Tag Archives: Concepción

My Life in Two Suitcases or Less

I’m leaving. Just like that my trip to Chile is over. Even though it’s a cliché, I’m going to say it: it feels like I just arrived! Where did the time go? Why can’t I have a few more days? For a moment, I considered changing the date of my flight and leaving at a later time. I learned that no one could pick me up from the airport and saw the $75 that it would cost to ride in a taxi from the airport to my house and rationalized to myself that the nearly $300 I would spend to change my ticket was a worthwhile investment towards my mental health. L and I talked about counting out my anti-seizure pills and seeing exactly how long I could stay here before risking it. Finally, when I called the airline and L heard me talking about the cost of changing the ticket, I saw him shake his head slightly and I relented. I would have to go back anyways…eventually. I have no desire to start jerking, seeing spots, or even experience the momentary loss of consciousness that a partial seizure would include.

I was tweeting that this is the first time I am no excited about traveling to the US. Usually, I would go a long time between visits so I would be all, “Shopping! Food! Family! Friends! English!” but today I’m not. I think part of that is due to the fact that Chile has treated me very well this time. I haven’t had any creepy encounters that involved old men, the police, or old men and the police. Even my daily interactions or transactions at the grocery store, metro, etc., people have been surprisingly friendly. Weird for me. I know!

The only minor exception to that was when I was in the airport on Friday heading to Concepción (where I had a great weekend) and I realized that my flight was about to board…no wait…already boarding and I had to uhm use the bathroom. So, I maneuvered myself and my carry-on with wheels through the maze of feet and other carry-ons to the closest restroom (quite the feat for a girl with multiple blind spots) and there was a line! Of course there was a line. In women’s’ bathrooms there is always a line! So, I waited and hoped they would be quick because I really didn’t want to bother my seatmate to move so I could get out from the window on a flight that only lasts 45 minutes…if that!

To my surprise, the line moved quickly and suddenly I was next. Then, a woman entered the bathroom and she looked at me. I mean, she really looked at me. It’s like I could see her doing the physics of the situation in her head like: “Line+gringa=distinct advantage for me.” After that brief exchange, she walked right in front of me. Okay, so I have to admit this: since surgery I have had a – what shall we call this – a tiny impulse control problem mostly dealing with times like this where I could potentially get very angry, very quickly. So, instead I took a deep breath and reasons that maybe because I’m here with all my luggage she just didn’t want to wait out in the hall and had to stand in front of me because that was the only space available. Maybe. But, if she goes for the next available stall I’m going to drag her out by her perfectly styled bun! Wait… impulse control…impulse control. More deep breaths or whatever. When the stall door opened and she went to walk inside, and instead of flying into a rage, I walked up behind her, tapped her on the back, and stated firmly,”Oye, yo también estoy esperando.” (Hey, I’m waiting too). She looked at me like I had just gotten down on my knees, threw my hands up in the air, and announced that I was the Unibomber –  in an airport no less. And then she moved! Simple as that. Later, I found out that she was on my flight and she ended up boarding one spot in front of me. She spent the remainder of the wait to sit down smiling smugly at me and then took her time arranging her luggage at her seat – all while looking exceptionally pleased with herself. “&^&%#!!!”

Oh well. I’m over it. Rude people abound. Sometimes, I’m one of them, but that’s for a different post.

In the end, I got to see almost everyone I came down to see and spent a lot of quality time with the people who made the entire trip and the cost of the ticket worth it, namely L and my friend G in Concepción. Of course, I’m terribly sad to be leaving L. Tonight at the airport, I’ll be the one with the blotchy face covered in tears and snot. I just have to tell myself that his visa will go faster than we think and soon he’ll be on his way to the US.

Now, I’m in the process of packing up my life in Chile into two suitcases that weigh no more than 23 kilos each and two small carry-ons (okay, so small may be a stretch of the truth…two GENEROUS carry-ons). I keep thinking back to when I moved here in 2008. I arrived with two suitcases and had plans of staying only six to nine months. Then, I feel in love and everything changed. Two and half years later, I’m packing again – only this time it’s a reverse move. How strange that moving to South America seemed like the ultimate adventure at the time. It’s true that Chile has been the place where I have really come into my own. I’ve grown and matured in ways that I didn’t even know I needed to grow and mature. I took on the responsibilities of the life I was trying to avoid in the US without even realizing it. Except, moving back to the US does not feel at all like an adventure. In fact, it’s a little scary. Finding a quote unquote real job fills me with a trepidation that I didn’t feel while peddling my resumé in Santiago. I suppose like everything else in life – including brain surgery – you just do it when you have to and it all works itself out. Right?

Wish me luck :) Oh, and I did find someone to pick me up from the airport. I really do detest taxis… in any country.

Happy Halloween!

The good weather for this trip has been sporadic. The first week was gray, chilly, and a little rainy. Then, we had some lovely sunny days. Yesterday, I had a craving for ice-cream, and because L’s a good sport and he’s used to my eccentricities and also because he loves the rain, he consented to go to Bravissimo with me to eat a giant ice-cream cone when it was threatening rain (so, that about does it for the list of “foods I needed to eat” while in Chile because we have a chorrillana a.k.a a tiny, edible mountain of fries, meat, sausage, eggs, and fried onions on the menu for Sunday… super nutritious – I was just telling myself the same thing).

Then, as we were walking back across the sandy grounds of Parque Aruacano, the sky opened up. Literally. It was like at that exact moment God decided to dump a large pail of water over out heads. We each had an umbrella and L ran after an old man with an armful of groceries to offer him the shelter of his umbrella for a few minutes. You can bet that as I was shivering and wet with numb fingers gripping my umbrella, I was questioning the need to run out for ice-cream… Nahhhhhhh… it was totally worth it. Manjar chips anyone?

Today, I’m off to Concepción until Sunday to see my good friend G and her family. I remember when I realized that I was going to be moving back to the US, I was a little excited that I would finally be there for Halloween (okay, and Thanksgiving but that doesn’t involve the widespread exchange of chocolate). I do love me some chocolate :) Moving on… Anyway, I’m going to be in Chile again for Halloween. Again. I noticed in the grocery store that every year there are more Halloween costumes and candy to choose from. It seems like my first Halloween I spent here there was very little selection at all. I still don’t know what I feel about Chile importing Halloween, but I find the incorporation of Halloween to be an interesting example of globalization – one which I could probably examine in my current international business class, but most likely won’t because it might take a lot of time away from my current schedule of doing nothingness.

Halloween also marks the end of my trip to Chile (I leave next Tuesday). It’s been a great trip. I feel like I’ve managed to close up my life here and have finally accepted that I am moving back to the US and all that implies (read: find a job). This trip has been the perfect mix of vacation and real life, in other words, it was normalcy that I sorely needed after all I had been through. I also desperately needed to see L. We had never had to have a long distance relationship before where the next time we saw each other hung undecided in the air.

Now, as I leave, we are a couple of months closer to our K-1 visa and even though we may have to wait a few more months before we hear anything affirmative, the wait seems a little more bearable since I know it will end with him coming to live in the US with me.

Okay… I’m off to find some chocolate and celebrate Halloween a little early. You would think from the way I write that all I’ve done is eat since arriving and you would not be entirely wrong, but still it’s not a bad idea, eh?

Photos of Concepción: More than Two Months After

Last weekend, I went to Concepción. For those who don’t know, that is where I studied for a semester my junior year of college in 2006. Our program set us up with Chilean host families and although the program largely failed to teach many of the   besides the exact quantity pisco they could consume on an average night, it did immerse us in Chilean culture via the host families. I did several study abroad programs while I was doing my undergrad and I think Chile was my best host family experience. I was  never an outsider to them. It’s like I arrived one day and the next I was the cousin who just didn’t understand as much Spanish.

Later, my host sister G. was my roommate again when she went to the US to work on her graduate degree. I don’t have biological sisters, but she is definitely a sister in all other aspects. People have even told us we look alike which is odd because I’m a head taller than her and my hair is quite a few shades lighter.

That’s probably why when I was sitting in my New York City hotel room and heard about the earthquake that struck Chile with the epicenter close to the city of Concepción, I felt cold all over. I tried to call, but obviously nothing, including the phone lines, was working.

When I finally heard a few days later from another family member that they were all fine, I felt immensely relieved. Last weekend, I took a few quick pictures of the earthquake damage which is still evident in many parts of the city. The way G. and her mom described it to me, I was expecting a wasteland, but was surprised to see instead an odd combination of buildings that were destroyed, flatted, or burned, next to buildings that looked entirely sound. G. told me it was deceiving because many of them have internal structural damage that makes occupying them dangerous.

This building was the Johnson’s department store in downtown Conce where I was forced to buy a coat after someone convinced me that it would be warm in August and I arrived with beach attire. I was so naive.

A large crack can be seen trailing through much of downtown. In the worse parts, like in this photo, they tried to patch it with boards with varying levels of success. The town actually shifted 10 feet. Puts a while new meaning to that children’s rhyme “Step on a crack…Break your mother’s back.”

This was the biochemistry department on the University of Concepción where I studied. No not biochemistry. Jeez. I can barely pronounce biochemistry. Anyway, G. told me that they could hear the chemicals popping and exploding well into the night from their house until they finally fizzled out.

I snapped this picture hurriedly because of the throng of people coming my way. Downtown Concepción is usually crowded and chaotic on a good day but with over half the pedestrian zone boarded off for repairs, it was insane. And like any rational gringa, I didn’t want to draw attention to myself with my camera.

It looks like they are in the process of cleaning this one up, if that is what in can be called. They were mostly just shifting the debris around.

In the colectivo (that taxi-bus love child thing) back to her house, we passed a tall apartment complex that I didn’t see on the news. Half the building had collapses and was dangling precariously off the other half that looked (if you were blind in one eye perhaps) like a nice place to live.

It was great to see them, even though the popular topic of conversation was the earthquake. I feel like that will be the case for months to come. Now when people meet me instead of “Wow! Gringa! Do you understand Spanish?” it’s “Wow. Gringa! Were you here for the earthquake?”

My answer is usually “No. And I hope to never be”


The Cold and My Multiplying Bacteria

And because you’ve all been following my medical drama, I have to report that I finally went to the doctor and got myself an antibiotic. I think I dragged my feet for so long because I didn’t want to spend the money on something that should have gone away with a cup of coffee and an Advil, but didn’t. Of course, I lassoed L. into going with me because “I get nervous at the doctor’s and what if I don’t understand something or they don’t understand me and… it sucks to be me!” So he dutifully followed me there and then didn’t have to say a word! My doctor was friendly. She wasn’t a gringa hating she-devil and she really listened to me which is important. She said it was odd that the first doctor I saw gave me only 5 days of treatment when really for a sinus infection it should be 10 to 15. Well, I know now. She told me that because the first round of treatment was so short, I felt better initially but now the bacteria were multiplying again. That’s such a fun image that. My bacteria staging a coup in sinuses.

I thought it was funny because as she’s telling me how to take the medications, she was at the same time explaining that I should:

1) Never go outside with wet hair.

2) Thoroughly dry offending hair after each time it is washed.

3) Avoid drafty places.

4) Avoid temperature changes.

5) Drink only liquids with no ice.

I remember one time I was commenting to a gringa friend living here about the obsession Chileans have with the cold. It’s like they respect and fear it versus the Minnesotan side of me who was told to embrace it and even brag about it (I would walk a mile to get my mail in -40º!). My friend shook her head and said that was the developed country in me talking and when you live in a country where most people do not have the luxury of adjusting their thermostat if they feel a chill, protecting yourself against the cold becomes that much more important and dressing you baby like a tiny mummy doesn’t seem so amusing (at least to this gringa).

Of course, L. took the doctor’s advice to heart and when we went out to lunch, he ordered his beverage without ice so that I could have a sip if I wanted. Then later, he reminded me on MSN before I signed off to meet him at home that I had to bundle up against the…probably 60º weather. It was very cute and very Chilean of him.

I do agree with one aspect. Winter is really miserable here. Remember that I am from Minnesota where is usually below zero, so I know cold. It’s a different cold–that you can’t shake. The only solution I have found is drinking lots of hot drinks and going as long between showers as possible. If you see me in the same outfit twice in the winter it’s because I was too cold to get undressed and then re-dressed. And if I could find someone who wanted to bring me a steady supply of food, I wouldn’t be against hibernation either.

Now, I need to pack for my über short weekend trip to Concepción. I do still consider it one of the coldest places…perhaps on earth after being introduced to Chilean winter there in 2006. I remember I shivered so hard that my abs hurt. I like to think I’m tougher now. So, let’s see how me and my head full of rebel bacteria do in avoiding drafty places. I shall report back.

On Headaches and Plane Tickets–Or are they one and the same?

I’ve had a headache for a week. Like the real throbbing kind, not the figurative “Work is such a headache” kind. I even remember the exact moment it started and if I had known it was going to last this long I might have just gone to the doctor then. But, I didn’t. Instead, several days into said headache, I started googling natural headache remedies because I’m not even supposed to be taking all these pain killers, and up sprung a website with the different headache descriptions. In that moment, I self diagnosed myself with a migraine. I’m all about the drama here. No cluster headaches for me. I’m pulling out the big guns. Except this “migraine” has the curious tendency to respond well to those forbidden pain killers, at least for two or three hours whereupon  I find myself scrambling for my purse to swallow more pills. I was going strong on this whole migraine theory until I saw a friend yesterday who blew it all to pieces by asking if I had sinus problems. Yes, I did have that nasty-clinging-till-the-bitter-end sinus infection last month…Why?


Yeh. Who said I had a migraine again? The internet? What does the “internet” really know?

It even makes sense because today as I was sitting at work listening to podcasts busily working, my sinuses started to pop.  TMI? Sorry. However, I’m still loathe to go to the doctor because I really don’t want to start another round of antibiotics for something that I can treat with a more homeopathic cure.

I went to the pharmacy today to explain this and I started out with the sinus infection story to establish that this headache was different from all those run-of-the-mill headaches and he stopped me to ask if I had the flu.


Just a headache?

Well, not just a headache. This is like the Cadillac of headaches if you will.

*frown* (His. Not mine) Apparently pharmacists are not into medical metaphors. Oooh…I like the alliteration with that.

Eventually, I left with some propolis and more pain killers.

However, what I really want is one of these things:

A neti pot. Or a rinocornio in Spanish according to my friends in the wordreference forum. It sounds like a disease in Spanish. *shudder*

First, does anyone out there use this and if so, how does it work? Second, if you happen to live in Chile, where can I buy one of these?

In other news, I bought a ticket today to go to Concepción next weekend. Most of you probably know/remember that Conce was very close to the epicenter of the big earthquake in February. That could have also been part of my headache, as I was trying to buy a ticket online only to have LAN and Sky Airlines reject my credit card over and over. Then, if I switched the website to English and chose to pay in dollars the price went up to $400. Apparently, by virtue of being English-speaking and having dollars in your pockets means you are willing/stupid enough to pay 4x more for something. Oh, why does this sound so familiar?

I went to the LAN office today where they again tried to encourage me to use their website and I nearly burst my fake aneurysm (that’s what some people tried to convince me that I had…right…). I explained what was happening and despite the service charge I ended up getting a cheaper flight than I could online. Go figure.

Also, don’t try to fly anywhere in Europe this week because it sounds like most of the airports on the continent are closed due to the ash from Iceland’s volcano. There were a lot of stranded passengers in LAN. Good thing I don’t have to work there…and I do hope that they can all get to where they are going relatively quickly.

Anyways, I’m getting out of dodge tomorrow. So have a lovely headache free weekend!