...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

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.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Being sick: it sucks. (But making friends is great!)

When I went to bed Sunday, I had a tender throat, a sick taste in my mouth (I always know when I´m getting sick because I get a certain taste in my mouth, maybe from the bacteria or something), and I´m pretty sure a slight fever. When I woke up Monday, I felt slightly better but still kind of sick, and my throat was really inflamed, so I took it easy and drank a liter of orange juice. But then Tuesday, I still felt sick. Wednesday I was feeling better and it barely hurt to swallow, but then by Thursday afternoon I had a stuffed-up nose, hacking cough, and runny eyes (hot!), and I was starting to lose my voice. Today, I sound like the love child of a frog and that old woman from the Truth commercials a couple years back who had to smoke through a hole in her throat.

I like to let my body try to work these things out without outside intervention, but today I finally cracked and went to Cruz Verde, one of the major pharmacy chains here, to buy some anti-inflamitorios and something for my cough. Let´s hope it helps--I´m starting to worry that I have strep.

Edited to add: Two things that don´t suck are the keyboard I´m using (no sticky keys! What are you doing in the PIIE computer lab, keyboard?) and what happened about ten minutes ago. I left the library computer lab, where I wrote the first half of this post, and hurried to Political Theology. The professor came and announced that class was cancelled, because all the Ciencias Religiosas students are supposed to go to a presentation put on by the Department of Catholic Education (DEC, in Spanish) to talk about their futures. On the one hand, it sucks that class is cancelled a lot, and without warning, but on the other hand: free time! But what made it really good is that I started talking with Juan Carlos, this guy in Politcal Theology and Moral Social who made me the photocopies of the reading we need for the Moral Social exam on Wednesday (long story, but he has a connection somewhere who lets him make copies for free). Juan Carlos is really friendly and as we were talking it came out that he´s from Punto Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile. He asked if I had travelled south and I said no, that I only knew La Quinta Región (the fifth region--Chile is chopped north/south into thirteen? regions, which serve the same purpose as states or provinces). He asked how long I was going to be in Chile and when I said January, he invited me to come visit him and his family in Punto Arenas after the semester ends! He told me, ´´La casa es pequeña pero tiene un corazón muy grande´´--´´The house is small but it has a big heart.´´ He told me I can stay with them and that he´ll show me around Punto Arenas; I can even spend Christmas with them if I want to.

I´m so, so excited about this opportunity. I want to travel with my North American friends, of course--I´m thrilled that it looks like Mariah, Carla, and Julia are going to be able to come to Buenos Aires with us. But I also would love to travel with Chileans, or with a mix of North American and Chilean friends. Plus, I just love being able to visit people in their houses, to get to know my friends on that level, to meet their families and see how they live and what their lives are like. On Sunday, Carla and I went to have lunch at Ronald´s house in Valparaíso with his family. The food was delicious and the company, lovely. We met his mother, father, aunt, sister, sister´s pololo (boyfriend), and friend of the sister´s pololo, and spent about three hours talking and watching the fútbol game between Brazil and Chile, which Chile lost spectacularly, 5-0. I think when I look back on my study abroad experience, six months or however long from now, it´s experiences like that that I´m going to remember most fondly.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Amazing Race, don´t fail me now!

It´s (almost) official: we´re going to Buenos Aires! ´´We´´ so far is Kristin and me, but we hope Carla, Julia, and Mariah will be able to join us. We went to speak with a travel agent near Plaza de Viña, the main commercial center in Viña del Mar, this morning, and make reservations; we´re going to buy the (surprisingly cheap) tickets on Friday. The plan: miss half of the CIEE class Thursday afternoon to take the bus to Santiago, transfer by micro to the airport to get there by 6, fly out of Santiago at 8, arrive in B.A. around ten, transfer to our hotel, maybe dinner out after we get settled. Then we have three complete days to enjoy the city, eat delicious food, shop, see the sights, watch and maybe dance tango, and aprovechar el tiempo en general. Our hotel drives us back to the airport early early Monday morning for a 9am-ish flight back to Santiago, where we arrive around 10am Chile time and then hop on a bus back to Valparaíso. I won´t even miss my 3:40 literature class!

Me being me, I´m re-reading old Television Without Pity recaps to remind me of what the teams did when they went to Buenos Aires a couple seasons ago. I just hope we´re not Philiminated!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Abortions for some...miniature American flags for others!

In the last month, Joaquín Lavín, the far-right Chilean presidential candidate, has unleashed a new campaign slogan: ´´Con Lavín...¡Alas para todos!´´ I don´t know about you guys, but for me, ´´Wings for all!´´ as a presidential slogan hits just a little too close to ´´Pedro will make your wildest dreams come true´´ to be believeable.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Nota bene

I will be calling Amy this afternoon at around 7pm Chile time, 4pm Portland time. Anyone at Lewis & Clark who would like to talk, go to Amy and Masha´s room around 4.

Edited to add: There´s an exchange student here--not from CIEE, so I don´t know him--who sounds exactly! like Alex Zani. I mean, exactly. Every time I hear this guy talking, I think, ´´What´s Alex doing in Chile?´´ And then I think, ´´Nooooo! That´s totally wrong!!´´ Hee.