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. Weather.com 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.