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The good Chile

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Notes from Underneath: The good Chile

Notes from Underneath

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

Monday, May 24, 2010


The good Chile

The other day, I received a pep talk from two sources: my dear husband and a friend here in Chile. Both made their points well and I heart them both for taking the time to break it down for me. Without getting into specifics, both gave me some perspective on different things I was worrying and/or complaining about and basically allowing said worry to surrender me into the 'woe-is-me' mentality.

It's not my intention to constantly throw myself a pity party at every last thing that goes wrong in my life because in comparison to a large percentage of the world, I have many things to be grateful for in life. I'm not going to list them since that's what my Thanksgiving post was about. Instead, I've decided to showcase the things that make Chile a pretty cool country. After all, it's not like I'm living in Afghanistan or in some obscure country village of China (though I'm sure both have their charms). Believe it or not, there ARE things I do like about Chile and some things that used to bother me now have become part of my norm (i.e. weighing the vegetables in the supermarket BEFORE arriving at the check out stand).

In fact, here's a short list for you to ponder and do what you will with:

Chilean seafood: Call me crazy but Chile has got some of THE BEST seafood I've ever eaten. It's fresh, it's tasty and it doesn't matter if you go to an expensive restaurant or a "picada" (some hole-in-the-wall restaurant), the seafood is fresh and tasty almost all of the time. My favorites are ceviche, reineta, machas a la parmeseana and ...

locos (Chilean abalone) with mayonnaise

and Centolla (King Crab)

Chilean wine
: When I was single, living alone in my tiny (but cute!) apartment in Northern California, I never purchased CA wine ... reason being is that I like white wines as opposed to reds and in CA, only the Chardonnays (not a fan) and Zinfandels are worth the buck (in my humble opinion). As such, I purchased a lot of wine from Australia and New Zealand. Why? They made better Sauvignon Blanc - within my price range of $8 - $12USD and available at the local Trader Joe's. In Chile all that changed ... for someone who loves Sauvignon Blanc as I do, Chile is a wine-lover's heaven! Some of my favorites include Casas del Bosque Reserva (where we got married!)

Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc (the wine of choice on the catamaran in Mexico when G proposed) and Santa Ema's Merlot Reserva. Granted this last one isn't a white but my WORD is it a tasty piece of processed grape! The first two are definitely available in the U.S. from what I hear and so I highly recommend them!

There are of course all the destinations and the amazing geography (Atacama Desert, the Lake Region and Patagonia to name a few). None of which I've visited but have heard amazing things about all and more! But the great thing is that there's pretty much something for everyone in Chile with regards to leisure. Granted, I'd argue that we don't really have amazing beaches here but then again, I'm from San Francisco where the beaches were also non-existent and cold.

I also like the tomatoes here. I wasn't such a huge fan of tomatoes when I lived back home, but would dabble in them with the occasional lettuce here and there. Since I've moved to Chile this has completely changed! I eat tomatoes, literally, on a daily basis. They're sweet and have a very distinct tomato smell and taste. Never grainy and always juicy (but not too ripe.) Just perfect. Ahhh, the perfect tomato!

In general, people here are friendly, even if (in my opinion and for what THAT'S worth) there's too much predictability among the GENERAL public. But even this lends itself to a pleasant surprise when you do meet people that are more out-of-the-box than the norm, such is the case with many of the people with whom I attend school. I was relieved to speak with women who were career focused, not family focused (yet) and who are all pretty much close to my age. I continue to find similar things in common with people there and it truly does give a feeling of not being alone in this big, bad, less developed world. Also, the people are more "en confianza" (trusting, comfortable in knowing you) and when you do spark a conversation with them more than once, eventually they'll open up a much deeper side of their lives than their counterparts would in the U.S. Sure it might seem inappropriate at times, but mostly it's engaging. After all, if some little old lady is telling me that romaine lettuce gives her awful gas, I can't help but laugh!

Also, people here just like to hang out and talk about whatever. There need not be an agenda on topics, they'll talk to you about the stop light and how it hasn't worked in three weeks. Some of these people like to ask about your entire lineage - how are they? Did your aunt get over that hip issue? did the dog recover? Can you believe she's pregnant? And so on. You gotta love the openness in sharing everything AND the constant desire to interact.

And the little old ladies here are a hoot for the most part. No, they shouldn't be driving, but then again they shouldn't be driving anywhere ... but her old school views on the world, her knit sweaters and the way she truly believes that her dog (a poodle, naturally) will get "jealous" if she is seen petting another dog (ie Obi) is really endearing. Plus, you gotta love the fact that they wear "medias" (stockings) even on warm days.

Chile is actually really modern and considering how small it is, I find it to be quite globalized. I've noticed that there's all kind of restaurants out there and even all kinds of ingredients to make the most far out recipes you can think of... or that might just be my experience since I'm not that daring in the kitchen in the first place. And modern - the fact that one can get on the bus and metro by simply placing a card against a sensor that "beeps" and deducts your money, to me, is brilliant. Considering that Caltrain and Muni back home are still working off a system that was surely invented in the 80s. Meaning, I still have to count change in order to pay for tickets on both. The retailers issue credit cards, with VISA logos, on the spot. There's no waiting for the bank to send it to you in the mail in 5-7 business days. And when you pay at a restaurant, they don't take your credit card to the machine to swipe and then bring back your receipt... no no... they use these nifty machines which they bring right to your table

Where you can add tip, confirm the amount and wa-la! Receipt prints out and you're good to go! Maybe this exists in the US already ... but I've never seen it so I think it's brilliant of Chile. Granted, the reason this is done is safety. It wasn't and isn't considered 'safe' to let your cards out of your sight. Where once it was offered as more of an added-value, I think later it turned into the norm it is now.

And finally, I'll add that one more good thing about Chile is how the little carts at the airport are free. In the US, you have to pay $5 bucks for them! What a rip off!!

So there you have it, my short, though not all-inclusive, list of what makes Chile cool. There is more, of course, lots more. But I think the other stuff warrant exclusive posts.

But more importantly, what do you think? What makes Chile cool? Talk to me, goose.


Coming from San Diego (and before that, a little gold mining town in n. California) I think the transportation in Santiago is amazing! I am going to love not having a car!
Amen to good seafood! I can hardly wait to eat good and cheap seafood again!!!

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