Friday, August 27, 2010

Shop til you Drop!

Hey all,

So I was feeling a bit bogged down by school and such this past week so a friend and I decided to treat ourselves and do a bit of shopping! Since practically Day 1 of Chile I have heard nothing but good things about El Patronato, which is a shopping district located North of the downtown area of Santiago. Apparently everyone and their brother makes a regular visit here due to the cute clothes, cheap prices and the fact that's it's easily accessible by public transit. Clearly, El Patronato and I have a solid future together.

When we got off the bus, we were immediately overwhelmed. Store after store after store lined the street, bursting with shirts, skirts, scarves and neon colors (have I mentioned much of Chilean style seems to equate itself with the US 1980's?). Not only were there stores but street stands as well, selling everything from jewelery to socks, dresses to panties and a plethora of crazy colored and patterned leggings. I'm not going to lie, the concept of wearing "no pants" becomes a lot more attractive when tye-dye is involved.

Yet it's possible that actually trying on the clothes proved to be an equally entertaining experience. First of all, many of the clothes had no size labels, so it was a bit of an eyeball game (I'm happy to report my actual body size is still in accordance with my size in my mind's eye, despite the fact that I ate practically an entire cake this week). Secondly, many of the fitting rooms were about half the width and height of a phone booth; one of them only came up to my chin which proved to be a bit uncomfortable since it was situated right in front of the cash register where the MALE owner stood and I was clearly half naked at certain points.

Another store we went into didn't have fitting rooms period; instead there was a small corner sans curtain or door with a mirror and few places to hang things up where we were directed to probar (try on) the clothes in which we were interested over the clothes which we were already wearing. Please note: a tank top will never look flattering when tried on over a sweatshirt.
Despite this unfortunate mishap, I did find a few things I liked! Yet actually buying the clothes proved to be a foreign experience as well. In most stores, there were shelves located behind the cashier practically the height of the ceiling and lleno (full) of small vacuum sealed plastic bags which contain one item of clothing each. Upon approaching the cash register with the shirt I wanted to purchase, I was surprised when the woman took my piece of clothing, promptly tossed it aside and instead presented me with the same item, wrapped in plastic. I was then given a ticket and instructed to go to another counter where I actually paid (this is a very common practice in Chile, although I'm not exactly sure why. Research will be done and I'll get back to you all later). I then opened the plastic wrapper to ensure that the clothing was a) in good condition and b) what I actually wanted to buy and then went happily on my way. Lather, Rinse, Repeat.

Although the majority of clothes I bought have similar versions in the US, I did choose to buy a polvoron (sweatshirt) which is more of a Chilean style. It has a huge hood which can be worn on my head or unfolded around my neck to reveal a lovely floral print:

I can totally wear this in the US too, right?

Shout out goes to Laura Adkins: The last few days on the metro I've heard the song with the lyrics "Believe or not, I'm walking on air..." and all I want to do is call you and talk about George's answering machine on Seinfeld. Love you buddy boo!



Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grab bag!

Dearest ones,

Well, I'm fresh out of profound topics to discuss with you all, so this week is going to be a free for all of anecdotes! Enjoy!

Language faux pas of the week: A few days ago, the lightbulb burned out in the bathroom. I thought I knew how to communicate this so I marched up to my host brother and said confidently: "El bombero se quemo!" There was an awkward pause and he looked at me in a confused and concerned manner. Turns out the word for lightbulb is "bombilla"..."bombero" means firefighter. Hopefully I haven't spoken a bad omen.

Strange food of the week: Kentucky Fried Chicken. I kid you not, also lovingly referred to as KFC here. My host family had a cornacopia of coupons and decided sunday was the day to indulge cheap and fried flavors of fast food. (Naturally I abstained) Yet I was surprised to find that the food was neither cheap nor fast; a box of chicken, sauces and empanadas (instead of french fries) cost close to $10 and instead of going through the drive-thru, my host brothers called the restaurant on the phone and FIFTY minutes later, the doorbell rang with their delivery. I will say though that the appearance and smell of the food didn't fail to impress and disgust; a nice reminder of home?

News of the week: A few weeks ago, a mine collapsed in a northern region of Chile, trapping 33 miners deep underground without a means of communication. Sunday, after 17 days of being underground with limited provisions, a note was received which read "estamos bien en el refugio, los 33 (We are fine in the shelter, the 33)". Amazing. My family and other host families spent much of the day glued to the television, celebrating and talking about this incredible event. There were literally celebrations in the streets. Even days later, people are still talking enthusiastically about the event. Yet not one person I have met knows these men or their families personally. But it seems they all feel a strong connection to their suffering, a compassion not only for them as people, but as Chileans. I have pondered the reasons for the strength of their reaction but I also find myself wondering why I'm pondering it. Perhaps because there have been several collapsed mines in the US in my lifetime and I've never spent the day flipping between news broadcasts hoping for an update.

Shout out goes to Catie Gainor and her cleanse! Don't be concerned that there is an excess of junk food in the world because you aren't eating any this week; in the last day and a half I have achieved a record high sugar consumption. Seriously, I've eaten cookies, the equivalent of a donut and roughly the third of some sort of delightful lemon meringue cake. Keep on cleansing!



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Kissing and Hugging and Squeezing O MY!

Hello loves,

So, I think we're all familiar with the term latin lover, no? The hot, steamy passion, corsing through the veins of Latin men and women, bursting with lust for their desired partner. Before coming here, I guessed there was probably some truth to this stereotype, what I did not foresee was that I would witness it first hand...among adolescents on the metro.


Yes, I'm aware PDA (Public Displays of Affection) exist in the US. Yes, I can handle it. But here, from my culturally biased standpoint, it seems a bit out of control. It seems everywhere I look, somebody is getting some sort of physical attention; I'm not talking about hand holding or a simple peck on the cheek, I mean full on steamy make out sessions, with lots of tongue and butt grabbing. Things I have only seen other people do in movies or on TV, behind closed doors. In my spanish immersion class, our professor taught us that the slang for these actions is comerse caras, which directly translates to "eating each others faces". Pretty accurate.

Also, I would like to point out that it is not just one age group; although the majority seem to be high school or college students, I have encountered a few couples who appear to be in their thirties and forties enjoying a quickie in a dark corner of the metro station. Why, you might ask, are all these people so pleasant as to demonstrate their animal instincts right before my eyes?

The Reason

From what I have gathered from Chileans here, it is absolutely inappropriate and unheard of to have anyone of the opposite sex in your bedroom, whether or not your parents are home. The home is considered a sacred place, a place for family, and to bring your pololo /a(boyfriend/girlfriend) over for a good time which warrants a door closed is considered disrespectful. Let it also be noted that most students go to school in their home town and continue to live with their parents through university and even after. My thirty year old host brother still lives at home and the same is true in several other host families in the program. Since this young adults typically don't have their own homes, they aren't allowed to sexually do as they please either. So I guess it's a choice between getting it on in public or straight up celibacy. Take your pick.

The Places

Pretty much any public place seems to be fair game; the university, bars and clubs, a random street corner but the metro seems to be the hot spot. Seriously, I probably see close to twenty couples daily during my train rides to and from campus, those of which are usually during peak hours when the metro is stuffed with bodies like sardines in a can, vacuum packed. Seriously, my body has been closer to some random people on the metro than to some of my past boyfriends. Yet the lack of personal space doesn't seem to be a deterrent for any couple, they just continue on about their business, which quickly becomes everyone's business when the sounds of their face sucking begin to echo throughout the train cabin. Also, Cerro Santa Lucia ,a gorgeous hill which is conveniently located close to campus, becomes a zoo of lovers every afternoon, basking in the glow of the sun and their libidos. A unique view for tourists.

You may ask why I have chosen to post about this particularly topic this week. Well, I will admit that I have made a Chilean friend of sorts. While we haven't spent anytime on hills or the metro together, I have kissed him on a few street corners. Hey, when in Rome, right?

Shout out goes to all my WashU loves who are back in STL or heading back in the near future. Miss all you guys and hope you have a great semester!



Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fun things I've eaten lately!

Hello all,

So I think you all know me pretty well, so that means you all know about my intimate realtionship with food. How I adore it, can't live without it, practically inhale it at all hours of the day. Although during my brief sickness food and I were at odds, we have since had a reunión cariñosa (loving reunion) and rather than keep it behind closed doors, I figured I'd give you all the juicy details of our relationship (metaphor gone too far?)


Thank god that these are not normally found in my house, I would eat them for breakfast I kid you not. If you haven't had one before, get online and find a place! Literally, they consist of a thin bread with delicious queso (cheese) inside, nothing is wrong with this combination. In addition, you can ask for camarones (shrimp), champinones (mushrooms) or pino (combination of meat, onions and egg. Sounds strange but each bite is like opening a bag of cracker jacks and finding a new toy bobbing amidst the sea of expected flavors. Can you tell that I love eating?) Usually when we go out on the weekends, we'll have a drink and order empanadas to share. (For my WashU people out there, it is literally the equivalent of Bears Den, eating fried goodness at 1:30AM, except here we do it before we go out, not after.) I have eaten them fried, baked, small and large but the most enjoyable was the one which was the size of my face. I consumed it in about 30 seconds.

Mermelada (Jam)

This delightfully sweet substance is available at a moment's notice. It's always on the table for breakfast although oddly it comes in a plastic wrapper rather than a jar. No refridgeration necessary (Please note that this applies to basically all food in Chile, including yogurt, eggs and milk, which comes in a box rather than a jug and is kept in our pantry.) I've been privileged to try multiple flavors, including blackberry, peach and this past week kiwi, which was homemade. Surprisingly unflavorful but I wouldn't kick it out of bed.


Literally the best thing ever created. It's Chile's version of Dulce de Leche and comes wrapped in crepes, cakes, cookies and all things wonderful. Also, know that there is always a jar of it in my house, just available for me to eat everyday. Goes well with bananas and other fruits. Also incredibly delicious when licked off my fingers.

In other food news, eveyday my host mom packs me a colaccion (snack), usually consisting of a juice box, crackers, cookies (know that the word galletas signifies both of these items making it even more difficult for me to avoid the gloriousness of baked goods) and a fruit item. However, when my parents were here last week, I ate with them for the most part, so the snacks remained untouched in my backpack. Long story short, I now have 6 packages of cookies, 4 juice boxes, 3 cereal bars, and 2 cracker packs carefully hidden in multiple compartments of my bag. Last week, I thought I could finish them off before the start of this coming week but then for Thursday, when I told her I was going to the playa (beach), she literally extracted half the contents of the kitchen and offered them to me as a "light snack" the leftovers of which have found their new home under my spanish-english dictionary and pencil case. She is very generous to give me all the food and I know she means it as an offering of love and comfort; therefore I cannot by any means return these items to the kitchen. If any of you were thinking of coming to visit me, now is the time; I can feed you for free for weeks.

Shout-out goes to my Uncle Paul! Snowboarding is huge here, especially since it's winter and the mountains are only an hour away. I've met a ton of people who go every weekend and are super into it, they remind me of you and your enthusiasm for the sport. Although I have recounted the tale of your dislocated shoulder a few times. Perhaps this isn't the best story to tell at parties.



Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A few language faux pas

Lovely people in my life!

Clearly from my last post, I've been a bit stressed out by classes and adjusting to university life here. Unfortunately, this has continued, BUT today I had successes with participating in a group assignment (via email, so I could read what everyone was saying and then later look it up in my Spanish English Dictionary) and for another class I was brave and asked a girl to work with me on a group project. I communicated effectively and now we are brainstorming topics. And tomorrow, I'm going to the beach with friends. Clearly triumphs are destined to come my way.

So, rather than complain about classes, I thought I would share with you all a couple of my most recent language goof-ups. I'm proud to say that I can now understand Chileans....but it's them who can't understand me.

1) One of my host brothers asked me if I had a boyfriend in the US and upon my reply (no) began asking me a whole slew of personal questions, including details on the type of man I'm interested in. I told him that I like men who are alto (tall); however, he heard this as auto (car) and told me I was rather materialistic. After fixing this confusion, we decided that my ideal man is seventy years old and rich, with multiple cars. When he bites the dust, I'll inherit all the money and my host brother will drive me around Santiago in my new fancy car.

2) At lunch a few weeks ago, we were eating chocolates which were made in Costa Rica but had English writing on the packaging. My host family asked me to read the ingredients and translate them. The first candy was a mixture of chocolate and guava fruit; many fruit names are the same in spanish as they are in English, so I figured guava was the same. After saying this word, the table went silent and my host brother laughed out loud; the word for guava fruit is guayaba, they all thought I said guagua, which directly translates to "baby". I'm pretty sure outting myself as a cannibal is not proper lunch time etiquette.

Shout out goes to my lovely parents, I had such a good time with you guys and miss you already! Enjoy Buenos Aires!



Sunday, August 8, 2010

A few quick updates!

Hello Guys and Dolls!

Sorry for a bit of a long hiatus, I haven't had a lot of free time this last week with the beginning of classes and also, my parents are here for the week, which has been a delight! I introduced them to my host family, my program director and program mates, basically they have now been acquainted with my existence here. It's been very special to be able to share this experience with them, so I've decided that now the rest of you should come visit me so I can do the same with all of you!

Ok, a few highlights from the first week of classes! So, the procedure is a bit different from WashU in the way that we visit classes the first week without registering for them and then once we decide the classes we want, we go to the office of the department and wait in line to register for each course. A bit more time consuming than to what I am accustomed but it has made for some delightful adventures. Here are the classes I have ended up taking:

Politicas Sociales y La Familia (Social Policies and the Family): This class deals with the impact of social codes on the Chilean family both inside and outside the household. It should be interesting to compare with the social pressures on a US family and I'm very interested to learn more about the cultural codes which conduct the family inside the home, so I don't unknowingly make a fool of myself in my host home, although it does make for some good stories. The second day of the class, which meets Tuesday and Thursday, we were supposed to form groups of seven and each group was to focus on a certain part of the reading due for the next class. Information you need to know: There are close to 50 people in this class, most of whom are from the same major and therefore are taking this class with all of their friends. I felt like I was the new kid in middle school or something, not knowing anyone and being on the outside of all the cliques. Thankfully, one of the groups was short a few people, so me and my program mate who is also taking the class joined their group.

With this problem solved you'd think we would be home free, but after this small victory, we commenced our hunt for the fotocopiadora (yes, photocopy office) in order to obtain the readings for the class. The girls in our group said something to us which to me sounded like the equivalent of doing tongue exercises and then left (Note: I am at the point where I can understand and participate in conversations, but talking to people between the ages of 17 and 24 continues to prove to be extremely difficult). We had no idea what to do so we just followed them, like the street dogs which follow us daily, hoping for some affection or food. I tried to ask multiple times what it is we were supposed to do in these groups, what readings we were supposed to read, etc, but they talked so fast that my efforts remained futile. Finally, they resorted to speaking in English to us since we were clearly incapable of speaking in Spanish and I got a better idea of the work we were supposed to complete. I have felt like a child multiple times in the last six weeks, but I think it is far worse when I'm being condescended by people my own age.

Mujeres en la Historia de Corea (Women in the History of Korea): Yes, I know it sounds random to be in Chile and taking a class about the culture of another country but I'm actually very excited to take this course! I'm the only foreign exchange student in the class which will be great for practicing my spanish with people my own age. The professor, who is Korean herself, asked me why I was taking this course, had I taken class about Korea before? I told her no but that I had taken Womena and Gender studies classes and was interested in the women's role in the culture of Korea. She promptly stated that she was NOT a feminist and the giggled with the rest of the class. I think it was all in good fun but perhaps I am now known as the crazy American women's liberationist...updates to follow soon.

Sociocultura de Genero (Social culture of Gender): While my other two classes are through the Catholic University, this class is through the University of Chile. We have the opportunity to take classes at both since the student populations vary considerably; at the Catholic University, it is very cuico (elite, upper class students) but at UChile, there is more of a mix of classes and backgrounds. It is also often the site of political protests so often times students arrive for class and are greeted by policeman blockading the campus.

UChile is also way more disorganized than Catolica and on the opposite side of the spectrum from WashU. I read about this course in the handbook I received but there was no information about where it took place, who taught it, or the hours it started and ended. I turned to my program director for help and we spent a good 1.5 hours trying to find this information with no success. She called about 15 people, none of whom answered the phone and there was no information available on line. The next day I had to the department office and solicit the secretary for the information; although the commute to get there was about an hour, I met with the secretary and the information within 2 minutes.

The class itself proved to interesting although equally disorganized. There was no semblance of a syllabus or anything, the professor wrote her email on the dry erase board and said that the information was available on the course website, that which I do not yet have access because I am a foreign exchange student and our emails are not yet working. But the professor lectured passionately, most of which I could understand and the material is intriguing. We'll see how the semester pans out.

Shout-out goes to Ben Herrmann who has just recently returned to the states from his four month adventure in South Africa. Hope you're well and I look forward to trading abroad stories with you in December!



Sunday, August 1, 2010

The longest night of my life

Good evening ladies and gentlemen!

I have a confession to make: although I don't go out that much in the US, I am actually a party animal. And Friday night, I came flying out of the closet.

My friend's host sisters invited us to go out with them to a dance club. The type, cover charge and location of the club were all lost in translation, so basically we blindly jumped in the car and hoped for the best.

Answers to the aforementioned questions:

Location: Still unknown to me. The club had no sign with its title and we drove on a road with which I was unfamiliar for some time. I think we were still in Santiago but we could have crossed the border to Argentina, it's still unclear.

Cover charge: $10, a bit pricey but it was also a sophisticated 25 and up club. Like before, nobody was carded.

Type of club: I am still unsure. When we entered there was a fancy-schmancy bar with fancy-schmancy expensive drinks over looking a dance floor. Hanging above the dance floor and twinkling with reflections from the lights were ten (yes, literally 10!) disco balls of different sizes and colors. I figured we were in a 70's themed venue yet as time went on the vibe began to change. The smell of pot flooded the dance floor, the sweet sounds of Bob Marley rang from the speakers and it seemed everybody IN THE WORLD with dreadlocks was in attendance; all signs point to reggae, which is apparently a very popular genre here in Chile, who knew?

At about 1:30am a live band began to play and, to continue with rastafarian theme, the lead singer tore off his Elmer Fud-like hat and revealed dreads the length of his entire body. Everyone cheered, inhaled and a short man in front of me wearing a newsboy cap and, I kid you not, the very same Macalester sweatshirt that hangs in my bedroom, began to jump excitedly, an activity which would continue for the next hour.

While I'm not a huge fan of reggae, I have to admit the concert was good, the energy was high and I couldn't help but groove. After the band played there last number, a DJ started up with some music more appropriate to the presence of discoballs. The 70's hit kept coming for about an hour, including stayin' alive and I couldn't resist pulling out my disco finger. Try not to be ashamed.

At around 3:00am I was feeling a bit sleepy. Just as my friend and I were talking about calling a cab, suddenly Lady Gaga came blasting from the speakers. One more song we agreed and then we'll peace.

This exact scenario occurred seven more times yet Black Eyed Peas, Beyonce and whoever sings Apple Bottom Jeans begged us to stay and we complied. I got my second wind and we proceeded to dance like nobody was watching. Yet, I got a little to into my groove, and after the course of multiple hip thrusts, it became clear that somebody was watching. I was approached and not asked but demanded to share a dance with my new friend, Roberto. Let us recall that I am underaged for this club; this man was well over 30 years old and the dimmed lights did not hide the beginnings of grey patches at his temples. After a few songs, it became clear to him that I was not interested in anything more than a dance and he graciously left on his own.

Yet the delightful music continued and before we knew it, the lights were turned on and the club was closing. It was 4:45AM. As we left, the adrenaline wore off and it was clear my body was exhausted yet my brain emitted the emotions of surprise and pride that I had successfully stayed out all night!

Yet, to my surprise, the night didn't end there. We hopped in the car and 5 minutes later pulled off the road into the parking lot of McDonalds. McDonalds. Food that I do not consume period, let alone at 5:00 in the morning. But we weren't the only ones, the place was absolutely packed with clubbers, ordering hamburgers with palta (avocado), kiwi infused soft serve ice cream and Coca-cola Light (Chilean version of Diet Coke). As my friend's host sister and her friends sat happily munching away at their greasy goodness, I tried not to fall asleep amidst my half eaten french fries.

Finally, at 6:30AM, I was dropped off in front of my home. Believe me, the first thing I wanted to do was write a time punched blog post to prove to you all that I actually survived an entire night out. However, my bed is between the door and the computer and the tantalizing thought of sleep won out. So, I guess you'll just have to believe me, but really, who could think up the combination of dreadlocks and discoballs?

Shout-out goes to Sean Harrold; there were some great techno mixes in the 4 o'clock hour which you would have loved. Perhaps when I return to the states we can repeat this night American style? Or maybe one day you'll be the sweet DJ with the perfect mix of music which prevents people from leaving until close?

Un besito,