Sunday, April 27, 2008

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

OK this isn't funny anymore. Not even amusing. Over the past 4 days here it became late autumn with a vengeance. All week thick fog in the morning and grey skies most days and overcast and downright COLD. Not freezing cold but "I have only clothing inappropriate for this weather" cold. Today I ventured out and the streets and sidewalks were thick with fallen leaves. Everyone is bundled up in coats and scarves if they are out at all. It just freaks me out. It's LATE APRIL!!

Today it was cold enough that I wanted to turn on my heat and I messed around with what I have always thought was the thermostat for the heat that controlled the "radiators" in the bedroom and living room. I flicked every switch and tried everything known to man but the heat didn't come on. I spoke with Sam later in the day and he told me usually the building heat is controlled by the management and so only when they decide it is time for heat will the heat come on. I don't want a lot of heat - I only want to knock out the chill and dampness. I would turn on the oven but I don't have one. Earlier today when I got cold I took a very hot shower and that lasted a few hours then I got in bed fully clothed and that worked. Until I got up.

Looking forward more than ever to returning to May in Georgia at the end of the week! I'll have the windows open and grill out and walk barefoot in the yard and all will be good.

Friday, April 25, 2008

All Back

Everyone here and accounted for. Sam's flight was due to land at 7:35 am but we have had massive fog in the airport area all week and so I was certain he would be delayed. Nevertheless I set the alarm for extra early and figured I could get up and work and then drive to the office and monitor the flight from there where I would be only a few minutes away. I got up early and read emails and responded to a few and then checked the Delta site and he was coming in about 30 minutes EARLY! So I hustled and he only had to stand on the curb about 10 minutes before I swooped in. He immediately told me that after 44 hours of flights he didn't trust himself driving so I drove him all the way back to his place and amused myself on his laptop while he unpacked presents and showered and got ready to go in. Still we were there by about 9:30.

It was a very bad week in the office for so many reasons but when Sam walked in the mood lightened considerably. Still problems but it's OK now. Because we are all back together. And we can get things done!

My buddies are all here now and it will be a precious week before I go off and then come back and then Sam goes off and Santiago will be a memory and occasional landing point. I am not yet ready to leave and I insist that the operation here is not yet ready to be healthy if we pull out now but it has to happen eventually. For now it looks like May 30 is my final departure.

It is full on autumn here. Today was grey and cold and I just can't deal with that in April even though I was so thrilled to deal with pool days in January. I found myself slightly depressed by the weather today.

I miss my cats so much and wonder how much more of this they can stand. Also I wonder how much more I can stand. I just hope Sonny holds on and hope Phoebe remembers that she can pat my nose in the night and wake me up and I will give her all the love she wants. That is my #1 favorite thing in the world and I don't want her to forget. I am sure Camille is exactly the same and is keeping things in line on the home front.

One week from now I will be inflight and about 7 hours from landing and maybe 9 tops from being home with the kidz. As much as I love being all together again I really just need to go home for a week and I so look forward to it!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

So Excited!

My boys are coming home! Right now both Sam and Eduardo are on flights back to Santiago and I am so excited I can't stand it. Not that I don't really really like almost everybody else in the office but these are my GUYS! These are my buddies. The people who make me laugh hardest, the people I can let the walls down with.

Hopefully Eduardo got the earlier direct flight from JFK to SCL and will not have to be on the later flight that stops in Lima. If he is on the direct flight he will be in early enough to be in the office tomorrow afternoon. Sam left Tel Aviv about 3 hours ago and will have to change at JFK and then ATL to get back Friday morning. I'll pick him up at the airport Friday morning and will get him to drop me back at the office before he goes to shower and change and come in.

Sam and I had our new 1 year anniversary this week. One year since he stepped back into being my boss, stepped on an airplane, and then I didn't see him for 7 months. For the first 7 months literally I would drive to the Atlanta airport and have lunch or dinner with him IF he happened to be on a flight with a long enough layover. Otherwise we only communicated by email and phone. It was OK really, but now having been here in Santiago together for the past 4 months I'm not sure I feel too good about going back to the old days.

Eduardo we are trying to get on our team so he will be with us to do these start ups. I hope a year from now we are all together in some great country doing the same thing.

Anyway I have been mostly bored for two days and nights because of Eduardo being in New York and totally bored for two weeks of dinners due to Sam being away and I really don't know if I will be able to sleep well tonight knowing they will both be back so soon.

I myself will head back to the US next Friday the 2nd. As always I hate leaving but I really need to get away for just a bit and remind the cats that they are domestic creatures and mop and vacuum for them and also just bury my face in soft, fuzzy cat tummies and sleep in my own bed and pick up and read a month's worth of mail and do yardwork . . .

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Francisca Ruiz and Dead Cats

Time to talk about Francisca.

I am a guy kind of gal. I like the guys and I bond with them better and I really can't say why this is true but honestly it has always been true. I think the main reasons I have had so many bad relationships is because I loved my guy friends so much that I thought it was only natural to get romantic. In doing so I lost not only the (as it turns out very bad) lovers but I also lost the friends. It took me a long time to learn and I learned mostly the hard way but now my guy friends are the ones I cherish most and I would not touch their pee pees with a ten foot pole. Which is best for all concerned, especially me.

I get along with women but I strongly prefer the company of men. Which is weird considering I am kind of a feminist. Maybe it's because they don't spend 3 hours a day at their desks looking into little mirrors to fix their hair and makeup so they are frsh and pretty when there is work to be done and no one gives a shit what anyone looks like as long as the work gets done. Maybe it's because they are more simple and straightforward (and I mean that in the best way). Not complex. I don't have to do a lot of figuring them out unless I make the mistake of getting into a romantic relationship with them and then they become impossible to figure out which is why I would rather have them as friends.

But Francisca is on my love list lately. I almost want to be her friend. She is a scrawny, skinny little thing and very naturally pretty and she wears nice shoes with heels without looking like she is trying to prove something. She is sweet to everyone and while almost everyone else in the office has realized that the cheek kiss thing isn't my cup of tea Fran still does this every morning with me and I admit it makes me happy when she walks in - like a breath of fresh air. So basically she has stood me down on the cheek kiss thing which I respect. She remains cheerful all day every day despite the challenges. In other words she is a woman who should be on my "I despise this bitch" list but Fran is definitely on the love list.

Francisca speaks about as much English as I do Spanish but she also understands as much English as I do Spanish which is a lot more than either of us speak. We keep our communication simple and in plain straightforward words. When she emails me or speaks to me she uses Spanish and lots of screenshots. When I speak to her or answer her emails I use English and lots of screenshots. And there has never been a moment of confusion. At leasts not for me.

Today our office Nana talked to me (in very fast Chilean Spanish *sigh*) about some things we need in our kitchen like coffee and creamer and balsamic vinegar. I understood her because I understood coffee, sugar, money and the name of the finance guy who keeps the petty cash but is never in the office. It has been determined presumably by some idiot that we have a 20,000 CLP per month budget for these things. These people (there are I think 12 permanent local staff members and an additional 3 or 4 temps/ex pats at this point) work 10, 12 and sometimes 14 hour days and 20,000 CLP is less than $40 USD per month for coffee, creamer, tea, sugar and lunch condiments (in Chile it is law that the company must provide lunch. Ours is slop not fit for pigs to the point where the few with expenses accounts with the exception of me refuse to eat it. I eat it only because I insist on hanging with my peeps). Anyway we need simple condiments like salt and pepper and balsamic vinegar. And coffee. But add this all up and it is more than the budget can support. So anyway today our Nana asked where our financial guy was because we were out of so many things and she needed petty cash to go to the store. Inez rides the bus. She has no car. And I can't live with the thought of her cleaning her ass off all day for us and then taking her own time to ride the bus to lug several bags of office things to us the next day so I told her to write me a list and since I have a car now I would go to the supermercado after work and pick it up on MY expense account and bring it with me in the morning. Maybe when I leave they will have to deal with the monthly coffee/condiment budget but God as my witness as long as I am here and my Visa card holds out until I get reimbursed these wonderful hardworking people will have the coffee and vinegar they need to get through! I would never compare them to the dog but it's kind of the same thing. When I leave Cholo might be back on the street but as long as I am here he will eat and hopefully when (IF) I do leave he will be stronger and healthier and better able to fend for himself than when he was a starving pup. (more on this in a couple of paragraphs).

I've digressed again. So I am in the grocery store after work picking up the tres bolsas de Cafe Haiti and the azucer and the crema and the limon and my crackberry jingles and it's an email from Fran - in Spanish - asking me what the atteched error message means. I wrote back and told her - in mostly English - that I was at the supermercado and would be back a mi casa en 20 minutos and would answer her then. She wrote me back - in Spanish - that it was not a problem and could wait until tomorrow. When I got home I looked into it and told her - half in English and half in really poor Spanish - that it was just a temporary system problem and she should instruct everyone to wait 15 minutes and try again. Also I mentioned that I knew I was a gringa loca for writing half in English and half in bad Spanish. She wrote back - in Spanish - and told me she was laughing so hard.

I love Fran. Even if she is a girl.

Which brings me back to Cholo and the dog(s). I have a disturbing update. Cholo and his big sister the fat lazy "Girl" are now excellent playmates. Especially in the morning when I first arrive they are tearing around the place chasing and playing with each other. Girl, despite being a fat lazy old lady, holds her own and I have seen her take Cholo down! But these are warehouse dogs who, despite their excellentness, are street dogs. They are loving and attentive but they are street dogs. When I go outside Cholo sees me and he comes over to nip at my feet and slacks in a playful way and he keeps it up util I am laughing so hard. He has such a good sense of humor and I know he knows it amuses me.

Yesterday morning I went out for a smoke and saw what I thought was a grey sweater lying outside the fence. Having nothing better to do while I smoked I walked closer to check it out and it was a dead cat. A dead mauled cat to be precise. I turned and walked away and went back to the office upset and told Lazo about it. He has a different attitude and said that's the way things are. I told him we needed to find a shovel so we could bury it since any living thing deserves a proper burial. He told me I was crazy and I decided at that point to give up smoking so I would not have to look at the poor thing. It might not have bothered me so much but it was grey and white like Phoebe and it was small and tiny unlike Phoebe but when I saw the body all mangled the only thing I could think about was Phoebe and how this poor little cat was born on the street like Phoebe but unlike Phoebe had not had care and love and so I was very sad. I knew the street dogs outside the fence had gotten the cat and mauled it.

Today I went in and as the staff came in they told me (in Spanish and with sign language) that MY dogs had killed another cat last night. I am not sure how to feel about this. They do not know better because they have not been taught better. I have had dogs and cats in the same house all my life and the dogs loved the cats and the cats would curl up with the dogs. I can't hate Cholo and Girl for what comes naturally to them any more than I can hate a cat for killing a bird or rat or mole. But I don't know how to teach them that this isn't OK.

So that is my problem for the day. I need to figure this one out. I can'thave cats killed for the fun of it by dogs I have grown to love.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Living in a Different Hemisphere

If you want to do something that will truly mess with your head try living in the opposite hemisphere long enough to see seasons change. I was born and bred and have alwyas lived in the northern hemisphere where summer comes when it is supposed to and Christmas is in winter. The few times I have traveled I have traveled to other places in the northern hemisphere and there was very little difference from what I knew having lived everywhere from Iowa to Southern California to Boston to Georgia. I could relate. But it's almost MAY now and all the billboards are displaying winter coats and ski equipment and there is a chill in the air even though the days still get very warm. My head sayd I need to go out and buy some appropriate cool weather things to get me through but when I make plans to do it I talk myself out of it because it's almost MAY. And then there is the instinct thing. I do a nesting thing when the weather begins to get cool. I nest and I become far more domestic than I am in the summer and I think about Christmas cookies and Halloween decorations and turkeys. And I find that when I relax and get comfy in my cooler weather relaxing clothes those are the thoughts that come to my mind. AND IT IS ALMOST MAY!!! The first couple of months here it was if I had gone on a vacation to a tropical place that saved me from winter and I had no problem with it but now that I have become a temporary long-term resident I AM SCREWED UP.

A couple of totally random observations:

1. You can not get fresh milk here. It does not exist. Milk is pasteurized and processed beyond anything recognizable and the cartons sit on regular grocery shelves because they need no refrigeration. I don't drink milk. Ever. But more and more I find that the inability to get fresh milk creates a huge craving.

2. They write the numeral "9" here backwards. So the hump is on the right side instead of the left side. It always takes me aback.

3. (And some of the international readers might laugh that I find this odd) When writing out currency in numbers the commas and periods are reversed. This has become a huge issue while training the Chilean guy who is processing invoices because he never can remember. I get a Chilean invoice where the currency is USD or Euros and it's for 39,293.85. On the invoice it is written 39.293,85. That might seem a small thing but if you've seen it one way your whole life and then have to "translate" it it's just very very very different.

OK that's the end of the little culture lesson for tonight. My laundry is done, I am tired, and I am going to bed to read a very bad mystery novel for about 2 pages before I fall asleep on it. Eduardo is in NYC for a couple of days and Sam doesn't get back until Friday so this week is going to be a chore to get through without amusement so I plan to be entirely dull until they get back.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I emailed Sam Thursday night. Sam is in the Middle East with his family - wife and daughter - for a couple of weeks. His wife and daughter went back there to be with family when it became clear that Sam was going to be living out of a suitcase for quite a while so when he goes home he goes there. So anyway I emailed Sam. He can't get back to Santiago fast enough for me by the way. I have become so bored. At home I get bored a lot but I can always do something around the house or yard. Here there is nothing to do around the house or yard because, well, there is no house. Or yard. Just the apartment, and I can't do anything around it except laundry on Sunday mornings. So the absence of Sam, my dinner buddy, one of the loves of my life (in that completely unromantic way and only because I can completely be myself with him despite the fact that I actually REPORT to him) has worn thin.

But I digress.

So anyway I emailed Sam Thursday night. About 6 weeks ago I finally lost it with Jorge having the car and determining the schedule and being entirely dependant on him for transportation. Jorge is the project manager in title and so has many meetings that last long hours and my job is a bit different. Once the end of the office day comes there is really no need for me to be there - all additional work for the day can be done from anywhere. So I just got sick of sitting around in the office waiting for him to decide it was time to drive back to the neighborhood. Also there was never ever any FUCKING communication from him. Nothing like "Hey it might be 10 pm before I leave tonight so if you want to leave any earlier maybe we could set up a taxi for you." No. I just sat and waited. So mercifully decided it might be better to set up a daily taxi for me and I got Manuel. Manuel speaks some English and lord but he loves to practice it with me. Also he loves to nag me to learn more Spanish. Which I should. But after a day in the office trying to train people who speak no English and having to pull over the few who do speak English to translate when hand signals aren't working I really don't want to get in a taxi and spend another 30-60 minutes struggling for conversation and being scolded that I am not speaking Spanish. Also Manuel was fond of playing CDs of Brazilian love songs and translating the Portugese for me. "Now he is saying he loves her soft smooth skin. Now he is singing that she has the smell of love." AWKWARD. Then there was the famous drive when he spilled that he really wants to leave his wife and find a no-strings-attached-"relationship" so he can have fun because, hey. He is 52 and has missed most of the fun in life. AWKWARD times five at least.

Then last weekend I was in a "human" car with a human family thanks to Lazo and I spent the next 4 days just wanting to shift and throw in the clutch (though not necessarily in that order) and DRIVE WITH THE WINDOWS DOWN and music blasting. And I got the itch bigger than ever.

So anyway Thursday night I emailed Sam. I told him I thought there was NO WAY an economy rental could possibly cost more than the 2 ways in a taxi daily plus taxis on the weekends. Also with Manuel I had to set up the pick up times both ways in advance and sometimes that wasn't so great. Sometimes I wanted to set the snooze in the mornings for an extra 10 minutes. And more often there were days when I needed and wanted to be in the office an additional 30 minutes or an hour. So bitch that I am I begged for a rental car. I am bored. I am lonely. I just want to depend on myself. When I was in Tokyo Gerard spoiled me with telling me no one should ever have to give up their standard of living at home when they are on assignment with the company abroad. In Tokyo I had my bicycle which I bought on my per diem for about $50 US and it was my freedom. I guess I just have not felt freedom here because I can not come and go as I please. I want to be late if I am late and stay late if I need to and not walk 2 blocks to catch a taxi to the mall on the weekends. I told him we keep talking about sightseeing on the weekends and now that we hopefully are in the waning days of our time here wouldn't a little rental make more sense than taking taxis? And Sam agreed. Because there is a slight possibility that Sam is scared of me when I get like this. This is a car we will SHARE. Mostly because Sam has parking at his place and I will need to move this thing around on the streets until he is back. Also because we hang together mostly when we are both here. Poor Sam.

Today I took yet another taxi to the airport (and also I totally got ripped off - it should not have been more than 15,000 CLP but the fucker charged me 35,390 and there was no way for me to haggle and tell him he was a fucking THIEF). I picked up the car and a really nice guy walked me around it to show me the existing dings that were marked on the drawing and also showed me where the spare and jack were and I understood everything because he was showing me a CAR which I KNOW the parts of and then he told me I was intelligent and beautiful (oh shit these South American men. I think I love them all. Since January 5 I have heard that I am beautiful more times than ever in my life and even though I know they are all lying it is so nice to hear and it makes me blush like a little girl.)

Here is the car:

OK it's a four door Yaris. I wanted something tiny and sporty but this was the best they could do so I got it for the same price of the economy. And when they told me this in Spanish I understood.
On a funny note. When I excitedly announced in the office Friday morning that Sam said it was OK to get a rental everyone, especially Lazo, showed no confidence whatsoever in my ability to navigate and get home unscathed. When I did I sent him an SMS text telling him I am the Queen of driving in Santiago. He replied telling me if I get lost I am NOT to call him. That was about 7 hours ago. I just now picked a random city on the Chilean map which I figure is about a 4 - 5 hour drive from here and told him I was lost and did he recognize the city name? I told him I was certain I was just around the corner from my apartment but nothing looked familiar and did he have any suggestions? I have not yet heard back. If I don't get a response over the weekend I might just for fun show up in the office at 10 Monday morning. Maybe 11.

Monday, April 14, 2008

My weekend in the Chilean Countryside

OK so not a full weekend - only a Sunday, but it was one of the best days of my life! When I got home I realized it happened exactly three years to the day after my Japanese O-hanami (cherry blossom viewing). Coincidence? I think not. From this ay forward I will celebrate April 13 as a special day!

Eduardo and his wonderful wife Carol picked me up at about 11 am in his blue Volkswagen Golf which he will be the first to tell you is a car to be driven only by very wonderful handsome men. This is one of the reasons I love Lazo so much. He is humble. Also he is full of shit.

So we set out on the road. Carol doesn't speak (much) english and so Eduardo translated the conversation but mostly we just enjoyed the driving. We wound up into the Andes and passed through a couple of small towns where I finally realized I AM IN SOUTH AMERICA!!! When you are in a big city like Santiago where most people speak at least a couple of words of English and everything is really international it's easy to brush it off but driving through these little towns was like running into a brick wall - I AM IN SOUTH AMERICA! Well duh.

We passed by small farms with llama (!!!) and tuna stands. Tuna is a cactus fruit and it is sweet and juicy and delicious. I also kept seeing signs by the road with "aceituna" for sale and finally looked it up on my translator and aceituna is olive. They grow OLIVES and sell them fresh at roadside stands!! Eventually we pulled into a roadside bodegacita (I probably have that wrong but basically it was a roadside stand). Lazo told me here we would wait for Carol's parents who own the house where we were going. Also his two daughters were with his in-laws.

After we purchased and ate horse jerky (!!!) and freshly baked bread the rest of our party arrived and the girls ran out of the car with kid-drawings for me which about made me cry at that point. Said drawings are now posted at my desk and I fear I will actually frame them when I get home. Where is that? Everyone welcomed me with open arms and cries of "Mucho gusto!" and I really felt so much at home.

I've written about Eduardo before. With Eduardo there is that kind of special very deep connection that I don't feel even with people I consider my friends. I can be 100% myself with him and he accepts that and appreciates it or maybe not but he puts up with it and the odd thing is that his wife and daughters and in-laws did too. I mean I was polite (I only said "fuck" once in response to a terrifying driving maneuver and Carol was the only other person in the car and she agreed with me) but I was me and they didn't mind at all.

On a side note this is what tears me up about my job. I travel which is great but when you spend any time in a place you are likely to make connections with people - people you might never see again. People you meet and adore and then they are gone because you get on a plane and go back to your life. And they are always there in your heart but they aren't there because they live on another continent where Christmas happens in summer or some weird shit like that.

So we got to this place out in the country. Out in the Chilean country. Where it is rough. Not like anything I have seen in the US except out west. But it was heaven on earth after spending the past 3 months worth of weekends kind of trapped in my neighborhood in Santiago. No TV. No internet. Lazo has the best music collection in the world and brought it on his laptop which he hooked up to the stereo and set the speakers outside and we sat on the covered patio and listened to music and talked and watched the girls play and ate the most delicious meat. I got full very fast and might just regret that forever. When the afternoon was very unfortunately beginning to be over I got on my knees and hugged everyone's legs and cried and begged them to leave me there. OK. Not really but that is what I wanted to do.

Lazo's father-in-law suggested since I had never seen it that we drive back to Santiago via Vina del Mar which is a coastal resort. It would only take us maybe one hour total out of our way. We set out again. This time Belen, Lazo's youngest daughter, sat in the backseat of the VW with me and promptly fell asleep and I kept asking if I needed to move her because she was all crumpled over and I don't understand how all the circulation in her body didn't stop.

We got to Vina del Mar about 25 minutes before sunset and drove on a tiny bit more to (oh crap I have the name written down but it's in the briefcase and I do not want to look in there right now). We parked which was a surprise to me since I did not know the plan and y'all, I was down the stairs and on the beach just as fast as I could kick the birkenstocks off while in a dead run. Ok not really but that is what my heart felt like seeing sand and ocean for the first time in 3 years. The girls and I got onto the beach and I just had to put my feet in the water of the Pacific like a gringa loca. It was COLD! If it hadn't been so cold I swear I would have gone in to my neck fully dressed but it was ICY!

When we got that out of our systems we went up to a patio coffee shop and ordered coffee and empanadas and sat and watched the sun set. It was just spectacular.

After I got on my knees and cried and begged to be left there (yeah - kidding again but not really) we said our goodbyes to the passengers in the other vehicle. I knew I would be forced to do the fucking cheek kiss thing all day but really I didn't mind. It was family. When we said goodbye I thanked them profusely and told them how much it meant to me that they had included me and went to do the cheek kiss thing and as I always do just because I am North American and when we cheek kiss it is instinctive to hug as well I hugged them all and I thought they were not going to let go! Each and every one of them hugged me like I can't remember being hugged.

And then we (fucking) set out again in our seperate vehicles for the drive back into Santiago. Eduardo and Carol in front, me and (this time) 6 year old Ignacia in back. Ignacia immediately fell asleep and the whole time I watched her neck bent over and worried that she was going to die from lack of circulation. The view from the mountains looking into the valleys took my breath away. I would like to get a rental car in the next couple of weeks and share it with Sam but I'm really afraid all I would do is drive all night and get to the office delirious every day. I could look at the views here forever. I understand why so many US people choose to retire here.

We finally got to my neighborhood . . . my street . . . in front of my apartment. I really did NOT want to get out fo the car. I gave Ignacia (still sleeping) a kiss on the forehead and Carol got out to let me out of the 2 door stud-mobile. She wrapped her arms around me and wouldn't let go forever and then fucking Lazo had to get out and kiss and hug me like the little girl he is. He does hug like he has 18 foot long arms and this is the thing I love about him only second to his extreme humility.

So I got out of Santiago. I ate delicious meat cooked by an expert. I rode in a VW Golf which is evidently the sex machine of South America if you buy into Lazo's story which actually I don't. I saw stuff I could not ever have imagined seeing. I relaxed. In a full 24 hour period I did not once work. OK it was only 20 hours but hey close enough. I made skin to skin contact with the Pacific ocean for the first time in 25 years. I listened to Eric Clapton while watching the Andes change with the light. I learned my colors in spanish with a four year old and a six year old. I drank really crappy instant coffee by the ocean with people I will love forever just because they welcomed me and gave me excellent hugs.

Below is the link to the shutterfly album for the day. I couldn't post them all here. If you need a password use serenity.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Hola Chicos!

Today. Today was great. Today I went to Pueblito de Los Dominicos which is an artisan market on the grounds of one of the oldest churches in Santiago. It was spectacular and I did not take photos. I had the camera with me and I kept thinking I wanted to take some pictures but it was just so good to be out and about and experience it that I did not do so. I just kind of wanted to absorb it without a lens in front of my face.

Pueblito is set up like a little community with all the artists in their own secure stalls. If you are in Santiago and you would like to procure a bird of any kind I can tell you this is the place to go. The first few stalls were all about birds of every kind - many of which I had never seen. As I moved on there was ceramic ware, textiles, copper ware, lapis lazuli, acrylic artists . . . all set up in a little town-like setting and it was just a joy to walk through it slowly and enjoy the sights.

In my 3+ months in Santiago I have seen maybe 3 cats. Today at Los Dominicos there were cats all over the place and they are so used to being loved on that I was able to get a load of cat lovin' done!

Today I bought myself a gorgeous lapis lazuli necklace. Lapis Lazuli is found in two places in the world - Chile and Afghanistan. It is the native stone of this country and I have been determined to make a purchase since I arrived in January. You can get ll jewelry all over but the prices are more in line with the US unless you know where to go. I do know there are places where it is a bit less expensive but today I broke down and purchased a necklace for myself (also two pair of earrings). I never ever ever buy things like this. I wear clothing until it is in rags. But today I bought a beautiful necklace for me. Right now I am wearing my grey Target sweatpants and my 20 year old WVU grey sweatshit and my necklace and I am a fashionista!

Also I purchased a mate gourd and bombilla and a bag of yerba mate. Yerba mate is a tea made from a type of holly and besides the health benefits it is a social thing. Google yerba mate for more info. The traditional mate cup is a gourd and it must be cured and mine is curing right now! The bombilla is a metal straw/strainer through which you drink the mate. It is a social thing where a group of people pass the mate cup around and they all drink from it. There are a lot of youtube videos which explain the intricate process of brewing yerba mate and I would encourage you to look them up.

When I got home from Los Dominicos I got an SMS text from the love of my life Eduardo. Tomorrow he will come with his wife and daughters to pick me up at about 10:30 and they will take me to a place called Lliu-Lliu, about a 2 hour drive from Santiago. This is where his in-laws live and they are having a barbeque and y'all - I GET TO GO!!! I get to finally meet his family and finally I will leave Santiago and see a bit more of Chile!!! I have all the electronics charging now and I promise to capture this day as best I can so I can share it with you.

You just simply can not imagine what I see every day. I think I am the most fortunate person in the world. Right now it is 11 pm and I am in my little apartment on the 11th floor of my building and the world holds so much I can't even stand it. Life is just something else.

Friday, April 11, 2008

And if you stay 3 months . . .

The apartment elves visited again today and SCORE!!!!

A brand new just out of the box REAL COFFEEMAKER!!!!!! For the past 3 months I've been brewing my coffee through what can best be described as a coffee sock into a ceramic tea pot provided by the apartment. When I walked in today I hooted out loud! I can't wait to measure out my coffee and water before bed tonight and wake up in the morning and only flip the switch for my morning joe!

The apartment elves rock. What more could a gal need than a flat screen TV mounted on the bedroom wall and a coffeemaker?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Best Feelings In The World

My Top However Many It Ends Up Being List:

1. Coming home and knowing I don't have to go back out and washing my face. Someone (an expert) recently told me the very best face wash/exfolliator is to mix a little Cetaphyl with a bit of plain baking soda into a runny paste and I swear it is the best) Apologies for the girlie shit.

2. Shaving my legs the same day I change my sheets. I only sleep on 100% cotton at the highest thread count I can afford which seems to be around 400 if I can make them last for 4 years and get them on sale. Also I prefer white sheets always. I change my sheets on Sundays and so make sure I also shave my legs on that day even in the winter because it just feels so good to get into fresh sheets with smooth legs. More apologies for more girlie shit but I promise these are the two girlie things I totally indulge in. I've been trying to make an attempt to wear lipstick recently in an effort to be more girlie and today I was trying to hide the fact that I was putting some more on and Eduardo caught me and told me it just wasn't me and to stop it. I'm more of a lip balm kind of gal.

3. Holding cats. Really holding them. Phoebe at 2 years has begun to let me for about 90 seconds at a time. Sonny my old man 18 year old adores to be on me with his paws wrapped arond my neck but doesn't really like the hugging. Camille is my love bunny. She will get on my lap and let me squeeze her and hug her and she purrs and begs for more. Also if she is scared like when she goes to the vet or goes into quarantine in Japan or there is a thunderstorm she will crawl up to my shoulder and hold on and bury her face in my neck. It is so sweet and one of the top best feelings in the world.

4. Loving someone you are not related to or in a romantic relationship with. Really truly loving. I have three and there is nothing I would not do for any one of them. You know who you are.

5. An exceptional morning fart.

6. A good, flavorful cup of just-strong-enough freshly brewed coffee. Or two or five.

7. An excellent massage.

8. Having enough time one night in 30 to think about the simple things that you consider the best feelings in the world and appreciate that the majority of them cost nothing at all and yet are priceless.

I guess this makes a Top Eight List. I always was a bit of an underachiever.

PS: My last post was about the apartment elves and I totally left out what prompted this post. Last night when I got home (and after I washed my face of course) I turned down the sheets and the elves had left me 2 brand new fluffy excellent pillows!!! My previous pillows were pretty flat - one was kind of firm and the other was squooshy and I always used the squooshy one and nana always left the firm one on my sleeping side when she made up the bed so I had to exchange them every night. I now have two great squooshy pillows! Which are brand new and so I am the only person to have slobbered on them! Which I guess brings me to Best Feeling #9 which is excellent pillows. So I am not such an underachiever after all.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Apartment Elves and a Cholo Update

I am once again back in Santiago where the leaves are falling and the mornings and evenings are increasing chillier even if it does get up into the 80s during the day.

I've been meaning to mention my apartment elves because they, with my nana, have been a source of mystery and merriment for me during my stay here.

One never knows when the elves will show up. I have only ever requested one repair, and that was to the little washer/dryer unit in my kitchen. The dryer stopped working and I reported it and they fixed it. But other repairs and improvements and assorted oddities have happened while I've been away at the office.

Sometimes furnishings disappear and then later reappear. This first happened with a silk floral arrangement on one of my side tables in the living room. One day it was just gone. It has never reappeared. Then another day I walked in and one chair was missing from the little table out on my balcony. Two days later it magically reappeared. I don't know where it went but it missed me.

For about 2 months after I got here there were two large tiles in the shower that had buckled and pulled away from the wall - very noticeable but hey - not my problem and it did not in any way bother me. One day I walked in and the tiles had been replaced.

Also in my kitchen I was using the extra hand towel folded up on the cutting board to put wet freshly washed dishes on to dry. It took about 5 weeks but I walked in one day and my nana had replaced it with a colorful kitchen towel! I laundered this every week and then while I was in the US last week she replaced it with another one, this time in shades of blue.

I had a little TV set in the bedroom which was on a table which took up most of one corner. I have had the TV on, like, 4 times since January so I don't really notice it. One day I walked in and there was something very different in the bedroom and I finally realized they had replaced my bulky TV with a flat screen. But this one is an epic elf story. Two days later I walked in and the flat screen had been mounted on the wall! Three days after that I walked in and they had raised it about 4 inches. There were two holes where they had previously mounted it and these had been filled with a white hole compound. Tonight I noticed that while I was in the US the white filled holes has been painted to match the wall paint!

Like my nana I do wish I could take the apartment elves back to the US with me if and when I finally return for good.

I have an update on my little black Cholo dog! He is doing well and growing like crazy. I guess food helps. He is now a regular resident inside the gate and the one female guard has latched onto him which makes me feel so much better about leaving him someday. This morning when I got out of the taxi he saw me and just about broke his neck running to greet me! He also found the tennis ball I gave him last month and brought it to me and we played fetch for a while. He has gotten to be a pro at fetch. He also doesn't jump up as much. He is so funny - he loves to chew on my hand - just love chews - but if I pull my hand away he messes with me and will lightly nip at my pants and my feet to let me know he still wants to play. I know he is being fed by someone other than me because when I brought a bowl of food out to him this afternoon he ate a little and when I left tonight it was mostly still there. I think he has become a favorite for everyone at this facility and for good reason. He is a most excellent dog. I am happy that I pushed for him to become a part of the place and I think he has a home for life if he chooses to stay.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Frigging Delta!

This was in today's mail. I am now a Silver Medallion Delta Skymiles member. This means year to date I have flown in excess of 25,000 miles. To be exact I have now flown just slightly in excess of 30,000 miles.

The skymiles thing is really a thing. As an employee of my company we don't get many perks. In fact we tend to get lost in the shuffle. So skymiles is a big deal. Sam is my skymiles guru and advises me about how to get the max miles possible. He just reached Platinum. He is God. At least in the world of skymiles. Otherwise not.

This past flight from Santiago to Atlanta I had 47,000 some odd miles and I knew I would go over 50,000 on the flight home. I got to the ATL airport and checked the Delta website from the blackberry at 6:30 am (yes I told you this is a big freaking deal) and I was at 52,000 some odd miles and I immediately skyped Sam with the official news. But when I got home and checked the site again (just to bask in the glory you understand) I was still at Silver Medallion status. I checked it out a bit more and realized that I was looking at my total miles and not at miles year to date so I am only now silver.

The package that came today was a bit of a downer because of all this. I did get a new card and a key fob card and a luggage tag. But I'm only silver and in the world of skymiles I am still white trash. I need 20,000 miles to make it to gold where upgrades will kick in. I will need to do about 2 more round trips to Santiago to make this or one round trip to Tokyo. My goal for the year is to at least make gold.

All of this is totally selfish for me. It isn't the prestige, which is at best dubious when one is talking skymiles. What I really want is a vacation. A real vacation where I take a week off and I don't stay home doing yardwork or remodeling. I want a week on the beach somewhere and I want to use my miles to pay for the flight. I still need to get back to St. Martin to finish the doomed vacation from 2004. I want soft white sand and eye-blindingly turquoise water and totally buff Belgian beach boys to bring me water with lemon and I want to watch naked imperfect people walking on the beach while I clutch a huge towel around me because I am an American and I want to swim with fucking dolphins and I want to leave the laptop at home for one week and possibly even turn off the blackberry because I DESERVE IT. And I do not want to pay for my flight. That's all I want. Because of vacation time rolled over from last year I have almost 6 weeks of vacation time this year and I can only roll over 2 weeks of it which means I need to take 3+ weeks before December 31 or I will lose it. I just have no idea how this is going to happen.

Sam, if you are reading this I am taking April off. See you in May. April Fool's. Damnit.