Wry Exchange

Culture Shock in my Home
06-21-09, 12:31 am
Filed under: Culture, Depression, Home, hosting | Tags: , , ,

 I am home.  I love home.  I missed Husband and the doggies.   Husband missed me, GoodDobie looks great, but BadLab is a porker.  I can’t feel his ribs, and he has a little pot belly.  No more rice and hamburger for him.  My baby Dell is here, with new innards.  I’ve been adjusting and installing today.

The other big news?  Chef and Mrs. Chef moved in with us.  They arrived a few days after I left.  Mrs. Chef had never been out of Chile before.  Chef was last here in August, and they married in April.  They’re looking for engineering jobs here.  They have lots of free time.  I thought it would be easier for Mrs. Chef to settle in without me around.  I want her to be comfortable here.  She’s adjusting well, and the dogs love her.

I returned home at 2:30am today.   (GoodDobie jumped all the way up to kiss me.  He hardly ever stood up even when he was healthy and strong.)  I walked in, and the changes were staggering.     The kitchen, and both living rooms.  Our house is over 100 years old, and we have 2 living rooms.  I assume one was once the parlor.   The upstairs bathroom and third bedroom were rearranged, too.   Anyone who knows me in real life knows I am oblivious to a lot.  I don’t notice things.   For me to be exhausted and notice all the changes was a surprise.  I still haven’t been to the basement.  Can’t take the shock.

Husband requested they not ‘clean’ his office, toolbench, our bedroom, and the third bedroom.  I use the third bedroom to keep my clothing and ironing board.   They haven’t touched the first three areas, but ‘my’ room is all rearranged.   I had clothes in different piles on the headboard/bookcase to sell on eBay, donate, or be mended.  They are all ironed, damp, and folded nicely on the bureau.  The shelves were cleared off except for junk, my scarves moved, the ironing board moved, and everything rearranged.  Apparently, she likes to iron.  She irons everything, including washcloths.

The bathroom door was closed, shower curtain closed, handwash in the bathtub, 3 scatter rugs on the floor, tp hung backwards, and blinds slanted differently.   I know it sounds petty, but we’ve lived in this house for 30 years, and Husband grew up in this house.  It’s all different.   I emptied out my travel cosmetic and bathroom bags onto the small table in the bathroom.  She lined everything up in neat rows. 

We’ll skip the kitchen and backyard, but my bookshelves.   My bookshelves.   Husband built a wall of bookshelves in our front room.  I have them arranged just so, and they’re accented with photos and tchochkes picked up from our travels.   I regularly purge books by moving them to the attic or donating.  I’m anal enough about the books that they’re arranged down to Chile-travelogues, Chile-language, and Chile-history.  I have Spanish dictionaries on one shelf, and all other languages on another.  Half of the shelves are nonfiction reference and travel, and the other half is fiction and art books.   The books are now arranged by size.    “Diving in the Caribbean” is now next to a Diane Arbus photography book.    I don’t see my little piece of the Berlin Wall anywhere.   “Lamb” by Christopher Moore is next to “The Book of Nothing.”  The photos, boxes, and decorations are all rearranged. 

Most women would probably feel violated by someone going through their clothes or makeup, but the books are what killed me.    I want to move it all back into place, but it would hurt her feelings.  Thankfully I have an appointment with the wacko doctor on Monday.


More Living Differences Between Chile & USA
05-07-09, 10:45 pm
Filed under: Culture, Home

 I wrote this while I was in Chile last week.   It goes well with my earlier ‘living differences’ posts.

More random differences:
Cutting sandwiches with knife and fork; then eating with a fork. 
Peeling tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, and de-stringing celery.  (Peeling tomatoes just kills me.  I love tomato peels.)
Using good china daily.  Using chargers under dinner plates.  No paper plates,  ever.
Place mats under everything.  Place mats removed and put away after each meal.
Putting chips in a china bowl, and dip in another bowl for 2 people casually snacking in a kitchen. 
Glass glasses, not plastic glasses unless for a small child.
Beef tastes different to me.  It’s tough, chewy, and tastes strong.  The cuts are completely different, to me it looks like random chunks are hacked off.  It seems a lot closer to nature than to a supermarket.
Filling glasses between 1/3 to 1/2 full.   no free refills.  
order water, and you will be asked ‘con gas’, ‘light gas,’ or ‘sin gas.’   Sin gas is regular water, bottled water
No pepper on the table, just salt, at home and in most restaurants.  salty salt.
Starbucks are easily found, as are local cafes and coffee shops.   My Starbucks name is really funny and creative. I should’ve just said ‘Gringa.’
Good thing I slurped my Te Verde Frappaccinno quickly.  We had a secondary baggage check on the jet-way.  All liquids were confiscated.  I had a little left, but I was dehydrated and they took my 2 bottles of water I bought after the security checkpoint.  I couldn’t read much of the sign, but it started ‘Effective immediately no liquids may be brought on-board.’
Real coffee can now be easily purchased in Chile, but Nescafe is still the typical Chilean choice.
All cakes are called ‘torta’ not just tortes.
Chile has 6 or 7 different types of avocado.  They each taste different.  All I ever see are the Haas ones, and the smooth, shiny ones.  We’ll have an avocado taste test sometime.
Salt over everything.  lots of it.  
Milk and cream are sold in aseptic, shelf stable packaging.
All over Chile, in new and old homes and departementos, all TP went into the  T.  Annually, returning Outbounds tell me they flushed tp everywhere all year.  Either they clogged pipes all year, or held it. 🙂
Bathtubs are smaller, and higher off the floor.  After showering, I always am afraid of skidding with my first foot on the tile and doing a face plant.  Most tubs have adhesive appliques on the bottom so people don’t slide while showering.   Oh, no washcloths.  I looked at department, grocery, and home stores, no washcloths.  I found buffing gloves, net scrub puffs, and best of all, a nylon scrubby.  The same ones I use to wash dishes at home.  One side is a sponge, the other side has the scratchier, pot-scrubber material.  I had to buy it.  It was only about a quarter. It made me giggle.
Elite brand purse pack facial tissues are scented.  Cool scents, not like the menthol ones here.  I bought Cucumber Melon, Coconut Lime, Lavender, and ?   Other scents included Grape, Vanilla, Watermelon, Apple,  and
Aloe Vera.  
Chocolate is a popular choice for shampoo, conditioner, soaps, and bath gel.  Each brand smells a bit different.
Chile still has pharmacies separated out from other stores.  All drugs are kept behind the counter,  including Advil.  You can’t buy OTC pills on supermarket shelves.  You must tell the pharmacy clerk what you want, or what symptoms you have, and they go get it.  I wanted sore throat drops.  I was given some with honey. 
They soothed my throat, but didn’t/t help the cough.  The first 3 ingredients were sugar, sugar, honey.  I saw no ‘medical’ ingredients.  I asked about Hall’s brand, and was told it’s just candy.  Um, yeah, but so’s the honey stuff.  Hall’s are available at candy counters and grocery stores in a myriad of flavors.  I prefer creamy strawberry, creamy berry, and morell.
I didn’t see any curling irons, but lots of flat irons.
Schoolgirls no longer wear Doc Martens with their uniforms. Black Mary Janes with a crepe sole seem to be popular.  They’re worn with tights and matching knee socks. 

Whirling Wry, BadLab, & GoodDobie
05-06-09, 12:46 am
Filed under: Culture, Home

I arrived home Friday, and was happy to hug Husband and the dogs.  I flew from Santiago to Miami, Chicago, then final airport.  Many travellers wore masks.  I think they looked ridiculous.  I watched the man in front of me lift his mask to eat and drink. 

I got home, hugged the dogs, and let them sniff through my bags.  It makes them happy.  BadLab is from Chile.  Chef’s family sent him up to us as a puppy.  BadLab is our first-and only-Labrador.   We were used to elegant, dignified, smart Dobermans who amuse themselves.  Labbys require a lot of attention, and are like rotten little kids.  Chef said they sent him up so I could learn patience.  We love him, and he has settled down.  Anyway, Chef’s family still has MomLab, DadLab, and TwinLab.  He sniffs luggage and boxes here, they sniff down there.

GoodDobie looked good, on Saturday he looked sick.  Saturday we had a dear friend’s wedding, and my parents 50th anniversary party.  Sunday was parent orientation for the exchange students.  I got him into the vet’s today.   The blood tests revealed-Diabetes.  Hurray!  No pancreatic tumors.  He’s down to 73 pounds.  That’s about 20 pounds in a month.   He had a seizure in the parking lot, but was up bopping around in less than 10 minutes.  The vet called tonight to check on him.  He said GoodDobie seized because of so much stress, and sugar over 700.  It was scary.

I brought back a good Chilean cold, and shared my US cold with everyone.  Everytime I coughed or blew my nose on the plane or airports, I received dirty looks.   21 hours of fun.   Husband said I should’ve made piggy noises.  Hey, I knew the pilot on my flight from Santiago to Miami.  He was the pilot I had Thanksgiving dinner with in Bolivia 18 months ago.   I was too shy to ask for an upgrade.  I was seated in the middle seat of the middle row.

I am in Chile
04-22-09, 11:43 am
Filed under: Culture, Home

  The last 10 days have been crazy.  You know you’re tired when you sleep on a plane.   (More about home in another post, except to say GoodDobie is doing much better.)

I arrived in Santiago yesterday.  Husband can’t get away from work and other obligations.  I’m representing both of us.  I really don’t remember too much from the morning.   I have a cold and am just physically, mentally, and emotionally whipped.  I had a damn voice in my head repeating everything I thought.  I hate when that happens.

Baggage claim-Three gorgeous Labs were drug sniffing.  Two of them stayed and slowly sniffed my entire luggage cart.  Their tails were wagging as they happily snorffled.  Their handlers asked if I brought food with me;  I said ‘no’ and showed them BadLab’s photo on my phone.  They smiled and pulled the dogs away. 

P-I am staying with P’s family for a few days until I go a bit South for Chef’s weddings.      I love P’s family.   His nephew is 10, I first met him when he was a shy 2 year old while P was on exchange.    P and I have an easy relationship.  It always feels just like we saw each other yesterday.    Husband and I love him dearly.

Chef-His civil ceremony is Thursday, and the religious ceremony and reception are Saturday.  When you have 2 ceremonies, which one do you choose as your anniversary date?   Chef has a bad case of  ‘Groom Brain.’   He lost his parking ticket for the airport, and had a huge penalty.  He misplaced his wallet, he left his keys in the car in downtown Santiago, etc.   He’s trying to do too much.

Jumbo-I love Jumbo grocery stores.  My newest thrill? Scented tissues.  P had lavender, and was surprised we don’t have scented Kleenex at home.   I bought lime & coconut, lavender, and cucumber melon.  I left vanilla, apple, mint, and herbal for other customers.

More later.

April Weddings
04-06-09, 1:16 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: , ,

  Two of my boys are getting married this month.  The circumstances are night and day.

Chef is finished with his education.  He is a professional civil engineer, specializing in water and wastewater.  His fiancee is also an engineer.   They have good jobs, and can support themselves.  They are in their late 20’s.    They only got engaged the end of last year, and the wedding is in a few weeks.  They plan on moving to the US in June.   They have enough money to go 6 months without work.  Chef thinks if they don’t try now, they never will.  It’s been his dream to come back and live here.  They’ll stay with us.    He told me he ‘pooped’ the question officially  last month.  I love Spanglish.

The other one is way too young, and it’s a shotgun wedding.  He is in his second year of college, and doesn’t have a job.  He’s from a deeply machismo society.  His wedding is a day before Chef’s.   It will be a quiet, quicky wedding with no church, reception, or guests.   The condom malfunctioned, and the girl’s parents are pressuring him into a wedding before the she starts to show.  He doesn’t love her, but says he’ll learn.  My heart is breaking for him.

Psycho Hostmoms
04-06-09, 12:49 am
Filed under: Culture, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: ,

 Lent must be tough this year, or the worldwide recession, or maybe because they can’t find the right color of peeps.   We had a cluster of Psycho Hostmoms™ this week.

One down in Bolivia.  FES has spent all year with HM, and she flipped on him to PHM in the car.   They were driving back from Argentina, and had some problems crossing the border on the Argentine side.  HM mentioned how racist the Argentines are, and it’s just terrible.   FES said well, that Cambas hate Collas, and isn’t that the same?   (Remember, Cambas are the people from Santa Cruz, generally lighter skinned, and with money and education.  Collas are the Indians from La Paz, thought to be poor and not too bright.)   She went into full Psycho, screeching that it was NOT the same,  Bolivians are NOT racist, what is wrong with him? and then she quit talking to him for a few days.  She wants him out of her house.  The kid is actually afraid of her, of what she might do to him.   He is level-headed, with common sense, so I want him moved like yesterday.

Same day, another PHM.   This one made her own problems.   She’s never hosted before, but knew everything.   She started breaking rules immediately.  We had 2 mandatory training sessions for the kids, she didn’t bring, something else was more important-school dance.    She spoiled the kid rotten, making the other FESs jealous.  No, not all host families take the kids to Disney for Christmas, paying for everything, buying all her clothing and shoes, never saying no, giving her everything, while her child had to follow the rules.     Well, the girl had a problem, and PHM screamed to get the kid out of her house.  She was really pissed at me when I said she could NOT put the girl on a plane.  That she is not the legal guardian and doesn’t have the right to ship her home.  The girl did something stupid, but not termination worthy.  She bought a hookah, charcoal, and tobacco while visiting relatives.   Mom called the police to come inspect it because she thought it was drugs.  Didn’t ask the kid, didn’t ask her husband, just the police.   Didn’t just take it away from her,  didn’t pitch the tobacco, called the police because it looked suspicious.  I found another family, and the girl should be able to live out her time here in peace, if not luxury anymore.

The Bus Trip
04-01-09, 1:42 am
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students

  The New York bus trip went really well.  We lucked out with the weather. It rained in the morning before we left the bus, and resumed once we got back on late at night.   No runaways, no meltdowns, no ERs,  and no police involvement.

I didn’t realize I should’ve been the fashion police bus inspector.   It was a damp, chilly, grey day.   Girls got off the bus in flipflops, wispy short-sleeved tops, and no sweater.  Boys wore shorts,  or just t-shirts.   One girl wore shorts with host.  When I saw them at 11:00pm, they had new jackets, hoodies, and Converses.  Their hands, arms, and legs were red from the cold.

We had far fewer phone calls this time than ever, and only 2 students needed attitude adjustments.   Fixed threatened with a few phone calls, and nothing in person. 

I know I run a good trip-the chaperones thanked me as they left the bus and again via email.   That’s right.  The CHAPERONES thanked ME.   They slept 2 nights on a bus, and walked around Manhattan for 15 hours.     They HURT.  I passed out Advil and blister Band-Aids on the bus.   I think we gave everything so the kids could have a great day, and collapsed once back on the bus.  I slept most of Sunday and Monday, and still have a few sore spots today.  Mine’s just muscle strain, others had horrible blisters.   The adults all hurt in different places.

The groups were all lined up and ready for the bus to come.  early.  all of them.  Tells you how tired they were. The bus was so quiet on the way home. People were out before we were in Jersey.

Husband and I policed the bus after the students were dropped off.  We found a pillow, large graphing calculator, a pair of men’s underwear, headphones, nice heavy hoodie, large bottle of shampoo, and a girls shirt.  Not to bad, actually.