...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Dispatch from the end of the world

So much has happened since I last posted. First and foremost, Easter Island/la Isla de Pascua/Rapa Nui was the most beautiful place Í´ve ever been in my life and one of my biggest pieces of advice to next spring´s Chile participants will be that if they can somehow scrape together the money to get out to the middle of the Pacific, then váyanse no más po. It was breathtaking and relaxing and challenging and worth it a million times over. Once I get back to the US I´m really going to make an effort to post some pictures and I want to write more about it, too. I´m also going to bring back pisco in a moai-shaped container if it kills me, so I´m thinking piscolas to celebrate my return and the beginning of spring semester; you´re all invited.

Now I´m in Punta Arenas, Chile´s last city. It´s not as cold as I expected it to be, but the wind is so strong that the trees (and there aren´t many of them) grow at a horizontal angle. A couple days ago I took a five-hour ferry ride out to the Strait of Magellan to Parque Nacional Los Penguinos, a national penguin sanctuary on Isla Magdalena. There were thousands of penguins on this island! It was so cool but it was bitterly, bitterly cold and the wind was so strong that I could barely walk. On the way back we saw these tiny black-and-white dolphins jumping alongside the ferry boat. Aside from that one excursion, I´ve spent a lot of time hanging out with Juan Carlos and his family (his mom and I have súper buena onda), sleeping, reading (I finally finished the sixth Harry Potter book and must discuss it soon. Also, I really need to re-read it in English because the blackmarket Spanish translation was laughably bad in some parts), and walking around Punta Arenas. It´s so strange being away from my family on Christmas and honestly, if I could do it over again, I probably would have chosen to spend the holiday with my host family back in Viña rather than try to cram another trip in. Jon and I returned from Easter Island on the 20th, and less than 18 hours later I was back in Santiago flying out again. Regardless, it´s cool to see another, radically different part of the country and I´m happy that now I can say that I got to know both Chile´s extreme north (San Pedro de Atacama) and its extreme south (Punta Arenas). These trips really hit home for me the length of the country.

On the 26th, I plan to take a bus to Puerto Natales, Chile´s second most southern city, and venture into Parque Nacional las Torres del Paine, Chile´s most famous national park and, according to Jon and others, one of the most beautiful places in the world, from there. Since my time is very limited (I need to be back in Punta Arenas the 28th to fly out early in the morning on the 29th), I have no gear, and I´m on my own, I´ll probably just do a guided day-tour of the Parque on the 27th and then take a boat ride to see some glaciers on the 28th.

I´ll try to update again either from Puerto Natales or from Viña after I fly back for New Year´s. Until then, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas in your respective countries (Peggy, I can´t wait to hear about Israel and all your other adventures) and that New Year´s finds everyone safe, sound, and happy. Chao!

Edited to add some stuff that just occured to me: First of all, I know Amy wrote about this awhile ago, but today while channel surfing I came across the trailer of of Brokeback Mountain on the E! Channel. Jake Gyllenhaal playing a gay cowboy? I need to see this movie yesterday. Seriously, I don´t know if I´ve ever seen so much hot on one TV screen. I just hope it´s still in theaters by the time I get back. And along those lines, I also want to see Rent in the theater even though its earnest high-school drama nerdiness makes me cringe. I´ve been saying for years that Rosario Dawson is the hardest-working woman in Hollywood, so here´s hoping that Mimi finally gives her her long-awaited breakout role. Also, I´ll probably be plugging my ears everytime Mark sings, because that guy grates. And finally, what´s up with this new Facebook ´´confirm friend details´´ thing? I don´t know whether to be offended or what when friends send me these things and I have to confirm that we went to high school together. Does anyone else find these awkward?

Also, more on the guinea pig: It thankfully came without the head, roasted in four separate chunks each a little larger than a deck of standard playing cards. There was very little meat on it and it was very fatty, as I guess you would expect from looking at a guinea pig. The skin was very thick and flavorful, judging from the small piece of it I ate. Overall, it was a worthwhile experiment but I wouldn´t order it again. As far as non-standard Peruvian meats go, I´ll stick with a nice alpaca steak, thank you.

Okay, I think that´s it. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I ate a guinea pig!

It tasted like pork but had the texture of chicken. To tell you the truth, I felt slightly guilty eating it. Guinea pigs are one of my favorite rodents. But, if it's good enough for Jesus...

In about fifteen minutes Jon and I are going to the airport to fly Lima to Santiago, then Santiago to Easter Island. I'm excited!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

How do you travel in a country where you don't speak the language?

The Israeli guy we're talking with at the hostal just called Cusco ''Cost-Co.'' Like, the huge bulk-discount stores we have in the US, or in the northwest at least.

I'm always a little baffled by people who travel to a country where they don't speak the language. One the hand, I'm impressed by their adventurism and spunk, and it's not like I speak Spanish perfectly, so of course I've had my share of misunderstandings and failures in communication too, but still. How do they...survive?

The breakfast guy at our Cusco hostal yesterday gave us the news on the Chilean presidential elections--it's going to a second round between Michelle Bachelet and Sebastian Pinera. That's not a surprise, but I am surprised that Bachelet won--according to the breakfast guy--about 44% of the vote, compared to Pinera's 35%. That's a higher percentage of the vote than I would have thought. Still, though, I think it's going to be hard for her to win in the second round. Assuming that everyone who voted for the far-right Lavín will vote for Pinera, and everyone who voted for far-left Hirsch will vote for Bachelet, Pinera's got it won. On the other hand, if Bachelet had gone up against Lavín in the second round, she could have expected to snag a lot of Pinera's center-right supporters who aren't comfortable with Lavín's far-right politics and religious extremism.

We''ll know in January, I guess.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quote of the Day, from Jon: ''Okay, we're about to leave the secured bunker of the Lima airport. Are we ready for this?''

It's an honest question, too. Especially after hearing about the very scary experience our good friend Kristin had in Limaa week or so earlier, we were both a little nervous of venturing into the sprawling Peruvian capital.

Our first glimpses of Lima did nothing to dissuage our fears. First impressions: busy streets lined by squat gray buildings with none of the color or life of Chile or the elegance of Argentina, gray, smoggy sky hanging over the low buildings, death-defying traffic, exhaust fumes from the bus ahead of us blowing into our cab's rolled-down windows. Barely anything was within walking distance, everything had to be accessed by taxi, which gave the city a disconnected, disjointed feeling, as though we were being shuttled from one experience to another with nothing to tie them together into a unified whole.

Walking around the Plaza de Armas later in the day made us feel better about Lima. The low, squat buildings of the Miraflores and outying areas were replaced by the tall colonial buildings, soft lemon-yellow with white trim. The San Francisco church was absolutely gorgeous, and the collections of religious artifacts were fascinating, especially considering the level of syncretism between the Incan indigenous religious beliefs and the Spanish Catholic theologies. We spent almost two hours at the church, then bought ice-cream cones and walked around the pedestrian shopping streets for awhile. They reminded me of the pedestrian streets running perpendicular to the Plaza de Armas in Santiago, and Jon said that they reminded him of Calle Florida in Buenos Aires.

Tonight we had dinner at a chifa, one of the hundreds--thousands?--of Peruvian-Chinese restaurants that are scattered all throughout the city. I had beef with oyster sauce--yum! The food was better than I would have expected it to be for the strange ethnic combination and the price tag of only S/. 7.50 -- 7.50 soles, or about US $2.50. Tomorrow, we're going to see an Incan ruin that should be close by in Miraflores, the changing of the guard in the Plaza de Armas, and the National Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. For dinner, I might eat guinea pig!

Jon, watching Intervention on the AE channel with me: ''Where's that woman going?''
Me: ''She's going to a recovery center to treat her shopping addiction.''
Jon: ''Well...at least she'll have some nice things to wear on the way there.''

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sube a nacer conmigo, hermano

Perú is incredible. It´s so different from Chile--and not to say that Chile isn´t incredible, because it is, but maybe all boring countries are boring in the same way and all incredible countries are incredible in their own unique ways. (Apologies to Tolstoy.) In Cusco, you see indigenous women walking around in their beautiful native dress, with their pantyhose and many-layered knee-length skirts and knit cardigans and bowler hats; ancient Inca walls around every corner; adobe red-brick tiled houses lining the streets and reaching up into the brown hills. Yesterday Jon and I went to Lago Titicaca, on the Peru-Bolivian border, to visit the floating, artificially constructed islands of the Uros peoples and the island of Taquile, which is inhabited by Aymará and Quechua indigenous people. It was indescribably beautiful. Lago Titicaca is the highest navagable (is that a word in English?) lake in the world, and the altitude--almost 4000 meters--almost did me in. To get to the town center of Taquile, you have to climb about an hour up a pretty unforgiving stone path, and the combination of altitute sickness and the sketchy scrambled eggs I had for breakfast made me throw up several times. But, I made it and I was so glad I did.

We went to Machu Picchu the day before yesterday, and it was incredible. It was difficult--it took about 75% of my physical strength, probably (it was steep, but I could have done it with no problem at a lower altitude)--but so worth it. After taking the tour around, Jon and I explored on our own for an hour or so. We found a secluded spot and--corny as it sounds--read aloud to each other from Pablo Neruda´s Las alturas de Machu Picchu, a book of twelve cantos, or poems, about the poet´s reaction to the Inca citadel and his call for the rebirth of the Latin American people. Here, Canto XII:

Sube a nacer conmigo, hermano.
Dame la mano desde la profunda zona de tu dolor diseminado.

No volverás del fondo de las rocas.
No volverás del tiempo subterráneo.
No volverá tu voz endurecida.
No volverán tus ojos taladrados.
Mírame desde el fondo de la tierra,
labrador, tejedor, pastor callado: domador de guanacos tutelares:
albañil del andamio desafiado:
aguador de las lágrimas andinas:
joyero de los dedos machacados:
agricultor temblando en la semilla:
alfarero en tu greda derramado:
traed a la copa de esta nueva vida
vuestros viejos dolores enterrados.
Mostradme vuestra sangre y vuestro surco,
decidme: aquí fui castigado,
porque la joya no brilló o la tierrano entregó a tiempo la piedra o el grano:
señaladme la piedra en que caísteisy la madera en que os crucificaron,
encendedme los viejos pedernales,
las viejas lámparas, los látigos pegadosa través de los siglos en las llagas
y las hachas de brillo ensangrentado.
Yo vengo a hablar por vuestra boca muerta.
A través de la tierra juntad todoslos silenciosos labios derramados
y desde el fondo habladme toda esta larga noche
como si yo estuviera con vosotros anclado,
contadme todo, cadena a cadena,
eslabón a eslabón, y paso a paso,
afilad los cuchillos que guardasteis,
ponedlos en mi pecho y en mi mano,
como un río de rayos amarillos,
como un río de tigres enterrados,
y dejadme llorar, horas, días, años,
edades ciegas, siglos estelares.

Dadme el silencio, el agua, la esperanza.

Dadme la lucha, el hierro, los volcanes.

Apegadme los cuerpos como imanes.

Acudid a mis venas y a mi boca.

Hablad por mis palabras y mi sangre.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Do you ever feel like your life is an episode of The Amazing Race?

Holy Christ in Heaven, I was so relieved to get to Perú in one piece this morning. Pretty much everything that could go wrong with our travel arrangements, did; and the fact that Jon and I are now both in the same country and staying at the same hostel is largely due to the help of our wonderful director, Marcia...and international calling cards. It´s the kind of thing you could call a comedy of errors, but like all comedies of errors, it´s not very funny while it´s happening. But let me start from the beginning!

The plan was this: Jon and I would meet at the departure gate for our 10:10 pm Santiago-Lima flight yesterday. We would fly to Lima, arrive, given the time change, a little after midnight, spend the night in the airport, then fly to Cusco at 5:40 am, arrive around 7, and start our Peruvian Odyssey from there. Of course, even while making the plans, we acknowledged that the timing was a little too tight: Jon would be flying back from Valdivia, where he had been travelling with Jake, earlier that day and would have about three hours in between arriving in Santiago and leaving for Lima. Jon can tell the story far better than I can, but it seems what basically went down is that the Valdivia flight was delayed twice and didn´t get into Santiago until after 11. LanChile put Jon up in a hotel for the night, then in the morning he began the long and frustrating process of trying to get on another flight to Perú.

Of course, I didn´t know all of that as it was going on. I was more concerned about my own travel plans being screwed up. To wit: to get from Valparaíso or Viña to the airport in Santiago, you have to take a bus to Pajaritos metro station then take an airport shuttle. The whole process should take no more than two and a half hours: an hour and a half to Pajaritos, and an hour at the most for the shuttle. So, since I had to be at the airport at 8:10 to check in for the international flight, I left Viña around 5 and was on a bus headed towards Santiago by 5:30. Here´s where things started to get tricky, though. Route 68, the fastest way to get to Santiago and the route that goes by Pajaritos, was closed due to a procession for the Virgin in honor of (I´m pretty sure) the Immaculate Conception. The highway was clogged with people pilgramaging to church. So instead of Route 68, the bus driver takes Route 5. Route 5 is very scenic and beautiful, but it´s also under construction, is for much of its length a two-lane road, and can only be accessed by going through downtown Viña up Libertad. It was rush hour. It took us forty-five minutes just to get out of freaking Viña del Mar.

By this time, I´m getting pretty antsy and am doing the passive-agressive thing where you look at your watch every five seconds and sigh really loudly. For the first hour and half of the journey, we´re trapped behind slow-moving vehicles headed for Quillota or huge construction...things, like cement mixers. From my seat, I could see the spedometer, and at no point in the first hour and half did we exceed 60 kilometers an hour. Finally after about two hours we´re able to kick it up to 100...and then we´re pulled over by the carabineros (Chile´s police force). I´ve pretty much given up hope of getting to the airport two hours early, and am praying that they don´t take that rule too seriously. By the time we get to Santiago (near Parque Balmaceda, basically on the other end of Santiago from Pajaritos), it´s almost 8:30. I´m weighing my options; on the one hand, I could take the metro all the way to Pajaritos and hope that I don´t have to wait long for a shuttle; on the other hand, that would take at least an hour and half, if I´m lucky. So I flag down a taxi and ask the driver to get me to the international terminal of Aeropuerto Merino Benitez as fast as he can. Thank God I got the fasted taxista this side of the Mapocho, because flying down the autopista at 140 km per hour, we´re there in twenty minutes.

So I´ve arrived about forty minutes late, but the woman at the LanChile check-in counter doesn´t even mention it. I get to the gate and start to wonder where Jon is...

Fast forward to arriving in Lima. Immigration takes about an hour, and by the time I´m free it´s about 1:30 or so. I head up to the food court and ask a security guard to wake me up at four if I´m still asleep. I head downstairs to check in for the Cusco flight at 4:15, and my conversation with the Lan woman goes something like this:

Lan woman: ´´Is this all your baggage?´´
Me: ´´Yes, except for what I checked in Santiago.´´
Lan woman: ´´And where´s that?´´
Me: ´´Oh, I checked it through to Cusco.´´
Lan woman: ´´Didn´t you know that you have to pick up your baggage and put it through customs again? You need to go find your baggage and do that before I can check you in for this flight.´´

Now, that might seem like an unforgivably stupid mistake, and I´m not saying it wasn´t, but I´ve never flown internationally by myself before and I was kind of in a daze after getting through immigration in Lima. So I´m running around trying to get back into the baggage area, the security guard says I need someone official from LanChile to come with me, there´s no one at the LanChile Human Resources desk, they´re calling my flight over the loudspeaker, I´m back at the Lan desk, I´m at Lost and Found, I´m walking through the back tunnels of the Cusco airport with a young woman who helps me find my bag and put it back through customs. I head back to the Lan check-in area, but now there´s a huge line and according to the loudspeaker it´s final-call on my flight. The Lan guy who helped me earlier lets me cut in line, I check my bag, then run (literally) to the departure area. And....surprise! Airport tax! Thank God I had American dollars on me and didn´t have to go to an ATM. I pay the tax, then head for security...and set off the alarms. After emptying my pockets and taking off my jacket, I finally clear it and jog off to my gate. And...the punchline is, I´m the first person on the flight.

But still, no Jon. When I get to Cusco, I buy an international phone card and call Marcia back in Valparaíso to see if she´s heard anything. When I call back an hour later to tell her what hostel I´m staying at (so that she can communicate that information to Jon), she tells me that his flight was delayed a couple times but that he´s on his way. And...once again, thank God: when I get back to the hostel this evening after spending the day in the Sacred Valley, Jon is there.

Whew.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I´m happy now

I was really hoping to be able to write more, but I have to head out in about half an hour, so...yeah. Barring unforseen circumstances like free internet in the Santiago airport or a cheap internet cafe, by the next time I post, I will have been to Macchu Picchu, possibly to Easter Island (I mean, I´m definitely going to Easter Island, but I´m going to try to post before then) and Chile will know who its new president is. Actually, I´d be surprised if the election doesn´t go to a second round, but Chile will at least have it narrowed down to two candidates. My money´s on Piñera winning against Bachelet in the second round. If I could vote, I would vote for Hirsch (Humanist Party, far-left coalition) in the first round then Bachelet (Socialist Party, center-left coalition) in the second round.

To Mariah, Carla, and Julia: I wish I had more time to say goodbye to you guys. Julia, have a wonderful time travelling with your parents, and send me the Buenos Aires pictures when you get a chance, okay? If you send them via email, please cc it to my hotmail account (address on my Facebook profile). I loved getting to know you and I´ll miss you next semester. Carla, give me a call if you´ll be in Punta Arenas between the 22nt and the 29th. I left your tote bag with Gisella, with a poster of Julia´s and Mariah´s books. Could you please make sure they get them? Have a great time with your family, and I can´t wait to see you in the airport on the 11th to make that last trip back to Portland! Mariah, I will miss you at LC next semester and I can´t wait to hear about all of your adventures. Stay in touch! I love you guys.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

´´I'm a regular Leo Dawidowitsch Trotzky!´´

Just to get that negativity off the top of the page...this made me laugh out loud. That´s because I´m a snob, probably.

Andando con los monos

That´s Chilean slang for being in a really bad mood for no apparent reason. It literally means ´´going around with the monkeys.´´ It also describes my mood right now.

I hate for one of my last posts before I leave for Peru and Easter Island to be so negative, especially since some great things have happened since I last posted here, but I am so, so, sooooooo sick of people here saying one thing and doing another. I´m sick of group members who don´t call me to tell me when they´re meeting; I´m sick of professors who tell me I can take the test a week later then the other students then call Marcia all, ´´Why didn´t Jessica show up on test day?´´; I´m sick of running around downtown Viña going to the doctor to see if my test results have come back (that was all resolved yesterday, at least); I´m sick of piropos in the streets and the immaturity of many students here in general; and most of all (right now), I´m sick of the flakiness of my professors in regard to turning back our final grades. I can´t schedule my life around my professors´ office hours, which they normally don´t follow in any case. When I make a special trip to Valparaíso to pick up my grades, a day or a week after the date a professor said she would have our grades in, and they´re still not there, that makes me really mad and frustrated. And the answer is always, ´´Come back in a couple hours.´´ I´m going to Santiago this afternoon and freaking Peru tomorrow--I can´t always come back in a couple hours.

Yesterday Carla and Julia and I talked about how we only really waste time on Facebook when we miss our friends. Obviously, when we´re with our friends, we´d rather hang out with them then analyze all their wall posts, right? But when we´re lonely, or missing people, or (at least in my case) jealous of other people our friends are spending time with, that´s when the serious stalking begins. And the three of us are expert Facebook-stalkers.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Procrastination and mental blockage, part C XXVI

Christ, I´m at that point in the semester that I really, really, really hate. Where I´m sitting in front of a computer screen with an essay half-written, and I can feel that I´ve drinken too much coffee because I´m all jittery and whenever I take my hands off the keyboard I have to constantly be scratching my nose, or smoothing my hair, or adjusting my glasses, or tapping my fingers on the desk because goddamn that Nescafé is strong. And I´m so desperate to distract myself that I start reading the May and June 2003 archives of an old high-school friend´s LiveJournal. I know it´s my own damn fault, and I should just buckle down and write the thing all ready, but it´s so easy to not do it. I just hate myself in the morning. (When it all comes together in the end, sometimes it makes a funny story...like the time at the end of last semester when I tried to pull an all-nighter to finish (well...start might be a more appropriate word) my final 15-page paper for Seminar in Early American Religion, and I went a tiny bit crazy and thought that Peggy was out in the hall, even though she had left Portland that morning, and I stumbled out all wild-eyed ´´Peggy? Peggy, where are yoooooou?´´ and before the night was over, somehow I was reading aloud to Chris Leong from Logan Bruno: Boy Baby-Sitter while wearing a black cocktail dress at four in the morning. Hee! Also, sorry, Chris.) (The paper turned out well.) But this is why when I try to write a paper in my dorm room back at school, I physically need to disconnect the ethernet cable and put it somewhere out of reach.

I had my Teología Política final today. It turned out to be a 30-question multiple choice/true-false test that we took in small groups. I was able to contribute to my group and knew the answers to some of the questions that they weren´t sure of, and likewise there were some questions about church history and theologians (and la Ilustración, whatever that was) that I would have had no clue on, so it worked out pretty well. It was 100% of our grade, but I´m confident that we did well or possibly even aced it.

I have oral exams for Modernidad y Problemas Sociales and Literature IV on Monday, December 5. Then, I´m done!

I´d like to write about Thanksgiving, but it would take too long and Nescafé is calling me. Perhaps I´ll write tomorrow, since I will certainly need to go to an internet cafe to finish this essay. Party tonight at Mariah´s friend´s house? Harry Potter tomorrow? En route to Chiloé on Sunday? Whee!

Chao for now!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

¡Feliz día de acción de gracias!

Just got the photocopies of the Lonely Planet Peru chapters on Lima, Cuzco, and Lake Titicaca--getting excited!!

Kristin, Julia and I bought bus tickets today to Puerto Montt, fourteen hours south of Valparaíso. We´re leaving late Sunday afternoon, arriving Monday morning, taking the ferry to the island of Chiloé, and hanging out there until Thursday. I have to leave Thursday evening to get back by Friday morning to sit in a room and listen to Modernidad y Problemas Sociales presentations. It´s a lata, but I can´t miss the presentations.

One for final to go this week! Then two next week. Boo!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Game Theory on my mind

I keep thinking about this problem we analyzed in Game Theory last spring. Let me see if I can explain it (Christine, feel free to jump in in the comments): There are two players, you and some artificial intelligence entity (which could also be called God; in any case, it´s omniscent. I´ll call it God for simplicity´s sake). Each player has two options, A or B. You are the first player (you choose A or B, then God chooses A or B). For you, playing A is the ´´safest´´ option; if you play A, no matter what God does (ie regardless of whether God plays A or B), you´ll get a good payoff. Playing B is riskier: If you play B and God plays A, then you get a low payoff. But if you play B and God plays B, then you get the highest payoff of all.

Basically what the problem boils down to is whether or not you trust God to act in your best interests: whether you´re willing to bet the possibility of a low payoff (you play B, God plays A) against the possibility of a high payoff (you play B, God plays B). Extrapolating the consequences even further, the problem is supposed to indicate whether you believe in free will or determination. The person who believes in free will will play A, getting a decent payoff regardless of what God does (ie they don´t trust God to maximize their payoffs). The person who believes in determination will play B, because they trust that God will also play B, giving them a high payoff.

With me? The reason this has been on my mind is that it´s a pretty good model for the Pedro Montt vs. Errázuriz bus dilemma.

See, there are two buses I can take to get into Valparaíso from Viña del Mar: the Pedro Montt buses, and the Errázuriz buses. The Errázuriz buses always follow the same route and drop me off about a block and a half from the university. That´s a decent payoff; it´s a quick walk. The Pedro Montt buses, approaching Valparaíso, follow two distinct routes: they either get on the overpass and stop at the corner of Pedro Montt, about three or four blocks from the university, or they stay on the main street and stop right at the door of the U. In other words: a crappy payoff (especially when I have classes in Gimpert, I end up having to walk about seven blocks) or the best payoff of all (a walk of a few meters). I always ask the drivers of the Pedro Montt buses to let me off at the university, and about 50% of them do. At first I thought that whether they went on the overpass or not depended on the traffic lights near the U, but more and more I´m convinced that it´s random.

In this case, the Errázuriz buses are option A: they´re safe; I get a decent payoff no matter what. The Pedro Montt buses are option B: I can get either a high payoff (driver stays on the road) or a low payoff (driver gets on the overpass and continues to Pedro Montt). The dilemma is: do I trust the driver of a Pedro Montt bus (God, in this case) to act in my best interest and drop me off by the university? And, based on my answer, should I take an Errázuriz bus or a Pedro Montt bus? What do you think? What would you do?

If you´re interested, post your thoughts in the comments section, and I´ll edit this blog later to add the solution I´ve come up with to the problem!

Monday, November 21, 2005

One down, three to go

I just got out of my final Chilean Literature exam, the first of four finals I have this week. Next up are Brazilian Identity tomorrow, Moral Social on Thursday, and Political Theology on Friday. But the major monkey on my back is this stupid (stupid because I haven´t yet done it and that´s killing me, not because the assignment itself is stupid) four-pager for CIEE. It was due an embarrassingly long time ago, but I was really sick, and then I was sort of sick but had to run all over freaking Viña seeing a specialist about eighteen billion times, and then we were travelling, and by that time it was so late that I didn´t even want to think about it because it made me feel guilty.

I think I´ll write it tonight.

But more than that, I´m updating to pass on a link to this McSweeneys article: Models of Conflict in Literature, Which I Think Justify Beeping My Horn While Driving, Even if My Girlfriend Does Not. I laughed out loud!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh, the joys of Chilean university life

We only have Political Theology once a week. Next week is both the last class and the day of the oral exam, which will be the only evaluative activity we´ll have completed for that course. My entire grade rests on my performance during this test. So, I get to class today.

Cancelled.

What better day to cancel class than the week before the final? Fantastic.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Michelle Bachelet = least Chilean name ever?

Recently, walking around downtown Viña del Mar and taking the micro between Viña and Valparaíso reminds me of that old Onion article: ´´It was the eighth subscription card that convinced me´´ written by a guy who only decided to subscribe to Sports Illustrated after the eighth card fell out of his magazine. Anymore, any grassy area or spare wall has been covered, no, plastered with posters and graffiti bearing the names and faces of Chile´s presidential candidates. Just around the Plaza de Viña area, the Puente Libertad, and Avenida Española, there are literally hundreds of 3x4 foot placards with headshots of the presidential and senatorial candidates. But the thing about these photos is that they have all the finesse and professional technique of my second-grade LifeTouch school portrait, in which the photographer snapped the picture just as I blinked, meaning that two months later my parents received several 5x7s and wallet-sized shots of an adorable, pink-headbanded little girl who appeared to be fast asleep. I mean, I´m pretty sure that the background behind Jaquín Lavín´s head is the same one we used in sixth grade at Roosevelt Middle School.

In any case, it is exciting to be here in Chile as the country gears up for the presidential elections on December 11, especially considering that this president will only be the third since the end of the dictatorship--the democratic tradition, formerly a point of pride for Chileans who looked down on their neighboring ´´banana republics,´´ was suspended between 1973 and 1990. Pinochet, or at least, the shadow of Pinochet, is still very much a public figure and is frequently in the news. (Also, as a side note, Chileans pronounce the ´´t´´ at the end of his name--something like Pee-no-shet. Just FYI.)

There are four presidential candidates, representing the entire spectrum from the communists to the ultra-right. From left to right, they are:

1. Tomás Hirsch, the Junto PODEMOS candidate, from the Communist Party. He´s a little like the Ralph Nader of the 2000 US election, or the Dennis Kucinich of the 2004 Democratic primaries: he´s not a viable candidate and he knows that, so he can say whatever the hell he wants without having to back it up. (I´m not criticizing him for that, though. Remember I voted for Kucinich in the primaries.)

2. Michelle Bachelet, from the Concertación, an alliance of center-left parties that has been governing since the end of the dictatorship. She herself is from the Socialist Party, I believe, but the Concertación encompasses everyone from the Socialists to the Christian Democrats. If elected, Bachelet would be Chile´s first woman president. It was widely accepted that she was going to win, but recently she dropped about 6 points in the polls, so now it looks like the election will probably go to a segunda vuelta (second round) between her and...

3. Sebastián Piñera, from the Renovación Nacional (National Renewal), the center-right alliance. Piñera´s a little like the Chilean Bill Gates: he owns one of the major airlines, one of the major newspapers, one of the major TV channels, and a ton of land. He´s one of the richest people in South America. However, that didn´t stop him from calling himself a ´´small-business owner´´ in the debate last night, upon which Hirsch quickly called bullshit. He is charismatic and intelligent, though, and most of the Chileans I know with whom I talk about politics are voting for him.

4. Jaquín Lavín, from the far-right UDI, or Unión Democrática Independiente (Independent Democratic Union). Lavín is a very conservative Catholic (he´s a member of Opus Dei) and according to Ambar has some sort of link to the dictatorship and Pinochet. My host father Carlos is very conservative and I think he might be voting for Lavín.

Last night was the second presidential debate. The candidates were asked questions by journalists from the four major TV networks about the ongoing maritime conflict between Perú and Chile; Perú´s ex-president/dictator Alberto Fujimori, who was extradited from Perú years ago but recently showed up in Chile; the role of moral values and religion in the country; gay marriage and adoption rights for gay couples; small and medium-sized businesses; the indigenous populations; delincuency; and other issues like that. Based solely on what the candidates had to say, I would have voted for Hirsch. He impressed me with his firm stance in support of gay marriage and adoption of children by gay couples, as well as his fearlessness in pointing out the ridiculousness of some of the postures of the other candidates--for instance, Piñera calling himself a small-business owner and Bachelet´s habit of talking around the questions rather than answering them. (For example, while I don´t like Lavín ´´God says marriage is between one man and one woman´´ and Piñera´s ´´absolutely no gay marriage, but maybe civil unions´´ stance is only slightly better, at least they answered the question. Bachelet just talked for a minute about gay marriage wasn´t in her agenda for Chile.) Then, during his closing statement at the end of the debate, Hirsch held up a sheet of paper on which he had written DERECHOS HUMANOS (human rights) and said something like, ´´What a pity you didn´t ask Lavín what he thinks about human rights,´´ clearly referencing the atrocities commited against human rights by Pinochet´s regime.

Yesterday we had a mock election in my Moral Social class, and Bachelet won with 50% of the vote, just barely enough to not have to go to a segunda vuelta. Out of 28 people in the class, she got 14 votes, Piñera got 7, Lavín got 4, Hirsch got 2, and one person voted null. I guess we´ll have to wait until December 12 to see for sure, but I wouldn´t be surprised if the results of the actual election follow the same breakdown.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Show me round your snow-peaked mountains way down south, take me to your daddy´s farm

Our trip last weekend to Pucón, eleven hours south of Valparaíso, was pretty much la raja (the shit). It was our last group trip and the last significant amount of time we could all be together, since our required CIEE class ended last week. The fact that the program´s wrapping up lent the trip a certain sense of nostalgia and closeness, even though everyone will be here for at least another month.

We arrived in Pucón Friday mornig after spending Thursday night on the south-bound bus. Everyone was pretty tired and run-down feeling, but we perked up when we saw our accomodation: luxerious cabins in a gorgeous park-like landscape, with a perfect view of the smoking, snow-covered Volcán Villarica, the most active volcano in South America. Julia, Kristin, Mariah, and Carla and I had our own cabin, with two bathrooms (one with a jacuzzi), a kitchen, a fireplace (which we probably wouldn´t even have been allowed to use, but whatever), a dining area, a master bedroom, two bedrooms, and a living room with huge picture windows through which we could see the volcano. Really, I could have lived there.

After breakfast in the clubhouse we all got back on the bus and headed to Currerehue, a Mapuche community about half an hour away. The Mapuche are Chile´s largest indigenous population, and most of them live in the south of Chile, particularly in the Lake District (the IX Region, I think, from about Temuco to Puerto Montt). We talked for awhile with a young Mapuche woman who was weaving tapestries in a shop, then toured the small museum/cultural center. Later a group of Mapuche women, children, and youth talked to us and showed us some traditional dances. They said that after dancing around the circle, they were going to start plucking us from the audience to dance with them--being put on the spot like that is exactly the kind of thing I hate, and the whole while I was thinking, ´´Don´t pick me don´t pick me don´t pick me.´´ Unfortunately, Kristin was the first person they pulled out to dance with them, but she gave a valient performance.

The highlight was lunch. We ate some delicious bread that one of the older Mapuche women had cooked under the ashes of the central fire in the cultural center, a greens and quinoa soup, sopaipillas (sweet, fried squash dough), and nut bread...it was wonderful! I sat next to two of the Mapuche boys, who were about second-grade age, and we talked a little bit.

After returning to the cabins, we had the rest of the evening free. We all walked to the center of town to the tourism agency that was running the excursions we could choose from the next day, then split up. Carla and I decided that we didn´t really want to cook dinner that night in our kitchen, so we ended up going out with Jessie, Katherine, Jennie, and Sarah to a Mexican fusion restaurant called El Bosque. I had a wonderful, fresh burrito and a surprisingly strong pisco sour, then a disappointingly tiny, dry, and expensive slice of cheesecake. In any case, we had some great conversation and laughed a lot, and it was fun hanging out with the four girls, since we don´t really spend that much time with them.

The next day, Saturday, we had free, and most people decided to hike up Volcán Villarica, an all-day excursion leaving at 7 in the morning. While it sounded like an adventure, I didn´t want to do anything very strenuous, since by the time we left for Pucón I had just finished the antibiotic treatment for my tonsilitis and I didn´t want to push myself. Plus, call me lazy, but I didn´t want to get up that early on our little vacation. Carla and I decided to go whitewater rafting down the lower Trancura river, which turned out to be an adventure in and of itself. The rafting trip didn´t leave until 3 in the afternoon, so we slept in (I got up around 11:30), then spent the late morning and early afternoon eating breakfast, talking, and watching a deliciously trashy Canadian teen TV series called Instant Star, about this fifteen-year-old girl Jude who´s a rockstar. I´ll probably never get the stupid song she sings out of my head, but it was a very agreeable way to spend the morning. Around 1:30 we headed back to the center of Pucón to do a little shopping (or window-shopping, at least) and to meet our group.

Getting ready for the rafting trip, we were so naive. We were like, ´´Well, let´s wear our swimsuits under our clothes, just in case we get splashed.´´ When we arrived at the river, were we in for a surprise: we had to change into wetsuits. And, proving that Sometimes I Am Heinously Awkward, I put on my wetsuit inside-out and backwards. Then I put the special shoes we had to wear on the wrong feet. It was not my finest 30 minutes, and I think the guide thought I was something of an idiot: as he was describing the safety protocol, he looked right at me and said, ´´If you...or if anyone else...falls into the river, here´s what you do...´´I was able to redeem myself, though, by translating what he said into English for these two non-Spanish speaking German students who went with us. The rafting itself was great fun, with huge waves that completely soaked us and gorgeous scenery, which I could still sort of enjoy even without my glasses.

After getting back to the cabins and swapping stories with the triumphant volcano-summiters, we headed over to the swimming pool for a few minutes. More fun, though, was what we did when we got back to the cabin: we couldn´t let the availability of a jacuzzi go to waste, so we all five crammed into it at once! It wasn´t the most relaxing bath ever but was such a funny situation that we couldn´t stop laughing. The best part was that after we all got out, we realized that the water level--full to the top when we were all in the tub--was only about seven inches.

That night, after a delicious, program-covered dinner, Mariah and Kristin and I talked for awhile, then I headed over to Jake, Jon, and David´s cabin to join Carla and Julia at their impromptu little s´mores-roasting party. After the s´mores ran out we ended up playing a drinking game with several other people from the program. It was fun, but I drank too much (or rather, I mixed too many different kinds of alcohol, I think: beer, wine, pisco, rum, scotch, and Jager) and ended up throwing up several times. That part was not so fun. A million thanks to Julia and Carla for being such good friends and taking care of me!

The next morning, while I didn´t have a hangover (I had pretty much gotten everything out of my stomach the night before), I still felt a little queazy. The queazyness diminished pretty quickly, so I was still able to enjoy the beatiful scenery as we toured the area around Pucón. We hiked a little in some beautiful temperate rainforests, visited multiple waterfalls and lakes, and passed by cow-speckled fields...it was all beautiful, and reminded me so much of the Willamette Valley of Oregon. As we rode around, I thought about when Carla and I went to San Pedro de Atacama, in the far north of Chile. Comparing the two regions, I could hardly believe that they were in the same country: San Pedro is right at the heart of the driest desert in the world, and looks like it belongs on Tatooine, the sand planet from Star Wars. Meanwhile, Pucón was lush, green, sparkling, with waterfalls and rushing rivers. The amount of biodiversity in Chile is really remarkable. I was reading in my Rough Guide the other day that the length of Chile is equivalent to the distance between Scotland and Nigeria.

Anyways, at the end of the tour we stopped at the Termas de Pozones, some natural hot springs. The hot water felt sooo good, especially after ducking into the freezing cold river right alongside the Termas. We finished the day with an asado (barbeque or cook-out) back at the cabins, then boarded the bus to head back to Valparaíso and Viña.

The trip was a lot of fun. It´s sad to think that it was our last CIEE trip, and that, as Carla wrote on her blog, we won´t really have another chance to be with everyone again. A week from tomorrow we´re all going to be together for the cena de despedida (good-bye dinner), which will also be our Thanksgiving dinner, and the ramifications of the fact that it´s time to say good-bye are just mindboggling.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The next two months of my life...

...which, as hard as it is to believe, is all I have left in Chile.

Actually, it feels like shorter, because the semester is pretty much wrapping up. I´m definitely feeling the end-of-semester crush, as everything suddenly is due, two books to be read before a lit test on the 21st, my paper on Chilean cinema, I still haven`t done the control de lectura response that was due two weeks ago, etc. We´ve got two weeks of classes left, then two weeks or so of reading days and finals until CIEE officially ends on, I think, December 10. I don´t fly back until the 11th of January, but until today I wasn´t really able to visualize what I was going to do with that time. So today, during a pretty boring/abstract Moral de lo Social lecture, I wrote out my plans for every day after the end of classes. Every day. And then, seeing all the stuff I had planned, I got really, really excited. And not even Pullman Bus´s dark, forebody website or Buquebus´s frustrating, conflicting information about ferries between Buenos Aires and the coastal cities of Uruguay could put a damper on my excitement.

So, here are my best-case scenario plans, very subject to change:

November
25: Last day of class. Party at Mariah´s friend´s house in the evening?
26: En route to the southern Chilean island of Chiloé, hopefully with friends. Word on the street is that you have to take a bus to Puerto Montt and then ferry it over to Chiloé. People who have been there (Riana): what is there to do? What should we definitely not miss?
27: Chiloé
28: Chiloé
29: Chiloé
30: Chiloé

December
1: Return to Viña.
2: Presentation in Modernidad y Problemas Sociales
3: Study/write/day trip. I have a twenty-page paper for my Chilean literature class that I barely have time to even think about before late November/early December. Plus, there are a lot of little fishing villages around here that I´d like to check out, and Ronald´s mentioned taking a day trip to some town an hour and a half away
4: Study/write/day trip
5: Oral exam for Modernidad y Problemas Sociales
6: Study/write/day trip
7: Study/write/day trip
8: Study/write/day trip
9: PERU! Jon and I leave Viña in the morning. Viña to Santiago to Lima, then afternoon and evening in Lima.
10: Lima to Cuzco
11: Machu Piccu!
12: Cuzco. Lake Titicaca? We might hop over to Bolivia for the afternoon, if it´s at all possible
13: Morning in Cuzco, then Lima, then Santiago. We´re going to have to spend the night in Santiago, because the next day we´re leaving for...
14: EASTER ISLAND! Yes, I´m going to make it to Easter Island, the loneliest place on Earth, the belly-button of the world.. I´m so excited.
15: Easter Island
16: Easter Island
17: Easter Island
18: Easter Island
19: Easter Island
20: Easter Island to Santiago to Viña
21: Unpacking and repacking.
22: Santiago to Punta Arenas, the southernmost Chile in city to spend Christmas with my friend Juan Carlos and his family. Carla and her family will be in the area, too, and it would be fun to meet them. Plus, I´d like to spend at least a little time at Torres del Paine National Park, although I´m definitely not up for the full six-day sleeping-in-the-wilderness hiking experience. I think there´s a penguin reserve in the area, too. I love penguins.
23: Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
24: Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
25: CHRISTMAS! Away from home. Sob.
26: Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
27: Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
28: Punta Arenas/Torres del Paine
29: Punta Arenas to Santiago to Viña.
30: Chilling in Viña, spending time with the fam, unpacking and repacking, hopefully getting together with Daniela.
31: Chilling in Viña, watching the famous New Year´s fireworks display in Valparaíso.

January
1: Chilling in Viña
2: Leave Viña for Mendoza, Argentina by bus. Arrive in the afternoon.
3: Mendoza, touring a winery?
4: Leave Mendoza for Buenos Aires by bus. According to David, who´s done it, it´s about fourteen hours over the Argentine pampas and the scenary´s pretty.
5: Buenos Aires
6: Ferry across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, Uruguay, then a bus to Punto del Este, where I´ll spend the afternoon. I want to see the sculpture that was featured on The Amazing Race a few seasons ago: giant fingers sticking up out of the sand, representing the last thing you see of a person before they drown.
7: Montevideo
8: Ferry from Montevideo to Buenos Aires, where I´ll catch a bus back to Viña.
9: Arrive in Viña, probably in the evening.
10: Unpack and repack for the last time. I will almost certainly (okay, certainly) need to buy a new suitcase. I was all proud of myself back in July for getting everything here in one full-to-bursting suitcase with carryons, but now I realize I should have packed two suitcases half-way. Live and learn.
11: Leave Viña early in the morning for Santiago, where I´ll board a plane that, for the last time, will speed me away from this wonderful, crazy, frustrating, paradoxical, poetic country.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Drop that zero and get with the hero!

This is just too good to pass up. Okay, so I´m reading the Girl´s Bike Club over at Tomato Nation (love!) and Sars and Wing are talking about Vanilla Ice (page two, but you should just read the whole thing--it´s funny). I follow the link over to the IMDb and what do I see, but:

Cool as Ice (1991). ¨When a girl has a heart of stone, there's only one way to melt it. Just add Ice.

Then I read the plotline, and I practically started hyperventilating: ´´A rap oriented re-make of "Rebel Without a Cause," with heavy emphasis on the fact that rap star Vanilla Ice has assumed the James Dean role.´´

All of which leads me to the question: How did I go so long without seeing this movie??!! This has got to be the greatest display of Schadenfreude since The Baby-Sitters Club Movie.

I propose a Cool as Ice movie night when I get back. Who´s in? Amy?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Damn the Man!

Boo, the Religious Studies and English departments rearranged their courses and screwed up my plans for next semester. But after some last-minute emails to Kugler, my Religious Studies adviser, I´ve got everything figured out and just mailed my courses off to the Registrar so they can register for me tomorrow and next week. I´m pretty happy with how my schedule worked out:

Monday
RELS 223 New Testament, 11:30-12:30, Rohrbaugh
RELS 450 Seminar in Biblical Studies, 12:40-1:40, Kugler (I think this seminar is something to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is Kugler´s expertise, and the social/cultural world of turn-of-the-eras Christianity and Judaism. That sort of stuff´s not my favorite part of Religious Studies--I prefer American religious history--but it should be interesting, if difficult)
SPAN 450 Theater/Poetry in Franquist Spain, 1:50-2:50, Raillard
IA 212 US Foreign Policy, M 3:00-4:30, Th 3:30-5:00

Tuesday
RELS 243 Buddhism: Theory/Culture/Practice, T Th 1:50-3:20, Cole

Wednesday
New Testament, 11:30-12:30
Seminar in Biblical Studies, 12:40-1:40
Spanish, 1:50-2:50

Thursday
Buddism, 1:50-3:20
Foreign Policy, 3:30-5:00

Friday
New Testament, 11:30-12:30
Seminar in Biblical Studies, 12:40-1:40
Spanish, 1:50-2:50

20 credits in total. The biggest casualty was Creative Non-Fiction Writing, which I wanted to take to fulfill the creative arts requirement and because it sounded interesting. I hope to take it sometime next year--I´ll have an extra slot open, since I´m bumping up New Testament, which was scheduled for Spring 2007, to this spring. I´m a little bummed that I´ll barely have time for lunch with the gang on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Mondays will definitely be a bitch and a half. On the other hand, Tuesdays and Thursdays will be glorious. The challenge will be to not sleep in late every day and end up wasting the free time.

I was thinking yesterday, as I struggled with a Modernidad y Problemas Sociales reading, what a pleasure it is to read in English. The last book I read in my native language was Lolita by Nabokov, over three months ago; anymore, the only English reading I do is on the internet: blogs, recaps, the Vine, etc. I know I´ll regret saying this about, oh, five months from now, but I can´t wait to have readings and to be able to go to class and discuss things in English.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Women, Part Two

Alternate Title: Guess Who´s Got Tonsilitis?

While I was in Calama, wandering around waiting for the Pullman bus to come, my head and throat started to hurt a little. I had had a sick taste, getting-a-sore-throat taste in my mouth since the night before, so I wasn´t totally surprised, and I chalked the headache up to crying-based dehydration. Plus, it was a hot day and there was a ton of dust and sand in the air, none of which are good for health of the moister parts of the body. The bus came, and I got on it.

To cut a long, uncomfortable bus ride short, by the time we arrived in Valparaíso, I looked like re-fried hell, hadn´t eaten or drunk anything more than six cookies and a few sips of water in about twenty-eight hours, had a pounding headache, and could barely swallow or speak above a whisper. Marcia, our wonderful CIEE director, scheduled a doctor´s appointment for me and sent me home to rest. I pretty much never get anything worse than a cold (I´ve gotten sick in Chile way more often, and more seriously--relatively speaking--than I ever do in the US), and the last time I´ve gone to the doctor for anything other than a yearly checkup was probably when I got strep throat at age eleven or something. I´m not saying it´s a good thing, but I think I´ve picked up my dad´s stubborness about letting his body sort out its own little ups and downs, rather than using medication to regulate things. So anyways, to suck it up and go to see the doctor because I wasn´t feeling well was a biggish deal.

But I´m glad I did, because diagnosis: acute tonsilitis. They´re not going to take them out, which was the first thing I thought of (I kept remembering that scene from Roald Dahl´s extremely disturbing autobiography Boy when the doctor cuts out his tonsils with a long hook and no anesthesia), but I´m supposed to stay home and rest for the next week or so and take antibiotics. The medicine is already helping, I think, and after several weeks of running around it´ll be nice to pasarlo piola (chill, pretty much) at home this weekend. Healthy thoughts are appreciated, and I promise my next entry will be more upbeat!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Lesson learned: I should never go on The Amazing Race

Anyone remember that episode of TAR a season or two ago when Lori and Bolo missed the last bus out of this German town and had to sleep outside the bus station and everyone thought they would surely be Philiminated, but then there was major bunching and they ended up, like, winning the next leg of the race? Yeah, that was pretty much my Tuesday morning.

We had Monday and Tuesday off for All Saint´s Day and Day of the Dead, so Carla and I decided to go to San Pedro de Atacama, about twenty-four hours to the north of Valparaíso by bus. It was a great trip, and I´ll probably write more about it later. What wasn´t so great was getting separated the morning we had to catch our bus, waiting in the wrong place (I assumed the buses would leave from the same place they arrived), and getting left behind...with all of the later Tur Buses completely booked. I was crying pretty hard by this time. Originally I thought I could get a taxi driver to speed me over to Calama, the pueblo an hour away that the buses pass through. He told me it would be twenty-five thousand pesos, about fifty dollars. I had only four thousand on me, and my debit card didn´t work in the ATM. I asked him if I could send him the money later, and he seemed to be considering it, but ultimately decided no. I enquired about Tur Buses into Calama, but they were all full and wouldn´t have arrived until an hour and a half after my Tur Bus left.

So...I hitch-hiked into Calama (it wasn´t as scary as it sounds; the people had little kids in the car!) and found a Pullman Bus into Valparaíso that was leaving in an hour. My Tur Bus ticket was useless, of course, and since it was my fault for missing the bus, they couldn´t refund it, so I lost about forty dollars in the deal. But because Pullman buses run directly to Valpo, and the Tur Buses go through Santiago, I ended up getting back at about the same time as I would have if I had just caught the original bus. And, ironically, it was cheaper to just buy a new bus ticket for twenty-two thousand than it would have been to have the taxi guy take me for twenty-five thousand.

It was a horrible situation, and for awhile I thought I was going to be stranded in San Pedro for at least a day. But you know what? After putting about thirty hours between myself and the sinking feeling and the guilt and the begging and the crying, I´m sort of proud of myself for managing myself and surviving.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ambar: quite a character

When Ambar, my host mom, gets in a chatty mood, she can be hilarious. She´s very opinionated, teaches me a ton of Chilean slang, and is great to talk to. The other day we were talking about this Chilean slang expression, andar a lo gringo. (This is where J.Lee and Riana start laughing.) Andar a lo gringo literally means ´´to walk around like a gringo (North American)´´ but is used to mean ´´to go around without underwear.´´ The origin of the phrase is a mystery to me; I don´t think we gringas are any more likely to, well, andar a lo gringo than a Chilean, but apparently before the family started hosting North American students, Ambar always thought that it was a statement rooted in fact.

Ambar: The first time we did Emily´s (their first host student´s) laundry, I was like, ´´Hey! She´s got panties in here! This gringa does not andar a lo gringo!´´ And I told Maria (our nana, or nanny/cook/maid) about it, and she was like, ´´I know! What´s up with that?´´ I was so surprised to find out. And since then, I´ve noticed that both Julie and you also wear panties. I have noticed, though, that you gringas don´t wear bras.
Me: Well...I always wear a bra.
Ambar: Really?

A little later, we started talking about Bill Clinton. Ambar detests George W. Bush (she didn´t agree with the war, and thinks he has a ´´devious face´´), but she was a big fan of Clinton. In regard to the sex scandal, she said she couldn´t care less about what goes on in his personal life and all that huevada (´´shit,´´ and pronounced weá) and initially seemed very critical of Monica Lewinsky, blaming her for the scandal, etc. Then, a few minutes later, she refined her position.

Me: At this time last year, I was knocking on doors trying to convince people to vote for Kerry.
Ambar: Oh, Kerry. I forgot he even existed. Not like Al Gore...or Clinton. (Pronounced Cleeeen-tohn, and accentuated by some suggestive wiggling of the eyebrows.)
Me: You...found Clinton attractive?
Ambar: What woman wouldn´t? Tall, charismatic, very good-looking...Jessica, the problem was never that Monica Lewinsky chupó a Clinton. The problem was that she told the whole world about it! If I were in her situation, I would have done the exact same thing. I just would have kept my mouth shut afterwards!

Monday, October 24, 2005

¡Canta! ¡Sueña! ¡Vuela corazón americano!

Part Two of What We Did in Argentina is still coming (obviously, when I say ´´Check back tomorrow,´´ I really mean ´´Check back sometime next week,´´ but everything in the world happened or threatened to happen last week and I didn´t have time to write it up--sorry!) but I first I ahve to write about what happened over the weekend.

Yesterday was a very important day for Chile: the canonization of Padre Alberto Hurtado, a Jesuit priest who founded the Hogar de Cristo (Home of Christ), an organization that helps street children and the poor. Ever since his death in the early 1950s, Chileans have been petitioning the Vatican to canonize Padre Hurtado (make him into a saint), but they had to wait until he performed--and the Vatican verified--two posthumous miracles, which is the requirement for sainthood. (As an aside, that´s the main reason why Mother Teresa hasn´t been canonized yet.) Padre Hurtado supposedly performed his second miracle in 1996 when a young woman miraculously recovered from a coma following a car accident, and the wheels were set into motion for his canonization, a long process that culminated Sunday morning around 4:30 in the morning Chile-time, when Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Padre Hurtado´s acceptance into the communion of saints.

In honor of the occasion, the pastoral organization of our university sponsored a vigil Saturday night in the gymnasium of the U, and I decided to go. The vigil officially started around 11:30 pm, but I didn´t get there until about 2:30, since Mariah and I had been tango´ing at the Piedra until 2 or so. There were at least two hundered and fifty students in the gymnasium, gathered in small groups around dozens of plastic tables. The lights were off and the room was dark, lit mostly by hundreds candles which burned at the tables. Huge posters of Padre Hurtado hung from the walls and a stage had been set up at one end of the gym where a few people stood, leading the crowd in song, prayer, and devotions. Despite the late hour, everyone was in high spirits, excited about the canonization, clapping their hands and dancing to the music. One of the songs in particular caught my attention:

¡Canta!...¡Sueña!
¡Vuela corazón americano!
Ya no habrá dolor que nos detenga
Todos somos hermanos ante Dios.

Sing...Dream!
Take wing, American heart!
Soon there will be no pain to hold us back
We are all brothers before God.


When we sang it, we all joined hands and swayed back and forth, a chain of hundrds of students united by their faith and emotion and pride in this incredible man who would soon be a saint. I don´t want to get too maudlin but it was a special moment, and I know I´ll always remember it.

The canonization itself began around 4:30, broadcast live from Rome via the University of Chile television station. There were actually five priests being canonized Sunday, and huge portraits of them hung in front of St. Peter´s Cathedral. Every time the camera panned past Padre Hurtado´s portrait, a huge cheer went up from the students, who chanted several rounds of CHI CHI CHI! LE LE LE! VIVA CHILE! When at the end of the service the Pope pronounced Hurtado a saint, the vigil coordinators unfurled a huge poster with a picture of Hurtado and the words ´´San Alberto Hurtado´´ and there was even more cheering.

After that, there was a Mass officiated by a priest from a local parish who had come to the vigil, and I fell asleep for about twenty minutes and had a brief but enjoyable dream that I lived in a tree house. By the time we (my Ciencias Religiosas friends and I) left the vigil, it was seven in the morning and the sun was up. As I rode the micro back into Viña, I thought about how grateful I was to have been able to share such a special occasion with my friends and with Chile.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Paris of South America

Okay, so I´ve never been to the Paris of Europe, but after spending Thursday night through Monday morning in Buenos Aires, I could see why porteños (people from BA) call it that: wide, tree-lined avenues; gorgeous architecture; and world-class theater, art, music, and cuisine. Our mini-vacation there (I went with Kristin, Julia, Carla, and Mariah) was near-perfect. We did and saw and ate so much that it´d take a while to describe it all, but I´ll give it a try:

Thursday
We all brought our luggage (which was not much, since we were only going to be gone a few days) with us to our CIEE class, then left during the recreo (break) about half-way through to walk to the bus terminal a few blocks away. All international flights in Chile leave from the capital, so we had to take a bus to Los Pajaritos station in Santiago, then take another transer bus to the airport. We flew to Buenos Aires and transfered to our hotel (it was included in the price of our trip) without incident. By the time we got there, it was after eleven, and we didn´t get to sleep until after midnight.

Friday
The day got off to an inauspicious start: when I turned on the faucet to wash my hands, there was no water. Ditto the shower. We called reception, and they said the water had been turned off for plumbing work or something; when we tried the water a little later, it came out all rusty and brown. At this point, I was a little concerned about the hotel, because it seemed just a little sketchy: it had a generally shabby aspect to it, the elevators were Old World-style lifts, and there was no bathtub or shower area in our bathroom. There was just a shower head near the ceiling, a drain in the floor, and a squee-gee. The idea was that the entire bathroom was your shower, and you´d squee-gee the floor afterwards. After breakfast at the hotel (tea, hot milk, toast with dulce de leche, and medialunas (´´half moons,´´ or croissants)) the water had been turned on and was coming out of the faucets looking like water, so we showered. Things started to look a little more auspicious.

And they were really auspicious when we stepped out of the hotel lobby and realized that our location could not have been better: we were right at the junction of Corrientes and Florida; in other words, smack in the middle of where we wanted to be. We spent the morning changing money, buying stamps, making reservations for things we were going to do later, and exploring the area around our hotel. We ducked into musty used-book shops, played in the plazas, bought fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juice from a street vendor, visited the tribunal building and national post office, and walked along Avenida 9 de julio, the widest avenue in the world. 9 de julio, named in honor of Argentina´s independence day, is sixteen lanes and over 140 meters wide--that´s about one-and-a-half football fields. Since it´s impossible to cross in one change of the traffic lights, there are four grassy island/plaza strips running down the avenue--think the Park Blocks in Portland, only on a grander scale. 9 de julio was also the site of our near-death, as four of us (Julia made it across the street in time) were almost run over while trying to jaywalk. (We were sure the light was about to change!) But as Kristin said, at least being killed on the widest avenue of the world would vault us into legend-status among friends and family.

Walking around the city, I was amazed at how much diversity there was. Chilean society is extremely homogenous, and anyone with light-brown or blond hair sticks out like a sore thumb. To Chileans, I am blond, and anonymous Chilean men feel the need to point that out to me wherever I go. But there were so many porteños with blond, light-brown, medium-brown, even red hair that we barely stood out at all. It´s due to all the European (especially Italian) immigration to Argentina and especially Buenos Aires, and the fact that there was probably not as much mixing between the European immigrants/Spanish conquistadores and the indigenous populations as there was in Chile. In any case, it was wonderful to be able to spend three days virtually free of piropos (catcalls).

After lunch at a little Italian cafe headed back to our hotel for the city tour that was included in our travel package. It was more than a little touristy and cheesy (we were in a huge tour bus, and had to in introduce ourselves and then applaud everyone as they said which country they were from, etc) but definitely worth it, because it took us through some gorgeous neighborhoods that we might not have gotten to otherwise. For instance, we stopped in La Boca, the colorful, shabby-chic neighborhood where the Italian immigrants first settled and where tango was born among the brothels and sexually-frustrated single men. Originally, men danced with each other, the tango moves representing their frustration and longing and the dances serving as a kind of competition to see who would have the next ´´turn´´ with in the brothels. Eventually the men started dancing with the prostitutes, and the tango became less violent and forceful and more sensual. On the tour, we also passed by the theater where tango was first officially performed, signalling its acceptance by European and Argentinian high society.

Now La Boca is also home to one of Argentina´s two primary fútbol teams. The other one is called ´´River,´´ and there´s a huge rivalry between them.

We also passed through the cuico (posh) neighborhoods of Palermo, Palermo Chico, and Recoleta. We saw the Casa Rosada, or ´´Pink House:´´ it´s the seat of the federal government, and according to the guide was painted pink to diffuse tensions between two rival political parties, the Reds and the Whites. We stopped at the Plaza de Mayo, where I stepped into the National Cathedral and snapped photos of political graffiti scrawled on the cement pillars near the Plaza. We saw Puente Madero, a land-mark pedestrian bridge, and many many more things. By the end of the day, as we walked back to our hotel, it´s safe to say that we had all fallen under Buenos Aires´spell.

And one of the best things was yet to come: dinner. Oh, the food in Buenos Aires. Because of all the Italian influence in Argentina, there are a ton of incredible Italian restaurants and all but the most cuico can be enjoyed for incredibly cheap prices. We went to an Italian-Argentinian restuarant, where I ate the best steak of my life (the meat in Argentina is world-famous), shared a substancial breaded-mozzarella appetizer with Julia, and had two glasses of Argentinian red wine, all for less than $10 US. It was an Epicurean dream. We all went to bed that night happy, excited, stuffed, and completely in love with Buenos Aires.

I´ll have to write about Sadturday and Sunday later--I can see that I´m not going to be able to be concise, and I´ve got to work on a paper. Check back tomorrow, and until then, ¡chao!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

It´s easy to find my blog. Just misspell things!

According to my site referrals, I´m both the third and fourth results on Ask Jeeves when you search commentary, "persistant widow"--you know, misspelled. As I recall, sometime last year I was the first Google result for searching ´´Lindsay Lohan sunless tanner´´ or something like that, with Lohan´s first name misspelled.

I hope this doesn´t mean that Chris will kick me out of the grammar police!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Without a trace

Somehow, in the five minutes between getting into a colectivo on the corner of Alvarez and Agua Santa last night and getting out at my stop, I lost my document holder with my identification, money, and miscellaneous cards and notes. I know for sure that I had it with me after I boarded the colectivo and closed the door, because I remember taking out a two thousand peso bill to pay the driver. Then there was a little bit of confusion as I searched for a fifty peso coin to give him so that he could give me an even fifteen hundred in change (the Agua Santa-bound colectivos recently raised their prices by fifty pesos, so after 11pm it costs 550 pesos to ride, or about a dollar). I stuffed the change, a five-hundred peso coin and a thousand peso bill, into my change purse instead of putting the bill into the document holder, which I must have dropped without realizing it. When I got out of the colectivo, I was immediately like, ´´Oh, shit!´´ and searched my purse and pockets. No luck. So, I waited at my stop and flagged down every colectivo that passed by, hoping to catch the same driver on his return trip down Agua Santa. When he finally passed by about twenty-five minutes later, he said that he hadn´t seen it. He waited and the other passengers waited patiently, for which I´m grateful, while I searched the seats, the cracks in between the seats, the floor of the colectivo, but it was all for nought.

It´s a sucky situation and I´m pissed at myself for being so absent-minded as to drop something important like that in a colectivo. As much as it sucks, though, I was lucky in several ways: I didn´t lose my pase escolar, my school ID card and bus pass; I didn´t lose my Chilean identity card, which due to laziness and poor timing I still haven´t gone to the Registro Civil to pick up; I didn´t lose my passport or a photocopy of my passport; I didn´t have my credit cards in the document holder; I only lost about six thousand pesos (twelve dollars). Six thousand pesos is a fair amount and I could have done a lot with it, but it´s not like I had just made an ATM withdrawal or anything.

The moral of the story is, be careful. I was lucky I didn´t lose anything irreplaceable or extremely valuable, and now I know I´ll definitely be more careful about my things.

In happier news, Ronald and I went out to lunch today after class. I think he´s probably my best Chilean friend. Actually, we were going to meet another woman, Viviana, to talk about a project we´re all working on together for Moral Social, but she called to cancel; something came up that she has to deal with, and she´s not even going to be able to go to the Ciencias Religiosas congreso this weekend in Temuco, about twelve hours south of here. The congreso sounded really fun to me--all the Ciencias Religiosas students of the Catholic universities from around Chile are getting together to give presentations, debate, and do some touristy things--and to tell the truth I tried to meterme--insert myself--in the group that was going to go, but without success. Now that Viviana´s had to cancel, I thought about asking Ronald if I could take her place, but I decided against it. It´s too short notice (they leave today around 7:30pm and don´t get back until Tuesday morning) and I´ve already made plans for the weekend that I don´t want to cancel. Plus, I don´t want to be varsa (a person who pushes social boundaries) with the Ciencias Religiosas crowd; since I´m not officially a part of the Institute, I don´t know if it would be appropriate for me to take part in that kind of activity. It would be one thing if Ronald had suggested it, but I would have felt weird asking to go along and possibly putting him in the uncomfortable position of having to say no.

Anyways, this weekend looks like it´ll be pretty busy as it is: Saturday afternoon Kristin and I are having tea with our surrogate Chilean grandparents then going to flute concert with them. There´s also tentative plans of playing poker at Pamela´s house--she´s a Chilean friend of Jake´s who we met a couple weeks ago. If the poker doesn´t happen I´ll probably go to the Piedra for Saturday-night tango, and the tangueros are all getting together again Sunday evening at a different place in Valparaíso. If it all comes together like we hope, Sunday afternoon we´re going to the sand dunes for a picnic with Chilean friends.

I hope everyone back at Lewis & Clark is having a good Fall Break!

Memorable quotes:

Jon: ´´Can you put scotch in beer?´´ (Note: As it turns out, you can, and it tastes better than you might imagine.)

Mariah: ´´Bloch makvat...that´s how you say toothpaste...in Russian.´´

Carla: ´´I miss being affectionate with my friends. It doesn´t seem like Chileans hug as much as we do in the US.´´
Ronald: ´´What? No! I´m super affectionate.´´
Carla: ´´Well, I know Chileans kiss when they greet each other, but it´s not quite the same.´´
Ronald: ´´Group hug! Right now!´´

A North American girl (overheard): ´´I miss the Napolean Dynamite culture we have in the US. Here, if you say something the way Napolean Dynamite says it, the Chileans don´t understand that that´s funny.´´

A North American guy, describing Mendoza, Argentina to a North American girl in the international student office: ´´The girls there are so hot. They´re so much better looking than Chilean girls. And the guys are hot, too. I mean, I´m not gay, but I know when a guy´s good-looking. I´m telling you this for your benefit: the guys are hot. Oh, and make sure you go to the park. Those Argentinians really know how to make a park.´´

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Baby steps

Yesterday afternoon, I hopped on a bus to Santiago (about an hour and half away) by myself. It might not sound like a big deal, but to me, it was: although I´ve travelled a fair amount, I´ve never been completely on my own (well, I was on the six-hour bus ride from Coquimbo to Valparaíso a few weeks ago, but I´m not counting that because Ambar´s mother Paufá helped me by my ticket and put me on the bus. But that´s another story). Even flying to Chile I was with the other LC students, and Eugene is close enough to Portland that my parents always just drop me off or pick me up from school at the beginning and end of the semester. But my very tentative January 2-January 11 plans include travelling through Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay alone, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it without dying or flailing around.

And I did, which was the remarkable thing. I wanted to see the Salvador Dalí exhibition at the Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho, so I got off at the Los Pajaritos bus station, successfully read the metro map and took the red-line metro (it´s like the MAX in Portland, but underground and bigger) to Los Héroes, transferred to the yellow line, and rode it to Puente Cal y Canto, then de-trained and found the Centro, without having to ask directions once. This was an achievement for me considering I have a horrible sense of direction and usually have to ask directions whenever I venture over to the East side of Portland, much less a huge metropolis of 6 million people. I loved almost all of the Dalí exhibit, especially a series of about two hundred paintings he did to represent different Biblical scenes, and his ´´Hippies´´ series of paintings. The sculptures were cool, especially ´´Perseus,´´ and interesting to me because I don´t really think of Dalí as a sculptor.

I spent about two hours at the Dalí exhibit then wandered in to an exhibit about the history of copper mining or something like that. Copper is Chile´s chief mineral export, and the country is the number one producer of copper in the world. The most interesting thing about the exhibit was El Hombre de Cobre (Copper Man, but it rhymes in Spanish), a dead body that was excavated about a hundred years ago from one of the copper mines in the far north of Chile. Apparently he was a 19-year-old man who fell into a copper mine around 550 CE (!) and was trapped by rocks. Based on the physical evidence and lack of wounds on his body, scientists think that he died from carbon dioxide (?) poisoning from his own breath. Totally creepy.

After leaving the Centro Cultural I walked down to the Plaza de Armas, at the historical center of Santiago. I bought two sopaipillas (fried, sweet squash cakes), some candied peanuts, and a mote con huesillos, some kind of sweet peach drink with...barley? at the bottom. It wasn´t bad, exactly, but it tasted kind of funky and a couple months ago I almost threw up from some chocolates I bought off the street in Santiago, so I decided to play it safe and tossed most of it out. After walking around for awhile I ducked into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant for bife a lo pobre, a traditional Chilean dish that my mom would call ´´Heart attack on a platter´´: a steak, a fried egg, carmelized onions, and french fries. Tasty, but I wouldn´t want to eat it every day.

It was getting pretty dark by then so I decided to head back to Valparaíso, again successfully navigating the subway system without getting lost. As it turned out there was a bus leaving right as I arrived at Los Pajaritos, bound not for Valparaíso but for Viña by way of Agua Santa. Perfect, because I live right on Agua Santa. All the way back I talked to the somewhat cuico (monied, higher class) guy sitting next to me, who had pretty much the most non-Chilean name ever: Jonathan Kiddenstein. Interesting conversation and all of that.

All in all, it was a great day. I feel really good now about the prospect of travelling alone at the end of the program; in fact, I think I´m going to enjoy it a lot.

Monday, October 03, 2005

What´s a little rain to a native Oregonian?

Yesterday afternoon Ronald and I, along with my CIEE friends Carla, Jon, and Mariah went for a walk around Valparaíso. To tell you the truth I thought about calling Ronald to cancel beforehand--the weather was pretty crappy yesterday and I didn´t want to walk around in the rain, since my grasp on good health has been tenuous at best for the past month or so. Luckily it didn´t start to rain in earnest until after Carla and I met up with Ronald at 4:15, forcing us to go through with the plans. I´m so glad we did! It was pretty much the perfect afternoon, despite getting soaked.

By the time we had all assembled at 4:30, the rain and wind were starting to pick up, so we headed over to Muelle Barón (Barón Moor) to watch the waves. They were huge! The water was a glassy greenish color, and the wind was so strong that Mariah said it made her want to fly. After watching the waves for awhile we walked south along Avenida Perú until we got to Cerro Artillería and Cerro Playa Ancha, further south than I´ve been before in Valparaíso. The hills were beautiful, full of unexpected plazas and broken-down, vividly painted Victorian mansions, and the company and conversation were lovely. We walked back north along the coast and watched the tide come in and the waves crash against the rocky coastline. It made me miss the Oregon coast.

By the time we headed back to Viña by micro, it was quarter to eight and the sky was a gorgeous pinkish-purple color. When I got home, I took a quick shower to rinse off the salt water (I got soaked by a surprisingly huge wave), read a little of Memorias póstumas de Blas Cubas by Machado de Assis for my Brasilian Identity class, watched Desperate Housewives, and passed out at eleven. The perfect end to a great day.

Friday, September 30, 2005

How do you say ´´Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles´´ in Spanish?

The other day I went to the library in Gimpert, one of the main academic buildings, to meet with Liza and Carina, two of my Modernidad y Problemas Sociales group members. (Incidentally, ´´Gimpert´´ is very difficult to pronounce, because it´s not a Spanish name. All the Chileans have, like, agreed on some neo-French/Spanish/whatever pronounciation, and I´m never sure if I´m saying it right. Really, that goes for any word that comes from a non-Spanish language, including English words, such as ´´top,´´ ´´feeling,´´ and ´´living.´´) Anyways, it soon became clear that no work was going to get done, so we started talking about TV, particularly the cartoon shows (monitos,, or ´´little monkeys,´´ as they´re called in Chile) we watched as kids. I love, but love, early/mid nineties pop culture nostalgia (see the discussion going on in the comments section of the last entry), so I was having a blast until they asked me what kinds of shows I watched in the US. The first one that popped into my head was Duck Tales (Flying in our aer-o-plane! Here in! Duckburg!) but the only translation I would offer up was a lame Historias de Patos. Yeah, so that one got lost in translation. But I did learn that the Smurphs were called Los pitufos in Chile, and that the CareBears were Los cariñositos, (a conglomeration of the words for ´´affectionate´´ and ´´little bears´´) if I understood Carina correctly. Liza translated My Little Pony as Pequeño pony, but I think that was more just her saying it in Spanglish so I could understand it it. I didn´t even try to translate the Popples (Pop pop pop Popples!), which sound bizarre even in English. And in Spanish, SpongeBob SquarePants has been reduced to a simple, but syllabically equal, Bob esponja. That one´s not so much from our childhoods, though.

Mey and Lisu watch a ton of monitos, mostly on Discovery Kids, a North American cable channel that´s dubbed in Spanish. I always seem to be eating breakfast while Mey´s watching Los Hermanos Koala, a Claymation-type show about two koala brothers who help other animals in the Australian outback, or something like that. The most memorable part of the show for me is the theme song, which is incredibly catchy, and the end song about how you should always try to help people. The koala brothers and company do a dance, and it includes spirit fingers. It´s priceless.

Memorable quotes:

Lisu, very matter-of-factly: ´´All gringas have blond hair.´´

Alejandro, a guy in my Teología Política class: ´´In the US, you study Ciencias Religiosas at a secular university? Isn´t that like buying an egg without the yolk?´´

Me: ´´Hi Ronald!´´
Ronald: ´´Hi Jessica! You know we have to read the Apostolic Exhoration of His Holiness Paul VI for a test next week, right?´´
Me: ´´Wait. What?

Street vendor from whom I bought the cookies featured in the last entry: ´´You don´t look like you´re from Valparaíso. Where are you from?´´
Me: ´´I´m from the United States.´´
Street vendor: ´´Yeah, but which state? There are forty-eight of them, you know.´´
Me: ´´Actually, there are fifty.´´
Street vendor: ´´Yeah, but only forty-eight in the Federation. I watch a lot of TV, so that´s how I know this stuff.´´

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Look to the cookie, Elaine. LOOK TO THE COOKIE!

I had an epiphany about the nature of study abroad last night as I waited for the 14 on the corner of Calle Yungay behind the university. I had about ten minutes to kill so I bought a Coca Cola Light from a botillería and a pack of cookies from a street vendor. The first time I saw these cookies, I thought they were Oreos--the package shows a round, brown biscuity sandwich cookie with white icing inside. In reality, the cookies taste absolutely nothing like Oreos and when you look at them more closely, you realize that they don´t even look that much like Oreos. The brown part is a different shade, for instance. And the thing is, they´re actually delicious cookies, but if you bite into one expecting it to taste like an Oreo, you´re going to be disappointed.

And that´s how it is with Chile, too. When we first arrived in Santiago last July, we had our orientation in a plush hotel in a nice area and were wined and dined at nice restaurants, and it didn´t look any different from any large, cosmopolitan city in the US. Then we moved on to Viña and Valparaíso and were surprised to find out that the cookie was not an Oreo. It wasn´t even a Hydrox. But as our taste buds got accustomed to the new flavors, we started to realize how delicious the cookie really was. And now I´m scarfing them down, and I know that when I get back to the US and buy a huge plastic-wrapped box of Oreos at Fred Meyer´s, I know I´ll miss those crazy street corner cookies.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Take this cup away from me

Most Fabulous Moment of Saturday Night: Davíd, a new Chilean friend/friendly acquaintance, singing ´´Gethsemane´´ in Spanish from Jesus Christ, Superstar at the karaoke bar in Quilpue that we went out to. He totally had it down, including the screams. Amy, I thought of you so much!

Most Awkward Moment of Saturday Night: Juan Carlos, the Chilean friend who invited me out to Quilpue, drunkenly dedicates a karaoke song to me, called something like ´´Imagíname sin ti´´ (Imagine me without you). The announcer guy introduces me as Juan Carlos´s girlfriend, and I half-drunkenly try to clarify that we´re just friends.

Most ´I Know What I´m Doing Here´ Moment of Saturday Night: Juan Carlos puts me in a colectivo (taxi that follows a fixed route) back to Viña (Quilpue´s about an half-hour away by auto) and I successfully negotiate with the driver to take me straight to my door, rather than dropping me off at Calle Arlegui, as he normally would. I didn´t actually save any money in the negotiation--I ended up paying him an extra thousand pesos, which is what it would have cost to just get another colectivo at Arlegui--but it would have been worth paying extra to not have to stand around Arlegui or Agua Santa drunk at three in the morning.

Memorable quotes:

Jon: ´´The girl...from semester past...´´

Jake´s Chilean friend Pamela, asking us to explain some North American song lyrics: ´´What does this mean: ´Break it down, break it down, you got to spread the love around´?´´

Ambar, on gender relations (originally in Spanish): ´´Chilean men are liars, Jessica. I don´t like men very much, and Chilean men even less.´´ On another occasion: ´´Women are intelligent, strong, powerful, protective of their children, loved ones, and friends. Men, on the other hand, are stupid.´´

Daniela, a Chilean friend, in English: ´´I think that...by the end of the semester, we´re both going to be speaking Spanglish.´´

Thursday, September 22, 2005

US out of my uterus!

Last night Carla and I were riding the micro back into Viña from Valpo. Our conversation would be hard to replicate completely, but it followed this basic flow:

1. Carla likes to watch Oprah.
2.Did you see that Onion article, "Oprah Stuns Audience with Free Man Giveaway?"
3. How about the time she gave away the cars?
4. The Daily Show segment on that was so funny.
5. Jon Stewart. Now, he is one attractive fellow.
6. What's up with the LC facebook group, "Jon Stewart for President of My Vagina?"
7. Yeah, no kidding. Is there a Vice-President of My Vagina?
8. That reminds me of an old Onion Point/Counterpoint on abortion: "US Out of My Uterus" vs. "We Must Deploy Troops to Your Uterus Immediately."
9. As long as there's a President and a Vice-President, maybe there should be a Department of Defense of My Vagina.

You can probably imagine where the conversation went from there. We came up with the Department of Education of My Vagina, the Speaker of the House of My Vagina, and, my personal favorite, Secretary of the Interior of My Vagina.

Micro-inappropriate? Perhaps, but oh so funny!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Spanglish of the day: ´´Bloggero´´

Ambar defended my honor last night against allegations of lameness made by Eloisa, a friend of hers from Arica whose staying with us for a few days. Carlos had a bunch of surf friends over to celebrate his birthday, and someone mentioned La Piedra Feliz. ´´La Piedra, that´s where you´re going tomorrow night, right Jessica?´´ Ambar asked me. ´´You go out at night?´´ Elo asked in surprise. ´´I thought you were the type to stay in and go to bed early.´´ (I can see where she was coming from, because Monday, the first day we met, I was so tired that I passed out around nine.) ´´Why do you act so surprised!´´ Ambar yelled. ´´Jessica goes out all the time, a ton! You think that just because she studies Ciencias Religiosas she´s some kind of nun who stays in every night and never goes out, how could that have occured to you!´´ It made me laugh, not least because a running joke has been that when I tell people what I´m studying I always have to clarify that I don´t want to be a nun.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le! VIVA CHILE!!!

September 18th, this Sunday, is Chile´s independence day and it´s a huge deal. There are flags and red, white, and blue banners everywhere, people are selling guaso (Chilean cowboy) hats and outfits on the streetcorners, and the radio stations are playing cueca music. Just today, before I came up to the computer lab, there were people in traditional guaso costumes dancing the cueca, Chile´s national dance, down in the cafeteria and waiters walking around with trays of empanadas and these delicious shish kabobs whose name I don´t know. It´s so festive and beautiful. I´ve never been in another country on its independence day and I´m really enjoying seeing all of the national spirit and pride. It can go overboard, though--Rocio, a Chilean friend, told Kristin and me on Saturday that all Chilean families are obligated by law to display a large flag in their house and that the carabineros, the Chilean police force, conduct random inspections and fine families that don´t comply.

CIEE, my exchange program, is taking advantage of the long weekend (Monday the 19th is a national holiday, and a lot of professors cancel classes Thursday and Friday, too) to take all of us to La Sirena, a port town about seven hours north of here. I´m so excited! We´re going to visit Vicuña, the birthplace of Gabriela Mistral, one of Chile´s two Nobel-Prize winning poets, a pisco distillery, and a famous observatory. La Sirena is famous for having the clearest skies in the world and a ton of astronomical research is done there. I´m sure they´re not going to let us look through the really heavy duty telescopes, but in my tour book it said that even with the lower-powered ones you can see Saturn´s rings. The next day, I and some other students are going to visit some islands a couple hours further north and the National Humbolt Penguin Reserve. I can´t believe that we´re going to probably see dolphins and penguins at the same time, both in their natural habitats. I love this country!

Some friends and I are going to stay in La Sirena until Monday, to take advantage of the opportunity to do some other things in the region. Like, apparently the desierto florido (the flowering desert) is in bloom--it´s an unpredictable natural phenomenon in which, due to heavy rains in the previous year, all of the seeds that have been lying dormant in the desert for years burst into bloom, all at once. It´s supposed to be incredible, and I hope we have the opportunity to check it out.

To round out this upbeat post, I have another piece of good (and suprising) news: I found out on Monday that I got the highest grade in my Chilean and Hispanoamerican Literature class on our reading test a couple weeks ago! I´m happy but flabbergasted, because I seriously thought I failed that test. I was so surprised when the professor announced the grades in class and I found out that I got a 6.7 (out of 7.0). And that was out of all the students, including the Chileans. It´s pretty reassuring and makes me feel like I know what I´m doing here after all.

Since I´ll be travelling, probably no updates for about a week. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Four years later

I didn´t cry on September 11, 2001. I did cry yesterday, a little bit.

Four years. I can´t believe it´s been four years.

Four years ago I was sixteen years old and had just started my junior year in high school. Our house seemed uncommonly full, because my grandmother was visiting and we had a houseguest staying with us--one of my mom´s friends from Oklahoma. My dad got a call early that morning from a family friend in Virginia, Bill. Bill was so upset that he could only say ´´It´s horrible--horrible--´´ and to tell us to turn on the news. We all watched together as the second tower fell, and then I rode my bike to South like I always did and arrived late to IB Economics, where everyone sat in silence watching a TV that had been wheeled in and when the students who hadn´t heard it on the news that morning came in, laughing and talking, their faces fell and one girl was sobbing and her friend was trying to comfort her. We all walked around that day in a fog, before we knew anything, before we even knew for sure that it was al-Queda.

Being in Chile on September 11 was difficult. On September 11, 1973, Chile experienced a violent coup d´etat staged by General Pinochet and a right-wing military junta. The coup kicked off a brutal and repressive military dictatorship that ruled Chile until 1990, during which thousands of people were tortured, killed, or ´´disappeared.´´ I´ve talked a lot about the coup with my host grandfather, Antonio. Describing our conversations, I wrote the following email to my mom:

I was talking with Antonio, my host grandfather, about September 11 the other day, asking him if there is any sort of public commemoration of the coup d´etat (golpe de estado) that Pinochet and the military junta staged in 1973 against Allende. Antonio told me that both the leftists always put on huge demonstrations and marches which the police break up, sometimes violently, and that the rightists commemorate the day more quietly, so as to not attract attention. Antonio told me that he himself was never in support of Allende and that he actually supported the coup and hung a Chilean flag out of his window after he heard about it. But he, along with the majority of Chileans who supported the coup, thought that the coup was going to take out Allende and then call for re-elections. Soon it became clear that Pinochet only wanted power for himself and for the junta, but mostly for himself. Then the news about all of the human rights violations and torture started surfacing, and it was like a nightmare. He told me that regardless of the fact that Chile improved economically during the dictatorship, he (Antonio) will never be able to forgive Pinochet and those who supported him for all the people who were killed, tortured, or ´´disappeared.´´

I didn´t quite know how to respond to all of that and I said something about how September 11 is a difficult day for both our countries. Antonio told me, ´´Yes, but September 11 brings your country together. September 11 divides Chile, because we will never be able to forget what happened. Families who lost their children or who had to go into exile will never be able to forgive the rightwing for supporting Pinochet.´´ I asked if he thought it would always be that way, or if at some time in the distant future it will be able to bring Chile together. He told me that it will always be a day that reminds people of the awful history of the dictatorship, and that it will always divide the country into left vs. right, those who stayed vs. those who went into exile, those who lost family members vs. those who didn´t, etc. It was a really sad conversation but I was glad to have had it with him.


I didn´t see any protests or demonstrations in front of the Congress building or in any of the main plazas yesterday when I was in Valparaíso. WhenI got back home in the afternoon, we had some guests over for lunch, as we usually do on Sundays. This time, they were Ximena, a friend of Ambar´s, and her six-year-old daughter Javiera. We started talking about the day after lunch and Ximena told me that her parents were both very conversative and supported the military and Pinochet. One of her brothers was a mirista--he belonged to the guerilla group MIR--and after the coup, when she was a young child, the police came to her house and took her brother away by force. As she was remembering how he was tortured--they pulled off his fingernails and toenails, horrible things like that--she started to cry, and I did too.