Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just another Statesian?

Caveat Lector: I must admit this is a bit of a cesspool of sometimes partially articulated ideas, that some day could maybe be formed into a coherent blog entry or essay or conversation. But meanwhile, it is what it is. (This is actually a suitable description of my life in general.)

A while back, I read Tyff's blog entry on what Chileans think of gringos where she describes a painfully ugly scene with a bunch of gringos (and one particularly ugly one) in Ruby Tuesday. She notes that she calls Americans "people from the States" (as do I) and gives a bit of an explanation of why. I started commenting on Tyff's blog about the topic of the usage of the word "American", but realized that my comments had turned into a whole post, which I've just taken the time to publish. She touches on a topic that goes unnoticed by most Americans. What is an American? Lots of Latin Americans think that Americans (from the States) shouldn't call ourselves Americans and the fact that we have appropriated an adjective/noun that in Spanish, describes all of North and South America, is on our part, very chauvinistic. In this entry, I take a multifaceted look at this problem. Hopefully it's somewhat coherent. Stealing the dude's words: There are a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what-have-yous...

Here in Chile I refer to myself as a gringa in informal and general contexts and as an estadounidense (united statesian) in formal and specific contexts. "América"** for the most part refers to the continents of North and South America. America is not equal to América. American does not equal americano. They are false friends and lead you to histo-linguistic warfare.

To a point, different geography models even weigh in on this discussion. I was taught there are 7 continents. Latin Americans are generally taught there are six. North and South America are fused as one. There is also the six continent Eurasia model where North and South America are separate continents, but Europe and Asia are one continent. And there's the five-continent Eurasia model that excludes Antartica.

Back to the central point, I think the best points for defending our use of the word American are: 1) People living in the States were Americans and the States was referred to as America since the U.S. Constitution was written. 2) People from the United States of Mexico are Mexicans and people from the United States of Brazil are Brazilians thus people from the United States of America should be... 3) Most people in the States probably aren't aware that the Spanish word "americano" means anyone from América. I think it would be almost impossible to convince your average gringo he's no longer an American, as he understands the word. 4) if I'm not American, what am I? a yankee? a United Statian? a United Statesian? It's a possibility but sounds better in Spanish.

That said, I've gotten very used to thinking of an americano as anyone from América, and now when I use the word in English (especially here in Chile), it's just too confusing. Sometimes Chileans ask me if I'm an americana, because they know we call ourselves Americans in the States, but that's just even more confusing, because I know they call themselves americanos as well. However, when speaking in English, I mostly refer to Americans as "people from the States" or "U.S. citizens". When speaking in Spanish, as I said above, I use the much more specific term "estadounidenses". Personally I think we've really gotten the shaft on this whole nationality name thing. What were the writers of the Constitution thinking? There is no good answer to what we should be called. The term American is waay to confusing to use abroad, especially in Latin America. While I don't like the term "United Statesian", I kind of like "Statesian". I could live with being a Statesian. But try convincing the rest of the people from the States that they are Statesians and not Americans. Good luck! (So I'll refer to U.S. Citizens as Statesians for the rest of this entry.)

Part of the thing with language and culture is that it pays to understand the perspectives of the people around you. If a Chilean talks about América, (s)he is probably talking about the unified continent of North and South America. If your average yanqui in yanquilandia talks about America, (s)he's probably talking about the United States. And, by the way, yanqui is not a good term to use either because it, too, means different things in different places.

Now while Chileans have often told me that Statesians are chauvinistic because we consider only ourselves to be Americans, I don't necessarily agree. Chileans think that Statesians realize that everyone from North and South America are Americans. This has never crossed your average Statesian's mind. EVER. While I do believe many "Statesians" are culturally egocentrical, and probably even think of Latin America (and perhaps the rest of the world) as the State's backyard, either to be enjoyed, dominated or ignored, they have no idea that Latin Americans consider themselves to be Americans too. There are Statesians who simply don't think about the rest of the world. They are content where they are, so why go elsewhere? So we Statesians call ourselves Americans more because of cultural ignorance than a chauvinistic attitude. Although cultural ignorance and chauvinism are related and somewhat similar. For the record, many Statesians also look down on Europeans as well (it's not just Latin Americans they look down on).

It's interesting to note, while some Latin Americans look at Statesians' use of the word "American" with indignation, many Canadians would be insulted if you called them Americans. Hahaha. To each his own.

Also I think on large cultural lines, Latin Americans have a SEVERE INFERIORITY COMPLEX and that's why this debate bothers them so much. This is a product of their history and the fact that the idea of white supremacy was accepted here by intellectuals such as Andrés Bello (Pratt) and propagated by the history that was (and is) taught in school here. Plus many Latin American countries didn't do as good a job erraticating the natives as my anscestors did. So while they look down on the indigenous, many have indigenous blood. This is culturally fertile ground for the creation of magical realism and for hibrid cultures.

Also Latin Americans seem to be much more aware of the United States than Statesians are of Latin América.

Comments like "Chile is 10 years behind." "Chile is so behind." "Chile isn't a developed country.", while I think perhaps they have a grain of truth, when seen from a certain perspective, are a bit simplistic and are a result of this white supremist attitude which continues to reproduce itself. It's a belief in "progress". That we must "progress." Define "progress" in a general sense for me please! Because it's used in a vague general sense a lot. When people make comments like these, they are referring to Chile as inferior, compared to some vague ideal that they often don't have a clear picture of. Many Chileans seem to want Chile to turn out like the U.S. and/or Europe, this Edenic place to be worshiped and imitated. Most of these people have never been to either the U.S. or Europe. It's a grass-is-always-greener sort of mentality.

And clearly each culture has its good and bad points.

So I suppose this whole conflict of opinions will continue. The analysis and attitudes that this problem evokes in people, reflects the identity of the speaker more than it approaches a resolution to the problem. It's rich historical-cultural-lingüistic terrain.

Here are a couple forum threads that debate the unresolved America/América controversy:

There are a few more threads like this on wordreference including one I started about Mexicans, but I couldn't find one.

Here in Chile, they often think Mexico is part of South America. I was always taught it was part of North America so I started a thread in a cultural forum to see what Mexicans considered themselves. The general response was all three, first Mexican, then Latin American, then North American.

**I've seen this distinction America/América distinction made by Mary Louise Pratt.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

El precio gringo

Totally agree about what Sara says about the "Gringo Price". I also agree with the comment Kyle makes on Sara's blog, that if Chileans can get other Chileans to pay more, they will do it. It's not just something they do to gringos. Although, it's called the gringo price because it's much easier to make gringos (especially tourists) pay this price than other Chileans, who know that some of their fellow people will try to rip them off, if given the chance.

When I think about el precio gringo, several incidents come to mind that have happened to me in just the last few months.

When I printed my thesis, my friend X. designed a really stylish cover to put on the ugly fake-leather book (my bound thesis). She had studied architecture for a couple years near where I live and she knew where to get architecture plans (or in my case, a book cover) printed cheaply. She said it should cost about 1.000 pesos (2 dollars) to get the cover printed. We went to this place with the design on a pendrive and asked how much it would cost to print. The guy needed to see my thesis in order to get an idea of the size of the paper. First of all, just looking at me, it's apparent I'm a gringa. Second, on the cover, it said that this was my master's thesis for the Catholic University. So the guy was thinking, she must already have a job since this is her masters. She's going to a nice University and she's a gringa. "That will be 11.000 pesos." X. almost fell on her ass. Of course she questioned why it was so expensive, because she'd often had plans printed there and it didn't cost nearly that much and they were much bigger. The guy said that the paper was really expensive and that's why they were charging me eleven-fold what they used to charge X. It cost me less then that to bind two theses. This was just going to be a simple cover for them. Needless to say we canned that idea, because I had to turn them in the next day anyway.

This is just one of many cases I've experienced where people have tried to rip me off here.

That same day I'd eaten in one of the vegas and I didn't confirm the price of the lunch before ordering. (You should ALWAYS confirm the price before ordering if there's any chance of them trying to charge more. I knew that but had eaten at the vega a few times before with no problem, so I didn't confirm it this time, because it is a pain in the ass having to do it every time.) They totally screwed me over on the price. The waitress brought me the check and they were charging me double the price. At first I questioned the waitress, is this the right check? I pointed to where the price of my meal was written on the wall and asked why they were charging me double. She didn't know what to say so she looked at her boss who said "that is the right price." I got angry and started ranting in really colloquial, semi-vulgar chilensis how "me están cagando por ser gringa, el pedazo de pescadito era así una wea y uds me quieren cobrar 3 luka por esto? Puta, que tengo mala cueva por ser gringa. Qué penca. Así tratan a sus clientes?, etc." The waitress got visibly uncomfortable as all the Chileans having lunch there looked our way. (Chileans don't like to make a scene, so embarrassing them throughly in this way is reeeeeally satisfying. I might have even gotten my money's worth. You got to make them suffer a bit). I didn't want to get much more aggressive than that though because I was not on my turf at all. (Read: It's a poor neighborhood.) But the boss wouldn't ease up on the price even though the waitress didn't know what to charge me and was visibly ruffled. She knew they were charging double and that I knew it and I was letting everyone else in the little restaurant know it too. I left without tipping, too bad for the waitress, pero cómo tan penca? I haven't eaten at the vega since.

And, a month later, I was at the airport. Airport taxis are notorious for charging el precio gringo. You barely walk out the doors of the airport and the taxi drivers start bombarding you with offers to take you to the city. In October I arrived in the airport and needed a ride to my place. I was going to take the Transvip van to downtown Santiago, because it leaves you at your doorstep for like 5.000 pesos. However, most everyone was going to Providencia, or to the suburbs even further East. Right, I thought, Chileans who travel don't live in Santiago center. It was going to be a wait. So I decided to go talk to the bus people to see if the metro was running. Because for 1.000 pesos, the bus leaves you at the metro. However, it was early Sunday morning, so the metro wasn't running. I turned and started walking back the way I came. Just then, a taxi driver came up to me and offered to take me. I asked him how much he charged. He said 12.000 pesos. I looked at him, and very softly, so that he would doubt whether he'd really heard me say this or not, I said, "nica", and kept walking. So then he shouted at my back "11.000", "10.000", and then slightly flabbergasted: "how much do you want to pay?" This made me chuckle, but he'd already tried to screw me over and I knew Transvip could get me home, so I went with them.

When I need to call people to ask for their services, I sometimes have V. do it so that they won't hear my accent and charge double right off the bat. Just the other day I called my suegra to see if she could call the photographer for me so he wouldn't charge me the precio gringo. He gave her an excellent price. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and pay el precio gringo. There's only so much you can do.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Elqui Valley, part 2 & your chance to be an altruist

Check out Kyle's blog if you feel like being philanthropic today or if you want some photos of Chile. And remember "Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish..." o sea la educación es una cosa valiosa.

Alojamiento de cinco estrellas en Elqui Valley

Micro trip La Serena-Diaguitas
(this reservoir is a big Wind/kite surfing destination)


Paseando por Diaguitas

on the road, Elqui Valley

The obligatory visit to Capel.

Gabriel Mistral's grave, Montegrande, Elqui Valley

Diaguitanos dancing cueca for el dieciocho

waay too cute: Diaguitanitos performing a typical Rapa Nui dance. In Rapa Nui, do they dance the cueca on Sept 18th?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Elqui Valley para el dieciocho

como las weas manejar las fotos dentro de blogger..... que ondis...

help please!! any suggestions?..moving my photos when editting the post is next to impossible..what should I do?

to be continued...

taking out the trash in Elqui Valley

mmm...huevos del campo

Google Earth, real time.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Group post: Como somos (percibidos) los gringos

How I think gringos are perceived by Chileans:

**note - "gringo" - has two meanings 1) all white people from Northwestern Europe or whose ancestors were from Northwestern Europe. (perhaps including whites from Eastern Europe and the Balkans) 2) people from the States

I'm mostly refering to the second meaning.

trusting, naive (weones) – Gringos trust too much, they walk around in Chile with really expensive cameras, their cell phones, money, etc. and other things totally in sight. Several times I’ve told random gringos who cross my path to put their cell phones or cameras away when they are not using them.

trustable – I’ve found Chileans often trust me more then their fellow people. And to be honest, I trust random gringos more than I trust random Chileans.

paranoicos, paranoid - (what with the “pre-emptive” strikes and being super prepared for everything, boy scout style)

styleless – hooded sweatshirts, jeans, hair in a ponytail or covered with a baseball cap – this isn’t true for all gringos, but it’s common (Chileans obviously have some of their own style peculiarities –especially among pokemonos, o sea pokemones)

uptight – Especially some gringo tourists of the male sex who come to Chile and everything has to be exactly as they imagine it or else they complain a ton and get their panties in a bunch over trivial things.

approachable/friendly – I don’t know how many Chileans have asked me for directions in Santiago over the last couple of years…a lot.

I ran out of ideas and asked V what gringos are like

He replied the ones he’s met are:


they do what they propose they’ll do (hacen lo que proponen hacer)

they’re honest

they have money

I agree.

See other points of view here:


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Killing time at the border

On the way back from Mendoza this weekend, V and I and tons of other people were waiting to re-enter Chile for 3 or 4 hours. This is what the line to go through border control/customs looked like:

There were some big pieces of plastic laying on the mountain and sledding tracks. But no one was sliding. After 45 minutes sitting and waiting, nauseated from the bus and truck fumes, I finally grabbed the plastic and hiked up the side of the mountain to try it out and breathe some fresh air.

I made it look so fun, it soon turned into the pass time of a bunch of people in our situation. Granted, some one had been sliding before we got there, bc there were butt tracks and plastic already there.

And the onlookers:

There were even a couple of Chilean women who tried it out while wearing boots with stiletto heels. Impressive.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

82-90 (of 100 things I like about Chile)

Here are the first 81 things I like about getting around to almost finishing the list...These last were interesting because a lot of them were things I hadn't articulated in my own thoughts before, but mostly walking around the city, and hanging out a bit with friends, living here, I've been thinking about it.

  • 82) The prolific use of tutors. I never, as a kid, had a tutor. My folks answered specific questions I had about homework, but no one sat down with me for an hour or more to explain a subject. But here in Chile it is pretty standard among the people that can afford it. They contract college students or professional tutors to teach math, physics, English, etc. Or often grandfathers (retired engineers, for example) are called on to teach their grandchildren math. Doesn't the thought just warm your heart? I think it's cool because then the kid essentially has two teachers, and is taught the material from slightly different perspectives, something I believe helps the student out.
  • 83) People walk in the street here. In the States, people don't walk much. At least where I lived, it didn't happen a lot. I love the life in the streets. It humanizes a place. And public transportation here, it's not just for minorities. Millions of people actually use it, which makes for a pretty good system (even if its going to run out of money in a few days.)
  • 84) The grandmothers and grandfathers often live with their children. The US system has old-folks homes-which have their appeal-because they hang with their peers, but I like the Chilean family system-everyone in the same house. Plus than grandparents can help out and feel useful and share with their family, as well as save money. And the children can keep an eye on their aged parents and not worry about how they are doing in a home somewhere.
  • 85) The houses are smaller. (I'm talking about middle-class houses here, not the social housing which is too small.) I find the huge gringo McMansions totally unnecessary and I plan on living in a small house for most of my life. Some of the advantages of a small house include: you have to clean less, the house feels more filled with energy, it's less expensive to heat, you have to limit the amount of random stuff you accumulate, entre otras cosas.
  • 86) There's more home-cooked food here. Your average family seems to eat more salads (at least in my experience.) I also love the consomé served before the main course. It's basically just soup broth, but it's tasty. Try ordering that at a gringo restaurant. They'll bring you a bowl of stew toped with a quarter inch of cheese. Normal portion sizes just don't exist in the States. I'm glad they sell mini-bottles of pop, like 4 oz bottles widely availible in Chilito.
  • 87) They don't generally put nasty salad dressing on your salads. I hate it in the US when I forget to ask for the salad without the dressing. Here it's all about the salt, fresh lemon, and olive oil, I actually ask for this at restaurants in the US now. (Although, now and then they put a big gob of mayo on your salad-nasty-but it's easier to get off when it's all in one place.) If I'm going to have salad dressing, I prefer my own home-made French dressing.
  • 88) How Chileans ignore people or cut people off when the speaker is hogging the conversation or getting into a long soliloquy about who knows what. Or they start making fun of a person when he gets too serious in a conversation. In Starbucks one day, a while back, I was comparing gringo conversations and Chilean conversations. The gringo conversations transmitted a large quantity of information and seemed really useful for informing oneself, getting stuff done, sharing personal information. Chilean conversations, on the other hand, are more about teasing each other, joking around, just hanging with the other person "ontologically". The amount of information exchanged is often little.
  • 89) Short term thinking vs. long term thinking, (again). A big change I noticed in myself after being here as an expat for like a year is that, when I was home on vacation, and ran into friends I hadn't seen in a while, I was more likely to ask them what they'd done yesterday and what they were up to tomorrow rather than there life master plan for the next 1 to 5 years. Whereas before going to Chile, I was more likely to ask about their long term plans. One time, while at home on break, I ran into a friend of mine. I asked him what his sister was up to. He told me she had gone back to Spain to teach English for another year because she was sick of people asking her what her plans were. jajajaja. I totally understood her. Hispanic territory seems to be a refuge for those without a plan. jaja
  • 90) The nanas. Class differences suck, I know. But the positive side of that is you can afford someone to cook and clean for you all day, almost every day. Before I came to Chile for the first time as an exchange student, I talked to another high schooler who had just gotten back from Chile. She said the family's nana made fresh natural juices for her everyday. She also spent her first two weeks in Chile with her host family on their yacht, cruising the Chilean coastline. Needless to say, I was stoked I was heading to Chile after hearing her stories. While I've benefitted from the nanas (at friends' houses), I have yet to be invited on a yacht here. jejeje

Friday, September 5, 2008

Group post: Chilean women

Chilean moms do everything or feel like they should do everything in the house…they auto-value themselves by how well they are meeting their family’s needs and have exceedingly high expectations of themselves as mothers and wives. Either that or they don’t know another roll besides waiting on their families hand and foot. And if they don’t live up to this standard they seem to feel guilty about it. The older generation, in general, didn’t study as much as the younger generation and so are restricted to a life as a housewife and mother.

My generation, probably due to globalization and contemporary times, has way more in common with me than the older generation. They study; they aren’t as concerned about the home (granted my best friends here aren’t mothers.) Some young women don’t even know how to cook and it seems the male generation is learning to cook and clean. Yay! For the most part, they seem to want to “help” the women rather than take responsibility for the cleaning themselves. But even so, it’s nice they contribute.

Women here keep their homes so clean. My Lord. My Chilean man has had to get used to a grungy house. It often looks like a bomb exploded here. I do try to pick up after myself, but it’s hard. I’m not used to it. I’m not Chilean.

Maybe its not that they are so clean and orderly…No, it is. They are neat…and gringos are just more disorganized and messy in general.

I remember as a high school exchange student here, back in the day, I went to Los Andes for a weekend and stayed with a family there. I remember entering the sister’s bedroom with her and a friend, and there were a couple of shirts on the bed and a couple of sweaters. She was a little embarrassed at how messy the room was. Everything else was in perfect order. The bed was made; everything was picked up. She went on for about 5 minutes explaining to me why the place was sooo messy: that they’d arrived and had to change clothes quickly to go somewhere, etc... No choice but to smile and nod. At that age, my room always had a half a foot of clothes on the floor that I would tread through to get to my un-made bed.

Appearances are more important in chile: physical appearances, clean rooms, nice clothing, ojala brandname clothing, nice-looking resumes, etc. The Chilean women dress nicely, and like other gringas have mentioned they dress much sexier than your average gringa.

Although I note that a lot of the older Chilean women are quite overweight and that’s when the sexy dressing stops, but they seem to wear tighter fitting clothes here than in the States.

The Chilean women of my generation are sexually very liberal…I think more so than gringas, although gringas seem to have a reputation as being very sexually active. (They should really teach sex ed here!!) But that’s because of the ones that get drunk and make it with anyone that crosses their path. But actually there are a fair amount of puritans among gringas. Whereas the Catholics can be absolved for their sins once a week, the puritans have to carry their sins with them for the rest of their lives. Cuak. Perhaps this is why.

Chilean women seem more jealous than gringas. I think they like to keep close tabs on their men’s whereabouts. I feel like infidelity is more common here too though. After five months here as an expat, I was traumatized by the amount of infidelity I noticed among the people I was getting to know. At this time, I decided I would not date a Chilean. Eventually I met V, who is part of the 50% of the Chilean non-cheaters.

V. says that my Chilean female friends are not your average Chileans however, so my perspective is a bit off, probably in comparison with the other gringas. I also asked one friend if she agreed with this, and yes, she did. She doesn't always identify with her girl friends from high school. The Chilean women I most hang out with are relaxed, fun, like to have a good time, aren’t jealous. They are easy to get along with. They dress really cute and are more concerned about their appearances than your average Minnesotan. Hahaha. And they have developed people filters.

In the elevator the other day, a friendly neighbor began talking about how the women wear the pants here in Chile. (His wife had sent him back up to the apartment to get an umbrella.) He asked us if this was true. I said yes, hehehe. And the other lady in the elevator said that relationships should be 50-50. So there you have it. And what those 50 percent consist of is the question.

For more perspectives on Chilean women, check out the links on Kyle's blog.

Monday, September 1, 2008

piropos and the like

After commenting on Kyle's question of the day: to provoke or not to if you should bitch out the nasty jotes (ho-tays) who make comments or which several of us replied: the answer depends on the situation...basically, yes it's a good idea, as long as you wouldn't be putting yourself in danger doing it, I'm going to share some experiences I had in Spain along these lines.

Besides the myriad times Chilean guys have thrown piropos my way, the Spanish are also good at this. While the Spanish flirts, in general, I find to be more respectful than the Chilean jotes, and actually I absolutely loved the Galician people and felt very at home when I lived in Galicia...I did have a few memorable incidents of courageous piropos when in Spain and they all seemed really funny to me.

Los pulpos
The first experience was while at a discoteque in Madrid with other gringas. I went to the hip-hop floor and started dancing with some of my classmates-all girls, in a circle the way we do, and I had a Spaniard come up behind me and grab me - like put his arms around me. I was shocked and turned around and angrily pushed him away. I crossed the circle of gringas and started dancing on the other side, and the exact same thing happened right away. So I went to the electronic floor where the guys were more chill. The Spaniards called this type of guy a pulpo, (an octupus).

One night I was walking with my friend Carmen in Santiago de Compostela. We were just arriving to the vegetarian restaurant where we were meeting up with a couple more friends and we heard running footsteps behind us and before I was able to turn around, this guy wound up his hand and slapped my right butt cheek with mucho gusto and continued running. (I was surprised it didn't bruise, the slap was so forceful!) He was out of sight in a couple seconds. Out of shock, I just started laughing. Because it didn't scare me and it was just completely absurd. Granted, I'd probably be pissed if it ever happened again, but at the time it was too ridiculous to take seriously.

Los viejos verdes
And the third and most entertaining incident happened after J, L, and I did the "Camino de Santiago" from the border of Galicia to Portomarín. We heard the last 100 kilometers of the camino were alongside the highways and not nearly as pretty as the first 500 kilometers. Granted we didn't do the whole pilgramage. We started like at kilometer 400 and walked to kilometer 500...but anyway me estoy alejando del tema.

So we were in Portomarín waiting for the bus to Lugo where we would catch a second bus home to Santiago, and there were these two 70 year old guys waiting for the same bus. And J and I were talking to one and L was talking to the other and he began to hit on her, el viejo verde. Just then the bus arrived so we let the old foggies get on first. They sat in the back and then J and L sat behind the driver and I sat behind them where we wouldn't be bothered. After a bit on the bus, I felt something in my hair, and I ignored it because como tan could they be so dumb. But then I felt something touch my hair again; I turned and the two viejos were sitting behind me smiling at me.

I shouted at them:
Me: ¿Cuántos años tenéis?
el viejo verde 1: Tengo 70. (He said this with lots of dignity, his tone almost made me crack up in laughter).
Me: Porque vosotros estáis portando como si tuvierais 4 o 5 años. (I had just learned the subjuctive form "tuvierais" in grammar class, and was soo proud of myself for being able to use it correctly in an urgent situation like this one.)

And with that, the whole bus erupted. There were like 20 other passengers and they all had an opinion. "Leave the girls alone!" they said. "Behave." "Quit being rude." And the bus driver started braking and asked them "Do you guys want to get off the bus right now? Because if you don't leave them alone, you will be getting off." To which they responded "no." We were in the middle of nowhere. I can just imagine these two viejos verdes balling each other out after being dropped off on the highway in the middle of the prairie. Hahaha. Needless to say, they left us alone for the rest of the ride.

The large difference that I've experienced between Chilean and Spanish cultures with regards to the men who throw piropos, is that the Spanish are way more forward about it. I think they have a healthier relationship towards rejection. Whereas, in the Chilean incidents (I commented them on Kyle's blog), the men often try to "pasar piola" the dude on the bus who had his hand touching the side of my leg without me even knowing it. And then when I chewed him out, he just moved over and acted like nothing had happened. And no one said anything. Very typical of Chilean culture. And the other guy who crossed the line staring at me in the grocery store ran away before I could yell at him.

Granted not all Chilean guys are piroperos. Most of them are very chivalrous and fun to be with. While there are a lot of jotes in Chile-too many-I'm doing my part to fight back. Jejejeje.

And I don't mind the ones who are nice about. Every now and then when I'm having an I-feel-ugly day, it's nice to hear that not everyone agrees with me.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Yay, my kahla lilies are blooming

Just one of the perks of living in Santiago. It's winter and look at my kahla lilies blooming outside. This is impossible in Minnesota.

Falta la foto de Minnesota con un metro de nieve. Lamentablemente no tengo una en forma digital. Here's where I should have a photo of Minnesota in winter:
But I don't. Here's a link of Minnesota in winter, however. Yeah it's pretty. But it gets pretty dull after six months.

My friend Katha gave these to me a few years ago when she moved back to Berlin. The plant had two small stems with two small leaves. I broke one stem in the micro ride from her place in Playa Ancha to my place in the port. I thought the plant was a goner. A couple weeks later, I moved to a much cuico-er part of Valpo and nursed the plant back to health on my balcony for a year. The view from there was absolutely delightful. It received sunlight all afternoon.

and when we moved to Santiago a couple years ago, the kahla began to bloom like crazy. Above you can enjoy a photo of the first three flowers of the season.

The photo of Valpo can also be titled "why I miss Valpo".

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

blogger world map

I thought of something that should exist. It probably already does, as do lots of things that occur to me. Comes with living in a world with 6 billion other human beings, I guess. Anyway, the thing I thought of is that there should be a map on the internet and bloggers who blog about places, (like Chile for example) should all be classified together, perhaps by nationality. So if I wanted to read a blog about Iran, I could go to this map and click on Iran, and then I could have the choice of what nationality I wanted the writer to be - Iraní, Spanish, from the States, Chilean, Russian, etc. So as to read about lots of different places from lots of different perspectives in different languages. Anyone know of an internet site like this?

Monday, August 11, 2008

100 things I like about Chile

  1. My boy, obvio.
  2. Mis amigos chilenos and my expat friends, also obvio.
  3. Transantiago. Yes, I hear your groans. It's not perfect, but I like it. So ha! Coming from a small town in the States, public transportation is pretty much magical to me and always will be. I prefer not owning a car. But in most parts of the States you are pretty much obligated to own a car if you want to get anywhere. I remember before Transantiago started, I used to think how under-utilized the metro was. (Be careful what you think about.) Coming home from capoeira class, I was often the only one in the car. Now, the metro is quite saturated during peak hours, but I can wait for the second or third train if necessary. Plus now the trains are more frequent in general. On my way home from capoeira now there are generally 20 people in the car with me. And I obviously don't speak for everyone when I say I like Transantiago. There are probably people who have more problems commuting now, but I think it works pretty well. I've used public transport in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida a couple times. What a freaking joke, pain-in-the-ass frustration. To get from one end of Ft. Lauderdale to the other (where I needed to go) would have taken me 4-5 hours on bus, transferring 4 times, for a total of 5 buses. I ended up taking a taxi at the bus terminal, upon getting off the third bus and finding out I had at least two more buses to take to get there. So yeah, Transantiago is pretty good, even (especially) compared to lots of US cities. Though, I must say, Boulder and Denver, Colorado have pretty good public transport. But doesn't the exception just prove the rule? And should Boulder even count? Afterall, it's just that "small city north off Denver nestled between the Rockies and reality." So, yay for Transantiago.
  4. The minimarkets. (Convenience stores.) They are everywhere and their prices aren't that expensive. In fact, one near my house sells fruits and vegetables for cheaper than the supermarkets.
  5. The asado, (and of course the famous choripan). Ñami. The barbecue is the Chilean carrete par excellence. So eat, drink and be merry.
  6. The TESL market. It's divine y totalmente inagotable. Two words: zero competition.
  7. Hahaha, this one might offend the Chileans: Peruvian restaurants (like Ají Seco) and Peruvian picadas (check out the photo of the ceviche from Alpamayo). (I do like Chilean cuisine as well.)
  8. That the woman doesn't take the man's last name. K lata tomar el apellido del marío!!!! This has never been something that appeals to me in the most remote way. I'll stick with my surname, thank you very much.
  9. Inti-illimani
  10. Valparaíso
  11. El barrio puerto, La Matriz, la Plaza Echaurren, Café Journal (de Valpo), Sethmacher, la Bandera Azul, Pagano y Exodo (especially on weeknights) me está dando nostalgia, que paja.
  12. Los cerros de Valpo. La "O", who knows what this micro is called now...
  13. Café Vinilo
  14. Cerro Alegre, obvio.
  15. Los baños turcos (especially de Valpo)
  16. El Muelle Barón, The Deck
  17. Sonora Barón
  18. Conmoción
  19. Sopaipillas
  20. Cazuela
  21. Empanadas
  22. Chorrillanas y borgoña, los Jota Cruz de Santiago y Valpo
  23. Ritual - los ponce con fruta que liquadan para los clientes
  24. Plaza Aníbal Pinto
  25. Capoeira Sul da Bahia
  26. Capoeira Muzenza
  27. envases retornables
  28. un local en cerro alegre cerca de pza San Luis que tiene un cine pequeño. Abrió como en 2005, pero se me escapa el nombre.
  29. El Danubio Azul ojala viviera allá para frequentarlo más a menudo
  30. Seafood in Con-Con
  31. Maitencillo
  32. Pichilemu
  33. La Carretera Austral
  34. Puyuhuapi Fjord
  35. Las toninas
  36. Bariloche hahaha, just joshing with you. How 'bout Lago Todos los Santos, instead? I recommend the lakes crossings. If you have a Chilean or Argentian carnet, it's a third of the price, and go from one travel agency to the other until they offer lo que te corresponde. The dudes in Argentina tried to charge me 3x the price. I went to 3 different travel agencies because I didn't trust the guys who were trying to sell me the ticket at full price and they had me convinced that I didn't get the "Chilean/Argentinian price", because although I had a Chilean carné, that didn't count. When I finally bought the Lakes crossing ticket, I went to a fourth agency and the lady there was the only one who was honest with me and she gave me the Chilean/Argentinian discount. This was in Bariloche.
  37. La biblioteca de Santiago
  38. El museo pre-colombino
  39. My neighbors, although I don't know them very well, the ones I do know a bit, I get along with, and find to be good people.
  40. Colo-Colo, ja!
  41. Hacienda Los Lingues outside of San Fernando, best hotel I've ever stayed at in my life, and perhaps the best hotel I will ever stay in. It boasts being the oldest business in South America and one of the 15 oldest businesses in the world. I'm no historian, but sure, why not? If you have the money, I recommend staying there the weekend, especially in the summer. They have this gorgeous outdoor pool for guests exclusive use. This place is in the book A Thousand Places to See Before You Die.
  42. el almuerzo, I like that it's generally a three-plate meal
  43. el dieciocho
  44. la cueca
  45. los feriados Católicos!!! - you know those days we get off that no one really knows why, something to do with Catholicism
  46. La Ramada de Viña
  47. Chancho en Piedra
  48. Victor Jara
  49. Chilean writers
  50. Chilean black humor
  51. Chileans love to joke about who you look like. For example, as an AFS student here 10 years ago, my classmates said I looked like Lili Peréz. I just did a google search for images and I see what they mean. At first I found this custom random and somewhat annoying because they were always comparing friends to famous people and it seemed a bit exagerated to me. But I've gotten used to it. And to be honest, this trait has gotten funnier over the years. Several months back there was this chicana girl, Georgina, working here with Movistar. So she was a colleague of my boyfriend. The day I met her, Vuko invited me to the Bar Unión in Nueva York Street to have un sandwich de carne mechada (te lo encargo! y bogoña) with a few of his colleagues, including Georgina and Cristian (who I've known for a few years). We were conversing and suddenly Georgina said, "Don't you think Cristian looks like Mr. Rogers?" I burst out laughing, because He DOES!! That is the single most hilarious comparison anybody has ever made using the typical so-and-so looks like so-and-so Chilean joke format. (This may be as much a Latin American thing as a Chilean thing.)
  52. el Coa
  53. el Chilensis
  54. los mil tambores
  55. Spelling in Spanish, it's spelled just as it's pronounced. What a novelty!
  56. the weather
  57. the fruit: chirimoyas, lucumas, the export apples, oranges, strawberries, avocados, tomatos
  58. my chirimoyo trees - they're pretty young, 2 years old maybe, but they smell like chirimoya fruit...sometimes known as a "custard apple" in British English. I agree with Mark Twain that the chirimoya "is the most delicious fruit known to man".
  59. Patronato
  60. la vega
  61. cochayuyo - although I have yet to cook with it, it's very healthy, with lots of iodine and it's abundant here. Plus it's fun to say chochayuyo
  62. Chilean wine
  63. the olives, oh my lord, the best olives I've ever eaten in my life I had while carreteando at this Ariquen dude's apartment like four years ago. They were the size of golf balls and incredibly tasty.
  64. yoga a luka
  65. el premium - it's a vegetarian completo that they sell on a street off of Pio Nono (Bellavista), although I think it is more widely available now. It's also known as a "completo falso" because it doesn't have a hot dog. El premium comes with tomatoes, palta, melted cheese, Chilean green beans, mayo, and I can't remember what else. But it is tasty.
  66. Portillo, Valle Nevado, etc.
  67. la Universidad Católica de Valpo
  68. tomar once
  69. los hervidores eléctricos y termos - a tradition I will probably use the rest of my life to make tea, turkish coffee (not nescafé), etc.
  70. the "cariño latino" and the social courtesies like greeting each other with a kiss on the cheek. I even feel like the carretes are more "acogedor", as long as you arrive before everyone is trashed, and probably even if you arrive after this point... I get the impression here that there are less "loners" than in the States, because Chilean culture, to an extent, has a way of including everyone...but perhaps the cost of this is the extreme pressure to conform...I noticed a lack of loners in high school here. Granted smaller class sizes probably make it more difficult to be a loner. My high school class here had like 20 people, whereas in the States we were 357 in my class. In fact, does a class of 350 even exist in Chile? Probably not.
  71. el hecho de que los chilenos no se compliquen por las weas insignificantes...Chileans don't get their panties in a bunch over the little things..."pero, no te compliquis"
  72. the "Chilean yes" -- sometimes
  73. Chilean un-pc-ness. To an extent. I had my first experience of total un-political correctness in Spain for carnival 2002. Carnival is a time where you are supposed to do everything you won't be able to do during lent (and the rest of the year). In Ourense, Spain February 2002, the two costumes that the men were dressed up in were: transvestite ones and terrorist ones (six months after 9/11). Those terrorist outfits consisted of the typical white robes lots of Arabs wear and machine guns. One hundred percent un-pc, but there's something relieving about acknowledging a taboo. I think US culture goes waaaay too far to be pc. I think pc-ness is good in that it shows courtesy towards people different from you. But I think US culture takes pc-ness to the extreme that it just becomes another mask. Because the homophobic who refrains from making comments about homosexuals still hates them. And so it becomes a subject that can't even be breached. And there is where it goes too far......So, after that long introduction, I have begun to tener cariño toward the fact that here the world outside of Latin America is made up of four races: chinos, turcos, negros and gringos. And closer to home the nationalities actually get mentioned: argentinos, bolivianos, venezolanos, peruanos, colombianos, mexicanos, etc. I find this sort of endearing...and absolutely un-p.c. which makes it hilarious...
  74. ritoque, la ciudad mansa volá
  75. The number of architects here. I met like one architect during the 22 years I lived in the States, whereas here half my friends are architects or graphic designers. It's a Chilean thing or something. I enjoy perusing this website that has to do with architecture and social housing. super interesting. (And the planteamiento del problema is really smart, explaing the economics of long-term planning when developing social housing, not a common type of planning here in Chile.)
  76. On that note: Short-term planning - for some things. (Like parties.) I like how I mostly don't plan at all in advance here. It's cuts down on stress a ton and it makes me enjoy the present moment way more. I may plan a couple outings with friends a few weeks in advance, because it's nice to have something to look forward to, and it also assures people will be available. But it's nice to not be totally committed. I like to have a bit of flexibility. Too few commitments sometimes mean no one is available when I want to see people, and too many just becomes a bit too stressful, trying to pack it all in. A nice balance of committments and flexibility is the key for me.
  77. The fact that people live with their parents until they are 25 or 30. I love it. After I graduated from the U, I moved back in with my folks for a couple years to save money. I may be the only person I know in the States who did that. I could have afforded to live on my own, but I wouldn't have saved nearly as much money. Plus I get along well with my folks and we took turns cooking dinner and walking the dogs. It worked out well for all of us. If I'd had a boyfriend at this point in my life, I probably would have lived with him, but I didn't have one, so there you go. Apparently I was waiting for a Chilean man.
  78. The curfew I had in high school here. My curfew in high school in the States was midnight...definitely a strict one, in the way curfews go. And then I came to Chile for a semester in 11th grade, and my curfew was 8am. hahahaha. Apparently my host mom wanted to be sure her daughter and I were still alive the next day. I was soo excited, although I must say, we never partied til 8am. We were home usually between 3am and 5am, if my memory serves me. I changed host families half-way through my stay and my second set of host parents gave me a more reasonable curfew of 3am.
  79. The fact there is not this constant push to be productive every second of the day, like in the States. I learned to indulge in my unproductiveness when I studied abroad in Spain. Here it's a bit different, but they definitely don't have that push to be productive at every second of the day. Granted I do work and study, play capoeira, hang out with friends, cook a lot, etc. But I try to simplify things often especially when short for time, which Chileans are excellent at. They are incredible improvisers always looking for the short cut. I love this about them (in lots of cases). It has its down side too, I don't negate that.
  80. I've always been on "Latin time". And that works sooo much better in Latin America.
  81. waxing my legs, armpits and bikini line costs $12. Ja! This is a significant advantage to living here, because I'm a hairy beast. hahahaaha
to be continued...

Monday, July 28, 2008

A divided country

So basically one of the first things many gringos ask about when or before we get to Chile is Pinocho. It's a taboo subject among the natives because talking about El General is pretty much guaranteed to lead to the same old tired argument that has two positions: he was good for Chile, he was bad for Chile. There is no, "well, things sucked with Allende, so perhaps a cous de etat was necessary, but maybe Pinocho & co. se fue en la volada killing innocent people, etc." Seventeen years is a hell-ass long freaking time to have had him as dictator/general of this country and people have strong opinions about him...basically they love him or they hate him. Perhaps there are people out there who actually lived in Chile during those years and are indifferent or ambivalent about him. They probably live in Puyuhuapi. Anyway, I do plan to ask people their feelings about "El general" to see if I hear anything new with regards to the subject. I haven't brought the topic up since like 2000, because I got bored of hearing the same 2 answers...that he's great or that he sucked...and the same ideas and people, enfatically discussed over and over: communists, socialists*, civil war, capitalism, los desaparecidos, human rights, etc. Any other positions out there or am I accurate to say it's just these two?

*When I've heard Chileans talk about socialists, I get the impression they make it a synonym of communists. Anyone else feel this way?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Can I just say I'm sick of the freaking English language?

I'm sick of writing "their" instead of "there". Meet you their, rather than meet you there. Really I think the whole English language should be re-transcribed, tackling the fundamental problem at the heart of English spelling: it was transcribed with the Latin alphabet, which only has 5 written vowels, whereas English has something like 14 vowel sounds. This is a problem. Let's compare this with Spanish which has 5 vowels and 5 vowel sounds. Sheer genius. We need an English spelling reform, because being an expat, all these annoying spelling exceptions are forgotten. And that's not okay when you are an English teacher. It's embarrassing being corrected by my students.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Porque Colo Colo es Chile

So after four and a half years in Chile, three and a half of which I have spent lots of time watching soccer games on TV, especially Colo Colo, the Chile national team, European leagues, etc., I finally stumbled upon a good opportunity to see Colo Colo en vivo. Yupi. The game was played in the Estadio Monumental at three thirty in the afternoon and was very exciting because 1) I actually saw the team live and 2) I experienced what it was like in general, how the fans were, the vendors, the 500-peso shot of coffee, etc. It was a bit overwhelming at first. I was soooo excited, because más encima Colo-Colo is my fave sports team in the world. I was super curious to see what it would be like, what would surprise me about it and I was excited to see the game LIVE. Yay.

Once upon a time I went to a hockey game in Prague and I remember the highlight was the mulled wine they sold between periods. A warm tasty beverage to combat the cool December evening. jeje I can assure you they don't sell alcohol at Colo Colo games porque quedaría la mansa cagá. The highlight of this game, apart from seeing Colo Colo play LIVE, was la garra blanca. There were no cheerleaders at the Colo Colo game. They aren't at all necessary. Instead there is a whole section of dedicated Colo Colo fans that make up the self-designated "garra blanca" (the white fighting spirit) whose motto is: "Tu muerte fue jugando. Lo nuestro será cantando." They lived up to their motto and sang the whole entire game from start to finish, taking a break only at half-time. The garra blanca has this big, loud drum to keep the beat. (I think this is typicalyof soccer fans in Chile and perhaps the Greater Latin America.) They continued playing after the game, while we filed out and headed to the car parked at a nearby mall. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I have heard the garra blanca is composed mostly of flaytes, so while they give ambiance and entertain, they are best kept at a distance.

The Rangers won 3-2, BOO, but it was a pretty good game. The ref seemed a bit unfair, but it's harder to judge this live because there were no instant replays to get a better look at what happened. The funny thing was, a couple of times during the game I found myself waiting for the instant replay. Once for a possible foul and another time I wanted to see the replay of a goal. But no, this doesn't exist en vivo, duh. Perhaps I should go to live games more often. I must've overdosed on soccer games viewed on TV. The other thing I felt was missing was the roster. Claro, on TV, the commentary people say the names of the players all the time. But since Suazo and Sanchéz have moved on to other teams, I only know one of the players by memory - Sanhueza. Obviously most Colo Colo fans probably know the key players by name, so a roster is totally unnecessary, but I would have enjoyed having one. Perhaps I can check out the official website before going to the next game. Or bring a radio, like what some people do to listen to the commentary. En fin, estuvo entrete la cuestión. A ver si voy a otro más adelante.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

deja vu?

I took this picture in 2006, graffiti-art in Valpo.

Santiago 2008

Puta que tienen buen graffiti.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Garage sales in Chile: lost in translation

I've had two quasi garage sales in Chile and I'm clear that the Chileans had no idea WHAT I was doing selling my stuff so cheap. But they did understand I was selling pretty nice things for good prices. And that's all they had to understand to participate. Before moving from Valpo to Santiago, I went through my closet to get rid of things that didn't fit right or that were a bit old and worn out. I gave some of my stuff to friends, but the things no one wanted I got ready to take to Avenida Argentina on Wednesday. I laid everything out in my apartment first to make sure it all fit on the plastic I had. I imagined the porteños were going to descend upon my goods pretty quickly and it was going to be total chaos once I got to the Avenida. So I wanted to have a go-through at laying out all my stuff once beforehand. Here's the test run in my apartment:

I got to Avenida Argentina and laid out my stuff and sat and waited. I was at the very end of the line of people selling used stuff. On Wednesdays people line up for blocks with their stuff laid out like so. I was surprised that people walked by and didn't even "pescar". I'm sure they thought it was weird that a gringa was there selling her stuff. They probably assumed my prices were comparable to the other vendors, or even more expensive since my clothing was from the States and probably better quality than theirs. After about 20 minutes sitting there reading the newspaper, a woman finally came up and asked how much something cost. I gave her such a cheap price she didn't even try to bargain with me. There was no point. If she hadn't bought the item, someone else would have for that price. They were garage-sale prices. The thing is, all the other vendors there sell used stuff to supplement their income, so their prices are correspondingly higher. The idea of a garage sale barely exists here in Chile. I have seen signs for a garage sale in the Barnechea here in Santiago, once, but have never seen a garage sale here. Old stuff is much more valuable here at the end of the world.

My part of the sidewalk soon turned into a small tornado of porteños asking me how much my stuff costed and passing me the money. I sold almost everything in about 10 minutes. A few people walked off with stuff without paying, but I imagined that would happen, and it didn't bother me. The point was to make a few bucks while getting rid of extra stuff. I kind of did it for the experience of it all. I was curious what it would be like. I got the idea from a friend of mine and her husband; they had sold a few things there before relatively quickly, pocketed the cash and were off.

When the crowd finally moved on, I was left with only a few things. It was time to go home. The vendedora kiddy corner from me started talking to me, so I went over to chat with her. She was disappointed that her sales weren't as good as mine, and was perhaps a little upset with me. She may have felt I stole her clients. I doubt it. I've never seen a Chilean street vendor stormed the way I was. And I did it ONCE in Valpo, whereas she's probably there every Wednesday and Saturday. If she'd had any idea what I was doing, she would have bought me out and then easily resold my things at double or triple the price. I empathized a bit with her and offered what was left. She was going to be there all day selling anyway. That seemed to cheer her up. Plus it was nice for me. Otherwise I would have had to have gone to Calle Serrano to give the rest to the used clothing store there. (One of the places that blew up in February 2007 because of a gas leak.)

Garage Sale number II: The garage sale to end all garage sales in Chile.
After living in Santiago for a year, I had some more things that I was getting no use of. This time I went to Parque Forestal, where people sell their used stuff in Santiago Centro. I felt a bit more at home there, because while in Valpo all the people selling stuff were older, here in Santiago, all the people were about my age. They were selling some pretty cute stuff. I was looking forward to selling quickly so I could check out their things. I had just got my clothing laid out when a cop started walking down the street talking to the vendors. He worked his way up the street until he got to me. He said we all had to leave because we didn't have permission to sell our things. Of course, coming from a garage-sale culture, I cross-examined the police dude trying to understand WHAT the problem was. The core of the matter was that the licensed vendedores nearby complained about the "informal" vendedores because we steal all the customers. We could sell at a better price since the informal vendors don't pay taxes. That was a good-enough explanation for me. Well, that, and I had no other choice but to pack up. With a bit of frustration --I hadn't had this problem in Valpo-- I moved on. I was having a hard time accepting that this wasn't going to work out because I had a HUGE backpack full of stuff and didn't feel like going all the way home with it. What a waste of an afternoon. So I walked down some random street near Cal y Canto, and pulled the stuff out of my backpack and set up on the sidewalk. I was the only one selling things. So this generous Chilean dude came up to me, a gringa with her backpack, selling everything in it, and asked me what had happened. They kicked us out of Parque Forestal- I said- I'm just selling some stuff. He walked on. About five minutes later he came back with chocolate milk and cookies and handed them to me. And then he handed me like 2000 pesos. I tried to refuse the food and money. He didn't get it at all. And how would he? He thought I was a gringa backpacker who was so broke that I was resorting to selling all of my belongings to scrap some change together to have lunch and maybe find a hostel, since más encima, they'd just kicked me out of the park! He probably thought I was sleeping in the Park. It bothered me a bit that he didn't understand that I was FINE, and just trying to get rid of some stuff and make some pocket change simultaneously. Le estaba pasando películas con cuático. He wouldn't listen to my explanations because he was SURE I was a broke backpacker. I realized there was no way this experience would translate into his reality except with me as the broke backpacker. So I gave in. He handed me the food and money, turned around, and hurried off.

Then, you know those people who take care of parked cars here in Chile? They turned into my clients. I had a couple nice pairs of men's shoes and pants that I was selling. They were putting together their tips to come buy half of my stuff. Meanwhile, a few passerbys stopped and bought clothing. I was done in about a half hour. On my way home, I decided not to have any more garage sales here. Because in a place that doesn't have the affluence of the States, the culture really doesn't support this type of thing and CLEARLY doesn't understand it.

Future useless things I donated to the hogar de cristo, but finally I figured out the best solution for old stuff is leaving it in the closet by the garbage shoot. That way, either my neighbors take the stuff, or more likely, the people cleaning the building get it. And I'm sure it's very useful for them. It works as a bit of a supplement to their pay, a tip. And it's easier to get rid of stuff. This method works well for everyone.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The "Chilean yes" revisited

Well like Emma and the people who have commented on her blog entry have made clear, the "Chilean yes" is not always a "yes yes". Personally, I interpret it more as "that's-a-really-cool-idea-if-it-works-out yes". Although sometimes I do believe it is more like a no, but the person says yes anyway just so as to not cagar la onda. This can be a bit difficult to deal with if you have stuff you need to get done, like teaching English classes, especially if you are on a schedule. It is convenient to be able to distinguish between these shades of yes. Oh yes! But personally I think, even the person who is saying yes, doesn't always know if their yes is a yes yes, a maybe yes, or a no yes. One thing to do in this kind of situation is to try to be in communication as much as possible with the other person.

Sometimes a person will stand you up you had were going to meet at a time and an hour and the other person doesn't show. I must say this has happened to me, but rarely. And then they don't even call to say they weren't going. Now if this happened with a gringo friend of mine, this would scare me, because I would think something had happened to them. I would call to see if they were okay. One day, I was stood up by a Chilean and confused about the whole thing, like asking myself if there had been a mis-communication, did I really make plans with this person? Am I living in some fantasy world? I was sure I'd made plans. Out my confusion came a very clear thought...well, obviously if la Vero didn't show up, she couldn't come. It was so obvious, I laughed aloud. It's just that simple. The next time I will be sure to confirm with her before we get together. Now that I've said this...most of my Chilean friends won't stand me up. They will call to say they can't go, if we have set a place and time to get together, and something comes up.

Now there is a second type of "yes" during the formation of plans. It's like an incubation period. This is before a date and time are specified. With some friends the realization of plans are more assured than with others. Some plans don't survive this period and sort of die off and are not spoken of again. But it's okay because we had never set a time and place. And it was a possibility that just died off. It can always be reincarnated at a better moment in the future. This exists in gringolandia too-when you have "tentative plans", but in the end they don't work out. However, I think its much more common that plans die before they are hatched here in Chile. So I do think that from time to time we gringos confuse "tentative plans" with "actual plans". In my experience, Chilean plans do generally have a more tentative character to them.

Plus I think it’s better that plans fall through from time to time. I think gringos are a bit too “forzados” about things sometimes and this really kills the onda. Although, there is also a time for being forzado about things, especially when dealing with inertia. It’s like you need the right mix of onda and commitment/forzado-ness to get together and have a good time.

For me, the biggest frustration of the "Chilean yes" was not understanding it. As soon as I understood it, I could employ it as well. Why would I do this? Well, this type of “yes” has its strength. It keeps the possibility open, maintains the buena onda. Sometimes the “gringo no” is a total possibility killer. Nobody wants to kill possibility, possibilities like going out dancing together, or making sushi, or having an asado and watching the Chilean National Soccer Team, or crocheting with your boyfriend's grandma. But sometimes in life, we have to say no to some of these possibilities because we are already with work, or with other friends in other places, or maybe you're sick or tired, etc. You can't always say yes, can you? Maybe not a good idea. So when do I employ the "Chilean yes"? I haven't distinguished too many subtleties about when I give this yes, but I do do it. But there are two cases where I will give it and I haven't even paid attention how often I do it, because I learned it by osmosis, and was not even conscious that I do it until just lately. If I notice that someone (usually a Chilean) is going out on a limb, like arriesgandose to invite me to get together with them, and, for whatever reason, I can't, I will sometimes say yes. I think I'm safe to say that most (perhaps all) human beings don't like rejection. Now some cope with it better than others, but who likes to be turned down? Not many people. In these situations, the yes I give isn't a yes yes. It's a that-would-be-really-cool-if-it-worked-out yes. (This leaves the person inviting you more likely to invite you again in the future, because since you said yes, you obviously were interested. Unless of course you always say yes and then always cancel, because in the end this is like saying no.)

I don't know if the other person notices what kind of yes I'm giving. Perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't. But the important thing is I'm not matando la onda. Although in this stage of the “incubation period” of our plans, I don't generally commit to a time and place. And if that moment arrives (it doesn't always) to set a time and place, or if the invitation comes up again, and I'm sure I can't go, then I will say I really wanted to but...this happened. But this is a lot gentler than saying no outright, off the bat. And how do you know, like really know, that you aren't going to be able to go, anyway? Perhaps the stars will align (as they do for me, from time to time) and you will be able to go after all.[1]

After I started saying yes when I meant no or maybe, I realized that occasionally plan A would fall through and all of the sudden my no yes became yes yes. And this is really important in Chile because my experience is that plans fall through more often here than in the States. So this is the second occasion when I’ll use a no yes or maybe yes. If I have tentative plans with someone else, which I can’t confirm or dis-confirm when invited to do plans B, I sometimes say yes, when really it’s a maybe yes. And of course you can say...I'm doing such and such a thing that day and if it works out, I'll meet up with you afterward.

Not all Chileans are so ambiguous about making plans, nor do they all stand you up. Actually, as I was writing this, I was chatting on msn with a Chilean friend, and I didn't even mention what I was writing and he tells me he had been stood up by a friend the other day and it bothered him, he asked me, “how can people be so indolent?” Although I empathized with him, it struck my funny bone that he brought the subject up just at that moment.

He went on to make a really good point on punctuality: “Creo que es sentido común [llegar a la hora], somos seres sociales y funcionamos con reloj.” He’s right.

On the other hand, what I like about a certain impunctuality that I perceive in Chilean culture is that there is more tolerance for people who arrive a bit late, which is nice, because I don’t always arrive on time either.

So the "Chilean yes" has it's strength, especially when negotiating the social world. The important thing is being able to distinguish it and knowing how to work with it.

Note: I am distinguishing cultural phenomenon using Thick Description (I'll probably formulate an abstract of this theory at some point in this blog's life). Here and here are a couple of summaries.

[1] Alejandro Jodorowsky wrote about this a bit in one of his books. What I remember reading was something like this…he was invited to do a conference in some place and he didn’t even go because he intuitively knew that, although he had agreed to do this a certain time and place, that it wasn’t going to work out. So when he doesn’t show, someone goes to find him and she brings him to the place he’s supposed to give the conference…and they realize there has been a problem, the people were all there to see a different speaker, because the conference date was mixed up on the advertisements. Jodorowsky said…I told you it wasn’t going to work out. But he ended up giving his conference anyway. It’s a funny story. Anyway, so its almost like sometimes you have to make your plans as much with your intuition as with reality.