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.