Monthly Archives: October 2009

In Search of the Bicentennial Chile Dog

Chile Dog! OH Chile Dog!  Wherefore art thou Chile Dog?

Dogs—they’re pretty high on the list of big first impression makers for newcomers to Santiago—maybe all of Chile. I’ve written about them before (See It’s a Dog’s World). Now the search is on for the First National Chile-Dog (no… not chili dog– CHILE DOG!)

Dogs. Some people love ‘em, others hate ‘em, and most just seem to accept that street dogs are a part of everyday life in Chile. And that, indeed, they are. So much so, in fact, that not only is a nice big dog represented on the mural that depicts the most representative elements of national identity (see: Street Art Chile) where this friendly looking guy shows up:


but they will have their own special place in the 2010 Bicentennial!

The Bicentennial Committee has announced a photo competition devoted to the ever-present “quiltro chileno” ( pronounced KIL-tro, the word comes from the Mapuche language Mapudungun and means mongrel or mutt). These uninhibited four-legged creatures like to be in the thick of things and show up just about everywhere.

MST2009-Marching Dogs-500w

I’ve always been pretty easy-going about Santiago’s street dogs. They tend to keep to themselves for the most part, and they do seem to sleep a lot–pretty much any time and anywhere they feel like it:

MST2009-Sleeping Dogs Lie

They take part in everyday life. I’ve seen them wait for a green light before crossing the road and even crossing at the specially designated zebra-striped pedestrian crosswalks. They even use public transportation on occasion (as does this guy who hopped on an ascensor in Valparaíso (left) or the other one who hung around an open-air seafood restaurant (right) waiting for patrons to toss him a bite (which of course they did).

MST2009-Coastal Dogs

Quiltros can also be very playful–watch for them in the Plaza de la Constitución, right in front of La Moneda. There’s a group that often runs past my house, and
I always liked watching them play—until  of course, the night that a canine Ocean’s Eleven decided to hang out under my bedroom window, growling and barking and playing and fighting and yelping and following the every move of one particular female, as dogs are wont to do. When I discovered at a sleepless 3:30 AM that the carabineros won’t do anything, that Seguridad Ciudadano won’t do anything, and that apparently there are no dogcatchers or anyone else who can/will do anything and that the only viable option was earplugs, I was not quite as open minded about their right to public space anymore.

MST2009-Playing Dogs

But they seem to have since moved on to someone else’s window, and I can now go back to enjoying their antics. And so can you. Catch your favorite street dogs doing their favorite street dog things, and send a picture (just one per person)
to the search for the Chile’s emblematic canine (the national Chile Dog!). You might even win a prize (cameras for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and cash for the honorable mentions). Entries will be accepted through November 23, and all the details and fine print can be downloaded from the Bicentennial site (El Quiltro del Bicentenario).

The Bicentennial Committee organized this competition not only as a way to recognize the emblematic role the ever-present quiltro plays in our daily lives, but also to encourage their adoption and responsible pet ownership.

And for just a bit more inspiration, here’s a video made as part of the “Chile con mis ojos” (Chile through my eyes) series:  “Mi Quiltro Chileno.”

Cachando Chile on the Air-October 28

We’re back!
Cachando Chile on the Air
starts its regular programming today, Wednesday October 29, 2009 on Santiago Radio.

Santiago Radio


Margaret Snook (that would be me) and Felipe Valdivia chat about life in Chile every Wednesday from 6 to 8 PM, (UTC/GMT-3 hours–as a reference, New York is currently UTC/GMT-4 hours–we’re on Daylight Savings Time).

Today’s topic is FOOD!

Please let us know if there’s something–or some place–that you would like us to discuss… Got a favorite (or least favorite) dish?  Restaurant? Picada? Place to shop? Fruit? Veggie? Meat? Spice? The floor is open to discussion!

Cachando Chile on the Air–Santiago Radio:

Don’t touch that mouse!


Flirting with Frugal

“Frugal?” I’m thinking to myself, “Did he just call her frugal?”

Veo que eres muy frugal,” he said again. Yes, I heard it right; my husband was complimenting a young woman’s frugality. Well, that’s certainly not going to set off any kind of flirt-alert! Continue reading

There’s a Chilean in my Closet!

Guess who's hanging up what?

Guess who's hanging up what?

Whoever invented the wire hanger should have established universal rules for using it.

There are certain rules that seem to have been established arbitrarily at some distant point in time and space when someone made the first move and said, “I’m going to do it this way.” If you had asked why, they may have simply said, “No reason, I can do it the other way if you prefer,” or “because I’m left handed” or “because my sister was standing on the other side,” but for whatever reason the reason happened to be, their method ended up carved in stone and we don’t even think about it until someone upsets the balance.

Like what, you ask? Like driving on the right-hand side of the road, unless you’re a Brit-influenced driver, of course, and therefore prefer the left. Or whether the toilet paper drapes over the top of the roll or dangles from below. Or whether you draw a circle by moving toward the right or toward the left. I’m sure there are plenty of other practices that we could all indulge any latent OCD tendencies in, but today I think I’ll just dwell on hangers.

In my orderly little pre-Chile world, we hung things up with the hanger hook pointing toward the back of the closet. Never thought about it much. Wasn’t much reason to. Until I noticed that the woman I first lived with in Santiago would always hang things up “backward” as in hook facing forward,** toward the door.  Personal quirk, I thought. Until I went shopping and oddly enough, most of the stores did the same. The sales clerks glowered at me for hanging things up the “right” way. And when I started sharing a closet with my husband, we ended up with a mishmash of hanger-use practices that bugged me to no end but that turned out to be a non-issue for the Mister… And in his world, non-issue is synonymous with unimportant… which means not much chance for change… and I have more important re-training priorities (like the fact that plates should be washed on BOTH sides, but we’ll save that for another day…)

** How often do we see backward and forward meaning the same thing?

In my northern-hemisphere-oriented brain, the outward hook maneuver does seem to be more practical in that it only takes just one outward-downward movement to hang something up, rather than the push in, up, back, and down movement required for the “Chilean” method.

It is in my nature to try and make sense of things. Maybe, I thought, it’s because we’re on the other side of the world—like that bit about water in a sink swirling counterclockwise in the southern hemisphere (it doesn’t, by the way). Not even I, as originator of that cockamamie theory could muster up much enthusiasm for it. So I’m back to arbitrary. Not a very satisfactory answer.

I googled around for a while, searching for an answer to my relevant-to-not-much-of-anything question, and although I did find a few versions of the hanger’s rather recent invention (might have been US President Thomas Jefferson, could have been someone else in the mid-1800s, although Albert Parkhouse generally gets the most credit for having designed the first wire hanger in 1903. Too bad he apparently misunderstood the directions on the patent form and signed away his rights to the fortune his employer then received. Parkhouse never saw a dime). I also found a nifty voodoo coat hanger and a slew of hanger manufacturers, but not one who would take a stand on which way the hanger is “supposed” to go.

So let me be the first to go on record as saying that hanger hooks should definitely point toward the back of the closet… In my world. Because I said so. Even though my husband doesn’t believe me… Or care.

May I take your purse?

In Chile, good manners and proper hosting etiquette stipulate that not only jackets are placed on the host’s bed, but women’s purses too.

Yes, really.


Note to all past, present, and future hosts: Please do not take what I am about to say personally. No offense is intended—at all… What you are about to read is simply a bit of mental musing on yet another cultural difference and my attempts to make sense out it all.

Here’s another one of those little things about life in Chile that I should be used to by now but that still takes me by surprise over and over again. The first time a charming new friend said upon my arrival at her birthday party, “Let me take your coat and purse,” I was stunned but still in the “when in Rome mode,” so I handed over my jacket along with all my cash, credit cards, checkbook, ID, and date book (no cell phone in those days)… basically, every portable thing of value I owned and watched it all disappear into her bedroom.

Purses-400As the house filled up with guests and the ratio of people I knew vs. those I didn’t increasingly widened, and as I realized that not even she knew everyone wandering about her house, the triple double dragon knot in my stomach (or was it a lark’s head hitch? or a Portuguese bowline?) just wouldn’t ease up: My Purse Was Unattended.

The evening ended well, and I recovered my purse with all its contents intact, but I kept wondering what I would have done if something had indeed disappeared. I’ve since heard many stories of the credit card that slips away during a party, that one check that goes missing from the middle of the checkbook (and later turns up cashed for some budget-devastating amount), the wallet that ends up $10 lucas lighter (and the accompanying feeling of doubt—did I really have that money when I got here? Very uncomfortable.

How embarrassing would it be to have to tell someone that something was stolen from me at their house? What is the proper Manual de Carreño (Latin America’s Emily Post) response to that situation? How should the host respond? Or maybe it would be rude to tell the host? But wouldn’t s/he want to know? Or would s/he feel like I was making some kind of accusation? Who is responsible in these situations? I always figured it was my responsibility to take care of my purse and its contents, so if I abandon it on someone’s bed for 6 hours, wouldn’t that make it my own damned fault? Too many uncomfortable considerations.

Please don’t think it’s a case of hanging out with shady characters. Not at all. I certainly trust my hosts, and I’m not so paranoid that I worry in small groups of friends. But parties, especially birthdays, tend to get very large here. People show up with unknown friends in tow. Teenage and college-age kids of the household often make an appearance with a gaggle of friends and friends of friends. It’s not at all uncommon to see 50 or more people troop through a house during the course of a 6-8-hour birthday party. And at every one of those celebrations, the host’s bed will be heavily laden with purses.

What's in the Queen's Handbag

What’s in the Queen’s Handbag, by Phil Dampier & Ashley Walton

I admit that my inner purse GPS has become far more advanced since moving to Santiago—a large city in which pickpockets and purse snatchers are pretty common (see Bye Bye Blackberry). In fact, when I go to visit my family in small-town America, where windows don’t have bars, cars don’t have alarms, gas caps don’t require keys, and purses dangle freely from restaurant chairs, they accuse me of rivaling Queen Elizabeth for purse-related paranoia, but honestly, I’m sure my purse has more valuable contents (are far less security) than the Queen’s handbag does!

Maybe there’s some secret Chilean purse-toting knowledge that gets passed down from mother to daughter; but the fact that I never had a Chilean mother would place me cluelessly dawdling behind the proverbial door when that information got passed along. Maybe all those purses contain no more than lipstick and keys, so their location is a non-issue. Maybe I need to check for a “Purse Content 101” course with a good section on party-going.

It is also true that I will usually want to get something out of my bag over the course of the evening. Although I will probably have no need for cash, check, or plastic, I just might want to get my hands on other practical items like tissues, cough drops, a pen, a date book, a business card, a cell phone, a small camera, etc. at some point during the evening!

So here’s my strategy. I hand over my jacket and politely decline the purse-relieving offer by stating, quite truthfully, that I will need to get something out of it during the night, and then I set it somewhere out of the way but within reach and get on with enjoying the party.

Bye-Bye Blackberry (Ode to the Santiago Metro)

It was bound to happen sooner or later. In my case it was later. After 18 years of life in Santiago, someone finally managed to pick my pocket and make off with something valuable.

The crazy thing is that I was in a hurry and was going to take a taxi… but I was coming from an all-day seminar on Sustainability and was jazzed about being more environmentally responsible. I had made little mental post-it notes to contact the mayor to find out where all the recycling centers are in my neighborhood and insist they add more. I vowed to walk more and print less. I was psyched and cooking up strategies to leave this world a better place for my children’s children’s children; I was flying high on how to do my part for the environment… so of course I couldn’t stoop to a taxi after all that! No… the Metro it would be…

Let me just say that I am, by nature, careful about my things. All zippers zipped, snaps snapped, and straps strapped. In all these years no one has ever gotten anything out of my purse without my express will and knowledge.
Wait. I lie. I DID catch a guy with his hand in my bag a few years ago, but the joke was on him because I had a bad cold and all he got–you guessed it–was a handful of used tissues. I put the bad cold curse on him. The icky kleenex hex. Served him right, and I hope he snuffled for a month.

The thing is that at one point I DID feel something odd, but felt around and reassured myself that the zipper was secure and didn’t give it a thought until I got home and looked for my keys and,  hmm, that’s weird, why is this open? But even then it didn’t register that the Blackberry–did I mention it was new? was gone… yeah, the one that contains ALL my contacts… The one I just bought for work… (it’s not a toy— no, it’s NOT!)

It wasn’t until a couple hours later that I realized I did not have it. I hunted, I scrambled, I literally dumped EVERYTHING out of the bag and yelled choice words, hoping they would conjure up a phone while inventing much nastier curses that were exceedingly more creative than the former simple soggy tissue type. I believe a pox was involved. Perhaps leprosy too. No rotting in hell for this guy–let him suffer in the here and now. Acne, flatulence, and erectile dysfunction in a Viagra-less world. May his son don a tutu and his daughter grow a beard. May his wife run off with another woman, and his mother–well,  she’s probably suffered enough with this jerk already. I suddenly liked the chopping off of thieving hands, along with an eye for an eye and not one, but a whole mouthful of rotting teeth, for a Blackberry. Maggots and molten lava…you get the idea.

I had to cancel the cell service, but since I no longer had the phone, I had to google the company for a land line number and dial, while repeatedly choosing incorrectly from infuriating numeric options (click-dial-repeat-click-dial-repeat) while yelling at the recording to GIVE ME A REAL PERSON! Turns out that that works! Gotta say, though, that the real person who finally picked up managed to calm me down and get coherent responses out of me so that she could block the line and assure me that no, I would not have to pay for any calls to Mars made in the last 2 hours.

So there it is. The price for social responsibility. So my question is: can you measure the carbon footprint of a stolen Blackberry? And am I correct in believing that I have just earned enough carbon credits to offset future taxi service?

Update: Imagine how thrilled I was to discover, when I got my monthly bill, that the ·$%&·%$ thief had manage to run up $150,000 pesos (roughly 300 bucks) in long distance phone calls to Perú, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, and Cuba during the 2 hours that I was unaware that the phone had gone missing. I didn’t even know I HAD long distance service! It turns out the company turns it on automatically and you have to specifically request they turn it off if you don’t want it… so, that said, remember that forewarned is forearmed!


For more on the Santiago Metro, see: “Santiago  Metro: the Daily  Crush

Chile + Fútbol = South Africa World Cup 2010!

Chile is a fútbol (that would be soccer) lovin’ country and the tension has been rising steadily as the national team came closer and closer to falling inside—or out—of the great “In Group” divide that determines who gets to play in the next World Cup. Fortunately for the mental health of the nation, Chile classified (I stand corrected–that’s “qualified in real English” on Saturday, October 10, and it’s now official: Chile 4, Colombia 2—on Colombian turf, mind you—and Chile’s on its way to South Africa in 2010! (First time since 1998, so yes, a very big deal!)

Chee-chee-chee; Lay-lay-lay… VA-MOS CHI-LE!

Colombia 2, Chile 2 and moving forward fast! (©MSnookT 2009)

Colombia 2, Chile 2 and moving forward fast! (©MSnookT 2009)

Let me say this right off the bat (oh wait, that’s a different sport!)… back up… Let me kick this off (not bad, eh?) by saying that I’m pretty much out in left field (darned baseball again!) rather, in the ozone when it comes to sports, but when you’re surrounded by a nation full of fanatics, something has to sink in. It’s in the air, it seems… it’s infectious, contagious, and relatively healthy–so why fight it? And so it was that on Saturday evening, in the midst of a long holiday weekend at the beach and following a long hike in an incredible park full of Jurassic-like palm trees (which I’ll be telling you all about soon enough), my husband’s decidedly Chilean roots gurgled forth and we set out to find someplace with a big screen TV locked in to “the” game. We arrived at Raíces in Concón just in time for the second half… a fútbol first for me, I might add…

Happy hour, yummy pisco sours, crisp French fries, and piping hot cheese empanadas with a nice spicy pebre (salsa) and Goooooool! (¡Chuta! Oops, after that long hike I was more focused on the food)…

Tie score, OK, we’re good… C’mon Chile! ¡Vamos que se puede pues!

Then, just as things were heating up:

Oops! Cord-tripping disconnect in the heat of the game... definitely not cool...

Oops! Cord-tripping disconnect in the heat of the game... glad it wasn't me!

Not to worry, it didn’t take long–problem solved, both on and off screen–And once again: GOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!

Chile pulls ahead: Chile 3, Colombia 2

Chile pulls ahead: Chile 3, Colombia 2

As I said, most sports news soars over my head, flies beneath my radar, goes right in one ear and out the other… you get the picture. I couldn’t tell you who the stars are these days, but I do know that the Technical Director—Marcelo “el Loco” Bielsa, imported from Argentina—has had an awful lot of responsibility (and respect) resting on his shoulders of late.

He’s quite the character they say… very expressive (how Argentine of him), as I could see for myself:

Technical Director Marcelo "El Loco" Bielsa (©MSnookT 2009)

Technical Director Marcelo "El Loco" Bielsa (©MSnookT 2009)

And here we go, this is it… it’s official…

Chile 4, Colombia 2... Chile's on its way to South America!

Chile 4, Colombia 2... Chile's on its way to South Africa!

And just like that it was over–for all but the celebrating. A nation-wide cheer went up in unison as fans across the country took to the streets to celebrate. Cars, trucks, and buses full of flag-waving fans caroused the streets, hanging out of windows and shouting with glee, car horns blasting their typical bip-bip-beep-beep-beeeeep! Over and over for hours.

Santiago’s Plaza Italia filled to the brim with fans who sought like-minded souls to share their pride and bask in the national glory.

O-le, Ole, ole oleeee,

Vamos Chileeeenos,
Esta copa,
¡La vamos a ganaaaaar!

Cachando Chile takes to the air-update 2

Posted @ 1:45 PM

OK- here goes:

Santiago Radio

Cachando Chile on the Air
is going live this afternoon from 6:00 to 8:00 PM!

Listen in at for the pilot episode of an all English program about life in Chile!

Margaret Snook (that would be me, the gringa component of the show) and Felipe Valdivia (representing Chile) will balance great music with chatting about going through the process of wrapping your head around Chilean culture and life.

We’re still working out the final details… have a listen in and let us know what you think and suggest topics for future shows!


Posted @ 1:00 PM

Clue Number 2:

I Love Chile


Posted Oct 8@ 9:00 AM

Pssst! Can you keep a secret?

There’s big news ahead for Cachando Chile today… We’re going to try something new this afternoon…

Stay tuned… literally… I’ll tell you more in a bit!

(Oh the suspense!)

Go ahead… guess if you like!