Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shrill voices and Sahne-nusses

Since I´ve been living in Chile, I swear I´ve often noticed myself talking in a higher pitched voice than I do in the States. It's the strangest thing. It doesn't get annoyingly high pitched like some chikas I've heard talking...I once saw high-pitched voices combatted, these shrill talkers were told to "bring out their inner bear" when they talk. It was absolutely hilarious and their voices really did change. The memory still makes me laugh. But it's soo weird. Like I feel like I have to be more female here in Chile and not so androgynous in the way I act... like fullfil the roll of "la mujer". Not too many ambigously sexed "Pats" in Chile. (Like from SNL, not a guy, not a lady, just Pat). Though now with the new generation of young adults, there are guys who dress sort of androgynous. According to this article, the tribu urbano is called "el visual"

Another random thing I´ve noticed here in Chile is that when shopping at the grocery store, buying in cuantity isn't a good value. For example, in the USA the larger cuantity of a product you buy (like 24 rolls of toilet paper instead of 4) the better discount you get on the product. Here in Chile I find it's rarely like that. (Though I don't shop at the big box stores like Lider and Jumbo). But generally like a small to medium sized product is the best deal in terms of cuantity of product for how much you pay. For example, the Sahne-nuss chocolate bars at the two grocery stores I shop at are like 1.800 pesos for 250 grams and 1.000 pesos for 180grams. Unexpected. The 250 gram bar looks bigger and, in both stores, there are lots of stacks of them, but the 180 gram bar is often sort of hidden and you have to look for it, you have to know it exists. I´m not the only one who knows, because this lady ahead of me in line at the Bandera Azul asked for it the other day. Tramposos los weones.
But I have my priorities and I know how much decent chocolate should cost. Mil pesos los 180 gramos. Así de simple.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Turkish coffee: pure fusion

So nescafé coffee (powdered coffee) is huge in Chile. Some people have it with breakfast and once (like evening tea). It leaves a little to be desired in the way of taste, but is incredibly easy to serve because you just need the can of powdered coffee and boiled water. And then people can choose between tea or nescafe, and you can add sugar and milk. It's a custom here. I can totally understand the pull of nescafe for its ease of use. You don´t need a drip machine, or an Italian percolator or an expresso machine. You just mix the ingredients and voila.

I arrived in Chile with my Italian percolator. For the first few years here I percolated lots and lots of coffee. Yummy. And then my friend Fer changed my life. Suddenly the ease of nescafe was fused with real coffee to make the dream of a good cup of coffee and the ease of nescafe a reality. I have the supermarket Jumbo's high prices to thank for this newfound knowledge.

So some girlfriends, Fer and I were shopping in Jumbo for our weekend trip to Tunquen, which was a send-off party for our friend Karina who is presently studying in Barcelona for the next couple years. Anyway we went to buy this little tin of nescafe for the five of us for the weekend. This tiny little can of like 200 grams cost like 800 pesos. (Like almost $2 now that the dollars way down). And its bad coffee. Alongside the nescafe was like 250 grams of the real stuff and it cost like 900 pesos. So Fer suggested we buy that and make turkish coffee. Yummy, yummy. So it's prepared the same way as nescafé but you have to use just boiled water. You mix in a spoonful or two of coffee grounds, sugar and milk if you want. Then pour the boiled water in, stir well and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes while the coffee grounds fall to the bottom. And there you have it. A yummy cup of joe fused with the ease of preparation that nescafe provides. Sheer genius.

Needless to say, we drank tasty coffee all weekend. What a pleasure!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

La Carretera Austral

From the archives of my memory... February 2005

With my folk's former exchange student from Chile, Alexis, and his mom and younger siblings we drove from Puerto Montt to Coihaique, Chile. It was one of the most gorgeous trips I´ve ever been on as far as scenery goes. We drove down this curvy, hilly dirt road for several days and the view from the windshield was perpetual beauty. About halfway between the two cities, we spent two nights at this camping spot called "las toninas", where I was to learn why it has that name. One afternoon Alexis was fishing with Paz (the daughter of the owners of the camping area) about 100 meters down the fjord from where we were camping. It occurred to me to swim over that way to find out how the fishing was. So I get about 15 meters out in the fjord and start swimming down the water, towards Alexis and Paz and I hear a breath behind me. I kind of wanted to deny what I had heard so I kept swimming for a couple more strokes until something touched my foot. I looked back and there was a fin right behind me. I was so scared! I logically new sharks aren’t too common off the coast of Chile because the water is quite cold and furthermore they breathe underwater, but I sure didn’t like having this sea creature sneak up behind me and touch my foot. So after screaming to Alexis "shark, shark", I swam back to shore. (Just in case I didn’t make it, I wanted someone to know where to find my body.) The longest swim of my life. So I got back and told the owners of the camping place what had happened, and they said I was followed by a tonina, a cousin of the dolphin. So from the safety of shore I could appreciate how cool it was that I'd swam with a tonina, even if she came off as a bit sneaky and aggressive. I guess I’d encroached on her territory.

Later Paz and her mom went out in a row boat and came back with fresh King Crab which we bought from them. It was so good. And Alexis's mom Leti prepared home-made onion rings and sopaipillas (like fried pumpkin bread) on the camping stove. I bought fresh jam made from calafates for the sopaipillas. We had a tasty meal with the beautiful Patagonia as a backdrop. The trip to the Carretera Austral has been one of the best I’ve made in Chile due to its remoteness and abundance of natural beauty, good food and good company.

Paz with king crab she'd just caught.

Me holding the evening's snack.

A day of excitement & locavorism.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Beer before liquor never been sicker?

When I first began going out for cocktails and dancing, one of the first rules I learned—and probably many other US students did/do too—is “beer before liquor never been sicker”. I used to hold this as just your basic drinking wisdom along with the rule to drink tons of water before hitting the sack to keep the hangover at bay. Maybe I´m a lightweight, but I can get a hangover off two drinks, so this is always a good rule.

But here in Chile—correct me if I´m wrong—the rule is actually the opposite. They start out with beer and then they drink rum and coke or piscola or other mixed cocktails. Now this isn´t a hard fast rule, I´m sure many Chileans mix it up, but there is this general idea that you’re less likely to get sick if you start out with the light weight drinks before moving on to rum, for example. And it works.

Before living in Chile I definitely adhered to the “liquor before beer” rule, just to be on the safe side. Why have a hangover when you can avoid it? Now I believe both rules work in their corresponding cultures and I think I’ve discovered why. It has to do with drinking velocity. My experience is that here in Chile the parties last longer so in general we seem to drink at a slower rate, so as the body slowly gets beer and wine introduced to it, and quite often the alcohol is accompanied by food – an asado, choripan, anticuchos, carne…mmm, so the body accustoms to the lesser-alcohol content. And then a person can have a rum and coke, or a caipirihna or whatever. So in the end, it’s like when you warm up before exercising, you start out at a nice pace and only when your body is ready do you…bring out the heavy artillery, or something.

Though now that I´ve stated the rule, there are exceptions…like for example, the pisco sour. For those of you who haven´t tried one, it’s my favorite drink, sooo good. Because it’s tasty and generally one of the cheaper drinks on the menu. I used to prefer mojitos y caipiriñas but it’s soo much easier to order a pisco sour. Because even though mojitos y caipiriñas are often on the menu, that doesn’t mean that they actually have them at the bar you’re at. It really depends on what type of bar in what neighborhood, etc. A pisco sour is just a more reliable drink here in Chile. But I digress… anyway at a meal or for cocktail hour, the pisco sour is often the first drink served, even though pisco is a hard alcohol. But then it’s on to beer for those who drink it and after that, rum, pisco, vodka, etc.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Y reitero...

Anda cualquier loco en la calle. El miércoles tuvimos una reunión con mi grupo de capoeira y llegamos como ocho personas y una guagua. Nunca llegó la niña con quien se había concertado la reunión, pero filo. Y allí estabamos conversando frente la puerta del edificio y vemos un loco curado en la calle, y de repente nos ve, bota su cerveza mientras nos acerca con aire agresivo. Puta la wea... El loco, lo juro, parecía Hanibal Lecter. Estaba curado, depresivo y poeta a la vez. Andaba buscando Nicolas, pero este estaba de vacaciones. Me llamo Juan, dijo y nos puso a pelar cable un buen rato. Que nervio. Hasta que por fin se fue. Durante estas noches cálidas aparece cualquier bicho raro.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cavilaciones desde el culo del mundo…

Yes it’s hard being in el culo del mundo. Living in Santiago, it does sometimes feel like you´re living in a dirty, stinking, smoggy, cramped culo. But life goes on… and I´m going to blow some sunshine up this culo. Perhaps my memory is to blame (it rivals the protagonist of Memento in capacity for shortness) and I blame my short memory on living in Chile. Since I´ve arrived and lived here I have a terrible memory for things… but it seems to many Chilenos don't have one kind word for their own country and are forced to mostly depend on los piropos culturales that visiting gringos shower each summer. Though maybe they are just being lateros and want me, the exotic gringa, to tell them what a great country they have.

Good qualities I've noticed that Chileans have:

Improvisation, resourcefulness, practicality…I kind of think of these qualities in a bunch. My impression is that MacGyver is sort of a hero for Chileans because he can make anything happen with just what he can find in a kitchen. There’s actually a Cristal beer commercial here where several guys want to have a barbecue but they have no grill, so they consider several different objects at the house they’re at (like a bird cage) and they end up using a bed spring (or something) as a grill. Just like MacGyver but they aren´t out to save anyone, they just want to drink beer and eat meat and use minimal effort to achieve this end. Homer Simpson also is an Icon because he’s practical too, and drinks beer... I’ve often seen sand sculptures of him in Viña al lado la Avenida Perú and he’s on many t-shirts bought in Patronato.

Another Chilean quality that I quite enjoy is black humor; they make fun of morbid things. In comparison with the United States, where saying something politically incorrect can lead you to being hung by your toenails from the center square, being un-p.c. is quite acceptable here. It has kind of a carnival-style fun to it. At the moment, not one example comes to mind (memento). I´ll add it later.

They also have an incredibly developed capacity for criticizing their own culture…which can be seen as a good quality.

And of course the "cariño latino" is quite pleasant, the besos on the cheeks when saying hello to friends and acquaintances and it seems they have a stronger sense of community within established groups of friends, for example, like in the sense that they notice each other more, like in the US, I feel it's a lot easier for a person to get by "disperceived" like, for example when a friend and I showed up at a Halloween party dressed as Taliban about 5 years back, no one batted an eye or even commented on our absolutely un-politically correct costumes. It was only a party of like 20 people. Okay, that disperception wouldn´t happen in Chile. That's what I mean, maybe there's more dialogue?

These are some of my positive impressions of Chilean culture up until now…

Sunday, February 3, 2008

ta k andan weones en la calle

Parece que es el efecto verano... el domingo pasado como a las nueve de la noche fui al supermercado. Primero topé con un weon en Alameda que me preguntó donde estaba el Parque Forestal. El loco parecía medio-flaite entonces no le pesqué. ¿Para qué? ¿Por qué me preguntan a mí, la ajuerina, direcciones? Y cuando no le respondí, se enojó y dijo alguna wea pero no alcanzé a escuchar. Pero, en primer lugar ¿cómo sabe que yo hablo chilensis? ¿Porque no le pregunta a un chileno donde está el Parque Forestal? ¿Cómo sabe que yo no ande más perdida que él? Los chilenos que parecen normales me pueden preguntar direcciones cuando quieran pero a los flaites no les doy permiso. Pero filo. Seguí caminando y durante el recorrido de cuatro cuadras encuentro con cualquier weón chimbobeado (treintañeros y toscos). Topé con varios cada media-cuadra. Y había un mendigo en la esquina hurgando por la basura, donde jamás había visto uno. Es más común verlos al lado de la iglesia. Eran como las nueve de la noche, todavía con harto sol y calor. Llego donde están los super y las tiendas y todos están cerrados menos el ekono. No tenía ni un peso; el plan era sacar un poco de dinero de algún cajero por allí. Pero como sólo el ekono estaba abierto, el único cajero era del Banco del Estado. Los cajeros banco del estado nunca me sirven y el domingo pasado no fue una excepción. Volví a la casa sin comida y arrepentida de haber ido para allá. Pensé que debe ser por el verano que anden tantos weones.

El viernes invitamos unos amigos para la casa. Nos tomamos unos mango sour (últimamente el mango es más barato que el kilo de limones) y nos comimos unos sandwich de carne mechada, preparado por Vuko. Ñami. Se nos ocurrió salir a tomar algo en algún bar por allí. De nuevo, topemos con cualquier weon en la calle, curados y toscos. En Bellas Artes había una gente borracha y estaba hablando con unos gringos que con cueva manejaba el español. Les quería invitar a una fiesta. Y todos curados. Me dio mala espina el paseo. Tomamos un taxi de vuelta. Y reitero, anda cualquier punga en la calle. Hemos salido una cachada de veces sin encontrarnos con tantos pulentos.