Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Running in Chile

So far I have been in living in a happy Chilean bubble where life is perfect and negativity and petty annoyances cant touch me. This is because I am here on vacation and am seeing everything in a happy and positive light. This morning however, my little Chilean bubble shrank just a bit....gee...that didnt last long! This is because this morning I decided to go for a run....and all the rage from my past experiences running in Chile came flooding back to me.

I was in a happy and chirpy mood getting ready to begin the day and thought, what better way to start off a day than going for a run? So I did! Off I ran, into the beautiful green neighborhood of E and his family. I was happily minding my own business running along the streets and enjoying observing my surroundings as well as people watching when a noticed that something was following me. I had my ipod on so I wasnt particularly aware of what was going on, but when I began to get a sneaking suspicion that I was being followed, I turned around, only to come face to face with a truck load of men who began hooting and shouting and hollaring. My heart skipped a beat as I remembered what it felt like to be a woman in Chile. I ran a little faster, but they continued to follow. They even ran a stop sign for gods sake!

I began to get a little creeped out and quickly turned a corner last second to get away. But alas, they continued to follow me and slowly drove beside me hooting and hollering and shouting god knows what. I wish I would have had the courage I aquired back when I lived here for a year and a half where I used to shout at every man that stared me down or whispered something dirty. However, after being away for a year, I seemed to have forgotten how to confront the Chilean male and couldnt bring myself to do anything. So I continued to dodge corners here and there until they finally decided to pester off.

So, once that was over, I continued my run cautiously. Then I came upon a feria and had to run by it...as I did I got another swarm of hoots and hollars and sleazy looks and whispers as I passed by the guys watching the parked cars. By the time I reached the end of the long feria Id had enough and at least had the courage to muster up a stare of death which I gave to any sleazy guy who dared to look my way.

Arrghghg it was infuriating to have to stress out about dirty old men following you around when youre just trying to go on a god damn run! Sigh...these are the types of things that I know will get to me in the future when I live here again. I know eventually Ill miss running in the clean air and peaceful streets where men virtually do not even notice you. What to do...I guess Ill join a gym? I wish I could just forget it and not get so annoyed at all the disgusting piropos and glances when trying to work out but I just cant...it really gets to me. Everytime I hear them, I freeze and my heart speeds up, and Im like a deer caught in the headlights. This really screws up the rythm of running and defetes the purpose of that great relaxing feeling that normally accompanies it. I guess next year I could always find some secluded spot where nobody is around to run. Any ideas?

Anyhow, today is the last year of 2009! I still have to come up with a New Years resolution list so Ill have to think about that and post it later. Im not big on resolutions and have never followed through so there may be no point. But Im thinking that if I post them and everybody bears witness, I might have more motivation to try to actually accomplish them!!

Today after E finishes work early, him, his sister and I are heading to Vina for the weekend! Im really not looking to the traffic on the way to Vina. Just thinking about it brings on a mild case of car sickness. Last year was absolutely disgusting because we were sitting in traffic for about 6 hours! Heres hoping itll be better this year! Last night I went to see a ballet with E and his family, after which, we went to a Swiss restaurant for dinner. I would love to recommend the restaurant because it was quite amazing but I completely forget the name! When it comes to me again Ill make a note of it. I also forgot my bloody camera so no pictures to follow! Buuuuu!

And with that Im off! Today Im finally going to meet the famous Kyle Hepp, our wedding photographer I discovered from blog. Really looking forward to it since weve been emailing back and forth for months now and she seems awesome! Then its off to Vina to celebrate the end of another year.

Happy New Years everyone!!!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas 2009 in Chile

up, its time for a new post again! I really overestimated the amount of free time I would have here on my 3.5 week trip to Chile. When I think of all the things I wanted to accomplish in this time here I have to laugh. What was I thinking!? First of all, I wanted to have most of my rough draft for my honors thesis typed up and ready to go. A week and a half has gone by and havent touched it. I also have to study for an exam I have to write when I get back because my prof so graciously allowed me to write it later and grab an earlier flight to Chile since it was my last exam. Havent studied for that either. We also wanted to get our wedding invitations done...havent even begun to look at them. Why is it so impossible to accomplish anything when one is on holidays!?!?! I feel like a faliure, but at the same time, I feel incredibly happy and totally relaxed. School and all that jazz seems so far away and I just want to bask in the few moments I have left with the love of my life in this wonderful country. Summer here is delicious. You have no idea how it feels to come out of the -20 weather and into the plus 30! I love the summer evenings here when the sun is low in the sky and everything is orange and gold and the temperature is absolutely perfect and the smell of baking bread is in the air. How many times have I referred to the smell of baking bread already in my posts? As you can see, Im a big fan of Chilean bread!

I have so much to post about but so little time and space. Since the minute I stepped off the plane weve been visiting family and friends all over the place. Weve also been Christmas shopping and apartment hunting and running a million other little errands here and there. Up until this weekend, we have had no chance to just have some time for ourselves and relax. This weekend was pure bliss. We began the long weekend with the amazing news of Es big new job opportunity. Everything was finalized, he handed in his resignation, and is finishing up working at his company this week. He therefore only has 2.5 days left there and is extatic! Thursday had me in a gift wrapping frenzy because I always seem to leave all the wrapping until the last possible second. Last year everyone was mad at me because I was still wrapping while people were opening presents! Oops...so this year I was a little better and started a couple hours early.

The dinner was delicious, Es moms famous stuffed turkey was heaven in your mouth. The only little problem was that there wasnt enough potatoes and rice and other side dishes to go around. Its really funny, Es parents serve such tiny portions and always underestimate the amount of food needed to properly feed a group of people. Es sister always jokes that they think were all on diets. I like my food and WILL take seconds. I even warned her of this when I noticed that she carved barely half a dish of turkey to serve to all of us. When she wasnt looking I carved more turkey and stuffed the dish full. Needless to say we finished the entire thing off ha ha! The potatoes and rice barely made it to two thirds of us lol! Oh well, I just laugh and sneak more food when nobodys looking.

After dinner we opened presents. I was designated the official Santa of Christmas 2009 and handed out all the presents to everyone. I had quite a bit of difficulty reading to whom the presents were assigned to and who had given them which caused everyone to laugh and make fun of me every time I opened my mouth. Carols were sung, presents were ripped open, and finally by the end of the evening when everyone started to leave, E and I packed our things and began the journey to the beach apartment. We arrived at 4am absolutely exhausted and slept until 1pm the next day. At 1pm, we stumbled out of bed, ate lunch, whatever it was, and then I went back to sleep until 9pm that night. Again I woke up, ate something for dinner, and crashed again until 10am the next day! E calculated that in total I slept 25 out of 30 hours ha ha! I have to say I am quite impressed with myself. Never have I been on such an intense sleeping spree before!!! I think I definitely made a new record. E didnt sleep as much but he slept a lot for him since he usually requires less sleep than me. We took siestas everyday and went and bought fresh fish and shellfish for our meals. We also had a bbq somewhere in there too. I cant tell you how long Ive been waiting and dreaming of the day I could finally eat freshly caught Reineta, Corvina, and Congrio (my three favs) as well as machas a la parmasana (clams cooked with cheese). I was in pure heaven. We were also hoping to score some locos (abalone) which is hard to come by and only appears once in a while, but we couldnt get our hands on any this time. Oh well, maybe next time.

The days were spent burning to a crisp for me by the pool while E got nicely bronzed. I pity the child that turns up with my skin...E is so lucky. I look like a dry and shrivled up tomatoe at the moment while E looks like a Mayan god. Anyhow, on the bright side, at least Ill be able to go back to Canada with somewhat of a tan...if my burnt and peeled skin heals by then!

So now here we are on Tuesday. We arrived yesterday (Monday) because Es work was gracious enough to give him the day off, plus terminate his contract only within a few days, thus freeing him to dedicate himself to his new dream job. So now I have today, tomorrow, and half of Thursday to attempt to get something done before we pack up and go to Vina for new years which Im really looking forward to! A bunch of Es friends are going there too so were going to party under those incredible fireworks like theres no tomorrow! This will be our third new years in a row in Vina. How is new years in Santiago? I have yet to find out!

For those of you that are not familiar with Vina-Valparaiso on New Years, I read it was the fifth biggest New Years party in the world. Thousands of people flock to these sister beach cities for New Years to witness one of the most spectacular fire work displays in the world! The cities are built like an auditorium facing the ocean with all the houses built on hills so you have a view of the ocean pretty much wherever you are. The fireworks take place all along the coast of the two cities and their splendour is amplified by their reflection in the ocean. Its really something amazing to see. People gather in the streets to party all night, especially in Valparaiso, and there are usually bands playing outside and people dancing in the streets. Its great!

So thats how this week and weekend is going to go down. Next week will be my last week here and Es first week at his new job. Since his new job is on the outskirts of town, we wont be able to meet for lunch anymore, as weve been doing everyday, so hopefully now Ill have more time to actually get things done.

And with that Im signing off for now. Ill leave you with some pictures of our beach weekend in paradise. Have a safe and fun filled New Years everyone!!!










Thursday, December 24, 2009

Life is Good

I am so unbelievably happy, I dont have the words to describe it! I feel like Im finally at home and finally where Im supposed to be. This time with E has been pure bliss. Weve been planning the wedding, talking about our futures, and doing all the things that married couples do. Weve never had the chance to be like this together: engaged and planning our futures together. Though we knew long ago that we were probably going to get married, we never talked too much about our futures together because it defeates the purpose of actually getting engaged. Also, we thought that since we are in a long distance relationship, too much time is spent talking about the future, such as when the next time would be when we would see each other etc...Because of this, we tried our best to live in the present and focus on our relationship as it was at the moment. Of course some future planning is required in a long distance relationship, but its so easy to only get caught up in the future since most of the time, you cant be together. Anyway, the point is that this is the first time we feel that were in the right place to talk about anything and everything we want. We talk about the kids we will have, the places we will go, the apartment or car we want to buy, and all the insignificant details that make up a couples life, which are impossible to plan apart. I am loving this and I never want to leave. Just thinking about leaving brings on a spiral of depression. This time leaving E is going to be the hardest in my life. Good thing its the last time!!!

Besides being totally happy just being in the presence of E, I am happy for another reason. Let me just say that E is an incredible person. I know I cant be objective because Im his fiance but I just have to tell you. I promise I wont have too many more gushing posts in the future but I feel that at least one post where I sing Es praises is allowed since this blog pretty much started because of him.

I have never met anyone like E. Hes not your typical Chilean. In fact, he doesnt even look Chilean and everyone actually thinks he looks Brazilian. First of all hes tall, really tall, taller than me and Im 5´10. Hes got curly dark hair, piercing green eyes, and bronzed skin. Let me just tell you right now that hes gorgeous. I picked him out of the crowd of hundreds when I first saw him because he was so exotic looking and beautiful. He was actually pretty famous at the ski resort (to read how we first met, refer to my second post) and all my friends knew of him as the hot latino lifty ha ha! Anyway, I know Im partial to his being beautiful but I just had to get that off my chest. I love every single thing about his looks. Dont worry, Im not that shallow. Though I love his looks, it was the incredible person I discovered that won me over completely.

E is one of those guys who, when walking into a room, captivates everyone. He has so many friends and is so loved by everyone he knows. He is the kind of guy that would do anything for anyone. For example, at home he is constantly fixing up the house, repairing things, and helping his parents with anything they need. Seeing the things he does for his parents make me feel like a horrible child. The leader in him never ceases to amazing me. When he was in high school, he and his best friend created an organization to help the poor from scratch and he kept it going for seven years. He is always the first to organize any event, plays every sport, and is the captain and organizer of all of the futbal leagues hes been in. In the small town in Canada where Im from, even though it was winter and you couldnt find futbol anywhere, he started a team and stuck it out playing in an old warehouse in the -20 degree weather. What can I say, he loves sports.

On top of the tough leader side to him, he is the most sensitive and caring person I have ever met. He treats me like a princess and there is no trace of typical Chilean machismo in his personality. He always makes time for the people who need it. For example, he never forgets the elders in his family and makes sure to visit grandparents and others as often as he can. Hes the kindest most considerate person I know. He does everything for me, even though he doesnt make much money since hes only been working for about a year, he spends all of it on us (plane tickets etc...) and because of this, has to continue living with his parents until we can finally stop paying for plane tickets. As soon as I get here next June, were going to move out.

Oh I could go on and on but unfortunately, some things are too personal to publicize on the web. I just had to vent about how amazing he is and how he continues to amaze me everyday. Yesterday was one of those days. After going through an extensive interviewing process with one of the biggest and best companies in the world, yesterday he got the call confirming that he has the job!!! Life is funny, if he would have made it into any of those other jobs he was in the finals for, he wouldnt have gotten this one which is by far the best of all of them. Im so incredibly happy and proud of him I just dont know exactly how to express myself. I always knew he would make it one day and find the job he was looking for, and now he has. He deserves this more than anyone! So today when we celebrate Christmas, we are also going to celebrate Es new job. We have so much to be thankful for! This job is an incredible opportunity for E and all of his family and friends are absolutely thrilled for him! I am beaming just writing this!

Anyway, enough gushing for one post. Quick update: DO NOT enter a mall in Santiago right now. If you do, beware, you will be elbowed, pushed, kicked, stepped on, and ignored by stressed and over-worked sales people. Why oh why do I always wait to do last minute Christmas shopping?! In Santiago none the less!?! I have learned me lesson. Next year, its Christmas shopping in September for me!

So tonight we celebrate Christmas! Es mom is making this incredible stuffed turkey which is a family tradition here on Christmas. I have been looking forward to it all week! Nay, all year! Then, after the Christams celebrations (which will be lets say around 2am), E and I are driving to the beach for a nice long weekend and coming back Monday!!! Originally E was going to take off all of next week so we could relax at the beach, but now that he has this new job, he has to work to finish everything he needs to finish at his old job before starting the new job. So that means no week long vacation for us (pout). A small price to pay I suppose! At least we get two long weekends in a row! One this weekend, and one next weekend for New Years.

Alright so thats all for now! My next post will be at the beach! Woo hoo! I wish everyone a wonderful and happy Christmas! Peace out!

P.S. I apologize for the lack of apostrophes but I cant find the right button on this Spanish style keyboard!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

FINALLY IN CHILE!!!

Sorry I’ve taken a little leave of absence but a LOT has happened in these past few days! I actually wrote this post the day I arrived but haven’t had time to look it over and actually post it. So here is what I meant to post a while ago followed with an update.

Oh Chile how I’ve missed you! I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now. Life is perfect. I am finally reunited with my love and am basking in the warmth and sun that is the Chilean summer. As I write this that incredible smell of freshly baked bread is drifting through my window...a smell I have missed dearly. This morning I woke up to the sound of birds chirping and to a glorious green-yellow light filtering through the grapevines and into Es room. I love that about his room.

First of all, let’s back up. The flight was great! I was so worried there would be horrible turbulence but there wasn’t. It was probably the smoothest flight I’ve ever been on. The captain also announced that we had favourable tail winds and would be arriving to Santiago a bit earlier than expected. Great! The only down side of the flight was that I was cornered against the window by two men with horrible body odour. And then of course, at the beginning of the flight, just before takeoff, one of the guys decides to douse himself in cologne...and a very strong smelly cologne at that! My nostrils were on fire for the first two hours of the flight until the smell of the cologne slowly dissipated, but I survived! I just flipped the air on full blast and directed it right into my face the entire flight.

I arrived on what I’m told was the hottest day of the summer so far. E said it was around 35 degrees Celsius! So the temperature change for me was quite big...coming from negative 25 to positive 35...I had the worst headache last night and again right now, but that will fade once I get used to the huge climate difference! It took E and I about 45 minutes to find each other at the airport. The airport was so busy and he was looking for me up top trying to spot me from above while I was looking for him down below. In that time I was herded and cornered by a crowd of young taxi drivers. When I refused a ride, they continued to pester me. They were a big group of young guys so they were all about entertaining themselves and continued following me and pestering me. I finally told them that my fiancé was picking me up hoping it would stop them. It didn’t. They started telling me I should break up with him because he wasn’t on time and was therefore a bad fiancé etc...You get the picture. Welcome to Chile. I was in such a good mood that I just gave into their jokes and laughed. I even joked a bit back actually.

Reuniting with E was a dream. Words cannot express how much I’ve missed him and how incredible I felt to be in his arms again. Ill spare you the details, but we couldn’t be happier. I arrived to Es house for a beautiful lunch that his mom and the maid prepared just for me. They know how much I love seafood and we had freshly grilled fish! Ohhhh soo good! I could eat fish every meal for the rest of my life and never get tired of it! To top it all off, Es mom bought 3 kilos of avocado for me since everyone knows how obsessed I am with it. AND, she bought a ton of fresh fruits and veggies! Fresh strawberries, cherries, peaches, nectarines, melons...you name it! I have seriously just died and gone to heaven. What more could a girl ask for! Reunited with the love of her life, surrounded by her favourite food in the world, in the most perfect climate, sitting beside a pool....sigh. I am taking a mental picture of everything as I write this so I can think of it when I’m stressed out of my mind again next semester as I’m freezing in the minus 20 degree weather!


Fastforward to today...


It’s been a great first few days back. Everyday has been jam packed with things to do but it’s been wonderful! On Thursday E had a Christmas party at work so I went out for drinks with his sister and her friends who are all wonderful. Friday E finished work after lunch so we took advantage of the spare time and got a bunch of things done like getting my ring sized, running some errands, and looking at apartments. We found one we absolutely love which has a spectacular view of the mountains and were so set on buying it. However, we are now starting to think it over more seriously and are thinking that it might not be the best time to buy an apartment. The biggest problem is that E is in the process of changing jobs and this new job is on the outskirts of town so he would need to buy a car. So buying a car plus paying for the wedding plus buying an apartment might be a little much. Because of these worries, we´re thinking of maybe waiting until I come down in June to buy an apartment so that we can pay off a few loans before taking on a new one. But we’re still talking about it, who knows. God I hope we can get it!!!

Friday night we had a family dinner and it was so wonderful to see everyone again. I feel so apart of this family and have missed them all so much! Saturday E and I went downtown to run some more errands and then in the evening we had a wedding to go to. It was lovely and we had a great time. However, going to that wedding made me start to get nervous about my own wedding in Chile, especially the dress. I saw how critically all the girls examined and critiqued the brides wedding dress and it made me feel a little uncomfortable because in Chile it seems that people have a very narrow idea of what beauty is and what is acceptable. In my experience, I have found that women have a very defined image of an appropriate wedding dress and I’m afraid my wedding dress is going to blow everyone here out of the water. I know it’s my day and the most important thing is for me to love it, but I can’t help feeling a little scared that everyone in the church is going to be whispering and criticizing my dress while I’m up at the later since it is quite different. I have this innate desire to want to please everyone and almost considered returning my dress so that the Chilean women in my life could pick out an acceptable one for me ha ha. Don’t worry though, then I came back to reality. I love my dress and I don’t care if anyone else loves it or not! Still, secretly I hope they love it and that I dont get too many weird looks!

So, Sunday E and his sister and I did a run to Vina to visit our friends new born baby who is just beautiful. We had a very pleasant time there and I wished we could have stayed longer but we’ll be back for New Years so it’s all good. So finally were at Monday, today! Man I’m having trouble remembering everything we’ve done because it all went by so fast! I’m sitting here in Starbucks (surprise surprise) after having had lunch with E. I’m here close to his work so we can meet up afterwards and go Christmas shopping. I’m absolutely dreading entering a Santiago mall during the Christmas season but it must be done! I also have a lot of work to do. I am planning to have most of my honours thesis written while I’m here and work on designing some future experiments I hope to try next semester. So no slacking winter vacation for me!

Alright, I think I’ve posted enough for one day. Now off to try to accomplish something! Chao!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane! TOMORROW!!!

This is one of life's wonderful little moments: I'm sitting here at Starbucks, which has an incredible view of the city, and am sipping my 1/2 cafenated, 1/2 sweet cinnamon dolce, americano misto, watching an incredible fiery red sunrise as it creeps up and spills over this valley I call home. I know, I like complicated Starbucks drinks. And I plan to take advantage of it here in Canada since in Chile Starbucks works a little differently. Does anybody else find that? When you're in a Chilean Starbucks, you're going to have to order something off the menu, no modifications allowed...if you even think of asking for something like 1/2 caf, you'll get some ugly glares. The one thing that really gets me is this: Whenever I order a simple coffee, (I learned to stop ordering complicated drinks in Chile a long time ago) I ask for a tall in a grande cup because I like loooots of room for milk and end up dumping out half of it if they give me a normal size. However, whenever I try to order this combination in Chile, I'm always charged for the grande size, not the tall size. I don't see the logic behind it since I'm paying for the amount of coffee, not the cup. But most of the time, they will refuse to give me my damn tall in a grande coffee.

At first it really got to me because I am a coffee person and need my daily coffee, so in the beginning I would argue with every barista in the hopes that they would see it my way. Most of them did not and refuse to this day. I've learned to accept it and now dump out half my cup of coffee but I still pout when I do it. It's actually pretty funny now that I think of it. I have learned to accept this difference because Chile is not a coffee country and doesn't have a big coffee culture. It's funny because since everyone knows I'm a hardcore coffee addict, they always say things like, "Ohhh you're going to South America! Wow, they must have great coffee in Chile!" I don't know where people got the idea that ALL coffee in South America is so great...I guess people just generalize based on Colombia and Ecuador's great coffee.

Funny, I had no intention of this entire post being about coffee, but I feel very passionate about the subject and it's just spilling out of me. So bear with me. One more thing to say about coffee in Chile.

E's family is the typical Chilean family that drinks the infamous Nescafe, which I absolutely despise with every inch of my soul. So when it was established that I would be living with E's family for over a year, I took matters into my own hands and bought a french press and good coffee. Since that day, everyone in the family drinks real coffee! I have converted them all! However, they will only drink it when I make it ha ha! I find it hilarious! When I asked E's mom why this was so, she said it was just too much work to make "real" coffee so if I hadn't made it that morning, they would just stick with Nescafe ha ha! I really don't find making a good coffee that difficult, and it is certainly worth the effort because the taste difference between Nescafe and "real" coffee is quite huge. Anyway, I'm glad I can provide them with a little taste of home. Everyone now officially associates me with coffee and whenever anyone goes on a trip to one of the "good" coffee producing countries, they always bring me back a bag or two of it!

So now on to the real topic of my post. I am leaving tomorrow. I'm so excited yet anxious and scared at the same time. I have a bit of "plane anxiety" since I'm afraid of heights and am slightly claustrophobic. I love being in airports however and am extremely looking forward to that part. But still, though I've flown many many times, I continue to get a little travel anxious. It usually disappears a few hours into the flight when I realize that all is going well and the turbulence has subsided, but I prefer to be on the ground as quickly as possible. To make matters worse, yesterday as I was waiting for my mom, her coworker started talking to me. I mentioned I was going to Chile in a couple days and he said, "Oh, so you're going to be flying right through that big snowstorm they're predicting"....(JERK!!! I screamed in my head!!!). I informed him that no, I had checked the forecast and clear skies were predicted throughout the week here and in my connecting flight regions. He continued to try to convince me that I was mistaken and that they had just announced a massive snowstorm and that I would be flying through it. WHO SAYS THAT!??!?!?!?! I wanted to slap him. Anyway, here's hoping he's wrong!!!

And with that I'm off. I would love to continue this post because I'm not quite done but unfortunately, if I do I will miss my massage which has taken me two years to book! Time for some pampering! After this I plan to buy some good books to take with me to read in Chile since I have no other time during the year to do it! Anyone have any good book suggestions!? It would be greatly appreciated! There's too much out there, I don't know where to start!

Cheers!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

FREEEEEEEEE AT LAST!!!!!!!!!

It is with great joy and relief that I write this post. I am officially finished this semester's exams!!! Well, technically that's not true because I have one exam that I managed to get moved since I was leaving before the writing date and so will be writing it when I get back. However, it's an easy exam and I have loads of time to prepare for it in a relaxed manner. Not like this past week where I've had all my exams in the same week, plus various papers and projects due! And I survived!!! Man I love this feeling! I feel total gratification and pride that I managed to pull it off and do well in everything! At least I think I did well. I guess we'll find out soon enough!

It was recently my mom's birthday and since she's a ski bunny, we decided to celebrate at our local ski resort by spending a couple nights up there skiing. Of course I had to watch tearfully and study as everyone enjoyed the fresh powder, but I much preferred studying up at that beautiful mountain than to have to study at home or at Starbucks again! It was definitely a nice change of scenery.

I wrote my last exam yesterday and didn't waste any time. I went straight to the mall to get as much Christmas shopping done as possible. There are three babies/toddlers in E's family so of course I started with them since baby shopping is just so much fun. E suggested I get our presents for the kids in Canada since we tend to have more selection and cheaper prices than in Chile. Well, cheaper prices or higher quality items at least. The way we do Christmas with E' family is everyone buys presents for the kids, since Christmas is all about the kids, and everyone also buys for their parents. The siblings and their partners all draw names from a hat so we only have to buy one present for that one person. Otherwise it would just be too expensive and crazy because E's family is big!

So now begins the journey to Chile. I'm set to leave on Tuesday morning which is only three days away! In that time I still have to pack, meet up with friends and godchildren, and then do some work in the lab and hopefully get started on an experiment I haven't had time to do! I get to top things off with a full hour massage which is free since I'm still under my mom's health plan and her plan covers massages! Most people's health plan covers the majority of their medical expenses but because of my mom's job, she has one of the best possible health plans that covers pretty much everything. Oh how I love living in Canada. The health system is one of the things I miss most while I'm in Chile. It's such a slap in the face to have to start paying for health care!

Anyway, now I'm off to go work in the lab and enjoy my freedom and not stress every second about things I should be studying. In closing, I'll leave you with some pictures of our skiing (studying) getaway at our ski resort :)

Chile here I come!!!!




Thursday, December 3, 2009

Group Post: Finding Your Way in Chile

Yay! Another group post!!! I am really loving this idea. Good work whoever started this trend! Just to warn you, this post might not be the greatest of posts because I am currently functioning at peak stress levels and barely have a second to spare! I have ALL of my finals within the next week AND a paper worth 40% of my grade due on Monday (which I have conveniently not even started!). Oh to be done the semester! The light at the end of the tunnel seems so far away! Having said that, I just cannot bear the idea of not participating in these awesome group posts so here we go!

First of all, here are people's links who have posted on the topic already. If anyone else wants to join, just send me your link!

Maeskizzle

Finding your way in Chile...this is something I wish I could have read before going there for my first time. Here are some general guidelines and advice to help anyone that wants to go down South to the land of paltas, pisco, and cueca (the three things I most associate with Chile ha ha).

1.) Have a map of the general area you will be living in and the places you will frequent most often. If possible, try to actually understand that map.

Of course, this comes from personal experience. To those of you coming from smaller towns (like me!) and those who are directionally challenged (also like me!), this is especially for you! Santiago is not labelled very well. A street will change its name various times throughout its length and in many areas, streets aren't marked. I will never forget the stress of my first weeks (okay months) in Chile when I was constantly stumbling around and getting hopelessly lost all over Santiago! Poor E must have gotten about 50 phone calls a day from me on the verge of breakdown because I didn't know where I was and was late for my class! He even had to leave school to come find me once...or twice...ha ha! S0, as you can see, I am amongst the group of directionally handicap individuals and even now, 5 years after my first Chilean experience, I need a map with me at all times!

2.) Get to know the transit system.

Though it may not seem like it in the morning and evening hustle and bustle of the overwhelming Santiago traffic, Transantiago is your friend. The metro is the most efficient form of transportation, though at peak hours you can expect to find yourself plastered to the metro wall due over-stuffed metro cars. You can't be afraid to get physical and fight for your right to get off at your stop. With all those people in there, it may be necessary to push and shove and scream your way out of those metro doors.

Another piece of advice: if using the bus system...do not...I repeat, DO NOT stand up until the bus comes to a full and complete stop!!! I once did this, and flew to the front of the bus when the driver decided to slam on his breaks at the last minute. I also witnessed an old woman get seriously injured after flying to the front of the bus and hitting her head on the windshield! (The ambulance actually had to come!).

One last tip: the direction of traffic changes on certain main streets at different times of the day. The purpose of this is to accommodate the morning and evening traffic rush. So know your bus stops well! And don't be surprised if you come out of the bus black and blue, Chilean bus drivers can be a bit rough!

3.) Take advantage of the ferias!

The ferias are farmers markets which are conveniently distributed all over the city. Buying produce here is so much cheaper and you have a much bigger and delicious selection!

4.) Piropos: Get used to being cat-called.

I don't need to say much about this one. In Chile, like most Latin American countries, you will get cat-called no matter what you wear, where you go, or what you do. Be especially weary of passing by a construction site because the noise from all the piropos will deafen you. Because of this, it is necessary (as a woman) to watch what you wear. You can get away wearing a mini skirt in North America, but in Chile, make sure you wear tights with that skirt unless you want to be yelled and whistled at all day! For those of you who are blond and blue eyed, I feel especially sorry for you! Blond hair and blue eyes is pretty rare in Chile and so these people are likely to attract much more attention than us boring brown-haired ladies. (Just kidding! Brown rocks!)

5.) Eating in Chile.

The two things that most blew me away were how much palta (avocado) is eaten here and how late people eat their dinners! Now I'm not complaining about the palta obsession, I LOVE palta and when in Chile, I eat them as often as possible! But it's really interesting how late Chileans like to eat their dinners. Sometimes my fiance and his family will go out to eat around 10 or 11! It's just another thing to get used to. Don't worry about going hungry until dinner though, Chileans have a great little in-between lunch and dinner snack time called "once" which is really just plain wonderful! At "once" you're likely to eat some freshly made bread with palta, cheese, and cold-cuts. In the mornings and evenings Santiago is full of the glorious smell of freshly baked bread...a smell that I will forever associate with Chile.

6.) Learn and use Spanish!

Assuming that everyone speaks English is just rude and ignorant. Try to learn at least a little Spanish before coming down and try using it. Most Chileans will be grateful that you are at least trying and will be more likely to help you out. However, be warned that Chilean Spanish is nothing like the "Spanish" you probably learned in high school! No matter how stellar you think your Spanish skills are, you can expect to be blown away by a typical Chilean conversation. The Spanish here is faster, less pronounced, and full of expressions and slang you've probably never even heard of before. Don't stress, just relax...you'll learn it soon enough, we all do!

7.) Be nice to people!

I'll admit that even I struggle with this one at times, and I'm a nice person (at least I consider myself one!). In the big, crowded, loud, and busy city of Santiago, it's so easy to let the city turn you into a cold, hardened, and bitter person, especially since it's hard to get used to some of the quirks of Chilean life. Because of this, you might feel the need to complain, pack up and leave, and just be plain mean to everyone you bump into on the street. This is all the more reason to remain positive and "nice". It comes as a pleasant surprise to a lot of people in Santiago when you stop and take the time to help or be nice to them. For example, holding the doors open, chatting with the bus driver or cashier at the supermarket, giving someone a smile, and all those other little random acts of kindness can really warm the hearts of many Chileans. Plus you're representing your country and making us look good!

I learned this from a bad experience...I was in a bad mood one day and pushing and shoving my way through the metro station onto the metro. There was about 50 people waiting to get in through the doors and I had a big duffle bag to squeeze through on top of that. I was so fed up and stressed that I just pushed my way on the metro like everyone else, and didn't really care to check what my bag was doing. My bag ended up hitting this lady and knocking her down! I felt horrible! I felt so stupid and inconsiderate and rude for not being more careful and for giving into the occasional stress and negativity of big city life. To make matters worse, she decided to yell at me the ENTIRE metro ride home. She exclaimed (to any random metro passenger that would listen...so EVERYONE) that I was such a horrible person and how us "gringas" are so rude and conceded and how disgusting I was to place myself first before a poor old lady etc...you get the picture. Now I know she might have played it up a little too much, causing me to die from embarrassment the whole metro ride home, but I deserved it. Now, whenever I am ready to explode from the stress and annoyance that occasionally rears its ugly head when living in Santiago, I remember that instance on the metro and have vowed never to let that city get to me again!

8.) Explore this marvelous country!!!

Chile is seriously one of the most beautiful countries I have seen in my life! It has everything you could ever want. The vast deserts and abandoned beaches in the North, the Central wine and pisco country full of fertile lands and many great beaches, and the rustic natural paradise of the South, complete with volcanoes, islands, rivers, lakes, glaciers, mountains, and forests that go on forever. I'm a big out-doors person so Chile for me is a paradise. Go out and see it! Explore it! Don't just stick to Santiago because the image you get from that city absolutely does not represent the entire country.

9.) Take advantage of Chilean culture.

For example, take advantage of the Chilean arts: music, dance, theater, etc...I am inlove (obsessed) with Inti Illimani. I go to their concerts every chance I get. This group is incredible. I especially love the newer branch of this group (long story, there are two divisions of this group because they separated). To me the music of Inti Illimani is the music of Chile. It encompasses this country in every way. You really get a feel for Chile by learning its history and listening to its folkloric and traditional art.

10.) Make Chilean friends.

This is probably one of the hardest things to do for foreigners. It seems particularly difficult for women to make Chilean girlfriends. You just have to realize that this stems from the fact that Chile is a collective society. Most people have the same group of friends they've had since they could walk, and therefore, it takes a lot before you can call yourself someone's friend. However, don't despair! Just give it time and don't give up! Soon enough you'll find that your group of Chilean friends is slowly expanding. Once you do eventually find yourself a Chilean friend, there's no doubt they will be the most loyal and truest friend you have and will most likely be your friend for a very long, long, long time.

Okay so that's all for now! I'm sure there are many more but unfortunately, I have to turn my attention to studying now! Buuuuuu!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Group Post: How to Alienate a Chilean

Okay, next time I decide to write a group post, I'm not going to read anyone else's before writing. I think everyone has pretty much mentioned everything that first popped into my head and so now it's hard to think of my own. Hey I'm new at this blogging thing! I'll definitely keep that in mind for next time. Oh, before I move on, I also have a novice blogging question: Sometimes when I post a blog, I'll notice some errors and so I edit it. Then I press "publish" and think that everything is fine. However, on my dashboard, I've noticed that one person's post came up various times. So does this mean that every time you edit and re-publish, your post will pop up again? If so, that could be very annoying and confusing to someones dashboard and I wouldn't want to be doing this because there are times when I edit and re-publish like 10 times! So if anyone knows the answer to this, please let me know. Thanks! Any other words of advice is appreciated too!

Okay, now on to how to alienate a Chilean...First of all, here are the blogs of people who have already written on the topic. They are great, check them out! I'm going to try to think of some that nobody has posted on yet...


So, some extra ways to alienate Chileans:

1.) Never have a PJ day.

I lived in Chile with my fiance in his parents home for a full year before I moved out into my own apartment so I had the experience of living with a Chilean family and adapting to their customs. One thing that was absolutely not tolerated and totally frowned upon was just having one of those lazy PJ days that everyone needs now and then. Once in a while, I love waking up in the morning, making a fresh pot of coffee, and then lounging around in bed all day reading, watching TV, and just relaxing. I think these types of days are totally necessary, especially when one is working like a dog all week. These days are especially necessary in the crazy city of Santiago where your stress levels are likely to rise through the roof at times. However, strange as it may be, people don't do PJ days in Chile. As soon as you wake up, you shower, change, and then start your day. And my god you had better be dressed and ready to go before lunch is served!

2.) Never wear sweatpants...

...doing so results in people thinking you are either sloppy, a bum, or ready for bed. People in Chile are very aware and concerned about their appearance. You rarely see Chileans (well, at least the middle and high class Chileans) walking around looking anything less than neat. Sure, their fashion sense may be a little off, but most people still put a lot of effort into their appearance. Aka, you don't see people walking around in sweatpants...EVER. Not even in their own home! Living with E's family, I learned this the hard way. Sometimes after a hard day, I want to kick off my shoes and take off my uncomfortable work clothes and just put on my sweatpants and chill. Of course, when I do this, I am greeted with various frowning faces. People think that when you wear sweatpants, or any kind of comfortable clothing, you are ready for bed. They feel that the day is over for you and that you are not capable of doing anything else. I have unknowingly offended many Chilean family members when I put on my sweatpants because they assume that it means that doing so prevents me from going outside or helping them or socializing with them or doing anything else which involves leaving my room. Once E asked me, "why do you get into your PJs so early?" I tried explaining to him that just because I am wearing sweatpants does not mean that they are my PJs and that it is bedtime. I will happily continue to carry out all my normal daily activities in my comfortable sweatpants thank you. In Chile, you wear your daily work clothes from the second you wake up to the second you put your head on your pillow to go to sleep.

3.) Never discuss Chile's social situation in relation to other Latin countries.

Once at a party, we were discussing how Chileans differ in comparison to other Latin Americans. I brought up this article I found on Chilean depression rates and how it is the most depressed country in Latin America. (I couldn't find the same article but here is a similar one). I think pretty much everyone in that party turned on me. They said the study was done wrong, the measurements were off, etc...etc... Almost nobody would accept the possibility that a study pointed to Chile as being the most unhappy and depressed country in the Latin world. I didn't really look into the research behind this issue yet and so I can't say much about the topic but I plan to really investigate it more in depth and write a post about it in the future.

4.) DO shout comebacks to all the piropos...

...that is, unless you don't want to get harassed for it afterwards! Now this is a situation where you most definitely WANT to alienate a Chilean. Even though it's positive for you, technically, it does fall under the category of alienation. Upon hearing the usual piropos (cat calls) from Chilean men, try this for a change. Try catching them off guard and embarrassing them in front of all their friends. Say something mild like, "what are you looking at old man" or something a little more harsh, depending on the situation. You're likely to hear the Chilean man respond with a stream of insults and cusses. In Chile, it's okay for men to demean women with their disgusting remarks comments and cat calls but when women respond or try to defend themselves, it is NOT okay and you will hear all about it!

5.) Never ever EVER compare Chileans with Argentinians!

This is self explanatory. I love Chile but there are many things that people (especially foreigners) compare Chile with to their neighbors and rivals, especially the Argentinians! Soccer...attractiveness...food....social customs...the list goes on. Don't do it! Better yet, just don't bring up Argentina at all. Unless of course you are bashing it.

6.) Never go to the cinema alone....or do anything else alone for that matter.

Chile is a very collective society where you do everything with someone or other. Never alone. I am a very independent person on the other hand. There was once a time where I had nothing to do and spontaneously decided to go to see a movie. After advising E of this, he was shocked and desperately told me to call "so and so" or "his friends girlfriend" or "a friend of a friend of his" or anyone to go with me! He couldn't understand how I could go alone. I guess he found it sad and wanted to look out for me but I am perfectly content doing things on my own from time to time. When I got home the family was shocked to find out that I had gone to see a movie solo ha ha. They must have thought I was a such a loser.

7.) Never attempt your own version of the cueca.

In the beginning when I didn't know much about the cueca, I decided to wing it and do my own little thing. I thought I would get a few laughs at creating my own version of the cueca (the national Chilean dance)....not...funny. I received quite a few frowns and even a few faces of disgust. My dance really wasn't that bad! Really! Let's just say I added a "twist" to it since I sucked at it anyway. However, in the end I even managed to offend my partner who up and left me on the dance floor! Words of advice: Chileans take the cueca very seriously. You either dance it and dance it well...or don't dance it at all!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Countdown Begins...

Only 3 more weeks until I'm in Chile!!! I CAN'T WAIT ANY LONGER!!! Why oh why is time so cruel that it seems slow down so painfully in the last few weeks?! Arrghghhg!!#%#@^!!@# And to top it all off, I have more work in these next three weeks than I had in the last three months of this entire semester! How the hell am I going to finish it all?! I mean, I can deal with school, but I'm also doing an honors project (a bacterial genomics project) and I need to finish certain experiments and get certain results before I leave because while I'm in Chile I have to start writing up my thesis!

So this honors project the biggest pressure for me...that and doing well in all my classes in this last year of school because it's my last shot to boost my GPA, which I need to be really high if I want my future educational plans to work out! So I can't just forget about school either and focus on my honors project. Usually when one is confronted with such a dilemma, one option usually has to take a bit of a hit and suffer a little since it's impossible to dedicate the same amount of time and effort to both, but in my case, that's NOT an option. I MUST do well in both! Kill me now. So with all these worries in my mind, it's impossible to think of the light at the end of the tunnel which is Chile :( I don't even find running relaxing anymore because as I'm running all I'm thinking about is, "I have to hand these calculations in to my supervisor NOW!", "I have to wedge three chapters of anatomy and physiology into my brain by tomorrow!", "I have to start this experiment NOW!", "I have a paper worth 40% of my grade due next week, and I haven't started!!!"....Nevertheless, I'm going running right now...usually the after-run endorphins calm me down a little.

When I do get a chance to think about the light (aka Chile), of course the first thing that pops into my mind is E...who I can't stand being separated from a second longer, and of course I think about E's family and all the people I miss. But strangely enough, the second thing that pops into mind is, the food!!!! Specifically, the "palta", which us North Americans lovingly refer to as the "avocado". I love this fruit (or is it a vegetable?) with all my heart. If I could, I would eat it with every meal. You can eat it sweet or salty. It goes with anything. Now before you wince in disgust at the thought of a sweet palta, go to Brazil where they make this fabulous avocado dessert, which conveniently I forget the name of, which is deeeliiicious!!!! They basically pure avocados, add lime and sugar, and you have an instant avocado smoothie! Okay I know it doesn't sound too appetizing when you've eaten avocados salty your entire life but trust me, it's TO DIE for!!!

Anyway, so while in Chile for the holidays, I plan to eat an avocado with every meal, and maybe even for "once",what the Chileans refer to as a snack or "tea time" and is eaten around 6ish, if I'm not all palta-ed out by then. I also plan to go to the market behind E's house EVERY day to buy a selection of fresh summer fruit and veggies! The markets in Chile are something I miss dearly. I miss being able to buy fresh, in-season, and cheap produce. In Canada, even when it's in-season, it's expensive, and it isn't necessarily fresh. I love love love the variety of things they have in those Chilean markets. I used to buy like a bag of cherries a day during the summer...then I come back to Canada and find that about 12 cherries costs the same as a huge bag of them in Chile...and to top it all off, they're not as plump and juicy and fresh as they are in Chile. So, to all the gringas and chileans out there reading my blog, next month, when you're buying your weekly produce, don't be surprised to see a crazy tall gringa moseying about the various markets with a palta in one hand and bags bursting at the seams with overflowing produce in the other :) Ahhh...that'll be the day!

Okay so now I'm off to run! Hopefully that calms me down a little!!! Until next time!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Snowboarding at My Beloved Mountain


This is just a quick post to let everyone know that I had the most incredible day snowboarding today! It was the
first day of the season and though there is no snow in town, there is a ton of it in the mountains! The conditions were great, the temperature was perfect, it was sunny and clear and just beautiful!

I love this mountain for many reasons: 1.) because I love, and have always loved, snowboarding, 2.) it is where I met my future husband, 3.) it is where my future husband proposed to me, 4.) I have a growing collection of wonderful memories at that place beginning when I was about 10, 5.) I used to work the winter seasons up there while living at the hostel...and anyone who has ever worked and lived at a ski resort knows how much fun that can be, and 6.) it is just so damn beautiful and I always tend to lose myself there and forget I am on planet Earth with all the million stresses of life waiting for me back at home. It's my happy place :)

So with that I'm off to bed because I have two projects due tomorrow so I have to wake up early to do the finishing touches. I don't know about anyone else but as for me it is physically impossible to study after about 9-10pm-ish. I just can't. I'd much rather get up at 4am the next day to finish things I didn't finish the night before than work late into the night. This makes it impossible for me to leave things until the last minute...which I guess is good in a way!

Alright so to close I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures of the day :) Good night!













Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Is Up With The Weather!? Where Is The Snow!?


Is anyone else experiencing crazy weather these days? I live in Western Canada in a place that has very cold winters but very warm summers. Usually by November, we can expect to say fairwell to "above zero" temperatures until spring (and to all you Americans, that is "below 32" lol). However, it is now nearing the end of November and we have barely reached -2C so far! The other day I went running and I was running in my T-shirt and shorts. I have never run in a T-shirt and shorts in November before. It must have been over 10C! Today is no different and I plan on taking advantage of running in this warm weather because god knows how long it will last. Generally in the depths of the Canadian winter, I hibernate from running because getting up at 6am in the dark sub-zero temperatures is really not fun. Plus, the last time I tried running in the snow I got seriously injured which prevented me from running for months. So for now, I'll run this warm weather out as long as I can.

On one hand I'm happy about the mild temperatures, but on the other hand, I want my cold, snowy white Christmas! I love the month of anticipation and preparation before Christmas and that for me has always included snow. I still can't believe we haven't gotten a good dump of snow yet. This is really really weird. Global warming? I don't know...but everything in town is the depressing colour of mud since everything is dead and just waiting for the snow to cover it. Come on snow!



I haven't had a snowy white Christmas in three years now because for every Christmas, I've gone to Chile to be with E. I've always planned my trip to leave right after my last exam so I usually write my exam, and leave right away the next day in order to spend as much of the winter vacation with E as possible. This plan has always been really stressful or me since the last three weeks of classes I'm a basket case from studying and then get on a plane and leave just like that. Because of this I've never really gotten to enjoy the Christmas season here...which is sad and the only memory my family has of me over Christmas is the stressed out, sleep-deprived, crazy student. However, this year, it worked out that I get 4 free extra days after my last exam to just relax and enjoy the season here! There was a mix up of flights and they ended up moving my flight etc...long story.

So anyway, though at first we were a little bummed, now I realize it's for the best. I'll finally get to enjoy a bit of the Christmas season with my family, do some snowboarding, go Christmas shopping, help decorate the house and the tree, do some Christmas baking with my mom...all in 4 days! I can do it! It's going to be a condensed 4 day Christmas season for me ha ha! In Chile they don't really get into the "Christmas prep" as much as we do here. At least that's how I see it with E's family. No Christmas baking...no Christmas tree (well, no real one at least), no Christmas lights, etc...So I'm definitely going to take advantage of my 4 day Christmas season here!


I just can't wait until school is OVER and I'm free!

And with that, I'm off for a run. Here's hoping the snow comes soon!!!

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Classics

Here's a fun fact about me: I am completely obsessed with classical music. I don't know where it came from, but it's all I listen to. When I run, when I study, when I walk to catch the bus...there I am, listening to Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, or Bach...I love it! I've found that it just totally clears my mind and takes all the stress away. It's also a lot easier to study to music with no words in it. I have to say that Beethoven is my favourite. His music is just so dramatic and different.

I happen to stumble upon "Immortal Beloved" on TV the other night and became so enthralled in the mystery of Beethoven's life. Anyone ever see that movie? It's movies like that that make me wish I could go back in time to relive those old romantic time periods where the most important things in life revolved around music, art, dance, and pleasure. Okay, maybe it wasn't as easy if you were in the poor class, but what hit movie in that time period focuses solely on the poor class. Most of them are all about royalty, balls, beautiful gowns, operas...the movies make those old time periods seem like one big happy party and it would be so nice to join it for a day :)

Anyway, that movie just got me thinking...what I wouldn't give to be able to go to an opera or symphony or ballet every night of the week. (I'm big into the arts). It seems that as our society continues to plow forward into modernization and globalization and such, the beauty and joy of the arts becomes more and more lost and forgotten. There is nowhere near as much importance placed on the arts as it was back in the day. It seems that the theater has suffered the most since now everything is on the big screen, even operas and musicals (Phantom of the Opera, Rent, Fame, Mamma Mia...and the list goes on).

Okay, back to reality. No word yet on E's job...he's supposed to hear from them this week. I'm going to be in Chile in exactly ONE MONTH!!! Yes that's right!!! And I am way too excited to be taking school seriously right now! Though I have to force myself to do so. On the agenda for December is spending as much time together as possible: first weekend in Cajon del Maipo to check out the location of the church where we'll wed and reception site, make the invitations, and plan a bunch of wedding details together (since E wants to wait until we're together to do most of the planning). We're probably spending Christmas at the beach house with the family, and for the big bicentennial New Years celebration we're definitely in Vina. It's gonna be a good one! I can't WAIT!!! And of course because I'm heading into beach weather, it's time to start trying to drop my accumulating winter flab! Extra running miles for me!