Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to babysit Papito

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. 

Last weekend, while Kyle was shooting Tamsin's beautiful wedding, I, along with my housemates, took care of precious Papito. Suffice to say, we loved it.
So what are the rules for being nana for the day for Papi? 
1. Take her away from Mama Kyle quickly so crying doesn't commence (magically, Papito was happily distracted by bushes and plants and other dogs' pee that Kyle could slip away without too much notice) 
2. Careful with the leash tugging, especially while entering and exiting death-eater elevator. 
3. Treat time!
4. Carinyo time with all house mates. This entails lots of jumping and frantic running, Papi likes meeting new people. 
5. Treat time!
6. Take her for an outdoor lunch. Good Papi, she just sits all relaxed, no table harassing while my housemate enjoyed her kebab. 
7. Treat time!
8. Take her for a wee pee break. Laugh as D marvels at how girl dogs pee (had he really never seen this before?)
9. Grab Papi and evacuate as big street dog meanders into my park. Papi is thankful.
10. Feel sad every time I leave the apartment and Papi cries at the door. 
I am such a luck Tia to get to spend the day with Papito.  I think Papi had a good day. 

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What do Chileans think of gringos?

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 US, especially to go to Chile. A friend of a friend once asked me, "What are you doing here?" I told him I was, well, um, living here because I wanted to experience life outside the US and be in Latin America. He was dumbfounded. "But why? The US is so much better. Everything works there. Life is so much nicer and easier." This understanding contributes, I believe, to what seems to be a commonly held perception that the gringo has it made: money, cars, a house, etc. With the help of television and Hollywood, this perception is often taken to the next step: the gringo is a spoiled creature with an easy life. Living here, I have learned the influential power television has over the perceptions held by the masses. Many a time a Chilean has asked me, full of curiosity, if we really are like those teen movies they always see. Are our high schools overrun by cliques of sexy stick figures and hulking football players? I never really know how to respond except by saying, well, according to my personal reality, no, but I imagine in some places yes, although it is most likely an exaggeration of a truth. 

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


It has been over 2 months. And this is unacceptable. Especially since writing is my passion and I want and need to keep practicing! These past months have been completely transformative for me. It seems the time leading up to my 24th birthday is pretty significant. Of course the task of bringing you up to date of what has transpired in my life is daunting and pretty impossible, but it is important to know that I learned an incredible amount about myself, my relationships, and what I need to be doing in the world right now. My time in the US was beyond amazing, I spent 2 eye-opening weeks at the Rudolf Steiner Institute where I took a course on Socially Engaged Spirituality with Nicanor Perlas (badass from the Phillipines) and a creative writing course with Paul Matthews (badass brit poet). I helped a friend move, visited friends in NY and attended one of my best friend's wedding! I was all over New England, spending hardly any time at home. I visited so many friends that I felt half of my time was spent saying goodbye! But seeing these people and meeting  new people really brought me back to my center. Just what I needed to learn to trust people again and feel more like myself. After spending so many consecutive months in Santiago, I felt myself getting more and more repressed (I used to express it as my soul being sucked out of me, but it's still there! Just somewhat squashed by smog and lack of kindness to strangers). This city works a number on me and I have since discovered that I need to spend some time living in a more rural environment. So, plans are in their baby stages of where and when I will head next. 
Chile will always have a part of my heart and soul (and a solid number of really amazing friends and "family" who for me have really become one and the same) and the idea of leaving is not an easy one. If you see me and we talk about this, if I seem nonchalant it is because if I allow myself to become emotional I might just totally fall apart. This you do not want to see. At least not more than once! So let's save it for the despedida. But till then, I plan on having fun, learning as much as possible, working and planning for the future. On top of that, most important news about me is MY APARTMENT! I am in love. I am living in my own place with 2 other gringas and I have never enjoyed something quite this much. Ok, slight exaggeration, but truly, it is stupendous. My new header by the way is the view of the matching apartment (baby blue, mine's pink) and the mountains in the background at sunset. Recently, my housemate and I went to Sodimac and bought some plants. I now have some violas, sage, rosemary, and a few other things that I don't know the name of. I have scrubbed the balcony, dusted and washed walls, cabinets, etc. and loved every minute of it. It is satisfying peeling away layers of dirt or organizing and simplifying. I have always had a partial OCD side and here it is being put to work in the best kind of way. So I am planning a wee fiesta to share this great space (duplex! yes!) with perhaps a cocktail party (I have an immersion blender i.e. best invention ever) or poker night. Or both. 
Other important news: I learned to dance the cueca! I have been moaning for weeks now about how dieciocho (patriotic Chilean holidays) makes me ill because of the amount of fatty meat consumed (plus empanadas and chicha, excessively sweet wine) and the freaking cueca. I swear that dance puts disappointment all over my face. This dance imitates courtship between rooster and hen. You think I'm kidding? I am not. Imagine what that looks like. It is not a pretty sight. And definitely not sexy, not even particularly rythmic. Awkward is how I describe it. So I was not looking forward to being turned into the entertainment of the asado as the pathetic attempt of a cueca dancing gringa. But this year I decided I would conquer the stupid thing. So, come September 18th, D decides to teach me. We youtube some videos and cueca music and he teaches me the form. There actually is a pattern! And guess what, the woman controls the movement of the thing! Unbelievable. Suffice to say, I wowed them at the asado with my mad cueca skills. I mean, I was still pretty pathetic and terribly embarrassed (of course they made D and I dance alone as the spectacle, but it was all in good humor) but I had a blast. I love dancing, so even if the dance is a bit...odd...I enjoyed every bit of it. Lesson learned? Shut my big mouth, stop whining, learn something new and have fun doing it! 

So that's what's up with me. I promise blogging will be back as a priority and I will jump on the group blogging bandwagon that I have been following. I love the idea and can't wait to participate! 

p.s. After a wonderful bachelorette party for Tamsin, I came home (IN THE COW TAXI!!! please tell me Santiaguinos that you know what I'm talking about. If you ever get in a taxi that looks like a cow, ask him to honk his horn. It's special ;) ... anyways...) so I came home safely making it through the park by my apartment to find an email from Kyle about a handbag give away. And of course, it being way past my bedtime, I decided to click the link and check out what the deal was. So this website is launching October 15 and are giving away 24 bags in 24 hours. I never win these things, but I felt in the mood to give it a shot. Why not, right? It's all too easy to try (of course lessening my chances) so if you are interested (and want to lessen my chances even more!) check out the site: 
so thank kyle's night time internet haunting for my return to blogdom :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

On my way!!!

The next five weeks I will be running around the US on "vacation". I am so excited to go back to the States, I need a little dose of "oh yeah, this is where I come from" for better or worse. I have been planning this trip for some time now so it seems quite surreal that I am actually right in the middle of it! I am in the airport outside Lima, Peru and will be flying to El Salvador if everything goes as planned within the next hour. From San Salvador I have a direct flight to Washington DC! It's a long and harried journey, but hey, it was about $600 cheaper, and I'm young, so whatever. Not a big deal. Plus, now I get to say, oh yeah, I've been to Peru and El Salvador. I know that's majorly cheating, just kidding. Still, from the airport Peru seems like a cool place, I'd love to run around a bit except that the airport is not in the actual city.
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

adjusting expectations

Kyle once told me about some excellent advice her mom once gave her. It was about adjusting expectations and let me tell you, that is oh so relevant here in Chile. I am sad to say that from my perspective it often seems like I am lowering my expectations, but to be fair it really is an adjustment. Things are different here, y punto. Important point: this is not a post to bash Chile, it is an extremely important aspect of Chilean culture that many, many people struggle with, foreigners and Chileans alike! I have had many a Chilean English student rage on about the backwardsness of their culture, and while that's taking it to an extreme where I would never go, it seems many are aware of some of the challenges Chilean culture poses.
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.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July!!!!!

Sigh. I am definitely missing the 4th in the states. Waking up to a freezing cold, foggy day after having spring and summer like weather here was not my idea of a funny joke. Still, I bounced through my day celebrating quietly to myself as I ran from class to class. One of my students even wished me a happy 4th without launching into some political rant or a gringos ruin the world speech. Bless his heart. While I want to celebrate with barbecue, beer, maybe a parade and fireworks, I'll have to be content with a going away party for some other gringa friends. So instead of saying goodbye, I'm just going to treat it as an independence day celebration. Weee! Happy 4th of July everyone, wherever you may find yourself.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pancakes and Balance

Last week was like a baking/cooking marathon. Just be glad I only have pictures of Saturday morning! Before my pancake extravaganza I made zucchini bread, 2 banana cakes that involved leftover chocolate from my previous cake, and some delicious pizza (caramelized onions and roasted red pepper...mmmmmm). So I thought I'd just share with you my Saturday morning ritual from last week. It seems that D is not so partial to pancakes, he likes savory in the morning, and this particular morning he was a bit stressed due to what I like to call the University Blues, or otherwise known as Relationship Ruiner - no really I'm exaggerating, but this stress of exam after exam really puts things on edge! So, how do I face Saturday morning tension? By making myself my own massive gringa breakfast, of course! And yes. I did eat these all alone, but don't worry, there were leftovers for a few days.

So, what to do in order to enjoy such deliciousness? Well, if you've ever made pancakes before you'll know that they are really really easy and the most important thing is to either have a griddle or a cast iron pan of some sort that evenly distributes heat. Most of the flimsy pieces o' shite I find ever present here won't help you much in the pancake department. Glory be that my suegra has one cast iron heavy duty pan for making vegetable tortillas. I had to rummage amongst all the other pans and essentially take apart the cabinets in order to get that baby out, but success was mine in the end! To begin I decided to try to make some buttermilk. Since the only milk we can really get here is the unrefrigerated excessively pasteurized kind, I didn't exactly have options pouring out my ears. So resourceful Emita reared her usually too lazy head and decided, what the heck, I'll try this whole lemon juice curdle my own milk trick. I poured the milk I would need for the recipe, minus 2 tablespoons, and added 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Then I waited for about 15 minutes. It sort of curdled. Next time I'm going to try more lemon juice or just use regular milk sans sourness just to try something different. I used a recipe from bonappetit that included corn meal. Here's the recipe, give it a shot if you are missing the massive gringo breakfast that gets so much flack here! Hey, it's way better than a day old dried out hallulla and some instant coffee, lemme tell ya.
Recipe courtesy of


  • 3/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • vegetable oil


  • Sift first 6 ingredients into large bowl. Whisk buttermilk, eggs and melted butter in medium bowl to blend. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until blended and smooth.
  • Preheat oven to 300°F. Lightly coat bottom of heavy large skillet with oil. Heat over medium heat. Working in batches, pour 1/4 cup batter into skillet for each pancake. Cook until bottoms are golden, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn pancakes and cook until second sides are golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter, adding more oil to skillet as necessary.

So anyways, I cooked up some frozen strawberries with some added sugar and a dash of vanilla, piled it all up with some natural yogurt and REAL maple syrup (courtesy of my folks in gringolandia) and the results were as follows:

Mmmm. Happy eater.

On a more life oriented note, I decided today that really the only thing I'm missing is a routine that has the right balance. By this I mean work time, friend time, gym time, me time, boyfriend time. These are a lot of times. Yikes. Thus my problem! I feel like I have no time and this is ever more important as my travel day gets closer. Yup, you heard it, Emita is taking a serious vacation to go back to see the fam and the friends, go to a conference and watch a best friend get married. I actually get to do a reading in the wedding and I am so excited that I get to be a part of it in some way! I plan on keeping on with the blogging, although I know it will be difficult since in 5 weeks I will be bouncing around between Vermont, Maryland, NYC, Boston and Maine. Oof. But I am nothing but excited if a bit anxious about the whole thing. I need a break. I have been working crazy hours and have had way too little time for friends. This has turned me into the worrier I become when my life becomes unbalanced. I start to feel completely abnormal and that somehow something is supposed to be different. I realized how crazy I was behaving and stopped writing lists of things I have to do every single day. I already feel a little better. I also decided to try to get a better rhythm going at the gym. Lately I've been going at such random times and days that it just totally discombobulates me. So this week I decided to go to spinning on Monday and Wednesday nights, when I feel least motivated. Here I must mention how much I agree with Emily and her gym rant because it is oh so true. The machines are crap and especially post-work hours the place is way too full with people. So I decided that when I have to go at those times I'll try to take a class. Fortunately, my schedule allows me to get to the gym around 8:30, change and be ready to wait in line to sign up for spinning by 8:45 and then take my class at 9. Today I went for the second time and realized that there are some regulars, which somehow suddenly made me feel a sense of normalcy. I decided to be friendly and chat with some of the others while waiting and was so happy to find that they were all super friendly and nice. Not a gym snob in sight and everyone was just buena onda. Success! I had a great spinning class and left feeling on top of the world. It can be frustrating having to remind oneself to not become bitter about particular situations, especially if you're me and you're prone to dwelling in the muck rather than searching for that ray of sunshine. So this particular moment was especially appreciated...that is until I had to wait for the bus for half an hour and resist the calls of a street vendor offering me eucalyptus gomitas, super ochos, golpes and alfajores. I thought about that alfajor for a good 10 minutes but in the end I resisted. Something about eating candy after the gym that doesn't go down so well. Next time I'll take Mr. Street Vendor up on his offer.
So although it may seem quite obvious that yes, one needs an appropriate balance between work and play, and no, this is never easy, I find it to be pretty much my only quest in life right now. And truth be told, I think I struggle more than I succeed, but you know, those times when everything just falls into place and you truly feel nourished, those moments - as fleeting as they sometimes can be - are to be savored as long as possible.
Can this come in the form of spinning class at the gym? It seems so.

Monday, June 16, 2008

cake results

So I tasted the cake today. It was good, but a pain in the butt to serve. It was far too crumbly, not dry, but it pretty much fell apart. And unfortunately I had no camera to document the sliced version... It was a nice try, but I'll be trying a different recipe next time. And I'm totally excited about it. Being able to make a sweet cake would be amazing!
Other than that, I have no noticias...I'm tired and cold and on the verge of illness so I best go cuddle with my pillows ...
Sweet dreams everyone!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is there a good side to Transantiago?

Believe it or not, this post is not about a complaint I have. Odd, you might say, considering the title. Does anyone have anything good to say these days about the micro? Transantiago has just about ruined everything here transportation wise, but I still try to find some good in it all. And you know what? Just the other day a little bit of my faith was restored.
I got on the micro as I do every day. I was in okay spirits, this day I didn't have to take the bus 8 times like I often do, no exaggeration (yet another nuance of the English teaching life). I found a seat and settled down, adjusting the volume on my ipod - it was surprisingly quiet on the bus in comparison to the roaring traffic on the street. Lost in my plugged-in, music listening bubble, I barely noticed a young man get on the bus and begin to play guitar. For those of you who live in Santiago, you know all about this, and for those of you who don't, I'll give you a wee bit of an introduction to the musicians who play the public transportation circuit.
Back in bF, before Transantiago, Santiago was filled with old mustard-yellow buses that spewed black smoke and polluted the city with the roar of their struggling engines. There was no bip!, only the exchange of "monedas" (coins) to the chofer who multi-tasked as bus driver and change/ticket giver. In these days, one could ask the driver, "Me lleva por 200?", or, if you were with another person, "Nos lleva por 400?", meaning "will you let me on the bus for less than the standard fare?". Sometimes the driver would wink at you, slightly move his head or just give a twitch of an eyebrow - his code for "sure, get on, but be quick about it". These buses were also the working grounds for many Santiaguinos selling goods (alfajores, candy, cough drops, gloves, CDs, bandaids, stickers, umbrellas, ice cream, socks, back scratchers, I've seen it all!) and for musicians of all kinds (recorder, flute, saxophone, drums, singing of all genres, rap, violin, entire bands, guitar and that wee little guitar the name of which I can never remember and even karaoke). The musicians played a few songs, talked to the audience a bit and asked for a coin in recognition of their performance. Some were god awful, some were really great and of course there was everything in between. My greatest fear (and theirs too, I'm sure) about the switch to Transantiago was that Santiago might lose this specifically developed culture they had on their buses (or an important if not only income for many people).
So now we have what were at one point shiny new buses, a fancy swipe card, and a system that barely works. I should never have feared, though. The ever adjusting Chilean street workers have managed to integrate into this new system and continue their daily work. The buses may be new, but I still see people I saw two years ago working the same routes. The musicians, in spite of a few classics who I see at least once a week, however, keep changing, and every time one boards I cross my fingers and hope they'll play something I truly enjoy. I have a system for coin giving: if a performer makes me smile or laugh or makes me feel some sort of positive emotion, I give them money. Unfortunately, when it comes to music, I usually stick with my ipod. Maybe I'm picky, or maybe there isn't a wealth of great musicians playing the buses. Who knows.
But this particular day, when this young man got on and started strumming away, I perked up and pressed pause on my ipod. He was so unassuming and his voice was unlike any I'd ever heard before, particularly unedited and singing on the micro. I took out my earphones and started to listen to him. The songs were slightly sad, but incredibly beautiful and it was just the style of music I really love. He sang at least four songs (I find musicians typically play two and then move on) and his last song was "Redemption Song" a lo castellano. That made me smile. Suddenly the Santiago smog blanket didn't bother me so much and I didn't miss anything too terribly. While he played I just enjoyed the music and wondered at his voice and how it came that he was singing right in front me in the micro.
So, for those of you who steer clear of the micro and stick to the metro, you are missing something. Whether it's worth it or not to come out from underground and try taking the bus instead, I can't say. All I know is, in spite of Transantiago being a constant headache, some of these musicians make it bearable for me and I truly appreciate them.

Also, heads up all you Transantiago-goers for a charismatic Cuban man who plays the drum and sings Cuban songs. It's sure to put a smile on your face.

Chocolate Cake!!!

Today I made a chocolate cake. It is for father's day, but I have no real plans to celebrate, but I think this cake will be consumed tomorrow with host family etc...
It took forever and I have no idea what it will taste like, but it looks pretty!

Now that I look at these pics again, I think the cake looks like a giant alfajor. Mmmmm. Deliciousness.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The simple pleasures in life - El Mani

Although Santiago winter might be getting the better of me - the smog is causing serious suffering in my lungs and the cold has made me lose all feeling in my feet - I still take pleasure in a few things that I easily take for granted. Today I will give one example.

I encourage everyone to check out this place. Simply put, it is a dried fruit and nuts store. So if you are tired of walking into an overcrowded, stinky and soulless supermarket and are on the lookout for some tasty goods, check out El Mani - the peanut. Upon walking in, this place smells like heaven. There are always a few people milling about and some staff to help you. It's a small place with large, though attractive, bins filled with different kinds of dried fruits and nuts. They have peaches, plums, pears, mango, kiwi, cherry, ginger, at least three different kinds of raisins and all are excellent quality. The great thing is that they not only have candied versions but they also have just the fruit dried, no added sugar. They sell by the kilo and price all things by the quarter kilo. This is a much cheaper and more delicious way to buy the stuff! Then there are the nuts. They have walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, almonds, and at least three different kinds of peanuts. They even have unsalted peanuts if you need them for a particular kind of recipe or just prefer them that way! I'm sure they have more, which I can't remember at the moment...
I used to go by El Mani all the time when I was here studying at University. For some reason, I never went in. When I moved just around the corner in January I decided it was time. And what a good decision that was! Going in there puts a smile on my face, mostly because everything I see I want! They also have several imported goods, many different kinds of flour (even ground almond and hazelnut flour!), oats, and even cereals, which are way cheaper than at the supermarket. They sell honey, different kinds of brown sugar, sesame, poppy and sunflower seeds, and have a large selection of teas. I love going here especially because I can walk in and 5 minutes later walk out and have every ingredient I need to make granola that I cook up about once a month to last for my morning munch. If you are ever in the area, check out El Mani on Irarrazaval right in front of the Lider supermarket on the corner of Suecia. And then come hang out with me and we can snack on yummy roasted peanuts from a cute brown paper bag.
And next time I make my granola I'll post with some pictures and the recipe. It's easy and oh so delicious!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Surprise of the Century

Tonight D watched Pride and Prejudice with me. I could hardly believe it. We were bickering all evening and then took some time apart and when I went into the living room to sit down he was finishing watching Back to the Future, one of his (and mine too) all time faves. As it ended the TV announced that Pride and Prejudice was up next. Here it is of the utmost importance that I state that I am, always have been and will always be a die-hard Jane Austen fan. I went through a fairly obsessed phase in high school, read all her books, saw all the movies, read biographies etc... and decided that she was basically a pretty sweet woman for her time period. I love her satire of high English society and I love the impossible love stories with impossibly happy endings. Suffice to say, however, this is not D's kind of film. At all. His reaction is usually, you watch your movie honey and I'll be over here doing something else. But tonight he sat down and said, ok, 10 minutes and stayed the WHOLE 2 HOURS! It's a miracle, I tell you folks. And you know what, he was genuinely interested! He even asked what he missed when he came back from going to the bathroom.
I have a feeling this was a momentary blip and I will soon be back to begging my way out of watching zombie films or crying for some comic relief, but for now I am content.

Also, it must be stated for the record that the all time best Pride and Prejudice interpretation was done by A&E and is 6 hours long. It is beautiful amazing awesome incredibly I love it. And oh so much better than the Keira Knightley version, although it is tolerable enough.

Come to think of it, perhaps D continued watching because Keira Knightley has such a "pretty smile" (which he mentioned only 5 times). I always thought her mouth was weird and in a permanent pout that is irritating as hell, but hey, if it helps D sit through a movie I want to see, so be it.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Cerro San Cristobal

Yesterday D and I decided to take advantage of our last day of doing nothing (he goes back to Valpo since his U is finally stopping the strike and we both are working this weekend) and hit Cerro San Cristobal for some much needed exercise. And of course because I'd been whining about wanting to see "la cordillera" for several days. Winter may mean hell here in many ways, but at the same time, it's the only time we get to enjoy the mountains in their blanket of snow. Due to a lot of rainfall, the mountains have been gorgeous. Anyways, we were debating going or not because it was the first "pre-emergencia" day for bad air. Pollution, oh so yummy! We sucked it up and decided to go fill our lungs with smog and take pictures while we were at it.
Cerro San Cristobal is a large park towards the middle of Santiago and is a great place for some exercise in what most approximates nature in this wonderful metropolis and that of course includes a massive incline that you may be missing in other workouts (treadmills here, anyone? yeah, no incline, just flat, flat, flat boredom). On weekends it is full of cyclists and runners of both the beginner and hardcore persuasion, and of course, tourists. Tons of them. In the summer D and I would run up and at the top treat ourselves to some mote con huesillo (a chilean treat made of highly sweetened peach juice, some kind of cooked grain like barley - that's the mote - and dried peaches that have been re-juicified - those are the huesillos - I find it very delish when done well). It is quite the refreshing treat on a hot summer day, and I especially like the ones on San Cristobal. Often the street vendors give you tiny portions with narsty crusty bits of peach. No good. But then again, some are, so it's hit or miss I guess. Before I go any further, I have a very important and necessary disclaimer: do not go alone. Just don't do it, do not run that risk because I highly doubt it's worth it. San Cristobal is a big place and people with not the best of intentions can easily hide away and attack when they please. I don't mean this to scare anyone off, just to be completely clear that you keep your gringa/gringo head screwed on straight (or wherever your head may hail from).
So, I've been wanting to go for about a week now, a desire seriously reinforced after seeing Kyle's badass photo she took from the top of San Cristobal and put as her new header. Sick photo. So disclaimer no. 2: my photos aren't gonna look anything like that, but perhaps they will allow you to approximate between them to get a sense of what these mountains really look like. I usually run up the 5 kilometers from the bottom to the top of the hill, but today I decided to bike up with D. I was nervous about it because the first and only time I did it I thought I was literally going to die and was moving so slowly I thought the bike would fall over from lack of momentum. Sad story. But I'm glad to say that my gym membership seems to have paid off, even though I've been really bad lately and only going about twice a week. I could've made it up to the top without stopping if D hadn't had a fit of a smog attack. Suffice to say he does not have a gym membership.
Here we are before our adventure up

My favorite picture during our rest where D got annoyed at me for being so sucky at taking one handed photos of us. So typical, D trying to fix the damn thing and me just peeing my pants laughing.
The mountains!!!! And the smog blanket I breathe everyday. If this is pre-emergency, what on earth is emergency going to look like? Ugh. I don't want to know.
And then on the way down I saw this crazy tree. I don't remember what it's called, it's not the monkey puzzle tree, is it? I don't think so, but it is pretty sweet. It has cactus-like spiky thingies as leaves. I asked D what he thought it was and he said "pino" - pine. Yeah I don't think so honey, it's not exactly your average Christmas tree.
Speaking of Christmas, I am currently listening to Christmas pretending it is the holidays. Perhaps in a near future post I will explain the US ex-pat need to celebrate Christmas in July here. I'm just setting the mood to celebrate my holiday season. It helps me through the winter, people. I bake holiday cookies, too. I'll let you know when, and we can rejoice in spice cookie bliss and hot cocoa.

Monday, May 26, 2008

More cooking adventures!

There is only so much rain I can take.

Since Santiago has been covered in a layer of fog and wet, icky rain, I have kept my imminent depression at bay by cooking. Typical. I made zucchini bread last night for the first time, and it is yummy yummy I must say. Although next time I think I'm going to try a different recipe just to see which one I like better. I must say, though, I love my "How to Cook Everything" cookbook by Mark Bittman. I'm turning into my mother. I used to laugh at her at how she could be entertained by reading cookbooks. Now I get it! Also, today the fridge was utterly bare so I bought some ingredients for a Spicy Asian Noodle dish. Mmmm was it good. Basically spaghetti noodles soaked in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, some sugar, sliced fresh ginger, garlic, hot sauce and at the end I tossed in some slivered red pepper and scallion. Check out my happy face next to my creation. D was quite pleased too, and he's more likely to diss a dish than to give me his immediate sign of approval. This time though he said, "Amor, tus noodles te quedaron la raja!"
Aw, thanks baby :)

p.s. Should I invest in a pair of rainboots? Can I wear them to work? I feel like not so much....ideas?

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Eventful Month of May

I realize during these past few weeks I have proved myself as a most unfaithful blogger, and for that I truly feel ... well, a lot of things: bad, guilty, regretful, but mostly anxious to get back to it. So:
The past 20 days have been filled with activities, all of which have had their element of fun (ok, so I'm just ignoring the fact that I have to work to maintain myself here...wait, how do we say that in English? Maybe "survive" suffices). Let's start by looking back about two weeks ago.

May 11th, Mother's Day
I am happy to say I really enjoyed it. Feeling the ever blessed gringa, I had 3 very important mothers to appreciate that day. One was Ely, my Chilean host mother who I lived with for a year about 2 years ago. She is the most awesome Chilena mom I know and I cannot imagine my life here in Chile without her. I ended my Mother's Day with her family, over at her beautiful old home having some coffee and cake. The other is my equally important "suegra", or mother-in-law, although the term carries a different connotation in Spanish. Just imagine if I had to say "my boyfriend's mom" every time I mentioned her. Besides, that doesn't say much about my relationship with her. So, she is my suegra. Anyways, she is especially significant because she has opened her home to me here and made being here a real possibility for me whereas otherwise it would have been near impossible. Also, she's quite young (39!) so it's easy for us to get along and laugh and giggle like little girls. We spent lunchtime together that day, all prepared by yours truly. And then of course, mi mamita who gave me life, the queen bee and most dear to me of all. And how I miss her. Now, as they say here in Chile, I think I am somewhat of a "regalona" (help me out if you can think of a good translation for this word!) and I do miss my family and especially spending time with my mom, but I am also very used to being far away at this point. So, I pulled my resources together (i.e. the internet, a debit card and e-mail) and sent my mother a long Mother's Day letter and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from our local florist (in Maryland). Of course I was a bit misty about not being able to spend it with her, but I did my best to appreciate each of my mothers. Now, what I really want to tell you about is the meal I made. In order to cope with the occasional lonliness and boredom here in Santiago, I have started to bake and cook, and I've really, really liked it. Thus, I was zazzed (made up word, just think how it makes you feel when you say it outloud, I think you'll get the point) about being able to cook up a storm for my suegra. She is a cooking machine and usually insists on providing me with food, so the least I could do was make her a damn good feast. Knowing I couldn't spend a bundle, I focused on things I knew I could make delish but with limited resources. So I made a yummy pasta dish with a mixture of two recipes, one called Winter Pesto and the other called Ziti with Spicy Pesto Pantesco. Now, important note here, as I've become more involved in the blogging world (read: I sit at my computer for hours reading fashion and food blogs, and my friends of course), I've become obsessed with finding recipes and reading about food. That's how I came across the Winter Pesto idea and I loved it. Here I'll hit you with the recipe for my fellow cooks out there:
(note: I doubled it, and as I said, mixed it with another recipe which I'll explain further on)

Winter “Pesto” with Parsley and Almonds
2 Tbsp. whole almonds
1 packed cup Italian parsley leaves (flat parsley)
4 - 6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp. salt
1 small garlic clove, pressed (opt.)

In a small food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground. They don’t need to be quite as fine as, say, sand, but close. Add the parsley, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and garlic (if using), and process to a paste. Taste and, if needed, adjust salt, lemon juice, and/or olive oil. I like to add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil, just to boost the flavor.
Yield: about ½ cup

I tweaked the recipe by adding pepper, mint, and dried basil (I had no fresh) to the pesto and then at the end added chopped tomatoes and grated Parmesan. I served this with "penne" pasta, which unfortunately here sounds like the same word for penis. It's definitely caused me issues in the supermarket when telling D to go fetch me some "pene". Yikes. Oh, and this can be given a kick with some crushed red pepper, which I can't seem to get my hands on here. And I must give credit where credit is due. If I can only remember where I found this thing. The recipe, that is, not the penne. So I'll just let you know my fave food blogs and it came from one of those: The Amateur Gourmet, Orangette, The Wednesday Chef and Dorie Greenspan. Awesome. Ok, but that wasn't it. I made garlic bread with "marraqueta", my favorite of Chilean bread, and it lends itself wonderfully to garlic bread. I made it in the oven wrapped in tinfoil, spread with butter, garlic, a bit of parsley and parmesan. And of course we made a big salad which I dressed with a homemade dressing that was mmm mmm delish. Try it out, it was super easy and was scarfed up all in the same meal:

Cream Vinaigrette
4 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. heavy cream

2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard

About 1/4 tsp. pressed garlic

About 1/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of sugar

Whisk all ingredients well. Taste, and adjust as needed. Spoon liberally over any bitter (or bitter-ish) greens, such as watercress or arugula. Toss well. Top, if you want, with a poached egg, bits of bacon, or cubed ham.

And then of course there was dessert: French Apple Tart. This recipe I got from The Amateur Gourmet, and I must say, mine looked a lot prettier than his. Check out the recipe at the link. It came out well, although I manhandled the dough a bit too much (hey, it was my first time!) and I think I'd prefer a juicier pie with more filling. All in all, though, it was beautiful and I was pleased, as were my happy eaters.

May 17th, Gringa/Chileno Asado
What a great night! Lovely Katina so graciously hosted us for this barbecue get together and we got to use their swanky grill for the asado. It is a lifesaver indeed that these ladies exist and that we've all somehow managed to make our lives cross. I am happy to report also that I finally got to meet all the significant others and while each was so different from the other, I really liked all of them and was pleased to see the chileno-folk getting along and having some good man time together. And I am pleased to say my banana bread and banana cake (I made two different recipes) was a hit and finished seconds after I put it on the table! So easy and so delicious. Check out Kyle's or Tamsin's blog for a photo of us crazy ladies. I can't wait till we all get together again! I'm still counting on poker night ;)

May 18th, Baptism
So I went to my first baptism last weekend. D became a godfather! It's all very bizarre though touching I guess, he is his cousin's godfather who is maybe 3 years younger than him. Anyways, it wasn't exactly the sacred service I was expecting. People were taking photos like crazy, practically on top of everybody, and my suegra forced the camera into my hands and I too converted into one of those that I so desperately get annoyed by. I understand having a photographer, but please, ten+ people running around with cameras, not necessary. So I have no idea exactly how the ceremony went, it was over in a flash! Literally! But I do have some beautiful photos to show for it and the church was amazingly beautiful. I can't remember the exact name, but it was something like Sacramentina. I have to admit, though, that my favorite part was seeing D in his suite. Sigh. I'd include a picture of myself with the D-man, but unfortunately we are mid chew in all the photos.

This past week has been a whirlwind of other family events, the most important of which were a bachelorette party and a wedding! This was my first bachelorette party and I must say, wow, impressive. I had a blast, and I would include photos here, but you know, better to keep that stuff private, and the wedding was a civil ceremony in D's aunt's home, so I wasn't snapping away during that, left that task to my suegra who happily obliged.

I have eaten an obscene amount of food in the past 2 weeks and am ready to get back on track at the gym, where I only seem to be able to keep the motivation rolling with the company of my gringas (Kyle? Emily? Where are you?!). So, thus begins a new week, and instead of preparing class for tomorrow I think I will now run off and make some cornbread or zucchini bread. I've been dying to try these recipes, and hell, maybe I'll make both!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Chilean "yes"

When I'm feeling a little bit cynical, I usually tell people the Chilean "yes" is really a "no" or just a massive lie. But being cynical or not, the Chilean "yes" most certainly does not mean what my "yes" means.
Case and point: yesterday I was going to meet up with a potential private student. By going to, I mean that we had spoken the Friday before and decided he would come by the apartment after his work day ended around 6 or 6:30. Super. I said I would call if there were a problem. So, Monday rolls around, I make sure I'm home, get my materials together and I wait. Ah, silly gringa. Never wait! I waited, slowly becoming more anxious that he just wasn't going to show and that I would miss the Aeroboxing class I so desperately wanted to go to at the gym. Now I know I really should have turned off my gringaness and packed on my chileno sense and just called the man right then and there. But I waited. Fortunately, by 7:30 I came to my senses and thought, DUH Emita, call him! So he answered, totally relaxed, ah yes, ok, let me call you back in a few minutes. Ok sure. He calls back, is right now ok for you? I said yes, wincing as I knew I was saying good bye to my gym class, but realizing I really needed this job. Everything turned out fine, and I tell this story not because it was particularly painful or a hard lesson to learn, but that somehow, after all this time, I still fall into the trap of thinking with my gringa sense. When one agrees to a time and place, that agreement is in fact true, a solid yes, and if I need something to be confirmed I say just that.
It's a different story here, my friends. It might seem a little backwards at first, but when someone says, hey let's get together! And you say, sweet! How about tomorrow? And they answer, ok, yeah! That DOES NOT mean you are going to get together tomorrow. Confused? I know. Now think about the fact that this applies to everything, not just informal social engagements. How do people run businesses like this? I have no idea! I can't tell fact from fiction! And boy does it cause a conundrum in relationships. Sometimes, just to make things less complicated, I ask D, "Now is that a Chilean yes or a gringo yes?" I realize this isn't an exactly fair comparison, Chilean with gringo, and I'm leaving out a lot of important cultural nuances, but it's what I've got to work with, so I'm sticking to it.

Monday, May 5, 2008

A Saturday of New Things - the National Cemetery

This past Saturday I managed to use all my gringa charm to convince my lovely chileno to take me someplace that he would never go out of free will: the Cementerio Nacional, the national cemetery. I've been wanting to do something involving "conocer Santiago", or "Getting to Know Santiago". I've been living here for quite some time now, but there are still many places I've never been and I'm really quite the curious cat. So, after minor and major quibbling (I had in fact watched a zombie movie, which I HATE with a raging passion - all in the name of being agreeable), D agreed and Saturday morning we got up and braved the metro out to the Cementerios stop on the yellow line (in Recoleta).
It's really quite easy, the metro drops you at the entrance. We definitely lucked out, though, in our choice of meandering. I had no map of the cemetery, he had no clue what was heads or tails, so we wandered. And we magically came upon the more "important" tombstones of famous Chilean figures (like Balmaceda and Allende, as I have shown here).
We saw the more carefully manicured parts of the cemetery and the parts in "reconstruction" upheaval. There were large church-like tombs and extremely small ones where all that fit was the name of the deceased. It was beautiful, peaceful and especially calming to watch as the various Santiaguinos went about their tasks of cleaning and decorating their family's place of rest.
After practically overheating due to the major blast of hot weather that afternoon (and being uncomfortably overdressed) D dutifully asked random people where the memorial for the "desaparecidos" (or "disappeared") from the Pinochet dictatorship was. We found it with considerable ease when you think about the infamous nature of Chilean directions (they usually consist of various forms of saying "pa'ya" which means "over there" or are completely inaccurate) and we were able to look at the lists of people who disappeared and who were murdered during that time. All in all, it was very beautiful and so different from cemeteries back home. I was glad I had come and I had so luckily seen everything I wanted to see. My trip to the cemetery was complete.
After a good two hours wandering among tombstones, I needed some reinforcements. This for me almost always means ice cream. I asked D, while he was being so compliant, to accompany me to the Emporio de la Rosa, where I'd never been before. This is a wonderful little cafe right by Bellas Artes (where Merced basically meets up with Parque Forestal, right at the end of the street Lastarria) where they make incredible artesan ice cream. It was DELICIOUS. It's not cheap, but it was certainly worth it. Besides, the "simple" includes 2 flavors and I think I tried at least 10 before deciding. Diego and I shared, agreeing on the Chocolate Peperecino (or something of that persuasion) which was the chocolate I have been dreaming of since the states - it has cayenne in it and is divine, and the Yoghurt Guinda - guinda is like a cherry. The fruit had an incredible flavor and I love yogurt flavored ice cream (ever had the fro yo at Bloomingdales in NYC? Only the best thing EVER).
Although D and I have been going through somewhat of a rough patch - no one said moving to Chile was ever easy - this day was wonderful, and I am glad to say I have now been to both the Cementerio Nacional AND Emporio de la Rosa. Any flavor suggestions from those of you who have been? A trip back is definitely in order and I welcome any and all company!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Santiago Winter

So today was the first time I slept through one of my classes since taking on this English teaching stint. I woke up to the hyper-obnoxious phone ring of my cellphone and was totally completely and utterly disoriented. I thought, oh maybe it's my student for my 12:30 class canceling, again. But then I was like, wait what? It's light out, and Oscar is calling me. SHIT. I answered, and began apologizing. Thank god he's super "buena onda" (basically, a good guy, good times, etc.) and told me not to worry, it's happened to him too. I felt really bad, obviously, but still, he made me feel not so ass-like. It was my fault though. I'm not sure if my alarm rang or not, but I went to bed at around 2:30 last night and should have known that my 6:30 alarm would've produced absolutely no effect. The annoying thing is, when I don't teach I don't get paid.

So heads up English teachers. Sick days (or in my case, Sleep days) = smaller paycheck. And by smaller I mean minuscule. Teaching English isn't exactly the most lucrative profession, still you can get by. I'm not living the high life, but I'm making it. So if anyone out there in the cyber world has some questions about teaching English, the possibilities, etc., I might be able to be of use. Usually I'm quite responsible, I swear!

So other than being exhausted, what was it that kept me from getting out of bed at the right time? Winter, my friends. The past five days Santiago put on its winter death coat. This means cold and darkness. The sun is up for such a short time each day it's almost like it needn't even bother. And I don't know about you, but my productivity goes waaay down once the sun sets.
What happened to Fall, everybody? Fortunately, today the sun has come back out, so I'm not a complete disaster. Winter here makes me want to crawl into a hole and never leave, which of course brings the seasonal depression I usually fall victim to. may tell you Santiago isn't so cold in winter, but those numbers lie. I always try to tell Santiago newbies, no really, you're going to need a winter coat, and if you plan on surviving indoors you will need woolly everything -- socks, sweaters, slippers, everything! I'm not kidding, people don't usually believe me, but then those first winter days come and they realize what I'm talking about. So travelers, study abroaders, indefinite time here livers (like myself) beware!

Good thing Santiago decided to turn it around a bit and show some sunshine today, otherwise this gripe-fest could've gone on a lot longer!

Saturday, April 26, 2008


This Saturday night has been quite relaxing, despite the fact that winter has arrived in Santiago. A little too relaxing in fact. Three minutes ago, I was excessively bored and wishing D didn't have a test on Tuesday for which he has decided to stay up all night studying (he's Chilean, he's a lot of talk...I'm sure he'll come cozying up to me in bed in a few more hours). Then, I suddenly heard some music that sounded oddly familiar, and thought, "Sweet child of mine! Is that Rebelde? That totally inane yet addictive Mexican pop group?" It was and it is! See, I live in Nunoa, not too far from the Estadio Nacional, and Rebelde is here NOW and performing! Free show for me :) This proximity means, however, that I also have to listen to the futbol matches (I just get to hear screaming and chants, obviously), and of course Megadeath and whatever other major metal death loving group comes. I know you might be thinking, this gringa is wack, this totally contradicts her previous post, but don't give up on me yet.

Anyways, this moment put a huge smile across my face. See, Rebelde has a particularly special place in my heart. I started senior year at college desperately missing Latin America (where I'd spent the year abroad in Santiago, yup, where I am right now) and I found myself grabbing onto whatever bits of Spanish speaking culture I could find. So, partially because of this, last year during my senior year at Kenyon College, my roommate N and I became addicted to the catchy tunes and ridiculous drama that surrounds RBD (and the fact that we could sing along to it in either Spanish or Portuguese). Certain nights we would let our closest friends know, "hey were gonna do a video tonight, wanna come? Bring some dark beer" (we were on a dark beer kick then). So we'd set up our fan - you know, to make the music video look more genuine - get our digital camera rolling, hit play, and do a karaoke-sing-along-lip-sync wonder of a video. We even thought about doing one in front of a blue screen my friend had access to, though we never followed through (and it's damn shame we didn't, I think). These nights of pretending to be latina pop stars have by far become a highlight from that year for me.

Now, I don't love Rebelde to the point of going to a show (ahem. alone. I know no one here who would go with me) or paying the money to actually willingly participate in a mosh-pit of screaming girls, but hey, listening from the comfort of my bedroom is pretty great!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Gangsta's Paradise

I'm sure you've all experienced how intimately connected smells and sounds are to our memories. If you've spent some time in Santiago then I'm also sure you've experienced, for better or for worse, the predominant musical tastes in this city.
With that as a basic preface, I'd like to share with you a bit of my morning.

Between English classes I popped into the Starbucks on Isidora Goynechea to read for a bit and have an overpriced coffee drink. Once settled in my comfy chair, book in hand and sipping away, my ears perked up. "Is that what I think it is?" All at once confused and somehow excited at the prospect, I realized yes, it was exactly what I thought it was: just loud enough to identify, Starbucks was rockin' Gangsta's Paradise to provide some background tunes while their uppercrust Santiago businessmen and women had meetings or clickety-clacked on their laptops. Ignoring the irony of the situation, I basked in the glow of being transported to another time and place. Well, I don't think you could call it basking, or even a glow, because I found myself reliving some awkward 5th grade moments, but still - they're pure magic, those coffee beans.
[As a side note, I must add that I pretty much hate Starbucks in the States, sure I patronize it occasionally, but the coffee really isn't that good. Expat life has changed me it seems. Go figure.]

This Starbucks experience got me thinking about an ever present topic for me in this country: what is the deal with the music?! Think about it. If you had to generalize the taste of music in Chile, would you say it was great? Probably not. If you do, by all means let me know why! Perhaps you have a great spot, or friend, or something that could give me some glimmer of hope in this category, because, being totally honest here, my experience has taught me otherwise.

Now, let me explain myself. Clearly this is a relative issue, who can say what is good taste and what is bad? Aren't they just different? I gotta say, not quite. Besides, what I mostly want to talk about is variety. If you've ever talked to a fellow foreigner about music in Chile, it usually only takes a minute (if that) for someone to mention "the 80's". Sometimes people get really excited about this, "Oh! I love 80's music! Sweet!", but usually once they discover that the discoteca they were partying away in wasn't actually 80's themed the novelty tends to wear off.

I realize there are many reasons for this, and I certainly can't expect the lesser known artists from around the world to be popular and all over the radio or TV here, but still. I feel like a major vein has been blocked up and it's making me suffer! (Ok, so maybe I'm a bit extreme in comparing music variety to life's blood...just go with it).

80's music, however, is not the only popular imported genre here. Let me give you example number 2. Last weekend, while diligently correcting English homework as D did his calculus/engineering/structure/concrete/ihavenoidea homework, D began to lament the fact that he was going to miss this awesome group that's coming to play in Santiago. Curious, I inquired, "Que grupo?"
Sigh. I should have known. Although it sounded verging on cute said in his chileno accent.

So, to finish my brief rant, I was an 80's music fan...not so much anymore. And I have never nor will I ever be a fan of whatever genre Megadeath falls into.

Any glimmers of light out there? Or am I stuck in a music vacuum? I'd like to detach myself from my computer every now and then to have a nice evening with some great music.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Emotional (in)depence? a work in progress

I am living in Santiago, Chile for many reasons, which I'm sure will come out as time goes on, however I am here on blogger for mainly just one. I have found a group of inspiring women who not only are in a similar situation as me (either married or seriously dating a Chilean and living in Santiago) but are also the kind of people I would be friends with in the "real world" (read: previous or imaginary life in the US). They also happen to have quite a few bloggers among them. While I thank these gringas for taking away enough of the mystery of blogging to try it out myself, I thank them mostly for helping me realize something I have long been struggling with:
The futility of emotional dependency! You all know what I'm talking about, you've either been there or are there right now, living in a foreign country, loving your foreign significant other, and at the same time, blaming them for everything that is wrong or unjust that you encounter, or even for the bad mood you're in.

These outbursts of emotional dependency, while particularly unattractive, are way too easy to fall into. And boy did I fall, and - it must be said - I still do on occasion. "D" was one of the main reasons I came back to Chile and this step was not an easy one. It was huge! There were so many uncertainties and many times when we fought my confidence faltered and I found myself reduced to the emotional maturity of a pre-teen. Or a small child. Perhaps some of both. A million questions flooded my head, "did I just make the biggest mistake of my life?", "am I totally deranged? What the hell am I doing here?", "do I really love this, or just the idea of it?" I suddenly felt without a foundation and that if I fell I would just keep falling and have nothing to catch me. In one small fight, all the emotional maturity I gained by surviving high school and college (and study abroad in Santiago) was erased - temporarily, thank god.
Now, I've come to realize that you can often see yourself reflected in other people and that this can be an incredibly useful tool if you can learn to recognize it. So, one day, while conversing poolside about our Chilean relationships, I got a huge slap in the face. It was like the most profound "duh!" moment, as contradictory as that sounds. By listening to my fellow gringa friends, I realized HE wasn't screwing everything up! He's no saint, but he certainly wasn't the devil I was treating him like. I was being a spazzy gringa, totally emotionally dependent on her man. Ick. Not a happy thought.

What is a happy thought, though, is that circumstances gave me this moment, and I'll be damned if I don't learn from it! So, I'm trying. And it's a work in progress, but I can honestly say that I am already a much happier gringa, and I think my chileno's noticing.

Has anyone else had a similarly profound "duh!" moment? One of those, oh yeah, self-reflection can be really helpful! I'm sure the future holds many more for me, and till then I'm keeping my ears and eyes open.