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Calliope's Odyssey "If you smile at me, I will understand, 'cause that is something everybody, everywhere does in the same language." -CSNY

A Briefing from La Presidenta de la SNP.

CHILE | Monday, 7 May 2007 | Views [1213]

It's true. I have been elected as the president of a secret society within Casa Holanda: La Sociedad No Panameña (Non-Panamanian Society). As you may or may not remember from my last update, I am living in a house with 75 people, 50 of whom are Panamanian. So the non-Panamanian members of the house have decided to take action and form the SNP. This was my idea, so naturally I am La Presidenta. We have a secret handshake and everything.

Don't worry, though. We members of the SNP tend to exaggerate about our strife. In general things are going very well both in my residence and in Chile as a whole. I compare every little thing to Ecuador, and although some of my friends think that it's unhealthy that I do this, I remind myself that I'm in a comparative year program and this is what I'm supposed to be doing. At this point in the semester, I still feel more of a connection with Ecuador. I think that students who study abroad tend to be parcial to the first place they go to, but who knows? Maybe Chile will pull ahead in the end...

I thought that to start this novel of an update I would walk you guys through the events of a typical day in the Casa Holanda. Here we go...

I wake up at much earlier than ideal hour (usually 9ish) to the Panamanians BLASTING reggaeton on their sound systems. For those of you who aren't familiar with popular Latin American music, reggaeton is a mix of reggae, techno, hip hop, and traditional latin dance music. Maybe you've heard of Daddy Yankee? For those of you who do know what reggaeton is, you probably think that I'm over-exaggerating because reggaeton can be ok in small doses. However, there is one reggaeton "artist" that is quite popular with the Panamanians whose voice is similar to a prepubescent middle schooler, a.k.a. not exactly the first thing I want to hear in the morning. Reggaeton is losing points with me by the day...

I go downstairs to the kitchen very excited to eat my frambuesas (raspberries) for breakfast, only to open the fridge and find that my carton of raspberries, which was almost full last time I saw it, is now almost empty. I search for a possible culprit but I am distracted by Ines, the housekeeper/housemom, who says something to me in extremely fast, heavily accented, Chilean Spanish. To give you an idea about how hard this woman's Spanish is to understand, many of the native Spanish speakers in the house don't even understand her half the time. I don't answer her question quickly enough as I haven't had my caffeine yet, and she proceeds to tell me that I haven't learned anything about Chilean Spanish this semester. Then she asks me for my last two raspberries and I've found my lead suspect. She asks if we have raspberries in the US and when I tell her that we do, she doesn't believe me at first and asks if we buy them frozen. I tell her that in Northern Wisconsin we can pick buckets of fresh, wild raspberries in the summer and that my mom makes an amazing homemade raspberry pie. She asks me if we have land in the US, which confuses me at first until I realize that she is asking if we have green spaces. She imagines that the entire surface area of the US, north to south and east to west, is covered in concrete.

I disappear until dinner, and the other gringas and I decide to throw something together for a meal. Usually we make spaghetti since it's easy. The only spaghetti sauce we can find in Santiago tastes like Chef Boyardee with a faint taste of ketchup, so we try to make it tolerable with copious amounts of whatever spices we can get our hands on. We snack while we cook, usually on avocado. While at home, avocados are almost like a delicacy, here they're part of every meal. I like to call them the "white rice of Chile". I've learned to make a mean guacamole. When we finally sit down to eat, we realize that our forks have gone missing. Undoubtedly someone else who is lacking in the fork department has snatched ours and they're hiding out in someone else's dish locker. So the three of us take turns using two forks until Lil' Liz agrees to eat spaghetti with a spoon.

After dinner we open a bottle of Chilean wine that we picked up at the grocery store for $4. We have the worst wine bottle opener in the world, so usually we have to hunt down a Panamanian boy to help us. That's one good thing about them; they're so chivalrous that they'll never refuse to help a gringa in need with a particularly stuck cork. We're technically not allowed to drink alcohol in the house, but if we give Ines a glass she'll look the other way. The other members of the SNP show up in the kitchen. They are Chilean, Colombian, Costa Rican, Mexican, English, and German. They talk about things that would considered politically incorrect in the US. I listen and think nothing of it as I watch the Panamanians concoct some sort of hot dog casserole in a wok.

So that's my life here. After living in my own apartment, it's tough getting used to the constant ruckus of dorm life again. I have a love-hate relationship with Casa Holanda, but all in all I'm glad that I live here. I've gotten to know people who I never would have met otherwise. The Panamanians are even buena gente (good people) most of the time; they're just a tough crowd to break into.

Tags: chile, people

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