Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Flor y calavera

I've decided to follow Jessica's lead and explain how this blog got its strange URL. It has to do with the sweatshirt pictured below, a gift from my sister (who, believe it or not, used to steal MY clothes). I have to admit that I felt cool when I saw it on an episode of Gossip Girl a year later.

In case you can't tell, the print is a mix of flowers and skulls -- flores y calaveras. While I was living in Quito, a friend given to sweeping metaphorical generalizations observed, "That sweatshirt is like you. You're a flower and a skull."

This was a friend who very rarely spoke to be understood. Still, I kinda get it. I love Saturday-morning cartoons, colorful socks, pick-up sports games and anything else reminiscent of the era of carefree innocence I don't remember deciding to leave. At the same time, I'm magnetically drawn to abandoned buildings, have a penchant for unnecessary suffering and write stories whose characters are much more likely to die than to fall in love.

I'd say my friend had me pegged.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Creepy crawlies

One of the great things about living in Quito is that very few bugs can survive at such a high altitude. Coming from Minnesota, where we affectionately refer to mosquitoes as our state bird, I was shocked to find that none of the buildings in the mountain metropolis had screens. Of course, what Quito lacked in insects it made up for in fluorescent yellow slugs, as my roommate, Chelsea, discovered when she accidentally squashed one of them between her bare toes.

Fortunately for the short of breath but unfortunately for the squeamish, Santiago hugs sea level quite a bit closer than its Ecuadorian counterpart. This means that, come spring, the city becomes a romp ground for the creepy, the crawly and the winged.

It started with the gradually swelling posses of flies that began to lurk overhead in my apartment about two weeks ago. Shortly thereafter, I fished out a voyeuristic bug that had somehow managed to make its way under my (recently washed) shirt. Today, two prehistoric-looking winged creatures spent the day perched (or dead?) on the floor of our office bathroom. And, last night, I dodged that noblest of bugs -- a cockroach -- as it scuttled across the sidewalk.

When compared to Minneapolis (or Washington D.C., where I went to college), Santiago is by no means a buggy city. It could be that this recent invasion of the six-legged has only called my attention because I recently spent 14 months several hundred meters above the majority of the world's insects. And, perhaps, because it means that spring has officially sprung.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Feliz Chileaños to me!

A year ago today, I arrived in the Santiago airport with two bulging duffel bags, a violin, and an address scrawled on a sheet of paper. That night, I slept on the floor of the empty apartment above my soon-to-be-office with my belongings strewn around me in a chaos of cotton and Ziploc.

The next several days were a haze of words, sore feet and hunger. At my new internship at the newspaper, my eyes ached from reading, and my fingers agonized over which keys to type. In my mouth, on the other hand, a battle raged between my recently acquired quiteño accent and my latent Chilean one. I spent hours scouring the streets for an apartment, a cell phone and old friends. And I hardly ate because I was simply too exhausted to.

A year later, some things have changed. This morning, I woke up in a warm bed instead of on an icy floor. Chile, with its homecourt advantage, has won the battle for my tongue, with "po" having long since vanquished "fff" and my "s"s having steadily retreated toward aspirated defeat. (That's not to say, however, that an occasional "achachay!" doesn't slip out.)

Some things, though, remain the same. When someone asks me how long I'm planning to stay in Chile, my response is identical to what it was a year ago: "I don't know. I'll see how things go." The same goes for that most loathesome of questions, "What are you going to do with your life?"

No clue. I want to write, but not the news. I want to go back to school, but I don't know what to study. I recognize that better educational and career opportunities may be open to me in the States, but I strongly suspect that if I were to return to the U.S., I would spend half my time pining for Chile.

So, if you have an extra future lying around, why not give it to me? It's my Chileaños, after all.

Actually, I did receive a present today: a temporary residency visa that refers to me as "Doña Leigh" and grants me permission to stick around these parts for another year. Chile's Internal Revenue Service, bless it, also chipped in and gave me some tax forms. It's the thought that counts.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A good cause

If you want to buy some gorgeous photographs and make a difference at the same time, check out what Kyle is doing.

Navy Jesus One the name of a store I saw today. I'm still unable to fathom what they sell there.

This dark-blue Christ shop is far from the first specimen of strange English I've come across in a total of three years spent living in South America. As wacky as it is, the moniker is far from topping the reigning champ, which I saw on a menu in Quito last year.

One night after work, some fellow English teachers and I went out to eat in La Mariscal -- colloquially known as Gringolandia -- a touristy realm of overpriced restaurants, clubs and internet cafes. Since most of the establishments in this area are visited by dozens of pairs of Gringo hiking boots each day, it came as no surprise that our restaurant's menu was printed in both Spanish and English.

Apparently, the restaurant had spent so much money printing the colorful, thick-paged menu that it had been unable to pay a decent translator. This became side-splittingly apparent when we came to the so-called Ensalada Moby Dick, which had been translated as -- you guessed it -- Moby's Dick Salad. By the time I finished laughing, I think I was in more pain than Moby.

As bad as I felt for the good folks at the restaurant, who had spent a fortune printing a beautiful menu that had unknowingly crossed into the pornographic, they may be pleased to know that they provided my intermediate students with a great lesson in correct usage of noun modifiers.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's come across comically mangled English. Do tell. And, if you're hungry for more funny menu translations, check out Margaret's delectable list!