Sunday, March 23, 2008

My Favorite Words in Spanish

I am still so new to this language and no I have not been studying the way I should because there is so much work to do. But I've gotten to the point where I can make very very very small talk with waiters and taxi drivers as long as it's in the present tense.

I have some favorite words. They are favorites because they are a joy to hear just for the sound.

1. cachai (I have no idea if this is the correct spelling) This is not spanish but Chilean and it means "You know?" I love the texture of the sound. It is sharp and brittle. I also love that it is Chilean.

2. mira = look. I hear this all the time during the day. "Mira, the warehouse screwed up." "Mira, there are only so many hours in a day." Mira, I love to hear this word.

3. entonces = then. Every time I hear this word I think of Toonces the Driving Cat from Saturday Night Live. Not pronounced the same but still that's what I think of. One day Eduardo had his four year old daughter on the phone and he pulled me over and put her on speaker and she was going on and on about blah blah blah entonces blah blah blah entonces blah blah blah. It was so obvious that she was telling him a plot. When he hung up he told me she was telling him about a cartoon she had just watched!

4. OK this isn't a specific word but in many cases, at least here in Chile, the "s" is not pronounced in words. Like buenos dias is "buen dia." Gracias is "gracia." Esta becomes "ta."

5. ayer = tomorrow. I can't use this because I only know the few things I know in the present tense and so I would say things like "Tomorrow I am hungry" or "tomorrow I am tired." But it sounds so pretty to hear it spoken.

I far prefer the Chilean dialect to the Mexican dialect. The Mexican dialect makes my brain shut down. The Chilean dialect makes me want to listen. I can't tell you why but there is a huge difference.

I find that every day I pick up more and more and every day I am more willing to make a total ass of myself and try to use it. Like tonight I was kind of making very very very tiny conversation with a waiter and he asked me how long I had been here and I couldn't remember the word for January (Enero) so I said since the first month of the year. I don't think I said "since" right but he knew what I meant.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Catching Up

So anyway it's Easter weekend here and todo esta cerrado. Nada esta abierto. Which means I can work, do laundry, go to the grocery store, watch TV or blog. I plan to do all of this between today and tomorrow but I thought I would start by blogging since I have done not too much of that lately. So this is a mish-mash.

On Flying

The flight between Atlanta and Santiago is between 9 1/2 and 10 1/2 hours depending on conditions and which way you are going. I fly coach because only recently has my company allowed for business class upgrade for flights over 4 hours but this flight both ways is always so packed in advance that I can't pursue that particular luxury. So I have learned to sleep (doze) on an airplane which I was never able to do even when I was flying business class between Chicago and Tokyo.
I love these flights tell the truth. When I fly into Atlanta from Santiago I land early morning and I am in my own home by 8 or 8:30 am. I like that. When I do the flight from Atlanta to Santiago it is magical. The flight lands in Santiago early morning and if I can snag a window seat I get to watch the sun rise over the west coast of South America.

Let me just repeat that for my own amusement. I get to watch the sun rise over the west coast of South America!

My Nana

A nana here is a maid. We have a nana in the office - Inez - and I've written about her before. She is full time and we can't drink a cup of coffee without her taking the cup away and bring a fresh cup of coffee in a clean cup. Just let someone go pee and wash their hands and she is in the bathroom scrubbing. My nana here in the apartment takes care of me the same way but she obviously doesn't approve of how I have my apartment arranged so every day I come home and she has put things where she believes they ought to be and every night I put them back where I want them. It has become a little ritual that makes me smile. I clean up after myself completely just like at home and really the only thing I do not do is make my bed. At home I make my bed every day but here with a nana that is the luxury I allow myself. I wash the dishes, I make sure the bathroom is clean, I make sure I have picked up after myself and all she has to do is come in and make the bed and leave a fresh towel but still she vacuums and mops and dusts and I think I am now so spoiled. On the few occasions when I have actually been here my nana rings the doorbell and I answer the door and she says "Permisso?" and I'm like permisso my ass - you just come on in because you are the greatest woman in the entire world!

My Neighborhood

My neighborhood is called Las Condes and is (I think) between Vitacura and Providencia if you care to find a better map that I have been able to find. I'm a stone's throw from the US Embassy so just in case there is a coup I can make a run for it. It is a great neighborhood and I love it. I've worked most every weekend and have not gotten out at all to see anything in Santiago which I just hate. I thought this weekend I would get out and about and maybe even rent a car and drive to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar but yesterday I realized that everything is closed which I guess is to be expected when you live in a country that is 99.9% Catholic and it's Easter weekend. But yesterday I went for a walk up the street to Plaza Peru, a small urban park. I first saw it by accident and this time I went back on purpose. Mainly because there is an aviary there with beautiful birds.

When I was in grad school and my parents refused to give Frank, my cat, back to me I was starved for pet companionship and I bought a hand fed baby cockatiel. I named him Beau. Beau was a character and had free run of the apartment. This will gross out some of you but Beau loved to eat from my mouth. In fact he insisted on it. He loved pre-chewed saltines. As a grad student I lived mostly on soup and his favorite was cream of mushroom and he would sit on the edge of the soup bowl and pick out the mushrooms and chew them and get mushroom gook all over his face and then I would have to wash his little bird face. For anyone who thinks that is dirty and filthy I would like to point out that almost 20 years later I am still alive and entirely disease free. Birds have such excellent personalities. Beau was a natural student and I taught him to do the "phweet phwoo" whistle. I bought a long bird ladder so he could climb up in front of a mirror and he delighted in spending hours standing in front of the mirror and looking at himself and whistling at himself. Alas he was a boy bird and you know how boys are. One spring morning he was out in the apartment and I left for work and when I got home he had chewed his way out of a window screen in search of a love I was not able to give him. Story of my fucking life. I will never forget that bird.

Needle Decisions

In response to a recent comment by Harvey (who I am sure is still living with remnants of Dylan's fur all over his weird little guitar thingy case which Dylan insisted on sleeping on for a week last June). No I did not get the tattoo. This is only because Sam forgot that the plan was to get me a tattoo and I was not going without him because I don't speak the language and he does and if something permanent is going on my body I want to make sure my wishes are very fucking clear. So what I decided on when I got back to Atlanta was botox. Y'all, I like most of my lines, especially the eye crinkle laugh lines. They are hereditary and I've earned them and I like them because when I look in the mirror I see my Dad and my Grandaddy. But I have always since my 20s had this vertical furrow between my brows that small animals could fall into and never be seen again. It was something that always made me look angry but was a result of me furrowing my brow when I was concentrating. Which I have had to do a lot because I am blonde and was required in high school to take subjects like math and goemetry and biology. Also about age 28 I started having to learn how to use a computer. It started to bother me in my 30s which means it has been maybe 10 or 15 years that I have wanted it gone and have been considering botox. Not a rash decision here. So I finally did it and I am amazed. As long as I was there getting needles stuck in my face I decided to have the whole forehead done and I can't even tell you the difference. I can still make expressions and it isn't like my face is dead of expression but those lines that I really hated are mostly all gone now.

Look between my eyebrows folks! Do you see a huge deep line? I THINK NOT!!! Those who don't know me won't be impressed but I am betting my mother will be amazed. Even Sam, who is a guy even though he drinks an occasional cosmopolitan and probably wears pink boxers, knew I was going to do it and about 10 days after we were sitting at dinner and he said "Wow! It really is a difference."

For those who don't believe in cosmetic procedures just chill out. I don't either. I am happy with who I am and only every now and then do I wish to be 20 again and married to a very old, very wealthy, very terminally ill man so I'm not seeking that. But I do want to appear on the outside the way I feel on the inside and these few very bad lines made me look like I am an angry person. Granted I was an angry person by definition for several years but I'm not anymore and it really bothered me that even when I was smiling I looked like I was angry. And since there is a totally painless brief injection that can make that go away for a few months I see no reason not to do it. I only hope I can find a way to keep doing it until my tits droop so far south it isn't worth it any more.

In which case I hope the tattoo I WILL eventually get draws focus.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Dogs

Sorry to have disappeared for so long. Since I arrived January 5 this project has become more of a nightmare instead of less of one and I am really really hoping we reached the low point the past 10 days because I have grown weary of the drama. I love the Chileans but they can be bigger drama queens than I could ever hope to be.

I've been wanting to talk about the dogs. Here in Santiago dogs wander the streets. Some are obviously street dogs, especially out near the airport where our warehouse/office is, but many seem to be pets who are let out to roam the way we used to do in the States back before we all got a clue.
When we first moved from our temporary office to our permanent office at the warehouse back in January there was a dog. This is a bonded warehouse which if you don't know what that is please don't ask me to explain but it has to do with customs control and shipments arriving from outside the country and it is a highly secure place. The entire warehouse complex is surrounded by a security fence and we have guards on duty and they have to inspect the trunks of cars that come into and out of the grounds. Even if they know us and we show up at the exact same time every day they open the trunks. This dog was living on the warehouse grounds and so of course being the total animal victim that I am I bought a box of dog treats and I keep them in the office and every now and then when I go out for a smoke I give the dog a treat. This is her:

She is a true old lady mutt and is fairly well fed for a dog here in Santiago - she eats the scraps from the warehouse workers' lunches. She loves her treats and she loves me because I talk to her and pet her and evidently she hasn't gotten much of that until I came around. She has a name - something like Martina - but I have only heard one of the guards call her by name and he has a really thick Chilean accent. She is lazy and in the afternoons she looks like this

OK so anyway. I bonded with Girl (I call her "Girl" since she speaks Spanish anyway). Girl gets let out of the locked gate a few times a day to wander the streets (!!!) and early one morning we were getting settled in the office and I heard this horrible dogscream from the street and I ran to the window and everyone who has a window desk was telling me "It's OK - it isn't your dog" and when I looked out this little black dog was limping on the sidewalk across the street and I watched as he squeezed under a fence and limped off, obviously wounded but also obviously not immediately mortally so. This little dog stayed on my mind, especially since I didn't see him again. About 4 or 5 days later I left to go back to the US for a week.

The morning after I returned we pulled into the warehouse and the little black dog was outside our fence. Sam told me it was the one who had been hit by the car and he had been kind of hanging out.

All that week the little black dog was hanging out outside the fence. He is a tenacious little guy and spent the whole day outside the fence and when we left at night he was sleeping on the grass and when we arrived in the morning he was still there. About Wednesday I started passing dog biscuits out the fence to him and he was so obviously starving. You could see his ribs and he just wanted so much to be at this place. I talked to him and he is just a puppy and I squeezed my hand through the fence and he would "chew" on it but very carefully - he never put a scratch on me.

Friday last week I was at the end of my rope about this dog who was just so hungry and so at the end of the day I scavenged for lunch leftovers in the kitchen. I came up with two rolls and one banana. I took them out and asked the one female guard "por favor" and she opened the gate for me. He inhaled them.

Saturday we worked. When I got in the car that morning I told Jorge I was going to work on a Saturday on ONE condition. Jorge is scared of me (and rightfully so - he fucking SHOULD be) so he was willing to accommodate. I told him I was going on the condition that we first go to the mall near the office and go to the grocery store so I could buy a bag of dog food and while we were at it we could buy some breakfast stuff for the staff who are so beaten down it isn't funny.

Last Saturday my little black dog experienced heaven. At the store I bought more treats for Girl and a huge bag of food for little black dog and two stainless steel bowls - one to hold his food and one for water, which I have no idea where he had been drinking but once I saw him drink thirstily from a dirty mop bucket. Little black dog last Saturday was fed from bowls - all he could eat or drink. We had leftover salmon sandwiches from lunch and I snuck a couple of them out to him and he hoovered them. There are a lot of dogs here y'all and this one stands out - he is a pet quality dog with so much love and he only wants to please and be a puppy and eat and drink water. I brought 4 Petsmart tennis balls back with me from Atlanta last time I was home for Girl but she is so old and lazy and I threw one and she looked up at me like I was the gringa loca that I am so I gave them to Eduardo and he loves to play with his balls in the office. Saturday I took one of them back and little black dog learned to play fetch and he is good at it. Eduardo gladly gave up one of his 4 balls because he is scared of me. And rightfully so.

A couple of days ago one of the guards told me (in Spanish but I understood because I can understand like maybe 4 or 5 words) that this guy's name is "Cholo." So the guards have named him and the guards let him in every now and then and the guards even sneak him food because I have witnessed it. So I started calling him "Cholo." Yesterday someone was leaving and I was talking to Cholo and I called him Cholo and this guy laughed and so I thought maybe I should look up the word on my translater. Cholo means "hybrid" or "of mixed heritage." How perfect is that?

Many people from our customer have been at our office for the past two months - temporarily there kind of full time until this operation is on track - and they are basically arrogant and superior SOBs. One in particular has complained about the dog (Girl) not fitting with their image. There is no signage or anything else which would identify this property as serving theirs and Girl has been around a long time here and anyway it is OUR company who rents the office space to THEM and so everyone on our side told them basically they were full of shit. One guy in particular approached me about me befriending Cholo and I told him to his face that Cholo was starving to death and how would it look for their image if the front lawn was covered with the dead bodies of starving dogs? I managed to twist it so that I was protecting THEIR image. I have to fight for this every day.

That said Cholo needs a home. He is the most loving dog. Seriously. And I am not a dog person. Also I don't have a lifestyle at this point to be able to have a dog or this would be a no-brainer for me. He would be with me for life because he really is that good. But I travel too much and it would not be fair to this great dog for me to take him to the US where he has to learn another language only for me to leave for 1 or 4 or 8 months. Cats can deal. Dogs can not. In one week I have almost taught him to not jump up. He is tenacious. He is loving. He certainly needs to be de-wormed and needs shots. He needs to travel to the US if there will be a loving kind home there. He needs to be neutered so there will be fewer excellent pet-quality dogs wandering the streets starving to death.

So I love this pup enough that I am willing to go half on the cost of travel which is not certain but at least a few hundred. If anyone wants to consider it I will get specifics. This really is a most excellent, intelligent, loving dog. Anyone? Anyone? Don't make me bring this dog home to a family where he is abandened for months on end . . . and don't make me leave him here on the streets of Santiago when all he wants is love.

Just say the word.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Story of Dylan

Dylan was born on February 24, 1998. In July of that year my ex and I were driving around looking for a house to buy. We found one that he loved from the outside but it had an "under contract" sign. It also had a sign that read "6 month old purebred Maine Coon cat needs home." My ex really wanted to see the inside of the house and I wanted the cat so I told him if we adopted the cat we would have an "in" to get inside and see the house. So we saw the house and left with Dylan in my arms. It was a very rainy day and I remember the car flooded and on the way back to our apartment I had to hold Dylan and hold my feet up off the floor because of the water sloshing around.

Dylan came home to a small apartment occupied by me, the ex, Gracie (who died in my arms on December 17, 2004) and Sonny (who is now 18 and still going strong). He was immediately at home and immediately the sweetest boy who only wanted to love.

He lived through moving to our newly purchased house and then becoming an inside cat because the street traffic on this street is too bad to have an outside cat. He lived through a traumatic divorce. Every now and then he would find a way to sneak out and he was a killing machine! Sonny would go out and sit and touch noses with squirrels and moles and mice but Dylan would go out and I would wake in the morning to bloody rodent parts on my welcome mat!

Dylan could never stand it when I had a knitting project. He would get on my lap gradually and then nudge my hands so that knitting was impossible and I was forced to put it down and love on him for hours.

But Dyl was (is) a purebred and a purebred anything has medical and physical problems and Dylan has never been a healthy robust cat the way my mixed strays have been. I feel so fortunate that in the past 5 years I have had the means to make sure he has excellent and regular veterinary care but if you are thinking of some kind of special purebred cat please know they are bred according to demand. There are a lot of cats who don't have a pedigree who are wandering around needing homes and they will cost you much less because they don't have the weird medical problems. I know. I have three right now and they are just as wonderful as Dylan.

Dylan went to Japan y'all! He lived in Japan for 8 months with me and he kind of liked it but he was so glad to get back to his furniture in the US.

Dylan has been in a decline for the past year. We could even say 2 years. Tonight I called and I made the appointment to put him down tomorrow. I was fine on the phone. I have given this constant thought for the week I have been home and I know it is the only and the right thing to do. I am sure. And Pam, the receptionist at the vet, broke down and cried and could not get herself together and then I lost it. Bless them all at the vet - they know all my babies so well but I had no idea.

Dyl will go off to the Rainbow Bridge around 11 or 11:30 tommorrow morning EST. If you think about it say a little prayer. I hope (I am pretty sure) they will let me hold him through it so I can tell him at the end to kiss Boo and Gracie and Sophie and Zack and Bruiser and Cobber and Tarbaby and Casey and Chanel and Elizabeth and Frank and Gillian and Amanda and Bangs and Phil and Bacchus and all the freaking kittens I have nursed who didn't make it long enough to even open their eyes even though the effort was worth every minute.

Wow. Letting an animal own you for a while is so worth it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Dyl baby is my 10 year old purebred rescue. I adopted him when he was 6 months old. His first mom and dad no longer wanted him after their first Maine Coon cat died and I took him in and he became my family right away.

Maine Coon cats are huge cats and grow to be an average of 22 pounds. Dly has never broken 10 pounds and is now down to 5 pounds.

I haven't blogged about it but during my first month in Santiago my cat sitter took Dylan to the vet. One day she came in and he had an infected nasal discharge and he was in bad shape and she crated him up and took him directly to my vet. He was there almost 3 weeks beforee I came home the last time. He was getting his medicine and fluids and it was the best place for him to be.

When I was back for 3 days last month I brought him home. Because he is in end stage kidney failure it would be necessary for him to have subcutaneous fluids every other day and although my catsitter can do this Dylan is a difficult patient and so I made the decision to leave him boarding at the vet during February. I knew he would have the very best care possible.

When I landed early Saturday morning I stpooed at the house long enough to shower and then went to pick my boy up. He is not the same cat. He is far too thin and he is weak and confused and about all that is left of my boy is the love. He loves so much and has always been my sweetie and that part of him is still there but I think Dylan is gone now and I think it is time to let him go.

The difficult thing is that every now and then I see the old Dylan but this is fleeting. He has been mostly confused and seems to have no interest in anything. I will leave again Saturday night and the best place for him would be with my wonderful vet but at what cost to Dylan?

I think now I have to let him go. He is only 10. Sonny is 18 and still going strong so this doesn't make sense to me. But I know for sure Dylan will not be around a month from now and I am certain he is not in pain but he is suffering and honestly I think he is making an effort to stick around for my sake. He is the sweetest most loving boy but he isn't a tube of toothpaste that I can get one more brushing out of.

Tonight I am sad and confused and second-guessing what I know is the right thing. I haven't made the call yet. How can I set an appointment and then hold him and talk to him like everything is fine?