Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We were just going to have left-overs. We hadn't planned anything special... but last minute I decided to run to the store and grab some stuff to make a nice dinner. It is top secret, but I'll tell you it involves rib-eye and pioneer woman... well not exactly the woman herself, but her website.

I got to sleep in until 9 today (this is major when you have kids). I went running. I am now showered and clean (the only proper way to leave a decade, right?) I survived the new year's eve supermarket last minute rush with NO obsecenities... ok, maybe a few remarks under my breath, but it was very zen-like. We'll have a nice dinner some champagne (not necessarily at midnight, but... you know, we are old)... and just like that 2009 will be over.

I have no resolutions. Normally I joke that I only make suggestions for my husband's improvement because I have already achieved perfection. Of course, that is false false false, but I get a good laugh over it. I don't like resolutions, it is too much pressure... and really, how can I top a Ph.D. in 2009.

However, if I had one hope for myself for the next decade it would be to learn how to embrace happiness in the moment. It sounds so simple, but sheesh it is hard for me to accomplish.

embrace happiness... embrace happiness... embrace happiness (that and be more patient, less bossy, less controlling, more flexible, more fun, more spontaneous... which are all, of course, intertwined)

That is my mantra for the next decade. (which is a pretty tall order for an anti-resolution).

Whatever you have planned or not, whatever you resolve to do or not, I hope you have a smashing good time tonight, bring with you all that was good in 2009, leave behind all that was negative in 2009, tomorrow you re-start the clock with a clean slate.

(and know this my bloggy friends, connecting more with some of you via blogging has been one of my highlights of 2009, so I will think of you tonight and hope that you are embracing happiness in your square foot of the universe)


Monday, December 28, 2009

... and now it is over...

We have had a good week...

We played outside in the leaves and had a leaf fight with papi. I won the fight when I stuffed a handful of leaves down his pants. As I reflect back over 2009, I think that this moment of sheer glee may have been my highlight for the year.

The kids have laughed a lot and stayed up late.

We now have a house full of trucks of all sizes.

Our friends invited us over for a seafood boil, which was divine. I made pisco sour which was fabulous and flan which was sublime.

There is always a strange feeling when Christmas is over. So much build up and then it is gone. I can't believe it is the last week of 2009.

New Year's Eve looks promising... not because we have exciting plans, but because this may be the first year, in many, that we actually make it to midnight.

I hope your Christmas was lovely. Are you ready to ring in 2010?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Crocodile Tears

I don't know if you knew this about me... but I am a softy and a sap.

I think I have cried at some point during every movie on earth.

If there is: love at first sight, love after conflict, an unrequited love, a rekindled love, a new love, a lost love, a birth, a death, a sickness, a mother-daughter moment, a father-son moment, sibling rivalry, someone lost, someone found, a new house, a house burned-down, a special gift, a surprise, a promise fulfilled, a promise broken, war, peace, a kiss, an almost kiss, a refused kiss, an animal in danger, a heroic moment, success, a failure, a wave good-bye, a hug hello, if someone says "I'm sorry" or "I've always loved you", if someone cries...

I will shed a tear or two... I may even request a box of tissue.

Luckily, my husband is a softy too. We look at each other during a poignant moment to see if the other has teared up yet. If you cry first, there is an unspoken agreement that you have lost... and then we laugh.

I cry at everthing, but I think tonight... I hit a new low...

I cried at a Folger's commercial.

It is before Christmas. There is a knock at the front door. A traveller has arrived after a long absence. His sister, who has been waiting for him opens the door. They put on a pot of Folger's and the smell wakes up their parents. They intuitively know that he has arrived and get out of bed. Meanwhile, downstairs the world-traveller gives his sister a gift from a far-off land. She takes off the bow and puts it on him. She says: You're my gift this year.

(... signal...) the springing of the tears

What a sap huh? Or did that one get you too?

I was alone, but I am pretty sure my husband would have cried too, and that makes me feel a little less lame.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Next time: Movie-yes; Lunch-not-so-much

Yesterday morning we had a girls' morning out. G and I went with her neighborhood bff and my neighborhood bff (who also happen to be a mother-daughter team) to see the Princess and the Frog (very cute btw, if you can stomach Disney movies).

We don't take G to the movies very often, but I am happy that she is old enough to sit through one at the theater. I am also glad that kids' movies are full of kids with their parents--so when G exclaims out loud "There's a kitty" or "Mickey Mouse!"--it fits right in with all the other kids who talk out loud during movies (Why is he sad? Oooh a frog!, etc.) G loved it, though we had to go out to get popcorn (you must have the whole movie experience, no?) close to the end.

After the movie my friend asked if we wanted to have lunch. I said Ok, because I try to be brave, even though eating out with kids is my very definition of hell. It is SO NOT relaxing. We rarely eat out. Really only when my father-in-law is visiting, (when we eat out several times a week, at fancy restaurants, way too late in the evening where we spend most of the dining experience entertaining/taking to the restroom/feeding/cleaning up after/and quieting kids) and those moments of extreme pleasure last us until the next year when he visits.

We went to Jason's Deli, which is kind of restaurantish, but you order like it's fast food. You order at counter one, take your ticket to the register to pay, pick up food at another counter, get drinks at the drink counter, find a table carrying tray and snapping at child who is exploring. Not fun... Annoying!

G odered a hot dog (from the list off of the kids' menu). She picked up just the hot dog (the weanie), dipped it in her ketchup and then licked the ketchup off the hot dog, swirling her tongue around in a way that would have been quite indecent if she were 10-15 years older. I tell her to stop. Then she starts "painting" her hot dog bun with ketchup using the hot dog. She was not interested in eating at all. Her friend, in the meantime, is having a hard time keeping her hands and feet to herself. She grabs G's juice and spills it all over G. Then they are coloring and need more space and almost end up pushing a stack of plates off the table.

Our mother-daughter friends go to the restroom for the second time. Then G says she needs to go. I take her, clean the seat, pull down her tights, get her situated, and she decided she really doesn't need to pee. I tell you, the fun never ends!

Plus, G loves to run, the main word in her vocabulary is "NO!", and she pretends to be hard of hearing. So I spent all morning hollering for her to "stop," "come back," "walk by me," "just hold my hand," etc.

All of the positivity of the movie-moment was squandered in the lunch-moment where I had to squelch the desire to shake G into submission (which my hubs so insightfully points out is not my finest parenting instinct.)

Friday, December 18, 2009

The other "B" word

Bureaucracy is a beast and a burden.

Bureaucracy is even hard to spell (I always have to google it), so naturally it is even more complicated to be embroiled in. Now that we have decided to move back to Chile, we are just starting those pesky little issues of paperwork, that we now fully admit, we should have done years ago—like register our marriage (so that it is recognized by Chile).

Though we have a Chilean Consulate a 2.5 hour drive from us, from what we have gathered, we are supposed to register the marriage in the consulate that has jurisdiction over the state where we got married (which is San Francisco since we got married in Oregon). That, of course, started a panic—how can we pay for an unplanned trip? do we both go or just one (depends on how we want to register the marriage)? What to do with the kids?

Dealing with that panic, we discovered that the document we were given when we got married, is purely ornamental… not an official legal document. So I had to figure out how to get a copy of our legal marriage license.

I asked one woman if we could just register it in Chile, she said yes. When I asked another woman she said it can’t be done in Chile. Of course, to get my visa, apparently we have to do it anyway, so that’s that.

We also have to register the kids, so that they can officially be considered Chilean. Since the kids were born in Texas, we have to register them at the consulate here. Though it is not standard practice, the consulate here offered to let us sign for our marriage registration and then dispatch it to SF, if I could get the consulate in SF to agree to accept it. (We have to show them our marriage license anyway to register the kids.) The woman in SF told me (very curtly and unhappily) that it should not be done that way but that if I could arrange it with the consulate here, then so be it.

It is going to take months...

I have to start gathering my own Visa-required documents, such as an FBI background check which required me going to the Department of Public Safety and getting my fingerprints taken. Good times… especially with two kids running around.

Plus I had to take G in to her 4-year well-check. She was so excited that she got to go to the Doctor because she hasn’t gone in a long time, but always comes when I take Nico. She had to get a couple booster shots. She hadn’t had a shot in probably two years, so though I told her it would hurt a lot, like a bee sting, she was totally unprepared for the pain. She was so pissed!...and proceeded to shriek like a banshee for a good while. It was much worse than getting shots for a younger one—they are so much more easily distracted by cheap toys, or juice, or oh, look! Goldfish! G was just furious! Now she keeps saying that she doesn’t want to go the Doctor any more.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lucky 13

That was then...

Sometime around mid-December (exact date has never been determined), thirteen years ago, my husband and I started dating. Can you believe it? 13 years! I didn’t get to post back in July for our wedding anniversary, so I’ll write our “how-we-met” story now.

I was 22, and had just graduated from college earlier that year. After majoring in Spanish and studying abroad in Ecuador, I wanted to live abroad for a while longer and “perfect” my Spanish. (I put that in “ “ because it is hilarious that I once thought that my Spanish could be perfected—not because it was already perfect, but because it is hard to perfect a second language). I almost went back to Ecuador, because I had a job offer there. Yet, I was kind of itching to go somewhere new and had applied to a teaching job in Santiago, Chile… the end of the earth!

As I was walking to the mail room on campus to fax my acceptance letter to Ecuador, I checked my mailbox first (these were pre-email days folks) and found a job offer from Santiago. It all fell together very quickly: getting my work visa, making all of the necessary arrangements, getting a cheap flight (on Lacsa, which is/was the air equivalent of the famous chicken-buses of Latin America). I flew out on July 4, 1996 and landed at 2 in the morning on a very cold Sunday.

I taught English in a kind of shady under-paid operation. It had the worst “pedagogy” you could imagine and its entire reputation was based on the fact that it had to be good if the classes cost that much.

I am slow at making friends. I am even slower at finding decent dates. In high school I didn’t have a boyfriend at all, and didn’t date much. In college I dated someone twice my age, which is another story perhaps. I went out a bit in Chile, had a few very awkward experiences, and kind of decided that I did not understand the Chilean dating game (you do know dating is a game, right?—it just varies from country to country.)

I met my husband in November. He was 25 and had just graduated from college as well. He was getting ready to go to Rotterdam, Holland for a 4-month long seasonal job. His dad, figuring that English might be more useful, all around, than Dutch, had given him a graduation gift of a “private” (one-on-one) English class—every day for about 6 weeks.

When I was first notified of the class at work, I was annoyed. Grunt English teachers usually have kind of split-shift schedules, early morning and late evening, which is when most adults take classes. I had one 4-hour chunk during the day so when I was told that I would be getting a class right in the middle of it, I was unenthusiastic, at best, even when the secretary told me he was such a nice young man and that they would try to find another teacher if I was very unhappy taking it.

Well, after the first day, they heard no more complaints from me. The guy was sweet, attractive, funny in a shy kind of way, and had this je ne sais quoi about him, that kind of translated as tranquility.

It started out very slowly… after class we would both, coincidentally, be waiting for the elevator to leave the building: he to go home and me to go run errands or grab a bite to eat or just get out for a bit to walk around downtown. One day he asked me if I wanted him to accompany me to the post office and I said yes. And that is how we started hanging out after class. We’d go to art galleries or go get coffee or he’d come with me to run errands.

Then one day in class we were talking about the new Almodóvar movie that had just come out and I wanted to see and another movie that he wanted to see. We decided that I would go with him to see his movie if he would go with me to see mine. So we went to the Almodóvar movie (thinking back, I don’t know if we ever made it to see the movie he wanted, but that was not due to scheming, we did see a lot of movies (oh those were the days… wistful sigh… which are now over because of kids… resigned sigh)). After the movie, he rode the bus home with me (concerned for my safety) and then took a bus to his house.

The next day before class, he was sitting on the sofa waiting and I walked out from my early-morning class and saw him. I really wanted to touch him, nonchalantly, to make the greeting more personal. So I reached out kind of hesitantly, almost changing my mind, and touched his arm, lightning fast, and withdrew it, kind of embarrassed. This goes down in history as the most awkward touch of all times. We still laugh about it, though he thought it was sweet—or so he says.

Our next date we went to the beach to meet up with his sister and her boyfriend to do this jeep-parachute-parasailing(?) Kind of thing along the beach. We drove there the night before, late, and I remember stopping at a Copec (gas station) so he could get coffee. I watched him inside, amazed at how calm and composed he always was. (Of course, I know now, he was probably half-asleep at that particular point, narcoleptic as he is!)

The parasailing was a blast and we had our first kiss that weekend, so I think that was when it first became official. Of course, it didn’t really ever become officially official according to Chilean standards, where the guy kind of formally asks the girl to go out (le pide el pololeo). It probably isn’t even done anymore, but we got asked that quite a bit… if we were “officially pololos (bf/gf).”

I think what I most like about him was that there was no game. He liked me; he showed it; he told me, but without coming on prematurely strong; there was no “rico-suave-latin-lover” nonsense, (which is NOT as enjoyable as it sounds). He is sweet and gentle; he rarely gets mad, even if I deserve it and when he does, he doesn’t remember the next day. He reads me better than anyone else I know. He is a great dad. Every time I wanted to quit my doctorate, he told me he was dead set on having a wife with a Ph.D., so I had to keep going. Everyone loves him, even after meeting him once: he has that je ne sais quoi I mentioned, it is just uncanny. It takes people a bit longer to like me… if they ever do; I have a je ne sai quoi that works against me sometimes.

We have struggles, like all couples. We are both freakishly stubborn which is fun. Though I love his peace and serenity, if I come off even half as frenetic in my blog-life as I am in real-life you may have suspected that after 13 years that “tranquility” may also drive me a little insane sometimes, but that is another post.

This is now...

Can you tell what my catch-phrase of the day is?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lessons from Ancient Greek

First let me be clear that I do not care about sports or athletes. I am not awed by celebrity status and do not follow celebrity news. But the big story of the week, which has been inescapable, has me totally disgusted.

I have one word for you Tiger Woods: HUBRIS

You are the quintessential definition.

Your own pride and arrogance will be your demise. I don't care if this scandal has nothing to do with how great you are at golf. I hope you lose all of your sponsors and I hope your beautiful wife decides that no amount of money or renegotiating of the pre-nups is worth keeping your sorry arse around. Now in addition to witnessing your poor sportsmanlike behavior when your game is off (rumor has it anyway... though I don't watch golf), every time we turn on the TV, we all get to watch as you demonstrate what kind of man/husband/father you really are.

Ok, that was more than one word there at the end... I just want him off the news.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Feeling Funky

I am kind of in a funk. Does that ever happen to you? I was in it all weekend. I was an absolute joy to be around. I was tired and grumpy and all three of the other members in my household got on my last ever-lovin’ nerve.

Today is no better, I am afraid. Today is the first day of the rest of my life, so to speak, and I feel a little lost and despondent and just plain annoyed. There are a lot of things on my mind and I just feel really anxious.

Saturday was graduation, but I didn't go. Isn't that silly. I was in the middle of a writing frenzy when the last-call to order (even rent) a doctoral robe passed and I missed it. I didn't really want to go anyway because I didn't want to drag my husband with two small tots to bore themselves to death at a long ceremony. My hubs was upset because he wanted a picture for the kids. I said we could just photoshop my B.A. graduation picture with a few more wrinkles, but he didn't find it humorous. Graduation ceremonies are for families and friends to come celebrate your accomplishment, and as I mentioned before, I kind of feel much of my family doesn't care or understand what I am doing and why.

I wasn't even going to order announcements, but my aunt asked for one,(I got your announcement in the mail Ali!) so I ordered 10 a la carte. I sent her one and then wracked my brain about what to do with the other 9. I saved one for each of my kids and sent one to my father-in-law (who is so excited).

Now, I can no longer hide under the “I am a graduate student” comfy cloak. Now I am just jobless, which sounds much more unsettling than perpetual graduate student--which is at least a title. But I don’t think I am going to be job-hunting here. I think we have mostly, kinda, sorta, basically, made the decision to move to Chile in the very near future. This brings up a lot of feelings.

We have to start thinking about selling the house (painting it first) and packing up what we are going to send and selling what isn’t worth taking. We have bureaucratic things do to—register our kids and our marriage at the Chilean consulate, and see if it is better to start my visa process here or wait until we get to Chile. We are both thinking about the job process in Chile and the details involved in making such a monumental move and getting settled.

I feel like the move to Chile is a good idea in many ways, but I am also worried about it. My father-in-law says that we have to make a decision based on what is best for our family, the kids, but I know in truth, my decision is a little more selfish than that. I want to be happy. If I am happy, we are all happy. If I am unhappy, we are all unhappy (take the last few days as evidence). And sometimes I wonder if I will be happy and if my husband and I will be happy in our relationship.

I have lived in Chile, so I know in many ways, exactly what I am getting into… but in other ways I have no idea. We didn’t have kids before—now we have to think about education, which for me is a sensitive subject in Chile. You pretty much have to pay for a private school, and many of them are Catholic, many of them are single-sex. I know, for a fact, that we will argue over whether Nico should go to the same Jesuit school my husband went to, and I just don’t know if I can stomach a religious school. There are also issues of class that bother me about the educational system in Chile.

There are also parenting issues. With kids, living in the US is so simple—almost no one makes comments about your parenting (with the exception of on the blogosphere—where they will rip you apart for anything). In Chile, almost everyone feels it is their place to tell you that your kids need more clothes on or that they should not be bare-foot, or that what kind of mother are you that you don’t blow-dry their hair after a bath and what are they eating and why can’t they have soda and such. The one time we visited with G, I almost had a conniption-fit with all the child-rearing commentary.

I feel like because one of my obsessions is Spanish and Latin America and I like living abroad and I married a Chilean, and I always said that we would move back, and now we have lived in the US for quite a while, and we will probably have good job opportunities there and our kids will grow up with family etc. etc. so it seems like the logical decision. There are huge things I know I will have to learn to live with, but now that the move is almost certain, I start panicking about random petty details: like the other day I almost changed my mind just thinking about how gross the milk is in Chile and how my kids are going to have to drink it and how I know they are not going to drink it and they’ll stop drinking milk all together and won’t get enough calcium, so maybe we should just stay here, where my kids like the milk, even if I don’t drink milk anywhere. Do you see the insanity I am creating for myself?

Since our move is imminent in the next 3-4 months, it doesn’t make sense to try to find a job here—even a crappy one, since we have to factor in child-care. So that means staying at home with the kids, which is great in many ways and not-so-great in others. But that is an entirely different post.

I just want to scream. If I scream into the blogosphere, does anybody hear it?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How to endear yourself to Chileans

A few days ago there was a group post about how to alienate Chileans. There was a bit of drama in the comment section over at Margaret’s. I was lambasted in several comments for my deplorable lack of table manners and social etiquette—which is hilarious –I did say I could alienate a Chilean, and it seems I did just that. There is, of course, another side to the story: how to endear yourself to Chileans. Some of the other gringas mentioned some great general suggestions in their posts, so I tried to come up with some different ones (though some are similar).

1) Cook for them: several of the others have mentioned becoming familiar with and complimenting the Chilean foods that you like. I like to think that it is not just about absorbing Chilean culture and eating Chilean food, it is about sharing cultures. I think I first impressed my husband’s family when I cooked Christmas dinner for them one year: roast turkey with oven-roasted vegetables, homemade bread-sticks, fresh strawberry pie for desert. Even my husband’s grandfather, who was on a strict diet, made an exception and ate dinner with us, savoring every bite and asking for seconds. I was also known where I worked for my baked goods.

2) Compare Chile favorably with Argentina: Chile has a bit of rivalry going on with several neighboring countries, but they feel most inferior (undeservedly so, in many regards) when it comes to Argentina: Argentina is bigger; Buenos Aires is supposedly more cosmopolitan; both Argentine men and women are famous for their good looks. Ignore all that and point out that Chile has far better beaches and that Chilean wine is superior. If all else fails tell Argentine jokes (all in jest, of course, I have Argentine friends that I love dearly, so no insults intended).

For example:

Como se suicida un argentino? Se sube al ego y se tira.

How does an Argentine commit suicide? He climbs to the top of his ego and throws himself off.

3) Fall in love with a Chilean: although younger Chilean women don’t seem crazy about this if you are a woman dating a Chilean man, the older generations and most men wink and smile knowingly. They love to imagine that they are irresistible to foreigners (and some of them are!) It then makes total sense why you have been in Chile so long. Of course, the downside to this one is that if you are not dating anyone it is harder to explain why you are in Chile—so you may want to invent a boy/girl-friend.

4) Talk about travel in Chile: one of the first questions Chileans ask you is how much of Chile you know. They don’t seem to think that you really know Chile until you have traveled quite a bit. They love talking about getting out of Santiago and discovering provincial Chile: the beauty of the lake region in the south and the solitude of the desert in the north. Ask them for suggestions on where to go for the next long weekend.

5) Tell them you met some Chileans while traveling in Europe or elsewhere: they love hearing about their own kind in far-away places. I think because they are a small country, knowing that there are Chileans spread out all over the globe makes them feel warm and rosy. As an added bonus, laugh about how the Chileans you met had outsmarted the subway system and were riding free: though Chileans are mostly law-abiding and they will outwardly lament “el pillo chileno” (the sneaky Chilean), they secretly seem to love that their compatriots are known for the mischievous ways they bend the rules.

Other ways to fit in:


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Doctor in the house!

It is now officially official.

I know it was mostly over after my defense, but I didn't want to jinx myself with all the the bureaucratic tasks that laid ahead.

I just got an email confirmation from the doctoral degree evaluator saying that I have successfully completed my Ph.D. requirements and I will graduate.

My dissertation has been uploaded to the dissertation server, it has been checked for formatting, I have turned in my bazillion signed documents verifying, confirming, authorizing, accepting all that the graduate school wants me to verify, confirm, authorize and accept. I am done.

NOW you can call me Doctor! (No, don't really, it makes me nervous.)

I have a million ways of downplaying my own accomplishments. For a long time it was the fear that I might never finish. If I think it will make someone uncomfortable, I change the subject. If I think it might come across like I am bragging, I don't even mention it. I say it has taken me a long time (though no longer than most). I say I just wanted to finish because I was so close. I say it is not all that useful or important in the grand scheme of things--it's just education after all, I won't be saving anyone's life or making a lot of money. But deep down I know it is huge.

Monday, when I talked to my supervisor for the last time before submission, she told me that she didn't want to add extra pressure, but that she was going to submit it for the dissertation of the year award for one of the major organizations in my field (she says it's well-written and that the topic is sexy--obviously not that kind of sexy, but that is what she said). She is very forgetful so it may never happen and even if it did, I doubt anything would come of it, but even the consideration is enough to tickle me pink, so to speak.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to alienate Chileans

Margaret, over at Cachando Chile wrote about some of the things gringos do that intentionally or unintentionally alienate, annoy, or offend Chileans, which is bound to happen living in a culture that is not your own. In some situations it is a case of open-mouth-insert-foot by saying something you didn’t mean to say; in other cases it is stubbornly keeping with your own behavior even after lots of insisting that you change it (i.e. walking around barefoot when so many people are worried about your health); in other cases it is expressing an opinion that somehow offends their very chilean-ness (like saying you don’t care for their national anthem).

I mentioned a few in her comment section, like not thinking one of their huge soccer idols (Zamorano) was a very good player (he wasn’t) and defiling their national dish, cazuela, by cutting the large pieces into small ones and eating it with a spoon like the stew that it is (rather than siphoning off the broth and then eating it like a meat-and-potato-plate, with a knife and fork).

I thought I would mention a few more here.

For the first one, I have to admit that I was not blessed with social graces. I try to be good, whatever that means, but I don’t have a lot of patience with formalities. This is hard for me in Chile because of the greetings and good-byes. In Chile you must perform the perfunctory greeting (cheek to cheek kiss) and the perfunctory good bye (cheek to cheek kiss) for all present. If you go to a party, that is a lot of cheek to cheek. When I am not in the mood to be social, it is like pulling teeth and I grump and groan internally about having to appear more civil than I feel. Sometimes I long for the ease of the big sweeping wave good-bye to all; the shout across the room “see you later.”

Not only at parties, but in almost all other situations when you see someone you know, even running into them in the street—you have to greet them with a kiss and then say good bye with a kiss. For someone like me, who has moments of extreme anti-sociality, it is exhausting. You also must greet everyone in the house each morning and say goodnight each evening in the same way.

Sometimes I can get away with not greeting everyone because I am a gringa (foreigner), but I am absolutely certain that I have offended people by not hunting them down to say good-bye. I try to feel sorry about it, but that is exhausting too ;-). I am what I am, in the end, and I do make a lot of effort.

My second example is telling them that La Araucana is mostly fiction. The Araucanos are/were the indigenous people in the south of Chile. History tells that they were so fierce that it took the Spaniards hundreds of years to conquer them. Alonso de Ercilla, a Spaniard during the conquest, wrote La Araucana, which is essentially Chile’s epic poem. It is one of the first pieces of literature from the New World. It is considered a national story of origin and the indigenous characters are considered national heroes (which is ironic, of course, considering how the Mapuche--the indigenous people in the south of Chile--are treated). I don’t know exactly how it is studied in schools in Chile, but according to my husband, it is considered “history”.

The literary criticism, however, suggests otherwise. (It has been a while since I studied, it so I can’t remember all of the details). Though it is thought to be loosely based on Ercilla’s experiences as a Spanish soldier and some of the events may be loosely based on real battles, as far as the native characters are concerned, it is considered doubtful that he would have been privy to the indigenous part of the story. There are also no historical documents that can verify the existence of these characters; from what I remember (though it was a while ago) the “historical” documents related to the story were written after the publication of La Araucana and even based on the poem, as if it were absolute fact, so it is a bit of a chicken and egg dilemma. Furthermore, though Ercilla may have woven some indigenous elements into the poem, it is essentially a literary piece from Spain’s Golden Age and based, in large part, on a similarly written Italian poem. The description of the characters and the events, how he sets up the story, how he claims to have gotten the information, are all classical stylistic elements common at the time. My husband was flabbergasted when I told him that it was probably mostly fiction.

It is akin to suggesting that the story of the Alamo is largely myth (which of course, it is, and I shall now be hunted down by a mob of angry Texans and a mob of angry Chileans—but that is just how I roll).

See other alienation methods with Sara and Emily

Thursday, November 26, 2009


It is not something I talk about much. Fortunately, it doesn’t consume my thoughts the way it once did. I have mentioned it, however, in several comments lately and also for another relevant reason, thought I would share it.

Nothing prepares you to hear the word cancer… nothing… but at 28 I heard it.

My brother-in-law was visiting and told my husband that he should get some of his moles checked out. My husband was hesitant, but I told him I had to get some checked out too, so we could go together. The dermatologist took one look at him and said that his skin type didn’t have many problems with skin cancer. He took one look at my moles and said that we had to get a biopsy because it could be melanoma. He tried to backtrack a little saying he could be wrong, but in a sense, I knew then, what I would be hearing. I wasn’t much of a sunbather, but I wasn’t from a generation of sun-block. My grandfather had melanoma, so there was an obvious genetic risk as well.

A few days later, I heard it: Malignant melanoma. Skin cancer sounds so superficial. It sounds so insignificant. With other kinds of skin cancers, the chance of death is minimal, almost non-existent even. With melanoma, it is not so simple. With melanoma, it depends on the timing. If you catch it early, stage one, you have a 95% chance of survival. If you catch it too late, stage 4, you have a 5% chance of surviving.

There is a lot of waiting at first, with few answers, as you go through a complex staging process that involves removing the tumor, checking the lymph nodes for involvement and going through a series of scans (CT, PET, MRI) to check for metastases in other parts of your body.

The original tumor was removed, leaving a 7-8 inch scar. The doctors tested the lymph node connected to the tumor site and found a micro-metastasis, which put me in an entirely different risk category. All of the lymph nodes under my right arm were removed and luckily there were no cancer cells in any other nodes. All my scans were clear, fortunately, but since I had lymph node involvement, I was at stage 3a which statistically put me at about a 50-50 chance for a recurrence; and a recurrence put me at a 5% chance of survival. It was terrifying.

The other difficult thing with melanoma is that it is basically untreatable at later stages. The reason the chances of survival are so low at stage 4 is that once melanoma spreads to other parts of you body, chemo and radiation are powerless to deter it. They try new chemo cocktails that work for some patients for a while and they have made some progress with a specialized vaccine, but it is still in the study phases. But mostly, chances are not good.

Melanoma is an immuno-sensitive cancer, so since, chemo doesn’t work well once you get a recurrence, they try to boost your immune system so that your body fights off any cancer cells before forming tumors elsewhere. The standard treatment is Interferon, which your body makes naturally; it is administered, of course, in synthetic, highly toxic doses.

The first month I received a dose daily, which required a port-a-cath: a strange kind of button-shaped object they surgically place under your clavicle, attached to a vein to more easily administer fluids—it is much easier than getting an IV every few days. After that first month, I gave myself shots in the leg three times a week for the next 11 months.

On the positive side, I have seen all of my organs, even my brain—cool! I also had so many needle pricks that year that I am absolutely undisturbed by needles.

The worst part was the first month, in such high doses, there are a lot of unpleasant symptoms, though not nearly as bad as a chemo regimen. The rest of the year was a blur, really, of fear and sickness. I was trying to finish up my Master’s degree, which took me an extra year. I stayed in school and had to continue teaching in order to have health benefits. I wanted to have a diversion though, and to continue with some semblance of a normal life. It was one of the darkest years of my life, and though my husband was very supportive, I felt very alone.

The worst moment was thinking I had a metastasis. Something odd had shown up in my abdominal CT scan. My Dr. ordered a PET scan (a special x-ray to see how your body metabolizes glucose—cancers cells are sugar-greedy). My abdomen was clear, but there was something in my knee, of all places. It looked and acted exactly like cancer. I asked if there were any other possibilities, they said no. I had to get a needle biopsy (not fun under the knee-cap). I waited in horror all weekend for the results, trying to prepare myself mentally for what the doctors were sure was going to be stage 4—it didn’t matter that it was just the knee, once it starts spreading, there is not a lot that can be done. It came back some weird non-cancerous blob that just strangely sucked up a lot of glucose. It was removed, just in case.

One of the things I hated most was feeling that my body had betrayed me. Cancer cells are your own cells gone awry, gone undetected by the normal checks and balances your body has to deal with abnormal cells.

Another thing I hated was the psychology of it: there is self-pity at first, wondering “why me” and thinking of all the experiences I may not get to have, there is the wondering what I had done to deserve it; there is fear and the difficulty in trying to control the panic; there is anger, there is sadness, there is anxiety, and it was hard to watch those I love try to deal with it.

People have no idea what to say, which is awkward. They tell you about their brush with death in a near-car accident. They tell you it could be worse. They tell you that things happen for a reason. They tell you that you have to be positive.

You say that the near-car accident must have been frightening. You try not to imagine what it would be like if it gets worse. You can think of lots of reasons why you deserve cancer. You feel guilty when you are depressed and fearful. Mostly, you just want to curl up in a ball and cry… a lot.

It is comforting to hear other cancer patients’ stories, but it drove me nuts to hear things like “Cancer was the best thing to ever happen to me” (Lance Armstrong). I guess there is a way in which it changes your priorities, but I would love to never have had cancer, to not know that fear. That fear changes you. It lessens over time. After months, and years, you don’t think about it nearly as much, you don’t obsess on reading stats and studies on the internet, trying to figure out your chances. But with every odd pain, every headache, every bout of dizziness or nausea, you wonder. Every time your check-up time comes around, even though you have felt no symptoms, you wonder if something will show up on the CT scan. You wait with bated breath for the phone call that says “all clear.”

I got such a phone call this Wednesday, after my CT scan Tuesday. After 6 years, my scan still looks normal. I relax; the invisible weight lifts. The nervousness is replaced with a mild euphoria. The anxiety is replaced with gratitude.

I am grateful for all the happiness that has come since that year, especially my two little peanuts.

It has been a happy Thanksgiving.

I hope yours was happy too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Confession # 5--Love Bites

So, I am a little embarrassed of this one...

not just because I am about to receive a brand, spankin' new Ph.D....

but also because I am 35, which is way too old, right?

but, it is true, nonetheless...

I have been bitten...

by the Twilight saga

Hoping for a small distraction, and curious to see what all the buzz was about, I asked a (very obsessed) friend for the books.

I started the first one Friday night... and read until 1:30 (not smart with kids!) and finally made myself put it down for the night. I couldn't wait until naptime the next day and almost finished it, had just a few chapters to finish.

I don't think they are that well-written, but the story is compelling. I can absolutely see why most guys aren't sharing in the obsession. It is a story of teen love/angst. My first superficial "analysis" is that women (girls) relate because it is how we are first socialized to think of love. It is how teen girls experience love or think they should experience love. I remember that angst, that combination of pleasure and pain, and I am always intensely grateful that the angst-phase passed (it doesn't always, if you have noticed) and that love is so much better and so much more comforting than that. I am slightly concerned that it might perpetuate the myth, for teenage Twilight fans, that this is the kind of love to hope for and hold out for.

I couldn't help but notice that the author went to BYU, which most assuredly means that she is Mormon. (I was raised Mormon, if you did not know). This struck me for several reasons. The author has written a love story about essentially evil beings, which a deeply religious person might not normally be comfortable with promoting, by creating the "monster with a conscience", the vegetarian vampire who does not drink human blood for ethical reasons. The normally "damned" creatures, hoping for a spot in heaven.

Also, in a relationship that is so intense that it would clearly, otherwise, involve sexual intimacy, the author cleverly avoids the "teen-age sex" issue, by using the vampire's strength and potential lack of control as a reason they cannot cross that boundary. Edward's impressive restraint, given the temptation he is facing, has remarkably religious over-tones to me.

Don't worry, I haven't gotten all out of control. I am not dressing up as a vampire. I am not interested in joining Team Edward or Team Jacob (really, I would hope Bella couldn't be that fickle, but she is a teen-ager, after all).

Of course, after reading book one, I went out and rented the first movie (as others were flocking to see New Moon, the second movie that just premiered in theaters.)

The movie was DISAPPOINTING. The acting is terrible; the dialogue is trite; and they cropped scenes from the book in a way that didn't do it justice.

and then there is the fact that this guy:

Does not do it for me!

I am sorry, he is not hot enough for Edward.

The way he is described in the book, he should look more like this:

Don't you agree?

I read New Moon, but I don't know if I can bear to see the movie. I am now on book three.

When I am done with book four, I promise I'll find some grown-up literature.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Annoying Facebook conversation and my new Facebook contract

This has been an exhausting week for some reason. I am finishing up the details on my dissertation, which shouldn't take that long, but I just don't want to sit down and finish it.

I have had a weird little headache for three days now. A few minutes ago, I went to take an Excederine and accidentally took a Tylenol pm because I wasn't thinking. I realized my mistake as I swallowed it and panicked. I am already tired and didn't want the added sleepiness and heaviness. In my panic, I even tried to make myself throw up (sorry if that is TMI and very lame). Don't be too worried though, I failed, I have no idea how to gag myself. But I think I did succeed in spraining my tongue.. is that even possible? I bet you all want to take back your "Congrats Doc" comments.

I had this annoying conversation with my mom yesterday (for the record, all conversations with my mom are annoying). I had told my mom about my defense on numerous occasions and it didn't seem to register. So, we were talking about why I didn't want to send an email to the family informing them (again? officially?) of my defense or why I don't want to send a "graduation announcement" email. The reason, if you are curious, is that very few of them care at all (or at least that is how I feel): they don't know what I study or why I have been studying so long or why I have chosen a lengthy degree that will not give me a million-dollar-salary pay-off in the end. They don't ask me about it and seem to get fidgety if I mention anything about my studies. In general, most of them don't ask me much about me: I am the "listener", the "receiver-of-rants" and the "advice-giver".

That part was kind of annoying, trying to justify or explain why I feel so lacksadaisical (sp?) about the family apathy dynamic. So I told her that I had posted a "status update" on facebook. So we started talking about facebook and it became clear that she really has no idea how it works. The conversation went like this:

She: Oh, I didn't get that email, do you have my correct address?

Me: Mom, it's not an email, it is a status update.

She: well, I didn't get the notification.

Me: They don't sent notifications to everyone just because I post an update.

She: well, then how do I find out about it

Me: you get on facebook

She: I don't use facebook that much.

Me: Well, that is where I posted it.

She: So where do I see your status updates?

Me: it shows up in your live-feed on your home page--all the recent activity from your facebook friends shows up.

She: well I think I have two facebook accounts, for my two different emails, which one do you have?

Me: What???? I don't think it matters what email you have, that is just where they send notifications and is used for your login.

She: because I didn't get that notification

Me: mom, there is no notification for status updates.

She: I can't even find facebook on my gmail page.

Me: it's not on your gmail page, you have to go to the facebook page, to sign in

She: I can never remember which email to sign in with or my password

Me: well, you have to write those things down somewhere...

(she gets on her facebook page and starts explaining everything she sees.)

She: Cindy says "blah blah" Roger says "blah blah"

Me: (in my head: I don't care what your friends are doing)

She: I don't see yours

Me: That's because it was last Friday, a lot has happened since them. You can go to my profile to see it.

She: how do I get to your profile?

Me: (silent scream--ahhhhh) you have to click on my name,

She: where?

Me: anywhere you see it, or click on my picture under your list of friends.

She: hmm, I don't see it... pause....

Me: you can click on my name on any comment I have made or even when we "became friends" or go to your list of friends and click on me.

She: you haven't commented on my page

Me: becuase I just send you an email if I need to

She: oh, I see we have some friends in common

Me: (impatiently) umm hmm, most of the siblings

She: where is Q? Why isn't Q on here?

Me: Q is not on facebook, I don't know why.

She: I thought he had a page, I think I have seen it

Me: no that is myspace, he has a myspace page.

She: they have all these new things now, like Twitter, I am on Twitter and I find it very challenging.

Me: Yes, the word limit...yeah, I'm not going to do Twitter.

and on and on

She still wishes that facebook would send notifications for important events like that and she thinks it is weird that facebook says that we "are now friends"

Am I just too easily annoyed?

So facebook is what it is and it has its annoying qualities, but I got to thinking about what I limit myself to on facebook. So this is my new facebook contract detailing what I will and will not do:


I will look at photos you post and even comment.

I will tell you that the photos of your baby/kids/grandkids/and maybe even your dog/cat are cute (because it is usually true)

I will post photos of my kids (I may appear occasionally, though I generally take the pics so I am usually not in them [and I am not very photogenic]).

I will read your updates and might comment, especially if they are not about what you are eating for dinner (except for Eileen and the artichokes, because I love artichokes) or what your plans for the evening are.


I will not post 10 status updates a day (not even one a day, acutally).

I will not throw a snowball at you.

I will not poke you.

I will not send you a gift to put under your Chirstmas tree.

I will not send you good Karma (at least not on facebook, I will send you old-fashioned telepathic Karma if you need it).

I will not help you steal arms or bury a dead body in Mafia Wars.

I will not send you a virtual plant for your facebook garden (though I have been known to give real plants as gifts).

I will (probably) not participate in the quest to determine: which celebrity diva I am most like; which of the seven dwarves I should marry; what kind of starbucks drink I am; what periodic element I am; which celbrities I want to be stuck in an elevator with; what crayon color I am; how sexy my name is; what my spririt animal is; how well I know the "Twilight" series. I am a party-pooper, I already know that.

I will not try to beat your score on any facebook game. (maybe... they'd have to come out with a really good one).

I will not send you a picture of a gift or a champagne flute (though I will happily drink real champagne in your honor if you are celebrating).

No offense, but I will probably ignore any of the above objects that you send to me because accepting them usually means that you give that application access to all of your info and list of contacts--which is both creepy and annoying.

Now, let's create a facebook poll: Who still wants to be fb friends with Annje (aka the fb grinch)?

Now I am feeling very sleeeeeeeepyyyyyyy......xkajfoiehioehryoiweqhoiq[

Friday, November 13, 2009

Updates on my updates

So Margaret asked why I mentioned my Facebook competition before my defense. I think because saracasm and humor is my way of dealing with serious issues and pressure.

So you guys know of course that I am not REALLY in competetion for facebook friends, right? I am just being silly and a little sarcastic. (though I am totally serious about wanting to delete my irritating old crush.)

But, with that said, I did get some new facebook friends (thank you mosey and Isabel--it's an honor (or honour)-- I was already fb friends with some of you--which is also an honor) and have now surpassed my hubby, and I can't deny that it feels victorious and glorious. I'll have to rub it in later.

Though truth be told, I have now exhausted all of my facebook-friend-resources. My friend suggestions are even empty... totally empty. Facebook has got nothin' for me. My husband on the other hand has lots of friends that aren't on his fb yet--and everyone loves him... I mean everyone. And in Chile, they keep all of their friends FOREVER--he has fb friends that he went to kindergarten with. I can't even remember where I went to kindergarten.

Now that I think about it, I had better not rub it in. If I start gloating I am sure he'll look up the other 5000 people he knows and I will never catch up. So for now, I am going to bask in the glow of my temporary online popularity (haha) in silence.

Defense... what defense? Oh, you wanna know about my defense?

Ok, but first, I'll tell you that the funniest part of the whole day was the blister on my heel. I wore these shoes that I hadn't worn in a while. I am ashamed to even say that I got a blister, because these are not hot little blister-worthy shoes (is there such a thing as bister-worthy shoes?) They just aren't re-worn in this year.

By the time I walked from parking to my building (15 minutes). I had a blister and was limping, trying to stop the abrasion. I looked around in my bag and found no band-aid...the only thing I had was a pantyliner. So I sat down and put the pantyliner around my heel, inside my sock protecting the heel from further pain. It worked wonders... highly recommended... as long as you have socks on, without them it might look funny.

OK OK OK, so the defense went pretty well. Everyone signed and called me Doctor (though you don't have to quite yet). I am mostly just relieved to have it over with. I wasn't nervous at all until all of my committee members had shown up and then I got the butterflies.

A defense is not really the END end... but it is the last big task. But during the defense, there are always concessions to make and suggested revisions, so it seems anti-climactic in some ways. I have one little addition to make and a few little revisions, but I WILL graduate. YAY!!

I was worried about one committee member because he is the program director where I collected data. He was added to my committee late and I have never had a class with him, so I don't know him that well--but my study is relevant to him. At one point during the defense, it sounded like he was suggesting an addition that would involve a lot of work and I suffered a minor internal panic attack, but it turned out that it wasn't all that major.

So, there you have it. Two successes! I'll tell you when I give my dissertation to the graduate school and all is officially official and then you can call me Doctor!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

BIG updates!

Breaking News:

The absolute most important update is that, with the addition of the clever, though occasionally snarky travel blogger at bearshapedshere to my list of Facebook friends, I have now caught up to my husband in number of online contacts. Those of you who have been in any kind of a relationship will know how important a competition like this is. I just need one more to surpass him... any offers???

I might actually need two more because there is this certain guy I had a major crush on in high school who I accepted friendship with just to satisfy that 20 year-old curiosity of what he now looks like. Curiosity satisfied! My husband is totally hotter and I am now annoyed daily by his mafia wars progress and his hyper-conservative status blatherings and want to delete him. But to keep my numbers up, I am unable to do that. Thank goodness my dream of marrying him didn't come true. We'd be in a downright pickle about now.

The fb friend number itself is nothing to brag about, mind you, we are both hanging in mid-70's, which is downright pathetic if you look at the 300+ or even 500+ fb friends of some people I know. I don't even know 300 people well enough to be fb friends. Let's just say that it is because I am very selective in who I will allow to be my friend, and not because I am lacking in some very important social graces.

So, yes, if you must know, I consider this a major accomplishment.

If you have bothered to stay around, reading my facebook drivel, I will also tell you that my other major update is that I have my dissertation defense tomorrow, Friday the 13th.

So think of me and send me lots of lucky eloquent vibes.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Run, Rabbit, Run*

I felt good this morning. So I went for a run.

I RAN 10 MILES!! in 84 minutes (that's 8:40 a mile--not too shabby!)

(I could totally end the post here, but you know how verbose I am...)

I run quite a bit, 3-4 times a week, sometimes more. But I normally only run 4-5 miles and it has been years since I ran 10.

I was so happy with myself. I called the hubs and told him, just to brag, and because after 13 years, I still want him to think I am awesome.

I started running as an adult because of my husband--should I admit that? We had gone to the beach town where we always used to go (Quintero), because his grandpa had a little house there. He said: "Let's go for a run" and I said: "OK" And we went. I think that was the moment he was sold (and mine forever). Most Chilean women don't exercise that much (unless that has changed now?). So he was impressed that I said yes and that I kept up the whole way and didn't stop.

I have been running ever since...

We used to run up San Cristobal on the weekends. It is a hill in the middle of Santiago--probably 20-25 minutes or so, ALL UP HILL (and steep), plus the 100+ steps to the Virgin at the top (those killed me!). One day I went on a long run by myself up half of San Cristobal and then along a road that goes along the top of the hill. I ended up way up town (near Escuela Militar, I think, or farther). I wanted to take the subway or a bus home but I didn't have any money, so I just kept running, all the way back down to my apt near Parque Forestal (for those of you who don't know Stgo, that is FAR!) I think I was running for over an hour and a half, I think it was about 12-13 miles or so and the longest I have run.

So, now, after running 10 miles, I am hurting. All my muscles are sore (some of it from the gym the last few days). My legs are wobbly and I have blisters on my toes and some chaffing on my thigh where my shorts rubbed. I want to run a marathon some day soon, and I have a tiny taste of what that is going to feel like--painful!-- Today times 2 plus 6 more miles. It'll take some training.

Our kids have always seen us run and it looks like it will rub off on them. G loves to run and is freakishly fast. Nico loves it too. They chase each other around the house, running laps just before bedtime. Here are some pics of G running last year.

Look at the face of a hard-core runner...

and she is all terrain (which is what my hubs says of me--one of my favorite compliments)

and stretching with papi, after a run.

* Title of a book by John Updike.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I do make dinner, but my kids won't eat it

I was thinking about writing this post and was then further inspired by mosey along and anymommy (adapted title).

It is hard to be a mom. I don't mean that in a whiny way, because it is fun and beautiful too. But it is hard to come to grips with the fact that there is very little "me time." That is exacerbated, of course, if you want to do anything besides being a mom.. and by anything, I mean anything. If you want to work, study, blog.. anything. There is guilt. There is lots of guilt. Men don't have it--no matter how many hours a week they work--I don't know why.

There is pressure. You see all the cool things other moms do: crafts, cooking lessons, trips, home-made costumes, cool clothes--things you don't do, can't do, won't do, but feel bad about. Are my children missing out on something?

You see moms juggle multiple kids and you feel bad about complaining about two. There is always something that gives... always. It is often alone time or date night, but there is always something you just can't get to... Dinner, cleaning, laundry, playdates. Anymommy bravely posted that she doesn't make dinner. She has four kids, I don't think I could get out of bed with four kids, much less make dinner.

I do make dinner... usually. I am not bragging...There are lots of things that I don't do, like crafts (the word "paint" brings terror to my soul) and like unnecessarily leaving the house with the kids... it's just not fun. I'll go to the park or my neighbor's house, but that is about it.

But I do make dinner--that makes up for at least something, right? There are nights, of course, where we do mac-n-cheese and chicken nuggets or quesadillas or canned soup. But I try to cook home-made meals as much as possible. I like to cook, so I am trying to come to terms with the routine aspect of it, which isn't all that fun. (I miss the days when I didn't have to feed other little mouths and I could just have popcorn if I felt like it).

I am slightly obsessed with making sure my kids have enough veggies and fiber, so I make legumes, A LOT! And when I make dishes, I make enough to last a couple of days. We try to mix it up a little in the middle, but in busy weeks, it means 2-3, sometimes 4 days of the same meal. My kids can handle about 2.

Last weekend, I made lentils, with lots of carrots, celery, peppers, and a little turkey sausage. It is not gourmet, but it is healthy. G wasn't even particularly happy on day one. Nico obliged. We ate other things for a few days and then had lentils again... they put up a little more resistance. Then we had lentils a 3rd day.

On the 3rd day, G outright refused to touch them. She went to bed early with no dinner (she was over-tired and needed a reminder that she has to eat what she is served--but I felt bad anyway). Nico took one look at his bowl and made this scowl-howl face of dread and started to cry big crocodile tears of self-pity.

I felt like such a bad mom... so the next day I made them mac-n-cheese from a box and chicken nuggets.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Late Halloween pics

So, I am lame. I can't get pics up the day after a holiday.

We had an eventful weekend, in fact, I can't remember the last weekend where we did so many social events. Friday night we had a kid's b-day party at one of those inflatable jumping-gym deals. The kids loved it, especially the foam pit.

Saturday was Halloween. We went to a party at a neighbor's house. Most of the adults dressed up... except us. We are lame, I know. I didn't really have time to put anything together; I even got the kids' costumes late. I was bummed later that we hadn't dressed up, because it might be our last Halloween here for a while.

I usually don't dress up or decorate my house, but I like Halloween. I like it because it seems like the epitomy of Fall: pumpkins and pumpkin patches, hay-rides, crisp cool nights, brown crunchy leaves on the ground, the smell of fall in the air. I like seeing G's happiness at dressing up and going trick-or-treating. I like that there is not as much consumerism or religion attached, it is just simple and fun.

G was a fairy princess--or something like that.

She got a head-start on the candy-eating (I don't really let her eat very much).

Nico was a spider or spider-web. He wasn't feeling well and was very cranky.

He cried when we put his costume on and didn't really stop. So he didn't go trick-or-treating. The hubs took him home and G and I went up and down the street with G's BFF and her mom (one of my good friends).

By far the highlight as far as costumes was this guy, the host. I experienced immense glee notifying him that his nipple was showing.

The other highlight was drinking way too much sangria. I was one happy chica!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Major and Minor Feats

Major Feat:

Today I handed my dissertation to my committee members. I got all of their signatures on the famous pink paper (it has to be pink--an important administrative detail). I then took the signature sheet, with sample sheets to be checked for format, to the graduate school, one step in one billion administrative steps that must carried out.

But the main thing is giving it to my committee. Now they read it! AHHHH! I defend in two weeks (cross your fingers for me). For some reason, I was so nervous just to give it to them, but now I feel this huge weight lifted. It is not over yet, but it still seems so surreal, even getting to this point. I know there will probably be some changes to be made, I am prepared for that, and left time, but just getting a version out has been a feat of major proportions.

Even the universe was looking out for me. Every day as I dropped my kids at daycare, I sent out my little prayer to the universe "Please don't let them pick up germs! Please don't let them call me about a fever!" When kids this age get sick, they are home for a week, in my experience. That would have meant minimal progress. But, they had nary a sniffle for two months in the germ factory. Today, Nico wakes up and pukes. But it doesn't matter. He gets to stay home and snuggle with papi as I take my "book" to its many destinations. I come home, there is no stress, I am ecstatic. We all take a nap and spend the afternoon together.

Minor Feat:

After weeks of postponing due to days of frantic writing, we finally get a start on the Halloween festivities. I finally got costumes, yesterday, after taking my baby to the printer--I am the bad mama who had to take whatever was left on the shelf. I am thankful that G will go as whatever I get her, she is not picky that way, but she is delighted with her costume. Nico doesn't care as long as it involves little work getting him in it.

I finally got a pumpkin and tonight we carved it. Look, see!

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Joys of English

I don't have time for a big long post, but I am taking a teensy-tinsy break so I will post about a language-nerd detail.

Other languages I have studied are difficult in terms of verb conjugations. English is fairly simple for verb tenses and number of conjugations, but English has the dreaded phrasal verbs or verb-preposition combos that must be so hard for English learners.

Case in point:

Today it was cold and rainy. My husband came home and told me that he had gotten wet earlier but had since "dried up."

I said: "You mean dried out."

Now, how in the dickens would you explain the difference between "dry up" and "dry out"?

Well, I totally made it up on the fly. I said, a lake or a puddle dries up, but your clothes dry out.

So he asks: "So do clothes in the dryer dry out?"


Me: "um, no those clothes just dry, to dry out, they have to get wet kind of unintentionally."

That sounds about right, right?

Man, that's complicated. and we didn't even get into "dry off."

On a totally random note, here are my fav pics of the week:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Group post: First trips within Chile

It is Sunday. I got a lot of work done yesterday on the dissertation I have one week to finish before getting it printed and to my committee. But there is always one day of the weekend, that gets filled with all the mundane tasks, plus the soccer game, plus all the communication with family etc plus some much needed grading and class prep etc. So I didn't end up working much today and now I am just too tired to try to get into it before calling it a night. So I decided to write here.

One of the bloggers-in-Chile that I read (Emily at Don't call me gringa) initiated a group post about first trips within the country. So, I thought I would oblige. Keep in mind these pics are from the late 90's with an old 35mm, as I was in Chile before digital cameras made their debut. I had to scan them, so they are a bit off.

For my first few months in Chile, I knew very few people. It takes time to get to know people, even other foreigners, (don't even get me started on some of the losers I ended up talking to or some of the awkward situations I got into because I was just so lonely and willing to hang out with anyone).

After figuring my way around Santiago, visiting all the museums, and realizing I still didn't have anyone to take a trip with, I just went by myself--and boy was it lonely. My first trip was to Valparaiso, a port city in central Chile. It is a hilly city so there are stairways and ascensores (like elevators to get up hills). I went to (a Chilean poet) Pablo Neruda's house called "La Sebastiana" (if I remember correctly). I walked around a lot all by my lonesome.

Then I took a trip to another beach town to see Pablo Neruda's most famous house at Isla Negra (which is not an island at all). When I graduated from college, I won some silly little award for which I was given several of Pablo Neruda's books,including one with pictures of all of his houses. This was even before I knew I was going to Chile and the first piece of evidence that it was my destiny.

For my first Chilean Independence Day (Sept. 18) I went on my first trip to northern Chile, in the Atacama Desert, with a friend from work. We went to San Pedro, a tiny little town with dirt roads and a picturesque white-washed church, which fills to the brim with foreigners. Though I liked San Pedro and the Valley of the Moon and the salt lake with flamingos, I didn't truly learn to like the desert until a later trip.

My first trip down south, I went with my then boyfriend, now husband and his family to a lake called "Lanalhue" (near Los Angeles). There are so many funny things I could say about this "family vacation" but a link to a previous post will have to serve as my only hint.

During this trip we went to a Parque Nacional Nahuelbuta, which is a forest of Monkey-Puzzle trees, known as Araucarias in their native land. They are one of my favorite trees and also part of the proof that it was my destiny to go to Chile.

A camping trip to El Enladrillado (near Vilches) gave me one of the most beautiful views of the Andes.

And of course, everyone who enjoys hiking has been to "Siete tazas" (seven "cups" or pools).

So there you have it, quite unpoetic and lacking in description and details (except the link which may now qualify as TMI). Short and not-exactly-sweet, but peppered with photos.

I went to Quintero (a beach town) so often with my now-husband, that I totally forgot to add that as a first-trip (maybe I'll talk about it if I ever get to how we started dating).

There was also a trip in there somewhere to La Serena and Valle del Elqui (once home to Gabriela Mistral--another Chilean poet and center of Pisco production).

Other first trips: Abby, Lydia, Lucie, and Clare. The link to Emily's original post is above.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Statistical eating

I have been so busy that I missed my blog-iversary. Yes, Saturday, my blog turned one. It has been a good time to be busy because there is nothing to read on the blogosphere. What is everybody doing that they can't keep my 15 minutes-to-waste filled with interesting things to read?

So, I will post about all I have learned about blogging later, when I have more time, but I thought for now, I will share something I wrote last week.


One night, I am eating dinner a little late because I was writing. My husband had already eaten, but was accompanying me at the table. It was spaghetti and I had heated up some corn because I am weird and that is one of my all-time favorite combinations. I was happily chewing (and talking with my mouth full—how rude!) and I kept coming across little pieces of the cob on the bottoms of the corn kernels. It was a little like chewing straw so I took it out and put it on the edge of my plate (oh shoosh, it's not like I was in a five-star French restaurant).

A few minutes later, hubs points to it and says: “You do that a lot, why don’t you just eat it?”

I told him that it was inedible. He says: “You do that with oranges too, peeling off all the white stuff” (he looks at me like I am so neurotic). I kindly offer that if he doesn’t want to waste the corn cob, he could eat it, and I hold it out to him. He says: “You know me, I’ll eat it.”

Yes, I know, he will.

So I turn it around and say: “Yeah, what is up with that? You talk like I am some neurotic eater, but you eat the entire apple—core and all. I don’t know why you even bother to peel your bananas or oranges at all.”

When he eats something with bones, his prey looks like those fish bones that cats eat in the cartoons—where they put an entire fish in their mouth and pull out just the skeleton. When he eats a chicken leg, the bone is sucked clean—there are no ligaments, cartilage, gristle, nothing. It is impressive and a little nauseating.

Then I added, “But if we polled one hundred people I bet my eating habits would be closer to the norm than yours.

He says: “How many standard deviations away would you be?” (note: SD is the average distance from the average score)

Me: I would be pretty close to the mean (the average). YOU on the other hand, would be on one extreme… you’d probably be an outlier actually (one of those points far away from “normal”).

He is one of those people who will eat things, just so they don’t go to waste. I am all for not wasting, and I don’t think I am “a typical wasteful ‘American,’” but I have food standards. I try to use up what we have and to be conscious of waste etc. But I have limits. I generally don’t eat something past the expiration date. Most leftovers that have been in the fridge past about 5 days are questionable. (I know some people who won’t even go that long.) I’ll go up to a week with something like spaghetti sauce. He’ll eat meat from over a week ago or half-rotten grapes, just so we don’t throw them away. I understand that it probably won’t kill me, but I just can’t do it.

So where are you on the neurotic eating habits? How long are leftovers safe? Do you peel all the pith off of the orange? Will you eat something after the expiration date?

So let's poll my three readers: Are you more like me or are you more like my sweet freak of a husband?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Eye tacos and our new business plan

The other day in the Spanish class I teach, we were looking at the vocabulary section for the chapter we are covering. It is sports vocab (yawn yawn snooze drool). I asked my students if they like watching certain sporting events, like say a swim meet. One of them said she only likes it if there are “dulces de ojo”. At first I had no idea what she was trying to say, until one of the other students figured it out: Eye candy.

She asked me if there was a way to say that. I told her that I hadn’t heard a good equivalent. One of the other students, who is Mexican-American (and totally doesn’t belong in a beginning Spanish course) said that she had heard of “Taco de ojo” a.k.a. Eye taco.

I almost had a comically induced fit. That is hilarious.

I was telling my hubs about it today, and after I told him about my student saying “dulce de ojo” he said, ah, Taquito de ojo. I should have known he would have heard it before, not because they say it in Chile, in fact, tacos are not even eaten there. (A taco in Chile is a traffic jam… and “traffic jam-eye” is probably something else entirely)… But he works with some Mexican guys.

That got us talking about how to say it in Chilean. All he could think of was “recrear la vista” which is essentially “visual recreation”. For some reason that brought him to how perverted Chileans were with their “Cafés con piernas.” (See how progressive he is).

Café con piernas (coffee/café with legs) is basically a coffee shop where the girls are very scantily clad. It is a strip club for your morning coffee. They are all over downtown Santiago and filled with men in business suits sipping their “café cortado” (coffee and milk). There is one that reportedly has a “million dollar minute” where the girls take off their tops.

Nice. Huh?

So I told him my theory that these joints are basically society and work sanctioned daytime strip-clubs. Since you can’t go to a night club and drink a cocktail at 9:30 a.m., they have invented coffee shops with a cheap thrill.

I told him I was surprised there weren’t more kinds of places like that:

Panadería con piernas (bakery with legs)
Verdulería con piernas (veggie stand with legs)
Carnicería con piernas (butcher shop with legs)

...where you could get your cheap thrills as you run all of your errands.

And he suggested that that might be our business plan when we move back there.

So there you have it, we will be the proud owners of a bakery where you can get some sweets with your sweets. (I had tons of little metaphors to put in here, but I don’t want you to think I am being crass).