This Page

has been moved to new address

Notes from Underneath

Sorry for inconvenience...

Redirection provided by Blogger to WordPress Migration Service
Notes from Underneath: July 2010

Notes from Underneath

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Gradutate School in Chile, Part I

Higher education in Chile is blowing my mind.

I can't decide if it's because my undergrad college choice was as poor or if my undergrad major was poor. Perhaps it's a combination of both. What's clear to me now is this: I'm in my first year of a Masters in Marketing here in Chile and I've learned more in the past three months than I learned in my entire four years of college back home.

The marketing program I'm doing is divided into two years: the first year results in what is called a "Diplomado" which is a mini-degree of sorts. Not quite a Masters but definitely considered post-graduate studies. Upon completing the second year, you're granted a Masters. The good thing is that I can finish my first year and decide to return for my second year FIVE YEARS from now and I'll still be able to follow the initial rhythm. For obvious reasons, I wouldn't wait that long (I might forget everything!) though I'm still debating if I'll do my 2nd year right away.

Anyway, in short I'm very happy I decided to do this because I'm learning things I never knew! And now that I think about it, I wonder how many of my friends knew things I now know, but back before I didn't know them? For instance, and the most basic of all concepts, when I imagine the word "marketing" I imagined the advertisement of a certain product or service, the commercial, the little picture you saw in the grocery store, the slogan or the Buy-One-Get-One-Free gimmicks associated with a product. But that's not it at all. Marketing is as simple as this: creating a need in the mind of the consumer and satisfying that need, all the while reaching sales goals established by your company. And that pretty much sums it up.

Education here (as I've experienced it thus far, mind you) is much more structured than I remember undergrad in California to be. There's a process and an evolution and the idea that one thing is connected to the other. First we learned about Marketing as a concept in general; creating added value for the consumer, the internal client and the external client, what's involved in a sales strategy vs what's involved in a marketing plan. We talked about how different products in the same company can mean different things to that company and that in and of itself, require completely different strategies (think toothpaste, dental floss and mouthwash, all under the umbrella of the Colgate-Palmolive company. All three mean different things to them.)

This was then followed by more detailed business concepts in general. Examples: overview in Statistics (for the purposes of market studies), Finance, the mind of the consumer and what propels him/her to purchase something, and finally, an overview on the different kinds of Market Research tools available to companies. We're in Module III now (the year has 4 in total) and from what I can tell, we're looking at things from an eagle's eye view with the purpose of applying everything we learned in Modules I and II and honing them.

While I had heard and read about SWOT analyzes, I had never done one until Module I when we had to read a case study on the car company, Renault (unheard of in the States, I know.) I was on my mini-moon in NYC and I had to work remotely with my assigned group for the year to deliver on what was expected of us the following week. I bugged G a lot during that time because NOTHING made any sense to me. The 4 Ps? What'sthat? (Now I know). SWOT analysis - um how do I begin do that with this car company I've never even heard of? I was convinced I was the dumbest person in class.

We've read and done analysis on topics such as Harley Davidson (you tell me: what do they sell?), an XYZ Argentine textile company, Hummer and their H1 model, Mattel and their marketing of toys to boys vs. girls. We've seen examples of how different products aim to strike at the different motivators within people (i.e. are you motivated to be a good mother? Are you motivated to belong? Are you motivated with the idea of a certain status?) and learned how the Coca Cola company has been able to target all IN ONE COMMERCIAL, one message. And coming up soon, we'll all be behind computers, with our groups, doing a Product Management Simulation game which will supposedly drive home the 4 P's of marketing, all the while teaching us about brand equity and marketing planning for a product/product lines. The objective of this simulation "game" is to have the highest net worth and highest company stock price compared to the other groups in our class.

And the cherry on top is this: we have a year-long project where we have to present a marketing proposal for a business or product of our choice. And I cannot tell you the amount of research and work this involves. Let me just say that I know way more about our chosen topic than I ever cared to know ....

Wait, what?? I sound all professional and sh*t.

But that's the point, right? That's why I'm paying over US$800 each month and that's why I deal with having to write PAPERS and work with my team to produce presentations that demonstrate things we've been learning since early April. So that tomorrow (whenever that may be) I'll be an added value myself to whatever company I'm working for at the time.

It does make me wonder if undergrad in Chile is just as structured as Graduate school seems to be. If it is, then it would result in candidates who are a million times more prepared and better educated than those of the United States. I wonder this recognizing that I have absolutely no basis for comparison on either, really. I never attended undergrad here and didn't attend Graduate school there. But should my theory be correct, and Chile does produce people better equipped to enter the work force, it would explain why the labor market (at an executive level) is so competitive here.

I'm even more inclined to think that the public undergrad education I received back home was less than stellar (and I repeat, this could be due to my poor choices on institution and matter) when I hear my fellow Grad School classmates complain about the low quality education we're currently receiving at one of the most expensive, most prestigious universities in Chile (and in Latin America for that matter.) To be fair, I do agree that too much information is being crammed into a period of time that is much too short. After all, I do believe that an "overview" of Finance should entail more than 7 hours of class and that said overview should include more than the Balance Sheet and General Ledger. But if many of my classmates feel and truly believe that in some ways we're being "cheated" of a good education right now, what does that imply about their experiences in undergrad? Here I am just amazed at how structured and plentiful the education is and they're saying that what we're learning - and mainly how we're learning it - is a crock! Certainly an example of looking at two different sides of the same coin.

In the end, there IS one thing that remains consistent with what I believe about higher education in the States. The name - the BRAND, if you will - truly matters. Can we deny that there are many who choose Stanford, Duke, Harvard, Brown, Berkeley and on, primarily for what that name implies to others once they've graduated? I believe the majority of us followed the same road when choosing where we'd receive our graduate studies. We looked at our options here in Chile, figured out the top three and opted for the best in this particular field (Marketing/Business.)

So even if some would argue that the system is a crock (as you read, I don't agree), aren't we truly then just paying for the name of the university and all that it implies? Discuss.

(Playing devil's advocate and answering yes to the question stated above, from a marketing standpoint, it would seem my university has done wonders.)


Tuesday, July 27, 2010


My history in music

I can't believe that I haven't written a single blog post about music to file under my so-called "general malaise of irrelevant topics" that "I trust you'll enjoy." To quote myself. [For those out there just itching to read about my version of Chilean life, don't worry. I have a blog brewing on my experience in Graduate studies in good ol' Chilsters due up next.]

Now, I'm not about to proclaim that I'm anywhere near being a music guru and I am certainly no Rob Gordon (John Cusack's character in "
High Fidelity," which, by the way, if you haven't seen it, get off this blog and go watch it immediately. You'll thank me later.) With that disclaimer in full effect, I can attest that music has always been central to my life and many times, I find that I can remember certain periods in my life just by the music that's playing. Also, depending on the type of music, I can even remember the point in time, historically speaking, in which it was released (or at least, was popular to me.) A great example of that was Madonna's "Like a Virgin" album which was released in 1984, when I was a wee tyke of 7. I remember the MTV Music Video Awards when she did that risque song on stage. Pure art.

The first song I'd like to highlight from my past is one from ABBA. Man, did my mom LOVE that group and I can't begin to tell you HOW MANY TIMES, I heard this song:

My mom
obsessed doesn't begin to cover it.

As I grew up (in the 80s, mind you), cheesy 80s love songs were released by the multitude. Elton John, Air Supply, Chicago, Stevie Wonder, Atlantic Star, Billy Ocean, Lionel Richie and many, many more flood my early 80s memories and none more so than this one:

I actually owned this cassette and played this song on repeat, just as my mom had done with ABBA. Obviously, I learned it from her. Play, Repeat.

My most significant music memories during the late 80s were related to Poison, George Micheal's "Faith" album, Madonna, Guns n' Roses, Bon Jovi ("
Wanted Dead or Alive" poignantly stands out in my mind), and of course New Kids on the Block. (Don't ask me what one had to do with the other as it made perfect sense to me to like all of the above at the same time. ) The late 80s also weaved in some Paula Abdul...

...and this particular song was quite popular when I was in 7th(ish) grade because the popular radio station back then, X-100, had a DJ named "Super Snake" and as you can imagine he was in his 7th Heaven with this particular song and as such, he played it constantly. Naturally I danced to it like mad in my room and watched the video incessantly. And for all my younger peeps out there, yes, Paula had a career before American Idol even became a pilot being pitched to Fox.

Believe it or not, it was also around this time that an 8th grade friend of mine introduced me to N.W.A. and I was so moved by the sheer naughtiness of the lyrics that I immediately went out and bought myself their "Straight Outta Compton" album (on cassette, of course) and I've since then been a fan of that particular release.

Then the early 90s hit and it seems to me that his was the time when Rap and Hip & Hop were beginning to inch their way from the city streets to middle-class suburbia and beyond. Bel Biv DeVoe were immensely popular in the early 90s and as horny little 8th grade kids attending school dances, we were all about "freaking" to this song ...

and need I remind you all of this song, which came out during my 8th grade year (1990-1991)...

Yo, VIP!

As you can see, and as I recall, during this time, the good came with the bad. Boys II Men came out during this time and they made singing a Capella pretty damn awesome and not to mention, popular. But the bad came with the likes of Right Said Fred and their "I'm Too Sexy" which seemed to take the country, and definitely my high school, by storm.

But how can we even mention the early 90s without highlighting the two most important music genres to come out of that decade: Grunge / Alternative Rock and Gangster Rap. Loves and loves!

Anyone who remotely knows me, knows that I have an affinity to all things Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Tupack Shakur. Frankly, with musical geniuses such as these, how can one not? As I mentioned, I had dabbled in some of Dr. Dre's earlier work with N.W.A. but his collaboration with the likes of Snoop Dogg seriously blows my rap-inclined mind.

On the other side of this coin lies the influence of grunge music on my life at the time. I can't say that I was fully anti-establishment and it's not like I threw my school work out the window and blew the joint to go out and buy Doc Martens. I was never a big fan of Alice In Chains but particularly enjoyed Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Nirvana and did my part in wearing cut off shorts with thermals underneath, v-neck tshirts, flannel shirts and in sum, look like a total mess.

By the time I graduated high school, the gangster rap genre had evolved a bit to include the likes of Coolio...

[Incidentally, the library scenes of this movie were filmed at my high school.]

...and also included the fun-loving Naughty By Nature.

When I started college, alternative rock was in all its glory: Bush, Butthole Surfers, Weezer, STP, Sonic Youth, Beck, PJ Harvey and the like were our cups of tea.

But nothing (and no one) takes me back to the early days of college like this group:

A simple message really ... life IS too short, so love the one you've got.

College progressed, great songs were released: "A Long December" by the Counting Crows, "Love Rollercoaster" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Criminal" by Fiona Apple and of course, Dave Matthews Band became wildly popular. All of the above marked me in some way but two of the songs that stand out the most from those days in the late 90s are ones that were actually released DECADES before ...


And every time, these songs take me back to driving on the California roads, dancing (or grooving) in the car with my best friends, sun overhead and our hair blowing.

The remainder of college contained music from Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Smashmouth, Ricky Martin, Destiny's Child, TLC, Blink 182 to name just a very few that I was particular keen on. Grunge and even Alternative Rock had subsided and with the likes of Eminem, a funnier version of Gangster Rap emerged...

And from then on, I of course became a fan of the Dr. Dre protégé!

Sigh. This felt good. I like looking at snapshots in time via music that touched me in some way. There is SO MUCH MORE too! "
Son of a Preacher Man" was a huge deal for us after the movie "Pulp Fiction" came out and in fact, that whole soundtrack was a must-have at our college parties. Then there's the music associated with the ex boyfriends, whether my own or that of my best friend's (we each made the other listen to music relevant to our romantic relationships.) And I feel like I hardly touched on the pop music scene that exploded with the inception of "Hit Me One More Time" by Britney Spears. But honestly, who has the time for all that? I could on and you could go on reading and we'd both get nowhere relevant to the now.

But now that I think about it ... if I was able to spark a little something in you, a memory, an "I remember that song!" exclamation of some sort ... or better yet, if I motivated you to go back and dig up some old tunes anywhere, even via You Tube, I feel immensely satisfied as I feel I've done this world some service. Again, by no means do I claim to be a musical genius and I'm quite aware that you are much more likely to have further, more elaborate insight on the music of our generation.

I hope you share it with me and others. Sharing music and living music, whatever strikes your fancy, is a-ok with me. To conclude, I'll circle back to the beginning and leave you with one last song from ABBA that really quite sums it up. At least for me.

[p.s. These You Tube videos seriously crack me up. Especially the first ABBA video with the snowman!]

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Confessions of an ex-girlfriend

Earlier this week I had some time on my hands (as I was trying to avoid studying) and so I began Facebook check-in's with my friends and acquaintances. I do this every so often just to see who's had a kid, who's getting married, who's bought a house, who's sick and who's annoyed with work (and to what degree.) It's good reading and I highly suggest it, though highly recommend you stick to people you know otherwise you cross the line into weirdo territory. I digress.

Anyhoosers, as I was doing this, I came across someone who is FB friends with an ex's family member and I was immediately hauled back to memory lane recalling how God-awful that ex was and seriously took a second to THANK GOD I was no longer in that atrocious relationship.

From there (again, all in an effort to avoid studying for this upcoming exam on Saturday morning), I decided to take a moment in my happily married life and contemplate the road I walked (or crawled depending on the relationship) to get right where I am at this very second. It's good to reflect on where you've been, if only to cherish even more where you are. Another thing I highly suggest and not just with ex's but in all aspects of life.

I was always a long-term relationship kind of girl, beginning with my first boyfriend ever which I "dated" for about a year and half. I say "dated" because when you're 15-17 years old, how much of this is really, truly dating ... isn't it more like, obsessing about one another, feeling sick with insecurity and locking lips? Or is that just me? He broke up with me to date a girl from another high school and as a result, I remember being traumatized and stripped of any desire to get out of bed. That lasted about two months, as I listed to Pearl Jam's "Black" on repeat (CDs were widespread then so it was easy to just press one button and instantly hear the anthem of my broken heart.) It was that or Guns n' Roses "Don't Cry." What can I say? My 17 year old heart was shattered - and worse! It had been replaced by a girl at another high school!! I remember doing some questionable investigating to find out how they had met in the first place and I came to find out they had met at the gym. The gym! I didn't even own running shoes...

Boyfriend #2, looking back, I can now identify as a creep-o with an inferiority complex so severe, he actually chose to date me, someone 7 years his junior! I was still in high school, he was a college drop out. Need I say more? In short, looking back, the me-now can definitely identify the him-then as a Grade-A LOSER ... but the me-then didn't know that. I blame him, really. Shouldn't he have pointed out that an 18 year-old should be hanging out with other 18 year-olds? He was a nice enough guy, helped me with term papers and the like, but his antisocial antics got old AND the fact that he lived at home and didn't have a job became beyond embarrassing. We broke up after about 3 years when I finally met someone closer to my age with the same values as me (hi, work ethic anyone?) and who would actually hang out with my friends. I felt like I had struck gold!

Boyfriend #3 was fun, smart, came from a good family, and was a lovely boyfriend for the year we dated. In fact, I'm FB friends with him! He's married now and has a very cute daughter and in short, looks very happy and I'm happy FOR him. Seriously, the only bad thing I can say about that is that I liked him a lot more than I think he liked me at the time... as a result, I of course drove him away. Don't get me wrong, I think he really did like me. I just seemed to think it wasn't enough ... Which led to yet another broken heart and feelings of "What's wrong with meeeeeeeeeeee?" It wasn't him, it was me. I see that now. And because of that, I can look back and think "he was fun. I liked him. Good guy to date, glad we hit it off," walking away with no ill feelings and instead, feelings of complete neutrality. I find this to be a good thing.

After Boyfriend #3 I entered a period when I bounced around a lot, not really finding myself in anything that stable or promising. I dabbled in dating the first boyfriend ever (high school guy) again but that ended sourly and I have nothing good to say about that second time around. I did learn that it's no good to re-date someone. What's that book called? Something about being called a break-up because it's broken? Point being, don't re-date someone. Does it ever end well? I guess it can, but in my case it (thankfully) didn't. After that, I dabbled in a long distance relationship with a Chilean I met in San Francisco... he was in the Chilean navy, still is actually. He's another guy I'm friends with on FB and he too is now in a long-term relationship. Again, feelings of happiness (for him) and neutrality can best describe what I feel when I remember him.

That's the thing though. I never even remember these guys except when one thing leads me to another, as was the case the other day, and I remember something. But even that thought is so fleeting, it's like all of this happened to another person. But that's how it goes, right? The me I was back then was a less developed, less evolved version of me now.

If I have a daughter, I'll take her through all of these lessons on dating. I'll tell her that sometimes, guys look awesome on the surface ("on paper") as was the case with the first guy I made mention of at the beginning of this post (remember? I said I came across an acquaintance's FB page who is friends with a family member of his). What seemed to be, wasn't really and I got caught up with all that glittered about him. Turned out he was a lazy, unmotivated, racist (yes, racist), uber conservative little punk with delusions of grandeur (and yes, I really DO need to learn to form an opinion.) Our break up seemed detrimental at the time but looking back, all I can think is "There is a God and he's definitely looking out for me." The funny thing is that he (and his entire family) probably thinks I'm a crazy, Latina Jezebel who ended up looking for a relationships on Cragislist "Women Seeking Men" section. I'm not gonna lie. I came this close and decided against it. :o)

But I'd also tell my daughter that sometimes, really nice guys come along and you date them for an eternity of four years. I'm not sure what number this said boyfriend would be but let's just say he was Mr. All-American Nice Guy. No complaints, bad juju or ill-feelings come about in relation to him and actually, we had a great time together. He's now dating someone who is far better suited for him and honestly, I'm happy for them both. It didn't use to be like that. Sometimes one's ego gets in the way of being happy for those who deserve it but time takes care of that discrepancy in personal judgment.

The final thing that happens before finding THE ONE is this: you meet someone and you instantly click. You think, "OMG what have I been doing my whole life when this person was floating around, existing without me and I was doing the same thing! Blasphemy!" You can't conjure up anyone who is cooler, has a better story, a better career, a cuter face, better taste in music or personal style and you immediately become convinced that this is what life has been saving for you. This, right here, this guy, is your prize for all your failed relationships past.

HA!! Except that's not how it works. See, right before you meet the one, you meet the one who could-have-been or almost-was (which is VASTLY different from the one-who-got-away). This guy is the one who gives you the final reminder that a guy who is in it for the long run, in it because he's convinced you're the best thing since sliced bread, will do insurmountable things to be with you. Will climb every mountain and swim every ocean just to be near you (so to speak). Simply put, the guy who's in it to win it will follow through with some integrity. The guy who almost-was but didn't quite measure up was the guy before G and it was a fresh SLAP IN THE FACE reminder of all the sh*t women need NOT go through with the opposite sex.

That's how it goes you know. You have to be crawling on the ground, licking the floor miserable, having endured the most pathetic of showings by a guy, to realize that it's far better to be alone than with the guy who could never measure up.

So maybe some people never had to be alone in order to find themselves before THE ONE came along. We all have our own roads and this just happened to be mine. Still, I don't think I would have changed it all that much. Yeah break ups suck and there were some that were horrid for me ... where my face would be a disfigured mess in the mornings because of endless crying the night before. But it helped me learn that each time I became someone's ex-girlfriend, I was closer to becoming someone's THE ONE (or wife). I always like to say that dating was like trying jeans on for size. You have to try a million on, and endure pure frustration (some too long, some too tight, why do those look better on her than me, I have no butt, etc) before you find a good pair.

What a long strange trip it's been .... and where I am because of it, is worth its weight in gold.

G and me during our first dance as husband and wife.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Skiing in the Andes with the Annie's

G and I have taken to completely regarding ourselves as avid skiers in the making. After some convincing from me on how awesome the ski/snowboard/general snow experience was and my repeated "OMG's" on the fact that he's never been skiing in his life, (considering the Andes are so close), he relented. He purchased new snow gear (at 50% off and still ridiculously expensive for Chilean standards) and this past Friday we were off on our snow bunny trek.

Obviously you know where this post is headed: the comparison between going to the snow here vs. going to the snow back home.

Let me preface by stating a couple of things. First, I'm using the term "going to the snow" in lieu of skiing or snowboarding because I want to encompass the entire experience AND leave room for a switch between skiing and snowboarding down the line. This time, G and I skied but next time we go (in about three weeks hopefully) we're going to be snowboarding. Second, I recognize that skiing and snowboarding (mostly skiing) are not a cheap activity no matter where you're located in the world. Considering gas involved getting there and back, gear involved, lift tickets, accomodations (if need be) and food, it's pretty pricey to list skiing/snowboarding as a frequent activity during winter.

However, I learned that in Chile skiing/snowboarding is most definitely an ABC1 outing and I realized this mostly because of those around me that day.

Back in California, we used to head out to Lake Tahoe for our yearly doses of snow and this usually involved getting a group of friends together and 1) staying with friends who had houses there or 2) finding a vacation rental for 2-3 nights and splitting it across all those going.

Me and my friend Jen in 2005 or 2006, in front of the house 8-10 of us rented in South Lake.

Lake Tahoe was about a four hour drive from San Francisco, depending on traffic and velocity, so in our case, we always stayed at least two nights. Besides, being on the border with Nevada, there is definitely a nightlife and subsequent debauchery that one can partake in on the evenings when one isn't philandering in the snow (skiing).

Also, there are SO MANY options for skiing, depending on which "shore" of the Lake you are staying, and because of this, there are also various options when taking into account the budget. This site gives you a very topline idea of the various prices of lift tickets in the Lake Tahoe area and seriously, the range is anywhere from about US$21 to US$90. And equipment rental prices? Anywhere between US$30 - $60 for gear and boots for the day. So on the expensive end, skiing for a day in Lake Tahoe could cost about US$160 at most ... while here in Chile it will cost you about US$65 for a lift ticket and about US$45 for equipment rental. Taking into account the salary discrepancies in this country when compared to those in the U.S. AND taking into account how I mentioned in a previous post that only 10% of the population of Santiago has money to spend on these types of "luxuries", you can imagine the type of people that one encounters on a skiing adventure here vs. a skiing adventure back home.

Back home, I remember the outings in the snow to be all about friends and fun. It was never about luxury, even if the place where we stayed was super nice. Yes, skiing is an expensive sport no matter where you are, but back home, it was more about being with friends than consideration of the fact that we were doing something very upscale. To most of us back home, "upscale" might entail First Class tickets to Paris and staying at the Four Seasons Hotel George V. And even when you were on the mountain you rarely noticed if people had more or less money ... just like in the movie "Clueless" with all the groups united on one same high school campus, you had all kinds of people who enjoyed gallivanting in the snow, one right next to the other. In short, the differences are less obvious back home when compared to Chile.

And the culmination of our high society ("cuico") experience in the snow last Friday, was overheard on our way back to the car after our time skiing. A blonde-ish woman, wearing a poofy North Face jacket, was walking around talking on her phone... in her very notable "cuica" voice she was telling the person on the other end of the line that she was headed "back to the apartment" (mind you, we were 2 hours outside of Santiago so obviously she had a place right there on the resort) and that "Annie" was on her way "to the spa." The minute we had suffieciently walked past this woman, G and I proceeded to crack up. It was just Obviously this now means that all the "cuicos" in this country are to be known as "Annie's" from now on ... and we've proceeded to exploit the term continuously since then. Feel free to adopt it if you'd like. I find it has less of a negative connotation too.

Some might argue that in partaking in said activities, relatively speaking (i.e. for Chilean standards vs American standards as mentioned above), G and I are Annie's too. I can respect that opinion but I would argue that the difference with us is that we don't take our advantages and accomplishments for granted, nor do we act like it's our God-given right to take trips to the mountains to go skiing. Realistically, it's not like we could afford a week in the mountains skiing/snowboarding either. In fact, between one trip and the next, we'll have another payday so that makes a difference with regards to how often we head to the mountains. Trust me, the Annie's don't think like that and I really can't imagine them figuring out when it makes most sense to go, money-wise.

I like to think of us as 'come-and-go' Annie's. When we feel like putting that particular hat on (and our bank account tells us it's ok to do so), we do...but all the while making fun of ourselves because we know we aren't "born and bred" into it.

G and I being Annie's. Ya dig?

But that's what makes it so much fun!!! Our ability to "blend" in with the Annie's doing things like eating out at certain restaurants or frolicking in the snow ... it's like we're Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "Titanic") when he's eating with the First Class passengers ...

"Nothing to it is there? Remember, they love money so pretend like you own a gold mine and you're in the club."

We don't necessarily look like naturals but at least we're standing!

Of course most of this blog post has been written in a tongue-in-cheek fashion and though some elements are somewhat exaggerated for your reading pleasure, the truth of the matter is that we had a lovely time at Valle Nevado and we are definitely looking forward to falling in the snow again very soon!

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 17, 2010


One year ago today

One year ago today was the last time I would wake up in my own apartment; the last time I'd be living my single life; the last time I would drink the best latte in the world from the best neighborhood cafe in the world (Borrones); the last time I would have a sleep over with my best friend, where it would be just me and her in my apt.

A year ago today, I left California and boarded an American Airlines flight to Santiago, to begin my new life here.

It was the last time I walked down the tree lined streets of Menlo Park.

The last time I could call California my home, with a permanent address and a mailbox that proved I lived there.

It was the last time my Uncle Pato ever went to pick me up at my apartment.

It was the last time I walked through the kitchen, the living room, my bedroom ... and realized that what I had accomplished alone was passing. I had gone from being a pathetic mess over one failed relationship after another, feeling like a failure who lived with her mom for so long and couldn't branch out on her own, feeling like my career was going nowhere and in short, feeling stuck ... and I turned a new leaf and began to own my life and my choices in a way I had never done before.

That apartment embodied all of that and all four small rooms contained a memory of each and every little accomplishment I had ever set out for my single self.

My bedroom the day before I left California.

The same bedroom only six months earlier.

Leaving California was hard. It was hard to see my beloved apt reduced to nothing more than wall-to-wall carpeting and window blinds. It was hard to say goodbye to my best friend, knowing that I would NEVER, for as long as I would be away, ever form friendships as strong as I have in California.

It has been hard adapting to a country that has amazing resources and great potential, but that, realistically, is light years behind more developed countries like the U.S.

I miss home and sometimes G gets sad when I tell him that. But the thing is, he's the reason I'm here. He's all the reason I'll ever need to motivate me to move from Pole to Pole. I said to him the other day: "I would follow you to Afghanistan and back, so long as I was with you." And it's true.

But the reality is that to me, being in Chile is not an accomplishment and it's so far from where I thought I'd be in life, it's almost comical.

However, HE is the accomplishment and what we have together is also so far from where I thought I'd be in life. I was convinced I'd never find someone like him, amazing in so many ways. I am truly blessed with him - because of him and because of who I am and who I want to be when I'm with him. Just better, all around. Does he make the move to Chile worth it? A million times yes.

But as an independent woman, someone who values strength and autonomy as well, I want to find my own path in this narrow land ... so far it's been hard.

One year later, I've taken steps, but I'm miles (or kilometers) away from making strides.

Pretty much the last view I had of my apartment, my life in California, on July 17, 2009.


Thursday, July 15, 2010


Close cab encounters of the Santiago kind

I was once convinced that the weirdest or most awkward of cab encounters were contained strictly to the island of Manhattan. The normal cab experience in New York involves the word "no" yelled sternly from the driver himself in response to one's query if he happens to be going Uptown. In general, they never seem to be going in the direction you need to go. And there's always a split second of analysis on their part, as they determine whether it's worth their while to carry you from Point A to Point B (it rarely seems to be and in the rare instance that they determine it IS, they act as if they're doing you the biggest favor in the world.)

A few years ago I was once in a cab with a Japanese coworker of mine, during her first trip to the Big Apple. It was winter and it was snowing and because of this, it was naturally 90 degrees inside the cab. Meanwhile, she and I looked like the kid in "A Christmas Story" with the amount of clothing and layers we had on as defense against the storm outside - in short, we were shvitz-ing. She got hot, she rolled down the window. She realized it was down too much, she put it back up. She accidentally kept the button pressed too much so she adjusted it again so it was just right. What did the cab driver do? YELL AT HER to "stop playing with the window." Of course I sat up in her defense but it was too late. She was appalled that anyone would speak to someone else like that (after all, she's from Japan, the country of polite). My poor coworker never recovered from that NYC cabbie experience.

On a different trip, I was in the car with a Muslim driver from Iraq at a time when the sun was beginning to set. We were driving into the city from the airport and he realized he would soon need to participate in "Salah" the formal prayer of Islam, done by Muslims at various times of the day. The sunset one was fast approaching, so he whipped out his dinner (packed by his wife, he told me) and proceeded to eat prior to dropping me off and heading to prayer. Except, being the polite man that he seemed to be, he couldn't bear eating in front of me and not SHARING. And that he did. I don't know what I ate precisely but it was both weird and intriguing and definitely the first time I had tried Iraqi food. In NYC. In a cab. From foil wrapping.

Given all of the above (and trust me there are other similar stories), you can imagine that it seemed really, really unlikely to me that I'd ever find a city where cab drivers were just as rude, weird or awkward. Be that as it may, Santiago is quickly securing its spot at the top of the "Cities With the Weirdest Cab Drivers" list.

One time, post a fluke night out dancing (we weren't feeling it), me, G, a gringa friend and her boyfriend, attempted to hail a cab at Providencia with Pedro de Valdivia to take us about 4 blocks in the cold, dark night. Though the cab driver was going in that direction, after we all piled in, he told us to get out because he felt we were "abusing" the right to take the cab because of the "short" distance. Did I mention he was going DOWN THAT STREET and would pass right by where we needed to get out? Hello??? Do the cab drivers NOT care about making money - not to go out of his way, but down the same street? I was floored - not only because of his logic but because of how truly appalled he seemed by the mere notion of driving us four blocks in the direction he was already going. Needless to say, we walked the four blocks, all the while my gringa friend and I bashed the cab driver, Chile and the world in general - we were so pissed. (For the record, G thoroughly believed we were overreacting and when I stated it was "the principle" he asked me why the gringas always fight "on principle." Aaaaaahhhh!!)

Then there was the time I took a cab to the U.S. Embassy to pick up my new U.S. Passport. An exciting trip for me because I had just become a citizen and thus, was about to retrieve the proper documentation stating just that. As it turned out, the cab driver was a die hard Communist.

[I get into the cab.]
Me: "The U.S. Embassy please. It's on Andres Bello, please take XYZ route."

Cabbie: (as he drives onward) "The U.S. Embassy? Why would you want to go there? That place should be destroyed. The U.S. is the devil."

Me:[in my head "sweet. now is not a good time to tell him about that citizenship accomplishment."] "Oh yeah? Well you know, sometimes certain documents are required from them, so that's why I'm going."

Cabbie: (groveling) "Those damn Americans think they own the world! I'm not surprised you have to do all this crazy running around to get your business done. They don't make anything easy and like to flex their muscles to the whole world."

Me: (smile plastered on my face) "uh huh. Yeah well I need something from them to travel. What are you gonna do? It is what it is."

Cabbie: "I'd like to travel to Cuba ..."

Me: "Oh, do you have family there?" (recalling that I had read somewhere once that many Cubans have come to Chile to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families.)

Cabbie: "No, it's just one of my lifetime dreams. Now there's a wonderful country and a man who has the right idea, that Castro, God love him." (pause) (sigh) "Yeah, one of my lifelong dreams is to go there and I'm going to do it! Before I die, I will go there. And you know, those Americans, you have no idea how many times they've tried to destroy the Cubans. I know why too - the resources. The Americans want to get their grimy hands on all the valuable resources anyone might have - they're so greedy they can't stand to see others have valuable resources!" (cabbie is now adamant.)

Me: (noticing the Cuban flag on his windshield) "Uh huh... yeah I read that Cuba has really nice beaches."

And so on and so on. He would rant and pound his fist against the Americans, all the while singing songs of praise for Cuba and Castro. In response, I would talk about their beaches and ask about the food and the rum. Perhaps I should have defended my fellow Americans but I ask you: alone in a cab, on your way to get your U.S. Passport, with a ranting Communist at the wheel, what would you have done? I rest my case.

Then last night, I was in a cab and the driver was a pleasant man in his late 60s or early 70s. He gets to talking to me about the woman who was in the cab before me, a "beautiful, striking" woman about 50, who was married to a former military man (so she told the cab driver.) The cabbie says to me, "Do you know that she was in the cab for 20 minutes and during that time her husband called her 5 times? FIVE TIMES!" Apparently the woman had guests invited to her house at 8pm and her husband was freaking out - to the point of stalking her and calling her names - because at ten minutes to 6pm, she still hadn't arrived at home. Long story short, the cab driver proceeds to tell me 1) what a jerk her husband was 2) how men should treat women delicately and 3) how he himself still "makes love" to his wife and enjoys her as he always has in the past 30 years that they've been together. Um, what? Scratch record, stop the music. Then he proceeded to inform me that on some nights, she will put on an apron - not to initiate "lovemaking" - and "serve" him a pisco sour as if they were in a restaurant. Likewise, on some nights, he'll play the waiter, placing a dish towel across his arm, and serving HER a pisco sour. Again, not as a signal that "lovemaking" time is about to begin, lest anyone be confused.

By then we had arrived at my apartment so I didn't have time to ask him to differentiate the "yes to lovemaking" cues from the "no to lovemaking" cues that he and his wife had established. I got that the waiter/waitress role-playing game fell into the "no to lovemaking" realm, but what if, say, one day she forgot to put on her left earring? Is that in the "yes" or "no" realm? ....
I guess we'll never know.

The moral of my blog post is this: if you find yourself in a situation where you have to take a cab in Santiago, don't bother bringing your iPod. The cab drivers are just as likely to talk to you as if you aren't trying to ignore them and you'll find yourself hearing about the intimate details of their sex life OR about how Karl Marx was definitely on to something. My suggestion? Try to steer the conversation towards a topic so shocking, they'll be the ones asking their friends why all the weirdo passengers choose their cab for their transportation needs.

I've decided that my outrageous story from now on will be that my lover, the goat, broke up with me and ran off with the neighbor girl.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I choose my choice!

I've been thinking a lot about the subject of kids lately, trying to come to terms with the fact that more than half of the people I went to either grammar school, high school or college with are now parents and I'm nowhere near the task. Arguably I'm more "ahead of that game" than an unmarried, otherwise single, counterpart I suppose, but mentally I'm no further ahead than I was when I graduate college. Obviously many personal factors contribute to this: 1) adjusting to a new country 2) analysis of the disadvantages thrown at mothers in the workforce, specifically in this country and 3) trying to have a couple's life prior to the kiddo scenario, considering I married at a much later age. All of the above are important factors to consider prior to embarking on the role of a lifetime (i.e. parenthood), the most pressing of all, to me, is the stunted career I'll have if I don't play my cards right.

Then today I came across yet another variable to this ever-present "Maybe Kids ..." library of questions. This article published earlier this month in New York Magazine entitled "All Joy and No Fun. Why parents hate parenting." And before half the readers of this blog jump to defend the institution of kids and parenting, let me clarify that I am neither bashing, nor supporting this article. What I am doing is adding it to my database of "food for thought on" and "things to consider before." Besides, there's some great writing to be found in this article and it seems very well supported, siting numerous studies and books that speak into the subject of happiness, kids, relationships and parenting. I'm never one to pass up a good read and just because the subject is laced with controversy only makes me love it more (hence, I'm promoting your reading of it.)

It's surprising to read that one study after another shows that having kids DOES NOT make women, men and couples happier. In fact, as far as couple's are concerned, marital satisfaction takes a tumble once kids are born (though parents of babies and toddlers will be happy to know that this satisfaction increases between your kid's ages of 6-12 ... then plummets again when they're teenagers - go figure.) Yeah, as a species it makes sense that we want to procreate, pass our genes on, contribute to a legacy, etc, etc but as individuals, this article really challenges the notion of whether as PEOPLE, cultural and social people, it ever makes sense to have kids.

And what's the main reason behind the unpleasant view on parenting itself? We've become robots of perfection, buckling under the pressure of "not good enough" and transferring it on to the kids! In January I posted this, describing the competitive landscape of where I lived in California and this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes being a parent intolerable. This article states that before urbanization, kids were considered an asset to economic growth since they worked the farmland next to you or worked in the shop/small family business owned by the parents. Their existence had a purpose that propelled the entire family forward. Nowadays, children are not regarded in the same capacity, seen more so as "subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed" in order to promote the creation of supreme beings by the skillful hands of the parents. It's not enough to have the big house, fancy car and European family trips - your kids need to be the personification of success just as the yacht might be.

Sounds like a lot of pressure to me. No wonder parents are stressed out and no wonder kids are stressed out. I've seen it first hand (and this article mentions it as well), but kids these days are over-scheduled. Can you believe such a notion? And to think that I had hours and hours of free time to play and pretend and cut coupons out of the newspaper so that I could play bank ... with myself.

Geez, what a disadvantage I've created waiting this long to have kids. I've chosen to work on me, my career, my education, my life and now when I have kids, I'll know exactly what I'm missing when I can't focus on all of the aforementioned points. It's different when young adults leave their parents house and shortly thereafter become parents. Chances are they haven't had much time to notice what they'll be missing once they do have kids.

Incidentally, when I finished reading this article it immediately occurred to me to Google the exact same phrase/notion in Spanish, specifically searching Chilean websites. I came across a lot of articles on the INABILITY to have kids, an article on couples choosing pets over kids (from a site called "Conciencia Animal" or "Animal Consciousness," an article on a woman who dated a guy forever who didn't want to have kids and who then ended up having kids with the woman he had a relationship with after her ... and finally, at the very bottom of the first Google page, an article from Cosmo (hardly a Chilean publication) speaking to the notion of "So what if I don't want kids?" In this very quick search (and I cannot stress enough how very quickly this search occurred), I did come across an article from a newspaper from the South of Chile called "Diario El Sur" where the writer speaks about the "dilemma" associated with the decision of having kids or not and how three entities affect this decision one way or another: 1) dedication to one's career, 2) the "voice" of the Church, 3) contraception. But the best article I came across on Chilean sites (again, in my ever-so-quick search) talks about how the decision to have fewer kids is an active decision by educated adults who wish to focus on responsible parenting. Blogs, of course, provide a wealth of varying opinions on the matter and this one speaks quite candidly on the stance of "not wanting to be a mother someday." Still, I have to say that the majority of the articles that come up when I Google "Tener hijos hace feliz?" or "Having kids makes one happy?" are about infertility, lower birth rates and selfish individuals. Check it out and see for yourself!

Just for the record folks, I'm not anti having kids. In fact, I've made reference to my relatively pro stance on the matter in the past. I do, however, find it quite interesting that the reality is SO different than what the marketers want you to believe. Parenting, in short, seems to kind of suck.

The Nestle's, Proctor & Gamble's and milk companies of this world (among so many other consumer products companies that exist), want you to believe that being a mom is the best job you'll ever have ... that's the only way they'll get you to buy that product that will FOR SURE prove to all the other parents that you're the world's best mom (or dad!) These companies market their products by speaking to the "proud parent" in all of you: you want your kids whites to be whiter than all the rest, right? Buy Tide! You want your kids to grow up with the healthiest bones so they can kick the goal at the last minute and win that soccer game, right? Then buy the yogurt! We build strong bones! The marketing to the inner proud parent is endless and so it's NO WONDER (in my opinion) that one can barely find material on NOT having kids here in Chile. After all, in reference to my blog last week, the proud parent can be ABC1 or D - here is a motivating factor (to purchase a product) that doesn't discriminate.

Anyway, I'm all over the place today and feel that I've covered many topics. I'd like to take this opportunity to focus my thoughts and note that my feelings can best be described by one of Charlotte York's finer moments in Sex and the City, where she's arguing with Miranda on her decision to quit her job in order to focus on being a wife. Whether you agree with Miranda on how socially acceptable doing that ultimately is, Charlotte has a point when she yells:

"I choose my choice!! I choose my choice, I choose my choice!"

That's all we really want.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, July 10, 2010


It's USA Week at Jumbo

Hey, did you guys know that for the next ten days it's USA week at your local Jumbo? I, for one, did not get the memo from the U.S. Embassy here in Santiago and it's a good thing that we subscribe to "El Mercurio" (Chile's leading newspaper) on the weekends, otherwise, how would I have known?? Thankfully, upon opening today's paper, the following circular slipped out, alerting me to the fact that between July 8 - 18, it's USA Week at Jumbo.

Obviously my curiosity was piqued and so I took a gander.

Now, maybe I'm alone when I say this, but I'm always happy when I go to my local Jumbo and see products I recognize from back home. Simple things like Snickers bars or Top Ramen soup make me really happy. It's nice to see brands and logos I know and love in a sea of those that I can't tell you much about. I know that Campbell's is "Mmmm, mmm, good" but not sure what Maggi soups are ... as a result, I don't get the same cozy, warm fuzzy feeling about Maggi as I do about Campbell's soups. This goes for all brands in Chile - since I didn't grow up here, they mean nothing to me on a personal level. Therefore I'm a marketers nightmare -OR- I'm a consumer a marketer disregards completely because I'm a lost cause. How can a consumer associate feelings with particular brands if they did not grow up seeing these brands and the publicity around them?

Which is why, from a marketing point of view, I have to commend Jumbo for reaching out to the American population that is constantly expanding here in Santiago. Even the cover of this circular speaks to us because an African American woman (or perhaps AA decent) is depicted on the cover - something we Americans completely regard as natural even though the majority of the people who live in the U.S. are not of African American decent. In all areas of marketing in the U.S. it's important for companies and brands to make sure to be "equal opportunity" and to do the best they can to depict the melting pot that is the population at large in the 50 States. [Of course one can argue that if a company or brand fails to do this in their promotions, they can be targeted as "racist" and well, that would be a PR nightmare for any business.] In general, Chilean advertising never depicts people of darker color. First because Chileans don't associate with that and further, don't aspire to that (perhaps the main reason why most models in advertisements are blonde) and second, Chileans are pretty homogeneous in their looks and simply put, there aren't many dark skinned people walking around the country. Therefore, I'm concluding that this woman was used on the cover to specifically speak to Americans in Santiago.

On a similar note, perhaps it's that Jumbo is advertising to those who aspire to all things American. After all, this country definitely looks north for trends and success stories, so why not harness that attention and promote food from the U.S.? Whatever the motivation for this focus on our food, the bottom line is that somehow, with someone, this promotion must mean mad money to Jumbo.

So what's being advertised in the circular?

"Productos Exclusivos" (exclusive products) for the most part and many of them brands I don't even recognize! I realized that perhaps the reason for this is because Jumbo (or Cencosud, owners of the Jumbo supermarket chains) have an exclusive agreement with Food Export Association of the Midwest USA, a non-profit organization that promotes the export of food and agricultural products from the midwestern region of the United States. That probably explains why the peanut butter being advertised is "Algood" and the maple syrup is "Shur Fine." I'm from California, so my main thought is "where's the Jiffy and the Aunt Jemima?" I've never been to the Midwest so can't attest anything about these brands, but one thing's for sure: beggars can't be choosers and I'd much rather have the choice between chunky and creamy peanut butter versus no peanut butter at all. Even if that means consuming Kmart's Blue Light Special private label or whatever unknown brands are being imported. Call me crazy.

But that's the key thing to keep in mind, right? Beggars (as in me) can't be choosers. I'm in a strange land with strange food and labels (most yummy though, I will admit) and if I can find pancake mix, cranberry juice (trust me, it's no picnic trying to find cranberry anything here) or root beer, I'll disregard the relatively unknown label in lieu of having a small slice of home in my Chilean refrigerator.

In any case, hats off to Jumbo for embracing their American population and those who favor all things American. Yeah USA Week is a little late since 4th of July was LAST weekend but hey, I'll take it. Plus it helps promote the food that's manufactured and grown there. That's a nice thought considering how much food we import ourselves from Chile and Mexico. So, thank you Jumbo. I may not be changing my shopping habits all that much, but I'm happy to see some peanut butter and Ocean's Spray cranberry juice all up in here:

Some good ol' American style stuffing:

But find it really, really funny that on the page advertising American sodas, A&W Root Beer (#4) is promoted as "Cerveza sin alcohol Root Beer." Or non-alcoholic beer Root Beer.

I guess it's better to be safe than sorry. We wouldn't want people purchasing the root beer and thinking they can get a buzz off drinking several cans of it. That would be false advertising for those who don't get that the "beer" doesn't really mean beer. Oh Chile... don't ever be so funny and fabulous in your advertising!

Note: you can check out the online version of this entire catalog here. This link will most likely still be active about a week after July 18th. Enjoy!

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 9, 2010


Sorry my blog layout has gone schizo

I feel the need to send a quick apology shout out regarding my two layout changes today. No I've not gone schizo and no, I won't be treating my blog like some people treat their Facebook profiles (constantly changing profile pics)... I don't want to get into it but suffice it to say that I had an issue with the one I previously chose today and out of pure frustration have settled for the most blah layout you will possibly come across.

Better known as the one you're staring at this very second.

Try not to fall asleep looking at this page. Just know it will only compel me to write more heart racing, tear jerking, edge-of-your-seat stories about living in Chile.

Also, I reserve the right to find a more suitable, long term layout option within the week.

Ok, that's all.
Carry on.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Santiago the Segmented

I'm noticing this odd phenomenon about social classes here in Chile. There is a weird obsession over them that reaches every corner of this country. Further, there seems to be a constant need to identify which class people fall into.

...or maybe it's because I'm studying Marketing and for all types of reasons, marketers need to segment the population at large...Ok, I won't discard that this might be the reason why figuring out where people are "located" in the social class hierarchy seems to be a national past time for those who immediately surround me.

There are several factors that determine what socioeconomic class people fall under here in Chile and one of those factors in Santiago is the "comuna" or neighborhood you live in. Note the map below for a quick glimpse of the comunas that make up Santiago:

I first became aware of this chasm between classes when I visited some cousins in Chile for a three-month period back in 1998. My cousins, aunt and uncle live in a three bedroom house in Puente Alto. I didn't personally see anything "different" about them or how they lived since they had all the things I had at home ... in fact, I'd argue that they lived far better than we did back then because they certainly always had a good amount of food readily available for a quick asado (bbq). They had cars, tvs, phones, mircowaves, fridges, etc, etc. It wasn't until THEY said to me "Vamos a ir al barrio alto" that I even had a notion that a "higher neighborhood" (as in upper class neighborhood) even existed in such a manner that it had it's own nickname. See, to them, going past the Ñuñoa neighborhood is like venturing into a completely different country. Anything from the Providencia neighborhood and on, is mostly foreign to them. In fact, a couple of weeks after the earthquake, another cousin of mine who happens to live beyond Providencia, mentioned that she had gone to the mall, Parque Arauco, for a one-time job and she was FLOORED that people were shopping and eating out. She literally said "It's like another world up there." Up there being the Las Condes neighborhood.

Aside from neighborhoods, another factor in determining what class you fall into are what the Census calls "Good" (or "Bienes.") Does the family or household have a tv, a land line, a refrigerator, a car, a microwave, a shower (yes, you read that correctly. They want to know if you have a shower)? There are about 10-15 items that are considered to be basic and depending on whether a family has them or not, helps determine where in the social class spectrum they will ultimately fall. The higher class will obviously have 100% of all items, in multiple quantities, whereas a lower class household may have certain things, but definitely not 100% of them.

Finally, another important factor that helps determine where a household falls is the level of education reached by the head (or heads) of household. Those in the upper sections of the spectrum will have totaled an average of AT LEAST 16.2 years of schooling and most have certainly graduated college and further, hold a Graduate degree from a known institution.

So then, how are classes "classified?" Not in the typical fashion we hear about in the U.S. - Upper Class, Upper Middle Class, Middle Class, Lower Middle Class, Upper Lower Class, etc, etc until you get to the standard Lower Class title. In Chile, each class has a letter or series of letters assigned to them as follows:

ABC1: These are college graduates who hold executive level jobs or otherwise "prestigious" jobs. Likewise, these individuals hold powerful positions within their companies and they live in the best and most exclusive neighborhoods of Santiago. Their monthly income is calculated at about $3.5 million pesos (about USD$7000) a month or more. These individuals make up about 10% of Santiago's population. They own two or more cars, all or most luxury makes and models, and the cars are less than 5 years old. Usually the "AB" segement is grouped together with the C1 segment because the AB alone would only make up about 2.5% of the population (incidentally, this segment alone would be quite difficult to analyze since they are the ones who will have most of their "goods" completely guarded and all info on them would be heavily shrouded.)

C2: This is considered to be the "most typical" middle class of the city and make up less than 20% of the population of Santiago. They tend to live in more traditional neighborhoods of the city, sometimes further away from the downtown areas and with clean, well maintained homes,streets and sidewalks. The heads of households are generally also college graduates with executive-type jobs or are heads of departments in their companies. Their income is an average $1 million pesos a month (about US#2,000) and they own at least one car (sometimes two). Unfortunately in this group, savings is not a reality for the most part.

C3: Middle class noted mainly for its simplicity. This group tends to live amongst the C1 group and the D group, typically found in the more traditional, sometimes older neighborhoods of Santiago. Socially speaking an interesting point about this group is that in their neighborhoods, one can note an elevated level of domestic activity on the streets (i.e. housewives sweeping, children playing, etc). This group is said to make up 25% of the population of Santiago. The average household income is $600 thousand pesos (about US$1,200) and they tend to not have cars but might instead own very old, handed down trucks. Only 10% of this group has a land line in their homes.

D: This is the lower class group that makes up approximately a reported 35% of the population of Santiago. They have an average monthly income of $300 thousand pesos (about US$600) and they tend to live in smaller, older, mainly deteriorated homes. It's reported that these households rely on only one revenue earning member. That being said, because there are so many individuals who fall in this category, they are notable for business purposes as they are a force as consumers due to amount of people in this group. Those in this group tend to not have steady jobs but rather will work seasonal or non-contractual jobs (i.e. parking lot attendants). They live in very populated ares of the city, generally on streets that don't necessarily contain pavement.

E: This group is considered to be at almost poverty, if not poverty, level and they make up 10% of the population in Santiago. Their average household income is $90 thousand pesos (about US$180) and this income is either very sporadic income or money granted to them by the government. This group cannot afford to cover the most basic of necessities and generally rely on third party assistance (i.e. the government in many cases). Due to their lack of purchasing power, unfortunately they are rarely regarded in consumer studies.

Why did I feel the need to write about this? First of all, on a selfish note, I really needed to understand how consumers are segmented in Chile. For obvious reasons, businesses and companies in general, focus on the ABC1 and C2 groups mostly because of their purchasing power. After all, these are the people who have the money to spend on goods and services. Logical of course.

I also wanted to understand, in depth, how one group differs from another because Chile really is a segmented culture. In fact, this study I explored done by AIM (Chilean Association of Market Studies) in 2008 contains 38 pages of information. Information that is so detailed, it even tells you how each group DECORATES THEIR HOMES!! Crazy.

I think that Chileans segment themselves and they do this because this is how it's been all their lives. This is certainly not known as the "land of opportunity" and I wonder how many D class individuals ever make it to the sphere of ABC1 or even C2! Is that even possible here? I take a look at my own family members (ones I wouldn't even dare classify!) and wonder why they never go out in other areas of the city, why they don't have friends who live in other areas and why they only move around in their neighborhoods. The same goes for those who live in Las Condes and beyond - do they ever go to Puente Alto to have a beer or a quick bite to eat? My guess is no.

It's interesting how my graduate studies have made me look at people and wonder how their socioeconomic class, as dictated by Chile and themselves personally, makes them tick and motivates them one way or another.

Is it possible to make leaps and bounds in such a segmented culture (and city)? Discuss.

Sources: AIM Chile, Novomerc Study, CERC.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 5, 2010


Identifying with "Lost in Translation"

I'm more analytical than I give myself credit for and in the recent weeks I've been analyzing my current state of affairs as my one-year anniversary of arriving in Chile is quickly approaching.

I think my feelings on the matter can best be described by the original trailer to the movie "Lost In Translation." I'll give you a minute or so to check it out below.

Incidentally, I've been to Tokyo and aside from being FABULOUS it really IS how it's depicted in the movie. The thing being that the movie is focused on two different (or similar) reactions to that environment.

Anyway, the case in point isn't about Tokyo but about my identity crisis in this new chapter of my life. For as long as I can remember, this was the trailer to me:

"Andrea who is originally from Chile, works in anime and is on a mission from God to find THE ONE. Andrea fills her time and space with reading historical fiction and US Weeklys, hanging out with friends, traveling for work and engaging in spontaneous bouts of physical activity otherwise known as cardio excercise. She likes to dabble in drinking wine and playing computer games and is a big fan of greek yogurt. She owns more jeans than she has time to wear and looks forward to baseball season so she can watch games in the sun with her friends (using the term 'watch' loosely). She routinely hosts movie nights and girls' night at her cute, albeit small, apartment. Her cooking skills cover a variety of salads, mostly consisting of lettuce and avocado, with a generous gob of minced Dungeness crab. Andrea has questionable opinions towards all things Mormon and all things ordinary."

This little paragraph pretty much summed up who I was for a big part of my life and in comparison, my life now looks NOTHING like said points mentioned above.

The trailer for "Lost in Translation" stated in the beginning "Bob is lost." In this case:
"Andrea is lost as she begins to come to terms with what it means to live her life in another country. Andrea is new to being a wife and suddenly finds herself in charge of a home where two, sometimes four people dwell. She owns a dog who recently chewed up one of her two pairs of high heeled black boots - she is the master disciplinarian. She's also balancing her career working remotely for a company based abroad, all the while managing her humbling grades in Graduate School. All this grouped with trying to cement bonds and friendships with other women living the Expat life as well. Andrea spends the majority of her days completely alone, reaching out to the world via social online mediums, something she never did before back home. Old Andrea - meet new Andrea."

I'm learning about being a wife, a "dueña de casa" (verbatim, "owner of a home" which has more do with running and creating a home vs fiscally owning a home), being a pet owner, doing my job well but knowing that eventually I'll need to have a secure job locally if I'm ever going to establish my career whole-heartedly here, branching out, learning how to maneuver myself in this city, so on and so on. All of this is grossly misaligned with what I knew of me before so to me, it's no wonder that I'm in this perpetual state of crisis with regards to my identity.

In "Lost in Translation," the character Bob (Bill Murray) asks the character Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) "What do you do?" to which she replies "I'm not sure yet actually" and later, in a different scene, she tells Bob "I just don't know what I'm supposed to be."

Chile is full of nuances, bureaucracy, crime, traditions and social norms - things that can make anyone's head spin even before they have to come to terms with all of a sudden being a wife and "mom" to a six month old dog in a foreign country where no one seems to understand where you're coming from. As such, it's pretty hard to determine what one is "supposed to be" at any given point. Shying away from the ordinary and in a land where a) being different isn't rewarded and b) being different isn't something easily accessible, you find yourself wondering where your path is and how you walk down it at your own rhythm once you've determined said path.

But "the good news is, the whiskey works" to quote the trailer/movie again. And in my case here and now, the whiskey is all things that make being here better than being there... the whiskey is all that stuff that nudges me and says "Hellooooo, remember this?" After all, as much as I loved my single life and LOVED my old apartment, the fact of the matter was that it was lonely on many occasions and even then I had days when I'd be home alone and talked to no one ... the bad news being that I didn't have the reality of G walking in through the door and sharing the evening with me. And if there's ever one common denominator in the field where all that's good belongs, it's G.

In summary, am I having an identity crisis? Yeah, I think I am. I'm in this strange land with its strange customs, where I don't know tit from tat and on top of that I'm all of a sudden a "housewife" in more ways than I care to recognize. Simply put, the housewife bit is not the gig I was thinking I'd have this time in life and I'm fighting it with blood, sweat and tears. The wife part I like - something one can definitely get used to, but this is also a learning curve. I'm attempting to introduce old Andrea to new Andrea's lost and one's found. Both are versions of me that I know and love, though the former one is that which I've known for a lifetime minus the last year.

In the end it's the environment, where I am, what I do and who I surround myself with that's changed. I don't recognize the usual suspects because the usual suspects are played by completely different people now. It's on me to get with it and adapt already. I have yet to learn to identify with my new roles in my new world. This is the main reason for said identity crisis I'm proclaiming. In the end, I imagine it happens to others who find themselves in warp speed towards another chapter in life ... or is that just the new Andrea wishful thinking?

I have faith in the final thought in the "Lost in Translation" trailer above ... "Sometimes you have to go halfway around the world, to come full circle."

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 2, 2010


Red Asphalt is missing in Chile

When I was 15 and in high school, I was required to take one semester of driver's education as part of the basic curriculum of all students. This practice is all but gone in many schools across the U.S. but during the 70s and well into the early 90s when I was in high school, the course was alive and well. We all looked forward to this semester our sophomore year because it was the first step we embarked on towards the freedom that a California state Driver's License offered us.

Part of the excitement of Driver's Ed was the mystery that surrounded the infamous "Red Asphalt." Red Asphalt is a series of instructional driver's education videos produced by the California Highway Patrol. And to put it bluntly, all it did was feature gruesome scenes of bloody accidents, most of which were caused by drunk or speeding drivers (or both). Before Driver's Ed, we'd only heard about the film, which supposedly featured bodies cut in half, strewn on lawns, cars a wrangled mess of metal with blood splattered on the windshields and seats ... and all we had to frame our own reactions of the film, were those reactions of students older than us. Some were overly dramatic and claimed to have had to walk out of class; others were sadistic and took it all in gladly. In either case, it was the talk of the school whenever the sophomore class had seen the film that particular week.

Below is an 8 minute clip of the original Red Asphalt, though I can't recall if this was the one we saw in 1992/1993. I doubt it, but even if we had a more updated version, what they would have updated would be the statistics... the general idea of the video is nicely conveyed in this short clip, should you wish to take a gander.

So not only did we have a semester's worth of learning California driving laws, but this was mixed in with curriculum focused on scaring the living sh*t out of us by outlining every possible factor that could result in a deadly accident the minute we stepped foot behind the driver's wheel. I'm not condoning nor am I criticizing this tactic, I'm simply stating how it was presented to the general student population at our school, and from what I hear, how it was presented in general in the State of California.

Further to this semester of education and scare tactics, our school also hosted "Drunk Driving Awareness Week" once a year. This involved assemblies where we'd hear first hand about how real people were affected one way or another by drunk driving, movies featuring images of drunk driving accidents and also included what was left of a car on our school's front lawn. This was an actual car that had been involved in an alcohol related collision, mangled doors, shattered windshields, dried blood - the whole nine yards - on our front lawn so that every day for a week, we saw it on our way into the building. I have memory of the cars looking something like this every year:

Perhaps not this exactly, but similar enough that I recall thinking "How did anyone survive that?"

And so, if it isn't already obvious to you, my conclusion about all this is that, in the early 90s at least, California CLEARLY favored educating teenagers about the rules of the road while at the same time, scaring us into never wanting to step into a car either as a driver or a passenger for the remainder of our lives. And at least with this teenager, fear tactics work their "magic" in such a way, that I'm like one of those dogs who wears those collars that send electrical charges through them whenever they bark.

As we got older, the messages surrounding driving under the influence continued. They evolved into more sophisticated messages of the "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" nature and stopped featuring gross, bloody scenes that bordered on resembling bad Hollywood movie types. The bottom line being that in California, we were constantly fed, via the formal education system or the media, messages that it was simply NOT OK to drink and drive. Even if one had done it, that person carried with them the GUILT learned through all of the above, because it's embedded in our brains that no matter how you slice it, it's.just.plain. wrong. And trust me, I've seen that guilt scare the few people I know who have driven drunk into NEVER doing it again. Those are the happy cabby people (i.e. they take taxis left and right a la Paris Hilton post jail stint).

THEREFORE, dear blog reader, you can simply IMAGINE my disgust at the seemingly culturally accepted tendency in Chile to drive regardless of the number of drinks one has consumed. I'm not talking about evidence on the news (which, believe it or not, shows bloodier scenes than in the U.S.!) but occasions I've witnessed FIRST HAND of this acceptance. The "no he's fine, he hasn't had a drink in an hour and I just gave him a cup of coffee." Or "no she's fine, she lives just about five blocks from here, and I asked her to call us when she gets home." And I've experienced FIRST HAND being in the car with someone DRIVING who has whipped out a can of beer to drink it while driving (that time, I made him stop the car, I got out and told my two cousins who were in the back seat, after refusing to get out with me, peace out. Baby don't play that game.) The shadiest part about that story is that the guy driving is a DETECTIVE for the Investigations arm of the Law Enforcement here in Chile. Nice, right?

No one wants to be the "mala onda weon" who tells an inebriated - or even buzzed - friend that maybe he shouldn't be driving. AND no one wants to be the "mala onda galla" who tells her friends she's only having two drinks because she has to drive home. That would be met with immediate looks resembling "WTF is wrong with you? Did you have a lobotomy, is that it?" If someone WERE to stick to their guns and not drink or continue to drink (and be responsible, at that!) I'm certain the general public would immediately disregard him/her as someone cool and fun. And God forbid promoting the idea of designated drivers here in Chile. Not once in my personal experience have I ever been to any social gathering here where someone merely stated "Nah, I'm good. I'm the DD tonight." Unless that person was a pregnant or nursing woman, everyone drinks and there is simply no limit.

Anyhoo, what's the moral of my story today? Nothing really. I can only do so much to change perceptions, which is limited to those directly around me, and even then, I can only influence so much. I'm not condoning scaring teenagers in Chile from getting behind the wheel because as it is, a good lot of them never learn to drive and when they do, it's later on in life. Nor am I saying that California had it right because God knows I've witnessed those same Californians doing some stupid, stupid things related to drinking and driving. I'm not sure that in general, those scare tactics used in my high school even worked. Yeah, they worked on me for the most part but that's because my mother's M.O. as I was growing up was the use of scare tactics. Thus it's the sure way to discipline me. The whole notion of "If you do/don't do ABC, then XYZ will happen (to you)." Gets me every time!

Plus, can I also attribute all this "awareness" to the fact that California as a state is all about making us aware? Aware of the effects, aware of the surroundings, aware of the aftermath, aware of the consequences. We're an aware bunch in CA, or at least, our government aims for that. Does that mean Chileans are, in comparison, unaware? No. I think they're a very aware bunch as well ... it's just that they're quick to forgive or turn a blind eye to something they are aware is bad.

THIS is the biggest issue I have with the culture right now.

Labels: , ,


July 2009   August 2009   September 2009   October 2009   November 2009   December 2009   January 2010   February 2010   March 2010   April 2010   May 2010   June 2010   July 2010   August 2010   September 2010   October 2010   November 2010  

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]