Sunday, October 31, 2010

Explosión de Palabras

Today I had lunch at my aunt and uncle's house. My grandmother, who I haven't seen in 12 years stopped by. One of the first things she asked me was why I don't have a boyfriend. Then, during lunch she asked me if I was on birth control. To top it off, after lunch she wanted to know when I was going to get married and start having children.

My uncle likes to refer to her as "una explosión de palabras." An explosion of words.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

El Palacio La Moneda

Last week I went to El Palacio de La Moneda.

You should know I didn't take this picture.
I just never took one of the whole building.

La Moneda is where the President of Chile works. So yeah, it's kind of a big deal. The palace takes up an entire block in downtown Santiago. You should know by now, before I tell you what I did there, I will first give you a little history. It's more fun that way.

In Spanish moneda means coin. So as it turns out, La Moneda was originally built to serve as a mint (not the breath freshener, the place where coins are made). Coins were produced in the palace from 1814 until 1929.

Somewhere along the way, a president decided La Moneda would be a pretty nice place to live. This was around 1845. I’m a little fuzzy on the details (read: Wikipedia is a little fuzzy on the details) but sometime around 1950, the presidents stopped living in La Moneda. Now they just work there.

I’m sure many people believe September 11th is only a catastrophic moment in American history. Unfortunately they’re wrong. Twenty-eight years before the planes crashed into the Twin Towers (and the Pentagon and the PA field) Chileans experienced their own 9/11. President Salvador Allende died in La Moneda (cause of death unknown) during a military coup d’état on September 11, 1973. Part of La Moneda was destroyed as bombs fell on the palace.

I don’t mean to get all anti-American here, because that’s definitely not my intention. But just so you all know, Allende was a freely elected Chilean President. And the CIA of the US supported the military coup d’état that resulted in the death of a president and Chile subsequently being under control of a military dictatorship until 1990.

Let’s take a breath, shall we?

Okay. Moving on.

In 1981 La Moneda had been restored. However, some scars from the attack were purposefully left behind.

Here's a memorial for Allende inside La Moneda.
You can see the new brick and the old brick.

The palace has several beautiful courtyards, salons, and patios all of which I got to see on a private, one-on-one, behind the scenes tour. Try doing that at the White House. I doubt you’ll get very far.

My aunt, Tia Patricia, just so happens to work at La Moneda. She even knows the President (who by the way, I am determined to meet, given my connections). So when she offered to show me around I obviously didn’t hesitate.

One of the first places we went was the Patio de los Cañones.

Here is where flags are on display, commemorating the Chilean (and one Bolivian) miners.

Notice the one Bolivian flag on the right.

The note written by Jose Ojeda alerting rescuers

that all 33 miners were safe is also on display.

Inside La Moneda we visited several different salons. I’m sure lots of really important things happen there, but my aunt doesn’t speak English so I’m not really sure what goes on there. While wandering around we went to the kitchen (I’m sure that’s not on the real tour) and the chef gave me a glass of soda. Then we went upstairs to the second floor. After my aunt kindly asked the security guard, we were give the okay to look around a little. You should know the second floor is restricted from the public. It’s good to know the people I know.

Galeria de Los Presidentes on the second floor.
I never said the second floor was exciting.

On our way to the Plaza de la Constitución we stopped in the Presidential Kitchen. We even got to sample meringues. Presidential meringues. (That is definitely not on the real tour.)

Exiting La Moneda I snapped a picture with some guards.

The guy on the left clearly didn't know we were taking a picture.

There was a line of people waiting to take their pictures in front of the capsule that rescued the miners. I’m not one to cut lines. But because I was with my super special aunt we were allowed to go to the front of the line. However, the lady who took my picture in front of the capsule managed to only take a picture of me....without the capsule. (That takes talent.) So here's a picture from the other side.

La Capsula FENIX II

And here's a close up of the capsule.
You can see the oxygen tanks still inside.

After seeing the capsule we made a quick trip to the Presidential Garage. I don’t know if that’s what it’s called. I just made it up. But we got to see the President’s car. I’m not a car person so this part was the least interesting.

Anyway, that about sums up my trip to La Moneda. I think I’m going to go back for the English tour to figure out the significance behind all my pictures.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Whole Lot of Barrons

One of the benefits of living in Santiago is that there are a whole lot of people related to me. Let's meet a few, shall we?

From back to front, Francisco, Juan Pablo, Constanza, Me,
Tia Patricia, and her sister, Tia Anita.

All part of the Barron family. And that's not even the half of it. There's more.

Here is my cousin Ignacio...

...and his dad, Tio Nacho*.

And there are more members of the Barron family I haven't even met yet.

*Nacho is a common nickname here for the name Ignacio. How fun is that? They share a name with an orange colored Dorito.

False Alarm

Sorry for the premature post about the job. Unfortunately I had to turn it down. I'm really disappointed because it seemed like such a perfect position. However, yesterday I went to visit the campus with my aunt and the school is way too far away from where the affordable housing is in Santiago. Also, without a car there would be no way for me to actually get to the school. So not being able to actually show up to work would make it hard to work there.

So now I'm back to square one, or whatever the expression is. Luckily, I've been told that native English speakers are like a hot commodity here. So my chances of finding another job are pretty good.

But still, it's a pretty big disappointment.

I still like owls though.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Like Owls.

I got a job today!! Starting in March* I will be a full time 6th grade teacher at an international school in Santiago. (Unless of course I get another, more fabulous offer.) Starting next week I'll be going to the school for one month to observe and meet the staff.

Admit it. I'm pretty awesome.

*Here, the school year runs from March to December.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Will Work For....Money.

One of my main goals while staying in South America is to find a job. Not just any job. A job where I can finally make use of that Master's degree I worked my butt off for.

Two weeks ago I had an interview in a little town called Curicó, located about two hours south of Santiago. I was a little nervous the night before so my mom gave me this invaluable advice:

I had little to worry about because after five minutes, the lady informed me they would be sending me an offer. I couldn’t believe it. I was actually being offered a job….teaching! The only downside was Curicó itself. The town was in the middle of nowhere. Well, more accurately, it was in the middle of other equally small towns. Not exactly the best place for someone my age. So I decided to be gutsy and turn the job down.

Luckily, I have two interviews set up for next week. Both schools are in Santiago. Hopefully one (or both!) will want me, so I can accept an offer and move on with my life. Which at the moment involves planning a trip to the wonderfully beautiful Lake District of Southern Chile. Researching different places to travel to is much more fun than going on interviews. Mainly because you can’t go on an interview in sweatpants.


I've been in Santiago for a few weeks now. And I can't even claim to have seen a fraction of the city yet. But I will admit, that I have been very surprised with what I have found.

I came to Chile adamantly declaring that I would never live in Santiago. No way would I ever stay in such a big city. However once I arrived, I doubt it even took 30 minutes for me to change my mind. It’s not quite as hectic as I imagined it to be.

Just like New York City, Santiago is split up into different areas. The part I’ve been staying in, Las Condes, is very pretty. It's mostly made up of apartment buildings and sky scrapers. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite buildings so far:

Just kidding about the last one.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Post for Liz

One of the downsides to moving over 5000 miles to the south is that I don't get to see two of the greatest people get married.

So congratulations to a fabulous couple who just so happens to be getting married TODAY!

Wait, no. Not those guys. But these guys.

Jim and Liz are probably the funniest people I have ever met. And I couldn't be more happy for them.

And Liz, I'm pretty sure this should have been your wedding cake. It goes right along with the American Gothic themed engagement picture.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

¡Hola Chile!

Traveling from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile, you have a few options. Two of which are traveling by plane or bus. The main difference between these two options is time. Traveling by bus takes about seven hours longer than traveling by plane. It’s also cheaper.

I did not decide to travel to Chile by bus purely for financial reasons. The main reason was the scenery. When you travel from Argentina to Chile you cross the Andes. You know, that giant mountain range that runs as the dividing border between the two countries. Let’s talk a little about the Andes, okay? (I don't really care if you don't want to. It's my blog. And I like geography. So deal with it.)

Not including underwater mountain ranges (yes, those exist) the Andes are the longest mountain range, at roughly 7,000 km long. That’s about 1,000 miles more than the width of the US. So yeah, they’re pretty long. Its tallest peak, Mt. Aconcagua, at over 6,900 feet is the highest mountain in the Americas. Actually it’s the tallest mountain outside of Asia. It is located in the Mendoza province of Argentina. And if you are seated on the right side of the bus, you are able to see spectacular views of Mt. Aconcagua as you drive to Santiago.

Well, as it turns out, Mt. Aconcagua is pretty ugly this time of year. So here's a picture of a chicken in a jogging suit instead.

You may think that 7.5 hours on a bus is a long time. And you’re right, it is. But at least the buses that make this route are incredible. First off, they are double-decker buses. Which, in my book, automatically makes them super cool. I had a window seat (on the right side) and was pleased to find out that half the seats on the bus went unsold, including the one next to mine.

Before the bus even departed from the station, the attendant walked by and gave everyone an alfajor. Soon after departure the first of two movies began to play. My only complaint with the bus was the fact that listening to the movie was not optional. Overhead speakers projected the dialogue. So if you don’t plan on watching the movie, you better hope you packed some headphones or earplugs.

The movie that was chosen to keep the travelers entertained was called “Fireproof.” Once I realized that is was religious propaganda, I decided to tune it out. Though I might add, before I stopped watching I did see the main character break his computer with a baseball bat to eradicate his temptation to watch porn. That Kirk Cameron is one mighty fine actor.

About three hours after leaving Mendoza we arrived at Los Libertadores. This is the where you pass through the Chilean customs. Everyone got off the bus and proceeded inside. I was a little nervous because my Chilean passport had not arrived in time for me to leave. As an American traveling into Chile there is a fee of 140 USD. I had heard this fee was only imposed to those arriving by plane, but I still had my doubts. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay.

Los Libertadores

After passing through customs, all the luggage was removed from the bus. We moved into another room as we watched our luggage go through xray machines. Any personal bags we had with us were put up onto tables. At first I wondered why this was necessary. Then the dogs were brought in to smell every bag. I’m not sure if the dogs are used to only find drugs, or if perhaps, they are sniffing for any of the numerous items that you are forbidden from bringing into the country. This includes, but is not limited to, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds, flowers and honey.

¡Bienvendos a la Republica de Chile!

Once the luggage was placed back on the bus, we were able to reboard and continue on our way. The bus attendant came around and handed everyone some snacks and a packet of powdered milk. Then came the fun part. While the drive up to Los Libertadores from Argentina is gradual incline, once you cross into Chile you get to travel down the Los Caracoles pass. This is a steep decline with a series of hairpin curves. To make things more fun, there are no guard rails. It’s crazy to think that truckers make this drive several times each day.

This picture doesn't really do it any justice.

Closer to Santiago we began to pass the Rio Blanco. Interesting choice of names, because while it may be a river, it is definitely not white. Everything was so green. It was a drastic contrast to the Argentine side of the Andes, which was almost completely devoid of color.

The Rio Blanco

So that about sums up my trip from Argentina to Chile. I can’t fully express how happy I am to be in Chile. Especially now, with the miners being rescued. As I’ve been writing this I’ve watched the last five miners being rescued, with number 28 about to surface right now. The vibe in this city, and I suspect all across the country, is one of relief. It’s pretty incredible.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Daily Lecture

Tomorrow will make it one month since I have arrived in Argentina. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.

1. Good shoes are essential. Wait. I take that back. Great shoes are essential. Just because a worn out pair of Converse are comfortable to walk from your house to the car, doesn’t mean they will be comfortable to walk twenty blocks (uphill...both ways). I’ve already given up wearing flip flops.

2. Don’t ever leave the house without toilet paper. I have yet to see a bathroom in public that actually has toilet paper. I’m not saying I always choose the stalls that are out of paper. I mean they don’t even have dispensers. So like I said, always carry toilet paper. Unless of course that sort of thing doesn't bother you. (Gross.)

3. People are, of course, entitled to their own opinion, but it still may be a stupid opinion. It's okay for someone to share their opinions with you about topics like abortion, gay rights, or divorce, but it is best not to be the one initiating the conversation, especially when you have the feeling that it might create an uncomfortable situation. Sometimes it is best to keep your opinions to yourself. However, once a person begins to spill derogatory comments, then I strongly believe you should stand up for what you believe in.

4. When trapped in car with two children under the age of nine, it pays to play smart. Make sure you pick the appropriate time to introduce them to the most wonderful game of all: The Silent Game. It helps to add in some “oohs” and “aahs” to get them excited about the game. Also, it can’t hurt to offer a special prize to the winner of the game. Guys, I’m talking from experience here. I may hold the record; those two children stayed quiet for 1 hour, 8 minutes, and 53 seconds.

5. Never promise a child a special prize without actually having one. You might forget. They won’t.

I'm sure there will be more to this list. Of course I'll try to impart my little pieces of wisdom as they come.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oh Google...

I'm a worrier. I like to think I got this from my mother. I was curious what I should expect when crossing the Andes. Well, more specifically, what to expect at the Chilean border. I turned to my trusted friend, Google, and was so horrifically let down.

The Chinese border in the Andes?!? Really Google?!? Last time I checked China was on a completely different continent. Oh wait, I checked again. Yup. Still on another continent.

Another walk in the park

The other day I went back to the park. I can't lie, I really only wanted to go feed the cat. This time I was better prepared. I actually brought a can of fish with me. It was perfect park weather, for me at least. The weather was much cooler and the sky was overcast, threatening to empty large quantities of water at any moment.

I snapped this picture while I waited for someone to vacate my bench.

There are statues all over the park. Only the big ones commemorating famous dead people have name plaques. Most of the smaller ones are nameless, but pretty nonetheless. As soon as my bench became available, I went over to see the cat. I knew he was there because I could see his foot sticking out from among the flowers.

How nice it must be to lay around all day, waiting for some silly foreigner to come feed you.

I half expected the cat to come running down as soon as I opened the can of stinky fish. He clearly was in no hurry to eat. I decided to leave once the wind picked up. Not because it was too cold, but because it was blowing the stinky fish smell right in the direction of my bench.

I can only hope the cat had a nice lunch that day.

Let's talk toothpaste!

I'm not sure exactly why it's taken me so long to make this particular post. You see, for the past month I've been brushing my teeth with an interesting flavor of toothpaste.

No, your eyes are not playing tricks on you. That is Melissa flavored toothpaste. With a hint of eucalyptus and lemon.

Margaret Thatcher

So unfortunately my Chilean passport will not arrive in Mendoza before I leave for Santiago. When I called, I spoke with the same hilarious man from my first trip to the Consulate. Here's how our conversation started:

-Hola, Señor Chilean Consulate Man?
-Who I am I speaking with?
-Margaret Flashner.
-Oh from England!
-No, I'm from the US.
-Oh... I thought you said Margaret Thatcher.

Last time I checked, I don't sound a thing like the 84 year old ex-Prime Minister of England. And I can't believe she calls the Chilean Consulate in Mendoza very often.
But don't worry Señor Chilean Consulate Man, your little joke wasn't lost on me.

I can't wait to see what he says when I come back to pick up my passport in a few weeks.