Monthly Archives: May 2012

Giant Children’s Book Fair at Parque Bustamante


A huge outdoor tent went up overnight right near the center of the city at Parque Bustamante. It is full to bursting with children’s books and juvenile literature for the 26th annual children’s book fair called the Feria del Libro Infantil y Juvenil. It opened up today and goes until June 10th. I haven’t gotten a chance to scour the tens of thousands of titles quite yet, but it seems it’s primarily Spanish language. Kids’ books are a great way to learn naturally, without getting into crazy complex verbs and advanced vocabulary too soon. Or if your child speaks Spanish or is learning to read, this is a treasure trove! Plus the illustrations in youth titles keeps getting more intricate and imaginative all the time.

It is true that books tend to be pricy in Santiago, but these Ferias de Libro that pop up all over the city are generally fairly priced. Entrance is free for kids under 18 and costs a whole dollar for adults! Aside from book sales, every day is full of story telling time, theater, magic shows and puppets as well as other events and classes all included in the 500 peso entry fee. It open at 10:30 and runs to 8:30 PM. Check out the schedule on Providencia’s website for show times. They put this shindig on in partnership with the Camera Chilena del Libro.


She Walked in Through the Out Door


And so did he, and so did the mom, and her kids, and the almost blind guy and anyone who can read “exit” and just doesn’t give a dang. In Santiago, people don’t like to follow directions much or pay attention to people around them. Unless you make your presence very known with a loud Permiso!, at which point many people will jump out of the way for you. I think it makes things more complicated. There’s more waiting, like when a group of six decides to walk arm in arm down the sidewalk during rush hour. Or when the school kids get out of class and instead of gathering to chat in the park decide to just take up the entire sidewalk. To some, standing at the entryway to the subway train seems like a perfectly good place to stop and tie your child’s shoes with rivers of people streaming by on all sides. Chillaxin’ on the subway steps for a marathon make-out session is pretty common, too. I could complain more than I already do, or I could continue on with this patience learning thing. It may be less about patience and more about practicality. People don’t care all too much about arriving on time, so they’re just more relaxed about these things than me. The bright spot is it seems more people are starting to realize that it’s easier to get on a bus/train if you let the exiting people off first instead of trying to push into each other like opposing battle fronts. ¡Deja bajar antes de subir! Or you can do like I do and try to avoid public transportation and get yourself your new best friend: a bike.

Nice to Sniff- I Mean, Meet You!


It makes sense. One quick cheek to cheek air kiss made with the right side of the face, not the left, keeps people from smacking into each other. There is no confusion. The cheek brushing is to be done upon greeting and departing here in Chile. It’s very important that one “saluda” each time in order to not be rude. It can extend to a half or full hug as well, depending on how close the parties are to each other. In an office building as well, the cheek brush holds sway. People who figure out I’m not from here occasionally extend the hand in a sweet gesture trying to make me feel welcome. My favorite part of the air kiss is that people take that chance to kind of smell the other person. Maybe not everyone or every time, but many Chileans have mentioned to me that this is normal. It’s part of getting to know someone here. Considering that Latin Americans tend towards obsession on the hygiene scale, this is not a gross exercise. It thoroughly amuses me when someone says, Hey, I like how you smell! It’s like, Nice eyes! – but through a different cultural filter. It’s even more entertaining when others vocally agree with such a statement, because it’s a totally natural thing to say here, and everyone has already given me a sniff.

More Fun Chilenismos


If you´re a human being, is it okay to behave like a pig? What does it mean to act like a frog? A lot of jumping maybe. 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, that can´t be translated literally and make any sense. Most regions have their own typical phrases. In Chile they can be referred to as 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 anyowe who always wants to know everyone else´s business? Here this is called ser sapo, or acting like a frog. I guess this stems from frogs and they´re giant eyes who seem capable of seeing many 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”. 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 they 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 happier 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 fold 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 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!