Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I'm off to Buenos Aires tomorrow for the weekend but I figured I'd check in with a quick post before my next jet-set adventure. (Funny how I always blog when I'm procrastinating packing...). It's been a great week--out for Mark's birthday, interning, dancing and carreteando with friends Friday and Saturday night, and aprovecharing (Spanglish for enjoying, taking advantage of, the real Spanish verb is aprovechar) of my first rainy weekend in Santiago by hanging around the house with my friend Jesse. Even though I started off the week exhausted, it's been a good week. Grades have started to come back from all of my midterms and I'm doing pretty well. Exciting but also reinforcing my current (lack of) study habits. Oh the reality check that will be fall semester.

I've been feeling kind of reflective lately because it's been exactly one year since I took off for my adventure in Mexico (¡Viva Chiapas! Tapachuladosmilonce!) and about 3 years since I graduated high school. Lol, what? In the last year I've lived and worked  in rural Mexico, moved back to DC, and then spent a weird two months in limbo at home in Chelmsford before heading to Chile. Again, lolwhat? But anyway, this last year of my life has been filled with incredible opportunities and experiences and amazing new friends from all over the world. I've improved not just my Spanish but become more independent, responsible and open-minded. I've also become more sure of the direction I want to take my life even though I don't have any specifics just yet. Even though academics has taken some what of a backburner (at least compared to the hours I spend in the library each day at AU) I still find my classes here in Chile invigorating. I know that studying politics and development in Latin America, speaking Spanish, and learning about the way this corner of the world works makes me happy. And that makes me feel lucky. Sentimental I know, but well, feelings are important.

Anyway, moving away from feelings and growing up and scary things like that, I am beyond pumped about heading to Argentina tomorrow. I'm going to eat all of the steak, drink all of the wine, see all of the sights, and buy all of the leather jackets ever. When I arrive back in Santiago I will have a little less than two months left of my adventure but ahead of me I have my Aunt Lynn's visit to Santiago and a ski weekend at Portillo, a week traveling around the north of Chile with the other half of "los dos Megans" and finally, five days in Machu Picchu hiking the Inca Trail. This is not real life and I'm going to enjoy every minute.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Saludar Como un Chileno

Hi everyone! I think you'll be happy to know I'm successfully out of my post-midterm slump and back to my go-getting, explore, dream, discover attitude. Yay! After a successful night out with my CEJA counterparts (complete with nachos and sangria!) I made it through the rest of the week despite feeling pretty exhausted. Come Friday afternoon, most of the group took off to various destinations since it was a long weekend. I'm going to be heading to both of the places people went once my program ends so I decided to take the weekend to chill in Santiago. Friday, Kevin and I found the best teremotto place ever--more low-key than the Piojera but also more delicious and less touristy, discovered that Pikachu, my favorite choripan car,t is open during the day, and found a great open-air market with tons of SHOES. I had dinner at my Aunt Lynn''s friend Ellen's house which per usual was delicious! The next day Kevin took me to this AMAZING Korean restaurant in the neighborhood of Patronato. Patronato is home to an eclectic mix of immigrants: mostly Korean and Palestinian. I have plans to go back and try so schwarma. Kevin is Korean so he helped me decide on a delicious dish I can't remember the name of and explained the entire menu to me. Also, he didn't even laugh at my poor usage of chopsticks. Now there's a good friend. We wandered Patronato and then headed to a friend's hair salon to get my hair cut (see picture below!). At night, I had more sushi and got to sing karaoke until 4 AM. Then a 60 year-old man told me he would love me today, tomorrow, and always. Awwww.

My new hair!
I pretty much slept, watched TV, and studied the rest of the weekend which led Claudia to be convinced that I was "very bored" but I tried to explain to her that I haven't really had any downtime since my arrival and that this was actually very nice. Today was back to the grind at my internship but I mean, it's already Tuesday so it's not that bad!

Anyway, now that you're caught up on my super exciting life I thought I'd address something that causes me daily confusion and often embarrassment: greeting Chileans. Like in many countries outside of the US it's custom to greet people with a kiss on their right cheek (ie you lean to the left and kiss them). But it's not just the first time you meet them, it's always. Best friends do this. Strangers do this. Co-workers do this. I'm so much more comfortable with an awkward wave or a handshake. Plus in the US, once you know someone, you don't ever really have to like 're-greet' them. A wave or a "Oh hey, what's up?" is acceptable. 

As a result, I end up totally awkward because I never know if I'm supposed to kiss someone. Yes, I guess I could just assume always. But like, to me, when I walk into a party and everyone is sitting in a circle, do I need to walk around and kiss each person? Also, you're supposed to like say your name when you greet the other person, except no one can ever say my name at first and then it's this awkward thing of "Should I pronounce my name like it's pronounced in English or like Chilean's pronounce it?" (You should see my when I order food). Anyway, back to the party-greeting scenario. Yes, it is appropriate/expected to greet every. single. person. Actually, its rude not to. 

Another dilemma I find myself in is "What do I do about the gringos?" I have a number of gringo friends/acquaintances from outside of my program here and I never know what to do when I greet them. Usually it's an awkward combo of "Oh hey what up?" and a cheek kiss. Because I think we mutually acknowledge that it's confusing and awkward.  

Also did I mention that you have to repeat this entire awkward sequence when you say good-bye? Even if it was only like a 2-minute conversation? 

Despite all of this, I've decided I actually like the cheek kiss. Why you ask? Why would something that makes you confused and awkward on the regular actually be a good thing? One of my Chilean friends explained it best. When we gringos greet each other, it's sort of "cold" even when they're best friends. We don't like to touch, it makes us uncomfortable. Chileans on the other hand are totally comfortable and I admire that. Also, how many times have you arrived at a party and not known anyone and spent the whole time awkwardly trying to remember names/not knowing if you should introduce yourself? This whole cheek-kiss thing solves that. And, when you say good-bye to your friends, instead of just waving, you get to embrace 'em. Cuz you love them. And expressing affection is totally acceptable.

Until next time, chao pescao!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Surviving Midterms

Whattuppp followers! Guess what? I survived midterms! Yay! Did my GPA survive midterms? That remains to be seen. I actually think I did okay, but there was a lot of cramming involved which usually isn't my style and stresses me out. My goal for the upcoming weeks is to spend more time doing readings instead of lying around watching TV. I'm not going to turn down opportunities to go do cool things and meet people but the time that I spend lying on my bed napping or watching Hulu could definitely be more productive. This morning I overslept by accident and then Claudia was talking up a storm at breakfast and I realized there was no way I was going to make it to class. Then I didn't have class until 5 and I ultimately decided not to go. Instead I took a walk, ate a Subway sandwich for lunch, and now I'm doing some readings. I've been kind of moody lately and I don't really know why, so I decided a day to myself out of the house might be nice. And eating Subway was (embarrassingly) comforting. They have cheddar cheese. I love cheddar cheese. But anyway, despite the weird funk I've been in, I've actually had a pretty good week.

At my internship I'm helping my boss research the U.S. pension system because she's working with a bunch of Chilean labor groups to reform the current ineffective one that's in place here. Sometimes my tasks are tedious but this is really interesting and I like my work environment a lot, so it's totally worth it. Tomorrow the office is going out for drinks after work, which should be fun. It's nice to meet people outside of UDP or the AU program and I'm lucky to have such a young workplace.

Last week was Jesse's birthday so a bunch of us went out to "Miercoles Po" a big weekly party where gringos get in free. I bought Jesse a crown (complete with fur!) at the grocery store and made her wear it, which was great. All of us had a blast. The next day she invited me and Erin over for birthday onces which is tea. I've grown to love onces because it's just delicious: toasted bread, avocado, ham, cheese, pastries, cake, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, you name it. I got to meet Jesse's host mom and one of her good friends, which was nice. I'm at Jesse's house a lot and am friendly with her sister but I still hadn't met her mom. She was welcoming and friendly just like all of the Chileans I've met!

Friday night I was exhausted but decided to have celebratory litros (liters of beer) with Kevin, mostly so we could enjoy our new favorite late night snack stand: Pikachu. It has the best choripan (chorizo with bread and whatever toppings you want) in all of Santiago I decided. Those of you who have been following my adventures since Mexico (which I assume is many of you since my avid readership consists of my extended family) know that I have a full-blown obsession with chorizo (example choriqueso). In my mind any food with the pre-fix chori is bound to be heavenly. It's possible Kevin and I only went to Bellavista to justify getting choripan

On Saturday Mark invited us over to cook brunch at his house. Brunch isn't really a thing in Chile. Actually, people don't really know the concept at all. I think this is because breakfast isn't really a thing. People are down to eat toast and avocado but pancakes, waffles, eggs, even cereal and bagels, just don't exist. Mark's host mom was super welcoming and excited about the idea of brunch and we had a blast. While I helped cut up fruit and cook bacon, my main task was "la reina de las mimosas" (queen of the mimosas for you gringos) and I loved every second. 

Also, fall is continuing it's descent on Santiago. Check out the foliage in this picture: 

Yesterday was mother's day here too, (El Día de la Mamá) and I got to celebrate with Claudia and her family. We went to her daughter Andrea's house for onces and it was a great time. I really like all of her kids and grandkids, everyone makes me feel super welcome and included. Even though I had an awesome time, sometimes it makes me miss home when I'm around them. Might be the reason for my funk today. Also, a lot of my friends back at AU are graduating which freaks me out for sure. I can't believe that will be me in a year. WHATTT. But for now, it's time to get back to living la vida gringa. 

Chao pescaoo! (Literally translated that means "Goodbye Fish" but really it's just the Chilean version of "see you in a while, crocodile!")

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Long Weekend in the South: Chiloe

Oh hayyyy! It's Sunday night again which means I am sitting here procrastinating all of my readings/responsibility. Which would be fine except I have 3 exams this week. Which is sort of disorienting since all of my friends at home are finishing finals or have already headed back to their hometowns for the summer (or they're graduating and becoming real people which I won't address because it's scary and idontwannathinkaboutit). Anyway, here in Santiago the leaves are falling, I'm rocking leather jackets and scarves and boots and fun fall things! Also, as I've mentioned before I'm discovering what it means to live somewhere without central heating: chilly. I can't even imagine what winter will be like....

Moving on, I had a pretty great weekend filled with friends, fun, food, and even a little bit of sleep! Friday night some gringos and I met up with some of our Chilean friends for a previa (pregame) unsure of where we were going to go. Turned out it was this secret house/electronic show! We legit just walked up to an unmarked door and when it opened we were in this super cool music venue. My Chilean life is much hipper than my American life. Which obviously means I need to go shopping for more scarves and cool shoes. To be more hip. Also it's cold here.

Yesterday Claudia invited me to another asada at one of her daughters's houses. It was a lot smaller get-together than the last one I went to, so I really got to sit down and talk with her family and get to know people. Everyone was so welcoming and it was nice to be in a family environment. One of Claudia's granddaughters is 14 and super-tall but after dinner she crawled up on her Dad's lap and everyone was teasing her about how she's too old for that. It made me think of home and my family :) While it makes me miss home a little to be around such a great loving family, I think ultimately it's really comforting because I feel like they are my family too!

Anyway, I owe you all an update on my latest trip: Chiloe! Chiloe is the second largest island in South America (to be honest I have no idea what the biggest one is...) and it's a 15 hour bus ride south of Santiago. It's most famous for it's mythology and houses on stilts overlooking the ocean. It has a really different feel than mainland Chile, I think because it was pretty isolated for a long time. Today, it's super easy to access, with a ferry that holds cars and buses that goes back and forth frequently. Only 6 of us made the trip and it was all girls, so it very quickly became a girls weekend, which was great!

After an overnight bus from Santiago, we arrived in the small town on Ancud last Saturday morning around 9 AM and checked into our hostel, a super cute and comfy log cabin looking building with an ocean view! We wandered into town, ate a hearty breakfast and did a quick walking tour. We learned a lot about the mythology of the island, the group favorite being the "Trauco" who all of our host moms had warned us about. According to legend, he was an angel who fell in love with a woman on Chiloe and when God found out that they were having premarital sex God turned his angel into a really creepy looking troll called the Trauco. Now, the Trauco spends his time trolling (that was punny!) Chiloe and impregnating innocent women. Basically, if a girl get's pregnant and no one knows who the father is, it's probably the Trauco's baby. After watching a scary YouTube video on the Trauco which I'll post below, our group was sufficiently afraid of leaving the island pregnant with a troll baby. Luckily, there's a simple solution: make a cross out of two knives and the Trauco will stay away. We decided it would be best to stay on the safe side and we "stole" knives from the hostel kitchen for our protection.
Sorry that the video is in Spanish, but it's pretty easy to get the gist of the legend!

Anyway, after exploring we got super domestic and made a delicious dinner of pasta, chicken, and boxed wine. Shout out to the other Megan for legit deboning a chicken!

The next day we woke up bright (well not exactly, Chiloe is pretty rainy!) and early and headed off to the nearby city of Castro to explore. We found out that bussing between cities is pretty easy and cheap, so it would be easy for us to check out lots of areas of the island. Once in Castro we did another walking tour which took us all over the city. Highlights were the famous wooden church, the port, a delicious empanada place, miradores with views of the entire city, and a few different neighborhoods of palafitos which are the houses on stilts. We also stopped by an artisanal market where I bought the comfiest pair slippers ever. For dinner we found this great place with an ocean view and feasted on steak, salmon, the local seafood dish curanto (I wasn't brave enough for that!) wine, and frambuesa (raspberry) sours. Also, we might have gotten an appetizer of french fries. What up girls weekend? 

Monday we headed back to Castro to take a bus to Parque Nacional Chiloe to try our hand at horseback riding. Because it was the end of the season and a holiday weekend, we had had a hard time arranging a horseback tour, but the powers of Google assured us that we would be able to "ask any farmer you meet to borrow their horse." Oh okay Google. Thank you. Anyway, it rained all morning as  we bussed to Castro and the group energy was pretty low. The lady at the counter in the bus terminal to the park was pretty unhelpful and all of us were questioning if we should even go to park. Then, out of nowhere this bubbly man approached Jesse and asked if we were going to the park. This man made our day. He was our bus driver to the park and he explained everything to us and informed us he had many friends who did horse tours and he would help us find one. In Chiloe, it's really who you know I guess. As we approached the park, our bus driver stopped the bus and hopped out and walked into a farmhouse. I joked to Megan that he was finding our horses. When he got back on the bus he told us to get off, he had found us horses! Oh, okay. While we waited for our guide to get enough horses for the six of us, we used the bathroom at a farmhouse/restaurant and decided we should eat. Best. Decision. Ever. In the U.S. it might be considered sketchy to eat in some random house, but if my travels have taught me anything it's that that is the best way to eat (the best quesdillas in Chiapas? a random garage on a side street in Tapachula). This amazing woman filled or plates with beef that slid off of the bone, the juiciest tomatoes ever, and rice. Also, homemade bread and butter.

After the best lunch ever and the discovery that we would in fact be able to ride some horses, the sun came out. We headed outside to the most (least?) legitimate looking "office' of the horseback riding people. It was a shed that with "Horseback Tours" spray painted on it. We noticed later that the word "horses" was in quotation marks. Might explain why my horse was so small...Nevertheless, we headed out on our horses through the park, across dunes and down the shore of the island. The view was breathtaking and we had a great time. 

After our ride was over, we had about an hour to wait for our bus and decided to eat some more bread and butter at our new favorite restaurant. I was already in love with the woman there and then she came out and informed us that she said some empanadas fresh out of the pan and did we want any? OF COURSE WE DID. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. Also, we may have had a photoshoot on the side of the road waiting for the bus.

When we got home, the woman from the kayak tour we were planning the next day had e-mailed saying that the weather forecast wasn't looking great for the next morning so they were going to cancel. While we were disappointed, the ability to sleep in until 11 the next day, eat a long leisurely breakfast, and hang out in the hostel in my new slippers reading Game of Thrones until it was time to head back to Santiago was pretty great/just what I needed. 

Although this was one of the least planned-ahead trips I've ever been on, it was a blast! In Chiloe you can't really plan ahead because the weather is so variable and also people just don't answer their phones. As a result, the "planner" side of me had to take a rest for the weekend and just let things be. And what did I get? Frambuesa sours, empanadas, horseback riding by the ocean, and new slippers. Something to be said for taking life as it comes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

An Ode to Ensalada

What up loyal readers? I'm back in Santiago after a long weekend (no skipping school, we had a holiday don't worry!) in Chiloe with some friends. At some point this weekend I will blog and upload pictures about the amazing island (and it's amazing food!) but for now I just want to talk about salad. That's right, good old ensalada. Tonight after a long day interning and studying (I swear!) I sat down for dinner and realized that I have a lot of #feelings about salad.

Disclaimer: I actually love most Chilean food. It's pretty fresh (Claudia goes to the grocery store basically everyday and apologizes when she has to give me bread from the day before. I told her that at school I pretty much just wait until bread gets moldy to throw it away. She just shook her head at me. Silly gringita!) and it's also pretty tasty. Empanadas, juicy tomatoes! My favorite meal so far has been "pastel de papas" which literally translated is "potato cake" It's basically just mashed potatoes with seasoned ground beef and eggs in the center. It is amazing. Sometimes I dream about it.

Anyway, back to my story. Today I sat down for dinner and looked at my plate of "salad" and realized I really really really just want an American salad. With dark lettuce (and maybe even those weird purple things I whine about to my mother), spinach, carrots, mushrooms, maybe some goat cheese, and a nice vinaigrette. Or Greek dressing? OH GREEK DRESSING I MISS YOU. Instead, I was faced with a plate of shredded iceberg lettuce. Legit a pile of lettuce. Granted it did have traditional Chilean salad dressing, which is a truly delicious combo of oil and vinegar and yumminess. But still,  A PILE OF LETTUCE? AND ICEBERG LETTUCE? 

Here are some common characteristics of Chilean "salad" I've encountered:
  1. Onions and tomatoes and oil dressing. My first day Claudia set this out next to my plate and I thought it was like some sort of appetizer? Or side dish? So I spooned out some tomatoes onto my big plate and left the rest on the table. I would soon learn that this was actually a salad and the entire plate was actually for me.
  2. Iceberg lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and oil dressing. See above.
  3. Iceberg lettuce and celery. Oh and dressing.
  4. Iceberg lettuce, onions, tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, oil dressing, and mayo. Yes mayo.
  5. Iceberg lettuce, onions, tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, avocado, oil dressing and mayo. WHY DID YOU RUIN THE DELICIOUS AVOCADO WITH MAYO? WHY? I LOVE AVOCADO. CHILEANS LIKE AVOCADO. WHY IS THERE MAYO? 
At first I thought this was just a Claudia thing. Like maybe she just made weird salads. But, after asking around it became clear that those variations above are actually salad. And it's not that I don't like them (aside from the mayo...) because in actuality I'm obsessed with the salad dressing, but like, can't I get some leafy greens? 

Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "The Megan I know pretty much only wants to eat red meat, specifically filet mignon, WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO?" but never fear, my love of juicy, rare steak has not deserted me. It's the same thing that happened when I went to Mexico and didn't eat the lettuce (or anything that didn't have a skin that got peeled off) and came home and demanded salad all the time. I had no idea that salad played such an important role in my life. 

First day back on U.S. soil I would like a salad from Chop't. Or Panera. With cheese in it. And no iceberg lettuce.

Check back soon for updates on Chiloe! Chao for now!