Thursday, February 21, 2013

3 years and a few days

Monday February 18th, 2013.  That was the 3 year anniversary of my arrival in Chile.

Who knew that I would be staying here as long as I have so far?  Surely my family and friend didn´t.  They probably saw it as another one of my travel adventures, much like my exchange year in Germany, semester in Spain, and vacations to Mexico.

I don´t know exactly what it was about Chile, but I´ve always wanted to come here.  As crazy as this sounds, I remember being about 9 years old and saying to myself "Santiago, Chile.  That sounds like a cool place.  I´m going to go there."  I don´t remember if I ever told my parents that at that age, so I´ll have to ask my dad if he remembers that at all.

Did I do anything special to celebrate the occasion?  Not really.  On Sunday evening I met up with some expats that are new to the area, and we went out for Peruvian food for dinner.  Talking about what brought them to Chile and their experiences made me realize how much time has gone by and how much I love it here.

As for Monday, I had a morning class but was home by 1:00.  I´ve gotten into the habit of taking an extended nap after lunch, and then I stayed in doing some reading and watching Family Guy.  Too much free time has caused me to become fairly lazy, so I´m looking forward to things picking up again come March when everyone returns from vacation.

So what have I been doing that is actually productive with my free time?

1. I got a Magic Bullet as a Christmas gift.  I´ve used it to make smoothies and scrambled eggs.  It has been fun experimenting with different fruits and combinations of ice, apple juice, and Greek yogurt.  For eggs the container is microwave safe, but you have to catch the eggs before they explode unless you are a fan of cleaning up the mess afterwards.  The step down converter is working well with it, and I´m looking forward to experimenting with it bit by bit.
2. I´ve given my apartment a deep clean.  I don´t think you realize how dirty things can get unless you take a really good look at them.  I clean the kitchen and bathroom floors weekly, but I had never cleaned the grooves between the tiles before.  Let´s just say that toothbrush and cup of bleach went to good use.
3. Along with the deep clean, I´ve gone through my closet and kitchen organizing things better.  I can now open the shelf above the stove without fear of things falling out, and I´m passing on old things that I no long have any use for.
4. I´ve made plans to meet up with friends.  The city is pretty empty now, so it´s nice to go out for a meal or coffee.  I´ve also had friends over to enjoy some Wii and pool time, but my tan still leaves a lot to be desired.

March will mark a return of people to Santiago.  That means a return to classes with students, crowded buses and subways, and having an income again!  Luckily my planning has allowed me to eat out a bit here and there and not worry too much about money, but I am looking forward to returning to work.

Have a Happy rest of February everyone!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Air and Water

There have been two big events concerning natural resources here in Chile.

The first one is an anti-tobacco law that will go into effect March 1st.  Smoking is very cheap and very commonplace in Chile, and going out to eat or any bar or disco will usually result in lots of exposure to secondhand smoke.  This new law prohibits smoking within public enclosed places.

This is a huge step for Chile, and I really hope that it is enforced.  I would enjoy going out with friends so much more if I didn´t have to deal with secondhand smoke.

The other big event was two water cutoffs in the past 3 weeks.

The first one occurred on the 22nd of January.  Apparently mud and debris got into the water supply after heavy rains, and so the company Aguas Andinas warned people about its plan.  A lot of people were affected, and they were upset with the cutoff as well as the short notice that was given.

That first cutoff didn´t affect me, but the one that happened this weekend did.  I happened to notice a friend post about it on Facebook on Friday the 9th around 9 at night.  It was set to go into effect at midnight that night and go for 24 hours, so I made sure to fill up my water bottles, wash the dishes, and make ice cubes.  I had showered earlier in the day so I didn´t have to worry about that.

When I woke up in the morning I was surprised to see that I had water after all. I went about my business, and I told a friend who didn´t have water to feel free to come over and shower.  After my friend showering for about a minute apparently the water stopped.  I didn´t have water anywhere else either.

I found out that my apartment building had an emergency supply of water, and it had lasted until the afternoon when my friend was showering.  No big deal, I thought.  The water cutoff is only until midnight.  There were some emergency areas set up where you could get water in jugs that you bring, but I wouldn´t need it.  And I didn´t have jugs to store water in anyway.

Well, it ended up being longer.

I used the toilet when I woke up Sunday morning.  Let´s just say I wasn´t very happy when I went to flush it and was met with no response.

After checking the news online the following morning, Aguas Andinas was now saying that some areas could only expect to get water again at midnight.  So that meant an additional 24 hours without water.

When you go for a period of time without water, you begin to realize how much you take it for granted.  I was unable to wash my hands, brush my teeth, shower, do dishes, and flush my toilet without using bottled water I had saved up.  Luckily I wasn´t in need of doing any cleaning or laundry during that time.

So, how did it end up affecting me on the second day? Besides the smelly toilet, that is.

Well, I luckily had enough clean dishes and bowls to have a breakfast of cereal without a problem.  I had plans to catch up with a friend at Starbucks.  Seeing that so much of the city was affected by the water cutoff I wondered if they would even be open.  It turns out they were, but they were only selling juices and food.  No coffee or tea, and no restrooms.

After meeting up a Chilean friend offered to let me shower at his place, and after that we made some lunch at my place. Lider was out of bottled water, but at the OK Market we picked up two large bottles so that we´d be able to cook and wash our hands.

We managed to prepare salads as well as oven baked chicken, but the obstacle of the water made us realize how much we take water for granted.  It wasn´t easy pouring water into each other´s hands given both of our hands were covered in mayonaise and breadcrumbs.

After a nice meal I laid down for a nap, and I woke up around 5:00.  I used the bathroom and decided to try my luck flushing the toilet.

And I have to tell you, I had never been so grateful to hear a toilet flush in my life.

As far as I can tell everything is back to normal with the water supply, but a lot of people are upset with the water company.  They feel that they should have a system in place to prevent this from happening again, or at least inform people with more notice.  Some of my friends were out at a party when they heard, and by that point it was too late for them to prepare.

This also makes me realize how difficult situations like these must be for families.  I don´t have children or dependents to care for, so I just had to be sure that I was ok for the unexpected extended period.

I feel that I use water rather sparingly and that I had an appreciation of it before this event.  Now so more than ever I am grateful to have clean running water at my disposal when I need it.

Wrapping Up, Adventures in Miami, a Birthday Barbecue, and Back in Santiago

I'm back in Santiago and updating from Condi, my favorite nearby coffee shop.

As always, time has flown by.  Before leaving we had a family party to celebrate the February birthdays.  Due to my departure on the 28th of January we celebrated the day before, so very early.  At least that way we could all celebrate together.  The food was great and I enjoyed catching up with family, some of whom I hadn't seen since the same party last year.  I was a bad photographer and forgot to get everyone together for a group picture this time, but at least I got a picture of the cake:

My last night in Jersey was spent catching up with the friends.  They were ironically the same friends that I spent my last night in the States with before I made the big move down here 3 years ago, and once again there was a forecast of snow that was threatening my chances of getting on my flight.

Luckily it ended up being only rain with some light snow, so my flight wasn't affected at all.  Since we were going to Miami together Dana picked me up and we went to the airport together.  I got on my flight without a problem, but Dana had some trouble getting on her flight.  (She flies standby and her original flight ended up being full, but she got on a later flight.)

The flight was only about 3 hours, and after getting a shuttle to the hostel it was nice to put down my bags and relax.  This was my first time staying in a hostel in the States, but it was really nice.  The room had 4 beds in a bunk bed arrangement, complete with a mini shelf with power outlets and a lamp inside per person as well as a mini curtain to be able to talk to the person across from you or have your privacy.  We had our own bathroom and an in-room air conditioner too.  Not bad for 98 bucks a night in Miami Beach.

In the dorm bed.

The curtain is on the left.
I was getting hungry so I went out to explore and get some dinner.  I wanted to get something nice, so I went down to Lincoln Blvd.  It´s a pedestrian area with lots of restaurants and shops.  I sat down at the outside terrace at one place after the waiter raved about the food and service and Tripadvisor rating, but it took them over 10 minutes to get me a menu and then after waiting an additional 5 I didn´t even get the glass of water I requested.  I got up and left and decided to try my luck elsewhere.

I moved to an Italian restaurant.  The drink they gave me was strong, but the serviceand food was horrid on multiple levels.  I ended up complaining and got my meal for free, and then I decided to explore the area some more.

I was wondering what was happening with Dana and after looking at my phone she had texted me that she was on the shuttle on the way to the hostel about half an hour before then.  I was at least a 40 minute walk from there, so I scrambled to figure out how to get back quickly.  I walked along looking for bus stops but didn´t see any.  I didn´t want to pay for a taxi if I could help it, and then I saw my saving grace:

In Miami Beach and South Beach a company runs a shuttle/taxi service for free.  You just flag them down and tell them where you want to go.  They have a TV in the back seats, advertising on the outside and inside, and will blast music while you cruise around.  The only catch is that the drivers only earn tips.  My particular driver that night was a guy named Jonsie from Philadephia, so we talked about life down there and back up north during the ride.  It was a really cool experience.

By the time Dana arrived it was almost 11 and we were tired, so we just stayed in.

The following days included a lot of beach time, some drinks and food along the beach, and our sandals breaking on both of us at random times while we were walking. Rather than boring you with too many details here are some pictures summing up our time there:

A turkey sandwich from a Cuban deli

This sandal broke on the beach.  The other one broke while
getting up to use the restroom at the Cuban deli. 

These margaritas were 2 for 1 during happy hour, 44 ounces each!

Fresh bread!
Cheese ravioli with meatballs!

Waiting for breakfast!
Probably the most orange orange juice I've ever had
Breakfast special for 4.99!

Lunch special for 9.50!
A sandwich from a French deli
More of their offerings
There was one thing that really impacted me on my last day there.  I had checked out of the hostel at 11 and had time to kill until 5, so I was walking around exploring some more when I came across an area that said it had The Freedom Mural inside.  It sounded interesting so I decided to check it out.

Inside was a wealth of art from a variety of artists, all with the common theme of unity, peace, and love.  There was an immigration wall with art as well as quotes about immigrants and immigration.  I chatted with one of the curators, and one of the artists was there.  I told her that it was really inspiring to see someone using art to educate others and bring people together, and it made me think of one of my friends Judy in Mexico.  She has retired in Tepoztlan, a small town near Mexico City, and she has devoted her time to sharing the beauty of art with the children there.  She helps them create murals, use hubcaps to create art, and similar projects.

Even though I was only there for a short time and only had a short conversation with her, it was great to see people helping other people and sending a positive message out to the world.  If you want to see more information about her work, you can visit

I eventually made my way back to the hostel and then was on my way to the airport.  After having bought a few souvenirs for friends in Santiago my bags were now bulging.  One of them ended up being overweight, but after shifting my things around it ended up being ok.  I then ran into problems having one bag too many as a carry on, so I had to combine three bags into two at the security line.  I finally managed and got through with about 20 minutes til boarding.

The flight was uneventful, and I got back to my apartment safe and sound.  It was a great feeling to be back to my own place.  Besides unpacking and sleeping the only other thing happening that day was going out for a few drinks to celebrate a friend´s birthday.

Before I knew it, it was Saturday (my birthday)!  I promised myself I wasn´t going to the emergency room on my birthday this year, and I kept it.  I picked up a chocolate cake from Condi, and some friends (Ann and Rodrigo) helped me do the shopping and prepare the food.  Rodrigo was the grillmeister and took care of all the meat, and Ann did the decorating and prepared the barebecue area.

All in all about 15 people made it, and it was a great time.  In the end I actually had more Chilean than gringo friends in attendance, and it was a satisfying feeling knowing that I have established true friendships with the locals here.  It officially started at 7 and we had the barbecue area booked until 2, but by the time everything wrapped up it was almost 3:30 in the morning.

My dear uncle Rodrigo preparing papas con mayo

Quincho means barbecue area

Some decorations prepared by my dear aunt Ann
Some of the refreshments and snacks.  I can never be
cheesy enough!

Some gifts from friends

The grillmeister
Some friends talking
Chorripan!  Grilled sausage then put into bread to make
a mini sandwich
Pasandolo bien
More of pasandolo bien
The cake
Feliz cumple!

Some great friends
More great friends
Now that all that is over, I should be back to work.  The only problem is I only have one class at the moment.  My other private classes are on vacation, and despite searching for other prospects I haven´t had any luck.  It´s a bit discouraging, but I have been capitalizing on the free time by meeting up with friends, giving my apartment a deep clean, catching up on reading and enjoying time at the pool.

Despite that, I am keeping a positive mindset and know that classes will all work out given some patience on my part.