Chicken Story, Korean Restaurant in Santiago

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What a fitting name for this Korean restaurant. Every dish is based on chicken, except for sides of salad or fries. The short of it is the following: very efficient, friendly service with fresh food in strikingly clean, beautifully wood-paneled dining rooms with loads of daylight sweeping in. It’s a delightful place to sit in right in the middle of Patronato on Antonia Lopez de Bello. The downside is that the food is just okay. Not bad, not great. But to be fair, we only tried the standard lunch dish. It includes thin, pounded chicken breast dusted and baked in panko bread crumbs with zero additional seasoning. It’s served with plain white rice, boring and mealy french fries and a small tossed salad with a sesame-Dijon type dressing easily improved upon at home. The chicken is topped with a dollop of mushroom sweet and sour sauce. This particular meal came HIGHLY recommended by some friends. A lot of Chileans aren’t too familiar with the variety of Asian foods out there, so depending upon your palette, you may really love this place. Everything else on the menu is served family style for 2 or 3 people per dish and appears to be much more spiced. They also serve fresh yellow, red or green pepper, spinach, banana, apple, carrot and beet juices or lemonade. I could go back and try the other plates, or head over to a neighboring Korean BBQ joint instead, if only to escape the K-pop pouring out of the speakers and on constant display on the giant TV. They have birthday party packages available and I’d venture to guess they would get it done right. The establishment is definitely one of the more professionally run places I’ve come across in Santiago. Did I mention the restrooms sparkle?2016-04-06 13.03.18 2016-04-06 13.16.03 2016-04-06 13.54.24 2016-04-06 13.02.25 2016-04-06 13.03.31 2016-04-06 13.02.17

Walmart, Carmona and the Government Give Zero Shits

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Walmart, their intermediary Carmona group and the government seem to give zero shits about the history, culture and the livelihood of 260 small businesses here in Santiago, Chile. Let me explain.

There is a neighborhood called Barrio Franklin that has been operating as essentially an open-air market for over 150 years. A few years back the Piñera government wanted to shut it down so the terrain could be sold to higher bidders. After public outcry, those plans were scrapped. The neighborhood is full of wholesalers and retailers who sell nearly anything you can think of aside from cars. Nearly anyone who wants to start a small business can afford to do so in this area. Need a decades-old pocket watch fixed? Done. A new professional sewing machine? No problem. Wholesale prices on professional dental tools, floss and razor blades? This place seriously has it all including new and used clothing and shoes, electronic anything, computing, parts, toys, trinkets, raw materials, furniture, leather goods, gifts, etcetera. It’s about six square blocks situated outside of the Franklin metro stop. It’s a cultural institution with nary a shortage of happy customers.

Aside from the convenience of finding all manner of random things in one place, coming down to the Persa Bío Bío is seriously fun for people watching. It’s also experienced a food renaissance over the last five years. In addition to the usual completos and churrascos, you’ll find Mi Jugo mexican food (highly recommended), Middle Eastern right next door (wonderful!), thai food on the other side (not bad), Peruvian all around, ceviches, empanadas, breakfast, a new sunlit coffee shop, and much more. In short, Bío Bío is a blast. Apparently Walmart bought a one of the large galpones a few years back and hasn’t made enough money. I understand they’re planning to turn the historic building into a big fat grocery store, so they told the intermediary company to kick out the 260 small businesses inside the building. Pish tosh. Apparently Carmona did not do so, and this morning a big fat taxpayer-funded police force was called in to kick them all out. You can see pictures here if you like.

I am a fan of free enterprise and business and such. What I am not a fan of is the utter disregard shown by the government, Carmona and Walmart for the historical and cultural institution that is the Persa Bío Bío. If that doesn’t count for anything anymore, what a sad fucking world we’re headed towards. A private company is soldering the doors shut as I write this so that the business owners can’t get back in. As of this writing, I do not know if they have been able to or will be able to get their property out.

Chilenismos #2: Calling Someone an Animal

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If you´re a human being, is it okay to behave like a pig? What does it mean to act like a frog? Jumping around?  How does one make a cow? If you´re confused, don´t worry. I´ll let you know what these animals have in common. Welcome to the second episode of how to understand a Chilean.

A saying in Spanish is called modismo or dicho. They are born out of a socially determined usage that gives new meaning to a certain group of words. Many are used all over the Spanish-speaking world, just like any other language. If you don´t understand where they come from culturally, it can´t be translated literally and won’t make much sense. Most regions have their own typical phrases. In Chile they can be called chilenismos.

As I previously explained, there are many reasons for the great variety found in Chile. I also believe that the humorous people in Chile are very quick-witted in conversation, continuously inventing new uses for the Spanish language. Many refer to animals.

Let´s begin with two not so nice examples. Do you know anyone who always wants to know everyone else´s business? Here this is called ser sapo, or acting like a frog. This could stem from frogs and their giant eyes, seemingly capable of seeing all things. If you try to overhear a telephone conversation or read email over someone´s back you are being sapo. The best snoops do this without being detected so as to avoid being pegged with this unsavory nickname.

Next we have hacer perro muerto, or pulling a dead dog. In English we would often call this “dine and ditch” AKA leaving a food or drink establishment without paying the bill. As it appropriately sounds in Spanish, this is nasty business, clearly not recommended in any country. If one does this in Chile it is possible the owner will “Sacarte la cresta.” The cresta is the crown of the rooster. Removing this part from someone implies potential or threated violence.

Now for two lighter sayings. In Santiago there are a boatload of cafes and restaurantes, but you get what you pay for. The expensive ones can be fantastic, but one must be much more discerning when it comes to the inexpensive places. This has resulted in many Santiaguinos knowing very well how to cook a delicious dish at home, particularly the younger crowd who are beginning to move out on their own at a younger age instead of staying home until marriage (people marry late here, if they do marry at all).

Hacer una vaca, or making a cow does not mean fashioning your very own ruminant out of clay and water. When friends want to have a BBQ (an asado), picnic in the park or a big spread for dinner everyone throws in some cash. Between two and three thousand Chilean pesos per person (about five USD) you can make a real food festival without anything going to waste (echarse a perder) in the fridge (refri).

Lastly, one of my favorites is pasarlo chancho. Chancho means pig and can be a term of endearment between a couple or family members. Mothers say to their babies upon eating their entire meal “Eres mi chanchito!” or, you are my messy little piggy! This saying, to pass the time like the pigs do means to have a wicked good time at a party or asado, drinking, eating, dancing and telling jokes. If you have such a wonderful time, lo pasaste la raja! as well.                      More Chilenismos coming pronto…

Boredom! Four related words

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Penca – Chato/a – Fome – Pesado/a = Four more Chilean words you will hear all of the freakin’ time in this country. I must say I’m a fan. Conveniently, they’re all related so we can use them to describe a similar situation or person.

Fome: This word is most closely akin to “lame” or “boring” in English (not “unable to walk”) such as “This party is so lame. I’m gonna bounce.” “Qué fome el carrete. Ya me voy.” It’s used by people of any age to refer to a situation that is dull and uninspiring. It’s not insulting, however, you could call someone fome if you don’t want them to leave the party.

Is it clear that the “carrete” is the Chilean version of fiesta? No one says “fiesta” much here. The weekend, late-night drinking and dancing fest often accompanied by food or snacks is referred to as a “carrete”. Rrroll those Rrrrs!

Estoy chata! I use the “a” ending version, being on the female side of the sliding scale. If you identify as male, you’d use ‘chato’. If you identify somewhere in-between or neither, the Spanish language is not gonna give you any convenient options. This phrase means “I’ve had it up to here” or “I’m sick of it.” I have been heard to say “Estoy chata de esa música cola.” The “cola” part in this phrase is slang for “gay male” and it is not necessarily derogatory. Música cola refers to the Kylie – Rihanna –  Beyoncé style of tunage.  Elsewhere, people say “Estoy harto/a”. This version is understood here, but not used too much.

Penca: This word is in the “fome – aburrido – lame” family, but I’d say it’s closest to “sucky”. “You have to work on your birthday? That sucks.” “Tienes que trabajar en tu cumple? Qué penca.” “Cumple” is clearly short for “cumpleaños.” Fun bonus: Refri is to Refrigerador (nevera) as Fridge is to Refrigerator.

Pesado: The pure meaning here is “heavy”, but it’s used in Chile to talk about someone who is being a downer. Mind you, in this country the label of being a downer could simply be handed out if you tell someone a truth they don’t want to hear. Here is an example:

“Maybe you’d get more work done if you didn’t party so hard.” Response – “You’re such a downer.”

“Capaz que seas más productivo si asistieras a menos carretes.” Respuesta – “Erí pesado.” If you recall, erí is Chile’s ‘tú’ form version of eres. (third paragraph down) Of course, Chileans would pronounc it “pesao” or “pesá” because they eat the ‘D’s.

When friends tell me I’m pesada, I just say it’s honesta and if they don’t want my opinion, don’t whine at me repeatedly about the same thing! Je je.

Lastly, people use the English word “Heavy” to refer to a situation that is serious, deep, incredible, dramatic or in some way hard to wrap the mind around. If I hear a story of some impact or true import on someone’s life, I may say “That shit’s real” especially if I’m not talking directly to the affected party. Here you could say “¡Qué heavy!” Be sure to pronounce it as if it were a Spanish word though. Something like hay-a-vee with a good moment’s linger on the ‘H’.

Well that was more than four words, but it sure was fun!

I always appreciate questions, comments and feedback.

Getting Hitched in Argentina – Part II

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So we did the dang thing! We still haven’t decided how to combine our last names yet. Everything worked out in a mostly-planned, partially-improvised brew-ha-ha (no idea how to spell that) that joined friends from many countries. The best part was they all got along instantly. I was expecting that, but it was amazing to watch. One of my best friends surprised us by flying in from Morocco. All of this is going to keep me smiling for months and months to come. I never planned to get married, let alone in Spanish. At the ceremony beforehand I had to ask how you say “I do.” It’s “Acepto.” Judge Antonia Pinelli did a fantastic job. She was official without being officious and has such a warm heart. She did a pretty bad job with my name though, but a laugh is always good during something like this. She called me Sirli Mah-ree-ay Ñeuman instead of Sharlene Marie Newman. My favorite bit was when she said our marriage is important to the Nation of Argentina. Thank you Argentina, and thank you to our wonderful witnesses Alicia and Hugo.

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They gave us the official paperwork and the Libreta de Familia wherein we’ll enter our children’s names when that time comes. It’s used for traveling purposes. In the opening pages it talks about what marriage means and gives reasonable rules for naming children. One of which is that you shan’t give a kid more than three first names, nor can you give them any names that are “ridiculous”. I love it! I have always liked the name Fahrenheit. Exotic or ridiculous? Next we have to have our papers “legalized” and stamped in Argentina and then sent to the Hague. Whoa. I hadn’t realized that beforehand. This means that anywhere in the world that has matrimonio igualitario will recognize our legal bond – and in the US, too, since DOMA hit the dustbins of history.

After the ceremony we had some champagne in the park. Yes, you can have open containers publicly in Argentina. Guess what? There are no more drunks wandering around there than anywhere else. Then we went to a Tenedor Libre, which is an all-you-can-eat buffet of pasta, salad, grilled meats, desserts and more for about 12 bucks a person. From there we headed to Terra Nostra in Luján de Cuyo, which is 16 km from the city center and surrounded by vineyards. It is a series of 7 cabins that could use some updating, but holds 40 people. There is a pool, large patio, kids park toys, a foosball table and a huge grill pit area. It is perfect for a small wedding or family reunion. We had cocktails by the pool as the sun was setting. We also went to the Termas de Cacheuta. It’s maybe an hour bus ride from the city, surrounded by mountains with plenty of great restaurants, massage therapists and shops in the area all for very reasonable prices. There are hot and cold spring pools and a lazy river. The place is magical.

Saturday we did a private ceremony with friends that was fully improvised and very fun, ending with a helium balloon launch into the sky. From there the caterers set up shop by the grill station and the sit-down dinner became a stand-up affair. Terra Nostra also has a large dance hall where the deejay set up. We watched video toasts from friends, danced a bit of the Chilean Cueca and generally shook our asses until the early hours of Sunday. I like this being a “Mrs.” thing.

If you have any questions on procedural stuff in Argentina or the border crossing or whatnot, let me know.

Getting Hitched in Argentina

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Want to get married somewhere that’s not home? Maybe you don’t want your entire extended family of third cousins present, or maybe you’re part of the LGBT community and you can’t legally wed in your home country. Argentina could be a good option, particularly for Spanish speakers or those willing to hire interpreters. The matrimonio igualitario (marriage equality) covers everyone whether a citizen or not. Once married and you’ve gotten your documents “legalized” or stamped for foreign validity, your marriage will be recognized in whatever country you may live or work in that has equal marriage rights. Example, a Chilean friend was going to live in Germany for several years. The only way to bring her partner with her for an extended stay without applying for a visa was to get married. Since gay marriage is legit in Germany, this worked for them – even though in their home country of Chile it is not yet recognized. This is changing here, with the recent passage of civil unions for gay and straight alike, but that’s a different article.

The paperwork can be confusing though, so my future wife and I went to Mendoza recently to find out which bureaucratic hoops we had to jump through. This is Latin America after all. We went to speak with the folks at two different Registros Civiles (town halls, essentially) to ask about the requirements. Each office does things a bit differently, and it always helps to be especially gracious when dealing with the government employees. All of the funcionarios we spoke with were EXTREMELY friendly and helpful. One option is the Matrimonio Móvil, where they will come to your ceremony morning, night or weekend. The fee for this is 3,300 Argentinean pesos – roughly 380 USD on the official exchange, or maybe half that on the black market. It’s not hard to find people who want your dollars or euros. It is illegal however, so if you get screwed over you have no recourse. The civil ceremony at the office is totally free. If you choose the ‘mobile’ route, you must also hire a transportation company (there are bunches) to pick up your particular justice of the peace to bring them to and from your wedding site. These are the differences.

Whichever route you choose, you must follow these procedures:

1. Show up at the office exactly 30 days prior to your chosen wedding date to simply request the wedding. In our case, since we were already there even though it well in advance, the kind woman allowed us to set the date then and there. This goes back to my point about being extra friendly and also how each registro civil kind of sets its own rules.

2. You must have a pre-wedding meeting ALONG WITH your chosen witnesses. They can be from anywhere in the world, but the easiest thing is for them to be Mendocinos if you get hitched in Mendoza, Bonaerenses if in Buenos Aires… you get the idea. If not, you have to establish a temporary “residency” for said witnesses. It’s not hard, and only costs a few bucks – but they have to then be present with you in the same geographic location for both the meeting and the wedding of course.

3. Within a week of the wedding, foreigners to-be-hitched must also establish this fictional residence. We have chosen to use the pensión we always stay at as our address (of course we asked them first if it was okay). Bear in mind that the address you select can affect which Registro Civil to get married at. Our address is Mendoza city proper, so we can marry at the office inside the beautiful, giant park San Martín. You take the form given to you at the registro civil along with your identification (passport or permanent residency ID card of whichever country you reside in) to a notary public (called escrivano in Argentina and notario público in Chile) and they will give you back documentation proving your temporary residency is in said geographic locale. Yeah, it seems weird, but this is their way of allowing foreigners to get married in Argentina.

4. Technically, the official word is you need to bring your birth certificate, but both offices said that it really doesn’t matter if you don’t have it. Supposedly they like to use them to get the parents’ names right on the wedding certificate.

5. The last main thing required is a syphilis test. Yep. They changed the marriage laws, but this old one is still on the books. It is free, and they give you the information on where to get it done when you attend the prenuptial meeting. The results will be given back to you the very next day and have a validity period of 7 consecutive days.  The libreto de familia and any other odds and ends will also be given to you at this meeting.

6. After the wedding, you take your libreto and other documents to get “legalized” meaning they are stamped and ready to be used abroad. This cannot be done on the same day, but it can be done by a third party and then mailed to you elsewhere by a friend or acquaintance.

From what I understand, Mendoza is the most expedient area of the country to get married. Everyone so far has treated us (two women) extremely well. They’ve even commented that they think Chile, Perú etc. should decide to join the 21st century sometime soon! Mendoza is also an absolutely charming place to spend some time with a cornucopia of vineyards, hot springs, museums and restaurants in the area. It is not expensive – unless you want it to be. It can be hard to find a place that will hold a reception for fewer than 100, and if you’re not from there, it’s unlikely you’ll be importing more than 100 family members and friends. Unless maybe you have way too much money in your bank account. If anyone wants more specifics or has any questions, I can always share more about my personal experience. Oh, also, don’t forget about the visa entry fee for USers, Aussies and Brits.

And lastly, I can’t believe I’m actually getting married. Who knew?!?

Volunteer Opportunity (Reading) in Chile

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If you live in Santiago or really, anywhere in Chile and you are looking for a volunteer opportunity, this one is great to do from home. The Biblioteca Central Para Ciegos needs books recorded in Spanish. They have a library full of texts from fiction to nearly any topic in non-fiction, mostly in Spanish, but some other languages, too. The idea is that you pick up a book, record it at home to a CD in mp3 format which is very easy to do with programs that may come with your computer or the free Audacity audio recording program. The recordings are checked out of the library by the users who are visually impaired, and they do not use the audio in any commercial way. It’s really a win-win for everyone. You get to practice your Spanish (you need not be a native speaker), learn new vocabulary and topics while going that extra step to make your time more meaningful by making it available to others. If you don’t have the time, you could always donate money if that’s your preference. Patricia Soto is in charge of the library. She really is a funny and charming lady, so stop by and and chat with her to find out what books they have or if they are in need of a book that’s already in your collection. They will close the office in February, so get yourself in there if you want to grab something before the whole country goes on vacation!

Address: Rafael Cañas 165, Providencia Santiago (typical public office hours are 11 – 3 Mon-Thurs)

Land line: 2235 6891

Email: bccchile@bibliociegos.cl