Thursday, April 2, 2009
Friday, March 13, 2009
Thursday, October 9, 2008
It seems blogger has kirked out and I cannot be bothered to figure out this photo madness right now. You get the idea. Papito = cuteness.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This is in response to the group blogging that Kyle has been organizing. Go check out her blog for links to other participants' blogs.
I've been resisting reading everyone's posts so I won't be influenced by things people have already said, but I imagine I'll repeat things here just because many of us have a lot of shared experiences. Nevertheless, here goes.
What do Chileans think about gringos? My gut response to this question is simple: I haven't the foggiest idea. In fact, most of the time when I catch a Chilean unabashedly staring at me, I shout (internally, of course), "What in the **** are you thinking? Is there food on my face? Is my fly open? Does the capitalistic society I represent disgust you? Do you find my obvious foreignness fascinating? Are you thinking of every MTV stereotype and applying it to me?" Although to be honest, I'm usually just thinking, "Please stop undressing me with your eyes. Please. Right now. Now? How about now? No? ****it."
But the question is not what Chileans think of me necessarily, it is what they think of gringos in general. But I have a doubt, as my students like to say. First of all, do we interpret this as gringos in the States, or expat gringos? Is there a difference? In my experience, it totally depends. For example, it seems that for some it is particularly difficult to understand why a gringo would leave the
Speaking of truths, a student of mine (grown man, very high up in the production company he works for) often likes to tell me how gringos are. Just the other day he told me that all gringos have huge cars. I tried to tell him that yes, while many do, there are people who choose to have smaller cars, or hybrid cars, or (gasp!) no car at all. They do exist. He informed me that I was wrong; "the gringo has to have a big car, it is his way". Thus spoke Mr. PP.
In terms of personality, however, I have heard some interesting conflicting perspectives. During a conversation where I was the only gringa, I heard of the shameful character of "the gringo" from someone who had firsthand experience with them (it seems they had all forgotten I was in the room, or that I was a gringa, because no one thought about their experiences with me...I was invisible, which is surprising because I am usually the gargantuan white elephant in the room, so to speak). In this situation, these people railed on the gringo as "cold" (probably the most common criticism), not affectionate at all and very difficult to get to know. The men are all business, the women all self-obsessed, and instead of raising their children, they spoil them.
At the same time, however, Chileans have told me how friendly gringos are, often using the term "buena onda", they are fun to be around and know how to have a good time. For example, when D came to the States to visit me (over 2 years ago) he was pleasantly surprised by how warm and welcoming my family and friends were. It seems, similar to Chilean culture, if you have an in, you can learn a different, often more positive aspect of the culture and the people.
It is difficult to demonstrate all the different perspectives I have come across and some days I think it's all horrible, others all superficially positive. Suffice to say, my life here has been terribly easy thanks to the fact that I am white. If I could count all the times I've tried to field questions and dispel myths about African Americans, well, I can't. And that, my friends, deserves its own post.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
So my trip to the US will include 2 weeks at a conference where I will be working and taking classes, 1 week home, a weekend in NYC, a long weekend in Boston/Portland, Maine for a wedding and then a few more days home and then back to Santiago! It's going to be even more surreal coming back. But life will take a new turn when I come back, I am moving into a new place, I will be much closer to friends and work in general, so I'm pretty excited about it! But I will miss people...lots of gringa friends, who I had a blast with last night at happy hour by the way, I hated that I had to leave early! And of course, D and family. So as usually, I am happy and sad and always missing someone and something. The daily challenge of my life! For the next 5 weeks I will do my best to just live in the present and soak up as much love and fun that I can from all my friends and family in the US. It's gotta last me for a while!
Wishing all my other bloggers out there well, if I don't post you know why!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
So, back to adjusting expectations. Perhaps I come from a particularly sheltured and rosy life, ok yeah let's face it, I do. I'm not talking supreme luxury, just an amazing family, high quality education, and consistant and amazing friends; quite rosy indeed! Suffice to say, I could always expect honesty and fairness from those around me. That is not to say that here I cannot expect honesty and fairness as well, however, in Chile it looks and tastes quite different. This is basic differences between cultures and it is just the kind of thing that creates conflict, misunderstandings and hurt feelings. In order to avoid all these unpleasantries, I now try to practice Kyle's method of adjusting expectations (well, that along with Heather's people filter, also a solid piece of good advice).
Taking this into account, many of those recently arrived, those who haven't reached the somewhat jaded point I'm at right now, can see the quaint and the beautiful, interesting and profound of this amazing country and culture. However, I have found that over time, in order to prepare for what seems the inevitable, I have to adjust my expectations and quite in the negative direction. In order to avoid getting burned, I expect to get burned, I expect to be attacked, I expect that someone will try to screw me out of pretty much anything, I expect people to not tell me the truth (I call this lying, although time and again I am told that this is in fact not lying....yet another cultural difference I have yet to really come out on the other side of), I expect plans to go awry, for people to not show up and not call to let me know, I expect people to arrive (in my terms VERY) late and to not apologize for keeping me waiting, and in general I expect to be taken advantage of. Many of these things have to do with the particular fact that I am a foreigner and this I recognize; there are always consequences for being a foreigner. At the same time, however, many of these things that can agravate the foreigner Chileans do to each other, and this does not go over well with all Chileans.
I must point out the essential: these are some of the difficult aspects of Chilean culture. I strongly believe that there are many that are really wonderful, otherwise I would not be here! Like I said before, this isn't to get down on Chile but more to be aware of some of the things that can happen and how some of us can handle it and not take things so personally. I invite open debate about these particular issues I am drawing attention to, as long as no one goes into the typical rant of, "the US is just as bad!" because that is not what I'm talking about. I am talking about specific experiences here in Chile, particularly the cultural differences that are really hard to come to terms with and how to face those in a way where you can actually learn and protect yourself.
I will add, however, that after about 10 months (on top of the year I spent here in 2005) my Emita pizazz for life is getting a little dull. I have had a hard go of adjusting to living here - it is nothing like studying here. I know this has just as much to do with me as it does with Chile in general, I miss my family and friends back home to the point of hating pretty much everything else at times (though not always, just sometimes!). But mostly, anywhere in the world this next step would be difficult. Figuring out where I am going from here is a daily challenge, one that worries me and unecessarily uses a lot of my energy. Adjusting my expectations on top of that really has taken its toll. I am tired and in such a state it is much easier to fall into the "man, this sucks" chorus. But I am taking things as they come, trying to figure out the best way to face cultural differences and make decisions accordingly. If there's one thing I remember from my Anthopology class at college it was that cultural relativity only goes so far. We have human reasoning for a reason; not all cultural differences are good and not all are bad. We can think for ourselves, and hopefully share some of those thoughts along the way.