Saturday, December 3, 2011

The wisdom of Dr. Seuss

I keep wanting to update, and then it seems overwhelming, there is so much to catch up on and so little time, it seems.

On October 29th we completed our first entire year here. Can it really be a year?

Looking at the year in retrospect, can't really be done today. I have spent all week with a late-spring flu, horrible body pains on Monday and Tuesday, fever and chills and profuse sweating during two nights, then a cough that has kept we awake ALL frickin night for 3 nights in a row, and the cherry on top was waking up this morning with pink-eye. AWESOME!! There is no other word for it.

I also seem to be writhing in some kind of ... should I say it?... mild depression. There I said it... no worries though, everything is under control. Ok, that is not entirely true, but I'll be fine. I think.

I was reading Oh, the Places You'll Go! last night to the kids and a few stanzas stood out.

And when you're in a slump,
you're not in for much fun.
Un-slumping yourself
is not easily done.

and then...

I'm afraid that some times
you'll play lonely games too
Games you can't win
'cause you'll play against you.

and I think I got a little teary-eyed. That Dr. Seuss was one wise dude.

Speaking of the kids... they have adapted great. After their year in Kindergarten and pre-pre-school, immersed in Spanish, they speak almost like little natives. It has been amazing to see how they went from speaking a few isolated words to speaking in full sentences, telling stories. They don't speak perfectly, and sometimes they get genders wrong or I'll hear "Yo me gusta", which is not grammatically correct in Spanish, but it is somewhat consistent with English "like" structure... so interesting!

Now the kids even play with each other in Spanish and do some of their solitary-play-talk in Spanish, which is fascinating. We still speak English with them at home though.

They both still struggle a little with "saludos". Here in Chile, like in many Latin American countries, you greet and say your farewell with the cheek-to-cheek kiss. They do ok sometimes, but others, they just can't be bothered. Especially when saying good-bye, which they are normally not happy about, they don't want to kiss anyone. I can relate, though, so I don't push it. But it is interesting to think about how social norms, just like language, have to be acquired.

It has been great to see how they have developed bonds with family here. G has a cousin her age. They have such different personalities that it took a little time, I think, to learn how to negotiate that relationship, and since families spend a lot of time together, they were forced in some ways to deal with each other. But now it is so cool to see how they resolve conflict and how they join forces against "outside threats"

Nico: is it a stage? is it the age? is it because he is a boy? Dealing with him has been slightly complicated at times. He is so whiny and so needy; he is somewhat sullen; he is stubborn; he is defiant. I am afraid to report I often have less than sufficient reserves of patience to do something as simple (seemingly) as brushing teeth.

But he still looks just as edible when he is sleeping quietly.

Friday, September 30, 2011

This little llama takes after her mama

Her favorite sandwich is tomato, lettuce, and avocado... and in a certain order.

She is my kid for sure.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Happy 18th Chile!!!

September 18th is the date when Chile celebrates its independence. They celebrate "la chilenidad" (chilean-ness) all week--las fiestas patrias. It is the favorite holiday of many Chileans.

It means:

A long weekend. We are going here.

Fondas where you drink chicha, a sweet grape-based licquor and dance the Cueca, the traditional dance of Chile. Check out Margaret's photos from last year.

LOTS of empanadas (See Emily's photos here)


Here are my little kidlets in traditional garb for their pre-school independence day celebration, dancing traditional Chilean dances.

FELICES FIESTAS PATRIAS!! Have a long, lovely, safe, food-filled weekend!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lady Marmalade

I am finally finding time to cook a little again... for fun.

I took a few pounds of these:

and reduced them

and added some more stuff:white sugar, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, red wine and a few sprigs of thyme

and ended up with this:

Onion marmalade... quite delish!

I used this recipe here (but used butter/olive oil instead of bacon grease)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Just another English teacher

Most gringas (and gringos) who live or have lived in Chile, have at some point taught English.

My first job in Santiago, 15 years ago (good lord!) was teaching English. (I have also taught Spanish since then.) If you remember the "How we met" story, you know I met my husband teaching English.

Some do it because it is a good way of living abroad for a few years. Some do it because they found the love of their lives, who happens to be Chilean, and now they live here and whatever they studied has been rendered useless either because there are certain areas of study, take law for example, that don't "travel" well or because they are limited by a language they don't know--Spanish.

Some actually like teaching English... but there are many who would rather do something else, anything else. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard a gringa say: "I don't want to teach English, I want a real job."
Many gringas are also irritated beyond belief at the unfounded assumption that they are English teachers... in terms of annoyingness, it chalks up there with the unfounded assumption that all gringas are easy. We are not all easy and we are not, by the mere nature of our gringa-ness, all English teachers.

So, it is funny, in this context of opposition and the with the discourse of desiring a real occupation, to be a gringa who works in the English-teaching industry. It is not just because I am a native speaker, though that makes me more marketable here in some ways (though it is slightly illogical in other ways--because just being a native speaker in no way makes someone a better teacher). I am a language-related teacher because I love it; it is one of those unexplicable passions. I love language, I love how languages work, I love the random similarities and the baffling differences. I love talking about universal grammar and the critical period and minimal pairs. My doctorate degree is in language education. Teaching about language is what I do. It is what I have chosen to do.

I am actually not an English teacher per se... I am an English teacher-teacher. I prepare future English teachers. I try to help them step out of the box that they were taught in--"a fill-in-the-blank-worksheet is not an activity" and "how are you going to activate their previous knowledge?" I teach theories of second language acquisition and methodology courses.

But I can understand the irritation piqued by that unfounded assumption that if you are a gringa, you teach English. I get it.

Recently a woman I know told me that her (adult) son had asked her to ask me if I would give him English lessons. I sweetly (because she is sweet) said: "I wish I could, I just don't have time." (and I silently whine: "I have a 44-hour contract, I am expected to research and publish, I leave home at 7:30 am (because I live far), I get home some nights after 8:00 (because I live far), I love what I do, but I have two kids and a husband that I want to see and not enough time to read or run or watch movies, and you are asking me to spend my precious free time giving English lessons.")

When I meet people in the hall or bathroom at the university where I work and they ask what department I am in and I say Education and they say, nodding-- knowlingly, assumingly "Oh, you teach English." There is a little twitch in my brain and I politely say "I teach language pedagogy." (and I silently hiss to myself... "and I have a Ph.D. in the field"). But I don't say it out loud because I don't have to prove my worth to anyone and I am actually mostly uncomfortable talking about my Ph.D. (despite having mentioned it like 15 times in this post, but you guys already know!)

I have friends who, when we made public our plan to return to Chile, asked: "Are you going to teach at the institute again?" I reply politely, "No, I think I'll find a university job" (and I silently, sarcastically hiss to myself: "Dude, I just spent years finishing my doctorate degree so I could totally go back to what I was doing 10years ago!") But I don't say it out loud because I don't have to justify myself to anyone.

It is an odd space, feeling perfectly happy with my very real job, feeling like I don't have to justify what I do or why, but not wanting to be put in the gringa-English-teacher box that the other gringas complain about either.

ya know?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

... and worms

My hubs is also obsessed with worms... is that weird?

We compost, I think I have talked about that before. We LOVE composting! If it were up to him, not a single scrap of organic material would go to waste--if you run in our circle, at some point you will hear about composting toilets... probably over dinner after Nico calls us from the bathroom to help him wipe... I hope you have a stomach of steel.

Anyway, my husband is always concerned about the health of our compost heap. He spends quite a bit of time digging around, assessing if there is enough heat, checking out whether there are worms or other signs of life.

Don't believe me? Look...

It is seriously something that comes up in conversation as we lay chatting at night before falling asleep:

"I haven't seen any worms in the compost. What does that mean?"

When he finds worms, he is happy, he thinks it means something very positive about the compost. He's probably right, it is just funny, is it not?

Look! It was obviously a good compost day!

Someone will sleep in peace.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Views from work

One of the things I really enjoy about where I work is the natural environment. The grounds are beautiful, it is so quiet, even the air feels different. My workplace is right at the foothill of the Andes. This is the view of the city from the floor where my office is.

This is a back view facing one side...

and here is the back view facing the other direction.

Not too bad, huh?

(I used a kind of crappy camara, pics don't even do it justice)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Have I mentioned he likes to prune...?

My husband likes to prune... I mean he really likes it. He spends a lot of time pruning and re-pruning, and trimming trees and shrubs.

Sometimes it is like one of those bad jokes when you tell your hubs that you have to get ready for visitors and he starts pruning... it is a lot like that actually.

At our house we don't throw away any organic matter that will compost back into rich soil. Leaves are left to compost in the grass, and in addition to pruning the trees, he spends even more time cutting those bigger pieces into sticks and twigs that will break down and compost. So we have sticks and twigs covering lots of ground space--just think of it as a rough mulch.

We also have piles of stickes and branches in other spaces... I like this old wheel-barrow.

Remember a few months back when I made plum jam? Well, this is what is left of the plum tree.

He says it is a "drastic" pruning. Yes... drastic is one way of putting it.

We have a running bet going about whether or not it will come back in the spring. He says it will come back. I find it hard to believe I will be making plum jam again this year... or ever again. What do you think?

The funniest, weirdest thing is that he will not touch this ancient fig tree. He hasn't trimmed one little branch!

Though I think it was the only tree in the yard that desperately needed pruning.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunny Sunday in the yard

It is winter in the southern hemisphere. In Santiago it gets cold at night, but during the day if the sun comes out, it can reach a decent temperature. Because of some sprinking rain we got over the weekend, the air was a bit cleaner today, the sun was out, and the sky was a bright blue. I am recovering from a cold bug, so it felt good to get some air outside.

So this was a piece of our Sunday in the yard.

G making grass angels

A sibling hug

One of the lemon trees... can you say "pisco sour"?

Our winter garden. We could only grow a few thing: baby lettuce, spinach (with some swiss chard sneaking in) onions and leeks (which have been very slow), and radishes.

Little harvest: some swiss chard that I sauted with some olive oil and garlic... and the first little radishes I picked to make room for some others--which we had in a salad with some of the baby lettuce.

Is there anything quite so divine as something you grew yourself?

I hope your Sunday was happy!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Class Rooster

Guess who cried when he was told that he couldn't take the rooster home?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Expressions of discontent

My daughter has begun openly expressing her feelings of unhappiness with her parents.

She has uttered those three words that all parents hear eventually--(though they think they will never hear because they are model parents): "I hate you!"

Personally, I think if you never hear those words, you may not be setting the limits you should be setting, but that might just be to make myself feel better.

She has also taken to frowning, grumbling, wailing, and of course, the timeless favorite, the screetchy whine.

A few weeks ago, grmbling at me for some reason I can't recall, she exclaimed: "I am going to send you to the jungle! I'll help you pack your bag"

I tried very hard not to laugh and asked her who would make her waffles in the morning.

Today, upset with her papi about feeling unfairly gilted in a game of kick-the-ball-around-the-room, she quickly drew this picture and gave it to him to express her anger.

Do you see that frown? those tightly-knit brows? The message is quite clear, no?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Random thoughts on a Friday night...

It is Friday night. It is cold, very cold. It has been raining for two days which means that when the sky clears, the view of the snow-capped Andes will be clear and vivid... until the city smog settles into the valley again.

These are the moments when I love living here, even in the winter. I will try to get a photo... you will die (figuratively, of course, I hope) and then rush to buy a plane ticket. It takes your breath away.

Rain means "sopaipillas" in Chile. We have eaten them twice today, once with an aunt and then again because our sweet neighbor brought some. Sopaipillas are little fried disks of a pumpkin dough, explained beautifully here, with a recipe and all. They are ok, much better with a killer "pebre" (their version of hot sauce --looks a little like pico de gallo, but not as spicy), but as far as pumpkin things go, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumkin cookies, pumkin pancakes, jack-o-lanterns, and roasted pumpkin seeds win by a landslide. Not that I am culturally biased...

These past few weeks have been a little more relaxed. I know you didn't exactly know my life wasn't in a state of relaxation, but I think a few of you noticed I hadn't been posting. My first semester as a university professor (can you believe that?!) has been winding down and then ended this week. I just have to grade one last set of final exams. My reprieve will be short-lived though--the second semester begins the first week of August and I still have a lot of preparation to do. Is it too early to start dreaming of December? (December is the end of the school year)

I can't believe we have been here for nine months already. Time has flown by. I am busy with work all week. Weekends seem to fly by too. Saturday we "recup", get groceries, etc. Chileans are prone to very long Sunday lunches with family. By long, I mean loooooooooong... like from 2-9. When we host, it also involves cooking and preparing before that. Part of the reason is the Chilean tradition of the sobremesa the after-meal discussions that extend for sometimes hours.

We all have a good time, even though I always end up with that sensation that I lost an entire day. The kids have really enjoyed playing with their cousins, so I know they are creating memories and building a sense of family, which is important.

At the end of this month I have to apply for permanent residency, a delightful beaurocratic process that involves lots of line-time. I am pretty sure I am going to pay someone to do it for me, because I don't have time. Please don't worry about any lack of authenticity in my experience, I have had lots of practice renewing visas with extranjeria (immigration), so I have done my time.

Also at the end of this month, the hubs and I will celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary... which means we have been together for 14 almost 15 years. Does that seem like an eternity to anyone else? I think 10 years deserves something special, so for our anniversary, I am going to officially, publically recognize him as my spouse on Facebook. Stay tuned for his reaction!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Artificial Sweeteners and Other Evils

Peg at Cachando Chile posted today about annoyances one has to deal with living in Chile. I have only been here for 9 months (Can you believe it has been 9 months already?!) and I have tried to be flexible and positive. There have honestly only been a few moments where I have been very irritated. Besides the example I added in her comments (about the inappropriate use of emergency lights) there are not very many general irritations.

The only other one I can think of is this:

I HATE artificial Sweeteners!

Is that too emphatic? Well, it is worthy of emphasis. I hate'em!

In the U.S. they seemed fairly easy to avoid, in Chile this isn't quite the case--they are nearly impossible to avoid and products that contain them are not always labelled as "light" or "diet." I was excited to find greek yogurt at the supermarket and was then dismayed at home to find it has sucralose though it doesn't say "light" anywhere... GRR!

I drink pop every once in a while, and when I do, I like regular Coke. I put regular sugar in my coffee. Occasionally, at a party, if there are only diet sodas, I'll break my general rule and drink some, but I try not to break that rule with foods and drinks my kids ingest, but it is nearly impossible: sucralose and aspartame are in everything.

Kids here, like kids everywhere (and adults everywhere, I guess), have problems with obesity--it's a combination of being sedentary and the low cost/easy access of fast food. These issues coupled with the odd cultural fact that Chileans just don't drink water. There is a low-no calorie alternative for every drink available, and they are almost more common than the real-sugar option. There are drops and little tic-tac-like balls and bottles and packets of all kinds and combinations of sugar alternatives.

But when they start making children's juice and soda with alternative sweeteners, I go a little mad. The hardest part of our entire-family vacation in February, was the head-on collision of different feeding criteria. My kids wanted to know why they couldn't drink Frutix--the bane of my existence! whenever they were thirsty (Frutix is an insanely bright colored kids' soda with very low calories thanks to sucralose... and 5% real fruit juice! ps--that last part was sarcasm). I was wildly unpopular for a few days for limiting them to one very small glass with lunch (a painful compromise) and my daughter even requested a different set of parents. My poor kids! I guess I am old-fashioned that way--soda is for special occasions. It is bad enough to see very small children with a baby-bottle full of coke and a bag of potato chips -- for me, the fact that it is probably diet coke makes it worse, not better.

If your children are ingesting too much sugar, cut down. If your children are drinking too many calories in juice and soda, give them water. Why would you give them something that has a limit for acceptable daily ingestion?

Lecture ends and Annje steps down from soap box

p.s. I finally found a vitamin for the kids that doesn't have an artificial sweetener--so excited!

p.s.s I'll try to post more often

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Date Night

Anyone with kids will tell you that it becomes infinitely harder to go out alone as a couple. I know there are couples who make date night a sacred, scheduled part of their lives. Hats off to them because it isn't easy. I think most of us, however, struggle with it. It is not that we don't recognize the importance, it is just that there are so many factors that have to be considered, it can be overwhelming.

Who is going to take care of the kids is the biggest obstacle. We thought that would be a little easier to arrange here, but that hasn't necessarily been the case. In the almost 5 months (ah!) that we have been here, we have been out alone exactly thrice... for birthday celebrations, on days that my FIL happened to be home (which is rare). It is not just a matter of who stays with the kids, it has a lot to do with what time-frame it involves, what the "baby-sitter" will be expected to do (bedtime, meals, diapers) because those details help determine who you can choose to baby-sit.

There are economic factors too. If a family member isn't an option as a baby-sitter, you have to pay one. Which means you have to consider all of the above, plus adding babysitter fees to the cost of the evening out. And really, are you going to look for the cheapest babysitter to take care of your offspring?

There is also the fact that no matter what you do on your night out, no matter how late you come home, you get up at dawn with the kids anyway. (ok, at this point it isn't dawn anymore, but it feels pretty early after a night out.)

This week, I planned a night out with the hubs. I called an aunt that the kids adore. She and her daughter agreed to take them for the night (they slept over). I told my husband what to wear and what we needed to bring. But the rest was a secret.

So last night this is what I surprised him with:

We got on horses at dusk and rode up into the foothills of the Andes.

As it got darker, we saw the (almost) full moon rising above the mountains. When we got to our destination, a little over an hour later, there was a fire waiting for us and a breathtaking view.

Our guide and her Huaso (Chilean cowboy) helpers grilled some sausages and veggies, opened a bottle of pisco sour (what I call the Chilean version of a margarita) and some wine. We sat around the fire, enjoying the view, the sky, the fire, the silence of the mountains. My hubs loved it (he loves fire & mountains) and it was the first time he rode a horse.

It was seriously beautiful! I would do it again in a heartbeat. My only regret is that they started getting us settled on the horses and I didn't have a chance to get out my camera, and once on horseback I didn't dare try to get it out, so I didn't get to capture the beginning part (when it was still light and we were riding up the mountain).

How's THAT for a date night?

Plus, since the kids spent the night at their tia's house, we both got to sleep in until 10:30 (a luxury).

Now, Hubs has to organize the next one (though the bar is set pretty high).

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Me: Did you lose your keys? (he had been borrowing my keys all day)

Father-in-law: (with certainty) No ... (then hesitates)I mean, I don't know where they are, but I don't think they are lost yet.

Clearly lost has a slightly different meaning in some contexts... I mean, if you don't know where they are aren't they lost? Or are they just misplaced, until it is permanent and they are never found?

Ah, keys!

My husband's family is a black hole for keys... if you lend them your keys, always demand them back immediately after the key-task is finished. They laugh at me because I am really anal about getting my keys back, I will come after you, right after you open the door and say: my keys, please. I will hunt you down...

Keys are important here because there are so many to get in and even to get out of a residence. There is a pad-locked gate outdoors to get out to the street. If you don't have a key, you can't get out. There is a barred door and then the front door, which locks when it is shut. (Don't get nervous for me with so many bars, I am not in danger--it is just life here) There is a key to the back sliding bar door that covers the sliding glass door, which also clicks locked when shut. We have locked ourselves out before (Thank you Nico! and another good reason to carry your keys on your person at all times) and had to slide Nico through two of the bars over the front window (thank goodness his head just fit through... next year we won't be so lucky).

When we went to the beach house (which has no bars, by the way, but it does have an alarm), my husband took both sets of keys to the truck... and at one point he realized that we couldn't find either set... for DAYS! How does that happen? I honestly don't understand.

I never lose or misplace keys, like ever. I always know where my keys are, I always put them in the same places or carry them on my person. So it is just bizarre that I live in a house where no one can ever find keys... seriously, like ever. Keys have been an issue as long as I have known my husband. Handy as I am, I am an excellent key-spotter. If you set them down and can't remember where, I'll tell you, because I saw them. My mind registers things like that.

They are also notoriously bad at searching for lost items (that weren't just set down somewhere odd). It's like they just can't fathom where they might be. I keep muttering: "Retrace your steps" and "What were you wearing?"

So I finally did an exhaustive search for the truck keys... and found one set of in a pants- pocket. The other set was found days later in another pants-pocket.

So in a sense, the riddle has been solved, at least for some of the misplacements... pockets is the answer. The keys just stay there and the pants come off.

So curious.

I suggested to my FIL that he look in last night's jacket pocket.

Another key mystery has been solved. The not-lost keys have been found.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Home Alone

It is Sunday afternoon. The house is quiet. I am home alone. My husband and kids are at the beach house. I am headed there Monday evening for two weeks. (I know, my life is so tough, we've been here a few months and now we get a vacation). February is vacation month in Chile, it is warm and sunny and breezy, the city is quieter and more relaxed, the streets are not as congested, and a good percentage of Santiaguinos go to the beach or down to southern provinces.

I stayed behind to get some work done. (I am assuming that when I said "work" my husband didn't imagine that it included blogging, but I needed a break (ahem, from facebook) so here I am.)

Yesterday I got up and went running. This morning I played Pink full blast as I got ready for the day. I have gotten TONS of work and reading done. There is no mess... anywhere. There is no cooking, no dishes, no dirty clothes. I have no obligations.

I mean, I miss them, of course, I miss them

But this is HEAVEN!

I am going to be teaching at a university in March (fall and the school year here start in March). I am excited, but there are moments when I am in an outright panic. I'll be teaching courses for the first time--which involves a boatload of preparation and reading. I am also in charge of a Master's program, which I half laugh about because I feel ridiculously underprepared for such a position. I will be teaching in the MA program and in the undergraduate program.

Plus, they keep asking me to do more. At some point I started worrying about how in the crap I was going to organize my time to get everything done. And then one of the program directors asked me to take another class. I blame it on his accent. I wanted so badly to say no. But he is from Argentina (though he is not one of the infamously arrogant Porteños) and his voice is so smooth and sing-songy and he uses that voseo "Mirá" instead of "Mira". And I couldn't say no...

And I alerted my hubs, that apparently protesting is futile, I cannot say no to an argentino, so he stands forewarned (and he is desperately working on changing his accent-HA!)

Being alone here is funny. Because everyone asks you if you are scared. (to stay home alone, to go running in this neighborhood alone, to walk the two blocks from the subway at night... alone). I think they think I am just clueless to all the dangers lurking in their city. I am not... but sheesh! What am I supposed to do?

I am not really frightened to sleep at home alone, but my first night I woke up in the middle of a night because there was a noise INSIDE my bedroom. I jumped up and there was a random cat that had come in an open window and was roaming around my bedroom. (Eileen is so thrilled that she is not the only one that attracts random cats--though I couldn't find her post where that happened) So now I close a bunch of windows at night.

Friday, January 21, 2011

An account of an account

There are certain things in Chile that are just harder to do… like opening a checking account.

In the U.S. this process is much easier… as I understand pretty much anyone, even children, through their parents, can open a bank account there. I didn’t have any money as a kid, but I opened my first bank account at 18, when I went to college, with a whopping $20. They gave me checks, a debit card, later online access (which wasn’t available when I first opened the account, if that gives you any indication of my age, there were no email accounts at that time either, if some of you young whippersnappers can imagine!)

Now, before anyone says, “Well, no wonder the US is in the financial mess it is” (because someone said that to me already when I mentioned the difference in ease). A checking account has nothing to do with any credit mess or housing bubble: a checking account is a virtual place where you can keep your money and take it out when needed… it is not a line of credit, you can’t take out more than you have (in theory, and at least without a hefty fee and eventually serious consequences), there is generally no benefit of accruing interest. Oh, and it is also almost always free (unless you do your banking somewhere swanky).

In Chile, it is notoriously difficult to get a checking account, and it is even harder for foreigners. You have to make a certain amount of money, you have to show up to two years of pay stubs, sometimes you have to prove you are on a contract. As I understand, checking accounts here often come with a line of credit. There are charges: for maintenance, sometimes for transactions, sometimes if your balance falls below a certain amount, etc.

When I was living here before (10 years ago) it was unthinkable for a foreigner to get a checking account. You just kept your money under the proverbial mattress (ok, there is not exactly a proverb about money under mattresses, and one of my pet peeves is how people use proverbial when there is not a proverb… but I am breaking my own rule and you know what I mean, right? “Under the mattress is some kind of saying… but you don’t necessarily keep it under the mattress, but something to that end.)

Moving on… I find it ridiculous, at this point in my life, to work on a totally cash basis… right? No matter what the context or how much I make or how long I have been working where I work, or what my immigration status is… that I would have to go cash a check for several thousand dollars (or whatever the amount) and carry it home and keep it there… every month, until I meet whatever silly requirements there are to be met. Does that make me sound like some arrogant, indulged, brat with some disproportionate sense of entitlement? Well, whatever… dude, I want to pay my bills online, ok? Call me spoiled!

So I found out about a type of account here that called a RUT account. In Chile, instead of a social security number, you are given a RUT, it is a number you use for everything. I finally have it memorized, after having to tell about 10 people who asked for it “I don’t have it memorized.” The shame won, and I memorized it. So, there is a bank that offers accounts based on your RUT. It is a simple account with no benefits really, but you can electronically deposit your paycheck and you have a debit card and can pay things online and make transfers and toda la we’a (all that crap). So, I thought: “perfect!” But, alas (of course) it was not to be… I went to open a RUT account and was told that since my residency visa is temporary (for the first year) I was not eligible to open one.

So, since then, half the world has said: “I am certain you can open a RUT account with a temporary visa… so and so did”

Well, while I am sure that is true, I couldn’t... I am not going to try again (and yes, I did try at an “uptown” branch) You see, I am one of those rancorous people: I hold a grudge! Banco de Estado didn’t let me open a cuenta RUT, so they will never get my millions! (I may one day eat my words, but I feel VERY strongly about it now ;-)

No, but seriously, I was really annoyed! Who cares if my visa is as a temporary resident? I moved here permanently. And it is an account with NO benefits and NO risks (you can’t take out more than you have in it). Seriously, a girl of 12 or a boy of 14 (why the difference? I have no idea) with no regular income can open one, but I can’t!

So, I bypassed the system…

All Chileans and all foreigners living here will tell you that you can do almost anything if you have a “pituto” (pee-TU-toh) which is what you might call “an inside man” (or woman, or whatever), a contact you have that helps you get a job or better service or a better price or whathaveyou.

My father-in-law mentioned to my brother-in-law’s brother at a family dinner that I hadn’t been able to open a cuenta RUT. He happens to work at a bank in a semi-highish position (I gather). He said: "give me your datos (info) and I’ll have an account executive call you tomorrow and set you up with an account."

So I did… and he did… and they called… and I have an account. I even got a call from the branch manager to welcome me to the bank and to make sure that everything had gone smoothly and that I had been treated well.

Today I had to go in to pick up a little apparatus called a “multipass” which generates passwords every minute, which you need, in addition to your personal internet password, to do anything online.

The bank employee looked at my ID card she asked: “They gave you an account even though you are a temporary resident?”

Yes! You see, my people know people who know people.

This is where I keep waiting for something to go horribly wrong: they take away my account because I have almost no money in there, or they decide they don’t want to take a risk, or they start charging me some astronomical maintenance fees or something and I end up ruing the day that I tried to bypass the system… someone tell me that is not going to happen?

Of course, if I have any problem… my “pituto” told me to call him and he’d take care of it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Coming... coming

Sorry to abandon you for so long

I have been busy! Like panicked busy...

Not too busy to make plum jam with Eileen though. (Click on her name and read her take on Santiago being named the #1 place to visit by the New York Times)

The jam turned out pretty good, but a little tart (then I made juice that was too tart and tarts that were pretty tart--apparently the plums are more tart than they come across). I told everyone to eat the jam quickly, just in case... I don't want to kill anyone with botulism.

Anyway, I will write something of substance soon... I think!