Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dirty little secrets

So this city and I have been seeing each other for a while now. In fact, we're coming up on our two-year anniversary of living together. Like any couple, we've been through rough patches, mostly involving dog poop and damp, unrelenting cold. Still, we've managed to work through our difficulties -- and learn quite a bit about each other in the process. Indeed, there a number of things about me that only this city knows. Here are a few:

-I talk to stray dogs. In Spanish, of course.
-I lean back whenever the subway train pulls into the station because I'm afraid a psychopath is going to come and push me onto the tracks.
-Whenever I see a "for rent" sign in a window, I peer inside and imagine how I would decorate the place.
-I secretly wish I had gone to high school in Chile so I could have worn leg warmers over my uniform tights.
-I will go out of my way to walk down any street that is narrow, has cobblestones and is lined with slightly decrepit buildings.
-I would love to be a pokemona for a week. Or longer.
-I feel a burst of self-satisfaction every time I make a purchase in a neighborhood corner store instead of at the supermarket.
-I eat a lot of candy and chips. A lot.
-I'm jealous of the people who work in the Metro because I suspect there's a secret subterranean world that they know about and I don't.
-I'm a sucker for anything sold on a blanket on the sidewalk.
-Sometimes I entertain myself by seeing how many Metro stations I can recite in order.
-I resent brand-new apartment high rises but envy the view from their balconies.
-When walking on the street, I love when a car pulls up blasting reggaeton so I can stomp along to the beat.

Now it's your turn, reader. Fess up.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Remembering victims of Chile's September 11. Estadio Nacional, Santiago

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Belated group blog post: Chilean women

Here's my belated contribution to last week's collective blog-a-thon on Chilean women. As before, you can find links to other participants' posts on Kyle's blog.

A few months back, I met a guy from the southern United States who had recently come to Chile to teach English. While describing his first impressions of the country, he mentioned that he hadn't found himself particularly attracted to Chilean women. I told him that I thought many Chilean women were beautiful and that I admired the fact that most of them--at least the ones I saw on the streets of Santiago every day--usually didn't seem to wear much makeup.

"That's the thing!" he exclaimed. "It's not that they're not pretty. I just wish they would make more of an effort to, you know, look cute." (Mental slap.)

Interestingly, I'm confident that many of the Chilean men I know would say just the opposite. Why? Because they have. "Why are you wearing makeup?" a male friend once asked me. "You look better without it."

I would dismiss these compliments as fumbling attempts at chivalry if I didn't know that Chileans tend to be (sometimes painfully) honest when it comes to appearance. Now, maybe I've just been lucky enough to meet guys who go for natural, low-maintenance women. Regardless of how Chilean males feel, however, I doubt that most of the Chilean women I see every day spend nearly as much time in front of the mirror as my college classmates did.

The fact that the "au natural" phenomenon was so striking to me when I first arrived in Chile as an exchange student was due in no small part to where I was coming from. I did not go to a college where everyone went to class in pajamas. I arrived at school expecting sweats and sneakers and instead found heels, hair straighteners and designer bags. And that was just in class. You can imagine what a big night out entailed.

Even though neither I nor the majority of my friends at college devoted extensive portions of our mornings to getting gussied up, the atmosphere must have rubbed off on me somehow: Sitting in my classes in Chile, I became uncomfortably aware of the fact that I was wearing more makeup than most of my female classmates.

Isabel Allende writes about barefaced chilenas in her book My Invented Country. I don't have the book on hand and can't remember what her explanation was...Can anyone enlighten me? One argument that seems to surface whenever someone starts analyzing Chileans is that the residents of this inhospitable, fault-line-straddling land of extremes are simple and austere by nature. I can't remember if Allende mentioned this or not and don't know what Chilean women would have to say on the matter.

In any case, I did what gringas do: I adapted. I started wearing less makeup and occasionally didn't wear any at all. It was incredibly liberating...and allowed me an extra 15 minutes of sleep in the morning.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, a young Chilean woman asked me why gringas didn't wear very much makeup. She posed the question as she was sitting on her bed applying what must have been her tenth coat of mascara.

I didn't know what to reply, having always thought it had been the other way around. But here she was, straightening her hair and carefully outlining her eyes in black, and there I was, wearing facial moisturizer and very little else.

There are, of course, groups of young Chileans for which makeup -- even for guys -- is a central element of style. I'm talking about the pokemones, emos and goth kids who have become just as ubiquitous a presence on Chilean talk shows as on the streets of Santiago. As far as I knew, though, this woman did not belong to any of these groups.

More importantly, neither was she part of the university set I was used to being around. It occurred to me that I had been making generalizations based on the apparent preferences of a limited -- and frequently (comparatively) privileged -- demographic.

So, in the end, the question remains unanswered: What's the deal with Chilean women and makeup?

Remember to check out other people's posts on this topic! Oh, and if you're Minnesotan (and even if you're not), check out my last post and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A proposition

It's recently come to my attention that there are a surprising number of Minnesotans living in and blogging about Chile. Who wouldda thunk that so many of us would venture from the north woods to the shadow of the Andes?

I don't know about the rest of you Minnesotan Chile bloggers out there, but I enjoy 1) Minnesota, 2) Chile and 3) hanging out. Hence, a proposition: What if we all got together sometime? We could gripe about Chilean winters without having people tell us that we can't complain because we're from Minnesota. We'd pasarlo la raja, dontcha know.

Of course, this is by no means meant to exclude non-Minnesotan gringa bloggers, all of whom would obviously be welcome too.

So, my questions are these: Is anyone interested? If so, when are you available? We would also have to decide on a location and whether or not our little reunión would include significant others and friends.

By the way, if you're a Minnesotan and haven't yet introduced yourself, drop me a line!