Ever spun a top? A real one made of wood, wrapped in string, and thrown to make it spin? In Chile it’s called a “trompo” and is popular with men of all ages…and certainly not as easy as it looks!
A spinning "trompo" or top at a typical Chilean fonda
The sense of Chilenidad—Chile’s national identity—the collection of all that makes up a spirit of being Chilean—is composed of many different aspects, one of which is games, and one of the oldest is the trompo, a simple wooden cone-shaped yet rounded toy with a metal tip that is thrown so that it spins upright. Once you get the basic tossing down, you start with tricks, such as picking it up to spin on the palm of your hand or even throwing it so that it lands—spinning—in your hand without ever having touched the ground. Continue reading →
Grande Chile! Chile is now 2 for 2 in the first round of the World Cup!
Diario La Tercera on-line: "Chile beats Switzerland and now one of the World Cup Top 4"
Who knew I liked fútbol? Certainly not me–I had no idea! But there I was this morning on my feet, cheering for Chile, yelling at the referee, complaining about all the theatrics the Swiss were pulling, and jumping for joy when Chile scored the goal that won them their second game in this, the first round of the 2010 World Cup. Continue reading →
Ever thought about the senses you use when you travel? No matter what kind of traveler you are—intellectual, cultural, adrenaline seeker, low-budget backpacker, VIP all the way—it’s your senses that make that experience possible.
Today, June 5, is an important day in Chilean history. What’s that? Not on the official list you say? No pu (as we say in buen chileno), it’s not. There are “official” important days—holidays and such—and then there are days that live long in the hearts of the people. Sure, not everyone can recite the exact date, but there are few who claim no memory of the event.
Let’s be more specific. June 5, 1991. Got it now? Still got nuthin? If you’re in Chile, ask a taxi driver, the person in the kiosko (newsstand), the guy on the street, heck, the guy sitting next to you wherever you are right now… watch them get almost teary-eyed with emotion and pride. Continue reading →
Ozone o Ozone… wherefore art thou Chilean Ozone Layer?! Fun in the summer sun ain’t all it’s cracked up to be… as I “sorely” discover yet once again!
2010 kicked off calmly enough, family-style with the in-laws at our house: dinner, hugs all around at midnight, a bit of the Valparaíso fireworks on TV, and off they went. We usually visit friends afterward, but this year, after all the traveling we’ve done in the past few weeks (more about that to come), we decided to just kick back, stay in, and head to the beach the next morning.
Just let me say that for all that I miss a traditional white Christmas, I have to admit that I really do love a nice southern hemisphere summer-time New Years!
So off we went at midday on a beautiful January 1, tooling down the highway, windows open, breeze blowing, sun shining… and completely oblivious to those mean-spirited UV nasties beating down on my unsuspecting, unprotected, wintry-white arm. Shortly after arriving at the beach, my tingling arm warned me that I was going to regret my hour-long carefree, bare-armed jaunt. Any doubts were cast aside 12 hours later when my arm turned that shade of red that is highly desirable in ripe watermelons—but not so much on body parts. I’m no wimp when it comes to sunburns (too much experience), but this really zapped my zip and made me want to kick my own backside for being so dumb.
I should know better. I DO know better. The sun is not my friend. I learned that the hard way many years ago as a freckle-faced, red-headed, fair-skinned young teen trying to keep up the tanning pace with my Italian-Native American beach buddy. While she effortlessly toasted up an ever-deepening golden tan, I just got frecklier and redder, redder, redder. Even developed some kind of allergy to the sun that turned me into a great believer in long-sleeved shirts and generous applications of the strongest sunscreen available.
Oh, I’ve had my involuntary lapses over the years, most notably in Chile, where the sun is particularly sneaky and entirely unforgiving. Cool Pacific breezes trick you into forgetting the sun is summer-hot and UV-loaded. Midday strolls through springtime vineyards can turn short-haired gringa winewriters into literal rednecks in no time (experience speaking).
I remember a Miami-born-&-bred Cuban-American friend who refused to join the filtro-fest as the rest of us repeatedly slathered on the sunscreen at the beach one February (peak summer), because “I’ve spent my whole life in the sun”—even though the local morenos (dark skinned folks) in the group tried to warn him. And man did he repent and lament for the rest of the weekend!
Blame it on the anemic ozone layer; blame it on the proximity of the sun at this particular latitude; blame it on whatever you like, but do, and I mean DO, take the Chilean sun seriously.
So now that school’s out, surf’s up, sun’s out… Stock up on sun screen and:
Happy Summer Chile!
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!)
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... 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
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:
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,
¡La vamos a ganaaaaar!
What do Colo Colo, animitas, confetti, and Ninja turtles have in common? They all form part of my earliest impressions of Chile.
It’s been 18 years already. Sí po, as we say here in Chile. I first set foot on Chilean terra firma on June 6, 1991, 18 years ago today. I didn’t know a soul or have a clue about what I was getting into, but I had enrolled in a 6-week intensive language program at the Instituto Chileno Norteamericano, had a hotel address in my pocket, and a couple years of high school Spanish under my belt. And ganas—a great desire—to know this new country. Continue reading →
Llegó Marzo, literally, March has arrived… or rather, it is upon us. Llegó Marzo. Two little words imbued with so much cultural significance.
It’s March. And in Chile, March is a rough month. Here in the southern hemisphere it means that summer is over and it’s time to get back to a real world that’s been waiting with a vengeance. Playtime’s over and we must buckle down, tote that barge and lift that bale once again.
Most real work seems to get done in the winter months, between April and August. Things start winding down in September with the arrival of spring and the extended Independence Day holidays. October starts the slippery slide toward the summer homestretch. November: school is wrapping up and the wedding season is on. December means graduations, shopping, holiday parties, and Christmas. January kicks off literally with a bang (fireworks), and let the summer begin. Vacations. Beach time. Travel time. Can’t get much done at work because people are already on mental vacation. February: the world comes to a screeching halt as the city bails and takes its urban hustle-bustle on the road. Mostly to the beach.
And then comes March. Reality kicks in… hard… Back to work, back to school, back to routine. Back to traffic jams, crowded subways and buses and long lines for colectivos.
And back to the bills-in-waiting after months of celebrations. Back to the bank for a loan. The ghost of Christmas (and summer) past stands shoulder to shoulder with the specter of costs to come. And as if back to school expenses weren’t brutal enough (registration, tuition, uniforms, books, schools supplies, etc.), someone got the bright idea that every car registration in the country must be renewed–you guessed it–in March (more lines, more bills). And taxes aren’t far behind.
March. It’s a government plot, I tell ya… Hear that whip cracking? My theory is that it’s the government’s way of forcing us all back to work after such a long hiatus… Making sure that everyone is up to their necks in debt from the get-go to ensure another year of production!