Monthly Archives: August 2012

¡Galletas! (Cookies!)

It’s a cooking post!

I once again got together with my dear friend F. to dish about life and to bake something. After wandering around the Jumbo (like a cross between Target and Walmart, plus a big grocery) in South America’s largest mall for a while trying to find ingredients, we went back to her place to get baking some oatmeal craisin cookies.

This post could also be titled, “Adventures in Metric Conversions.” Or, “Adventures in Cooking Without Measuring Tools.” Or, “Adventures in Baking with Unlabeled Ingredients.” Or combine all of those titles into one. We had one large measuring cup. We tasted a white powder from a jar to make sure it wasn’t powdered sugar, and took our chances guessing it was baking soda and not baking powder. We then made shaky metric conversions, mixed it all together, and hoped for the best.

Basic cookie things. In Spanish.

Fun fact: brown sugar is called azúcar rubia here. That means blonde sugar, not brown sugar! It reminded me much more of raw sugar than of traditional, sticky, fragrant brown sugar.

Looks normal to me!

Also, the oven did not have a thermometer. It was either on alto or bajo (high or low). And we used a casserole pan.

Trust me. It works just fine.

Nevertheless, we got edible cookies!

Voilà!

We now move on to the portion of this post where I appreciate that I live with a host family instead of on my own or with other foreigners in an apartment or a dorm. Why? Among a zillion other reasons, they make sure that you don’t unwittingly go out to a bad neighborhood late at night. This is why you tell your host parents where you’re going, guys.

On Saturday I celebrated one month living with them in Santiago. One whole month. That also meant that I signed my contract with them committing myself to stay with them for the rest of the semester (they were like, “Are you sure?” To which I responded, “Are you sure?” Clearly my imperfect Spanish has hidden some of the quirkier aspects of my personality from them. But they’re stuck with me now!). To commemorate all of that goodness, we went out to eat at a traditional Chilean place in one of Santiago’s hipper neighborhoods.

Soooo much food. So much delicious Chilean food. Sopaipillas with pebre. Pan amasado. Some kind of cheesy clam appetizer. Lamb and beef and chorizo with goat cheese. Pastel de choclo. Reineta. And a fairly strong pisco sour. To top it off, I got to write my name on one of the walls, near their previous host daughters’ signatures. It was just a really great night.

And THEN, as if I hadn’t already eaten enough over the weekend, I continued the host family bonding time by making brownie chip cookies with my sister.

Brownie chip cookies are about the easiest recipe I know. Get the recipe here. Buy some brownie mix. You probably have the rest of the ingredients already. Bake them. Done.

Chocolate chips are really expensive here. Just FYI.

I’m sorry. I know what this looks like. I just want to show you that you can bake cookies on a pizza pan.

Lesson learned: don’t be picky about your baking pans. It all works just fine.

While they’re baking, take a break to eat some gummy bears and dish about boys with your sister.

My favorites are the red and the clearish ones.

Ta-da! Yes, they look like cowpies, okay? The Internet tells me that they spread out so much probably because the pan was over-greased. Oh well. They taste just like they should!

Flat, chewy, and good.

We also made a brownie tart. Want to know how? Prepare some brownie mix. Put it in a tart pan. Bake. Fancy, right?

That’s all I’ve got for now! I’m very, very happy to be back in the kitchen. I hope you’re all enjoying the end of your summers/beginnings of the school year. The season is changing here too- from winter to spring! This means that one day it will be 40 and rainy, and the next it will be 76 and sunny. I just have to be ready for everything!

With love,

Gaby

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Monday morning, you sure look fine

That’s the only song I could think of that has Monday in it. Besides Manic Monday. But Manic Monday is not appropriate for today because it’s not manic at all. I don’t have class until 2 o’ clock. The sun is coming out and it’s going to be like 70 today. Every Monday can be like this, thank you very much.

This is what it looks like out my window on a particularly brilliant morning.

Palm leaves in front, snow in the back. Welcome to Chile.

And this is what the mountains look like close-up after there’s been a lot of snow.

This was a really beautiful day.

Life has been moving along at a relatively normal pace.

JUEVES

Last Thursday I went to begin work at the service site where I’ll be basically every Thursday afternoon for the rest of the semester. I had been asked to come in for lunch and to talk more about how I’ll be helping out until December. When I arrived, it was cleaning day, and I was put to work cleaning one of the bathrooms. I actually kind of loved it- not necessarily the cleaning the bathroom part, but the fact that I was incorporated and expected to contribute immediately. The rest of the afternoon entailed helping the youngest group of kids, for whom I will lead a theater taller (pronounced tai-yer; workshop), with their homework, and then watching them rehearse musical numbers for Independence Day. Not much more to say except that I’ve got some characters to work with. It’s going to be a lot of fun.

VIERNES

I don’t have class ever on viernes. It’s great. After having to run by campus (that makes it sound like campus is nearby. It’s a 35 minute metro ride, plus walking time.) to get readings printed for a class, a couple of friends and I went to the mall. I finally got a pair of boots! I felt so much more stylish just having the bag in my hand.

I also had to figure out which bus to take to get home, and where to pick that bus up. In the process I managed to meet the supposed #15 tennis player in Chile. That’s according to him: the Internet has yet to verify that claim. He spoke some English and could hear my friend and I trying to figure out our bus route and offered to help. My friend got on a different bus, and the tennis player was on my bus, so we ended up talking the whole ride back. He made various comments about how he’s going to follow his coach to the US in a couple of months to try and find a tennis scholarship, and that he wants to practice his English. Then he asked me to friend him on Facebook (my privacy settings are such that he most likely can’t find me).

How do you handle these encounters? People talk about making some of their best friends and having some of the best international experiences through chance meetings like this. But think about how this sounds: I met him at a bus stop. At night. I want to be open. I also don’t want to be stupid.

In any case, I can’t actually find him on Facebook, so maybe that’s a sign.

SÁBADO

One word: chorillana.

Hoooooly crap. Chorillana. My very good friend at another university got some of her friends together, and I got some of mine together, in an attempt at extranjero mixing and exploration of Chilean food. The first part of the evening involved chorillana.

This is chorillana. I apologize for the blurriness.

The menu said “un montón de papas fritas.” They weren’t kidding.

Chorillana is a pile of french fries topped with a lot of other really delicious junk.

There’s chorillana clásica.

French fries with onions, egg, meat, and sauce.

And there’s chorillana vegetariana.

Don’t let the fact that it’s vegetarian fool you. There is nothing healthy about this.

These plates prompted my friend B. to ask if my camera had a “direct to blog” function. Go back up to the picture of the three plates. There were nine of us, including two who had already eaten and two who were fairly hungry. Maybe nine hungry football players could have finished all three plates. We barely finished one.

Afterwards we went to a birthday party. I had a good time. Really, I did. But I think the party was a decent illustration for me of how tightly knit Chilean social circles are. You really need a Chilean who is willing to introduce you and bring you into the fold. Could I have made a little more effort to introduce myself? Yeah, sure. But Chileans tend to have the same friends throughout their entire lives. They’re not necessarily looking to meet new people, let alone someone who’s going to leave at the end of the semester. This thought does not come from feeling uncomfortable- I did happen to be with a willing Chilean- or unwelcomed. It was just the first time I saw what I had been told: it takes a lot of effort to get in with Chileans.

It’s Monday, the start of another week. Really, though: the calendars here start with lunes, not domingo. I think we’ve got it wrong in the States. Remember how the seventh day of creation was the day of rest? That’s Sunday, the last day of the week, not the first! I like how the week starts with the workday. It makes Sunday truly part of the weekend.

I have not a clue as to what is coming up next, besides class and volunteer work and another weekend ahead. Tengo ganas de cocinar algo. And also to get around this city a little more on my days off- I’m getting a little wanderlust/cabin fever. We’ll see where that leads me.

Chao chao! Besos! Cuídate!

Gaby

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Identity crisis

My throat hurts. Not that badly. I’ve had worse sore throats. But since I can’t think of many things worse than being sick for the weekend, let alone sick while abroad, I’m on cup #4 of tea for the day. Not tea, actually. Agua de hierbas. Specifically, de menta, which might be my favorite.

Drinking lots of tea, especially when what you’re going for is the healing power of the heat, has taught me that there’s a very small window in which tea is at a perfect temperature. You can’t drink it right away or you will burn the heck out of your mouth, and then you can’t enjoy the tea because your mouth hates you. But if you wait too long, you lose out on the awesome sensation of heat and how good it feels in your semi-swollen throat. And then you’re just drinking herbal water with sugar in it.

There was a weekend in between now and when I last posted.

VIERNES

My university hosted a big, free concert for all the students. Things I learned here: music transcends language. Except rap. I don’t think rap transcends language. Or at least not easily. I have trouble understanding/appreciating rap in English, let alone Chilean Spanish.

Another thing I learned: I underestimated the prevalence of cigarette smoking among Chilean youth. I would see students around campus smoking, but not on a grand scale. More often than at my home school, for sure, but I think they have a smaller percentage of smokers than the general population as a whole, so I wasn’t surprised. But man. Holy smokes. I think everyone except my friends and I was lighting up. Now generally, I can tolerate smoking. Do I smoke? No. Have I ever? No. Do my parents? Nope. My host dad smokes, and it really doesn’t bother me. Often I find the smell somewhat comforting. But maybe it was the amount of smoke I was inhaling, or the kinds of cigarettes around (there had to be some unfiltered action going on), but I could actually feel my throat burning a little by the end of the night. And when you blow grey snot out of your nose, you know you’ve been exposed.

SÁBADO

I had the great pleasure of meeting up with a very dear American friend of mine who, as luck/fate would have it, is also studying in Santiago this semester. We trekked around Plaza Ñuñoa, in the comuna of Ñuñoa, during the quiet time between the end of the afternoon and the opening of the bars. She is also blonde. Very blonde. And we were speaking in English. But are there actually that few blondes here that it’s necessary to call them out anytime you see them? I wonder what it’s like to be an actual chilena and naturally blonde. They do exist. Do they get taken for gringas all the time?

That meet-up on Saturday also made me recognize the value of having a good friend here with me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m getting along wonderfully with all of the people in my school’s group, and I know I have them to lean on if I need anything. But there’s something about having someone who has known you for a long time, who knows your family, who knows where you come from and how you work, that makes this journey a little bit easier. The help is there if you need it. It’s truly a blessing and a crazy twist of fate.

DOMINGO

Guys. I cooked something. And I have pictures!

Look at that! It’s a mixing bowl on the blog again!

Yes. I made pancakes. With a mix.

Guys, I cannot tell you how happy it made me when my host sister came into my room Sunday morning and asked me to help her make pancakes. It made me feel so at home to mix up batter and put it in something hot and then get something fluffy and delicious.

Full disclosure: there were mishaps.

Apparently it only takes about four weeks for you to forget how to flip something with a spatula.

Note: pancakes in a pan don’t cook up the same as they do in a griddle. Heat distributes differently. Watch out!

These things are easily remedied, however, with a good dousing of syrup and hiding them under the prettier pancakes in the pile.

This picture makes me want to bake more things in my new kitchen, just so I can photograph them in the beautiful light.

Cooking something really helped me feel more at home and comfortable, just like a friend and Chile alum told me it would (thank you, C.! The good pancakes are for you!).

LUNES

The weekend ended. I went to class. Ho hum.

But I also met up with my tandem language partner, a Chilean student with whom I will practice my Spanish, in return for practicing his English. It got me thinking about names. Here, I’ve been introducing myself as Gabriela, mostly because there’s actually another Gaby (Gabby) in my group, and since my full name is indeed Gabriela, I figured we could distinguish ourselves that way. But now there are people getting to know me as Gabriela, and not Gaby.

Is la Gabriela a different person than the Gaby? What about my other friends who are going by entirely different names- either Hispanicized versions of their names (i.e., Esteban instead of Steven) or names that have been lost in translation (this happens when people have names that just don’t translate well to a Chilean pronunciation, or when the name is not written like it is spoken). What about them?

(I say this, and I just got an email from someone to whom I introduced myself as Gabriela, and they called me Gaby. The blessing of having a name and nickname that is incredibly normal for this continent. Mom and Dad- you’re brilliant. Without any idea of what my future would be, you could not have given me a more perfect name.)

Names aside, I’ve heard we’re different people depending on what language we’re speaking. In some sense, that’s a little obvious: language is inherently bound up in culture and customs. Of course you’ll be a little different in Castellano than in English. But it goes deeper than that, folks. I’m not wholly myself in Spanish. Why? Because I can’t express myself as fully as I can in English. Sometimes what I would say in English just doesn’t carry over in Spanish. Or the moment is lost in the effort it takes for me to translate.

My hope is that my host family and the other Chileans I’m getting to know can see little bits and pieces of American English Gaby in the almost-but-not-quite-fluent-enough Castellano Gabriela, and I also hope that they can see that I really very badly want the Gaby and la Gabriela/Gaby to be as much the same person as possible. Or at least that I’m trying!

Chileans: I’m really a lot smarter and more interesting than I might appear. Except when I still almost fall over on the subway every day. Or that time I almost fell over on the moving walkway in Jumbo. Or that time I shut my thumb in the car door. True story. That Gaby cannot be hidden by any language. That Gaby, like music, transcends language.

In all honesty, though: the Spanish is getting easier. Lord be praised, I might have actually dreamt in Spanish the other day. And if it wasn’t a dream, it was certainly an unconscious/subconscious thought. I also find myself thinking about things in Spanish during the day, even if I’m not speaking Spanish at the time. Step by step…paso a paso…

MARTES

In honor of the feriado (day off) miércoles for la Asunción de la Virgen, my host dad picked up sopaipillas and dobladitas. Dobladitas might be the most delicious bread product I’ve tasted yet in Chile. That’s a big statement, people. The way my host dad explained it is that it’s the dough for empanadas, but unfilled and folded into quarters. We had them heated up with butter. Basically, it was like dense, chewy pie crust, with butter.

My host mom heated up the sopaipillas with chancaca, which is this dark sugar sauce cooked up with orange zest, cinnamon, and probably other stuff. It was kind of like eating a plain doughnut soaked in spiced wine. Again, delicious.

I’ve talked for a long time. Fingers crossed, I might actually be going to a disco this weekend, aka Thursday. And then shopping the streets of Santiago. And then indulging in some more traditional Chilean food. I will make an effort to take pictures!

More stories from the Spanish struggle bus/streets of Santiago/sitting here at my laptop to come!

Besos y un abrazo,

Gaby (Gabriela?)

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1 month down

Time flies, doesn’t it?

One month ago today I landed in Chile. At this time a month ago, I was settling into the retreat house in Linares. I was incredibly stuffed with food and freezing cold. Now I’m in a regular house in Santiago, enjoying excellent WiFi and not wearing a jacket.

I can’t decide if I feel like I’ve been here a long time or like I’ve just gotten here. I’ve lived in two very different parts of Chile for about an equal amount of time now. Linares seems like it was forever ago- but Santiago is still so new to me.

I haven’t had any big adventures to tell you about since I last wrote, so I’m just going to ramble for a bit.

The hard thing about living with another family is that sometimes you see them being a family. Which is exactly what you wanted. Except that seeing them be a family makes you miss your own family.

The crowd on the subway is so diverse. In the mornings it’s suits, uniforms, teenagers, couples, kids, the elderly, all kinds. I’ve also noticed that it gets progressively more eclectic the further west and south I travel. I live in the east, and in the mornings, it’s all professionals getting on. When I get back on from campus in the afternoon, it’s people my age, moms with little kids, every kind of style you could see.

Two o’ clock is a weird hour to start classes. And 6:30 is a rough time to get on the metro.

I need better maps of my campus. And far better signage/directions.

Things study abroad is teaching me about myself: I’m okay with change. I do not like transitions. I’m not a fan of in-between places. This whole process of settling in, assimilating, learning my way around, getting close to people, is just that- a process. And it’s not a Point A to Point B process. It’s more like Point A to Point M. And I’m maybe at Point D? I just really really want to be at Point M right now.

You know what a big part of my frustration is? Castellano. It’s the language barrier. I have lots to contribute to conversations. But these Chileans- they’re quick. It can be difficult to break in, especially when you’re worried that you’re going to slow things down. This is just a hurdle I have to get over, though, if I really want to be a part of things. It’s a challenge. A big challenge. But I must surmount it. (Yup. I used the word surmount. It felt right.) (Surmount in Spanish? Superar. ¡Voy a superar este desafío!)

Things will fall into place. I will feel truly settled. I will be able to converse normally in another language. It all takes time.

I just hope not very much more!

Oh, in food notes: I was moving right along, eating all the ensalada and pan integral (whole wheat bread) that my family could throw at me, and then I found hallulla on the counter. Hallulla. Hallelujah for hallulla. I had it with homemade strawberry jam and queso fresco for breakfast this morning, and boy, was I happy.

I hope you are all well! Thank you for supporting me thus far on my journey. All of your comments and thoughts mean a lot, and they do me a whole lot of good.

With love,

Gaby

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Consultas que tengo

Guess what? I don’t have any photos for you right now. It’s been a week of orientation and learning a new campus and going to class and such. Nothing you’d really care to look at, trust me!

I did go to Policía Internacional this week to register my visa. That place is like the DMV but for immigration. Not even kidding. You show them your papers, you pay, they hand you a number, you wait, and when your number is called, you talk to an mildly unpleasant person who barely looks at you and mostly clicks around a computer. Then you’re legal in the country! Mostly. I still need to get my Chilean ID card. Based on what I’ve heard, that’s a whole other adventure.

Here are a couple of things that I’ve really wondered about this week. These are questions (consultas, in Chilean Spanish) that I have for the Chilean people:

Why is there not toilet paper in the majority of stalls? I don’t mean that the dispensers are always out of toilet paper. I mean that there aren’t dispensers at all. I know that the plumbing is iffy in a lot of places. But does making people grab toilet paper before they enter the stall make them less likely to flush it down the toilet? Was there a crisis of messy bathrooms at some point in Chilean history, and they were forced to reduce dispensers to one or two per bathroom, outside of the stalls?

Also related to sanitation: why isn’t there a soap dispenser at every sink? Why only at each end? Or one in the middle? Or none at all? And why aren’t there paper towels? Toilet paper is not the same. It does not do the job without making a mess. When there are hand dryers, why are fully functional ones so scarce? Why do they only blow air in sporadic, cold gusts? You would think that in a country which generally lacks central heating, and where the winters are indeed chilly, dry hands would be a priority.

Women of Santiago: why are you so stylish? How are you so put-together every single day? How do you walk everywhere in those beautiful high-heeled boots? How do you pull off a cape so well? (Not even kidding. The woman who sat next to me on the metro today was wearing a cape. Like a jacket, but a cape. And she looked fabulous.) Where do you find so many interesting black items of clothing?

I’m going to the mall tomorrow. I’m getting myself some boots. Flat ones. I’ll pass on the cape. I’m pretty practical. And frugal. Which really makes trying to keep up with those women a challenge.

In other news, I’ve lived in this house for a whole week now. I love it. I actually helped out with stuff around the house the other day. You have no idea how that makes me feel more at home.

It’s raining. Which is a bummer because I couldn’t run today (which adds more normalcy to my routine), but could be pretty exciting when the sun comes back out. I’ve heard that the city is gorgeous after the rain washes all the smog and grime away.

Here’s to the weekend! We’ll see what kind of adventures I have for you in the new week.

With love,

Gaby

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