martes, febrero 28, 2006

Cacti, making living far away from everyone you care about worthwhile!

Ladies and gentlemen, a Chilean yard creeping over a fence.

domingo, febrero 26, 2006


Weather is dismal. I am sick. I felt a bit like this all day:

I decided to take a walk in the afternoon. Just to get some fresh air. On this walk I found several things that peaked my interest. For instance:

Royal, eh? I guess it must be the expensive stuff.

I pondered important and life-altering questions:

How can a river be this filthy and not reek? Is that the Mapocho?

Don't the lion statues at Los Leones look a bit menacing today?

How does this statue communicate a positive and/or inspiring image for the business it represents? The guy is walking upside-down and in circles and hardly gets anywhere.

I also managed to get myself into a bit of trouble in front of the American Embassy. This was the first time I saw the Embassy from the front. Usually, I only see it from a distance from the back or the side. What an eyesore! Most countries here have embassies in nice little old or restored 2 or 3 story colonial type buildings. They are pretty and pleasant-looking for the most part. They all have a guard or two at the entrance as well as a high fence and probably an alarm system. Naturally, something along those lines is just too small-time for America. So we built this freakishly large concrete fortress. I was so overwhelmed by the building's hideousness, I simply had to take a picture (a photo from this angle does not do the building's size any justice but believe me, it is big):

For a split second before I took the photo, I thought maybe this wasn't such a good idea. But I didn't see any guards at the gate and thought it'd be fine since it was Sunday and chances are that no one would be around.

Wrong. As soon as I snapped the photo I see a carabinero (Chilean policeman) speedwalking over to me. Oh boy. He asked me for my Identification Card and tells me I shouldn't be taking photos of the building. I tell him I'm not from around here. He asks to see my passport. I tell him I don't carry it with me. Frustrated, he asks to see any form of ID I may have on me. I hand him my driver's license. He takes it and walks over to a little shack where one of his collegues is sitting. The colleague has a walkie talkie. He explains the situation to his colleague. All the while I am offering to delete the photo from my camera. By this point, the colleague is spelling my name into the walkie talkie. Someone, somewhere is looking up my name on some database to see if I was any kind of threat. I find it hard not to giggle. They ignore my offer to delete the photo and start lecturing me on how surely an American should know that snapping photos really would not be the thing to do in front of the embassy of such an endangered (cough, cough... well-hated) country. I find it harder not to giggle. Really, what can I see with that photo? That the place is like Fort Knox-level secure? Lot of good that's going to do me as their would-be potential terrorist threat.

Finally, the man with the walkie talkie receives the all-clear for my name. They let me loose. And they didn't make me delete the photo. How odd. I walked away smiling to myself.

Come to think of it though, perhaps it is not cool for me to be posting this photo online...

Eh, whatever. Then I went back home. I live around the corner and to the left, past the kitten with the lazer eyes:

Dracula's dog lives near downtown Santiago.

She sells indigenous blankets, patiently awating her master's return.

sábado, febrero 25, 2006

My parents don't visit so I live vicariously through others.

My housemate Tom and his father. His parents arrived in Santiago today (from England). We went out for dinner across the street from this place, at a rather nice Chilean restaurant. This is their son's first out-of-the-country stint. He's been in Santiago for 4 months and already they have come to visit. I lived in Singapore for 3 years and my parents never saw heads or tails of the place. I think it's safe to assume Chile will be no different. Ma, Dad, look - other people can do it! And their flight was longer than yours would be!

I asked them to pose in front of this sign for a reason. It is on my top 10 list of funny/racist Chinese restaurant signs in Santiago and I have always wanted a picture. Mark the yellow face, enormous teeth, and sly, slanty eyes. Other favorites of mine include Hong Man (What were they thinking?!), Los Buenos Chinos (The Good Chinese People - because you certainly wouldn't want to eat the stuff cooked by the other kind.), and Yu-Lung (My lung? What?? With noodles??).

Saturday morning

I went out last night till 5AM. I was with people my own age. They weren't Christian fundamentalists or incredibly out-of-touch-with-reality-type expats. They were happy, and they didn't talk about their jobs the whole time. Nobody had a mistress in Vietnam. What a refreshing change!

From left to right: Fernando, Francisca, Elisa, and Elisa's new boyfriend who I only met in the last 10 minutes of our evening so I naturally forgot his name.

Lizer, mira tu prima y su chico nuevo! Ellos se conocieron en una clase de ingles. El chico es ingeniero.

jueves, febrero 23, 2006

¿La hora, señora?

It’s very rare for me to be able to walk down the street in Santiago without someone trying to engage me in conversation. When I first arrived, I had some serious trouble with the accent. I couldn’t understand a word people were saying to me unless they spoke v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y. I had no idea why so many people were approaching me outside. Were they asking for directions? Was my bag opened? Was my shoelace untied? Sometimes I couldn’t walk a block without 3 or 4 people coming up to me, asking for something. It made me very self-conscious. What in the world did they want??

When I began getting a bit more used to the speed of speech, I was amazed to find that nearly everyone who had been speaking to me was asking the same question. What I first heard as something more along the lines of dsdlfhfreng became – Dime la hora m’hija.; ¿La hora, chica?; ¿Porfa', la hora?

Yeah – What time is it? Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t ask me. Now I find this amusing on several levels. First of all, why me? I told this to some students and they asked whether the people asking me for the time were male or female. Apparently, asking for the time is a pick-up tactic with the men folk here – something they resort to when they realize all their cat-calling is not getting my attention? No, it couldn’t be. Old ladies stop me on the street, young women, old men, young men… everyone! My students didn’t agree that this was a Chilean thing. They had no idea why it was happening to me.

Ok, well maybe it’s a Chilean thing not to wear a watch? This would make perfect sense. Santiago is the city behind schedule. Nobody is ever on time. Interviews, meetings, lunches… prepare to wait! Last week I walked into an institute for an interview at 10AM. When did I have the interview? An hour later, 11AM. Happens all the time. And it’s even worse for social arrangements. Arranged to have coffee with a friend? Maybe they’ll show, maybe they won’t. I was supposed to go hiking with a Chilean this weekend. He never called. But I know that one weekend he will make good on his offer. That’s just their way. Chileans are full of little surprises. But why ask for the time if it means nothing to them? Who knows?

Maybe I sound a bit down on Chile. I don’t mean it to be. In fact, I find all of this charming. I still don’t know why people ask me for the time. But I’m glad people seem to find me so approachable. As for no one ever being on time, well, anyone who knows me will not be surprised to hear how little this bothers me. During my first few weeks of work in Singapore one colleague noticed the following: the time on my computer clock was different from the time on my watch which was different from the time on my cell phone which in turn differed from the time on my office phone! The best part - none of these things gave the correct time! He joked, half horrified, that time was some kind of abstract concept for me. Damn straight! Hey Barney, I’ve found my people!

martes, febrero 21, 2006


Beach kitten from Vina del Mar. Lordy, those claws...

lunes, febrero 20, 2006

One of us...

I looked vaguely Chilean today:

I love that necklace. It's made of wood and smells like tree.

Isla Negra (previous post) was beautiful. My housemate Tom and I took a bus for 2 hours out of Santiago to get there. Why there? Pablo Neruda (Ma, Google if you don't know him) has 3 houses in Chile. Both of us had already seen the first two - La Chascona in Santiago and La Sebastiana in Valparaiso. This one was supposed to be the largest and most magnificent, a when-in-Chile-must-see. It was his last residence before he died. He is buried there with his third wife, right outside, facing the ocean. They call the house La Casa Museo (The Museum House).

Neruda liked things. And this is why I like Neruda (I'm not really a big fan of the poetry, to be honest). The man hoards everything imaginable! In previous post was his collection of glass bottles. He had a thing for colored glass - said that even water tasted better when you drank it from colored glasses. He also liked to collect anything related to sea travel. In this particular house, he had a huge collection of those statues they put at the sterns and bows of boats. While the tour guide's back was turned, I managed to get a nice photo of a room with two small wooden ones on the wall. If you look close, you can see Neruda's face on a photograph through the door.

In other rooms we got to see his insect collection, African art collection, and finally a long, narrow room filled to the brim with different sea shells. The sea shell room included a large conch given to him by Chairman Mao himself while Neruda was a diplomat for Chile in Asia. Was cool. Oh, and get this - for some time he was serving in some kind of diplomatic role between Chile and Singapore. I wonder how that went. Culturally, I've never seen two countries more opposite.

Isla Negra

sábado, febrero 18, 2006

New Year's 2006

What did I do for New Years? Well, I stopped squatting at Cecilia's place and started renting. Here is the house I share in Providencia. We're on one of the balconies upstairs (that's right - we got two balconies!). There's me and Fabiola (Chilean lady, and a very talented painter - her pictures are up all over this place). I sublet from her and her boyfriend, Nick (Brit), a master of the barbeque.

Here's Nick, Paz (Fabiola's daughter), and Ziggy. We live with 2 others - Tom (another Brit) and Tasha (another dog). Will post pictures of them sometime. Yeah, it's a big house.

Christmas 2005

Here are some Christmas photos. I spent the holiday with Cecilia and her family (the people I stayed with when I first arrived). From left to right, that's Cecilia (manager of Cambridge U. Press office in Chile, spectacular cook, and altogether a very busy lady), Rocio (her extroverted, artistic, architect daughter), Alfredo (Rocio's enterprising businessman boyfriend), and a cousin of theirs. Was a lot of fun. Cecilia's apartment was the coolest - plants all over, cookbooks on every table (she collects), and some really nice antique furniture.

And here's me with Cecilia's mother-in-law, Lilian. Adorable woman - talks nonstop in this classic grandma voice. To our right - an old Singer sewing machine. Behind us is a really big balcony loaded with plants, books, and Rocio's pottery. The balcony also served as Jacinta's corner office - where she did her all her business.

jueves, febrero 16, 2006

Hi, testing.

Let's see. We can upload photos! Neat!

Meet Jacinta, one of my very first friends here in Santiago - a moody, fat, cat who found it against the very foundations of her being to let you eat a can of tuna in peace.

Rub her tummy. Go on! She dares you.