jueves, abril 27, 2006

Only here.

When I get out of the subway coming home from work I always see this one guy playing a guitar and singing for money. He's not half bad. Today, some businessman in suit and tie saw the guy was taking a break. Businessman took the guitar, kneeled on the floor, and started to play "Lloran las Rosas." It was something to see. I'm thinking - what in the crap? I kept my eyes fixed on them as I walked past, thinking, man oh man what a happy, cheerful, pleasant country. Thank you, Chile, for making me smile for the 5,000,000th time.

miércoles, abril 26, 2006

I like this picture.

Pretty pony and gleeful girl from one weekend walk with parents in the park.

martes, abril 25, 2006

He Yu!

Yet another great name for a Chinese restaurant in Chile.

lunes, abril 24, 2006

Ma and Dad in Chile - Part 2

Mom and Dad in Santiago to amuse my brother, continued. I think I will start with Good Friday. Keeten, on the third day of Passover I had Mom and Dad eating a pile of meat that included two pork sausages, a pork chop, and a basket of bread. Tell me how cool I am. The whole plate is called a parrillada. It’s basically every type of meat you can imagine, barbequed. There was a blood sausage at the bottom of this. I am not sure what animal’s blood goes into blood sausage. I wanted to try it since I had never had one before, but Mom screamed every time I put my fork next to it. I did manage to get one mouthful. Nice flavor – smokey. Awful texture.

What a good meal this was. That dark brown thing is the blood sausage.

To fully appreciate Moses freeing the Hebrews, I also had them watch people march up a hill with a cross to a gigantic statue of the Virgin Mary. This was fun. We went up a big hill called Cerro San Cristobal in a little train thing called a funicular.

At the top is a stereotypically huge South American religious statue.

You can get a very good view of the entire city from up there.

One morning I took them to a neighborhood called Quinta Normal. There is a gigantic park here full of run down museums and old things. It is also full of stray dogs. I love this park because it is old and has tons of character. Mom disliked it for that very same reason. An abandoned greenhouse lies on one side, a small lake on another with a decrepit set of row boats, and the middle is riddled with old museums that the country doesn’t bother to upkeep.

Here we are in the park under a chestnut tree. Doesn't Mom look cheerful?

I also love the park because it is next to a church called Basilica Lourdes. This church is enormous and its style makes it look as if it was built during the Crusades. It is incredible.

In front of the church are a bunch of stands where people buy candles and rosaries and crosses. They also pose with this llama to take pictures. I’ll bet you never thought you’d see her this close to an animal like that!

Another day we went to a building called La Moneda. This is a government palace where the president and various politicians conduct the business of the country. They have a very nice courtyard with orange trees and it is open to the public. Security guards stand all over the place, smiling and standing around in fancy uniforms waiting for you to take your picture with them.

Under La Moneda is a new museum. They built like 4+ stories underneath of cultural center. It is bizarre. They would never put a public space like a museum underneath a government building in the US. Lucky for Chileans not to have to concern themselves with anything along the lines of our paranoid obsession with safety. Mom and Dad and I saw a little exhibit on native Chilean handicraft. It was not Versace so Mom quickly lost interest.

Keeten, I sure did have a hell of a time trying to make them happy. Where I live and where their hotel was is a very unrealistic representation of the rest of Santiago. It’s like the difference between Beverly Hills and the Bronx. And the difference between Santiago and other parts of Chile? I won’t even go there. A 20 minute bus ride from my house will show you this. Santiago is not a dangerous city in the Bronx parts. But it is certainly not Mom’s style. Clean bathrooms and people in designer shoes? Dogs on leashes? Ha! You know, I knew exactly what she wanted from the time I picked her up from the airport. But I was trying to hold off. Trying not to give in. After a little talking to from Cecilia where she said it was my parents' vacation and I ought to take them to “their types” of places, I decided why not?

Oh yes… I took them to THE MALL. Brilliant decision on my part. Mom was finally in her element. Dad and I felt a bit like this.

That's all for now!

martes, abril 18, 2006

Ma and Dad in Chile - Part 1

Alrighty. A photo report type thing, mostly for my brother. Keeten, you missed a very good time. This is why you should've majored in any old thing and graduated on time :)

You could've stayed at a very nice hotel. It was like 2 blocks from my house. Here I am getting smooshed.

Mom and Dad meeting my housemates. Dad harrassed everyone with that camera. Here is Fabiola, me, and Ma.

Here is Nick. Nick and Fab are the couple I rent from. They're very cool artsy types with lots of artist friends. People who drop by on weekends have names like Monserrat. I don't know when Dad took this picture. I wasn't around to protect Nick. Poor guy couldn't even get a cup of coffee in peace.

We took 2 trips out of Santiago. The first one was to a vineyard called Concha y Toro. This place is very cool to me because in Singapore I was buying their exports at 3x the price. Cold Storage and Fairprice can bite me. The vineyard was in a town called Pirque. It was a long subway ride and a bus from Santiago. Mom and Dad were not thrilled with buses here. Once you get in, you'd better hold on for dear life. The only thing bus drivers hate more than speed limits is using their brakes. Many times you find yourself getting in and out of the vehicle while the damn thing is still moving. And if that wasn't scary enough, I'm sure they appreciated how cavalier their daughter was about not knowing where to ask the driver to stop. Anyway, it was all good in the end. What's that you say? Mom and Dad don't drink? You teenk so! After that bus ride, kiddo, it was like... bottoms up!

*Yeah, right! I downed both of those glasses just minutes later. They are just practicing their pompous sniff and twirl thang.

On Wednesday night we went to visit the family I stayed with when I arrived. From left to right that's Cecilia (oldest daughter), Cecilia (the lady that works for Cambridge), Mario (her husband), Ma, and me. Cecilia made dinner. It was sooo good. Paella - rice with a mixture of seafood and chicken. Jacinta the keety was there too, but Cecilia put her out on the balcony so she wouldn't spazz out and attack us for sitting in one of her favorite naptime chairs. If you look behind us you can see the paintings Cecilia collects. I really like these. They're oil paintings by a Chilean artist who paints kind of like a kid, but not exactly. I like the colors he uses. I think he calls himself Santa Guerra (roughly translates to Saint of War).

The day before I had decided to take da dis vuns on another trip out of Santiago - to Valparaiso. It's a picturesque port city 2 hours from Santiago by bus. Here is me confidently trying to reassure Mom and Dad that this is a good place to visit. I knew the city was a bit grubby but I thought it would be interesting for them to see something different. After all, they've been stuck in the bleakest corner of the most unimaginative country in the world for how long? I thought it'd be good for them! They barely lasted over 4 hours. We saw one of Pablo Neruda's 3 houses in Chile, walked about a bit, and they were squirming to leave. I couldn't even get them to sit down to eat lunch!

It's really not such a bad city. There are just a lot of stray dogs and, well, maybe it's not the cleanest place in the world. But seriously, how someone who grew up in a communist satellite state could complain about this is just beyond me. I'll betcha textbooks in schools here don't credit Kruschev with discovering penicillin! And do you see a bread line? I didn't! Dude, I mean, really...

The funniest thing was that once we got back safely from Valparaiso, Dad was obsessed with all the little souveniers that had pictures of the city. He was totally in love with this one wood carving scene-from-Valparaiso type thing we saw at a market. Unfortunately the thing was as big as me and he couldn't carry it home. It showed a city much like the one I took him to. The one he was dying to get out of. But he insisted it was totally different because there were no stray dogs or funny smells. It is a pretty city though, no?

More stories soon...

lunes, abril 17, 2006

My parents...

gave me the best birthday present ever. They came to visit. No kidding! These two haven't left the US since 9/11 except to go to Canada (once). They came all the way to the southernmost country in South America! We had fun. They also gave me Bob Dylan's Chronicles Volume 1. Another good present!

This was Saturday night. That cake was as big as my head and it was mostly frosting. Just the way I like it. I think my parents startled the waiters a bit when they broke out with Happy Birthday in English. Poor guys didn't know the words and kinda mouthed it. They were all psyched up to break into a "Feliz Cumpleanos."

I took these two to the airport earlier tonight. They become my brother's responsibility as of 8:30 tomorrow morning (keeten, pay attention to all the signs at JFK - it's enormous). More about their adventures soon.

Thanks Ma and Da. Love you. And I made it back from the airport ok (obviously).

martes, abril 11, 2006

Some adorable cats in Valparaiso.

My parents are here and I guess I should be uploading pictures of them, but I will save that for another day. In the meantime, get a load of these guys.

Cute little seaside fuzzbuckets:

martes, abril 04, 2006

Ziggy and Tasha are working for the man.

They named the small one Ziggy because she is almost blind and poor thing can't run in a straight line. Tasha is half the size of me. Ok, maybe a little less than that. But still, it's like having a pony indoors!

lunes, abril 03, 2006

Sunny and smoky with a chance of freezing your butt off por la noche.

Mom, Dad, you asked about the weather. See above.

Today I was supposed to go to Registros Civiles to get my Chilean ID. I got there around noon with all the necessary paperwork. I took a number. B37. The counter at the front said A33. Was I in the wrong line? I went over to some lady at a desk and asked. Nope, that’s where I was supposed to wait. I think to myself, maybe the letter doesn’t mean anything. It couldn’t possibly be that I had to wait until they got up to 100 and started over again with the letter B. That letter had better not mean anything! But there were hoards of people lazing about.

How could my number come up so quick if all these yacking, hacking, smoking Chileans got here before me? Hey, who knows – this could be a popular hangout. It wouldn’t be the first time I saw people in this country sitting around and talking for no earthly reason. Well, the counter went to 37. I walked over to a desk and handed over my documents. And guess what. There were 100 people in front of me! The guy had me go back to waiting.

After 2 minutes I was well on my way to death by lung cancer.

I couldn’t stand there. It’d be hours till it was my turn. I’ll have to go back early tomorrow morning before the Chileans wake up. So I made my way home in the blistery sun and did laundry. It’s 85F out there, complete with killer UV rays. Tonight, it’s expected to go down to 40F. That’s summer and winter all in one day! Mom, Dad, you’d better be packing for every season.

What a pain in the ass about that ID card. It took forever to get my work visa processed. Ever since, I’ve had to do bunches of running around to get my paperwork in order. None of these places are near each other. This was my last step and I was so looking forward to having this over and done with. I really hope there is less of a crowd in this place tomorrow morning.

Sun is draining the life out of me. I can't believe how many people I saw put flaming sticks of tobacco and nicotine into their faces this afternoon. When do you guys breathe??