Wednesday, December 17, 2008

dtv - better tv? or overtaking our lives??

so, if you haven't already heard, television goes digital in february. and honestly, if you haven't already heard, you've been living under a rock. my question is this: does anyone find it strange that we're able to spend a serious amount of time, money and energy telling each other about television?? there are commercials specifically for older adults, countdowns to the switch and even countdowns to the tests to make sure we're ready for the switch!

please tell me there are more important things in life.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

books books books

I love to read. And I love books. My first job was as a library aide at Oshtemo Public Library - I helped people check out books, look for books and mostly shelved books. At my last job, I worked with a publisher and got to see how books went from manuscripts to hardcover to softcover. *sigh* I love books. So I have some recommendations:

The Road of Lost Innocence: I picked up this book at my friend's house this weekend and read it one day. It's the story of a girl who was sold into the sex trade in Cambodia and how she has become the head of an organization that fights for the rights of the girls that are abused. It's tragic and moving, and makes me wonder where such violent hatred toward women in that part of the world comes from.

Bel Canto: I kept seeing the name of this book, and knew that it took place in South America - so I wanted to read it. It's beautiful - the story of a dinner party held hostage and what happens with the captives from around the world, including a world-renowned opera singer, and their captors. I recommend listening to Chopin while you read this.

Currently reading: Quo Vadis, The Time Traveler's Wife, and waiting on Whatever it Takes from the library. Send me your recommendations!

Friday, November 21, 2008


Is this economic crisis starting to freak anyone else out just a little?

I've been avoiding my Simple IRA account balance for the last month or so - you know, trying not face my reality. And now, considering rolling it into a Roth and trying another company. Complicated and something I'd rather not think about at the moment. But that is what I end up discussing during my lunch hour with a coworker.

I read that the Dow may sit at around 6,000 points for a while, and we should get ready for it. I'm waiting to feel the effects of all of this - it's not like I'm spending my money all over the place, but really, if this is going to be anywhere close to the Great Depression, life as we know it will change. Predictions for my own life:

- Sit-ups and push-ups in my bedroom (maybe some jackknives)
- Rice and eggs
- Walking, not driving, to the pub on Mississippi
- Moving back to South America to live cheaply (kidding, Mom!)

Is an economic slowdown something that will affect absolutely everyone? For me, I'm hoping to maintain a job throughout the shakedowns, to continue to receive a salary. Maybe I'm part of the core group that keeps this whole machine going while everything gets straightened out. Does that mean that I'm expected to continue spending at the same rate as before?

Side notes:

I found a woman in Chicago who I admire, mucho - her name is Esther J. Cepeda, and she is a marketing director, but also a Spanish-speaker, teacher and writer. Her work is focused on bringing loans to students in Illinois, as well as giving us an interesting perspective on current events. Check out

I listen to Pandora at work - day in, day out. Lately, I go back and forth between Ulrich Schnauss (German, techno pop) and Chopin. Both are incredible. Schnauss's music sounds like good old 80s movies to me, and for whatever reason, it's incredibly comforting. And it gives me that feeling I had, way back in the day - that my life was new, fresh, and everything great was still ahead of me. And Chopin, well, it's Chopin. Enough said.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


It's been officially four months since I moved to Portland. So much has happened! I'm sitting at my desk in my room, listening to music, looking at pictures of family and friends, and as always, wondering what's next.

I spent the first 5-6 weeks getting to know the city, and meeting friends - and hosting visitors - and wondering when I would get another paycheck. Fortunately, my first meeting with a temp agency brought in a job with an architectural firm as their receptionist. Little did I know it would turn into a full-time job as their marketing director.

I also moved into a house with three other girls in a fun neighborhood on the north side of Portland. Last weekend, I picked up a car - it would seem like I have most of the basics covered.

A few things I'm figuring out along the way: it doesn't matter where you are, it's who you're with. I miss my family - especially my niece and nephew (and soon-to-be-here nephew!) and wish I were closer to them. And there are so many people back in Grand Rapids who I think about often.

But I also miss Chile, a lot. I read the journal I kept while I was there, I talk to my friends who I volunteered with - some who are still there - and I look through the pictures of my kids. I may start saving money in a Return to Chile for a While fund. We'll see how that goes...

I took my first boxing classes this week since I've been here - they were fantastic. I don't know what it is about that sport (if that's what you want to call it) but I love the feeling of hitting something hard, of feeling the impact I'm having. Maybe that's a sign.

I went to a grad school fair this morning - I don't know what I was hoping to find, and it's not that I'm thinking about leaving my job anytime soon, but I keep feeling like I can do something different. I struggle with wondering if there's something more I want to do and knowing that no matter where I am or what I'm doing, there are always opportunities to serve, to make a difference, no matter how small or insignificant it seems. Not every experience has to be thousands of miles away.

Today it rained on and off, with patches of sun in between. It's feeling like fall.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

this life

i'm watching michael bloomberg on meet this press talking about the bail-out of freddie mac and fannie mae. and i actually understand what he's talking about with this whole mortgage mess. the reason is this:

go to the radio archives and stream the show in may 2008 called "the giant pool of money". it's excellent.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

update. finally.

well, well, well. it's now been over a month in portland, and this week is a good week. i had some visitors over the last several days - it was so nice to have some action around the condo, i started working this week and tomorrow night my sister arrives for a long weekend. fabulous.

i'm working for an architectural firm - never worked with or for one of those before - and i like it so far. my job isn't super challenging, which kept me up last night for a bit before i realized that it might give me time to think about what i really want to do: find a more challenging job, possibly go back to school, keep traveling... found this quote, too. and i like it.

"the more i travel, the more i recognize that most people in the world want the same things - even though we differ in the way we pursue them. traveling is the best way to learn appreciation and tolerance. americans have learned to be guarded. but there are places in the world where i have been warmly welcomed into the homes of complete strangers and fed well. travel to foreign lands... and be uncomfortable. you'll come back home richer for it."

Thursday, June 5, 2008


it's gray and cool today. like yesterday and the day before. a bit of a change from getting hot enough to jump in a 70 degree pool on sunday. i'm looking at leftovers from a little shindig last night, and drinking starbucks while i figure out what to do today. my only commitment is a 3:45 drive to the airport. then i'm on my own.

can't count the number of times i've had the "so why are you in portland?" conversation over the past few days. i'll be glad when that is over, although i think it's been good to remind myself that i'm going to take my time - finding a place to work, live, etc. if i didn't have to constantly repeat it, i might forget and start freaking out.

my host here - my friend don - has been ridiculously gracious, introducing me to all of his friends and showing me the cool spots in the city, all the while getting ready to skip town for seven weeks. i'll be driving his truck around while he's gone - me in the tacoma is a bit comical, and i'm convinced that i'm going to hit something. fingers crossed.

so, plan for the next two months: kayak, eat good food, find a job, check out first thursday, drink good beer, shop at trader joe's, make some friends, buy a bike, throw a couple parties, host lots of visitors (ahem), go to a concert or two, take my time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

betting on trains - hem. listen. amazing.

i talked to two friends from chile this week - so good. so good to hear their voices, to catch up, to confirm that we are in fact "real life" friends, not just travel buddies. but i miss chile - the people, the excitement, and what the trip meant. i'm still getting used to being back, and moving on.

speaking of, i am in the process of moving on. in the middle of all sorts of lasts, as my friend kate would call them - i don't know if you do this, but i am always counting down. tonight is my last friday night in my house. it was my last day at work today (which was a job that i was kind of sad to leave), i had my last class at frank's on wednesday. i'll be thinking about my last shower here, my last run of the dishwasher... yes, i'm weird.

but these lasts aren't so difficult - it's the last time i see my sister for a while that's going to be hard.

i'm looking forward to not having a car (holy smokes, i filled up at $4.18 a gallon tonight), watching G4TV again, meeting new people, talking to Annette in the same timezone, and drinking good coffee and beer.

i have a lot of work to do tonight - packing up, cleaning and deciding what to keep and what to send out in august/september. will i still be there? *shrugs shoulders* we'll see.

p.s. a little post-script. none of this happens without a little faith in myself. which is something i haven't had in a long time, and it's changing everything.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


less than one month, and i'm off to portland, oregon to have a go at life in the pacific northwest. it's been an interesting month back from chile - one where i've found myself torn between missing chile and looking forward to portland. sometimes difficult to be in the moment.

so i'm sitting at home tonight, in an incredibly clean house, and celebrating the fact that i sold it today. holy smokes, i still can't believe it.

a friend asked me on thursday night if i had been praying about moving to oregon, considering that i don't know very many people and don't have a job. and yes, i tell god about all the crazy things i'm up to, but i can't say i ever "heard" god say, yes, go to portland. then again, i didn't hear god say, yes, go to chile.

however, my house just sold. i have a place to live in portland for two months when i get there. i found a job within one week of getting back to grand rapids, for exactly the amount of time i'll be here before i leave. and everyone i've talked to is happy for me, and has great things to say about portland.

somewhere i read that god says no a lot more than he says go. but you have to step out first.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

last few days

i'm at starlight, again, probably for the last time and thinking about so many things. i got into santiago last night from buenos aires, and i can't tell you how good it felt to be back in a place where i knew everything. i really missed santiago while i was gone - not that buenos aires wasn't fun, but i wish i had spent more of my last days here.

i'm struggling to be present right now, trying to find the balance between enjoying the last moments i have here, and thinking about where i might work when i get back. i've been thinking about moving to portland, oregon for a long time, and last night, driving in from the airport, i was looking at the mountains and feeling like portland is right.

this has been so much more than a volunteer/travel experience for me. i've loved working with my babies - i'm planning on visiting them on monday morning before i fly out that night, and loved working with the tias. traveling around has been such a good experience as well. i've met people from all over the world, in so many different life situations, and yet we're all traveling together. but more than anything, this has been something that i needed. i've spent a lot of time in prayer - on the train, in the bus, walking around - and the other day in argentina, was thinking about how god knew that i needed to be here for a bit.

i keep hearing songs that will remind me of being here, and i wonder if i'll hear them at home and wish i were here. there are so many things i want to take with me when i go, and then suddenly i realize that i can't, and i shouldn't, because they aren't mine and they belong here.

so it's turning into fall here - the air is crisp in the mornings and i see kids in their school uniforms everywhere. it's a strange feeling to have had fall, a bit of winter, summer, a bit of fall and now i'll go back to late spring. i'm so used to such significant seasonal changes - used to the order, to how i feel every time we have a new season, and this is such a strange feeling.

i don't know how to say all of this gracefully - obviously - but my heart is full of thanks. so thankful for everything i've experienced, for every person i've met, and for the appreciation i found for everyone and everything at home that's been there all along...

Friday, March 21, 2008

alfajores, urban biking and a thunderstorm

so beth arrived on tuesday morning, and i was so glad to see her. i didn't get the exact scene i had pictured in my mind because she beat me out of customs, but there was definitely a little squealing and a big hug in the middle of the airport.

since she was coming off two weeks in nicaragua and then an overnight flight from miami, beth caught up on some sleep for a bit during the day on tuesday and then we went to a tango show that night. wednesday we did a little shopping and then went salsa dancing with our friend jo from the hostel, and then thursday we checked out the cemetery in recoleta. i had met some really cool people in pucón, chile from around london and we all figured out that we'd be in buenos aires at the same time, so beth and i had a ridiculously good steak dinner with them on thursday night. seriously, i had chorizo, tenderloin medallions and a couple bites of beth's steak. i don't think i could have eaten any more.

all has been great so far, but i think today was my favorite - we went "urban biking" through the south part of the city, stopping by the south shore of the river for mate and alfajores (which are traditional cookies with caramel) and then on to the neighborhood la boca, where the futbol stadium is and where the tango was born. we stopped for a couple of beers at the market, and suddenly the sky got very dark and all of the vendors kept looking at the sky, waiting until the last possible second to pack up their stuff. our guides were pretty chill, and also waited until the last possible second to get us back on our bikes. but it was great - we did some crazy cycling back to city center through the wind and a little rain, but just made it into the subway before it really started to pour...

buenos aires is starting to grow on me - it's a huge city, but it's got a lot of personality. i love the italian influence, the prices and the clothes and shoes. we're going to a boca juniors futbol game on sunday, in their stadium (which is supposed to be the best) and i can't wait. until then...

Monday, March 17, 2008


i made it to hostel number 3 (and hopefully the final) of my trip here in buenos aires... i think my least favorite thing about hostels would be the bathrooms. i'm looking forward to a long, hot shower at home, where i don't have to wear shower shoes, use a squeegee or worry about my clothes getting in dirty water - and where i can really scrub my dirty street feet.

the last few days have been pretty relaxing - beth is coming tomorrow morning, so i tried not to do the touristy stuff until she's here. wasn't too difficult, especially in palermo. last night, i went dancing with some hostel friends - i thought it would be more of a tango show at a restaurant, but we ended up in a community center in palermo soho. it was awesome. there must have been at least 100 people there taking tango lessons, and after the tango they had "rock" lessons. it was basically how to dance to oldies - fun, but strange to watch argentinians learning it... i had a brief tango lesson from my friend sergio, and it was alright, but i prefer to salsa. the tango is beautiful, but very different - slow, deliberate and almost sad.

so tomorrow, i'll be getting up at 5:45 or so and heading out to the airport to meet beth. we get to have one of those scenes, where i'm waiting just outside customs and we scream and give each other a big hug and act like we haven't seen each other in years. should be good.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

this is not santiago

blogging from buenos aires... i'm here for a couple of weeks before heading back to santiago. and i know i'm still in south america but really, i feel like i'm in spain. the city reminds me so much of barcelona - it's old, rickety, and incredibly charming. the only thing it's missing is gaudi...

i finished my work at the baby house this week, and it was tough to go. i drove a baby to the hospital for an appointment on tuesday morning, and when i came back, there was another new baby in the hogar - they're now up to 11, which is fun, but busy. one of our girls started jardin this week, too. it's basically preschool, but it starts at age 2 in chile - she is totally extroverted and loves it.

the best part of the week was that the head tia wanted to take a bunch of pictures of the kids, so my camera is full. plenty to remind me of my little friends.

i also completely packed up all of my stuff yesterday, which was strange. my roommate, charles, is awesome and letting me store my suitcases in his room while i'm in argentina. i'll probably stay there for a bit before i head home.

it's hard not to compare buenos aires to santiago, but the way i feel about santiago is so different. it's not just a city in south america anymore, i can't remember what i thought of it before i got there. obviously, to spend three months somewhere and get to know so many people changes things. it's a good thing i'm heading back for a few days before i go home. to leave it so suddenly would have been difficult...

Monday, March 10, 2008


so this is a special post, dedicated to my girl, logan. i thought she was a man before we met in the airport on the way down to chile, but clearly, i was wrong.

in fact, this girl was reading a book by one of my favorite authors (donald miller) on the plane, so i knew right away that we'd be buds. even though she moved waay out to the ve house, and we have crazy schedules, she and i manage to go out for lots of ice cream, travel to random chilean beaches and talk about the stuff that matters.

i'll miss you!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


it is crazy how three months sounded like a such a long time back in december - i have two days left with the babies, and then i head to argentina for a couple of weeks before heading home. i would be lying if i said it will be easy to leave.

i think three months is that magic time when you start to feel comfortable, like you're at home. i recognize people on the street, i know where i'm going (most of the time) and i have friends that i'm really going to miss. sometimes it feels like i've dreamed all of this up, like i haven't been in south america for the last three months. maybe it will feel more real when i get home.

i've been pretty busy over the last couple of weeks - the new class started last week, so we had a lot of meetings for their orientation. and i've been trying to see as many people as i can before i go - my friend eduardo and i met for dinner after he finished work the other night, thursday night was a despedida and salsa, friday and saturday nights were with the volunteers.

i leave wednesday for argentina - and even though it means i'm leaving chile for a bit, i'm super excited. my friend beth from michigan is coming to buenos aires for a week, and it will be so good to see her. i'm going to try to go to uruguay while i'm there, and possibly south of buenos aires - we'll see. then i head back to santiago for three days to see everybody before i come home.

the other day i was walking to the bus stop after work and saw a little girl with puppies across the street. of course, i ran over, gushing over the puppies. they were street dogs, but would probably be sold to families in the neighborhood. the little girl was awesome, and her brother (i think) was so excited about how smart the dogs were already...

Friday, February 22, 2008

pucón, etc continued

the puppies at the hostel in pucón, a cool picture of a tasty plum, the volcano, and the "beach"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

pucon, among other things

as always, a random assortment.

i spent last weekend a few hours (10 hours on a bus) south of santiago, enjoying the view of a volcano, kayaking in an inflatable kayak and hiking up a mountain. i had thought the miles i was walking every day would prepare me for the hike, but all of the white bread, red meat and wine i'm drinking definitely took its toll. :) getting to the top was a good feeling, as was the stumble down...

i'm getting closer to boarding a plane back home, and it's been on my mind a lot lately. i dream about people back home, and think a lot about what i'm going to do. i'm going to miss santiago and my work here, but i'm looking forward to what's next.

today we took a little girl to the hospital - she's going to have surgery on monday and have to stay in the hospital for five days. i'll be able to see her before i go, but i think it's going to be rough for her for a bit. i'm getting attached to my babies! lately, they've all been really good. we go for a lot of walks, play in the little pool in the front of the house and are trying to enjoy the summer here as much as possible before it cools off and starts to rain. a lot of chileans that i meet ask if we have homes for kids like this in the states. i do my best to explain the foster system, but it's complicated!

i've had the opportunity to hang out with some chilean families, which has been great. my neighborhood is filled with businessmen and a lot of foreigners, so it's good to get out and be with people who really live here. last night, i was my friends samuel and eduardo and their friend julieta. we had dinner at eduardo's home with his dad, who used to be a policeman here in santiago. he was awesome. for the first 20 minutes, he grilled me about the united states - the upcoming election, iraq, september 11, how policemen/laws are different in every state, you name it. it was interesting to hear how they view what's happening in the usa, and also humbling considering that i didn't have good answers for his questions. in the end, he gave me a gift - a magazine about the police force here in chile, with an article about the work he did protecting children. might not be considered much by some people, but i was really honored to receive it.

i had a flashback to high school bible class this afternoon - i was buying some food at the supermarket and the woman missed the bread i had picked up (70 pesos, which is about 14 cents) and threw it into my bag without scanning it. i noticed it before i paid, but didn't say anything. and then as i was walking out, i thought of mr. dewaal and his definition of integrity - what you do when no one is looking. i should have paid for the bread, all 14 cents of it.

pictures coming soon - i'm getting kicked out of the coffee shop 30 minutes before it's supposed to close. hmm...

Friday, February 8, 2008

tom jones, of course

i always think of a million things i'd love to write about, but when it comes time to actually do it, i can't think of an eloquent, intelligent way to explain the things i do and see every day. so apologies in advance for the randomness...

my babies are good - we are up to 8 in the house now, ranging from 4 months to 2 1/2 years. they are fun and funny. i did fingerpainting with the two oldest on tuesday and they loved it. i'll take a picture of their art soon and post it. it's definitely promising.

i stepped in dog poop for the first time today. the tias laughed at me while i frantically scrubbed my sandal through the grass and told me that it would bring me good luck. keep your fingers crossed.

i love when people here speak in english to me. it happens a lot - usually whenever i say anything in spanish to them. at the doctor's office the other day, an x-ray tech asked the tia i was with why i wasn't answering his questions. hmm, maybe because my default mode is to smile and nod. when he learned i spoke english and bad spanish, he shared what english he knew (with me and the entire waiting room): "Everybody needs to be loved by somebody" and "Will you still love me tomorrow?" it was impressive.

for whatever reason (and seriously, i don't understand this), chileans love tom jones. to the extent that our head tia has "she's a lady" as her ringtone on her phone. but she didn't know what he was singing. so i spent some of my precious time here translating the words of tom jones into spanish:

Well she's all you'd ever want,
She's the kind they'd like to flaunt and take to dinner.
Well she always knows her place.
She's got style, she's got grace, She's a winner.
She's a Lady. Whoa whoa whoa, She's a Lady.
Talkin' about that little lady, and the lady is mine.

needless to say, she loved it, and i now own that song.

and, my friends - logan and sharah and josh!

Monday, February 4, 2008

monday morning

just got back from playa ritoque last night (pictures soon)... i was hoping for a warm, relaxing, sunny weekend on the beach, but it turned out to be pretty cloudy and a little cold. no matter, though - we stayed at a nice little hostel right on the beach (hostel dunas) and got to know our fellow travelers. it was one of the girl´s birthday on sunday, so we made really great pizzas on saturday night, a birthday cake on sunday morning and chatted about all things irish, german and swedish.

there´s something about staying with people who appreciate travel so much - one couple was from ireland, both in their 30s and traveling for three months around south america. i´m always inspired, and hope that i take every chance i get to see the world...

off to work this afternoon, i think we get another new baby today which will take us up to 8!

Monday, January 21, 2008

argentina, coltrane and combos

just got back from mendoza, argentina yesterday - a really great time with my friend lizzy... we almost didn't make it on the bus because i didn't have some paper that supposedly i got at the airport. who knows - i probably threw it away on accident. either way, we managed to get on the bus and get through customs at the border. the ride is pretty awesome - the bus goes through the mountains, which means a lot of switchbacks on the chilean side. argentina was nice because it's cheaper, and mendoza is pretty laidback, esp. compared to santiago. we stayed in a cool little hostel and hung out with a lot of british people, for some reason. we also went to a massive buffet restaurant and had carne and pork and papas fritas and dessert and lots of wine. it was fantastic.

i have decided that my volunteering job is perfect for me right now. i get to play with my little guys most days, and they're starting to recognize me and say my name now, which is cool. and i get to drive, which i love, and when i drive, i get to hang out with whichever baby we're taking to the doctor's. today it was a little guy - only 3 months old - he's adorable.

last night, i got a care package from my mom (who is the best!) and she sent me combos and oreos and snack mix from target (and an embarrassing picture) - my roommate manuel had never had combos before, so of course, he had to try them. and of course, he liked them.

i went to a very cool jazz concert last week thursday night on the river in downtown santiago. the river here is nothing to look at - actually, it's brown and it stinks. however, a chilean friend mentioned this concert and said it's the only time of the year that it's nice to be by the river. my friend logan and i saw a guy who played the accordion - i had never heard accordion jazz before. not sure if it's my favorite thing in the world... but after him was ravi coltrane, john coltrane's son. i love coltrane so i was excited to see him and he didn't disappoint. every time i hear good jazz, i feel like i'm in chicago - i don't know why. but i definitely could have been in grant park in july listening to him...

Friday, January 11, 2008

the baby house

On my way to a retreat this weekend in the mountains, and I'm really looking forward to it. It's like a weekend away where all the volunteers talk about their work, what it means to be here and we have a chance to relax. I think we also play camp-like games, like the trust fall or something - I don't know. But I am excited to get out of the city for a bit.

So here are a couple of pictures - of the baby house, and my car! It's what they call a camioneta - it's a Peugeot Partner, and I like it. I drive like an old lady, mostly because I usually have babies in the car with no car seats. Seriously. It's a problem. And because there was another volunteer that missed a speed bump and gave a tia a really bad bruise. In her defense, their speed bumps are all black. There's a very faint "LENTO" in front, but it's hard to see them.

One of my favorite kids at the moment is a little girl - she's almost 2 years old and she is hilarious. Every time I come in the house, or pull up next to the gate, she yells, "HOLA!" And when she's hungry, the word for hunger is "hambre (om-bray)" but she says "Hamble!! (om-blay)". She has this high-pitched scream that she uses whenever other kids try to steal her toys. Oh, and she's in the midst of potty-training right now, and it's not going very well. Let's just say I need to wash some clothes...

The other day I gave her my camera case to hold while I took some pictures - the tias were painting the room where the kids sleep, so I was trying to keep her distracted. Of course, I turned my back for about two seconds and the case ended up in a bucket of paint. :)

The other picture is the baby house. To the right of the front door is the room where they sleep, the kitchen is in the back, and on the left are a few rooms, including an office and a bathroom and then the playroom on the far left end of the house. And lots of room for playing outside. Every house here - every house - has a big black gate and fence that goes all the way around the house. Not necessarily privacy fences (ahem), but more like security fences. It's probably just as much for the stray dogs as it is for anything else...

So a few things I'm loving about Chile right now:

- La Vega. It's this huge farmer's market - like the Fulton St. market times 100. At least. It's full of fruit, veggies, lunch, people and it's super interesting.

- Humitas. I bought one from a Peruvian vendor at the farmer's market - it's crushed corn and chicken and spices (I think? I don't even know) wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

- The standard greeting. No matter where you are, if you enter a room to join people for a meeting, for work, etc., every person gets a kiss on the cheek. And the same goes for when you leave. It makes me smile to see people on the subway giving each other kisses when they get off.

- The fact that everyone thinks I'm younger than 28. :) Maybe they're lying, but I don't know, and I don't care.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

¡feliz año nuevo!

It’s been awhile and I apologize – we still don’t have Internet at my apartment, which is proving to be more annoying than you would think. I find myself at Starlight, a local Starbucks rip-off, drinking pop and using their Internet for three hours at a time. They love me.

I went right back to work after Christmas, doing a lot of driving. The tias mostly laugh at me, while I frantically try to figure out if they’re telling me to turn right or left. I just learned yesterday the words for “turn” as in “Do I turn here?” and to brake, and to park. It’s a little scary that I’ve gotten by this long…

New Year’s was pretty fun... A bunch of volunteers went camping up north in the desert – I decided to pass on that. My friend Dana and I made dinner with my roommate, Manuel, and his friend Lucas – yum-o. We had barbequed ribs, mashed potatoes, veggie salad (my Uncle Nick’s famous recipe) and had ice cream with strawberries for dessert. A fabulous end to 2007!

I’m getting a little bit better with the Spanish, but it’s probably the biggest headache for me here. I constantly revert to English in my head, and write a lot in English, (and I’m lazy) and don’t try to understand every word. My vocab is not that great, so combine that with people who speak fast and a need to visualize each word, and you’ve got a glimpse of my problem. Sometimes I just feel like I’m deaf and dumb.

I did go to the pool last Saturday with Manuel, and it was awesome. There are a couple of mountains here in Santiago (well, I don’t know if I’d call them mountains next to the Andes)– Santa Lucia is gorgeous and San Cristobal has a zoo on the top and two pools. We walked to the closest pool, which was good because it was so hot and swam/got sunburned all afternoon.

I worked mornings yesterday and today at the baby house. The kids are great – and we’re getting four new babies next week – hurray! I say a lot of “ Adonde vas?” (Where are you going?) and “No me muerde!” (Don’t bite me!) and “Que bien/feo” (How nice/ugly!).

Dana (another volunteer) and I went to the mall on Saturday, after we had been at a vineyard – which was fantastic btw – and we were talking about Chile and volunteerism and how different (i.e., wealthy) it is here in Chile compared to Haiti and the Dominican Republic – where we’ve both worked. Sometimes it’s hard to explain to Chileans why I’m here, because it’s not like there aren’t people with disposable income or time to help the kids we’re helping here. But, I talked with Logan about it for a while on Tuesday and we agreed that no matter where you are, if you’re able to help, it’s a good thing. Maybe we’ll inspire more Chileans to volunteer, or maybe we’re just here to love on kids – either way, I’m okay with that.

So, it’s about 7 pm right now, light outside, and I’m having a beer on the patio at a bar outside of my Spanish school. I love Michigan (seriously!) but I did just get an email about my housemates back home wanting to use the snowblower, and honestly, it makes me really glad that I’m here (sorry Lindsay/Kate/everyone else in the snow!). I keep thinking about what’s next for me when I get home, but at the same time, just trying to enjoy every day. A few years ago, I was deciding between two jobs – one in California and one in Michigan, and my wise mother reminded me that we’re given one day at a time, for a reason. So I’m trying to make the most of every 24 hours. We’ll see where I end up next.