...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

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.