Monthly Archives: November 2012

Garbage Cans and Identity


It’s the end of the semester, it’s been busy and I have all sorts of random brainwebs in my head. Today’s ideas, product of a lovely evening run: 1) Garbage cans have to be installed in order to function, and 2) Why do so many of us feel identified with the past if we share culture/race/creed with someone more so than just being people folk like that other person standing right next to me, especially when the person in the past we may never have met? I guess that’s really a question.

Do you ever listen to This American Life? Today’s was a good one. They are talking about the “Dakota-US War” and how so many people haven’t heard this history in school. Listen if you want the details. I found it particularly interesting when they were discussing the Minnesotan’s new approach to include this story in their sixth grade classrooms. They spend a week on it. Anyhow, there is a short interview with a teacher and her approach to “teaching” the subject. She discusses how the Dakota used weapons to kill the white man, while “we use our words”as she put it. That statement is kind of untrue and ironic at the same time. How is that possible? There was violence on both sides, showing that all kinds of folk resort to it – duh. That, and the settlers in the mid 19th century actually scalped the natives, after teaching them about farming. Talk about exchanging information. The ironic part is that much of the Native People vs. U.S. Federal Government problems were created by the feds drafting up treaties (or “words“) that they either 1) planned to violate, 2) did not plan to violate but did anyway, or 3) gave the Chiefs copies to sign with key information missing from them in order to trick the people into agreeing to something that had not been agreed upon. Isn’t that violence by words? Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” springs to mind.

Another woman interviewed on the show is a Makato resident. Her family tree can be traced throughout historical records; she’s descended from the tribe. She was at a hearing wherein they were discussing what had happened a century and a half ago (for a planned ‘day of recognition’ type event). An audience member asked, What do you want? Reparations? I think questions like that eloquently display the me-versus-you attitude that we got way too much of rolling around this planet. If that particular audience member were later informed that she too were from the Dakota tribe, I’d bet you all of the junk I own that she would quickly identify as part of the tribe and rush to reclaim her heritage. It’s like the neo-nazi skinheads in eastern Europe who find out they’re Jewish and go out and learn the history of the Jewish faith and convert fully to the religion. That sounds like I’m being extreme, but it’s a story oft-heard. I’ll send you references if you want ’em.

And returning to my first point. After some of the student protests here in Santiago, a few assholes who like to follow up the legit protestors breaking things for the simple thrill of it, burned down all the garbage cans where I live. We had small ones and big ones and now they’re gone. It’s been over a year since they’ve been burned to the ground, so people started putting the trash by the tree on corner X where they were instructed to put it on day Y and hour Z to be picked up (per the local neighborhood group’s instructions). You’d think that by now the cans would’ve been replaced. Ha! Instead of doing something sensible, someone got paid to tell someone else to design/create signs and then have someone else put them up all over my ‘hood, saying “Call in to the authorities and denounce mini-dumps in your neighborhood!” Okay. Gee thanks for the phone number. I’m running out of room for compost, and the flies are starting to bite.


Carnes al Aire Libre


En el hemisferio sur, nos falta todavía un mes de primavera, pero ya tenemos temperaturas de 80 grados Fahrenheit, o 27 grados Celsius. Esto significa que es la hora de hablar de carne. Un asado en el aire libre aquí en Chile es un requisito a pasarlo bien, junto con una chela bien helada, o vino blanco mezclado con fruta fresca.

Cada lugar del mundo tiene sus obsesiones típicos como deportes o músicos y muchas veces comidas. En Chile el perro caliente humilde es una de ellas, y vienen vestidos en varias formas. Las carnes en general están consumidas comúnmente, especialmente en el verano en gran asados donde se comen vacuno, cerdo y salchichas, junto con papas mayo y mucha ensalada. Pero se puede disfrutar un completo o italiano en todas las estaciones.

Empieza con un pan grillado típico de los perros calientes, con una vienesa sentada encima, demasiada chica para su entorno, porque su cobertura pesa mucho. Embadurnados con palta (el nombre de aguacate en Chile), casi un cuarto kilo de mayonesa, chucrut, y kétchup (pronunciada como “kep-chup”), mostaza y salsa ají a su gusto. Sin el chucrut, se llama un italiano, no porque tiene algo que ver con comida italiano. Su nombre se deriva del hecho de que los colores de la bandera italiana son iguales a mayo, palta y tomate. Se sirve encima de un trono largo de plástico para facilitar el consumo. Cada completo es un desastre en espera. No se quita mostaza de ropa fácilmente.

Mi favorito es el choripán. La palabra es una mezcla de chorizo y pan, pero en vez del chorizo puede ser una longaniza también. El pan fresco marraqueta es el recipiente de este carne, y es delicioso tostado en la parilla. Normalmente lleva pebre, una salsa típica chilena con cilantro, ajo, cebolla, aceite oliva y el puré de pimientas ají. Con la adición de tomate se llama chancho en piedra, y es igual de rico. En Chile, el choripán es una entrada a los platos principales durante el asado, es decir, la entrada del plato fuerte de carne es otra carne. El plato principal puede ser carne de vacuno o de chancho, pero todo va con mucha variedad de ensaladas y verduras al lado.

Como casi todo el año aquí en Santiago hace una muy buen clima, los asados y picnics son frecuentes y divertidos. Normalmente todos hacen un aporte, poniendo una cuota para cubrir los costos del asado. Esto se llama hacer la vaca, por supuesto una referencia a la carne. Hace que es fácil y económico hacer una linda tarde con comida buena con los amigos o la familia. Y cuando haya todo eso, con la brisa y el sol arriba de un cerro con la ciudad abajo, parece que todo en el mundo va muy bien.

Elections and Other Nonsense


Tomorrow is election day at home, and despite updating all my registration requirements over two years ago when I was home, my vote ain’t gonna be counted. I updated my address in Wisconsin. The people in the office chuckled a bit when I went in to take care of this stuff so much in advance. I said that I knew I’d be out of the country and wanted it squared ahead of time. They told me I could send my ballot via email. Rock on.

Then two months ago they emailed to tell me I can’t email my ballot any longer unless I am permanently out of the country, and if my status of living outside of the bounds of the federal limits were to be permanent, I am not eligible to vote for local office. Hmm. First off, this to me seems like partial disenfranchisement at least, and furthermore, what does permanent mean? Who never plans on going home? Is DOMA gonna get overturned at some point? How do I answer this “permanent” question? The language offered me by the election office was of no use when I followed up to try to clarify: If your intent is to never return, you are permanently overseas and can vote by email, otherwise you cannot. My insistence that I wasn’t certain and that the very outcome of this vote could help determine my ability (or at least, the desirability – e.g. the Defense of Marriage Act as my fiancée is a Chilean woman) of returning home was totally lost in the exchange. I was told they couldn’t help me any further.

I decided I didn’t want to declare myself “permanently” oversees and in some Orwellian twist in the future, lose my citizenship. Stranger things have happened. Let’s go paper ballot. I mailed all of the filled out forms I had to send in order to “apply” for my paper ballot, a little worried that in all the back and forth it wouldn’t arrive on time. I carefully researched and weighed my options, completed the little black arrows that run from one side to the other and was almost ready. I only had to find “an adult US citizen” to witness my signing of the ballot. Bollocks. Okay, so I dug me up one of those, arranged to meet said citizen and did the deed. I signed, sealed and mailed my ballot and it arrived last week. Hooray!

Nope. I got an email on Thursday saying I had failed to sign my ballot. I knew I signed it! There was a witness! I was informed then that I was supposed to sign the other side, too. I then had three options; two of them involved coming into the office and signing before or on election day. The other was that it be mailed back to me to sign, and then I mail it back again. I responded that I clearly cannot be in the office on or before election day HENCE the absentee ballot. I think the person on the receiving end was irritated with me, taking my tone as sarcastic. No ma’am. Just stating the obvious. I then asked her to mail it me, half laughing to myself. She wrote back. There is no way it will get to you in time. I thought well, duh. Why didn’t you just email me in the first place to say that due to last minute changes to voting regulations and my failure to sign my ballot multiple times has resulted in a big waste of my time and my disenfranchisement? Isn’t that just easier to say?