Wednesday, March 31, 2010


so now I'm back in Berlin. And everybody - well, some people, those that I know - are asking: What is it like? How do you feel?

And I can't just drop this blog just like that. on a wedding post, what an omen.

Yes, it is strange, of course it is. I feel still in a half-world, I could close my eyes and imagine myself to wake up to buy fruits and fish on the market, to look at the pretty houses in Valpo and the less pretty ones, to go arguing with R, to watch the little girl in the opposite house who would play with us through the window and the small child that cried every afternoon and the lady with her washing every morning and the giant hairy dog who lived downstairs, and the salty smell from the sea would be in the air. There would be dogs everywhere and tiny flea-bitten kitten. The two tiny corner shops who never seem to sell much except for bread, and they don't even have cigarettes but I wasn't smoking anyway. I could wake up to make cake or sushi or tabulé or humus or potatoe variations or ceviche. I could write about how it feels when nothing moves and everything is in a circle, everybody is breathing summer, and I am in a bubble.

But I'm back. I'm finally back to see my lovely nieces so that I can force their little memories to remember me. It is cold in Berlin, and I find the metro stations suddenly very small, and there are many more trees than I remembered. The women all look very well-clothed and the men all seem to have big hair, but maybe that's Kreuzberg. Feel so Raggamuffin. My cat seems very big and she hasn't forgotten me.
I am still instinctively looking for the little extra bin for toilet paper. I am registering the urge to watch my bag and watch the people at night, to show them I am vigilant. I love to be able to walk unafraid at night, everywhere, as alone, white, tall and uninteresting as everybody else. I'm smoking again. I'm back to organizing like a maniac: housing, internship interviews and clothing, insurance, phone, getting my things back. My flea bites are healing, there are only tiny hard spots left.

I'm looking forward to have a real room of my own. I'm looking forward to go food-hunting, place after place with food I haven't eaten for a year. I'm looking forward to getting to know my nieces and connecting with friends.

Right now, it feels like I will be very very sad then, and I will not regret anything, not leaving, not coming back. So, hello again.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tell me why you are so pretty? - Well, it's that I am a princess!

said that little girl to her mother. I think it's a brilliant answer to a very popular question.

The last weekend I went to another wedding,which was very contrary to the other one en el campo. First of all, the food was good, and a free bar put me in great mood. I also fell asleep on the table at 2 o'clock (my social inhibitions are not what they used to be) but it was relaxed sleep from some nice Pisco Sours, a hearty Cabernet-Carmenére mélange, and some Sex on the beach, just for principle and old time's sake.

groom and friends

sexy shoe pictures

Oh, and the wedding was in a "ceremonies' center" outside of a pueblo, village, outside of Santiago. Fun! About three hours getting there in public transportation! More fun! Bathrooms are inside, everybody else seems to be arriving in cars and in full gear (suit and dresses ranging from something that used to be a flowery nylon tent to really elegant cocktail thingies). Where do we change? I was so exhausted at that point that I would have stripped in front of everybody, as long as I get it done quickly. Luckily, we had a bit more anonymity and scrub cover.

Anyway. The ceremony was as dulce as it can get, with white stuff everywhere and sweetener music, a carriage and a horse, a priest conducting an earnest speech with a microphone. Get up, sit down, pray, get up again. Luckily we arrived late and could linger in the back rows. It's just weird when you don't know anybody there. I decided on a mental cover as being a tester of the organization's services.
Lots of service ushering the guests into position (our waiter was called Kevin and about 17, and it was probably his first day. He was refreshingly morose yet terrified). A program all the time - The barkeeper is juggling bottles in front of a fire! The first dance! The cake! Now more cakes to feed the masses (with service. We can't be trusted to choose our own size of cake) The waiters are making a choreography with meat spears to bombastic music! Fotos taken with every table! Old pictures of the bride and the groom! (People are evil. I knew the bride used to be fat while I didn't even remember her name.)

the unknown now-married couple

So it was fun. A lot more relaxed than the other one. But maybe I'm just getting used to the whole thing.
And in the days afterwards, some posing in Santiago:

What Is wrong with Avatar: part one

After wanting to see the movie for a couple of weeks and fending off non-3D versions of it - cracked on DVD or shown on mini-screen in busses with a hickupping sound system in Spanish -, this weekend I finally went to see it: 3D, in English, the Full Monty! I schlepped R along, which took a lot of convincing. I still don't know what to respond to the earnest entreaty "But N... you studied literature, surely you must agree with me that the Oscars are only for blockbusters and basically worthless crap giving awards to the worst movies, entirely manipulated by mammon and box office numbers skyrocketing and (continued tirade)".

I'm not sure what studying literature has to do with this, apart from making me feel very much like an imposter. (Although of course I do look and behave like a bookish bluestocking snorting about Proust jokes.)
The problem is not so much with the argument on the Oscars, and more with a lack of a space for a real discussion, as in "diverse opinion, civil conversation, interested back-and-forth of point of views". Maybe I just went to university for too long. On a side note, nothing beats the look on the guys' faces when I announce my being feminist, after they ranted for some time about some mina (chick). Since I gave up discussing the topic (nobody wants to) or trying to educate (nobody listens to me and I would be an idiot), watching these expressions is my secret reward.

I digress. (or do I) This is a post about Avatar! For although my eyes hurt - a lot - and I had a strong headache afterwards, I am totally happy about having done "the 3D experience"... I was truly impressed, happy, and even thankful for returning to a kid's perspective of awe and wonder again...

BUT. I wouldn't be me if I could that supreme crap of a story stand uncommented. PLEASE feel free to add your points to this list. Spoiler alert.

What's wrong with Avatar, no chronological order

- The natives all secretly speak English. They resort to their dialect when they are pissed off and want to shun out skypeople. Otherwise they happily express themselves in English, especially at emotional moments of "mating" or saving lives. If a skyperson says something in their language (like "please" or "thank you") it's to throw them a cookie, to make them happy. The real talking is done in English, of course.

- The military general exists only as a , a potpourri of clichés (with a coffee cup on the plane? Really?! Why not have him say straight out "I love the smell of napalm in a hanging forest"?). Even the corporate guy has more conscience than the military guy. (By the way, I LOVE Giovanni Ribisi. He's like the doppelgänger to Edward Norton; like Tilda Swinton is to Jodie Foster (as Passepartout once said)

- Scientist are not only totally inept pricks - after all, you can learn to be the Über-Na'vi in less than three months. If you are a brainless marine, that is. Scientists are also BULLIES!

- If you are a brainless marine, you will agree to spy on those people who - for no reason whatsoever - decided to trust you and to teach you "their ways". In a totally illogical move, they will also show you their most secret place, to which no outsiders are permitted, even before you become a man and thus one of them. You will agree to spy even before having been offered new legs. You will continue to do so while living with the Na'vi, without qualms, until about the time when you mate with one of them. Then you will waste much important time on self-gratifying excuses and talking about how bad you feel about all of this.

- Then you will propose a mission in which all of your friends and uncounted un-individualized Na'vi's - "a herd of natives" - will die. When your friends point out the idiocy of your plan (of putting into danger the most important and sacred place of the Na'vi people) your answer is we better don't let that happen then! Yeah. Great. For a douchebag.

- for no reason whatsoever the Na'vi girl will fall in love with you. Despite all the feline elegant noiseless moving and behaving, at this moment there will be the usual carnal scenes. boring.

- after having betrayed her trust and her secrets of her people, your Na'vi woman will apologize to you for having been pissed off, if you only come flying along on a big red dinosaur.

- to understand and help the Na'vi you actually have to turn into them. So much for dialogue, intercultural or interracial understanding, to hell with hybridity and individualism, this is an arachaic question of Who is better.
And who is better and cooler (and I can already see the videogames)? Those who have the cooler toys, such as flying on dinosaurs and playing tarzan. Jake Sully has not understood shit of Na'vi life at no point: He talks in the same idiotic way, with the same idiotic Marine metaphors, the same mindset, he only has switched camp, to where he is bigger, bluer, cooler, has a woman and other toys.
Also, the eventual "solution" is throwing out all the humans from Pandora "except for a selected few". A-ha. Great point.

So far. I'm still pissed at Jake Sully. and at Cameron. Maybe I'll have it a bit more digested by tomorrow.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

more earthquakes & more other things

1. Okay, I was chatting away / half-heartedly researching Chilean bloggs on president-elect Sebastian Piñera's inauguration today, when there was a pretty prominent tremblor, so prominent in fact that I was mentioning it to my friend, followed by an even stronger one shortly thereafter - the second one was worse because it got worse (and that's when you freak out) so I cried for R. (since he was here... just to give him the opportunity to make up for last time) But compared to the other time it wasn't that bad so I didn't freak until we saw crowds of people streaming up the streets uphill: Tsunami warning. My roommate got a waxen face and left instantly; R and I packed few things and rushed after. (In retrospect, I'm quite proud of my cool calculation, my hands were quivering but I didn't take idiotic things, but the computer, passport, proof of my visa process, money, camera, my notebooks).

It really seems kind of silly now. Like sheep we were waiting with all these office people (who work in el plan, the flat area) uphill, driving each other crazy. And absolutely nothing was happening, apart from constant quivers and random sign reading: Aren't the birds behaving strangely? Is this wind normal? What does it MEAN what the military boats out there and the helicopter is doing? Seemed that the authorities who failed so lethally last time were trying to be absolutely certain this time. I think I would have waited longer than the hour that we waited but I had to go pee. And I was thirsty and hungry. And somehow, the whole thing wasn't happening. I decided to go down to our house so I won't pee in the water when I'd die cause we all know that is disgusting. At our house, there were a lot of people waiting at only that altitude, so I realized that we could as well wait at the house.

so, totally underwhelming in retrospect, but I was really really really scared!

2. Chileans showed some of their adorable qualities by mentioning all over facebook, twitter et alter that in precisely the moment when "the Antichrist" was swearing to guard and lead Chile according to his best capacities (or something like that), the earth groaned and moved in protest.

3. I've so far neglected to mention the three-legged dog. There is more than one, in a city with so many dogs (think New Zealand - but with dogs), but one that sort of belongs to "our" neighborhood. It holds itself up fine against other higher-legged versions. Gives you a real example.

all those office people...

office people in front of our house

me being afraid

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


R is back (and we promptly got into a fight. priorities!). Valparaíso is back as well, going about more or less business as usual, apart from people still clearing out the supermarkets, and half the town being cordoned off with white and yellow "danger!" bands : danger of collapse. I just realized how lucky the town was to be so far away from the epicenter: Had it been a bit stronger, or a bit closer, Valpo would definitely be in shambles, seeing that the buildings are quite old - i.e. built before Chile enacted its severe building laws -, often randomly put somewhere, and made of adobe or wood. or corrugated aluminium. Or un-corrugated aluminium, I haven't checked the difference yet.
so I'm watching the devastation mostly online and on tv, just like you. R's brother went to a town at the beach south of Cúrico, and came back to tell terrible stories on bad organization (I told you so...). Example: A heap of clothes at the entrance of some town, and the mayor saying, the villagers will come to get them. But those villagers are scared to leave their houses, which are some 10 kilometres away from said heap. They don't even know that stuff is there. And they said to Francisco (R's brother), yes, that's what we need, clothes, it's cold here and ours are wet (or eaten by the sea). the clothes will come to us when they are there. That town was comparatively lucky - people were not dead - so there were few helpers around, and probably no cars, and in any case, nobody who said: You load up these clothes and drive them into town. Which is not really a tricky solution, but I'm probably oversimplifying.
It's just distressing to hear these stories. I'm looking into opportunities to volunteer right now, but I don't want to be in the way either, blocking roads, resources etc. I'll let you know.

Monday, March 1, 2010

e. update III

death toll, according to BBC: 700. They also say that
"About 90% of the historic centre of the town of Curico was destroyed. Many roads and bridges across the affected area were damaged or destroyed."

Troops are being deployed in the hardest hit regions: Chile is divided in 15 regions. Valparaíso the town lies the 5th region - aptly named Valparaíso -, Cúrico is part of the 7th, which is called Maule, and Concepción the 8th, named Bío-Bío.
The Maule and Bío-Bío (another Mapuche double sound) are hardest hit. They have a curfew and the army as "support", apparently mostly against looting. There are videos of a guy carrying out a brand new refrigerator out of the store. But also of people just grabbing bread and water - if they are not helped in time, who can blame them for taking the stuff that is just lying around in those supermarket's storage centers.

The Tsunami hit the Juan Fernandez islands, where warnings were not issued in time, and killed 16 people.

R is determined to come back today, but information on the possibility of transportation is running sparse. Roommate M claimed they will cut the water today "for a couple of days, like 3 or 4" - excuse me? There are worse things, I know but I still hope it's just another fake alarm. I have no clue how to hoard water for toilet-related needs in sufficient quantity, for four days.

will continue updating; it's hard to concentrate on other things.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

earthquake update II

R says in the Cúrico region the death toll is now 500 people. Santiago had 16 I think, and this is the range of the other regions as well.
Valparaíso suffered at least one loss, a person who died from cardiac arrest when s/he heard that fuckhead announcing a tsunami. He was taken into custody (the fuckhead).
Now the rumor goes that the false alarm was set off so people would leave their houses to be robbed. nice. I personally think he might have just been crazy (but then I watched "incident at loch ness" recently).

There is this town further south - another one that begins with "C" - where they cleaned out the entire supermarket - and I mean sparkling clean. And that was the only supermarket in town! So I'm not talking those "looters" who take what they need and are not given - but total pieces of shit who take everything and leave others such a mess, in such a mess. (I'm certainly not feeling bad for Líder - the evilness of this chain would valid a post in itself.) Strangely, the attitude I encountered in response to this supermarket incidence, was: El Chileno es así - Chileans are like that. This is not the first time I heard this.

Here the supermarkets are cleaned out the regular way: lines till the back, atmosphere of panic and confusion (times ten of the usual). There is heavy policing. Somehow this does not make me feel so safe. The atmosphere is still of paranoia, but all goes relatively orderly.

It's just ridiculous. Polemics on bloggs still talk the language of "shoot the Communist bastards/dogs/scum/vemrin", "Allende equals anarchy", the military will sort it out "as usual" etc. I don't get it. There is "we are like that", there is the "viva chile" for God-knows-what (mostly said without any context/supportive evidence), then there is this image of Chileans as friendly and cariñoso, as I mentioned in another post, and also as showing solidarity. Which I find the most ridiculous, given the extreme inequality of this society, the extremely clasist structures, permeated by racist reasoning (more "Indian" looking vs "Spanish" looking/last names etc).
The explanation for this solidarity myth, according to R, is the teleton, the one charity event, which collects money for disabled kids. And the companies supporting that event, such as Lider, do not give an actual peso, they just raise prices on their products, tell consumers if they buy those they do a good deed, and thus have an enormous free advertising and public relations campaign.
Okay, that did not have anything to do with the quake. I just needed to express my confusion.