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!

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