Back in high school, we learned about a deadly plague that struck ancient Athens. One of the signs a person was doomed was if he or she was overcome by insatiable thirst.
If Santiago were ancient Athens, I would be on my way out, because that's how I feel most of the time here. Glancing around the cafeteria at work the other day, I discovered a possible reason why.
Lunch at the cafeteria comes with a small cup of suspiciously fluorescent juice. I usually finish mine off within the first few minutes of starting to eat. As I eyed the trays of those around me last week, however, I realized that even those who were a number of bites ahead of me had nearly full glasses in front of them.
This seemed to confirm what I had long suspected: Apparently, I consume more liquid than most Chileans, or at least the ones I've come in contact with. When eating with Chileans, I am almost always the first to finish off a beverage. Back when I lived with my host family, I would frequently be on my second refill before anyone else even finished their first glass of juice. It was the same way in Ecuador.
Well, one might say, the reason is simple. As a glutton from the land of supersizing, it's only natural that you would ingest anything and everything in greater quantities and at a greater speed than people from countries with less opulent consumption habits. Not so, I would have to contest. I don't notice myself eating more than the people around me, and when it comes to speed, I'm actually a slower eater than many of the Chileans I've dined with.
Well then, one might say, it must be because of money. As a spoiled gringa from the land of plenty, you're probably unaware that powdered pineapple juice -- that beloved Chilean classic --does not grow on trees. While I'm not ready to give up on my dream of a powdered-pineapple-juice tree, I don't think this is the case, either. I drink more and drink faster even when it comes to tapwater. When I see Chileans drinking tapwater, that is.
Which is rare. Drinking just plain water does not seem to be nearly as common down here as it is in the States. In fact, people seem to prefer the hydrating powers of pop, caffeinated black tea and uber-concentrated "fruit" juices. My coworkers, all Chilean, look at me like I'm nuts when I fill up my mug with water instead of tea in the morning. My former boss once even asked, "But isn't that bad for you?"
Yes, I know. I'm really trying to quit water and replace it with something healthier, like Fanta.
I must be missing something here. I honestly don't know how this entire country hasn't long since died of dehydration. Do buildings have some secret room where Chileans guzzle water on the sly? Can anyone out there enlighten me on Chilean drinking habits?
One thing's for sure: The next time the Athenian plague strikes Santiago, no one else will bat an eyelash.