Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Of Carrettes, Commies and Chileanese: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Carretear (pronounced carr-ay-tay-ar) is the Chilean word for partying—and not just partying but an all-nighter of drinking at some pubs until 2 or so, and then dancing at the discos until the wee hours (still earlier than on the other side of the Andes but whose counting.)  In my few months down here, my best carrete ended with a 3 hour sunrise walk that concluded with an early morning snooze on the beach and breakfast under a palm tree, not too shabby!   Commies are the eternal and mortal enemy of the free, capitalist-happy Western world—the Northern half, at least.  While the Occupy protests are a relatively new phenomenon for the USA, that kind of thing is old news down here—that is until you mess with the police and they round you up with high-powered water-cannons mounted on tanks that roam the capital and mass tear gas you, but hey, you threw the first rock, payback is a bitch.  The current fight for free education has been going on for well over 6 months and many students have not gone to school for an entire year because students have literally taken over their own schools and won’t let anyone in.  The political views of many of my Chilean friends would surely have prompted Richard Nixon to finance a coup ‘d’├ętat.  Wait, that happened?!  Chileanese is what they attempt to pass off as Spanish down here (at best it's vaugly similar and then, only at times.)   My favorite word is bakan, which means cool and was the first Chilenisimo I learned because well, what's cooler than bacon?  Cachai?  Sipo.  Que bueno.  (Get it?  Got it.  Good)

Dream On

Ahh the Pacific Coast Highway…top down, hair blowing in the wind, pimped out hot rod, beautiful blonde riding shotgun, sun setting over the Pacific, sounds like the California Dream right? 

Let me introduce you, my esteemed reader, to the next big thing, I will call it simply, the Chilean Dream: We are speeding up a coastal section of the PanAmerican; the top is most definitely not down as I am lying in my seat-cum-bed on the first floor of a pimped out bright green double-decker TurBus; the only things blowing through my hair are the crumbs from the alfajor the guy in front of me is eating; there is a burly-looking-miner-type man snoring next to me (I am sure his wife thinks he is beautiful, I wonder if he was one of the famous 33?)  How exactly is this like the California Dream mentioned above?  Well, shit man, this is Chile for peets sake!  So what if I am not actually driving this oversized tricked-out gargantuan of a vehicle and would prefer it if (rather pray that) the man sitting to my right doesn’t proposition me for a quickie on the side of the road.  Even though I have been in the doldrums as of late, I am in Chile I tell myself, "live in the moment"; and so I go back to being in my dream of sorts: I am transfixed by an infinite mirror of beautiful yellows, pinks and reds over the normally deep-blue Pacific. 

The Pendulum

I've been pretty bad at this whole blog thing, with that said, I bet that 90% of people who start a blog probably say the same thing after only one post, so I succeeded in some sense....I have a whooping 3.  Naturally of course, I regret not writing more but sometimes I think experiences like this are best viewed in hindsight...you know, when you can gloss over all the low points and become nostalgic for all the others.  Wouldn't you be damned, that's already happened to me!  

As I begrudgingly told my family and friends that I was planning on leaving at the end of the week, it struck me as exceptionally odd that I could already be so nostalgic as frankly, I was absolutely miserable and bored down here on many (the majority?) of occasions.  As I was debating leaving numerous times, my friend Lauren put it to me quite simply, she told me to look at the ratio of good days to bad ones and then decide if it was worth it to stay. In the end, there is no exact numerical ratio or anything of the sort but I think she had a great point.  The majority of my days are spent in school or at home, doing well, not a whole lot of anything.  I spend my days surfing the web and watching NHL, NFL and Daily Show clips when the bandwidth is high enough.  The amount of time I spend on Facebook has become shameful.  I wish it had some sort of timer measuring how much time you waste on it; I think that number alone would be quite indicative of my boredom, loneliness and overall discontentment down here.  

Just yesterday I swore to myself that I would get out of here as quickly as I could as I was simply fed up with how ridiculous and sitcom-like my life is at times.  Surprise, surprise, Monday morning rolled around and I slept through my alarm at 7am (it should be noted that I didn't go to bed until 1pm on Saturday and 7am on Sunday so this was not exactly that surprising).  And so I missed the Orellana family wagon to school that leaves promptly at 8:10am (did I mention that school conveniently starts at 8am...what's the saying about following your own rules when you're the boss?).  Right.  Well, despite my best effort to hurry up, I didn't make it to school until 11 or so; nor however, did I sleep past 8am.  How exactly did I lose three hours?  Despite missing the O-Wagon (it’s actually a Kia), I was still on track to make it to my first class at 9:30 when I walked out the backdoor of the house at 8:30 yesterday morning.  I'm not sure if it was sleeping in or falling asleep on the beach super curado 24 hours earlier (perhaps my finest carrete in Chile, thanks Seba!)  but karma shat on me when I got to the paradero.  The paradero is the bus stop for both micros and colectivos that make the 10km journey from the ho-dunk rural farm area where I live to the ho-dunk, quasi-industrial town where I work.  

Here is a primer on my transportation options.  Colecitvos you'll remember are shared, fixed route taxis, and they usually ply the route with a relatively routine frequency and efficiency.  Micros on the other hand, are colorful, Soviet-era mini busses that belch ungodly colored smoke and rattle along at mind-blowingly slow speeds while the drivers zig-zag as far off the route as they can in search of passengers to boost their pay (see The Inefficiencies of the Bus System).  I have only taken the micro a few times as I find them incredibly frustrating but they take anywhere between 1 and 2 hours.  Just for a little comparison, to go 10 kilometers or 6 miles, it takes, 10 minutes by car, 30 minutes by colectivo and 1-2 hours by micro.  While colectivos are theoretically much quicker the problem is that they only go to the center of town, which leaves me having to take another colectivo to school thus the journey ends up being only slightly shorter than the micro.  That is of course, unless I manage to get into an empty colectivo whereby I can pay for a viaje especial (special trip) to go straight to school.  Sound complicated and frustrating?  My family drives everywhere (or hires someone to drive the kids); only the nanny and maid take the micro or colectivo, even then, only occasionally. 

So there I was yesterday morning at the paradero at 8:30am, a micro passed but I figured a colectivo couldn’t be far behind; 15 minutes later, another micro passed but since I live at the end of the line, I figured an empty colectivo would come by (as they usually do) and I would pay for the viaje especial and make up time by going straight to school—thus avoiding the dreaded micro.  At 9:15 or so, a scrubby looking high school kid came and joined me at the stop; finally we both spotted a colectivo coming down the road and flagged it down.  That is when I about lost it, the kid opened the door, jumped in, and then as I ducked into the car, I heard the driver and other passengers, “esta completo joven.” 

“It’s full dude.” 

I started shaking my fist at the little high school shit head, just about grabbed him by the head, blurted out every Chilean explicative I know while explaining to him that I waited a long time and he had to get out of the car.  He closed the door; I started punching the window, still cursing at him in Chilean, Argentine and English or some mix of the three and then flipped him the bird as they sputtered off.

I was so defeated, I wished that I had let more New Yorker/Argentine attitude through but it was too late and I have become way to Chilean (read complacent, laid back, like a Californian).  I contemplated what to do, I thought about just going back to bed but decided that I had to go to school.  Another colectivo came a while later, it was full; finally around 10am (an hour and a half after I got to the paradero), I managed to flag one down and get a seat.  I was the fourth passenger to get in so my hopes of going straight to school were dashed.  On top of that, or more precisely, in the middle of it, the large gentleman in the backseat decided to jump out and let me slide in rather than sitting bitch himself.  I swore to myself that I was done with this place and that I would immediately go to my boss and tell her of my plans to leave on Sunday. 

I strolled into school at the bell marking the beginning of recess for the elementary school kids still boiling with anger and defeat.  I walked in the front gate and nearly tumbled over as 40 2nd graders swarmed my legs screaming Tio Cheeeep.  All of the girls tugged at my shirt to give me a customary kiss on the cheek (albeit a fat wet one as opposed to the normal bumping of cheeks and making a kissy noise) and the boys all stuck out their fists to “pouwnd eet”. 

I am convinced at this point that kids are like puppies until they are 3rd graders, no matter if they are crying, wining, or obnoxiously loud, they absolutely melt me and make everything better.