Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas En Concepción

It's christmas, the seagulls and crying and it's 61 degrees outside. It's a very strange change to have beach weather on this holiday. Normally for I am all bundled up in pajamas and a pair of big furry christmas socks. This morning I woke up and put on the warmest pants I have, and the biggest pair of socks, which happen to be some big blue organic cotton socks from Whole Foods, but it's just not the same.
This is also the first year I haven't done the Canyon road Farolito walk, and I miss it dearly. But last night we went to the house of our friend Oscar, and celebrated with his parents, brother, aunts, uncle and cousin. It was really nice to be with a family during that time.
In Chile, families celebrate Christmas on the night of the 24th. Everyone gathers together and eats a big meal then at 12:00 AM they all get to open presents. And that is pretty much what we did last night. We arrived at their house and were offered some great beer, then we all sat down in the living room and snacked on olives and different cheeses, and ginger bread cookies made from the boxed mix Jane ans Skipp sent us. We also drank ponche, which is a very typical drink here made of red or white whine, fruit (in this case strawberry) and a bit of sugar. When we got to the table to eat we had turkey, and beef with a cherry dressing (it was delicious) or pineapple dressing.We also roasted potatoes, corn, tomatoes and more wine. Dessert was ice cream or tiramisu with strawberries, raspberries or cantaloupe. We also got to try some brandy that was older than us, which was really good.
Then at 12 AM, as promised we all went into the living room again and started to open presents. And to my surprise there were presents for Zach and I. Zach got a beautiful chess board and all the pieces are based on the stone figures that are on Easter Island. I got a beautiful earring and necklace set made from a stone called cross stone, because it naturally has a cross set in the middle. And we also got an indio picaro. Which I won't try and describe because it is so funny you just have to see it for yourself.
And that was our christmas eve in Concepción. Different but delightful. Although next year I will be glad to do christmas in snow.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

New Column I wrote for the Daily Lobo

Escribé este para el lobo. Puedes leer akah. Prefiero como yo lo edité.

Like an all-encompassing wave washing over your body and sweeping you off your feet, throwing you on your ass so hard that you feel nauseous -- that is how I would equate moving abroad. You get plunged into an instant identity crisis in every facet of your being. It’s terrible and wonderful at the same time, like too many similes in a paragraph.

If you come from the United States, there isn’t really anywhere in the world that hasn’t had some exposure to western culture. There are, of course, the outliers North Korea, the deep southern states and bits of Africa. But anywhere you go these days there always seems to be Coca-Cola and McDonald’s, and that’s probably the most common perspective of what America is. Sometimes living abroad you feel like it might be the most honest depiction.

But in between that first day and that second to third month, the new and exciting of it all falls away, and the culture shock sets in. Going to a new ethnic restaurant is fun and just outside of your comfort zone for as long as you choose. But deciding to live there and not leave for six months to a year is a whole other story. The fun of not knowing what you’re eating turns to frustration, and always being on the outside of a joke becomes embarrassing. The clothes you think are cool seem even odder than at home.

And this is where the wave comes in: You get knocked down. You know nothing -- not the language, not the culture, not the food. And you’ve decided to live here for the next little chunk of life. It sucks.

Then a funny thing happens. It’s the most surreal feeling; you leave the town you’ve been in, and travel around the country. And when you get back in the bus station or airport tired and haggard you feel like you’ve come home. And like the ocean receding the horizon comes into view again. That wave that just knocked you on your ass doesn’t look like it ever could have. And you maybe don’t crave all the new food you’ve encountered, but maybe a dish or two.

I had been on a bus for nearly eight hours, which in Chile is laughably nothing, and I was super hot, and the one thing I craved more than anything was an ice cold Piscola. It’s a type of grape brandy made only in northern Chile/Southern Peru, mixed with a soft drink. But I remember the moment fondly because I wasn’t craving something from home in a time of hot stress, I was craving something from right now. From Chile.

And this is the Zen-like mantra that moving abroad forces you to accept. You know nothing, you are nothing, you cannot predict anything. You are golden once you’ve accepted this mind-set: strong like stone, smooth like water.

I am at about five months in, and about a month and a half ago I really started getting into the swing of things. Spanish is bueno, I have a good amount of friends, and I know where and when to do things. One of the downsides for studying abroad only a short time like six months is that once you get used to things, you move on.

I come back in early January and start school almost immediately, and while it will be nice to get back to normal, I am going to miss Chile.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Long time no blog

Blog, I feel like we've grown apart. It's been ages since I've seen you for who you really are. But tonight, let's change that. Let's get back to the way things were.

Yes folks, it's been a while since I've written something on this communication portal. And for you all on the upper half on the American continent, it may be sad. But for me, it's more a coming of culture process (like coming of age, but with culture). I have been spending less and less time trying to find connections back to New Mexico. And it's been getting surprisingly enjoyable and easy to integrate in culture here.

One of the main reasons for the change, I believe, is being able to make connections with my friends here. It's easy to have friends, but now we are developing more meaningful relationships and all that gobeldyguk.

I also started rehearsing for my tribal belly dance show that happened this past weekend (Nov. 6 for future readers). That was a really rewarding experience for me because I got to meet 6 or so really nice women who I saw on at least a weekly basis. And although Zach was a little bummed I had rehearsals every Saturday, which inhibited our travelings, it was only for a couple weeks. And now our weekends are free as the seagulls that wake me up every morning.

I think that we are going to go camping this Thursday in a national reserve in a town called Los Angeles. Now is a good time to travel because pretty much all our friends are out of town somewhere. Most of them went up north to the Atacama Desert, but Zach and I actually have to attend our classes for the next week, so we are just doing a weekend trip.

A lot of the other foreign students here don't need to return with actual grades so they can kind of come and go as they please. So in some ways it has been a bummer not to have the same freedom as them. They have gone to Argentina, all sorts of cities and pueblos, and camping galore. But on the other hand, we have been able to make some great friendships with Chileans being here weekend after weekend.

We also had a very special visitor last week: MY MOMMY!!! It was so much fun have my mom here. She arrived on October 30th. And on the 31st, we went to a small town called Talca. It was one of the towns that most effected by the earthquake. There were whole street blocks where all the stores were closed due to reconstruction.

But alas, it was my birthday, so we bought some good wine and had a delicious picnic in the plaza. We ate chicken, artichoke and garlic paste, cheese, hearts of palm, anchovies and bread. It was possibly the best picnic I've ever had. And the next day we went to a vineyard about 30 minutes away form Talca called Él viñedo de San Rafeal. We went out there without calling in advance because we were told by our hostal that it would be easy to do a tour. After walking for about two miles to get to the vineyard. We were told that we in fact could not do a tour without a reservation. But being the thinking lady I am, I asked them if we could at least go buy some wine. And of course, by all means, that was acceptable.

So we got to the store to buy wine and the women at the desk felt bad that we had walked all that way just to buy two bottles of wine and walk back. So she pulled some strings with her friend in the restaurant, and got us an impromptu reservation. And this restaurant, I should add, was located on a lake. We arrived at this extremely classy restaurant and sat on some comfy couches and drank white wine with toast and tempanada. Next we had salads, warm bread, salmon and rice, and of course, more wine!

So it was kind of like a wine fairy tale come true. The no reservationers were treated like royalty. We bought two bottles of wine and were on our way.

My mom left the following friday on Nov. 5. And that was that. We enjoyed her presence so much. It felt really good to be able to show somebody around, and to show our lifestyle here. It took away a bit of that estranged foreigner feeling.

Well that's all for now folks. I am going to go eat some Asian ribs Zach is making for dinner.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What's the story with the protestors

Restaurants on Plaza Peru in Concepción, Chile were serving beer for lunch, but about 20 feet away almost 15 protesters with face masks were serving molotov cocktails, and tire fires on Monday at about 1 p.m.
The protesters began their demonstration by piling about 20 tires in one of the traffic lanes of Calle Chacabuco, and setting fire to them with a loud crack as a bottle filled with gasoline hit the pavement.
The protesters continued pouring lighter fluid on the fire as well as running up to police tanks and throwing the molotovs in their path.
One of the cocktails missed the police vehicle and hit a pillar of a nearby restaurant. The bottle exploded in front of a kiosk selling newspapers and snacks, and according to a local newspaper, La Estrella, lit the pants and socks of a bystander on fire.
There were about 50 people on Plaza Peru in the surrounding restaurants and walkways. Some were walking to class at the University of Concepción, which is on the other side of Calle Chacabuco, and others were eating lunch.
The demonstration happened outside the doors of the art building on the university campus.
Most people stopped to watch the protesters, and were walking back and forth under the portals of the restaurants trying to avoid any contact with the molotov cocktails.
Shop owners pulled down the metal coverings for their windows and closed their shop doors.
The police tank, which is permanently parked on the corner of Plaza Peru, moved to the side of the plaza to squirt water from a hose attached to its roof to extinguish the fires from the molotove cocktails.
As the police tanks approached Chacabuco a protester ran up to the tank, and threw a flaming bottle at the wire-protected windshield. The tank sprayed the protester and the burning pavement with water.
After about 10 minutes all the protesters dispersed onto the university campus before any of the police could follow them.
The protest is most likely an effort to call attention the Mapuche hunger strike that has spanned the last 85 days.
The hunger strike is in response to a law that was created in 1985 under Augusto Pinochet. The law has jailed about 35 Mapuche political prisoners in different Chilean prisons due to its enforcement.
Many of the Mapuche people have gone to jail because they retaliated against the unfair prosecution of their people, and the misuse of their land with demonstrations, vandalizing and arson. In some cases it was against companies that have built businesses on their land, as well as desecrated sacred cemeteries with deforestation and mining.
The antiterrorist law allows people who commit various crime, such as arson or hijacking of a public transport, to be held in prison for up to two years without a formal charge, and can be sent to prison based on anonymous tips.
The Mapuche have asked the President of Chile, Sebastión Piñera, to change certain articles of the law, such as allowing anonymous tips, but he has not made any efforts to change the law.
While it was not clear that this was the reason for the demonstration it has been a sensitive issue for the almost one million Mapuche people in Chile, as well as Chileans in general.
The hunger strike has drawn international attention from the Human Rights Watch, and people such as Noam Chomsky. Chomsky wrote a letter to a prisoner expressing his sorrow for the suffering of the Mapuche people, and his disapproval that Piñera was unwilling to hold talks and repeal the law.