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.