Thursday, May 19, 2011

A flu shot, teargas, and Paul McCartney

I've been meaning to update with a few adventures, but I've found myself getting easily distracted and being lazy.  My dad mentioned on the phone that people were asking about my blog, so it was a good incentive to get back on here and update.

Getting a flu shot seems to be a pretty easy thing to do, right?  Just make an appointment at the doctor and get the shot.  I can speak Spanish and know my way around, so I figured how hard can it be?

Anyone who has lived in Chile for a while probably laughed or at least cracked a smile at me being so naive.  So the adventures of getting a flu shot started at the phramacy.  It turns out that you have to go there to get your shot, and there's a discount with my health insurance (CruzBlanca, literally White Cross) and one of the pharmacies (Salcobrand) so I went to get my shot. 

So I paid for my shot, and the phramacist handed me this:

You're looking at 3 things here. 

1. a stylish grey insulated case
2. a small ice pack
3. a small box with the vaccination

When I asked about getting the shot, she explained that I have to take it to a clinica or hospital to get someone to actually give me the shot.  In the meantime I should store it in the freezer so it doesn't go bad.

So I dutifully went home and stored the shot until I could do some research on where I could get it administered a few days later.  With my health insurance there are places you can go to called costo cero (zero cost) centers for routine procedures and things that aren't major, and I found one two blocks from my apartment.  I went there the following morning and got there early to avoid any lines and crowds, not expecting too many problems.  You can start laughing now.

I showed the woman at the desk the shot, and she told me they wouldn't accept it.  I explained to her that I did exactly what they told me with keeping it in the freezer, but it turns out that they wouldn't accept it since I didn't within an hour of then.  She explained that while people may keep it in their freezer, not everyone keeps their freezers at a standardized temperature and they can't guarantee that it's still effective unless if people arrive within an hour of buying it.  She advised me to get the receipt and exchange it for a new one at the pharmacy and to come back.

OK, I can do that.  Start laughing again.

So I went home and got the receipt.  There was a Salcobrand pharmacy inside the costo cero center I was just at, so I brought it there and explained the situation.  The pharmacist kindly explained that they don't sell any flu shots at that location.  This doesn't really seem to make much sense seeing that it's a 15 second walk from the area specifically to get shots, but it's the situation.

I then remembered that there was another Salcobrand about a 10 minute walk from there, and so I decided to exchange it there.  After explaining the situation to a pharmacist she called her boss over, and he told me that he couldn't accept it.  I would have to return it to the exact location in downtown Santiago, which is near my work but about a 20-25 minute bus ride from where I live.  How hard are you laughing now?

So when I went into work I brought the flu shot in with me, and once my classes were over I brought it in and explained the situation.  I was wearing a dress shirt and tie, and I smiled the entire time I talked.  I calmly explained that I did everything the pharmacy told me to do, yet they refused to give me the shot due to the one hour window.  After about 20 minutes of them filling in paperwork and typing away at the computer, I successfully got the shot exchanged for a new one.

The receipt read 3:27 when I stepped out of the pharmacy.  I felt like I was in Run Lola Run minus the amazing soundtrack and a sidekick.  I got to the bus stop in a few minutes, but it was over a 20 minute wait for the bus.  By the time I got off the bus, it was 4:18.  I made my way to the costo cero center, and after speaking with the receptionist I found out a startling fact.  Namely, costo cero (zero cost) does not mean that you will have zero cost for services there.  I did not have any cash on me, and I had 9 minutes before the shot would expire.  You have permission to keep laughing at my expense.

The saving grace in the situation is that I explained that I live a few blocks away and asked if they could keep the flu shot in a freezer until I got back within 20 minutes, and she agreed.  After getting some money at home and coming back, I paid the 3200 pesos (about 7 dollars) waited for about 10 minutes until they called my name and took me into a room.  They got the shot out of the freezer and gave it to me.  I thanked the nurse as well as the receptionist for their help.

And so that's how to get a flu shot in Chile.

If you've been following the news here at all, you've heard about Hidroaysen project.  It's basically a huge project that will build a dam in southern Chile and power lines stretching the length of the entire country that will provide energy to big businesses.  It has been passed in one of the steps of government and needs a few more steps for it to become a reality.  A lot of people are against it becuase it will destroy huge areas of natural beauty as well as wipe out famous Chilean landmarks, and they also don't want to see big business making a profit off of a situation like that.  If you want to read more about it, follow this link:

Naturally, people have been protesting the project, as they feel it does not represent the people and they are against the destruction of the environment.  While these protests have been peaceful for the most part, police have been using teargas and water cannons with the crowds.  Some of my coworkers have gotten caught up in the protests and have been subjected to the teargas, and recently I read that the Chilean government has suspended the use of teargas when protests are peaceful.  It shall certainly be interesting to see how protests will happen after this and how the police will respond to them.

On a happier note, Paul McCartney gave a concert here last week at the Estadio Nacional, and once again I was able to hear it from my apartment.  He played some Beatles classics, including Hello, Goodbye, Get Back, and Yesterday.  Unfortunately I was only able to record one of the songs.  It isn't loading now, but I will try to get it on here sometime soon.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Apartment, A Work Party, Osama, and Mother's Day

The apartment is finally furnished!  This is exciting news, is it has taken close to two months to complete this process.  Here are some much anticipated pictures:

Apparently my boss likes to have a welcoming back party once everyone has returned from vacationing in January and February, but it hadn't happened.  So I volunteered my place for the event.

I was apprehensive at first.  Not becuase of my work colleagues or boss, mind you, but because I had never been much of a successful party planner in the past.  As I was going out to buy the food and clean the apartment I had flashbacks of having "parties" at my apartment back in Los Angeles with 12 people RSVPing and only two showing up.  A few people called me to let me know that something had come up, but the majority of people didn't even bother.  I ended up being left with tons of food and alcohol the day before I left for Christmas break and then my semester in Spain.

But this turned out much differently.  Almost everyone showed up who said they would, and it was a BYOB event.  It was simply good people, good food, and good fun.  People seemed surprised at how easy it was to get to my place.  Even though it´s not near a metro stop, you can get a bus from downtown and several other areas that drop you off within a 2 block walk of my apartment.  We all kept each other cozy, and we somehow fit 16 of us into the place.

After Sun Chips, homemade garlic bread, and pizza (it was my first time using the oven), we moved the party to Plaza Ñuñoa.  Zukai Sushi is a really nice place to eat there.  It´s known for having delicious sushi, great drinks, and excellent service.  We were able to get the upstairs room reserved just for us, and we were lucky to be the first group that got to eat up there.  It had its own flat screen TV, a stereo with music separate from downstairs, and seating for about 20 (but there were 12 or so of us).  For many people it was their first time to Plaza Ñuñoa, and it looks like it won´t be their last either.  It was a really nice night, and I feel fortunate to have such great people here.

I hate to ruin such an upbeat post with the news of Osama´s death, but I would feel remiss being an American living abroad and not addressing it.  I woke up that Monday morning and turned on my laptop.  As I waited for it to start up I fixed my breakfast of whole grain cereal and a banana like always.  I checked my emails and Facebook like usual, and I was puzzled when I saw posts from people about being proud to be an American.  As I scrolled further, however, I saw posts that revealed the news.  I then went to CNN and read the news articles there.

Reading the news really affected me.  It brought back memories of seeing the news reports and the towers tumbling down and sitting in a neighbor´s dorm room to watch the news.  I remember calling home to my parents to talk to them, even though we were in South Jersey and well out of the way of where things took place.  While I didn´t have anyone suddenly taken from me on 9/11 like some people did, it brought back memories of my mother's death about 4 years ago and the feelings of loss that naturally go along with it.

It has been a challenge to find peace with her death, as cancer is something that will unfortunately continue to affect people.  I felt a sense of happiness and relief with this news, not becuase of the death of Osama, but as I hope that it can help those families to have some closure and let their loved ones rest in peace.

Then there's the news reports showing people dancing in the streets.  Before making a judgement about the situation, I have to consider a few things.  In one sense, I'm an insider to the situation being an American.  In a few other senses, however, I'm an outsider.  I didn't lose anyone in 9/11, and I am living outside of the States now.

That being said, it hurts me to see people celebrating the death of someone.  Yes, what he did was horrible and resulted in the deaths of thousands of Americans.  While I think an inner sense of relief and happiness is natural for anyone who experienced loss during 9/11, I just don't feel that celebrating in that way is dignified.   I can't say for sure, but I have the sense that not everyone who was dancing in the streets experienced a direct loss due to Osama.  While I'm not in a position to judge others since I'm not in their situation, in any case I feel like it's a poor reflection of our country and how we are seen on the world stage.

Since it's Mother's Day, today I'm going to spend the day relaxing and reflecting on my mom's life.  I found this picture of us together from my last orchestra concert in high school.  She was so proud of my musical accomplishments and you can see the emotion in her in this picture.  Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

May Already

I have been meaning to update for the past week or so, but I have admittedly started to become lazy with doing so. 

April feels like it was a rather uneventful month.  With the exception of running workshops for new teachers at work, there is nothing much new with my job.  As for my apartment, I got a coffee table that matches the sofa and also has a mirror surface.

When I was at the food store last week, I found a pleasant surprise:

Yes, those are Sunchips!  They now carry all 3 varieties ath the local food store.  They are a bit expensive (1790 pesos, or about $3.50) but definitely worth it from time to time.

And now that I think about it, April did actually have a few cool events.  Easter was not conventional by any stretch of the imagination.  There was no Easter eggs, or chocolate bunnies.  Instead there was a visit to Fantisilandia.

I thought that there was going to be a lot of people since it was a holiday, but a lot of Santiguinos actually left Santiago for the weekend.  The longest we waited in a line was 10 minutes, and we got on every single ride we wanted to.  There was a train ride which had scenes from Little Red Riding Hood and other random things that was pretty cool that I hadn't seen before.  We got some ice cream and went on the Crazy Dance right after it, and with all of the spinning I was afraid I was going to lose the ice cream.  Luckily I sat down and let my stomach rest for a while and then I was fine.  I hope that wasn't a sign that I'm getting too old for amusement parks.

The other thing was the TeachingChile reunion.  It was really great seeing old friends as well as getting to know some of the new people in the group.  They had the signature Mexican food from Mi Jugo as well as snacks and refreshments.  It was warm and sunny during the afternoon and it turned into a cool autumn night.

My projects for the month of May are as follows:

1. Clean the apartment so it's decent enough to take pictures and post here.
2. Have coworkers over for a party so they see the new place.
3. Have friends (Chilean and non-Chilean) over for a separate occasion to see the new place.
4. Do some type of day trip to get out of Santiago for the day.

That's all for now.