September 2011 Archives

BLACKOUT IN CHILE

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Last night at around 8:30pm, the power went out in Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, and Santiago. Almost 9,000,000 people were affected (over half the population). It went out for about 3 hours and then came back. The picture above is a picture of Viña del Mar blacked out on Saturday night from my balcony. The light in the distance is the refinery 10 miles away burning its chemicals. During the black out, the cell phone service died, stoplights and streetlights went out, and obviously all electricity. It was interesting that all of this disconnected in the blackout because in the U.S. when the power goes out, there is usually cell-phone service and stoplights left functioning. There were a lot of assaults and robberies during this time.

In season food

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In Chile fruits and vegetables are abundant and quite rich. The majority of the fruits and veggies I eat down here are of higher quality than that of the United States. I read somewhere that North America imports some 15% of its fresh fruits and vegetables from Chile. For good reason.

Although the fruits and vegetables are quite tasty, they are not always in season. I know you are thinking, "duh they aren't always in season!" but it in Chile they actually supply their markets with only that which is in season. I hear things like: "In the summer strawberries will be much more prevalent" or "We will eat that type of lettuce a lot in the summer". Since I have been here since late July, I have noticed a change in what is available in stores.

This observation really contrasts with the behavior of the United States where the majority of fruits and veggies are (for the most part) available all year 'round to consumers. It is interesting to look at the United States from the outside and see a consumerist nation that feels apparently normal when living in it.

Mayonnaise

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In Chile there is this grand obsession with mayonnaise. They put it on many different types of food.

On the right is what is called a completo. A completo is a hotdog in a "taller" bun that has American salsa, sauerkraut, tomatos, guacamole (a lot), and last but not least, mayonnaise.

This obsession may have something to do with the growing rate of Type 2 Diabetes in Chile (both of my host parents suffer from the disease).

Earthquakes/Tremors

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This last Monday at 4am there was an earthquake registered at 5.9 on the Richter Scale 20 km away. I woke up to my bed (with me in it) rumbling across the room. It was one of the scarier things I have experienced for sure. Apparently, however, people who live high up in tall apartment buildings feel the sway of the buildings. This swaying can last up to 5 mins, I have heard, whereas for myself who lives on the second floor of a house feels it for at the most 20 seconds.

This is considered a "tremor" in Chile, where there is not going to be much damage at all. Tremors are considered no big deal to most Chileans. Most buildings are prepared to handle anything up to a 7, and after that the tremor becomes an earthquake. Earth movements are common here in Chile as Chile is the edge of a tectonic plate being pushed up by another (subduction zone).

I had never felt the earth move prior to this trip and although earthquakes are generally dangerous, I can now check that off the bucket list.

Tuesday the 13th

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In Latin America, according to my program director, "El martes trece" or Tuesday the 13th has the same significance as Friday the 13th in the U.S. I found this to be quite peculiar. Interestingly enough, Friday the 13th (the slasher movie about Jason) is titled "El martes trece" in Spanish.

Punctuality and Productivity

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A particularly interested difference in between our cultures is the tardiness and productivity.

Punctuality:

They told us students the first day we arrived, there is such a thing as "Chile-time". The noted time for a start of a meeting, class, dinner matters not to the average Chilean. For example, I had a class this last Monday that started at 4:40pm. I got to the school around 10 minutes early to prepare and chat with fellow students. I greeted my professor upon my arrival as he was smoking a cigarette with other faculty members. I made my way to the class, which is connected to a courtyard where everyone hangs out and enjoys the sun, cigarettes, and fun games. The door opened, 4:40 came around and the professor had not yet entered the classroom. I looked to the courtyard and there he is lighting up another cigarette (another Chilean thing to do). He eventually arrived at 4:53pm with no reservations about the fact that he was late. It is a very interesting way to live in comparison to the U.S. where punctuality matters quite a bit.

Productivity:

Productivity within Chilean companies is lackluster to say the least. Chileans more often than not work from 8am to 6:30pm on a given day, perhaps longer if it is a "busy" day. However, they do not work hard or with any sense of urgency. To speculate, I would say that it takes 2, 2 and a half hours for a Chilean worker to complete a task that would take 1 hour for a worker from the U.S.

I suppose that the lack of punctuality, productivity, and efficiency could translate to lower stress levels and lower blood pressure. Which poison would you pick?

The other day, my program invited all of us "estudiantes extranjeros" to a welcome party to the Valparaíso region and in particular the city of Viña del Mar. My program director, much to my disliking, picked me to accept an award from the mayor on behalf of the city and consequently to be interviewed by the Chilean media, perhaps for my obvious North American looks. I butchered my Spanish, but still said what I wanted to have said. The footage aired that night, and I have received questions on the street from 3 or 4 people, "Hey was that you on TV the other night?"


Here is the link to the television broadcast (I am being interviewed 1:17 into the broadcast):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GaN2Qofr1W4&feature=share


Also at the party was a fresh supply of Chilean wine and champagne, as well as cheese from the region. The event also had a troupe of dancers come to display many Chilean traditional dances as well as Mapuche indigenous dances.


Here are some photos from the event:
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Dogs

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Dogs in Chilean society have an interesting role. There are many families who have dogs, yet the large presence of dogs one sees is on the street. Below is a dog that we saw sleeping in a busy plaza.
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Dogs in the home:

Dogs are common in Chilean households, yet the care given to these dogs varies. I have a friend whose family absolutely adores its canine. Although, the large majority of students who have dog(s) in their households have the tend to notice the same thing: lack of care. For example, in my house, the dog, Gaspar, absolutely never comes into the home. When I asked my host-mother about if the dog comes into the house, she looked at me like I was crazy. This dog stays inside of a 20x10ft space that is usually filled by one of the family cars. I have noticed as well that there is very little attention given to the dog. I can count on one hand (with fingers left over) how many times I have seen a family member give Gaspar attention besides feeding him and cleaning up poop. A reason, I am told, for this lack of attention is that the dog is dirty and they don't want to get dirty/sick. This treatment is culturally accepted and indeed quite different from that in the U.S.

Dogs in the streets:

The dogs in the streets are very much different from what we in the U.S. are accustomed to. Simply on my walk to school (10 minute walk), I will encounter at least 5 dogs roaming the streets. These aren't dogs with owners either who are allowed to roam the neighborhood; we see new ones everyday. There is a particular way of treating these dogs that is very important for every foreigner. It is not wise to feed these dogs because they will follow you. Our study abroad group was in Valparaíso for a walking-tour and someone fed two stray dogs. They followed us for 2 hours or roughly 3 miles. The goal of these dogs who live on the street is to get food somehow. Also, it is not recommended to carry exposed food on the streets. Some friends of mine and I were in Santiago one weekend and were walking down the street when we saw this large German Shepherd jump up on a lady who was holding a cake. The cake fell, the lady fell, and the dog started to eat the cake. A commanding presence is necessary at all times with these dogs. They are out there to survive. Also unwise is to pet the dogs. They may have contracted some diseases on their journeys scrounging for food. These limitations were tough to get used to at first because of how bad I felt bad for these dogs. All of this in mind, there is an evident amount of dog feces in the streets. The odor fills the air. As gross as this sounds, however, I have definitely gotten used to it. We made a fun game, my group and I at the beginning of the year of who can go the longest without stepping in excrement. I, unfortunately, have lost.

Cats:

For any ailurophiles out there, cats are quite uncommon in Chile. I am not sure why this is, but perhaps because of the commanding presence of the dog.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

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