Tag Archives: Chile

Someone I Once Met: Douchebag Deluxe

The struggle is real to dig deep into my memory bank for the purpose of Someone I Once met. Sometimes it takes a really random stroke of genius to realize that so-and-so would be a good candidate and ‘why had I not thought of them before?’

Its not like I can only write about people from the past, I am still actually meeting interesting people, however I’ve started to realize that not everybody likes being written about. Initially I hadn’t really thought much about whether or not folks would mind, my reasoning being that I was focusing on (mainly) positive things. But then someone asked me if I wasn’t worried about lawsuits??! And the odd subject asked me to remove this piece of information and that from a post.

And so came the slump in my will to write awesome little anecdotes about the random and not-so-random people I meet. Honestly- those who get written about are generally quite prominent parts of my life rather than an interesting passer-by. This because you only really get to know if someone is truely interesting after knowing them a while.

But here’s a guy who I really don’t care to expose. I’m not even the first to write about him. In fact, this article I came across a few months ago has been the inspiration for this post. In this article, Andrew is listed as one of ’10 “if we’re not married by” pacts that actually panned out.’ There he explains;

“My wife and I met in high school at the age of 16. We told each other that if we weren’t married by 30, then we’d get back together and tie the knot. I moved off to a different state for college and after graduation I moved to Chile for four years. I moved back to the states when I was 28, we started dating again and just got married this past May before my 30th birthday. But not because we said we would, but because it just happened that way.”

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The funny part is that when I met him in Chile, he was the doting American boyfriend of my British friend. We all traveled to a surf town one weekend. He seemed like a nice guy. When my friend and I went on a longer trip to Chile’s Lake region and he stayed behind, he came across as very possessive. He came across as in love.

Not long after my arrival in Chile and the meeting of these people, Andrew took a trip back home. Texas, USA to be exact. His trip worked out well for me, I thought, because I needed a new camera so I’d buy one online and get it sent to his house in Texas. He’d then bring it back to Chile with him. So I did that.

Andrew began to delay his return from the States. My poor friend was on the receiving end of elaborate excuses for his not returning home immediately. Weeks turned into months and the constant reassurance of his love and certain return began to seem somewhat…..untrue. My poor friend, completely confused by it all, was particularly irate about the rent for the apartment. That they shared. Together. But no, according to Andrew, all was well and he would soon be home.

Eventually, out of the blue he asked her to move out. He was coming home and she needed to be gone by the time he got there. There’s a lot more to this story but I won’t go into it. There was a lot of back and forth, a lot of lying from his side and a lot of hurt on hers. In the end Andrew returned to Chile. With my camera. He came, collected his things, told my friend he still loved her and buggered off back to Texas.

Now if you’ll recall, according to Andrew; “I moved back to the states when I was 28, we started dating again and just got married this past May before my 30th birthday. But not because we said we would, but because it just happened that way.”

Aaaahhhhh! The more I read that the more I want to kick him in the nuts. While, in its essence what he’s said is true, there’s just so much more to his story. The beautiful story of how he and his high school love came to be husband and wife after years of separation is so lovely from the outside and such a crock of shit from the inside.

Because of his complete lack of common decency, I witnessed the girl he left behind in Chile turn into a shadow of a human being. He devastated her so completely that it took the better half of a year for her to show sings of improvement. Now I’m not saying he should have stayed with someone he didn’t love. But be a man- seriously. 

I hope your new wife makes you very happy, Andrew. Asshole.

 

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Someone I Once Met: Roommates of 2012 – Year of the Chile

Depto once dieciseis, or ‘apartment eleven sixteen’, was my home for the whole of 2012. When I moved to Chile for a year of teaching English it was hard to imagine what life would be like. Now looking back, it’s hard to imagine what it would have been like if it hadn’t gone the way it did. If I hadn’t moved into 1116.

Today’s Someone I Once Met is about the people I lived with who became my family away from home and who I continue to learn from two years down the line.

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Looking down from 1116

A week after arriving on Chilean soil I had already been robbed of all my important possessions, including passport, phone and all my bank cards. Shortly thereafter I stood in front of the door to my new home, ringing the door bell, waiting for what seemed like forever for someone to answer. I had already hit rock bottom, it could only be up from here.

Finally a tall, handsome Frenchman opened the door. I had clearly woken him up at the ungodly hour of 1pm- I based this on his appearance and the time it took him to answer the door. Sam would become a brotherly figure, a guy who I loved in a platonic way and hated every now and again. Reasons varied from his French-ness to stubborn and bossy-ness.

Sam was a student and later an intern, an occasion that was important enough for a tailored suit. As you would imagine, he had a huge soft spot for cheese and wine and spoke with a strong French accent that could be detected in every language he spoke. The day I left we shed a tear and an embrace for the year that we had spent together and for the high likelihood of never seeing each other again. Luckily, my leaving overlapped with him meeting his future wife who I met briefly. Unfortunately, her understanding (or misunderstanding) of what our friendship was (and wasn’t) is the reason why Sam and I are no longer friends. Cest la vie, it was fun while it lasted.

Yannek, dear Yannek. My American brother of Swiss decent, fluent in French and Spanish. His ability to switch between three languages in one conversation always blew my mind. I always wished Yannek hadn’t left halfway through my stay in Chile. If there was ever an individual to have on your side it was him. Annoyingly politically correct and frustratingly positive about all the people around him, it didn’t take long to realise that Yannek was one of life’s special people.

An alliance with him meant a constant look on the lighter side of life. It also meant a good meal in your belly, albeit deep fried. While he knew how to cook up a storm, cleaning up seemed foreign to him. I suppose between being the master of languages, the resident chef and guitar maestro, there wasn’t much time left for cleaning.

Yanek and Sam in Southern Chile doing their 'Encyclopedia Brown'

Yannek and Sam in Southern Chile doing their ‘Encyclopedia Brown’

The third inhabitant of 1116 was Mariela of Costa Rica. She was the only native Spanish speaker in the house and spoke the most beautiful, fluent English. Her petite figure and perfect hair seemed to attract the French men, which annoyed her since she wasn’t particularly fond of them herself. If I remember correctly she actually made the French of all sexes weak at the knees.

But as was the nature of 1116, roommates came and went, equilibriums upset and dimensions changed. Soon Mariela and Yanek were gone and Sam and I remained as the original roomies.

I soon convinced my Chilean friend Jeimy to move in with us. 1116 was a far cry from the neat new apartment she had to leave behind. After one too many police-involved house parties, 1116 was all but collapsed. The walls needed painting, the couch needed throwing away and the carpets upstairs, well, they gave poor Jeimy a nasty rash.

I’d feel worse about having encouraged Jeimy to move in but she was in desperate need of removing herself from the apartment she’d shared with her previous boyfriend. I moved out of my room which was way to big for me and my lack of possessions and into the downstairs room big enough for a only bed. this suited me perfectly and simply took myself up to my old room that Jeimy had turned into an oasis. Decorating wasn’t her only talent- another area in which she excelled was eating for four and still maintaining her figure.

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Me, Jeimy, Desi and Sam

But hang on! I skipped the part between Mariela’s leaving and Jeimy’s arrival where the biggest Chilean in all the land moved in. Fernando was the one new arrival that we had no say in and moved in as a friend of the apartment’s manager. Fernando loved whiskey so much he would have had no problem drinking it in the place of morning tea. Unfortunately this is not socially acceptable nor is it healthy, especially for this poor dude who suffered from the worst alcohol induced gout. I remember him crippled at times, hobbling down the stairs in pain.

Almost as much as he loved whiskey, Fernando loved women. It isn’t completely uncommon in Chile to be outspoken about your feelings (read urges) about a woman. A good looking woman in Chile is, more often than not, made aware of what men around her are thinking. Anything from a grunt of approval to a whistle or a comment.

For some reason Fernando thought it ok to let me know whenever he saw someone who made him feel alive in his loins. Based on this fact, his having fathered a child years before, his relationship with a crazy woman, his love for strip clubs and his friend who carried around a gun, it took a while to warm to Fernando. But I learned to love him in my own way.

The final addition to 1116 was our very own Mexican chef, Désirée. Désirée arrived on our doorstep with all her energy and cooking knowledge about midway through my year in Chile. Not long after that she’d befriended every other Mexican exchange student- and that was the end of any peace and quiet for 1116. At any one time there were between 3 and 7 Mexicans eating quesadillas and speaking in slang in our apartment.

Four Mexicans

Four Mexicans

This was probably the best thing that could have happened to me and my Spanish language acquisition. Without the presence of Désirée and her entourage, my Spanish would not have been able to progress to the level it did. Even though most of the time I was too self conscious to utter much, the mere exposure to a daily dose of Mexico was priceless.

Thanks to Désirée I now have a humungous urge to visit Mexico. Thanks to her, my sneaking suspicion that all Mexican dishes are made from the same 3 ingredients was confirmed. And lastly, thank you Desi for filling up my room with balloons and sticky notes for my birthday after knowing me for just a few weeks.

Gracias a mi familia Chilena! Thank you to my Chilean family! I couldn’t imagine 2012 without you.

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Into the Wild: a Photo Essay

I’ve been craving going camping recently. More specifically ‘wild camping’ in picturesque, off the beaten track places – the kind you know you want to wake up in the minute you lay eyes on it. Out in the wilderness, no-one and nothing else. I think back to this particular 48 hour adventure in central Chile with three friends, a Kombi and a mattress.

 

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Someone I Once Met: Student of the Year

Cristian Alvarez is well-educated, hard working, successful and kind. He is a Chilean man who I taught English to twice a week for the duration of my time in Chile.

Our lessons were one on one, just me and him in his ever so neat office in downtown Santiago. Although I always declined his offer of coffee, he never failed to offer me a cup when he was making one for himself. Two cups per lesson was the average and always in the mug which showed his support of the Chilean football team Colo-Colo.

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Although material given to me to me by my employer showed Cristian as being at the ‘upper-intermediate’ level, I would definitely describe him as an advanced speaker. His course was a business English one and he hated going by the book. For the first few lessons I stuck religiously to the syllabus- practicing reading, writing and listening skills. But it didn’t take long before our classes became more conversational in nature.

Cristian Alvarez was like my psychologist. Although the lessons were there for him to improve his Business English, his timid nature and good listening skills meant that I would often go off on a tangent for an hour while he sat and listened. Every now and again I’d feel guilty about neglecting the ‘real work’ but he’d insist we continue as we were- him listening while I filled him in on my life. He identified in front of him a girl in a foreign country with a lack of close friends in which to confide.  Mr. Alvarez was there to make sure I was ok.

When I fell Ill he had a sudden realisation that I had no-one to look after me and reassured me that he would be there if I ever needed anything. He had no problem changing a class time to suit me when I took on a second job. Cristian was never late for class unless it was completely out of his control. This fact, although seemingly insignificant, was a huge treasure in the land where time and punctuality mean nothing. And when class was over he always, always, walked me to the door.

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Someone I Once Met: Made in Japan

Yuka is a Japanese girl I met at a party in Chile (it would seem I meet a lot of people at places where one drinks). She is the smiliest person you’ve ever come across- not many people smile and laugh as much as Yuka does. She had followed her American boyfriend over after they met as teacher-student in Japan. We saw each other a number of times after our first meeting, once bumping into one another in the busy business district of Santiago.

As it turned out, her relationship took a turn for the worst- him not coming home after nights out (she’s not a partier) and being generally blind to her acts of dedication (like packing him cooked lunches every day). She stuck it out for longer than she should have but eventually decided enough was enough, packed up and moved out. She had to rely on the kindness of new friends to take her in- she had nowhere to go.

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She came over to visit me and spoke openly about his taking advantage of things- while still laughing and smiling. But I could imagine the hurt behind it all. She had moved halfway across the world for him and then this. She hinted at possibly going back to him because of the obvious apologetic behaviour he showed post break-up. But I encouraged her to, basically, not be stupid.

Yuka has a sugar addiction- I’m sure of it. She doesn’t drink but man oh man does she like sweets. I get a lot of joy out of her Facebook postings about her latest and greatest desert or sweet find. A scroll through her uploads shows a long line of photographs of delicious looking treats that she can’t stay away from. Each photo accompanied by a long write up about when, with whom, the whole thing. The best part is her broken written-English . I have to copy and paste an example so you too can share in the joy she so easily feels.Yuka

“What a lovely surprise! Got a box include lovely card from my sweet girl, Fumi chan♡!!!!!she just sent to my house….Lovely pink box and Macaron flavor tea!!!!!it’s perfect one for me!!!!!!!I’m so happy….She knows about me well♡ Another day, I also got birthday gift what is so lovely tea set from Maki chan♡ That’s why fumi chan’s gift was tea! So lovely! I can use both at the same time and I can feel both of my lovely ladies!!!!”

Since Yuka’s Emancipation from the American boy she has continued (thanks to her strong currency conversion I believe) to hop from country to country on her own. Raving, as she does with the sweets, about each place, person and event she experiences. In that oh so cute writing style of hers.

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Someone I Once Met: The Crazy Beautiful Latina

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When I met Xaviera at a farewell party in Santiago she was dressed like a flower. It was a costume party with no particular theme and that is what she came up with. I should have known then and there that she would go into my ‘crazy friend’ category. Xaviera is made up of two halves…the first 50% of this Chilena is a dirty Electro music lover, music festival goer, weird photos on Facebook putter. The other 50% is a medicine student who hardly drinks, doesn’t take drugs, studies hard, is top of her class and knows exactly where she’s going in life. She is both of these people all the time.

Xaviera quite possibly has parents with the tightest reins I’ve ever met. What’s strange is that if there was ever a child to trust it would be this one. But still, her concerned mother is not beyond showing up at a house party when her daughter doesn’t answer the phone. And yet this 22 year old has still not rebelled. Although, she is not without a plot to slowly loosen the grip her loving parents have on their only child. When I heard that she managed to go to Brazil without them and with their blessing (and money) I was amazed.. and proud. Then the inevitable part came up about how she went to visit a cousin. But its a good start.

When I decided to feature Xaviera (pronounced Javiera), I had a squizz at her Facebook page and found a status that struck a chord.

“Men: if I’m being nice to you it doesn’t mean I want you to be my boyfriend. thank you for your attention”

God love you my crazy friend! You can deliver my babies one day. Not sure I’d let you be my psychiatrist though.

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Someone I Once Met: International Lovers

He is Spanish and she’s Mexican. They met in Chile, and this is a love story. Desireé became my sister sometime in July 2012 when she knocked on my apartment door ready to move in. A mouth full of braces and a heart full love for everyone, Desireé is the bounciest, smiliest person; the kind who leaves balloons and sticky notes all over your room for your birthday when you hardly know her.

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To her left is Pedro, or ‘the Coach’ as we called him, because of his striking resemblance to the coach of the Barcelona football team. They had both come to Santiago as exchange students. I remember the night they met at a mid-week pre-drinks where the quick evolution of their contagious happiness began. In true Desireé style, they did not kiss that night, but it wasn’t long before they were joking about if their wedding would be held in Mexico or Spain.

But as all exchange students must do, they returned to their respective countries- determined to make it work. That was 7 months ago. A few days ago, they reunited on another continent, In Toronto, Canada. Their happiness could be felt all around the world as those who know them commented on and liked the photo of their first embrace. They’re just kids but these two have re-established my faith in love. All the best to you two.

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The Cutting Shop: Getting Your Hair Done Abroad

When I was younger I was way more adventurous with my hair. Around 6 years old I got them to chop it all off like a boy and in my teenage years, after watching Dirty Dancing, I got a perm! I don’t know whether I should thank my mom or not for giving me such authority over my own hair. Then, In university I went from long blonde hair to short and dark brown- just like that. Also, I once allowed my friend to cut it all off. These are all hairstyle decisions I wouldn’t be so blasé about making these days. I seem to have either learnt from my mistakes or just realized what (I think) suites me best.

So in recent years I’ve gone months at a time (up to a whole year) without visiting a hair dresser. ‘They’ say one should get a haircut every six weeks, but that’s really not a rule I follow. I have unruly hair (which does seem to be getting better with age) and often make use of my GHD so I’m aware that my hair cannot be in Pantene-commercial-condition….. But I let the months roll on anyway.

A cool barber shop I came across in Seattle, Washington.

A cool barber shop I came across in Seattle, Washington.

I loved living in Chile, but there are a few things I don’t miss: their tasteless cheese, their lack of non-long-life (fresh) milk, their bad fashion sense and bad hairstyles. When the moon-bag forgot to go out of fashion, so did the mullet. And this is just one of the bad hairstyles on show in and around Chile. So naturally I was concerned about letting one of them near me with a pair of scissors.

Some ex-pat girlfriends of mine warned me against getting my haircut there, which compounded my difficult situation. After about 6 months of being in Santiago, I You Tubed ‘How to cut your own hair’. This bought me a couple extra weeks but in all honesty, I needed to see a professional.

Notice anything strange about this picture? The single, long dreadlock hanging down his back perhaps? Commonly found in the streets of Santiago

Notice anything strange about this picture? The single, long dreadlock hanging down his back perhaps? Commonly found in the streets of Santiago

So I plucked up the courage and headed to a salon right by my apartment. I was an English teacher living on a salary that allowed me the lifestyle of a student so I wasn’t prepared to part with a large amount of money. Which is ironic considering my apprehension. At this point, about 8 months in, I was finally able to converse with people in Spanish. So I managed to communicate: ‘It’s been a long time, but I still don’t want you to take off a lot’.

When she started snipping away at my dry hair I really thought I was going to come out of there one of them. I mean, is it not a universal hairdressing rule that the hair gets washed (not least so that it is wet) before the cutting begins? Well not in this salon. They washed my hair after the cut… Interesting. Anyway, the outcome wasn’t completely horrendous.

Skip to the South of France where the sea, sun and wind have taken their toll- it’s time for another haircut! This time, at least, I am in the country’s most touristy town. If anything this means that I can get by without speaking the language. Everywhere there are Germans, Russians, Brits, Americans and Italians (I don’t know what the Chinese have against France. They’re nowhere to be seen with their oversized cameras). So English becomes the best tool for understanding one another. I can go to the pharmacy and get by in English, the same in the restaurants and bars.

So needless to say, my choice of salon, The Cutting Shop, has a lovely bilingual lady at the front desk and hairdressers that can communicate with me. But there’s always a catch. I’m in the South of France during peak season which means paying tourist prices. For this particular haircut I paid 3 times the amount I would back at home.

It could have been a bit cheaper if I had opted for the ‘no conditioner’ option which is just silly. Who washes a client’s hair with shampoo only and then wack on 10 euros extra if you’d like conditioner?? I think hairdressers worldwide need to take a leaf out of South Africa’s book and just wash clients hair with shampoo AND conditioner BEFORE the cutting begins (for FREE). 

in 2013 I'm embracing my natural colour and enjoying spending less on it

in 2013 I’m embracing my natural colour and enjoying spending less on it

Have you ever had your hair done abroad? How was the experience for you? 

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Someone I Once Met: “Chile’s Flamboyant First Brother”

One long weekend in 2012 a friend and I took a trip to La Serena, a bigger-sized Chilean coastal town. As we waited in line outside the club I pointed out a man thinking he wasn’t more than just a funny looking fat guy in a black cap. “Oh my God! Do you know who that is?” Was her response. “That’s Negro Piñera, the president’s brother!”

Known as “Negro” or “Black” Piñera, this guy is infamous for being the complete opposite of his successful sibling and has been referred to as ‘Chile’s Flamboyant First Brother’. His life is one big party and his dabbling in this and that (not excluding drugs) includes the release of a Louis Armstrong cover. Once inside the club we scoped the place out for him, he wasn’t hard to find since he comes with a string of young attractive gold diggers….I mean women.

We watched from a short distance away as he politely had his photo taken with club-goers with a big smile on his face. The two of us waited for the inevitable moment when he notices the only two blonde girls (we’re in Chile) itching to meet him. He makes eye contact and sticks his hand out almost immediately beckoning us to push through the crowd and chat to him. Stoked! I’m such a sucker for the rich and famous. His English is immaculate and he tells us he studied in London and has been to South Africa, the two places we’re from. He invites us to his birthday party back in Santiago and although such an invitation is quite a thrill, we don’t attend.

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Someone I Once Met: The Italian Stallion

This is Stefano. I met him in La Paz, Bolivia’s capital and the highest one in the World. He is an Italian who speaks perfect English- weird. It turned out that him and I had been living in the same neighbourhood in Santiago but never met. He was blogging all the way up the west coast of America – From Chile to Canada. Stefano’s wicked sense of humour is clever and captivating and is just what I expect from a writer. He blogs in Italian but when I chuck his posts into Google Translate I am able to get a gist of his writing style. Taking an ordinary scenario and making it an enjoyable read is a talent and he has it. We met again in Peru and the day before I took my 36 hour bus journey back to Chile he gave me something- the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing. As I read it on the bus I had to laugh at the notes I found in the margins. “What is your niche?” the book asks.

“Surfing, partying and chicks.”

He has since been asked to write a book about his travels. I look forward to tracking his success.

Stefano plays table tennis at our hostel in Cusco, Peru.

Stefano plays table tennis at our hostel in Cusco, Peru.

Here’s the blog he kept. Go ahead, Google-Translate-read-it: www.panamericano.it

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