Saturday, August 28, 2010

"Fast" Food and Javier the Clown

During the past three weeks I have come to some interesting conclusions in regards to "fast" food in Santiago, mainly at Kentucky Fried Chicken.  And let me say that I don't like to eat fast food much, but it is convenient when you are on the go maybe once or twice a month.

The first one is that "fast" is a relative term.  Why do I say this?  Well, I went to KFC with a friend for a quick bite to eat before we went to a friend's house and then on our way out to a disco.  We arrived to a line of about 12 people in front of us, and the service was painfully slow.  It literally took us half an hour to place our order, and by that time they were running out of food.  I wasn't even able to get ketchup packets with my meal. 

I also went there today to get another quick bite to eat between classes.  I thought that since it was 12:15 (the main lunch hour here is from 1:30 to 3) and since I went to another location it would be faster.  Well, I only had one person in front of me in line, but a few people still wating for their food.  There were also a few employees standing around just staring into space as well as empty bins where they put the cartons of French fries and empanadas.  I was wondering what was going on as I waited for my food along with the others.  The girl that took my order then called back to the guy by the fries, and he then scooped the fries up and put them into the carton.  Ironically I got my food before the other people that had been waiting before I even arrived.

So fast?  In comparison to killing the cow and making the food from scratch, yes.  In comparison to getting in and out quickly, no.

The second conclusion: KFC might want to hire a new person in charge of product translation.  This was on the back of the box for the French fries:

So what this is probably supposed to say is "Finger lickin good".  What it does say is "To suck your fingers".  I'll leave it at that.

And I found Javier the clown being the topic of conversation in one of my classes today.  We were working on telephone skills, and we got to the topic of how to handle a wrong number.  For those of you that do not know the story behind Javier the clown, here it is:

So I moved into my first studio apartment in the Eagle Rock area of Los Angeles in 2002 and got a phone line installed.  I started getting phone calls asking for Javier or Archibaldo, and the people that were calling were all Spanish-speaking.  This happened for months, and I would get calls at all times of the day.

Over the time, I got used to it and would switch over to Spanish to explain that they had a wrong number.  I pieced things together and found out the following:

I inherited the phone number of a Spanish speaking clown that performs at children's birthday parties.

I also found out that his business card was all over Los Angeles with my new phone number on it.  The most logical thing to do would have been to change my number, but I don't always do the logical thing.

So the phone calls continued, and then one day I had a horrible day and came home to another phone call for Javier.  I got a bit upset and started to give the person on the phone a hard time, and this is how the conversation went from that point:

Person: No, I'm not calling for Javier.  I AM Javier!

Me: (surprised) Really? How are you doing?

Javier: I am fine, but I got divorced.  I moved but have a new number.

Me: Oh, well I'm sorry to hear that.

Javier: Yeah, can you give people my new number if they call you?

Me: Sure, what's your number.

Javier: xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Me: OK, got it.  I hope that things go well with your clown business.

Javier: Thank you so much.  Bye!

So this may not have seemed logical on my part, but if I want people to stop calling, I need to provide them with the correct phone number.  So I added to my answering machine a line about Javier's phone number, and then I came home to still getting messages for him in Spanish.  So then I realized it would make much more sense to record it in Spanish.  I started getting fewer phone calls, and people were glad I had a number to give to them.

A few months later, Javier called me back overjoyed.  The conversation went like this:

Javier: How are you?

Me: I'm doing well.  How are you and the clown business?

Javier:  It's doing great.  Thank you so much for giving people my new number.  So when can I throw your kids a birthday party?

Me:  Well that's awfully nice of you, but I don't have any kids Javier.

Javier: Oh that's ok then.  I'll buy your wife a present.  What does she like?

Me: Well I'm not married Javier.  Thanks for offering though.

Javier:  Well let me buy you something then.

I tried to refuse, but Javier wouldn't take no for an answer.  Looking back this maybe wasn't the safest thing to do, but I gave him my address and we made plans to meet the following day.  Javier didn't show up, and so I called him a few hours after that.  He told me that he sold his truck and didn't have any money, and so I just wished him the best.

I would still get a call every once in a while for Javier.  I lived in that studio apartment for four years, and even the day before I moved out I got a call for him.  It was an interesting experience to have, and now at least I have an entertaining story to share with my students about how to tell someone they have a wrong number.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The miners are alive!

So I haven't commented on this on my blog at all, but the miners are alive! 

I watched some live TV coverage with Cristian, and now I can hear people honking their car horns as they drive by.  Everyone is happy for this good news.

So here's a short summary of what happened:

There was a mining accident in Copiapó, Chile (450 miles north of Santiago) on August 5th.  There were 33 miners trapped in a mine about 700 m below ground.  The mine had had problems with accidents before this and was considered unsafe.  There were supposed to be repairs done to the mine before it was reopened, but for whatever reason it was reopened without those repairs.

Sebastian Piñera (Chile´s President) was actually at the mine when they received news of them being alive.  They lowered a line with some paper to them (along with food water and oxygen), and they wrote a message to return to everyone with the news of them all being alive.

Here´s a link to a news story about it in English:

I couldn´t imagine being trapped like they have been for over 2 weeks now.  Furthermore, I can´t imagine what their families have been going through this entire time.  While they haven´t yet been able to reach them to let them out, the news of them being alive is nothing short of a miracle.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's a Small Chilean World

Another week has flown by, and I am starting to realize how small of a world it is.

One of my friends from Jersey will be visiting me next month, and it turns out that one of her neighbors is from Santiago. I have yet to find out the details as to what part of Santiago, but it was surprising news to hear from her.

I've also started running into people I know in random places here. As I was on the bus to one of my classes in Las Condes (an upper-class area of Santiago), a woman asked me how things were going with TeachingChile. It turns out she remembered me from 3 months ago when I visited Mi Jugo (a quesadilla shop) with David and Margaret.

Then I was at Blondie (a disco) with a bunch of friends to celebrate Mel's despedida (departure) from Santiago, and a guy came up to me and asked if I remembered him. His face looked familiar but I couldn't put my finger on it. Then he told me that he was at Zoe's birthday party from back in March.

Today I was at the gym, and I ran into a guy that was here last year through TeachingChile. Now he is working here teaching English, and so it was cool seeing him since I had only met him at a party in May.

On a different note, I am loving my new job.  Some students I am working with are product managers, and they have to make presentations about their marketing and sales for the fiscal year.  They are speaking in Spanish, but the Powerpoint portion has to be in English.  Seeing how complex the information is has given me a new found respect for the challenge of their jobs, and their ability to explain the information to me in English is really amazing.  My coworkers are really awesome and always provide a good laugh.

And no one commented but I still wanted to provide the answers to the linguistics questions from last post:

1. carry- having an object in your hands while moving.
    hold- having an object in your hands while not moving.
    bring- to carry an object from one place to another.

2. You get on to modes of transportation that you would walk into, such as a bus or metro stop.
    You get in to modes of transportation in which you would need to get down or sit down to enter, such as
    a car or taxi.

3. We don't conjugate some verbs in the first or second person.  Some examples are to snow and to rain.  Do you snow?  I rained yesterday!

So, did you rain lately? :-)

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The End of Winter, Adventures at the Gym, Food, and More Musings about Linguistics

So now that it is mid August, the weather is starting to warm up.  During the day it has been sunny, and it has been getting up to 65 or so.  It is still cold in the evenings and mornings, but it is not as bad as it was in July.  I heard that this winter was the coldest winter in Santiago's history since they started keeping records 90 years ago.  It somehow is just my luck to be home in Jersey for a winter of recordbreaking snowfall and then come to South America for its coldest winter on record.

The gym continues to be an adventure.  The branch located closest to my apartment has been closed for the past month or so due to a gas leak of some type, so I actually found another branch that is right on the way home from teaching classes.  It is also a short bus ride from my place, which is pretty convenient compared to all of the other locations.  I was there on Saturday, and after being on an elliptical for about 10 minutes the staff came around and told everyone that we had to leave and the gym was closing.  Why was this?  Becuase they had scheduled to take out ever single machine in the gym to be tested that they were in good working order.  When would they be opening again?  At some date in the future.

Now what would make sense to me would be to have this happen closer to the time the gym was actually closing (This was a Saturday at 12:00, and the gym was supposed to be open until 5).  If that wasn't possible, it would also make sense to me to put up a sign warning people on their way in.  But then I remembered that I am in Chile, and things don't happen in that way here.

Luckily there was beautiful weather, and so I walked home.  It was about a 45 minute stroll, which was the amount of time I planned on spending on the elliptical anyway.  I am looking forward to the warmer weather and being able to enjoy time in the sun again.

Talking about the gym takes me to the next logical topic: food.  So there is this chain restaurant in Santiago called Dominó.  They make sandwiches and quick meals, but they are also healthy.  All seating is pretty much at a counter, and so you eat quickly and everything is pretty fast paced there.   They also have a great breakfast promotion.  You get a paila (which is like a small round shaped pan) of eggs with ham, toast, fresh squeezed orange juice, and tea for 1650 pesos.  That´s equal to about 3 bucks:

I love this for a few reasons: 1. It´s affordable.  2. It´s healthy.  3. It´s quick. 4. They are all over downtown Santiago.  I like getting it as a second breakfast after I finish teaching my morning classes during the week.  I feel like you can´t find a deal like this with a portion size like this and that is healthy and quick in the States.

Now one food that I think looks really disgusting is this:

This is bread covered with avocado.  My friend Luis ordered it when we met up for coffee this morning.  It reaffirms my belief that Chile is in love with avocado and will put it on any food possible: hot dogs, hamburgers, bread, etc.

And in surprising news I found a place to buy Kit Kats in Santiago!  I went up to a kiosk in downtown Santiago near my work to buy some breath mints, and I noticed that they had Kit Kats.  They were only the smallest size (that you would get in a big bag like you would buy at Halloween), but they are still Kit Kats.  They cost 200 pesos each (about 40 cents), and so I was good and just bought one.  It has the same text on it (partially in Spanish, partially in Arabic) as the Kit Kate I found in Peru.  I have the feeling I will be stopping by every once in a while to get my Kit Kat fix until Dana can bring me a bag when she comes down to visit in September.

I am loving teaching English to business people here.  My students are motivated to learn, and they all have interesting personalities and stories they bring to class.  And they also have really good questions.

For example:

1. In what contexts do you use the verbs carry, hold, and bring, and what are the differences?

2. Why do you get on a bus but get in a car?

3. Are there any verbs that you do not conjugate in the 1st or 2nd person (saying I, you, or we as your subject) in English?

If you would like to post your answers to those 3 questions I am curious to see what you think.  I will post my response in a few days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

6 months???

OK, so I have a question for everyone:

How in the world has 6 months gone by already?

It reminds me of a Peanuts comic in which Linus says to Charlie Brown, "Our summer vacation is slipping away from us like grains of sand between our fingers!"

6 months ago I was sitting in the JFK airport in the middle of a snowstorm praying my flight would not be cancelled.  I arrived in Rio to 105 degree temperatures plus humidity.

Now I am sitting in my apartment in Santiago, back in winter again.

Being here 6 months means that I only have a little over 4 months left before I fly back for Christmas.  For those of you that don't know, my flight leaves from Santiago December 20th, but I will arrive in JFK at 5:30 AM on December 21st.

I feel that I will not be ready to go back to the States for good after my stay here, so I am already saving up for a plane ticket so that I can come back again in February of 2011.  I will be able to keep teaching English here, and I will make enough money that I will be able to live comfortably.

Don't get me wrong.  I am definiltey looking forward to coming home for the holidays, seeing family and friends, and enjoying the things I miss from home.  At the same time, I am getting into a rhythm here, and I feel like I am learning so much about myself but also so much about teaching languages with my job here.  Only having four more months would cut such a great experience way too short.

Well, time for me to get ready for bed and prepare for another day of teaching tomorrow.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hot Springs, Rain, Snow, and an Active Volcano

So my time in Pucón was much more of an adventure than I thought it would be.

It turns out the weather wasn´t suitable to climb up Volcan Villarica on Friday, so after waiting for breakfast to be served at my hostel I went around to tour companies to decide on something to do for the day.  It turns out a lot of tours had already left for the day, so from what was left I decided on a tour of the area´s parks that ended at some hot springs.  It was raining and so at least we had some coverage in the parks.

We also got to visit this lake.  Apparently on one side of the former president Michelle Bachalet used to live, and then on the other side Piñera (the current president) used to live.  There were also some signs of the earthquake still here:

After that, it was off to relax in some hot springs.  The ones we visited were actually really nice, in that they were inside a manmade pool and had a roof.  There was a changing area and lockers also.  I got to know 2 women from Santiago, a couple that were English teachers in Concepción, and a girl from Brazil.  We stayed in the hot springs for close to 2 hours just talking and enjoying it.

After that, it was back to the hostel.  I made some barely edible pasta and talked with some other people traveling that were staying at the same place.  Speaking of my hostel, it was a really nice place to stay.  It is called Paradise Pucón, and it is run by a woman named Gloria and her family.  It is very homey, as they live right on the premises and do whatever they can to make you feel at home.  Here are some pictures:

Then Saturday morning started the real adventure: the ascent up Volcan Villarica.  The van came to pick me up at 7:00, and we went to the tour company to get our gear.  I was decked out in snow hiking boots, snow pants, strappy things that went under the hiking boots, a helmet, ice pick, a helmet, and even cool ski goggles.  And this was before we even left the tour company.

It was an amazing sight from the bottom, but it got better and better as we got closer.  I got to take a ski lift for the first time ever.  The view was breathtaking.  I could see the volcano right in front of me, and all of the trees were covered in snow.  The only sound you could hear was the breeze of the wind going by.  I was amazed by the beauty of something so simple as a snow covered mountain.

After we got off the ski lift, we walked a bit and then put the racquets on our shoes.  It was totally like something out of a cartoon, but apparently they help you to walk on top of the snow and not to fall down into it. 

Then the hiking began.  Now I consider myself in good shape, but this was a workout fit for Superman.  In addition to hiking up a regular mountain, you also had to lift your legs up and over the snow as well as carry a large backpack with your food and other supplies.  After about 10 minutes I was sweating so much that I had to stop and take off my sweatshirt (as I was also wearing 2 shirts under it as well as my winter jacket).  I was having trouble keeping up, but luckily I wasn´t the only one.

A guy from Brazil that also looked to be in good shape was also struggling.  After 2 hours of hiking we made it to a rest stop, and we both decided that we were satisfied with having made it that far.  Here is the view from where we got up to:

After we got that far, we unfortunately weren´t able to sled down becuase of the ice patches.  So we walked down, but it was much faster than the ascent was.  Later in the day, we explored downtown Pucón and got some dinner.  Along the way we found this:

That´s right, it´s an alert of volcanic activity.  Each color gives characteristics of volcanic activity, and the sign gives escape routes in case if evacuation is necessary.  Then we got a delicious dinner of brasera (which is like a mini grill of lots of different types of meat).

That same night I headed out to some more hot springs, and the Brazilian guy as well as people from the tour yesterday were on this tour too.  The hot springs at Los Pozones were more natural, but they weren´t as nice as the ones from the day before.  Despite that, it was a nice way to spend my last night in Pucón. 

The trip back to Santiago was uneventful.  I had a nice breakfast at the airport, and it was probably the smallest airport I had ever seen.  There were 4 gates, with three of them literally right next to each other.  When you would board and disembark from your flight, you walked up or down a set of stairs onto the tarmac.  It was kind of like being a famous person walking off of a flight.

It is good to be back in Santiago.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Arrival in Pucón and Random Thoughts

So I am in Pucón now.

I got to the airport in Santiago in enough time to stop and enjoy Dunkin Donuts this time, which was nice since Isabel and I had to bypass it when I was there last time since we were running late.  It was only an hour and a half flight, and when I arrived in Temuco I had no idea how small the airport would be.  We walked off the plane down the stairs and then into the airport from the tarmac.  There was only a small store with some snacks and a few gates.

After that, it was a 2 hour bus ride from Temuco to Pucón.  The hostel I am staying at is run by a family, and they have a cat and dog here.  It is very homey and log cabin like, and I chatted with some people from the States and France over dinner.  It has been raining here all day, so it is nice staying in and relaxing.

So it is funny how people try to take advantage of you as a foreigner living here.  When I was coming back from Peru with Isabel, a guy at the Santiago airport offered to help carry my bag to the shuttle bus.  Then he proceeded to ask for a tip, and he told me that he would take any currency and started listing a bunch of them.  I had  some Peruvian soles with me, so I gave him  a 2 sol coin.  (That is equal to about 70 cents)  He thanked me but then when he saw what I gave him he turned to another person there and  started complaining to him about it.  Then he turned to me and started to complain to me about it.  I told him if he didn´t want it I would happyily take it back, but in the end he decided to keep it after all.

The idea of personal space and having a personal bubble does not exist here.  If you are getting on the bus and there are people in front of you, people will still push into you so that they can get on, even if there is clearly no space for you to go.  I have been pretty fortunate in that when I take the bus and metro around rush hour that I have not had to be squeezed too badly between people and the door yet.

Teaching my students has been a really cool experience.  They have some awesome and really interesting questions.  For example, one woman asked me about hyphenating words at the end of a page.  She didn´t think that you could do that in English, but I showed her what it would look like with dividing a word by the syllables.  At first I thought that something like that would be common knowledge, but now that I think about it, it is becoming less and less common.  When we type on the computer the words wrap around to the next line if they don´t fit on the line, and I think the same thing happens in books in English too.  With how much of what we do being electronic now, she wouldn´t really have had an opportunity  to see how hyphens are used  in English.

I thought I really had English down before I began teaching it full time, but I am realizing how complex of a language it is to learn and teach.  I really think about the verb tenses and why we use them when we do, and I am also realizing things like pronunciation with silent letters in words and so many other nuances of a language.  It is challenging, but exploring how to teach it and figuring out the rules of linguistics and such are really intruiging for me.

Tomorrow it will be a day of biking or horseback riding and then relaxing in some hot springs to make up for missing them in Peru.  Hopefully the rain will stop so that the day will be clear by afternoon.

Back to Santiago, time flying by, and preparing for another adventure

Time has gone by way too fast in the past two weeks.

The last part of my trip in Peru involved our tour guide not showing up to take us to the bus station when he was supposed to, and then telling us that we would take a later bus.  We literally got to the bus station and had to run to catch our bus.  The bus took off the second we were both inside.

Once we were seated, we realized that this was a local bus and not a tourist bus.  It was nowhere near as nice as the other busses we took, but they told us we would have a nice bus like we took before.  I still can't decide if the most interesting part was the smell of chickens or determining if the huge packages wrapped in multiple blankets were the local's luggage or their babies.

We took it easy in Arica and mostly hung out at the hostel, and then we caught the flight back to Santiago.  I went around shopping with Isabel, and it was cool exploring the markets that I walked by every day but was too busy to visit before. 

The Friday and Saturday after I arrived was a conference for the International Association for the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language.  It was like other conferences in the mix of useful and not good workshops,  conversation, and coffee.
It was different than past conferences I had been in a lot of different ways:
1. There were a lot less handouts in the workshops.
2. There were also no free textbooks from companies.
3. There was no heating, so most people were wearing their coats and hats inside.

I also learned that textbooks and workbooks are incredibly expensive here.  The prices are double or even triple here, and so I think I am going to try to have some friends bring some down to me.

In other news, I have started my new full time job, and I am loving it.  My students are motivated and want to learn English.  About half of my classes are in downtown, which is about a ten minute walk from the office where I plan my lessons and hang out between classes.  I feel so much better about my working situation compared to before.

I also joined a gym!  Pacific Gym has 20 some locations throughout Santiago, and with the deal I got I can go to any location.  I found one that is on the way home from my evening classes, and I can time it so that I can leave my class, hop on the metro, go to the gym, then catch the bus home all on one metro ride.  It might be hard to understand how awesome that is unless if you know how expensive the metro is or live here.

My first time at the gym I successfully embarrassed myself.  I'm somehow an expert at that, especially in new situations.  I was walking to go to an eliptical glider and didn't realize that there was a step down.  It took me going about 4 feet forward to regain my balance, and of course this happened at the peak hour of the gym. 

In a few hours I am off to the airport to go to Pucon.  It is south of Santiago, and there is a volcano that you can climb and then slide down.  There are also some hot springs, and this trip will make up for missing the hot springs due to my altitude sickness.