Cuide te, Prepare te... Vida Chileno, yo te amo.

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

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Friday, April 2, 2010

mmmmmmmmuah!  Life, I am so in love with you right now.  To anyone who is reading this and is short on time, watch yourself.  This entry may rival War and Peace in length because these typing fingers are being driven by about 800 billion hp worth of emotions, smiles, and stories.

Right now, I'm rereading an entry I wrote a couple weeks ago where homesickness and an overworked pancreas made me complain about food and language barriers.  I have two apologies to make, one for my grammar; I can't speak or think in any language well anymore.  The other is for this angsty rant of words I subjected my friends and family to.  I've since snuggled up into a blanket of familiarity and now see the beauty behind so much of my life in Chile, mostly my family.  As cliche as this may sound, Andrea, my Chilean mother, is as beautiful on the inside as she is gorgeous on the outside.  Her endless patience with my hand gestures and slowly growing vocabulary bridged our communication gap.  We spend hours talking everyday in the overbearing heat of a kitchen with roaring gas stoves, under the balmy coolness of stars, on beach towels in the sand, and at our brightly colored table during lunch while picking at oregano dusted tomatoes.  Our conversations dredge deeper than whispy superficial daily activities and together we uncover cultural differences of racism (okay...this I might rant about during this entry, but I'll keep it short), identify the roots of depression in our countries, and the foundations of the high rates of domestic violence in Chile.  When I translate our conversations word for word, they sound infantile, but they run full of sentiments....Perhaps it's just the Chilean manner of speaking for when she carefully says she believes Chileans would suffer less from depression if they had a less affectionate culture, the painful losses of her childhood seem to seek me out in the still thick air.  And her understanding extends beyond trying to decipher my American accent and reaches to a cultural level as well. I may sound like a small child talking, but she respects what I'm saying as she tries grasp my descriptions of separated families and isolation in the US causing an equally painful depression.

Equally importantly as her patience, my mom's understanding has spread to my younger siblings.  I won't lie; Things were tough with them a couple weeks ago.  My novelty had worn off and they were bored with me constantly asking questions about fruit names and talking about our dog.  After a night of dancing like a Chilean (which means forcing my 60 year
old woman personality to stay out until 4:30AM), I can't hear very
well.  I hazily walk around with regatone and salsa blasted eardrums.  One particular Sunday I suffered the longest lunch of my life which added pounds of humility to my confidence and probably years of inside jokes for my family.  If you can imagine, after three weeks I grumpily didn't appreciate the constant laughter and frustration at my expense.  Later I could hear my brother making fun of me through the walls between our
rooms with his friends.  So while I'm still regretting my snappiness, I think it was just an awkward stage.  Michelle and Nicolas' patience got us out of this and might end up wearing me down to the point of exhaustion, but I won't mind it a bit.  Ice cream, constantly running, screaming, eating sugar, making fun of who has more boyfriends (pololos)/girlfriends (pololas), playing guitar, dancing spontaneously, endless dates of running/biking/swimming, horror flicks on youtube, and a lot of Michael Jackson... This would equal our current lives together.  Hmmm, oh shiz, is this the voice of a housewife?  I'm just going to hope this is what happens when you have two adorable affectionate younger siblings.

My only pain of the past couple weeks was actually more of an unearthing of something I have been pushing out of my mind.  To try to preface this situation with the most culturally understanding background, I will say this: the perceptions of what is racism differ greatly between Chile and the states.  I'm not saying racism is absent from either country or that one form is necessarily better than the other.  What I'm trying to get across is...well, it's difficult for many of us (the girls in my program) to hear and see what we consider as extreme racism.  For example, my family whom I love dearly, named their dog Negrita (little black one) and will fall on the floor in laughter when talking about the way the Chinese look and speak while I'm sitting with them at the table (this is extremely painful to deal with because my explanation of my culture generally provokes it).  Circuses are bluntly named Circus of Africans and painted with crude pictures of mockery.  It's impossible to walk by a splattering of graffiti that doesn't have Chino (Chinese) followed by some expletive.  Anyone of Chinese heritage gets the nickname Chino and if a person is not Chilean, they're often described by their race before their personality.  Race is just clearly on the forefront here and for those of us who don't
believe in it, it kills us.  I'm not comfortable with it.  I don't want to be, ever.  My attempts of subtlely trying to instill a sharing of cultures have failed so far within my family. I've tried teaching my family the few Chinese phrases I know and have cooked a huge feast of Chinese food (... I even cooked meat again!).  I can continue to try instigate a greater respect for the Chinese within my family in my last three weeks (I have gotten my mom to understand a bit of my discomfort), but for the most part I think I will just remind myself constantly this: "Your family is beautiful and full of good people.  They're not trying to be racist and to hurt you. This is just a cultural difference.".... right?

Anyways, on to something a bit more cheerful.  Last week, my group headed to Putre in the Andean altiplano to have an intimate perspective of traditional Aymaran medicine and rural practices.  I'm once again most impressed by the integration of traditions and modern medicinal treatments.  The Yeteri (spiritual healer), Partera (woman who helps with birthing), and Uiwami (general body healer) often work directly and or complementarily with the Ministry of Health's rural Consulorios and Postas.  We smelled their herbal treatments, had live demonstrations, and even received treatments.  My mantaray bite got an herbal massage and disinfectant!  All were equally fascinating, but the care the Partera provides is worth describing.  She'll work with women often starting at their third month of pregnancy by prescribing tea treatments to deal with morning sickness or pain and massages to see ease the mother and fetus.  She continues to work closely with the mother all the way through her birth to the point of washing her hair with rosemary and other herbs three days afterward.  She also has some incredibly different treatments, like rolling a woman on a poncho to put the baby in a better position or using a string to untangle an umbellical cord (I was confused when this was described/demonstrated...).  Overall, this trip to the fresh, crisp, and delectably silent mountain air made me love the unconventional way we experience life in Chile.

Last week we also had a long weekend and my friends and I used the opportunity to head to San Pedro de Atacama.  We got off to a rough start as one of my friends was robbed before we even left the bus terminal, another friend was almost stranded in the middle of the desert when she only had a copy of her passport, and another friend was robbed while sleeping on the bus.  All of this took place in our first 12 hours and we hoped the next 72 hours would be far more tranquil.  Tranquil might not be the best way to describe the incredible, breath taking views we saw around San Pedro.  The actual small town of San Pedro is far too touristy for my liking, but has huge bear like street dogs which are to my liking.  I'm really defining my old woman personality here in Chile.  I think I have enough pictures of cute sleeping animals to make calendars for all my friends...for their next ten birthdays. 

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