Thursday, July 30, 2009

Disease for sale

Way back when, I blogged about a guy who tried to sell me a pair of very possibly used underwear near Estacion Mapocho. Today, I came across a set of similarly attractive products lined up on a street vendor's blanket: dented, dirty and very possibly used surgical masks.

Damn. It being the end of the month and all, I can't afford a pair of men's briefs and a filthy swine flu mask. Any thoughts on which I should choose? I'm going to go sleep on it now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

On the Chilean runway - part two

Good morning, boys and girls. It's time for part two of On the Chilean Runway.

As has been previously established, the streets of Santiago are fertile soil for inventive fashion statements. This weekend alone, I've noticed two particular styles that hold their own against even the most glaringly neon of fanny packs:

1. Gring@s in shorts. I work in an area frequented by fellow gring@s. With a new semester poised to begin in August, gaggles of eager exchange students (ah, those were the days) have caused the area's foreign population to swell even further.

Fresh exchange students are easy to distinguish from tourists because 1) they travel in groups the size of the freshman hordes that show up outside senior parties the first week of college, 2) they engage in animated getting-to-know-you-in-an-awkward-new-setting conversation ("Do you guys say 'pop' or 'soda' in Connecticut?"), and 3) they drink in their surroundings deliberately, visibly filing away each new piece of information for future use.

I've spotted dozens of newbie exchange students this past week. And a few of them have been wearing shorts.

Dude. You guys. It's cold. Below-freezing-at-night cold. Top-story-on-the-evening-news cold. Wear-leggings-and-two-pairs-of-socks-under-your-pants cold. I know you're suffering in those shorts. I know you did enough climate research before you came here to know you would be. I know there's at least one pair of jeans in the half-unpacked duffel in your room at your host family's house. What I don't know is why you're not wearing them.

2. A chilena in pajamas. Last night, I went to a gas station to buy liquor (yes, it has come to that). The place was populated by a handful of other people with the same idea -- and with a chilena dressed in tennis shoes and a pair of bright orange polarfleece pajamas.

I would think nothing of this if someone did it in the States. But, while I would hardly say they dress formally, Santiaguinos tend to be more reticent about letting the world see them in their grungiest. When I walk to the bakery in my sweatpants in the morning, I can't help but feel underdressed. And if, on top of that, if I'm not wearing earrings -- well, I might as well be naked.

So, like the Egyptian pyamids and my short-clad compatriots, the chilena in the orange pajamas is a mystery.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Start preparing your resume

Santiago is papered with sketchy notices, like fliers proclaiming "WORK VISAS! TODAY ONLY!" in confidence-inspiring blue marker or offering "attractive women ages 18-30" a "pleasant environment" with lodging and high wages.

While perusing the bulletin board at the bakery this afternoon, I came across another one to add to the list:


So fear not, unemployed gring@. There's a job with your name on it here in Santiago. There's even a guy with a blue marker you can talk to about a work visa.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Luxury in a 12-pack

This is what the high life looks like:

Yep, that's a whole 12 rolls. Of the soft kind. And yep, I bought them all at once.

The toilet paper aisle wasn't the only place I splurged this weekend. I also bought the pictured fingerless gloves (or "arm warmers," as the package dubbed them) from a stand outside the bus terminal, brought home an entire kilo of apples from the street market, and rolled up to the grocery store checkout line with a box of multigrain Cheerios in my shopping cart.

You guessed it: I got paid. For the first time since I quit my previous job in January, I received compensation for a month of full-time employment.

My time between jobs wasn't completely devoid of economic activity. I taught an English class twice a week and did occasional translations. However, the money I pieced together at the end of each month usually didn't even go far enough to cover my (low) rent, which meant I had to start trimming my savings -- or, more realistically, hacking away at them.

As is to be expected, I tried to find ways to cut costs. Why buy Q-tips when I had a stack full of only moderately abrasive kitchen napkins with which to remove my eye makeup? Why buy real fruit juice if I could add water to flavored powder?

I carefully planned my transportation routes so as only to have to pay one fare. I hung onto dairy products longer than advisable. At one point, I dug into my coin jar and spent the next few days carrying a plastic bag full of change around in my purse.

For the record, I'm aware that this was not real poverty. I could have always picked up more English classes or sawed a few branches off my savings if things had gotten serious. But there's no denying that I had very little money to spend on non-essentials. Now that I have a few pesos to my name again, I'm afraid I'll get so giddy over being able to buy useless things like fingerless gloves that I'll get carried away. The truth is that even though I am making money, I'm not making very much of it, which means I'll have to be prudent if I want to be able to 1) save and 2) set aside a slice of my budget pie for books.

Also for the record, I'm aware that the outfit I'm wearing in the above photo is, in the words of Dwight K. Schrute, "a ridiculous choice for this climate." The two sweaters I wore over it all day wouldn't have let my arm warmers show in their full glory.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Every once in a while, Santiago shows its benevolent side and grants us a brief respite from winter. The sunlight that soaks up the previous day's puddles doesn't quite qualify as warm, but at least it tries. Today was one such day, and it felt like this:

Unfortunately, these also seem to be the days when I leave the house with rain boots and an umbrella, congratulating myself on how prepared I am.

Oh, well.