Blogging and Personal Earthquakes

Cachando Chile readers have noticed an unusually long quiet spell of late, and some have written to ask me why. To date, my answer has been the same: cosas personales / It’s personal. For now, let’s just say that my family and I have been hit by a series of our own personal terremotos in the past month or so that I am not ready to talk about publicly.

I’ve thought about it. I confess that writing has always been very cathartic for me. As a teenager I spent hours pouring my heart out in ridiculously long letters addressed to Ann Landers. But I never sent a single one. The healing process was in the act of writing. And that has me thinking about why I blog.

Blogs, by nature, are personal, and there are many reasons to have one. For some, it’s a way to lend a personal touch to their businesses. For others it’s a way to keep their friends and family informed of what they’re up to. Some blogs are personal diaries left open, with the most intimate details exposed. There are an infinity of blogs that aim to bring people with similar interests together (expat blogs, travel blogs, food & wine blogs, mommy blogs, dog-lover blogs, victim blogs, you-name-it-it’s-out-there blogs).

So where does Cachando Chile fit in? The project began, almost two years ago, as a complement to a book I was (and still am) working on, and I never dreamed it would come to be as important to me as it has. It has allowed me to bring many of my favorite things together in one place: Chile, my beloved adopted country; Culture, a kind of popular anthropology sort of way to draw upon the career I gave up to live here;  Language, exploring the uses and abuses and ins and outs of life in my non-mother-tongue; Photography, portraying in images glimpses of the world I am immersed in; Writing, using words to order my own thoughts and, when successful, evoke interest and response in others, Teaching, because writing is a way of sharing information, which is what teaching is all about; and Community, yes, Cachando Chile has its community of people interested enough to read, think about, comment on, and engage in conversation about the topics that appear here.

The full name, “Cachando Chile: Reflections on Chilean Culture,” is still appropriate (See “About” for more on this). “Reflections” is a key word. I am reflexive by nature (I am an anthropologist after all), and while Cachando Chile is a personal blog, it’s not a blog about me. My goal is to show others a bit of Chile through my eyes in a way that provides insight into life here in Chile that is hopefully interesting and useful to other expats (whether here in Chile or elsewhere), travelers, people who just want to know a bit more about life somewhere else on this planet, and to Chileans both here and abroad who are curious to know what a gringa thinks about their country and culture.

I don’t always get it right, or only partially so. Sometimes I don’t see things the same way as someone else, and other times I nail it so smack on the head that it snaps a few new pieces of someone else’s personal puzzle into place. Sometimes I push buttons that motivate people to leave comments. Many posts have generated dozens of comments, and the all-time kicker has more than 150. Some real exchanging of ideas grew out of that discussion. I love that.

I never run out of things to write about for Cachando Chile. That would be like saying I’ve run out of things to think about. Not likely to happen any time soon. And usually, when there’s a lag in posts, it’s because I’ve been inundated with work (the kind that pays the bills), but sometimes, like now, it’s because I’m being inwardly reflexive, thinking about the very personal aspects of life that touch us all at some point or another—the loss of loved ones and aging parents—issues that are still too raw, too unprocessed, to expose here. I do know though, that with time—and distance—these topics will work their way into posts that reflect upon aspects of culture and life as an expat without feeling like I’ve handed over the keys to my diary.

2010 has been a year full of earthquakes and aftershocks, and there is much to be learned here.

33 responses to “Blogging and Personal Earthquakes

  1. Wow, you are back and I was personally worried. As with so many of your readers, you and I have never met, and yet I do feel very much like I know you, perhaps not as intimately as some of your closest friends, but I do feel I know what type of person you are.
    I am positive you will be able to overcome whatever challenges you are now facing. Chin up and know that you have made a lot of friends here in the blogosphere.

  2. I hope, whatever your personal terromoto , that life will soon become clearer and smoother. I agree that, although blogging can be cathartic, there are things that sometimes are too personal to put into words that are so public.

    I’ll be sending good thoughts your way.

  3. Thanks John- Yes, I’m back–or rather, I never left, just have had other things on my mind. I’ve got lots of good material waiting to be posted, so Cachando Chile should be back in full swing before long! Including the post about kites that we’ve worked on together!
    Thanks for your concern

  4. Laura- I’m not sure if you’re still living in Chile these days (are you?) but as we all know, life has its ups and downs, and living as an expat makes daily life just that much more complicated. Relationships, customs, distances, etc. take on special nuances and while trying to maneuver one’s way through life in a foreign country. And although it is both challenging and incredibly rewarding, there are times that are more challenging than one would like.
    Thank you for your good thoughts…
    And there’s more of the good ole Cachando Chile on the way, I promise!

  5. Sorry to hear about your problems and I hope they are resolved soon for you. The blog is always worth reading and I did miss it.
    I have put a link to my blog, it is a bit historic now but may be of passing interest when you have time.
    Best wishes

  6. Hi Jack- Thanks. We’re okay and going through the steps of putting things back in order, but hopefully what comes through is that the main reason for writing this piece is to emphasize that while Cachando Chile is personal in that it is my take on things, it is not a blog about me, which means that sometimes I just have to take a bit of time off from looking outward and dedicate a bit more to looking inward…
    I’m glad you enjoy the blog, and I always enjoy your comments.
    And thanks for the link to your blog–nice shots of Rapa Nui!

  7. I love the exchange of ideas through comments too. I blog for all sorts of reasons, and I usually feel happy just having written a post, whether or not it gets comments. But those posts that generate discussion, open my eyes, make me think about things in a new way – those are really special to me. I’ve always loved that kind of conversation in real life, and I enjoy it just as much over the internet.

    Hope your personal terremotos haven’t left too much damage and that the aftershocks are few.

  8. Hi Emily- Sounds like we’re on the same track. It always amazes me how much Internet has broadened our circles of interaction with people that we may never have the opportunity to meet face to face, people with backgrounds and ideas that may be very different from our own and whose comments contribute to our own understanding of the world…
    And thanks. Terremotos, personal and otherwise, provide us with an opportunity to grow and rebuild something even stronger.

  9. Espero que te encuentres mejor ahora, y que lo peor ya haya pasado. Muchas veces, estos pequeños o grandes terremotos personales nos ayudan a darnos cuenta que algunas cosas que pensábamos estaban bien, no lo estaban tanto, y que esas pequeñas grietas que ignoramos en un principio puede crecer hasta convertirse en precipicios.
    Sin embargo, esos sucesos como tú dices, nos otorgan la oportunidad de entender mejor las cosas, crecer y reconstruir. Y además, algo que resulta muy valioso en el largo plazo, entendimiento, darse cuenta de cosas que tal vez dejamos pasar, y así en el futuro, tener una mejor perspectiva sobre las decisiones que tomamos.
    Supongo así debe ser el proceso de vivir y crecer, caer y levantarnos de nuevo. Aunque muchos nunca te llegaremos a conocer en persona, estoy seguro que todos tus lectores valoramos mucho lo que haces en tu blog, y sinceramente espero que este episodio, sea lo que haya sido, con el tiempo pase y sea sólo un recuerdo, que te ayude a ser más fuerte.

  10. Oops! sorry for the long comment.

  11. Marmo- muchas gracias por tus palabras (y nada de largo!) Es cierto. Cada uno de nosotros nos enfrentamos con desafíos personales en diferentes momentos de la vida que nos cuesta acceptar y entender pero que al final, no tenemos otro sino incorporarlos y aprender crecer.
    No ha sido mi intención ser misteriosa–de hecho–está dicho en el texto, aunque no tan precisamente. Pero hemos perdidos dos personas muy cercanas y muy importantes en diferentes formas en el transcurso de un mes, una al cáncer y la otra al enfisema, mientras a la vez ver una tercera viajar por el resbaloso camino de Alzheimers. Da mucho para reflexionar.

  12. To all. I’m sorry if I’ve been excessively mysterious. That was not my intention. In fact, I did mention what was going on, though not in very specific terms, but just to clear the mystery, but without going into details, in the course of a month we have lost two very dear people, one to cancer and the other to emphysema, while watching a third amble down that slippery road called Alzheimer’s. And that is plenty to deal with for now.

  13. For some moments in life there are no words.
    ~David Seltzer, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory


  14. I love your blog because as an expat living here, it offers me views from someone who knows Chile better than I do… but at the same time, it comes from someone who, like me, calls this country their adopted home. It’s very valuable to me when you write, especially when you write about life and culture here.
    I’m sorry to hear about what’s gone on in your personal life. I hope you and your family can find comfort in memories and any other small things that help one get from moment “A” to moment “B” – such is writing in your case.

  15. @Woodward- Ain’t that the truth! Thanks
    @Andrea- Thank you too. Life hands us all challenges, often in moments when least expected, and we get through them. I think as expats we have additional aspects to deal with, and at some point I will find the words to write about that.

  16. Hugs to you and your family. I think I might have 100 unpublished blog posts. I write them and then decide they’re not right for publishing, but nonetheless it makes me feel better. Kind of like your letters to Ann Landers! Fuerza y ánimo!

  17. Thanks Abby. I guess we’re in the era of Ann Landers 2.0!!

  18. I am sorry to hear about your losses. Writing is cathartic for me too, I think that is a big part of why I blog–it helps me process and fell connected, somehow. Even though your blog is not about you per se, it is about your experience of Chile and being an expat and all the struggles and joys that that entails. I am sure if the time is ever right, you will weave in the aspects you want to share that are relevant to the vision of your blog.
    Sending you strength and buenas vibras…

  19. Hi Annje-
    Thanks… and yes, you are exactly right. I am sure that these experiences WILL eventually be woven into something less personal and more universal that will hopefully provide some insights that will be of use to others in similar situations.
    Part of the reason for not exposing very personal things is that they are most often inter-personal, meaning they deeply affect those around us too, and it is soo important to respect the feelings of others, especially at the most sensitive moments in our lives.
    Feeling those buenas vibras already–thanks!

  20. Fuerza! I hope that soon you are feeling not even the replicas of your own personal terremotos.

  21. Thanks Kyle. One of the things I’m learning is that difficult times have surprising repercussions that not only make us stronger, but that bring us closer to others in many unsuspected ways.

  22. You know I’m thinking of you, respect your silence, and also the line you draw about what’s publishable for everyone and what you write (or think about) just for you. Thanks for sharing with us what you do, and looking forward to Cachando Chile in all of its forms.

  23. Thanks Eileen–you’re a good friend and I hope you know how much I appreciate that!

  24. Es de esperar que lo malo pase , y esas perdidas que mencionas , a lo largo de los años esten contigo.Al final , la vida siempre nos da un remezón.Pero también nos da la posibilidad de recuperarnos y seguir con más fuerza en nuestro planes personales y profesionales. Las personas dejan de estar con uno cuando uno las olvida, mientras las recordemos y las mantengamos en nuestros corazones siempre estarán con nosotros.Fuerza y ánimo y siguenos deleitando con tu blog que tanta alegría nos entrega y nos hace ver cosas que pasamos poralto , sobre todo los chilenos, que estés muy bien y que tu camino siempre esté iluminado.

  25. Nano-Muchísimas gracias por tus palabras tan alentadoras y acertadas. Estoy de acuerdo. Estos remezones (mis terremotos) son parte de la vida. Nos ponen en nuestro lugar. Nos hace repensar la vida (y la muerte, seguro) y nos hace recordar lo que es realmente importante. Nos obliga buscar e identificar nuestro camino. Y, después de todo, quedamos más fuertes. En Chile hay mucha, pero mucha, evidencia de eso (mira los más afectados por el terremoto de febrero; mira los 33 bajo tierra y todos sus queridos que los esperan en el superficie).
    Guste o no, es parte de la vida. Solo hubiera preferido unos cuantos menos en el mismo año. Ya es mucho.
    Tengo que admitir que he sentido una muy buena cuota de alegría también. Y no te preocupes. Sigo cachando Chile y ¡Cachando Chile sigue! En este momento estoy en los ultísimos pasos de terminar un proyecto largo y, al terminar, creo que celebraré con unos buenos y entretenidos posts que ya tengo planificados en la cabeza.
    ¡Ya viene! y, otra vez, muchas gracias por tus palabras!

  26. I just discovered this blog, what a delight ! un millon de gracias, extrano Chile y su comida, espero visitar para la proxima navidad.

  27. Hola Lulu-
    Glad you like it! I am finishing up a big project now, which leaves no time for blogging, but once that’s done I’ve got a ton of new posts and pictures, so keep checking back!
    And hope you make it to Chile for Christmas!

  28. I once heard author Wayne Dyer comment on how some of us hold onto strange beliefs about being born and dying. Dyer was saying that when we learn about the birth of a baby, most of us are invariably happy and that none of us question whether this was the wrong time for that creature to be born.

    He goes on to say … if we celebrate the birth of a baby and do not question whether it happened at the wrong or the right time regardless of circumstances, then why are we so sad and disillusioned when someone dear to us passes away. Both the birth and the dying happened when they were supposed to happen.

    Personally I believe that while our bodies may no longer be around after we die, our spirits can not die and they remain amongst us.
    Margaret, I hope that some of these thoughts help you cope and remove some of the pain you have had to endure recently. May God bless you and your family.

  29. Hi John- Thanks for thinking of me. And while yes, I do believe in the cycle of life, the hole in this theory is that when a baby is born, we are welcoming someone gladly into our lives. When someone dies, we are forced to say goodbye, and rarely is anyone ready or willing for that moment to come.
    We are doing fine, as well as can be expected, and I am now back at work, madly trying to finish up (editing/translating) a book that is beyond already its deadline. The publisher has been more than understanding about everything that has happened in the past 6 weeks, but if it doesn’t get to the printers’ NOW we will have some serious problems…Soooo- my lack of blog time now is due to working 18-hour days. I hope to breath a big sigh of relief and start spewing blog posts like crazy within the next few days!

  30. A year ago this week our Maggie passed. She was my wife’s mom, we moved her in with us in 1996 because her husband had passed and Maggie had bad knees and couldn’t get around well. We dealt with Alzheimer’s taking her from us a little bit at a time, for 13 years. When she fell and broke her hip last July we knew the end was near and we could no longer care for her daily needs inside our home. My wife and I were both holding her hands when she left last October. Maggie was 88 years old.

    I honestly can’t say we were “sad and disillusioned” or that we weren’t “ready or willing for that moment to come.” The A.D. had taken most of Maggie away from us years ago. Our job was to make her comfortable and happy for as long as possible. Caring for her in-home for over a decade, she knew she was loved and there was absolutely nothing left unsaid, no regrets that we didn’t do everything we could for her, none of that.

    We had no expectation when moving her in with us that it would be almost a decade and a half, and we had no idea of what dealing with Alzheimer’s in the household would be like. It was a struggle; it demanded sacrifice from us; it was a set of circumstances that our peers, who mostly had children and daycare worries, were unable to sympathize with; in the end, it left us stronger and more capable as a couple for having dealt with it together.

    I’m not overly religious, but I will say a prayer for you and offer my understanding.

    PS I lurk on many LatAm ExPat blogs merely because we are considering a move (possibly to Chile) in our retirement; I’ve found your cultural insights very valuable and I hope you keep it up!

  31. Hi Bill- Thanks so much for your comments. It helps. It’s not easy watching someone you love slip away, my mom has Alzheimer’s–not too bad yet, but she’s on the road. My mother-in-law just passed away after struggling for 3-4 years with emphysema that worsened after a heart attack a few years ago. We knew the time would come, but it still took us by surprise. Mentally she was sharp as a tack til the end and in fact, she was making plans for her 86th birthday, but didn’t quite make it. These are things that we all must deal with at some point or another. Not easy, but they are what they are–part of life. We are doing fine and defining our new family dynamics.
    I’m glad you enjoy the blog and hope it helps you in deciding your own new directions. Whether you come to Chile or not, I think many of the expat-related issues can be applied to anyone who is living outside their own culture.

  32. Hi Peg,
    I read this when it was first posted, then checked to make sure nothing happened that I should be aware of (as our familes are one on some levels). Although we’ve had our own Murphy “earthquakes” here at home, I believe all is well in our family together. I can wish you peace in your heart as I’ve prayed for with my children for years.

  33. Hi Barb, yes, as far as I know our joint families are doing fine (we don’t need anymore “Murphquakes” for a while!). Things are settling down here too–thankfully and finally.
    Thanks for thinking of us, and big hugs to you and the rest of the family!

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