Mayonesa en mis calcitines!

Trip Start Jan 20, 2010
Trip End Aug 08, 2010

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Flag of Chile  ,
Saturday, March 13, 2010

Yes, that title does mean mayonnaise in my socks.  If I were wearing socks instead of sandals, I'm sure there would be some mayo there.  I think it's time I've divulged in the culinary experiences of Chile.  After two years of not eating meat, I lasted four days at my host family's house as a vegetarian.  I had decided before coming to Chile that I wanted to experience Chilean culture first and foremost and if being a vegetarian would be a strain to my family and experience then I could be flexible.  Thus after four days of not having seen a vegetable and only eating pasta and potatoes (Laura, I bet you're laughing hysterically), my thin ironless blood and lethargic body reminded me of what it's like to be anemic.  So these teeth of mine have been relearning to gnaw on meat that's mixed into our lunchtime spaghettis, soups, and casseroles. 

I'm sounding melodramatic right now, this was really only the first few days in my house.  We now have counters lined with fruit and tomato, cucumber, and bean salads.  And the food in Chile has been rather delicious, but it's been a very different diet for me and probably my family (who are extremely gracious enough to eat a lot more produce for me).  It's ironic because it could be most described as being somewhat American.  Chileans begin their day with a light desayuno (breakfast) that normally consists of fluffy white bread with marmalade and manjar (dulce de leche) or leftover cake with hot tea.  My family laughs at me when I eat a grapefruit, grapes, apples, or a bit of cereal and tell me I'm eating dessert for breakfast.  Almuerzo (lunch) is the largest meal of the day, it's like our American dinner at 2PM.  The entire family sits down and eats together for an hour or so.  For a while I took to eating a bit of the spaghetti and trying to politely scarf all the salad after everyone had taken their share.  Politely is perhaps used a bit liberally here.  Maybe if you can imagine a rabid vegetarian pouncing on her prey of salads so fresh the fruits invent new adjectives to describe their rich tastes.  Excuse the term...Foodgasming in produce delight might be the most embarrassing habit of mine I've exposed to my family.  Mmmming while eating I don't think is acceptable here and my parents have been surprised by my expressive sounds.  Onces is the hardest meal for me to adjust to.  It's essentially the same as breakfast, but it's eaten around 10PM and the table is adorned with the fluffy white bread, marmelade, manjar, lemon cake, pear kuchen, a bit of cheese or paltas (avocado), or sometimes cookies.  My pancreas is going into some sort of hyperglycemic overload and I've decided to just joke back with my family as they make fun of me for eating a second dessert meal (fruit) for onces.  I thought I had a sweet tooth for pastries in the past, but I am a failed contender in Chilean realm.  I think I found an insurmountable precipice of overindulgence for me. OH! As for the mayonnaise, my family is eating more produce for me, but they really, really, really love mayo.... on beets, on toast, on corn, on potatoes, on celery.

Chile is continuing to be rattled by aftershocks of the February 27th earthquake.  On Thursday, the south was struck by ten aftershocks some of which were stronger than the Haiti earthquake.  Even though I grew up with earthquakes in Alaska, I feel more nervous here.  Last Sunday we had a bit of a shaker in Arica and I bolted down the stairs with my toothbrush in hand to find my grandmother and the kids.  My brain didn't even have time to register what was going on.  Maybe all the media has made encouraged an instinctual response for that sort earth trembling induced adrenaline pathway to pull my sprinting legs to a doorway.  Yesterday my friends and I were walking in the center when a squealing siren sounded.  Everyone in the streets froze and the siren reminded me of Valdez's tsunami alerts.  None of my friends knew what was going on and everyone seemed to have a peculiar response.  For me, my heart took residence in my throat and I tried to judge if everyone else seemed as panicked as me... Maybe I'm overreacting.

A few of my friends and I have decided to start volunteering in Arica.  There's a couple foundations, Un Techo para Chile and Hogar del Christo, that I'm waiting for my paperwork to get processed so I can start working.  Un Techo para Chile is an organization that helps rebuild homes and structures for people in need and Hogar del Christo has a wide spectrum of programs.  The program extends into every country in Latin America and in Arica works with children at risk, single mothers, the homeless, the elderly, and youth drug rehabilitation.  With my school schedule, I think/hope I'll be working in the latter two facilities.  Yeah, the name echoes with a bit more religious affiliation than I feel comfortable with normally.  I think it's inevitable in a country so deeply rooted in Catholicism. 

I think I spoke to soon about the machismo culture.  I was really only thinking of it in the context of my home where my family is fairly liberal.  After talking with my friends about their families, I've realized it is far more prevalent that I want to notice.  My friends host sisters make their older brother's beds simply because he's a man... the psychiatrist I talked with in a healthcenter told me how many abused women she helps (men don't go to her because it's unacceptable for them to admit to emotions) and boys always sit at the heads of the table and never help with meals...and at the clubs women are objectified to being little more than a sexy accessory attached to a man's hip.  Oh and don't even think about being openly gay.  One of my dinner conversations was my family asking what were the terrible english slang terms used to mock homosexuals.  This was one time when I hid behind our language barrier to avoid answering.  Maybe I'm becoming hypersensitive and as a result I'm becoming more defensive and assertive in my interactions with guys.  I have a lot of maybes going on in my mind right now, but I don't really mind this one and its result.

Ryguy, per your request I'll end with an embarrassing story.  During our orientation, each of us were given a location, two Chilean modismos (slang), and one food to become familiar with.  We were given a map, about three US dollars to buy something we had never seen before, and two hours to find our way there and back.  I lucked out and headed to the Cafe DiMango on the beach.  The Cafe was closed and I couldn't indulge in ice cream as "the thing I had never seen before".  Disappointed I turned to face the beach for subjects whom I could subject my nervous and american saturated Spanish too.  I had my choice between a group of muscular shirtless guys playing soccer and pointing at me or a girl with purple streaked hair, army pants, and a....bra..(maybe that's what her shirt could be called).  I chose the girl and walked up to her with what unintentionally sounded like a bad pick up line.  She laughed at my first two modismos (andar con caņa = to have a hangover and darse una manito de gato = to doll yourself up), but was really shocked at my last question about food.  "Que tipo de comida es cortada?" I asked.  "Cortada?"  Her eyes opened wide and she started to cut at her wrists which were lined with traintracks of cuts.  "No, no, no!  Comida?  Cortada?" With gestures that tried to demonstrate eating a lot of food, I tried to desperately clarify the question.  To give someone food? How would you eat it?  All of these half spanish phrases and hand gestures were getting nowhere when she suddenly burst out laughing and turned bright red.  "Irse cortado?!?!"she squealed.  Flustered, I didn't know what that was supposed to mean, to go yourself cut? To take yourself short?  She held up her hand and with the sternest face and gesturing hands she explained to me irse cortado is a man in need of a woman who has to satisfy himself...masturbation.  Oh...god, If this is really what this means, I wish I hadn't been trying to talk to her about food, I thought.  In the end we got it cleared up that cortado means to have a cut piece of meat and I ended up with a great story to try to explain to the fourteen girls and instructors when I returned.

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Rose on

whoa, quite an embarrassing experience on the mix up on vocabulary! aye! caramba!
It is good, all good the experience, of understanding & appreciating differences in cultural norms. And to be tested or challenging yourself - how to appreciate the machisimo value for what is in the Chilean culture, and not place our Western American values on the culture. Interesting challenges, eh, I myself have faced those dilemas often in my real life as an American Chinese with immigrant parents. It can be frustrating, and yet also, has given me the opportunity to be more tolerant and accepting, yet also open & questioning. So, glad to hear you listening to your bodies needs. You are the very unique one in our family who does not enjoy mayonaise - a healthy tastebud.

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