Monday, December 22, 2008

Single Ladies and Christmas time in Virginia

Ok, I should be kicked out of the blogging community for being so neglectful of my blog. It has been well over a month since I last posted and I have no excuse. I had plenty of exciting things happen, but I just didn't feel like blogging them. Now that I'm home in Virginia for Christmas with my family and my Chilean love, I feel like sharing.

Italo and I flew to Buenos Aires on Friday and spent about 22 hours in the city trying to find great Christmas gifts for my family with the small amount of money we have, but were not very successful. Then, we flew to Virginia and got in at 6:30am yesterday morning. Italo's airport experience was a nightmare and there was one point where I was hysterical outside of customs thinking my boyfriend wouldn't be let out of the airport. He was sent quickly to "C area" which ended up being a room of foreigners waiting to be inspected thoroughly. All in all, Italo spent 2 hours with Dulles Airport security proving he would go back to Chile at the end of the month. It ended up not being so bad since he's here in my house, but for a while I was terrified he would be treated horribly and would understandably never want to come back here again. Luckily, he was very relaxed and calm unlike me and we made it home by around 9:30am.

Now that we're both here, I'm enjoying everything. This is the first time in a long time my parents, my sister, our boyfriends and I have all been together. This will be our first Christmas all together and it's shaping up to be wonderful. It is so nice to come up to cold weather and Christmas decorations all over the town. My mom really outdid herself with the decorations this year because she was so excited to have us all home. The house looks amazing and feels like home. Our kitchen is stocked with delicious food you can't find in Chile and my parents even froze part of Thanksgiving dinner so Italo and I could make the yummiest sandwiches in the world.

Another thing I love about being home is watching movies and playing games. Last night, we all watched Love Actually which has become sort of a tradition for us and then Italo, my best friend A. and I kicked butt in a game of Cranium against my sister, her boyfriend, and my mother.

After dinner every night we always have champagne or more wine and inevitably sit around and quote movies and look up videos on youtube. As I mentioned in a previous blog about my sister C., she and I are master movie quoters, but we also love sharing funny youtube videos so last night turned into watching wedding dance videos to famous movie dances. The best one was a wedding where the couple did the Dirty Dancing final dance. They were AMAZING and Italo and I along with C. and her boyfriend T. are already practicing it (or, C. and I are practicing while the boys try to ignore the fact that we're already planning choreographed wedding dances). BUT, the best part of last night was another video.

Living in Chile, regardless of how much I love it, always means that I will miss out on some popular song or video or current event. This time, it means I lived in ignorance for about a month and missed the best new pop song and video plus the funniest parodies. I'm sure most people have heard the Beyonce song "Single Ladies", but I hadn't. It is such a fun and just all around great pop song. The video is great and Beyonce looks the hottest she ever has and the dancing makes you want to get up and dance (and possibly learn the dance for your wedding, haha). Now, you have to watch the original video first to appreciate the two, erm "interpretations"

ok, after watching that one, watch this guy dancing to the video:

and NOW watch Justin Timberlake backing up Beyonce on SNL (you can't see the whole thing because NBC won't allow it on youtube, but you get the idea:

So, I'm not sure anyone else will enjoy these as much as I do, but I cannot stop watching them and for anyone else who misses pop culture when living abroad, this is for you!

I probably won't blog much while I'm home (surprise, surprise), but I will post pictures of our awesome Christmas Eve party. I'll be wearing my House of Dereon shoes and my sister will be debuting her Chirstian Louboutin's (an early Christmas gift from her boyfriend T.) I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah or anything else).

Friday, November 14, 2008

I need a 3B outfit!

So, 3 of my favorite students invited I. and me to a very fancy anniversary party for their company at Casa Piedra in a few days. YAY! Delicious food, open bar, entertainment, and dancing. My students have been talking about the clothes they bought for the party for over a week so I know the dress code there. The invitation says "formal dress" so my first thought was, "Yay! I'll wear my great Anthroplogie dress with those fabulous shoes my mom bought me for graduation" And my second thought was, "Fuck! I took them to the U.S. in October because I NEVER wore them here and couldn't think of any occasion where I would wear them."

So, now I've got to find a short, but formal dress and some great shoes and of course, they both need to be inexpensive and I need to find them soon. I'm thinking I'd like to spend more money on the shoes (I like bright colors, but comfy heels/wedges) and I'll just try to find some sort of black dress that I can dress up with jewelry, red lipstick, and other accessories.

Ok, my problem is that I never go shopping in Chile. I think that in over a year, I've only bought 4 to 5 pieces of clothing and most of them were too expensive for what they are. I need help! Does anyone know where to go to get cute stuff?? I would love something like this dress or this dress or anything else black or red.

Anyway, this is my plea to all of you fashionable ladies living in or who have previously lived in! And, thank you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Primer Matrimonio Chileno

This past Saturday I attended a Chilean wedding for the first time. I.'s cousin got married and the whole family was there. If I could sum the wedding up in 3 words, I'd use the Chilean expression "3B" for bueno, bonito, and barato (good, pretty, and inexpensive). I was VERY impressed by all aspects of the wedding without considering how much it cost, but when they told me how much (little, really) they spent on everything AND that they had to change the location 2 weeks before the wedding, my jaw dropped to the floor and I vowed right there and then to get married in Chile.

First and foremost, the most beautiful aspect of this wedding was that the bride and groom are madly in love with each other. I'm very realistic about the probability of a couple staying together (so I often think they won't), but I'd put a good amount of money on the success of this couple. Sharing their special day with them was a wonderful experience.

Second, the location was AMAZING. It was up in the mountains in (or just outside of?) Lo Cañas. Seriously, why someone doesn't own a little vineyard/hotel/restaurant up there is beyond me since it seems to be geared toward the wealthy. If I could invest in something, it would be Chez Shea, Lo Cañas, Chile. Anyway, this place is comparable to the gorgeous wedding my best friend just had in Virginia which cost much more (as most US weddings do). Now, her wedding was magical and the place where she got married was so beautiful (same goes for how much she and her hubby love each other), but this place at Lo Cañas was magical and beautful, too. There is the most amazing view of the mountains and Santiago at night. It was breathtaking. The house/event place was gorgeous with an ivy-covered walkway and garden around it. The grounds weren't as well maintained as they should have been, but it was still impressive.

Third, the catering company was excellent. Their service was remarkable by anyone's standards and all of the employees were very friendly and accommodating, which is something I've learned not to expect while living in Chile. Whenever you wanted a drink or mini empanada, they were right there helping you. And, they had a perfect number of staff working, not too few which was a big problem at my friend's wedding.

Now, it's not that I expected a mediocre wedding from C and her hubby; it's just that there was no fuss at all about it from anyone. I'm used to American weddings where often the bride, groom and family start planning at least a year in advance and inevitably run into wedding party and/or planning problems. I've seen brides forced into including disliked family members in the wedding party just to make grandma lay off the guilt trip and, fancy wedding planners blatantly lying about how the wedding will be while charging an arm and a leg for their services. With this wedding, there was none of that. Over the past few months you'd hardly know they were even planning one, yet everything turned out beautifully and I doubt they ever broke a sweat over any of it. How refreshing! The most important day of their relationship was stress-free and perfect. I can only hope for so much.

Here are some pictures from Saturday:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama and my sister

First, I am very happy about Obama being elected. He was the deserving and capable candidate and he won. Now, let's hope he comes through on all of his promises.

Ok, so my point in this post is not to talk more about the election, but to introduce my sister. She just started reading my blog so I thought I'd give her a proper introduction since she's the best (and only) sister I've got.

This is me with C right before I left for Chile the first time:

And here we are again:

We often dress the same, especially when snowboarding together. That's us in our personalized neighborhoodies we made in honor of our grandmother, Carmen. And yes, we also own the same snowboard and both have pink goggle buddies on our helmets. We do that because it doesn't matter how we dress when we snowboard because we're GOOD. And I don't feel bad saying this because we're not good at much else (although, my sister is a good horseback rider and can beat anyone at movie trivia). I have to milk my one talent for all it's worth so, I'm GOOD! AND, my sister's good, too!

C is 26 and a true Taurus. She graduated from UVa in 2004 and I followed in her footsteps this year. She is a lot more organized than I am and she goes to bed earlier, but we love the same food, wine, music, and cherish staying in when on vacation and ordering room service and a movie. We quote movies and tv shows to no end and probably annoy a lot of people because of it.

C is also on her way to being a badass nurse anesthetist which is why I hardly hear from her now. She sleeps, studies, and goes to the hospital. She's a graduate student at Georgetown and is part of an insanely intense and challenging program (but, it should be since her patients' lives will be in her hand once she graduates). In a little over a year, I will have my sister back, but for now our virtual relationship will have to suffice.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elections from a Chilean Perspective

I just got back from an English class with some of my favorite students. This is a great class because my students are employees of a certain Seattle-based specialty coffee store so I get all of the free coffee and tea beverages I want while I teach. I also get paid double since I have to schlep up to Las Condes and eat some of the best salads there are in Santiago to teach it (notice my sarcasm since I LOVE any excuse to go get a yummy salad for lunch). But the best thing about my students is that they are fun, intelligent, and love speaking English.

Today, was so great because we didn't even crack open our textbook since everyone was so excited about the U.S. elections. They were really interested in how I was feeling, in what it's like in the U.S. today, in how my parents and sister and everyone else I know living in the U.S. are feeling today, and in what all the Expats were going to do tonight to celebrate (or grieve) when the results come in. They also talked about how terribly upset they would be if Obama is not elected. It was so interesting to hear how much faith they have in Obama as a world leader. Now, neither my students or I are under the impression that Obama is any sort of savior. I really believe that big change takes a very long time and is extremely difficult within any government, but I (and they) also believe that voting for Barack Obama over John McCain is the right choice*. They are excited about the same things I am: what this would do to improve the U.S.'s image all over the world and its international relations, what this could mean for Black men and women everywhere, and what would happen in the U.S. once its president is not totally and completely worthless.

Now, I would consider these particular students more informed on world issues than most Chileans I know, but all of my students (the dummies and the smarty pants) have been talking about the elections. They've watched the SNL clips, seen the Sara Silverman Obama endorsement, and laughed at my "Sarah Palin is a retard" comments. My point is that it seems that the whole world, or all of Chile at least, is more interested in this election than elections in the past and it's because of Obama (and that Obama also means the end of Bush). I also have not met one Chilean rooting for McCain (but was unpleasantly surprised to find out through facebook that I know many more McCain/Palin supporters than I thought).

So, during my next class on Thursday, my students and I are either going to celebrate together or cry together.

Tonight, I'm going to Basic Bar (when do I not go there?) with some other lovely Chile-Gringas (Sara, Jessica, and Shannon) as well as a few Chileno spouses to watch the election coverage. Anyone else who reads this, come on out if you can! Here's hoping for happy results!

*My dream democratic ticket would be Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson with the next best being Clinton/Obama and then Obama/Clinton. Hillary will never cease to amaze me and Richardson is an experienced, intelligent and moderate man so they would make a dream team in my opinion.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Significant Other Brag Tag

Amanda tagged me

1. Where did you meet?
We met on September 18, 2007, at my host brother's best friend's parent's house (otherwise known as his aunt and uncle's house)

2. How long did you date before you were married?

We're not married yet but I'm guessing (and hoping) that it will be between 2 and 3 years

3. How long have you been married?
We have been living together and supporting ourselves economically for almost 5 months now so I consider that practically married

4. What is one thing he does that surprises you?
He irons his shirt before work every morning. This is a man who needs an hour between when his alarm goes off and when he actually gets out of bed, yet often turns his alarm off in his sleep without realizing it and then jumps out of bed with 5 minutes to spare, BUT he always has time to iron his shirt and most of the time, make coffee (the real kind!)

5. What is your favorite feature about him?
Not to copy Amanda, but his eyes. He has the kindest eyes I've ever seen. They are so telling of his personality. The second my mom met him, she turned to me and said, "I love him! He has the sweetest eyes."

6. What is your favorite quality about him?
His kindness. It just pours out of him and it only takes one hug from him to understand how sincere he is. (some of my mother's friends always talk about how his hugs are amazing)

7. Does he have a nickname for you?
Yes, "guachona" and "amorcita" (which is making fun of the fact that I thought since our puppy is a girl, she was amorcita, not amorcito...wrong!). Jokingly, he also uses any petname from the Cuppycake song

8. What's his favorite color?
Blue (I had to ask him to be sure on this one)

9. What's his favorite food?
All food, but more specifically, pizza and all other Italian food, bread, palta and tomate, rueben sandwiches, five guys, and kebobs with creamy cilantro lime sauce from Sticks in Charlottesville, Va

10. What's his favorite sport?
It was mountain biking until his bike broke

11. Who said, "I love you" first?
He did.

12. When and where was your first kiss?
The night I met him while we were dancing to cumbia at a fonda with my host brother, his date, I.'s cousin and cousin's girlfriend watching us.

13. What's your favorite thing to do as a couple?
Lazy Sunday (we have a better nickname for it). We alternate with serving each other breakfast in bed, then we both cook something new together for lunch, and we relax and watch movies or tv or read or listen to music and talk all day. Our best lazy Sunday was when we first started dating which turned into a lazy Friday-Monday and involved Sade, a bottle of rum, a bottle of pisco, lots of never have i ever and other fun games and no food because I was too happy/excited/nervous to eat (it was totally PG, by the way!)

14. Do you have kids?
No, but we have a puppy

15. What's a hidden talent of his?
He's really good at drawing and excellent at all games that involve strategy.

16. How old is he?

17. What do you admire most about him?
His patience. He has more patience with everyone than anyone else I know. He is a born teacher and listener. I'm learning from him.

18. What's his favorite past time?
Lounging around when it's not Sunday and getting me to do it with him without making us both feel guilty about not "doing" anything

19. What's his favorite type of music?
Haha, we have had our fair share of arguments over who gets to pick the music! His favorite band is Tool which is great with me, but we part ways at Slipknot, yet have found neutral ground with bands like The Killers, Rage Against the Machine, and any music released before 1995.

20. Do you think he'll read this?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Visa things, Sunday things

So, today is the last day I'll get to sleep past 7:00am since I'm getting another class.  I can't complain about that since it's a normal time to wake up, but I LOVE sleep. I absolutely cherish it and I seem to be getting worse and worse about it.  Today, I slept blissfully until I. called me at 10:30am which made me feel so guilty since he has to get up at 7:30am everyday to go to a job he's not that interested in.  So, I jumped up after an amazing dream that I met Oprah at the Emmy's and got to tell her about one of my friends who is her protege, and decided to check on my visa status with extranjería.

 The last I checked, they claimed my paperwork hadn't arrived and after going to correos de chile and seeing the high-tech, classified mail system they have that I paid for (come on, have you ever heard of COMPUTERS???!!!!), they wrote in pen a confirmation that it had been delivered.  My logical question was, "is there a more official document I can bring to extranjería to show that it was delivered".  The response I got, "No, no.  This is the official time.  If you want a copy you'll have to go to Plaza de Armas and see if they'll let you have a copy, but I don't think they will".  So, I'm thinking "alright, where the hell in Plaza de Armas do I go?"  And the nice, but dense man tells me that I'll know it when I see it.  I was late to meet my cuñi so I just left it at that.

So, back to this morning. I call and the woman actually finds me in the system this time and says that I was missing a piece of paper in the envelope and that they had sent it back.  Even though the woman at my institute supposedly put my envelope together the way it should have been and just handed it to me to send, That's an OK answer for me.  The woman at my institute is relatively friendly and everyone makes mistakes.  I don't even mind using the mail that takes at least a week when I could drop it off by hand in 10 minutes.  I think I've always been pretty patient with Chilean bureaucracy as long as the last person I'm sent to actually gives me a useful answer (it's normally an address on the other side of the city).  The people at extranjería have been surprisingly helpful and friendly to me, but my problem is that I really need to get that visa in the mail ASAP, If for nothing else than not to give the new guy at Ekono a heart attack when I use my passport number and not my carnet number when I pay with a credit card.  But seriously, I need you visa, I want you visa, so hurry up!

On a totally different note, yesterday was election day.  And the craziest thing about it to me is that men and women vote in different colegios.  That just seems way too old-fashioned even for Chile, but as my suegra said (and I couldn't help but laugh), laws are just too hard to change here so most of Pinochet's legacy is the same because it's next to impossible to change.  That to me just sums up most Chileans and their views on politics, but that's another post in general.  

But my point in mentioning elections was to talk about my Sunday.  My suegra actually warned me not to go out. Or rather said it would be better if we didn't go out.  I'm still not sure why, but I have a feeling it had nothing to do with elections and everything to do with the fact that she wanted us to go to her house for the day, but we already had plans.  And it seems like everyone else had those same plans: Parque Forrestal.  I. and I had a picnic there and let Olive run crazy for a few hours while half of Santiago walked by.  I have never seen the park this crowded and we are there almost every weekend.  There were more shows and people selling things than ever.  I love to watch all of the circus talent there.  There were a group of people climbing and swinging off two rope-type thingies that seem to be all the rage (when I saw Justin Timberlake in concert, Pink opened for him and was swinging all around the stage on them).   Even though it was incredibly crowded, we still had a really nice, quiet place to eat the yummy potato salad I made,  sneak-drink a bottle of wine, and play cards.  And now it's back to work...

P.S. I've been thinking about my group post and am having a hard time narrowing down my post so it may not be until tomorrow or later tonight...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great Schlep

In the spirit of it almost being election month in the U.S., I wanted to share a "political" video with everyone.  My inspiration for sharing this video comes from a wonderful blog, Mandy Moves.  She posted a great video made by and for women to raise awareness about what Sarah Palin's possible vice presidency (and if that happens, likely presidency) means for women and their rights (about 100 giant steps back in time). Check it out here.

Now, my video comes from Sara.  But I'm not talking about Sarah right-wing-idiotic-barbie doll Palin; I'm talking about Sara possibly-the-funniest-woman-alive Silverman.  For anyone who isn't familiar with her, I warn you that her genial humor is based on offending EVERYONE so don't watch if that's not your cup of matzoh ball soup (but, come on, it's so obvious she's a smart and liberal-minded person).  

Anyway, she made a video called the Great Schlep supporting Barack Obama and it's probably the only celebrity endorsement of a politician that isn't so cheesy it makes me want to vomit.  More importantly, it's absolutely hilarious!  For any Jewish bloggers (or just Jews-at-heart like me), it's that much funnier.

Check it out below and enjoy (I hope!).  I apologize for my computer illiteracy, but I don't know how to put the video directly on my blog so I'm just posting the link

Monday, October 20, 2008

Job Woes

I think I can safely post about an institute (without naming it) since I totally didn't get the job there and I have to vent.  

So, about 2 months ago I interviewed at an English institute that actually offers full-time contracts with a salary.  I was sooooo excited because a monthly salary, regardless of how small it is, is so exciting to me I'd take half of what I've made some months here teaching by the hour.  So, I have this great interview where we just end up chatting about this professor from my old school (UVA) and this grammar book we both love.  Anyway, this woman tells me that I am definitely getting the job and that I have a second meeting with their HR person to discuss contract possibilities. 

I am so thrilled at this point because I had just recently quit a job I hated and was making half of what I did the 2 months before.  So, I go back and meet with this woman who then says that the fact that I was going to the U.S. or a week caused a little bit of a problem, but they were going to figure out a different contract and let me know that week, but that I definitely had the job and would start training the next week.  Here's where they get horrible and unprofessional.

I don't hear from them that week.  Nada.  So, I wait until Monday and write a polite, just checking in email to the HR lady.  No response.  A few days later, I write the woman who interviewed me to check in.  No response.   A week later, I write again almost just for fun because I know I'll get no response.  Frantically, I drop my resume off everywhere and get a job at an institute that pays o.k., but I really wanted the salary job.

SOOOOO, 2 months and 4 emails with no responses later, I get a bullshit email saying "Oh, I'm so sorry but your email got lost. Contact me ASAP if you still want to work with us."  MY first reaction, was are you f-ing kidding me with this ASAP crap???! But, my second was YAYYY possible job.  So, I emailed her back as per her annoying request asking about a contract job.  She emails me back saying I should come in for an interview this Tuesday when I have a class.  I write a polite email back explaining that I have to work then, but that I'm available anytime after that class.  I also ask what the content of the meeting will be so I can properly prepare myself.

OK, so 2 hours later I get this totally bitchy response saying "I only emailed you because you still seemed interested in working with us, but I never wanted to waste your time (as suggested in your email below), so I think it's best to cancel our meeting for Tuesday."  

I'm sorry, but I didn't know that asking about the meeting so I can be prepared could be translated as "you're just wasting my time", can it?  And even so, is it really allowed to send an email like that when you're supposed to be a professional?  It's totally fine to decide not to hire someone based on that, but I think there are much better and more professional ways of handling it.  

So, now I'm back to my old ways of panicking  about my class hours every month and searching for any type of full-time job.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"I've had plenty of Joe jobs. Nothing I'd call a career. Let me put it this way: I have an extensive collection of name tags and hairnets"

Today started out as a busy and early day. I had several classes to go to and lots of catching up to do now that I'm back in Chile.  I got a great start and happily walked to work to get my materials from the substitute who was supposed to drop them off for me.  So, I got to institute #2 today only to find out that all classes were cancelled (i.e. I'm not getting paid today) because of día del profesor.  HAH!

I'm sorry, but I find that ironic or maybe just really crappy luck.  Yay, let's celebrate teachers.  Yeah.  Great!  But, I'm not a teacher.  Or at least, not a salary-paid one.  So, if you're going to celebrate me, pay me double or at least give me double the hours to work.  But please, PLEASE don't cancel my classes and tell me happy day. 
But, I'm actually not as upset as I know I should be about not getting paid.  Why?  Because I love doing nothing in my apartment and I found the best source for it: Movies.  Free movies.  Lots of movies.  Legal movies.  You can basically stream any movie you can think of and it's pretty quick.

So, for all of you English teachers out there who frequently go from a very busy day to a practically free one because of your classes being cancelled, be a bum like me and start brushing up on your best movie quotes.

I'm starting Wayne's World right now...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Airport Thoughts

I´m waiting to board a plane to Santiago after almost a week at home in Virginia for my friend´s wedding (pictures to come). After about an hour of panicking about my bags getting to Chile, I am calm now and resting after running all over the airport in Buenos Aires. I have no money to buy food so I´m stuffing my face with the Halloween candy I brought back ¨for my students¨. I cannot wait to get home to my I., Olive, and apartment. But I am dreading going back to work because I´m afraid they took my classes away from me or aren´t going to pay me because I wasn´t here to turn in my hours. BUT, I will save the bulk of that worrying until tomorrow morning at 8am when I have my first class.

In the meantime, I can´t help but think about 3 lovely Argentine women I met on my flight from Washington to Buenos Aires. The first, I met in a panicked state while walking to my gate. She was screaming in Spanish and the information desk employee was begging for a translator so I thought I´d try out my frantic Spanish comprehension. I think I just cut it because this woman was yelling and sighing and running back and forth so I really had to concentrate to get all she was saying.

It went something like this (in translation, of course):

my girls, they took my girls!! the police...because of dolls!!! i was in New York and now I´m here and my girls!! We have to go home and the police have my girls and we bought those dolls and my pássport and I need to go to Buenos Aires!!!!

Finally, she got a call (from international police, I guess?) that her girls were being released from custody and when I saw her at our gate she was a totally different person and calmly explained that she and her daughters were basically stripped and searched and then brought into one of those little rooms all because they brought those little tiny snowglobes on. Needless to say, they´ll never go back to Dulles Airport because they were so hysterical and scared and it´s all because they accidentally brought something through security and then couldn´t speak English well enough to explain it.

Minutes before I met the first woman, I was in line at security thinking about how it had changed a lot and hired all new people since the last time I´d been there. This may have just been my particular line, but all of the employees seemed a lot meaner than usual and I heard several extremely racist comments told as running jokes coming from the NSA employees in the short 3 minutes I was there. I think it´s more than coincidence that I noticed those changes only to witness their product minutes later with the mother of the daughters who were detained.

This treatment of people is disgusting. I won´t get into details about my views on national security and the threat of terror (yet), but I have a problem with NSA´s changes after September 11, 2001, and I hate that 3 extremely friendly and wonderful women will never come back to the U.S. because of the experience they had last night.

I am grateful to have met them and then coincidentally sat next to them on the plane because they were so sweet and it´d be so nice to visit them when I´m Buenos Aires this December.

That´s about it! Can´t wait to land in Santiago!

Oh, and I voted yesterday! All I can say is take that, McCain and retarded Sarah Palin

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

good ol' U.S. of A.

For one week, I will be in the great EEUU.  I am going home for my best friend's wedding and am  basically coming back right after.  It will be a short trip, but I basically can't afford to not be working any longer than a week.  I am excited to see my sister, my dad, my best friend, and my dog.  Not to mention other close friends and family.  I cannot wait to eat cheddar cheese and vietnamese pho.  I'll also take advantage of cheap and good used book stores and new John and Kate Plus 8 and The Office episodes. 

 Pathetically enough, I am really sad to say goodbye to I. (I'm switching to this now) and Olive even though its for such a short time. Regardless of how long I'll be gone, it still means a huge side of my bed will be empty every night I'm not here.  But, I am so excited to see my best friend marry her perfect mate.  After almost 10 years together, there is no doubt in anyone's minds that they are meant for each other and I can't wait to be simultaneously sobbing and laughing right next to her as she fulfills her dreams this Saturday (she has been waiting for this day since we were in 8th grade).  

I'm sure I'll post from home, but it will be Izzy in Virginia this week which doesn't quite have the same ring as Chabelita in Chile, but oh well!

Blog with a great cause

I'm pretty sure that everyone who reads this blog also reads this blog by kyle, but just incase, I'm linking it here.  In short, she and her husband are sponsoring a very talented man's education so that he can make a decent living in Chile.  

For anyone who doesn't know, getting paid well and getting good jobs depends so much on what you studied and what type of degree you got which means raw talent doesn't carry much, if any weight.  You can be the most amazing teacher there is, but if you don't have your MA in education, you will not be paid the same as other mediocre teachers.  This is the case with Marcelo, the man Kyle and her husband are putting through school.  He is a very talented surveyor (I think this is the correct translation of trasador) and loves his job, but unless he gets his degree from an institute, he can be the best there is and still get paid nothing (and I mean nothing).  

The point is that Kyle and her husband have offered the incredible: to cover all of his education expenses.  This is amazing.  These are two enormously generous people who are doing a wonderful thing for their friend.  Any readers can help out by buying Kyle's pictures from her photography website because 100% of the money she makes selling her prints goes to Marcelo's education.  Check out her link here and see how good she is.  The US embassy just bought several prints from her so she's got to be damn good!  

Go read about it and then if you have a blog, put a link in it.  If not, put it up on facebook or myspace or something

Good luck, Marcelo!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Disappointing debate/really fun night!

Debate wise, tonight sucked.  Palin did what she does best and avoided answering any question, but I think Biden and the moderator were more at fault for not calling her on it.  Now I know Biden has to be careful because he's a man and he can be seen as attacking a woman or whatever, but come on.  He had a real opportunity here and he came out just OK.  All I can think is how AMAZING it would have been to have seen Hillary up there against Palin.  She would have ripped her head of, chewed it up, and spit it back out (literally and figuratively speaking) and one one could have accused her of being sexist.  You can only accuse her of being intelligent (and determined/bitchy/whatever).  Big mistake, Barack! 

Anyways, my night was saved by great company and delicious food at Basic.  I can't praise that place enough.  Obviously, my mom and boyfriend were there which makes things great, but I also met two other blogging gringas (Sara and Shannon) who are just fabulous!  And not to mention Jessica who I already knew was fabulous.  So, the mediocre debates were evened out by fun people.

Ok, I'm going to sleep since I have class bright and early.  I can't wait to hear and read more about these debates...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Debates, debates, debates!!

ok, so I'm just a blogging machine today after my blogging hiatus.  As I've read in some other blogs, people are as excited or riled up about this year's presidential election in the U.S. as I am and the VP debates (If they don't pull Palin off the campaign) are this Thursday at 9pm.  Basic Bar in ñuñoa is having a debates night because they have a satellite and a big projector (not to mention delicious salads, pizzas, french fries, and tacos).  There will be drink specials for all Gringos with proof of gringoness and I think a few newspapers there interviewing expats.  All in all, I think it will be a great place for anyone without a satellite to watch the debates.  I'll be there with my mom, Italo, and Jessica from I left my heart in Santiago.  I hope other people can make it out there!

holiday in pictures

                           Me with my mom and mi suegra at the airport

    Italo and my mom dancing cueca

                                      My adorable abuelo-in-law

  Suegri and Primas doing what they do best

                                          Me with my amorsote

The Perfect holiday

These are the first minutes I've had alone to write since September 16th.  My dieciocho holiday weekend turned into 2 weeks and it has been amazing. My mother came to visit me the morning of the 16th and is here until we both fly to Virginia for my best friend's wedding on October 7th and it has been nonstop since she got here.  Briefly, here's 10 reasons on why it has been so amazing for me:

1. Italo and I celebrated 1 amazing year together on September 18th and it was the best day I've had in Chile so far

2. My mom and mi suegra have formed this unbelievable bond that makes me think they may be long-lost sisters (uhhh without the creepy implications about Italo and me, that is).  This has included sleepovers, trips to viña and cutting and styling hair.

3.  In a matter of days, Italo's entire family has really become my family's family, not just my family and I think we have about 7 asados, 20 empanadas, 40 bottles of delicious wine and 2 extra kilos each to prove this.  

4.  I am actually sore from all the dancing and laughing that has gone on.

5.  My mother decorated our apartment so now it really is the cutest apartment in Santiago.

6.  We're finally getting cable so I can keep up with all of the crazy election news and the rest I'll get from watching Bill Maher on youtube.

7.  I found this amazing seamstress who took in my bridesmaid dress for about a 1/7 of what it would cost at that damn Priscilla of Boston who tricked me into buying a dress 2 sizes too big.

8.  Olive the puppy is exhausted every night from playing with her Chilean dog family which means she doesn't bite my face, chew my shoes, or steal my pillow at night.  I can  finally sleep comfortably.

9.  I have eaten about 15 delicious and huge salads since the 16th and for anyone who knows me, a good salad in Chile is worth writing about.*  

10.  I have never been more comfortable or confident in the way my life and relationship are going.  This is where I want to be and who I want to be with.  We won't be here forever, but for now it's the perfect place for us.

*I will do a follow-up post with my favorite salad places because I have hunted them down 

Note: I will post pictures once I make more space on my computer.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Speedy Argentina Trip

So, I am in this little predicament because my visa expires September 16th, I am leaving the country for a wedding soon after, and I just got a contract or a job that will give me a visa.  All this and still, I have to get out of here before Tuesday or I could have a problem coming back.  I spent all morning in Extranjeria and was finally attended by the nicest and most helpful lady, but unfortunately she couldn't do anything about the fee for extending your visa.  I totally understand that they charge you to stay longer here, but it's cheaper for me to hop on over to Mendoza than pay the fee so I'm definitely doing that. 

 Sounds fine, but I really only have less than 48 hours to do so because my mom is coming to visit me (YAYYY) and she would not be thrilled to get to the airport only to find out I'm on a bus in Mendoza.  SOOOOOO, I think I have to use half of the money I saved to be able to treat my mom while she's here and hop on over to Mendoza.  Any other gringas who need to renew their visas wanna join me?  I think the buses don't leave at night during this time of year, but I'm going down to the bus station this afternoon to check out my possibilities.  Odds are, I'll be leaving bright and early tomorrow morning and coming back Sunday night.  

Luckily, this will be the only time I'll have to do this...

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Ok. After watching the news on one of the only channels we get in our apartment, I can't help but write more.  In general, I hate the news coverage here.  I think it sucks.  There is never much world news covered and the Chilean news is generally a little bit about what did or didn't happen during the day and the rest is an exposé on the dangers of __________.  These clips are always accompanied by a lot of dun dun dun and other ominous sound effects or music. This sort of coverage perpetuates what I posted about in the previous post.  Tonight, it was announcing several deaths and robberies and at the end, saying they happened in the past and not today.  We all know we were meant to think that they happened today.

In seeing that tonight, I can't help but think about a particular day last year when a college student committed suicide in Las Condes.  Someone had taken pictures from their cell phone and sent them in to all of the news channels.  Fine. That always happens.  But for 20 minutes, every channel flashed the 3 or 4 pictures the person took of this person on their balcony, climbing over their balcony, and then the worst, in the air.  

I'm not saying at all that other countries wouldn't do the same, but I would hope that it wouldn't be for that long or at least that it wouldn't be accompanied by the "reporting" that went on whilst these pictures were being shown.  It was just chatter.  Meaningless speculations about why this person might have done this and what they think the family and friends might be feeling.  meanwhile, they were not only being disrespectful to those family members and friend affected by this death, but they were also not doing their jobs. I'm sorry, but that is not journalism.  I know that news anchors in the United States are very frequently criticized for this same thing so I'm not saying it's just Chile.  I think the shootings at Virginia Tech prove that the most.  Instead of good journalism, famous faces walked around shoving their microphones in students' faces asking them, "how do you feel?" and "I bet your sad about what happened and it was scary. What do you have to say?".  I think that type of "interviewing" really demonstrates a lack of understanding and certainly a lack of professionalism.

Ok, enough complaints for a while....

Is today really all that dangerous?

3 out of 4 of my classes today were cancelled today because it's September 11th.  And yes, I know it's not OUR September 11th (you would not believe how many people spend a good amount of time explaining what happened in Chile on September 11th even though I say I know.  Even when I have already mentioned that I studied and majored in all things Latin American and that Chilean history and culture are why I came to Santiago in the first place, people just love teaching me a thing or two about it). Ok I'll stop complaining about how almost nobody here seems to think it's possible to get a degree in Latin American Studies...or, I'll just save it for another post.

Anyway, what I meant to say without digression was that I was here last year for September 11th and it was a very uneventful day. I think I went to my morning class in San Joaquin and then stayed on my little block in Providencia eating sushi, studying at starbucks,  and then going to the gym.  After all of the hype and warnings, it ended being such a tranquil day that I was almost bored.  This year has not been much different except that I'm not bored because now I absolutely love being at home with Olive and playing blogger.  I also went on 3 enormous walks, the best one being with Olive and Italo in Parque Forrestal.  And to top off, I ate yummy chocolate and bought delicious and cheap bottle of wine.  Now, I cannot say that it is a tranquil day for everyone.  I know in the past policeman have been killed and stores broken into and everything.  I'm just saying that it hasn't affected my day at all; aside from my not being paid, that is.  

Originally, I was told that the worst of today would be in the center of the city (I live right there.  Seriously, I'm practically live on la Alameda).  After having made several "it's not that bad" comments, I was then told the action is more towards the outskirts of Santiago and it has to be late at night.  Ok.  I'll accept that.  But I do have my doubts about the severity of the situation here today mainly because I have my doubts about what most Chileans (especially older Chilean women of a certain class) think is dangerous.  Here's why:

While I was studying here last year, my host mother repeatedly told me how dangerous everything was.  On September 11, 2007,  it would have been too risky to go to the Baquedano metro to go to my class that day.  I ended up going; not out of rebellion, but out of fear of not meeting the attendance percentages of my class. Everything was fine through Baquedano.  Now, I'm not much for tear gas nor am I interested in placing myself in the middle of the action for the sake of experience or good pictures, but I also have a bucket full of anecdotes to back up my skepticism. I did not come here this way, but I quickly learned that most of the things my host family and other people warned me against had next to no possibility of happening.  

If I were to follow their advice, I would never leave the apartment with more than 300 pesos because otherwise I'd be robbed of all my money (the 300 pesos would be to give to the person that would still rob me anyway so I'd be screwed either way).  I would also never walk from the metro to my apartment without my boyfriend there to pick me up and defend me from potential robbers or anything else bad there is.  Talking on my cell phone outside of my apartment would never be an option because I would be knifed and then robbed.  And I could never wear any jewelry, no matter how inexpensive, unless I were going from my building to a car (obviously driven by a man) and directly into the restaurant, bar, what have you.  

Now, this certainly doesn't mean that I walk around thinking nothing will ever happen to me.  In fact, I'm quite the opposite.  I am overly cautious when it comes to walking around alone.  My friends from college always made fun of me because I walked around with my purple mace in my purse and always had my key wedged in between my knuckles incase someone attacked me from behind.  I think I was just being cautious, but perhaps they would write about me in the same way I write about Chilean women of a certain age and class (if they had that much free time on their hands, that is).  But unfortunately to my defense, I went to a school where there was at least one known and yet to be caught serial rapist and on average, one rape and murder a year.  That is plenty to scare me into being careful and will most likely continue to do so.

I guess my point is that if I, Isabel the one who's afraid of everything, don't walk around sans rings, cell phone, and mil pesos or so, then things must be okay.  I am the wimp of the bunch.  The one who says "maybe we shouldn't" or "I'd rather not" yet I still do not see where these ladies are getting it.  I feel so much safer here in Chile than I ever have in the United States and I think plenty of statistics will validate those feelings. 

And I definitely wish I had worked and been paid for today!

(and I did just see the news with all of the stuff that has happened in the past on September 11th so I know there definitely is at least some raucous going on)

*After Italo read this, he pointed out that when i said, "I know it's not OUR September 11th" it comes off as my thinking ours is more important or historically significant and that's not what I meant to say.  I meant that despite common assumptions that all Americans are ignorant of things going on outside of, or even within, the United States, some of them do know at least a little bit.  In my mind, it would read as more of a jab to my fellow Americans (as in estadounidenses) than to Chileans.  I think almost every American friend or family member I can think of right now would, without thinking twice, only think of the United States 9/11 and certainly not the Chilean one.

Friday, September 5, 2008

My (tiny) handful of Chilenas

I tried not to read the other posts on Chilean women but couldn't help but read two of them before I started mine which got me to thinking that I am not all that fired up about this topic as I thought I was or as I was when I was studying here.  I think it's because when you're studying here, you're like a little puppy who's interested in anything and everything you can do that's Chilean with the highest goal being Chilean friends.  One of my friends on the same program with me ended up with her feelings seriously hurt at the end of 6 months because regardless of how hard she tried, she could never cross that line over to friendship with a Chilean (she stayed a year and actually succeeded with 1 or 2).  The rest of us either turned bitter or met wonderful guys so we didn't really care, or both.

Now, since I'm going to be in Chile for a few more years, I'm not all that interested in doing Chilean things because my life is already a Chilean thing.  I get way more excited when I meet other gringas in Chile because my day is 80% Chilean so maybe my initial bitterness turned to apathy and now it's just sort of nothing.  I totally agree that women everywhere can come off as bitchy and that Chileans come from a very closed society so those are 2 obstacles to overcome as a foreigner.  I have many ideas about other contributing factors, but I think almost everyone has mentioned them.  Instead of my confusing and indecisive analysis that may come off as pesada, I want to talk about a few of the amazing Chilean women in  my life here.  It may come off as incredibly cheesy and and a little pathetic because most of them are related to my boyfriend, but oh well!

First, Paulina, my boyfriend's mother.  She is one of the most amazing women I have ever met and someone I admire greatly.  She has raised her 3 children beautifully and without much emotional or financial support from their father.  She is the hardest worker I know but receives a crappy Chilean salary, yet I have never heard her complain once.  She is neither bitchy nor timid.  I see here almost daily for coffee and a crossword puzzle and it's by choice.  Since the day I met her (which incidentally was the day I met my boyfriend Italo as well), she opened up her home to me.  She is both a motherly figure and a friend here to me.  And she doesn't hate me for plucking her eldest son out of her house for the first time (or, at least not openly!).  Life for me in Chile would be different if it weren't for her.

Now, Mayo, mi cuñada.  She had me cracking up laughing even before we met.  And she was kind enough to try to speak in English my first months here so that I didn't feel so ashamed of my accent and funny enough for me to understand her Chilean sense of humor right away.  She is the most outgoing person I know and I genuinely enjoy spending quality time with her (she's playing wii right now in my apartment as I'm writing this).  She has befriended all of my family (seriously, even my sister's boyfriend who doesn't speak a word of Spanish) and is much better at keeping in touch with everyone than I am because that's just her nature.  She is another essential aspect of my life here.

In addition to Paulina and Mayo, I am in daily contact with some of the most admirable and kind women I have ever known and they all happen to be Chilean.  Having said that, I must also admit that when people say they haven't made very close friends here, I am the first to blurt out that it is next to impossible to make Chilena friends because Chilean women want nothing to do with us gringas.  I totally cheated and made friends out of in-laws and their friends, but I am perfectly content with that because I still think it's ridiculously hard to get a Chilean woman to trust you enough to be your friend, and I'm not interested in their playing hard to get!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Metro Faux Pas

This morning on the metro I realized that on a daily basis, I experience a series of emotions in a matter of minutes during my commute to work.  I live near the Santa Lucia metro stop and only go 5 stops away to Pedro de Valdivia (it's around an 8 to 10 minute trip), but in those 8 to 10 minutes, I often go from panic, to rage, to sympathy to relief and then back to rage.  Here's an example:

7:37am: I know I have to be at work by 8:00 and it's a 7-minute walk/run from the metro so I book it down the left side of the stairs to try to make it on the metro before the doors close.  I fail at the first attempt.

7:39am: The second metro comes by and I pick my spot according to which cars look less crowded, but a few shorter and more experienced Chilean women beat me to the spot I thought I had and I experience my first wave of panic because I am sure I won't make it by 8:00 (although none of my students ever arrives before 8:10am, I hate being late)

7:42am:  The next metro comes even fuller, but I turn my panic into determination and hold my ground against the people trying to cut in the imaginary line I create since I was there first.  I succeed in that I squish my way on the metro, but 4 people squeezed and pushed their way ahead of me

7:48am:  A young woman gets on the metro with her infant and just misses being knocked over by someone else trying to get on in front of her who may or may not have seen her precious cargo.  I get so angry I want to scream, but then a man jumps up from his seat, pushes through the crowd, and makes sure the woman sits down with her baby and within seconds, my faith is restored in Chileans.  

7:52am:  Pushed up against the door with an 8-year-old boy gleefully playing bumper cars with me without my consent while his father just smiles at his darling son (I want to punch them both), we get to Pedro de Vadivia where about half of the metro gets off.  I dash up the steps in hopes that I don't get stuck behind the chilenas on their way to their colegios and begin my practice of darting in and out of pedestrian road blocks on my way to work.

7:59am:  I run up the steps to work and am sweating a little from my 7-minute speed walk.  I  breathlessly say hello to the secretary who always laughs when I run up the steps to my empty classroom.  

8:00am-8:10am:  I twiddle my thumbs and drink coffee until my students arrive

I was thinking about why I continue to have the same experience and I think the easiest answer is that I'm a foreigner from a country where personal space is important and where most people follow relatively strict rules in public.  For example, I'm originally from outside of DC where the metro is only crowded in the mornings and the evenings, but no one's face is ever jammed against the door.  If some woman were to push by me and through the 10 people trying to get off of the metro, 5 bystanders would say something either under their breaths or to her face about how rude that is.  Here, if you don't hold your ground waiting to get on the metro in the morning, you will never get on.  While I was studying here, I often let 2 to 3 metros pass before I found a decent-sized space without having to push or shove.  Now, I find myself committing several transportation faux pas according to the imbedded American rules I always carry with me, but I chalk them up to necessity without thinking twice.  I often think that if New York City metro-goers or DC riders could see me, they'd shake their heads in disapproval, but then I think about the other side of it and decide they have no idea what it's like here (and I had no idea before because I almost always got around by car or by foot and saved metros for vacations and day trips to DC).  But there are some people, like my sister, who will forever be disgusted and annoyed by how not all countries respect a line of people waiting for something or personal space.  She visited me in Chile last year and it drove her crazy how lines quickly dissolved as people dashed to be first and how pedestrians did not follow the same "stay on the right side" rule as cars.  I think my daily metro rage comes from that thinking and then I quickly calm down.  You could call it a mini-culture shock I will never fully adjust to or perhaps plain stupid Americanness.  Either way, I don't think I'll ever get over being slightly annoyed when people arrive at 9:25 when we planned to meet at 9:00 or when people step all over my feet and push me into a position that makes them more comfortable on the metro.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My baby step into the blogging world

Ok, I have avoided blogs for years now and I'm not exactly sure why.  I think it may be because I've always seen them as public diaries which is an oxymoron for me. Or, it's because I am an absolute moron on a computer and so I never know how to start one (thankfully, my boyfriend set this one up for me in about 1 minute).  Regardless of my "reasoning", I am no longer able to resist the temptation.  So here first blog (I'm nervous!):

Why Chabelita in Chile? 

Chabelita is the Chilean equivalent of Izzy, my most commonly used nickname in the United States (there's also Iz, Izzer, Isa, Wizard, Jingle Bell, Taco Bell, and my favorite from my oldest friend Phil: Izzysmell).  Basically, anything that has a bel or an iz in it, I'll answer to.  I had never heard Chabelita before I came to Chile, but I love it.  Nicknames are wonderful in that certain people never use them and others meet you and 10 seconds later they start throwing out the craziest nicknames right and left (snl making the copies, anyone?).  I love both types of people.  I have an ongoing bit with one of my friends because she will not call me anything other than Isabel by principle so I use every occasion to try to get a nickname out of her.  Almost 5 years and counting and nothing!

In Chile is where I live.  Since June of 2007, my life has been full of all things Chilean.  As much as I'd like to think it's not true, my story is not unique in any sense.  I studied abroad here for 6 months, fell in love with a Chilean and my life has become more and more Chilean ever since.  After returning to the states to graduate from college, I have been back to Chile twice and am now here for who knows how long.  I live with the love of my life in an amazing and cheap apartment with our adorable puppy, Olive.  I work as an English teacher (again, nothing new here) and also teach private lessons to two very interesting Chilean students.  This is my (and my boyfriend's) first time living alone with no financial support (oh, how I took college for granted) so it's wonderful and terrifying at the same time (Chilean salaries suck!).  Luckily, we both have an endless amount of emotional support from both sides of the equator (I'll stop saying we soon, I swear!).

Why blog now when I've been so obnoxiously and pointlessly against it?

I have 3 reasons:

1.  I'm fickle and a total hypocrite. Or, at least I am concerning this, but hopefully not in general!

2.  Some of my friends keep blogs while they're living abroad to keep their friends and family updated without sending out mass emails and I think that's a great idea.

3.  There is a very active community of gringa bloggers in Chile and I have become obsessed with their blogs and want to stop semi-stalking them and actually post my comments ;) I hope that came off as flattering and not creepy, hah!

There you have it, my first baby blog post.  My next one will most likely be part of a group blog on Chilean women because, as anyone close to me knows, I find this an interesting, perplexing and in some situations, frustrating topic.