Sunday, November 27, 2011

Permanent Residency Visa and Thanksgiving Weekend

So it's that time of the year again.

What am I referring to, you may ask?  It's time for me to go through the visa process again, but this year is different.  I'm applying for a permanent residency visa.

The word permanent sounds, well ..... permanent.  My plan isn't to be here permanently, but the appeal of being considered a permanent resident and having a visa that is good for 5 years is very attractive to me.  It always seems like the visa process in Chile is never easy, and so if I can minimize the need to go through it I'm more than willing to do that.

So about 2 weeks ago I began compiling the neceesary paperwork.  Here's a partial list:

photocopies of my passport pages showing my previous visas
photocopy of my Chilean ID card
photocopy of my registration with the International Police
a report from the International Police showing I haven't committed any crimes
a report of all travel completed in the past year
recent photos with my ID number on the bottom with my name
photocopies showing my income with the boleta system
a letter stating why I'm applying for permanent residency
my college degrees approved by the Ministry of the Exterior

They also required proof that I had paid taxes and such in April, but by then I hadn't had my boletas and didn't have to file, so I included a letter stating so.  The same thing happened with a few other requirements.

I was anxious about missing some important piece of paperwork due to what happened this time last year.  As I was at the airport going home for Christmas last year, I got a call telling me that my visa was rejected because I didn't include all of the paperwork that they required.  The missing paperwork was easy enough to get, but I had to wait until I was back 6 weeks later to gather it and get my visa approved.

So I double and triple checked that I included everything that they said I needed before heading off to the post office.  I gave the woman there the envelope and asked for it to get certified (as requiered), and she spent a few minutes typing things up.  She gave me the paperwork for the confirmation, and she spelled my name wrong.  I pointed it out to her, and she had me correct it on the paperwork before I signed it and before it was formally submitted.

I've done everything I can, and so now I get to play the waiting game.  Hopefully by the beginning of January I will have the official letter telling me that it has been approved and is being processed, or en tramite.

With having the paperwork completed, I was able to enjoy the weekend without having it hanging over my head.  Saturday was the TeachingChile reunion, and it was great seeing everyone again.  It was on Bruce's rooftop, and there were burgers, snack, drinks, sunshine, a swimming pool, and good company.

It was really great catching up with friends I hadn't seen in a while, and we found it hard to believe that we are going on two years here.  I also met some new people that are looking to stay in Chile beyond their time with TeachingChile.

After a quick stop home I was off to a coworker's apartment for Thanksgiving Dinner.  It was mostly Americans, but there were a few people from England and a few Chileans also.  Here's what we had to eat:

Turkey casserole

carrots and sweet potatoes

spicy potatoes

mashed potatoes

mac and cheese with tomatoes and bacon, based on my Mom's recipe
Needless to say, I had a huge plate of food.  Even though we're far from home, everyone agreed that they enjoyed the dinner and it was a really nice event.  The Chileans and British also enjoyed having their first ever Thanksgiving.

I hope everyone else had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.  For now I think I'm going to go lounge by the pool.  ;-)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving in Summer, Mail from Home, and a Britney Spears Concert in my Apartment

It's hard for me to believe that today is Thanksgiving.  Besides time going by so quickly, the weather has been warm and sunny, with most days being in the 80s.  It's quite a change from the weather back home in New Jersey during this time.

It's also going to be a special Thanskgiving for another reason.  There's a protest happening!  I have been pretty fortunate (and thankful) that I haven't been caught in any tear gas bombs, water canons, or mobs of people, and hopefully it will stay that way.  I doubt that I will have any problems, as I'll be walking into town around the time the protest is starting (but coming from the south), and I only have to cross the main street Alameda once to get to my class.  After that I'll be taking a bus to Providencia, which is out of the way of the protest downtown.

Well, given the spirit of Thanksgiving, what am I thankful for?  Here's a list of things:

my good health
living in a comfortable apartment in a safe area
having hot water and a bathtub (I love taking baths to relax on the weekends)
having steady work with reliable and motivated students
working at an institute with lots of teaching resources and great bosses and coworkers
being able to buy fresh fruit and produce only a bus ride away
being able to afford to eat out from time to time and to travel
being able to pay back my student loans while here
having friends (both Chilean and non-Chilean) to hang out with here
having family and friends that communicate with me (phone calls, email, cards, packages) even though I'm so far away

That last point of thankfulness relates to my next point: mail that I've gotten from family and friends in the past month or so.

One of my close friends is always very good about sending cards for the holidays and any occasion (a new job, moving to a new country, when I need encouragement), and so I got a card for Halloween:

She has also sent me Kit kats from time to time, knowing that it's something that I enjoy and miss from home. 

Two other friends sent me a care package earlier this month:

Included are a variety pack of dry erase markers, Kit kats, post its, stickers, assorted candy, and a People magazine.  I love dry erase markers in different colors because it adds some variety to my teaching, and the magazine is perfect becuase I can talk with my students about pop culture, physical appearances, and what people are wearing.  And believe it or not, even adults like getting stickers when they do a good job on tests and quizzes.

They both came down to Santiago at the same time as me and returned back to the States, one after 6 months and another after a year.  Now they are both teaching at the same school in Colorado.

About a week after that, I got another package!  This one came from my dad and was brought over by a friend's parents from Jersey that were visiting.

This package had dress pants (which would cost over twice as much here and aren't sold in specific lengths so they you'd have to go to a tailor to get them adjusted), more dry erase markers and Kit Kats, a book about teaching German that I can use for classes now, and Zihr face products. 

I've been using Zirh since I was in my early 20s, and they are the one thing that I needed from home that can't be sent in the mail becuase they're gels or liquids.  They are apparently going out of business.  This makes me sad, as they have a great line of products that I have used religiously with great results.  Most people that I meet are surprised to learn that I'm turning 30 in February.

Yesterday afternoon (The day before Thanksgiving) I got home early due to a cancelled class, and I had a surprise package waiting for me.  As I rode up the elevator I was trying to figure out why I was getting a package from my dad now, as I hadn't requested anything.

When I got into my apartment and opened the box, this is the first thing I saw:

So I checked out the contents of the box, and here's what was inside:

There's a Santa hat, a Christmas decoration, a Christmas bag with candy, Kit Kats, Christmas cards, and some wrapped gifts.

So I called home to thank my dad for the package, and he didn't believe me.  Why not?

He mailed the package on November 16th, and I received it on November 23rd.

Before mail has usually taken about 3 weeks, and in one case I got a package in 2 weeks.  He thought that it would probably arrive in mid December, but here I am with the package the day before Thanksgiving.  So now I just have to wait a month before I can open my gifts.

Completely changing the topic, Britney Spears came to Santiago on Tuesday.  She's incredibly popular here, and she was performing at the Estadio Nacional 4 blocks from my apartment.  I considered going to the concert since I saw some people trying to sell tickets they couldn't use, but I was going to be getting out of class at 8:30 or so and the concert was at 9.  So I decided to cook, do some work around the apartment, and enjoy the concert with my windows open. 

Granted it was nothing like going to a concert live, but then again I'm not a huge Britney fan.  She's got some great songs and classics that everyone knows, but it wouldn't have been worth the cots for me.  And I was surprised when the concert was over shortly before 10:30.  Perhaps it's just me, but if I'm paying for a concert I'd usually expect it to be closer to two hours.

So besides avoiding teargas and water cannons, how am I going to spend my Thanksgiving?  I have class today from 2 until 8 (my morning class was canceled), and by the time I get home it'd be too late to go out to do any type of Thanksgiving dinner.  So I'm picking up Peruvian food on my way home and will enjoy that tonight.  Then Saturday is the TeachingChile reunion and a Thanksgiving dinner that a coworker is hosting at her place.

I don't know about anyone else, but for me it's very easy to fall into a pattern of feeling like I don't make enough money, I don't have enough material possessions, and feeling like my life would be more complete if I only had (fill in the blank).  It's also very easy for me to compare myself to my brothers and to other people my age in that same way, but I've grown to realize that such an attitude is not helpful at all.  Rather than thinking about what is lacking in my life or what I don't have that I'd like, it's much more beneficial to realize how fortunate I am and focus on what I do have.  And that's one reason why Thanksgiving is a great holiday and is annual reminder for me about that.

Thanks for reading and Happy Thanksgiving from Chile everyone!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Experiment Results and Oktoberfest

So October is over, and so is my monthlong experiment in frugality.

What were the results of the experiment?  Well, here's my best shot at summarizing them.

Despite having 6 hours less of classes and one week with 8 hours of cancellations from private classes on top of that (all cancelled within the required time period and therefore unpaid), I was able to get through the month without having to withdraw money from my bank account or use a credit card.  This month reinforced the notion to me that it's so easy to spend money more easily when you have a larger income, but in those months when you have less income it's very easy to want to kick yourself for eating out so much or spending money the way you did when you had more of it.  I realize that this doesn't happen just to me, but to almost anyone in that situation.

I also found that it's not really that difficult to watch my spending.  I did two main things to help spend less money.  The first was that I only carried around the amount of cash I knew I would need (I never carried around credit cards here anyway), and I exercised self discipline in asking myself if I really needed what I wanted to buy or if it was an impulse buy that wasn't necessary.  Most of the time it was an impulse buy, and with a little forethought and planning I could avoid the situation.  Most days I pack my lunch and snacks throughout the day, and it simply required the planning to prepare everything the day before.

Walking when I would normally take the bus also helped this month.  I walked to most of my morning classes, and a few days when the weather was nice I walked home.  The walk each way was usually about an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes, and it was a nice way to give myself time to think and clear my mind.  I also found that the exercise got my blood flowing and I felt more relaxed by the time I got to my classes or home.

With that being said, I didn't deprive myself of all spending during the month.  I ordered pizza twice during the month.  I realized how expensive it was and recognized it as a luxury, but I also knew that I worked hard during the week and wasn't in the mood to cook.  When one of my afternoon classes cancelled when I was on the way there I had about an hour and a half to kill before my next class, and so I went to the metro escuela militar which has some shops and places to eat.  Earlier in the day I decided I was going to get a sandwich at Subway for dinner, so I decided to go to the Subway there to pass the time.

Then on the weekend I went with some friends to Oktoberfest.  No, it wasn't the real one in Munich, but it was the closest thing you can find here in Chile.  It was in a town called Malloco half an hour (in theory) outside of Santiago, but becuase of it being a Saturday and the first day it took us over two hours to get there.

Once we got there, it was worth it.  It was about 80 degrees, clear and sunny.  There were a lot of people, but the area was huge.  We spent some time waiting in lines, but we passed the time catching up or talking to the people in line with us.  I got to eat sausages (although they weren't German bratwursts), churros, and tried a few different types of beers.  A lot of stands sold glass Biersteins that you could get refilled, so I got one and then was able to keep it as a souvenir. 

By the end of the day I had spent about 15.000 pesos at Oktoberfest, which is about $30.  In the grand scheme of things it really wasn't that much money, and it was a fun experience. 

So what is my conclusion of the experiment in frugality?

1. It takes a bit of self discipline and planning.
2.It makes you decide how you really are willing to spend your money.
3. It makes you walk the fine line of being frugal but at the same time not depriving yourself of things.
4. I also had to think what was the purpose of saving this money and if I really wanted to or not.
5. It's very easy to accumulate things that really don't have much value, and I'd much rather spend my money on experiences like traveling or one time events like Oktoberfest.

This month I'm looking forward to my students returning from vacation, more warm and sunny weather, and possibly taking a weekend to go relax on the beach.