Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Yes, I'll have my coffee with some legs

It's pretty clear that I am a proud resident of Santiago Centro and a morning like this one is exactly why. In under 45 minutes I cashed/deposited checks at two banks (NOT the norm for me), went to the supermarket next door, AND stopped by one of my favorite Santiago Centro cafes: Cafe Caribe. This incredible weather has a lot to do with it, but it's also the convenience of everything.

I have been thinking about Chilenidad since reading the past few posts over at Cachando Chile and talking it over with my students. Yesterday, we made a list of all the things that we think of when we think of Chilenidad and one of my students wrote Cafe con Piernas, which got me thinking about how much I love SOME of them and how much I would miss them outside of Chile.

I'm pretty confident that everyone living in Chile or even researching a trip to Chile knows about the famous Cafe con Piernas. I also think most newly arrived visitors hit one up within days of arriving here because they're written up in every guide book and even featured on the travel channel hit show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

I certainly visited Cafe Haiti my first week here and didn't plan on going back after my token tourist experience. I thought, "OK, weird and uncomfortable outfits, kinda skeezy men hitting on the servers, and I have to stand up--no thanks."

Now, I see Cafe con Piernas (the ones where you can SEE through the glass, not the strip club ones) in a whole different light. It's a place where you can get an espresso and soda water for about $1.25 in under a minute. Seriously, those women work FAST and they are equally nice to women as they are to men because everyone seems to tip prety well there. What I also love is that I can indulge in a cigarette as I drink my coffee (probably one of my favorite combinations in the world, as much as I try not to smoke) and feel blissfully at home among the groups of co-workers having a quick cigarette and coffee break together.

Don't get me wrong. There are things I don't like. I still hear some men saying gross things to the servers and watching as they laugh it off since this guy's a regular and he tips well. That part makes me skin crawl, but I'm also surprised at how ingenious the business idea is if you take out the skimpy outfits. I've always joked about starting a Cafe con Piernas for women, but I'd be happy with what they have now minus the dresses and heels because if you take that aspect out of it, it's a cheaper and faster alternative to Starbucks and it's just around the corner from me.

So, thanks to my student (who I hope was talking about the same cafe I'm talking about), I'm adding Cafe Caribe to my Chilenidad list. I love the place and will go more than usual this month.

Anyone else like them as much as I do? Anyone think it's horrible for a woman to go to a place like that? I'm interested to read what others think.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Qualms and Tights

For anyone who knows me, it goes without saying that I almost always wear a dress or sweats--there is no in between for me. If you stop by my apartment, I'll be in my pjs 99% of the time and if you see me on the street, I'll have one of the, ummm, 5 dresses I have here on. With a dress comes tights or leggings and then the problem.

I have such a hard time buying tights in Santiago. Well, that's not true. I have zero problem buying tights, but a big problem with making them fit correctly. One brand's size chart is nothing like the other and the whole talla única (one size fits all) thing doesn't work for me or anyone else I know. Seriously. This winter I bought this gorgeous pair of wool tights I was so excited to wear/be warm in and they didn't fit me or two of my other friends (we all have varied body types so it's a pretty good test of what this "one size" should be).

Today, I decided my outfit for something important would include black tights and then realized that I, with the help of my cat, had ruined every pair I had and thus needed a new one. My saint of a boyfriend went to about 10 different stores looking for what I wanted while I got ready. Saint Italo came back with 4 pairs that were all the same size and yet only two ended up working.

This is frustrating because I lose money when a pair doesn't work out since you typically can't return tights here, but also love the selection here in Chile so much I'd rather run the risk of losing out on some money.

What is my point here? Because I'm caught in this vicious tight buying and wearing cycle, I am in possession of virtually the entire Monarch inventory. If anyone should ever need tights or leggings in a pinch, just ask me! I've got about plenty of pairs to spare (yes, think Seinfeld).

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Cooking Again

Because Italo has class every Saturday and I tutor, we usually grab a quick bite to eat on the way to somewhere else and have gotten out of the practice of going to la vega and cooking a big meal. Today, my kiddies were down south with their parents so I got back in the kitchen. I bought some reineta and veggies and grabbed the coconut milk my friend gave me and made Moqueca, a Brazilian fish stew. It was delicious, but the coconut milk makes it a heavy dish that would make my cuñada sick just thinking about how that mixes with the paprika, red pepper, and other spices. It's perfect if you want to lounge around afterwards, but now I need to go out and all I want is a nap!

I finally decided to take a picture, but it's from my computer so it's no masterpiece:

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Vamos a Decir que NO!

I don't know how it took me so long to see this video, and the others, but I'm glad I finally did:

This is from the 1988 Chilean National Plebiscite-where the Chilean people voted to end Augusto Pinochet's 16 1/2 year rule. Well, 56% of the Chilean people voted that way. The others were singing a different tune. Literally:

If you type anything about the Chilean Plebiscite on youtube, you'll find plenty of videos from both sides (more from "no") and if you're like me, you'll get lost watching the doctored videos with red images dripping down the screen to reveal burning buses and chaos.

Now, I'm certainly not going to get into a Pinochet discussion per se, but lately I have not been able to avoid this taboo conversation topic as much as I'd like to sometimes.

Because of my job, I teach mainly one type of man (nope, no lady student of mine fits the description) who share many things in common. They are wealthy, Catholic (more precisely Opus Dei), and conservative engineers who studied at either Universidad Los Andes or La Católica. I'm not generalizing here. It's a fact. I have all of their information in my teacher's binder. Here in Chile, these characteristics are pretty much code for "I'm a Pinochetista, or at least my parents were. And I voted for Piñera."* Most anyone in Chile will tell you that they can figure out (and they do try to figure it out) which "side" of the Allende/Pinochet uhh, "issue" a person is on within the first few minutes of meeting them and quite frankly, it's impossible not to. The signs are obvious and it's just something you pick up on here.

When I teach I don't bring up the old Allende/Pinochet** discussion ever for many reasons. Recently, however, my students have wanted to talk about this and everything associated with it when they've never even mentioned it before. Last week, one student laid his opinion out on the table and then went on and on about his feelings on having kept his mouth shut before. It was more like a therapy session on not being able to talk about his beliefs than anything else. Then on Friday, I had a much louder student give me an angry history lecture on the Chilean military (not at all what I learned from 4 years of Latin American Studies and 6 months of Chilean history courses here). Not a huge deal, but it's just so out of the norm that something's got to be going on. I really got the sense that these two students are fed up with being quiet about things and aren't going to stand it much longer. I'm extrapolating A LOT since I only have two examples to go by, but I definitely sense a change in how people who hummed along to the sí song back in 1988 talk about their political beliefs and I wonder if anyone else has had a similar experience.

*Someone pointed out that I'm making a direct comparison between Pinochet and Piñera, politically speaking, which is not what I mean to do, but I guess I need some writing classes to get that point across better :) What I mean to say is that this group of students I'm talking about supported Pinochet and also voted for Piñera. Piñera is not at all like Pinochet and I don't want to make readers think it's like that or that I think that.

**I'm also not saying that Allende was some dream president. AT ALL. I definitely sympathize more with the left in this case, but it would be naive of me to think one's the bad guy and the other's the good guy. And I tend to think every politician has a little (maybe a lot) of bad in him/her anyhow.