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.