like I have somewhere important to be (even if I don't.) Whereas, on a daily basis I'm stuck behind women and men lallygagging on the sidewalk, asking one foot's permission before moving the other! My heaving, annoyed sighs usually signal that I need to get by, and usually they allow me to do so ... but not before they look at me as if I were ET.
3.) I wear nail polish on my toes.
4.) I forget to eat with my hands in clear view for everyone at the table to see. It's generally considered impolite to eat with one hand on your lap (I don't know, lest I be touching myself ... or others??!)
5.) I'm not inclined to partake in "once" or tea time and I don't have that custom in my home. Whereas most Chileans, at least families, do.
6.) I don't have a Chilean mullet and go out of my way to tell my hair dresser that I want my hair cut STRAIGHT in the back and not in a "V" (thus resulting in the Chilean mullet). We gringas here make fun of this phenomenon often enough.
7.) I think Pan de Pascua is disgusting.

Though to end, I'd like to share that I did do something today that made me feel quite Chilean. For the application to the Masters program I'm hoping to attend, I need to submit a "carnet" or ID style picture (think passport picture.) Most Chileans take really bad, deer-in-headlight/mugshot type of pictures ... and I'm happy to report that mine, was indeed, no different. I am now, truly, a Chilean and I have the carnet-style picture to prove it.

Monday, December 7, 2009


My anti-Chile moments

Earlier I tweeted the following: "Totally disgruntled today. Am completely anti-Chile and it's dumb bureaucracy. Today."

I've been living here since July 18th and in a few more days, it will officially be five months since I've moved here. I lived through the freezing cold weather that July embraced me with upon setting foot here and I've learned to do the every day things that are part of living in Chile (i.e. weighing your produce BEFORE the checkout counter in the supermarket.) I've branched out and met some great people and dare I say I have a social life. In short, I've done well enough in my five months here that I feel like my fights with Chile are becoming minimal.

Oh, but sometimes ... SOMETIMES Chile and I still have it out.

Back in October, a fellow gringa friend and blogger wrote about three things she'll never get used to in Chile. I am completely on board with ALL THREE of those points because from a gringa perspective, those three are one of the hardest adjustments to living here. Usually the banks closing at 2 isn't a big deal for me because I work from home and as such I do have the luxury to stand in line at the bank on any given day without my boss breathing down my neck as to where I've been for the past two hours (in line at the bank!)

In lieu of the bank bit, I'd like to add the following points. For whatever reason, today, I was thoroughly annoyed and DISGRUNTLED over these Chilean idiosyncrasies.

1) There are just way too many people in too small a space. Namely Jumbo (the GINORMOUS supermarket chain owned by Cencosud in Lat Am.) My Jumbo (everyone here has "their own" supermarket, meaning, where we generally shop) is like a Costco - most Jumbos are, hence the name. Imagine Safeway, but five times bigger, and with about 40-50 checkout stands. Yet, PRAY TELL, how on Earth do they cram - oh, 250,000 people - in one store?? There is no such thing as maximum capacity in Chile. It's like what I've been told the subways are like in Tokyo. They actually have people on the platforms who CRAM the commuters into the trains. Yes, this is someone's JOB! That's what shopping at Jumbo is like, sans the person paid to cram people into the store. Except unlike most commuters on a packed train, I'm actually wielding a cart, my "green" supermarket totes (save the Earth!) AND trying to find food that's remotely familiar to me! And this is when I'm not having to take a number for the deli, the bread or the sweets OR having to weigh my produce. I'm just saying there's a lot to consider once I get myself into the Jumbo and it doesn't help that there are TOO many people with once cart each, leaving them here or there, and stopping to argue over a kilo of tomatoes!! Grrrrrr!!!!

2) Customer service here is the equivalent of going into a store and having each experience be JUST LIKE your visit to the DMV. It doesn't matter really where you go (ok, MOST of the time, not always) or how much you're paying. More likely than not, the person helping you doesn't want to be there, doesn't like you, thinks your question is dumb, or some combination of all of the above. Now, that's just a normal circumstance for any given Chilean. Add the element of being a foreigner and speaking with an accent (because apparently I have an accent I've been told. Who knew?) AND not knowing how things work half the time and viola - I'm everyone's favorite customer! Needless to say, my shopping/customer service encounters are never truly stellar.
Just last week I went to a wedding dress boutique to try on dresses, and the owner proceeded to point to my stomach and tell me that "that" (the fat, I guess??) was the result of "too much rice and too many sweets." Then, when she helped me put on a dress, she pinched my back fat and told me to get rid of it. Oh, and THEN she told me that each dress cost over $1 million pesos (USD$2,000). See? Mo'money doesn't mean better service. Bottom line is that you just CAN'T expect service that's above and beyond and no amount of money can make that happen for you. This is a hard pill in good ol' She-lay.

3) The aforementioned blog from October touched on this but I have to include it in this post because it's a constant source of grief for me here: the staring. Apparently Chileans (man, woman and child) NEVER GOT THE MEMO THAT IT'S IMPOLITE TO STARE. A couple of weeks ago I was going to a fellow gringa friend's apt and as I got to the corner, about to cross the intersection, the light turned red so I stopped. Next to me, an older woman in her mid-to-late 60s pulls up (mind you, IN my personal space, but whatevs) and proceeds to blatantly stare at me. I wasn't wearing anything "weird" and I wasn't even walking about with no make up on or anything that might remotely cause alarm. I was just standing there, minding my own business, listening to my iPod and waiting for the light to turn green so I could continue on my merry way. And she just stared. And stared. First up to my face (profile since I didn't actually LOOK at her though I should have), then down to my toes. She stayed with my toes for a while because they're bright red and here in Chile it's not a widespread custom to have your toes painted. In fact she stayed with my toes so long that I finally concluded that she was trying to peg me as a prostitute. Not one that was prostituting there on that corner that very second (in her mind) but one who most likely did so at night and that I was just going about my day "normally" during the hours the sun was out. The reason I concluded this is because after the toes, she once again stared at my profile, but then, scrutinizing. Trying to understand what kind of person I was and why I was on that corner next to her. How dare I be there?? ....Well, at least I'd like to think she was doing all that thinking about me. She stared far too much and for far too long for me to feel comfortable knowing she just stared for the simple act of staring. The staring is so obvious and so frequent and so rude, that each time I just have to look the person in the eye and either ask "what" or "Can I help you?" And every time, the person gets nervous, fumbles about and says something lame. In the U.S. we're taught that it's rude to stare and if we do stare, knowing that it's rude to do so, it has to be something PRETTY MAJOR or REALLY different for us to justify the staring bit. Here apparently something as simple as being taller (which is easy in a country where a woman's average height is between 5' and 5'2") or wearing red nail polish on your toes, gives people free reign to stare at you for at least three minutes straight.

I could go on with several more points (i.e. I made a dentist appointment for a teeth cleaning only to be called in for two minutes while the dentist KIND of reviewed my teeth and then proceeded to tell me to come back for two-part cleaning at later dates. Even Gonzalo thought this was dumb) but the thing is, Chile really isn't a bad country to call home. I don't want to give the idea that I hate living here, either. I don't. I have a great life here and I would recommend that most people try living down here if they have the option to do so. But yeah it's annoying sometimes and yeah, the culture differences repeatedly hit you like one brick after another smashing around you. From my point of view, considering how and where I grew up, sometimes Chileans have really weird and backwards ways of doing things. Sometimes they have forward thinking ways of doing things.
But the purpose of my blog is to highlight what it's like to LIVE here and my adjustment to life here. And trust me, the backwards highlights always make for a more colorful entry. But once I'm done with that said entry, I'm neutral again, and my anti-Chile stance just melts away until I'm back to being Andrea in Chile.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Wedding "Traditions" compliments of Falabella

Wedding planning is in full gear (I guess) and the other day Gonzalo and I went to Falabella to register in Chile. When we did so, we got a sort of wedding "starter kit" from the retailer, which included a type of planner, a CD rom with info on things such as dresses, venues, etc and a small little book that addressed traditions GALORE for the little event that would be a wedding.
Just to give some background on Falabella: it's a Chilean holding company and one of the largest retailers in Latin America. They have stores in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru and here in Chile, it's one of THE top department stores. But they not only dabble in department stores but also own a chain of home improvement stores (think Office Depot-ish) and a bank. They also offer all kinds of extras, such as trips (Falabella Viajes!) and a home shopping network (Falabella TV). I mean, truly, there is no Chile without a Falabella experience one way or another!

Anyway, I need to devote an entire blog entry to my reading material from last night, compliments of Falabella's "I'm a Bride: A practical guide for the brides and grooms of Falabella." (soy Novia: La guia practica para los novios de Falabella.) Within the first few pages of wedding advertisements, we find "Traditions that continue." Here we find the traditional and historical bits on why we wear engagement rings, why we send invitations, why there's a couple's first dance, etc, etc. Actually it was kind of cool to read the historical element of each tradition involved with a proposal and subsequent wedding. This isn't the part that I feel the need to share in my blog. I give you Exhibit A: the section entitled "Superstitions on the Big Day."

- So that it doesn't rain on my wedding day, pray to St. Clara and never eat food directly from the pot or pan.

- Don't get married on a Tuesday. (Note that Tuesday in Spanish is Martes.) Since "Marte" is the god of war, the ancient Romans associated that day with disgraces and catastrophes.

- Celebrating my wedding in January, I risk economic disgrace.

- Don't wear pearls on the day of the wedding, as they symbolize tears and pain.

- If I want my single girlfriends to also get married, I need to write each of their names down on a piece of paper and stick it in my right shoe so that they "approach" the altar "with" me. Now, if we want to know which of these girlfriends will be the next to marry, I must follow the Turkish tradition of writing their names on the sole of the right shoe and at the end of the night, the name most worn out will be the next one to receive an engagement ring.

- I must put a coin in one of my shoes to promote economic fortune.

- I have to make sure that my fiancee's tie is on straight. For it to be slightly crooked implies that he will be unfaithful.

- When people see us go by on our way to the Church, people must make a lot of noise and honk their horns, so as to scare away evil spirits.

- To dream of my wedding day and see myself dressed as a bride, could signify disgrace.

- When a fork and knife fall at the same time, it means a wedding in the family ensues.

At first I thought it was really silly and I almost started this blog as an open forum for bashing old school, third-world superstitions. But then I thought, aren't there many wedding traditions done partly in fear of something bad happening? Don't we have our own superstitions in the U.S.? I decided to ask my friend Google what she thought about the topic and here's what she had for me:

- If it rains on your wedding day, you'll shed many tears during your married life.

- The bride should wear pearls on her wedding day to ensure she would not cry.

- When a newly married couple enters their home, the groom should carry the bride over the threshold because if the bride should stumble entering the home, it is a bad omen.

- Tying tin cans to the back of the newlywed's car is good luck because the noise will frighten away evil spirits. [similar to the honking of car horns]

- If your dress is ripped on the day before your wedding, it means that your marriage will end in death! [um scary. I will take it off and put on sweats before I start dancing.]

- If candles are lit on your wedding day and they go out it means an evil spirit is near by!

- The Victorians believed it was lucky to marry on a day during the week the groom was born. But the luckiest day to marry was on the groom's actual birthday.

- Say your vows when the hour hand on the clock is going upwards. This makes you work together in your married life together. If you say your vows when the hour hand is going down it is bad luck.

- In the Jewish tradition, it's bad luck to receive knives as a wedding gift. In case someone should give knives, the bride should transform the exchange into a financial transaction by giving a penny or nominal sum for the knives.

- The bride is never supposed to practice walking down the aisle during her rehearsal or it will bring bad luck. The most popular alternative is to ask a close friend not in the wedding party to be your "Stand in Bride".

- Put a penny in your shoe for wealth in your marriage. [hmmm, sounds like Falabella believes the same thing.]

- Dressing the bridesmaids is to fool the evil spirits--so they won't know who is the bride and who is not. [uh, that sucks for the bridesmaids...]

There are tons more of course but Google is your friend too. I suggest asking her the same question to see what she spews out for you.

And as I was reading these said superstitions there were many traditions thrown in there as well... it was a medley of points and eventually I couldn't tell a tradition apart from a superstition. The reason being, I've personally concluded, is because traditions we now recognize as such for weddings were probably BORN OUT OF superstitions back in the day. And in the end, it's all meant to protect and preserve the happy couple, right?
In fact, I think that we can blame the actual divorce rate in the world on the fact that people aren't sufficiently schooled on superstitions. If they were, it would be an entirely different story out there! Perhaps we should include this little Falabella booklet in all bridal shower goody bags from now on!


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