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Foods July 12, 2007

Filed under: chile,food — Maria @ 1:58 am

In response to Sophia’s request, a bit of elaboration on Chilean food (or at least the stuff I eat).

Chilean meals work thus: there is breakfast, lunch, “las onces,” and dinner. Breakfast is usually rolls & butter and coffee (they only drink Nescafe here). Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, and you tomar las onces at around 5 or 6. Again, it’s like small sandwiches with tea or coffee. Dinner is later – around 8-10, depending on the family. My guidebook said that Santiago could make a serious bid for the fast food capital of the world, and they certainly have an insatiable love for hot dogs (with avocado, tomatoes, etc). There are a million little cafeterias around Santiago selling burgers, hot dogs, steak sandwiches, etc for fairly cheap. But why bother, when there’s the menu del dia? The vast majority of restaurants have this option, where you choose between soup or salad, two main dishes and sides, juice, and sometimes a dessert for around CH$2000 (a little less than US$4). I usually eat at one of two places for lunch, both of which are very good, but you get what you pay for. There’s a Peruvian place by my house with 4-5 options that range from CH$1400-$2100, and the food is always really greasy, but good. I had fried pork chops there today with rice and french fries. Normally I eat at Balcao, which is a couple blocks from my language school so I generally eat with a large group of Brazilians in silence while they speak Portuguese. It’s sort of bohemian ish with a delicious menu for $2000/day. I’ve had a ton of stuff from there, ranging from alfredo-veggie lasagna to pork chops in mushroom sauce to beef stew, and they always have excellent homemade chicken soup – appropriate for the Chilean winter (again, remind me why I’m skipping summer). My Chilean ma cooks me dinner, which is by and large very good, and again it’s a lot of beef, pork, rice, and potatoes. Clearly, they love their meat here. And their fried foods. They are supposed to have excellent seafood, but most of it is shellfish, which I don’t like. I have had some very good whitefish here, though. My favorite, and probably least-healthy, Chilean specialty is steak or chicken a lo pobre, which means it’s served with a fried egg and fried onions. If only the air were less poisonous so I could exercise more…


More Flickin’ July 8, 2007

Filed under: chile,chiloe,photos,sur — Maria @ 8:49 pm

A couple pictures from the South up now. Like I said, most of them are on my film camera, so we’ll see if I get around to developing/scanning them…


Brasil..I mean, Chile

Filed under: chile,chiloe,sur — Maria @ 5:43 am

Went to a Brazilian bar tonight where one of my roommates, Priscilla, works to watch the Brazil-Chile game. Chile lost 6-1 – ouch. But man, my time here in Santiago sort of makes me want to switch to Brazilian citizenship. They’re the most uniformly friendly and open people I’ve ever met, no matter how well or poorly they know a language that you happen to know. I’ve only met a couple I haven’t liked, and they seem legitimately crazy so it’s not fair to judge. Seeing Brazilian hotties in Carnaval outfits in the middle of the Santiago winter is a trip, too. The bar had a samba band that played during the whole first half and sporadically throughout the game, then took over when the game finished. And it wasn’t just the random drunk fat guy who got up and danced and shouted – everyone in the place did. Good times were had by all. I wasn’t even drinking, but the atmosphere accomplished the same goal as insobriety…

There’s been a return of English speakers into my life since an American moved into my house. I’ve been hanging out with my roommates a lot this week since my Brazilian friends from the first two weeks left, and I’m enjoying it. I feel bad for speaking English again, but whatever – the vast majority of my life is still Spanish-only. So many of the interesting people I’ve met will only be here temporarily, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll probably not make lifelong friends here – at least I’ll get to meet a lot of bizarre and wonderful ones, though. It requires a lot of trust and openness to accept people into your life with open arms for one night or a couple weeks, but it hasn’t come back to bite me in the butt just yet.

My trip to the South was mixed. The 11- and 14-hour bus rides were grueling (children are the devil). We stopped first at Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, two port towns on the Pacific coast that are small and presumably beautiful in the summer. However, in winter there’s not a whole lot going on. Varas is really tourist-ed out, unfortunately, and more expensive – they had god damn North Face and Benetton stores alongside the fishermen’s huts. Montt is the main transportation hub and had an excellent crafts market that sold various knit/wood items for extremely cheap. We headed to Chiloe the next day, which is the second-largest island in Patagonia after Tierra del Fuego. One of the main draws of Chiloe is PENGUINS, but we couldn’t even see them – tours don’t start till September. The minute we arrived, the heavens opened and gifted us with buckets of water. And really, there’s not anything to do in Chiloe on a Sunday when it’s raining. We were the only ones in our beautiful, huge, oceanside hostel, so we curled up by the fireplace and watched “Frida” because it was the only movie not in German. Oh yeah – this area was settled by Germans, so it’s a strange mix of blond hair and Mapuche blood. The hostel owners seemed unusually worldly and intelligent for hostel owners in a bumfuck town in Chile. They had a ton of books around, are trilingual, and had a Pogues CD (??). I mean, it’s by no means a bad life – you get to meet a variety of likely-to-be-interesting people, you have a beautiful view, and it’s simple and slow. The lifestyle in the south has a certain allure. There’s not a whole lot going on, but that’s the point – it seems so healthy, so simple and hearty and clean. The air was like nectar, compared to Santiago’s – I got sick again immediately after I got back. I would like it, but it seems like choosing to move there is basically consigning yourself to global irrelevance and solitude. Maybe when I’m old, after I’ve Done Something with my Life.

On Monday, after realizing that everything was STILL closed because it was a goddamn holiday – which is the reason we went down in the first place, being tourists – we desperately walked around the town’s tourist agencies, looking for some sort of excursion. All were closed except for one mysterious pamphlet labelled “Taxi Tours,” and we called it last. We interrupted some dude eating breakfast, and he rolled up in a taxi and gruffly asked us where we wanted to go. He was an old man in a slouchy hat, a former Carabinero who made no attempt to temper his unintelligible southern Chilean Spanish for our benefit. If you think the Santiaguinos are hard to understand, the Southerners are even worse – they don’t really say words so much as suggest them. We saw one of Chiloe’s famous colonial churches, which was just that: an old church. The highlights were Fuerte Ahui, which is this old overgrown fort that you have to hike a km through the woods to get to (in the rain, in our instance). It was really, really gorgeous – it looked exactly like Ireland, with extreme greens, cold dampness and fog in the air, and angry-looking gray oceans. It felt like a part of the world that has never been fully dry. We then went to Mar Brava, which involved driving around this rocky outcrop on a very narrow unpaved road in this absurd taxi right next to the freezing and violent sea. The cabbie seemed completely unfazed, so I just accepted it. We pull up to the most dramatic terrain I’ve ever seen – enormous black, slick rocks jutting out over the sea, which crashed against them spectacularly. The cabbie got out and greeted a group of men with pickup trucks and dogs, some of whom were in wetsuits and were crazily plunging into said sea in order to harvest clams. It’s a job where you “gana mucha plata,” according to our “guide.” I knew that he was a 100% not legit tour guide when he told us to climb up these incredibly-dangerous looking rocks because our pictures would be better from up there, and didn’t even tell us to be careful. He was right. Unfortunately for my legions of readers, I took only film pictures, but my travel companion took digital and she’s gonna send them to me. Never fear. It was one of those moments, faced with the brutal intensity of nature, where you feel very connected with oneself as an animal and with the natural world around you. </gayness>

So now I am back in Santiago, spending too much money on booze, meeting business-analyst-surfer-hippies from New Zealand and Dutchmen with absurd sideburns and Chilean girlfriends, going to 80s-themed discotecas. And coughing up a lot of green shit. All is well.


Al Sur June 29, 2007

Filed under: chile,sur — Maria @ 11:38 pm

Well, it’s a long weekend here, so some Brazilian friends and I have decided to make a (very) last-minute trip to the South of Chile to visit some port towns (Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas, Chiloe). And by “south,” I mean “11-hours-by-bus” south. I’m about to take off to the bus depot and hopefully catch one. This is all really, really poorly planned and I hope we figure something out. I’ll take lots of pictures, and hopefully not get ambushed by roaming Mapuche.


Un Verdadero Lugar Underground June 28, 2007

Filed under: art,chile,history,photos,santiago,social — Maria @ 8:43 pm

I was invited to this death punk party thing (and, apparently, a J-pop DJ on the third floor). I am unreservedly ready to go – just need to trick someone into coming with me (“Es una…fiesta.”). Whatever shall I wear? The girl who invited me is saving up money to move to Mexico to be with her boyfriend, who she met in the Soulseek chatroom for death punk and bonded over their love for Batcave. Awesome.

My Brazilian friends are leaving this weekend, after which I’ll know a total of 2 people in Santiago, one of whom will be leaving in another week. Lame. The big shipment of Americans that’s coming to my school that I was so eagerly awaiting like a button-eyed pony for Christmas? They’re all coming together, and they’re all Marines. Kinda disappointing. Oh well, it’s not like I’m not used to military types. There is an unrelated American moving into my house on Saturday, who’s around my age (20 or 21 says my mama Chilena), so maybe he’ll be cool. I will just plow on. At a bar last weekend, a girl who lived in Maryland for 9 years gave me her phone number “so I can have friends,” so maybe I’ll call her up.

Hilarity ensues: an American at my school would brag about how generous his Chile family is, how they offered him food every 20 minutes even though our package only pays for 2 meals/day, how his dad would always drink with him, etc. Yesterday, they sat him down and told him that, effectively, he needed to pay up for all the extra food or else they would starve to death, which I find endlessly amusing. I mean, wanting to be reimbursed for the food is fair, but don’t put on this charade of boundless generosity then sneakily demand money – at least ask for it up-front. Dirty gypsies.

Santiaguino anecdote of the day: after lunch today, I was exiting the restaurant and bent over to tie my shoe. Some crazy-looking old dude in a rumpled baseball cap rolls up to the lamppost next to me, whips out his dick, and commences peeing at 2:15 in the afternoon on a Thursday on a major street. I kid you not. So, I…walked away, and no one batted an eye. What else can you do?

On a deeper note, it’s a very strange thing to be in a country where young people have fresh memories of living under a dictatorship. My teacher, who is an actress, was talking about how there was no theater, no public art, no one came on tour to Chile under Pinochet (who stepped down in 1990, for reference. She’s 30). She said the first concert in Chile after the return to democracy was Rod Stewart (??), and that people were lined up outside the stadium to get tickets. “No one knew who he was, but we went to see him anyway.” She also said she couldn’t read “War and Peace” until democracy. She was in a play about torture victims, and her director told her to go talk to people who were tortured under Pinochet…she finally found a woman who would talk to her, and she ashamedly told her that she had fallen obsessively in love with her torturer. Apparently that’s not an uncommon response, especially in women, many of whom are still in therapy today for it. So. Weird. An American I met brought up an interesting point: the generation who is today starting college will be the first generation who doesn’t remember the dictatorship at all. They’re characterized by an vague but unflinching hostility towards authority, and a lot of them are Hot Topic-ed out. Youth combatants riots happen, regularly scheduled, every year. What will the country be like when they take over? Will it be purged from the collective memory? Will Pinochet nostalgia get even stronger?

As far as I can tell, the arts have been better publicly funded in Latin America than in the US, and thus more integrated into society as a whole. They have Ministries of Art and Culture, poets, writers, and artists have been diplomats, senators (Pablo Neruda in Chile on both counts, Communist party), and presidential candidates (Mario Vargas Llosa in Peru, on a far-right ticket). I went to an arts center yesterday by the University of Chile to see this Argentine film about a bodyguard, and it’s the Santiago equivalent of the Gene Siskel Film Center except bigger, prettier, and has a restaurant on the first floor and a bar on the second. I saw a movie and had a huge lunch for less than $9. There were two other people in the theater, so I don’t know how that works except by generous gov’t support. The only thing that sucked about it is that the projection quality, which I never notice since I’m not a film buff, was super shitty. It was one of those projectors they use in school classrooms, and it was really grainy/pixellated. I think they were just projecting a DVD, which is odd for an “art” theater. The quality was sort of security camera-style, and maybe that was the intention of the movie, so who knows.

Things are looking up, no?


It’s a long, long haul June 25, 2007

Filed under: chile,reeducation,santiago,social,whining — Maria @ 3:01 am

This weekend was total social twilight zone. I am still processing it all. I don’t want to dwell on it anymore than I already have, but suffice to say 1) I have no idea what’s going on 2) being a woman here is very challenging, and it just provokes a visceral desire to go home 3) you can’t really tell ahead of time what sort of friends you’ll make. I still don’t know. An American told me, “You just have to sense who’s going in the same direction as you and put your energies towards them,” but that’s harder than it sounds and people can be tricky. The small number of expats I have met thus far seem to have been fleeing something in their previous lives or at least didn’t have anything else going for them, but I like my life at home a lot…it makes a difference in how much of yourself you give to Santiago. Putting yourself out there is draining, especially when basic communication itself is so hard, but at least I am trying. I holed myself up all day today to recuperate and just read in my bed, which is the warmest place in the house. There is ice on the floor of my shower, and today the water heater stopped working, which will be exciting. I prefer to abstain than freeze, so it’ll be stinky-poo Katie Boo. A bottle of raspberry-scented douche appeared as well, which grosses me out to no end. Don’t people know douching is counterproductive? And I know it was the Brazilian girl who lives with me, since the only other female is in Peru…I can’t see her without thinking “raspberry pussy.”

I wish my school would give more homework. I feel like it’d structure my learning more. I feel like I’ll forget a lot by the end of ten weeks, but I suppose Real Life will reinforce it as much as homework would…

Also, living with three little kids is beginning to be a pain in the ass. I was woken up, slightly hungover, the past two days by the youngest running up and down the hallway and screaming. Children just have no sense of personal space – they’ll lean over your computer, eating a piece of cake and getting crumbs all over your keyboard.

Despite all the complaints, I can feel myself learning a lot and having to constantly readjust to the situation. It’s just a lot to process all at once and complaining is part of survival – there must be a pressure valve to let off the steam.


Small World After All June 21, 2007

Filed under: chile,photos,reeducation,santiago — Maria @ 11:13 pm

Graffiti photos are now on teh flickr – click above to see ’em. It’s worth it, I swear, they’re really impressive.

I am reading this book, The New New Journalism, which is a series of interviews with many long-form nonfiction writers like Jon Krakauer, Gay Talese, Eric Schlosser, etc etc. They’re interviews about how to write good journalism, basically – from broad ethical questions: “Do you concern yourself with maintaining distance with your subjects? How?” – down to the most concrete bits of detail. There’s not only “do you take notes or tape? Why?,” but “What kind of notebook do you use to take notes? How do you organize your desk when you write?” It’s of great interest to someone who’s interested in writing that sort of stuff, like myself, and more useful than anything anyone’s ever taught me about writing. Anyway, an interview with William Langewiesche, the guy who wrote “American Ground” – a rather controversial book about the dismantling of the WTC, produced a fascinating insight that is particularly applicable to my life right now: “If there’s a unifying theme to my work, it is that the ‘small world’ idea is a myth, a serious misreading of our times. It’s obvious why it exists – jet travel, the internet, the globalization of markets, the similarity of hotel rooms. But these are largely superficialities. The real world – of the history-making kind – simply is not defined by the ease and speed with which people can flit around the globe. The reality is that the world remains enormous, and in important ways it is getting larger and more “foreign” all the time […] From that perspective, I mean the way that individuals experience their surroundings and lives, the world is becoming more complex and varied all the time.”

Before I came here, I spent my time vacillating between worrying that Santiago would be hopelessly foreign and innavigable and worrying that I would have high expectations for it, but that it would end up being basically America pt. 2 and that I would be really bored and disappointed. The reality is somewhere in between. America has clearly penetrated, but its influence has filtered through the web of Chilean mindsets oddly (as I’m sure it has elsewhere). There are still clearly fundamental differences in cosmology, as I talked about in the previous post – different senses of entitlement, of the role of government, of appropriate interaction. Many differences are subtle, but that’s what makes it so disconcerting. It is not as obviously foreign as Palestine or South Africa or something, but that means you have to dig deeper to fully wrap your mind around the way things work here. I still basically have no idea what’s going on. But, I’m okay with that.

It is comforting to know that cultures have a firm sense of self, and probably always will. Superficial encroachments on the mental environment on the part of the US can only wear it away so much.

Also: want to hear Chilean powermetal? Of course you do: