Saturday, January 14, 2012

Karaoke in the Park, Online Bill Pay, and Counting Down the Days

While people back home are enjoying an usually mild winter, I am in the middle of summer in Santiago.  The summer weather has afforded opportunities for barbeques and parties in the sun, and I went to an event last weekend.

At first it was only for the Spanish/German language exchange, but then the other language groups got in on it too.  It was at a park near the Estacion Central area of Santiago, and I had a great time.  There was plenty of food and drinks, warm weather, plenty of shade sitting under the sun, good company, and karaoke.  I'm not known for having good singing skills, but I sang 99 Luftballoons in German and then Otherside by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It was great chatting with new people and getting to speak a mix of Spanish, German, and English.

Since I'll be home in 23 days, I've started doing the little things to preapre for the trip.  One of those things is figuring out how I'll pay my bills while I'm gone.  Living on my own no one will be there to get my bills.  I considered leaving a statement with the doormen and finding a friend to pay the bills while I'm gone, but then I found out that I can pay bills online here!

While this certainly doesn't sound like a big deal to most of you, it's something really nice here.  Usually you have to do one of two things to pay your bills here:
1. take your bills to a grocery store, input the information into a computer that then gives you a ticket that verifies the account and amount, and then pay when you check out.
2. take your bills to a bill pay center (here most are called ServiPag) and wait in line from 5 to 25 minutes to pay your bills.

I've gotten used to doing one of the two things listed above, but after poking around on my bank account online I figured out how to pay online.  It's pretty similar to back in the States: create a new payee and indicate the company, account number, etc.  (but here you don't indicate the name on the account or address).  Then verify the amount and pay the bill.

There is one striking difference in regards to security.  In order to pay bills or transfer money out of your account, you need a clave de transferencia or a transfer key.  Here's what it looks like:

For each letter and number combination, there's a 2 digit number in each box.  I've covered up all but the top half for security reasons ;-)  In order to finalize any transfer of money out of your account, the website will ask you for 3 random codes, for example J1 C3 A5.  You then input the matching numbes and your transfer is complete!

From the looks of it, the only bill I can't pay online is my internet, but being able to pay 3 out of 4 isn't bad at all.

Now that it's 2012 and less than a month til I return home, I find that I'm counting down the days.  There's actually 22 days left until I land in the JFK airport in New York.  I just looked at my passport, and I arrived back in Santiago February 4th of last year.  This means that by the time I will arrive back home I will have been outside the United States for a year and 2 days.

That will have been (future perfect for those English teachers out there reading this!) the longest I will have been outside the States.  Prior to this it has been between 7 and 11 months at a time, but never an entire year. 

Each day I find myself looking forward to the visit home: relaxing with my dad watching TV, catching up with my brother and sister in law while their cats wander around and vie for affection, visiting my aunts and uncles, spending time with friends playing video games or Magic.  Then there's the things I miss from home: the one stop shopping and seemingly endless variety of products with cheap prices at Target, having a car to get around, good customer service, clean air, TV with clear reception, Panera Bread, In n Out Burger, Philly pretzels, pizza steaks, good clothing at affordable prices.  I'm sure there's more, but I think you get the idea.

On Wednesday I decided to treat myself since I was hungry and craving a hamburger and free refills.  There's a chain restaurant called Mamut that's very Americanized, with burgers, fries, and free refills.  I've eaten here a few times before. 

And here are a few random pictures I forgot to post earlier:
Christmas gifts from some of my students: Bailey's Irish Cream, chocolates from Valdivia, and tea

Metro Tobalaba.  The blue lights and modern appearance makes me feel like I'm in an episode of StarTrek.
 That's all for now.  I hope everyone's 2012 is off to a good start!

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