Friday, December 21, 2012


Bolivia is not the territory of the Bolivians, it is the land of the Argentinian hippies. They came, they saw it was cheap and they conquered literally every spot. One of their biggest fortresses is Samaipata, a small, picturesque town close to Santa Cruz. Everywhere you go, you will meet an Argentinian artisan, musician, poet or painter. The only time their dominance is threatened is during holidays, when armies of weekenders from Santa Cruz invade the town with SUVs and raggaeton.
I was lucky enough to end up in the main hippie-base: Hostal Camping Jardin (note: if you look for Argentinian hippies, follow the campings). We ended up staying 10 days in hippie Samaipata which gave me some time to study the species more closely. So let me introduce some of them to you:


Technically, Roberto is from the Canary Islands but at heart he is a real Argentinian hippie. My best guess for his age is somewhere between 30 and 50. Roberto followed the Greatful Dead around the US, he jammed with Jimmy Page, he lived in a Spanish hippie community (with two wives and a couple of daughters), he plays a mad guitar and - he has seen and done everything, he knows everything - and will tell you all about it (100 times a day).


Joao is Brazilian but was adopted by the Argentinian hippie community in Samaipata. In 10 days I think I was the one who had the longest conversation with Joao. It lasted about 2 minutes. There are people that smoke weed, there are people that smoke a lot of weed, there are stoners and then there is Joao. He is all about love and peace. Literally, these would usually be the only words he ever uttered. Wherever we'd run into Joao he'd greet you with a big smile and his mantra: "amor e paz".


He was the leader of the Argentinians. Diego went out to study the concept of time of some Quechua communities in Bolivia and came back a new man. We could never find out what it was exactly that he had seen or learned with the Quechua - he would never say. All he ever mentioned was that he found the essence of life and I swear whenever he talked there was a big bright light around him (It might have been because he always sat underneath the kitchen light, smoking his pipe ...).

Pablo and Madlene

Pablo to me embodied the true spirit of the Argentinian hippies: Travel the world, try everything (even if it is dancing Capoeira at 5 AM), be friendly with everyone, love and respect nature and sing beautiful songs. Pablo had a girlfriend (Madlene) who actually managed to talk less than Joao but she had the most beautiful voice. I am not sure if they were re-born hippies, angels or elves but there was something magical about them.


Ryan is Argentinian but not a hippie. He was the true punk-rocker of the hostel. And he was bloody honest. One time he said: "Awww, I don't really care about all this hippie love and peace stuff, I just like to smoke weed." You just had to love him!


Christian was a poet, painter and musician from Buenos Aires and probably the only Argentinian hippie in Bolivia who doesn't smoke weed. He wrote happy love songs (even though a Colombian girl had just broken his heart) and he was at a point in his life where he was practicing detachment - so I ended up with a necklace, a bracelet and a purse (maybe he started realizing that it's a bit odd if a MAN has all these things...).


Rocky was Joao's dog and a true Argentinian hippie. He was always happy (as long as he had a sock he  could chase), he was always singing (no joke: he didn't bark, he sang!) and dancing, he loved nature and being with Joao, he inhaled so much marijuana smoke that he was constantly high.

What did I do in 10 days in Samaipata? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ... and it was wonderful! LONG LIVE THE ARGENTINIAN HIPPIES!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Twiddledum and Twiddledee

These two German friends are one of the funniest couples we ran into so far on this trip. We met Twiddledum and Twiddledee in a hostel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Actually, they are called Simon and Markus but I lovingly baptized them Dum and Dee (though they are a much skinnier version of the original duo) - for the smashing duo they make. Let me introduce them to you.

Twiddledum (Simon):
Tall, skinny, chatty and bald (although he skilfully hides it with an impressive collection of straw hats). He calls everybody "man) and he's the living life of the party. Having done all the weed smoking he could in Europe, all the beer drinking possible in Australia and all the opium smoking manageable in Asia, he is now on a coke quest throughout South America. He usually shows up around noon with a wild story from last night (usually involving at least on crazy Australian, various girls and a drug of your choice) and with his wits and charms always manages to still get breakfast. He's friends with everybody - and I mean literally everybody: The staff, the hostel lodgers and every person he might meet on the street, buying pizza or dancing salsa.

Twiddledee (Markus):
Short, skinny, puppy dog eyes and quiet as Twiddledee is talkative. He has been Dum's travel sidekick for 10 years now and that is about as much information as he will give you. Dee is soft-spoken and almost too timid to say "hi". There's a good chance you don't see or hear him if Dum's anywhere near him. Dee's the one who makes sure they check out on time, find their way back home and don't spend their entire budget on drugs.

Twiddeldum & Twiddledee:
I cannot imagine one without the other. Dum's rare pauses are congenially filled by Dee's remarks. Whatever one can't remember, the other one can and vice versa. They come as close to a married couple as heterosexual male friends can get. If you ever run into them (they're not hard to miss), just lean back and listen - they're great fun!

The Colombian Connection

Asunción is pretty much like any other capital - “big” city (for Paraguay that means about 500.000 inhabitants): government buildings, malls, many people and a lot of traffic, bars and cultural events. So far, so expected. I didn't expect however to meet Eric. I am sure every tourist in Asunción will meet Eric at one point. You will meet him at artisan fairs, in a park or just walking around the city. Don't worry, you don't need to look for him, he will find you. Eric is Colombian, 32 years old, father of two kids, married and a traveling “artisan”. His name is probably José, he might be anything between 25 and 40 years old and if he is married, he does not take that very seriously. He is Colombian though – that is the only confirmed fact – and THE drug dealer in Paraguay. His drug business is cleverly spread. He has a drug base in every major city in Paraguay and 4 partners who work for him. He travels around the country from franchise to franchise and stays in each place for a couple of months to check up on his partners, the business and to keep in touch with each base. If you have ever watched the TV series “The Wire”, he is sort of a Stringer Bell with dreads. I asked him how he became a drug dealer. “It's all about independence, man. Look around you – all these people are slaves of the money. They are not free. I wanted to be independent and not be anybody's slave any more!” I pointed out that some people that buy drugs from him are just as dependent on drugs as other on money – so his job makes other people his slaves. (Now I am thinking – girl, did you have nothing better to do than start a moral discussion with a drug dealer??!!) But Eric has it all figured out. “You are right,” he told me, “and if it was just for me, I wouldn't do large scale drug business. A little bit of weed here, a little bit of coke there, that would be enough for me. But I have a family to feed. I gotta provide, ya know. So the way I see it, if it's not me, it's somebody else.” What can I say, Eric is a great salesman. Not only does he know how to sell his life style but also, in less than 30 minutes he makes you buy any drug if you want it or not. Right now he is working on an international expansion, next destination: Santiago de Chile. So Chileans: watch out, the Colombian connection is coming!  

Welcome to Filadelfia or Meet the Mennonites

Creepy. This word best describes Filadelfia, a small small town in the north of Paraguay, right next to the Bolivian border. I get off the bus and step into a breathtaking heat of 37 degrees (at 9 PM!!) and the first thing I see is two tall blond people with blue eyes walking by. Weird. They speak in German. Unusual. A car stops, two women get off, they speak German. Rare. I walk into the next hotel to make a phone call, all the signs are in Spanish and German. Freaky. The woman at the front desk addresses me in German. I am creeped out. What happened? Where am I? I thought I was in the middle of nowhere in Paraguay and not back home in Germany. As history goes, during the 1920s a big group of Mennonites migrated from Germany to the new world and some of them settled down in the north of Paraguay. So Filadelfia has become a little German oasis in the wasteland of the Chaco region. For anybody else, it might be fascinating or interesting to see how this little town is totally under German command. They only make out about 33% of the population (the rest being indigenous people and Paraguayans) but they control the city. They run the city's “cooperativa”, a self-run civic union which runs like a city hall. People pay taxes, the cooperativa makes sure everything in town runs smoothly. In 2006 Filadelfia officially became a town and a formal process of municipalization was initiated, meaning, it became as bureaucratic as any city. However, the Germans took care of that, too. As soon as they realized that their cooperativa would get competition, they made sure their people ran for city council. So now the German control both, the private business and the city affairs. Creepy. The Mennonites in Filadelfia are of the more liberal kind (not like the Amish – who formed as a splinter group from the Mennonites in the Sates, although most people who are called Amish are actually Mennonites). They have cars and TVs, use cell phones and drink beer. Although, in the only supermarket in town, you cannot buy alcohol. Of course, there is another small (German-run) store where you can get everything from wine to Whiskey if you are willing to pay the high prices. The indigenous population seems to be willing to do it – you can find them in hordes along the main road, drunk and passed out, after 6 PM every day. All of this was explained (and later experienced) to us by our German Mennonite couchsurfing host, Damaris. Damaris, whose age we haven't figured out (bestimates range from 30-50) and who works as a social worker for the city (Quote: “It's important to help the indigenous people, they have a long history of domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and alcohol abuse.” Quote 2: “We don't mingle too much with the indios. You know, it's difficult if you cannot interact on the same intellectual level”).
I was thrilled to be able to talk in German again, find any German product I might have missed in the supermarket and even listen to some people speak Plattdeutsch (a dialect from the north of Germany). Also, listening to a conversation the lady from the tourism office had, organizing a tour for 40 people from A to Z was a skill I certainly did not expect to encounter in Paraguay. However, I also remembered how annoying German schedules can be (if something closes at 11.30 am and you get there at 11.31 you will be thrown out), and how rude (Germans call it direct) my people can be. I was literally barked at, in German, of course, to put my purse in a locker before entering the supermarket. I have to admit though, 2 days in Filadelfia was about as much as I could take: hot + humid + too many Mennonite Germans = CREEPY!  

Ciudad del Este: Welcome to Gotham City

I had been warned. Many times. People get robbed there. Assaulted. Killed. Everybody who had been to Ciudad del Este in Paraguay before seemed to have a different horror story about it. “I didn't think of anything bad walking down the street and this guy came up with his gun and I had to give him my wallet.” “They warned me not to walk down the bridge but I didn't have money to take a cab so I walked anyway. Next thing I knew, three sketchy men walk up, point a gun to my head and ask me for my money. Obviously, I didn't have any, so they robbed my shoes.” So I imagined a Paraguayan Gotham City crossing the border from Foz de Iguazú (a lovely city on the Brazilian side of the Iguazú falls) to Ciudad del Este. The first person I met though was a charming lady at the tourism office (right next to the migration office) who took her time explaining to me all the sights of the city, where to go, where not to, how to get there and how much it would cost. When we were looking for a public phone to call the couchsurfer we were staying with, she just let us use her cell phone. That was our first introduction into Paraguayan hospitality. Friendly, warm, welcoming and always willing to help out a clueless gringo.
From the migration point it's only a short walk into the city center, however, unless you might collect stories like the ones mentioned above, don't walk!! Even if it's just a street, take a cab! There is all sorts of creatures trying to sell you electronics, money or drugs (and I am not sure if they aren't cops in disguise...). But once you manage to get downtown, it's … well, now here it takes a little bit of extra effort trying to describe what the hustling and bustling city center of Ciudad del Este looks like. First off, 90% of the people are Chinese or Korean. Second, they all try to sell you something, or anything really: clothes, purses, watches, cell phones, food – you name it. Ciudad del Este is South America's biggest trading city, since it is tax free, everything here is cheap (and fake or made in China) so it became a huge market for especially Koreans and Chinese. Ciudad del Este is also the only city in South America I have been to so far where people work Monday to Saturdays (and acutally WORK, not just sit at their desks, checking their facebook) – because the Asian bosses make sure nobody is standing still at no time. And then downtown Ciudad del Este is just a giant Chinese market. Stand after stand after stand, everybody trying to get through, shoving and pushing, and – obviously – looking for the best deal. It was a little bit hard for me to actually understand what the vendors were saying to ME. Since I don't look Paraguayan, the next best guess is that I am Brazilian – so most people would say something in Portuguese to me and be completely amazed when I actually answered in Spanish! Ciudad del Este is really some sort of free zone, where nothing seems to be as it is in other Latin American cities. The next “sight” was a bar we went to. I am not even sure how to call it. It was a bar, an ice cream parlor, downstairs was a bowling alley, next to it the cheap disco (free but with no AC – at 40 degrees), upstairs the VIP disco (pricey but with AC!) and filled with 15 year olds (note: the teenage men in Ciudad del Este have adopted a very unique way of walking, I call it the Arnold Schwarzenegger walk – walk as if you're muscle-packed and at least 30 cm taller).
One of the most shocking things to me though was seeing armed men in the streets, and I mean your regular shopper or family men, not just security guards. I have never seen armed men like that before (I have not been to Central America before and I am also not from the US where having a weapon is common) – so I have to admit that sitting at an internet cafe next to a big fat gun made me feel somewhat uneasy...
Ciudad del Este is a fascinating place, very much unlike the rest of Paraguay, but never boring!  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Montevideo: The city that always sleeps

mmmm, mmmeat

Candombé parade

main plaza in Montevideo (where are the people???)

deserted streets

people - anyone?

anyone at all?


we found the creatures of Montevideo
Yes, Montevideo  is a beautiful city, but it's a sleeping beauty. Or, at least it was in a temporary coma when we got there. We stayed for 3 days in Uruguay's capital and it seemed like a ghost town. Now, I will admit that it might have had everything to do with a rainy, windy and cold weekend and if we hadn't been touristing, most likely I wouldn't have made it past the coffee machine either. The streets were completely void of people and the ones that ventured out there were very sketchy figures, to say the least! We happened to be there on a weekend of open museums - and fully enjoyed it, since we seemed to be the only 2 people in Montevideo taking advantage of it. So yes, Montevideo has many many interesting museums (carnival museum, a museum of sound, the government building, a museum that show the psychiatric history of the town, old mansions and gentlemen clubs ...) - definitely worth seeing!
Looking for places to eat (proved to be a difficult task on Saturday and Sunday where everything is closed - ??? - ), there is a great variety of food - from pizza to Armenian restaurants. Apparently, there are big Arabic and Armenian communities in Montevideo - so make sure to enjoy their food! Or asados. Or parrillas! Just meat! Uruguayans love meat! They're a cattle country and it shows. My favorite: a take-out BBQ. It's like a restaurant but they have these giant grills where all kinds of meat is roasting (even for me as an almost vegetarian a great sight) and you can pick your piece of meat, steak, your sausage or whatever you like and in about 10 minutes it's ready to go! Love it!
To be fair, on our first night we did get to see a very impressive candombé parade. Montevideo is famous for its candombé tradition (not CANDOMBLE), a tradition that came with its African slaves. Originally, the drumming sounds were made by captive slaves in order to communicate to other slaves what tribe or nation they belonged to. Walking and dancing along to the drumming sounds became something slave owners started competing over: Who had the best musicians and dancers among his slaves. Nowadays, the Uruguayan Candombé is practiced every weekend and especially during carnival season. So far the official definition. If you are in the middle of dancers and drummers, it's a big, loud, chaotic, charming and simply wonderful street party. People on the streets just stop walking and start dancing along with the formal group of dancers and drummers - to an extent that one procession can block traffic for many blocks and for hours! If you ever go to Montevideo, just follow the sound of the drums and you'll find yourself in the middle of a Candombé party!
The most action we got from our stay in Montevideo, however, was a classic fist fight. Outside a bar all of a sudden we see this huge commotion (somebody had said something to somebody else and this somebody else apparently didn't like it) and people forming up into two groups. Next thing you know, they were beating each other up - until some girlfriends stepped in and dragged their boys away from the fight (quote: "What the hell are you doing there fighting?? - Well, he's my friend. - "So what?! You don't even know what they were fighting about. We had an agreement - when we're out together you don't fight any more!" - Yes, honey. I am sorry sweetie. It won't happen again, I promise.). Meanwhile our Uruguayan friends apologized over and over again, insisting that this usually NEVER happens ("Montevideo is such a tranquil city, nobody ever fights here!" - Yes, we had realized!). Well, what can I say, we were the first spectators in line, cheering for the fighters. Finally, some action in Montevideo!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Buenos Aires: Tangos, Robbers and a House of Hippies

Buenos Aires is BIG. I mean, HUGE. Yes, people have told me before but as always, it's different once you experience it yourself. What does big mean? It means, everything that is within an hour walking distance, is super-close. Everything you can reach by public transportation in an hour is pretty close. We once took a train to a small town outside of Buenos Aires because we were told, "it's really not that far" - translates into: 50 minutes bus ride, 2 hours on the train and 30 minutes walking. Obviously, being two geniuses when it comes to navigating around big cities, even after 2 weeks in the same neighborhood, we get lost every time we go to the supermarket. But, amazingly, we did manage to find the tango in Buenos Aires. First, on public display for the tourists in San Telmo. These performances made me doubt we were in the city of tango. I dance the probably worst tango there is - but even I could tell, these dancers (average age: 65) should not be shaking around any more. Then, we found the milongas. Not that I knew what a milonga was before coming to Argentina but it is the typical way to dance tango in Buenos Aires. Dancers of all levels and ages go to different bars to dance tango (usually, it involves some kind of live music, too). A milonga attracts tango dancers of all sorts: professional dancers go, just as do beginners. So even I was asked to dance! What I loved about the milongas we went to - nobody cares how you dance and if you are an absolute beginner, most are delighted to teach you. Most interesting character I met: an older gentleman. Of course he offered his entire life story: how he got divorced from his controlling wife (meaning: he probably cheated on her a little bit too often), then discovered tango (meaning: an easy way to meet women) and then decided to use tango therapy in his work as a psychologist (meaning: not sure). So even if you don't dance at all - just watching and talking to people at a milonga is a joy!
Another experience you shouldn't miss while being in BA is getting robbed. Again, I am starting to think, you don't get the full BA experience if you miss out on that. Naturally, it happened to me, too. So here we are riding the subway (SUBTE, as they call it) and I am fascinated by this girl who puts on her make-up (including eyeliner!!!) just using a tiny mirror and doesn't seem to be bothered by the bumpy ride at all. Unfortunately, she was the wrong person to look at. Noticing my constant staring she pointed it out to the two boys she was with. I have to admit that I get carried away many times by my anthropological interest so thinking she feels bothered, I look away shamefully ... Little did I know! Getting off the train, there must have been about a 20 second period where I did not have my purse in front of me, by the time I realize my wallet is gone. My natural first reaction is to yell at basically everybody who has ears that my wallet was stolen. Poor Sam doesn't know why I am acting like a mad woman until a lady comes up and says: "Are you missing something from your purse?" - YESSS, (duh!!!). "I saw it exactly, it was them!" and she points towards the make-up girl and her two friends. Of course! So I start running after them (Sam following me, still confused at what exactly is going on). I grab make-up girl (the señora is screaming from behind: "that's her, that's her!") and I am not exactly sure what came out of my mouth but it definitely included the words "weona" "culiá" and "concha tu madre" (pardon my french but I was ready to beat her up). Make-up robber girl was of course in full denial but as everybody realized what was going on, people blocked the way so she couldn't escape until miraculously my wallet is laying on the ground, and nothing is missing! So this is a warning to all the robbers out there: I have a history with pick-pockets, so please, make sure you're fast enough because I am coming after you no matter what!
Equally exciting (although in a completely different way) was our time in a house full of hippies. Full of 17 hippies, their friends, guests and 2 dogs and 1 cat, to be more precise. This house had everything!

- A Chilean mime who got a little bit too excited over having another "Chilean" in the house - so he made me say and repeat every Chilenismo he could think of.
- An Argentinian cinema student who wore a different hat every day and spoke to everybody in English, even if the other person was Argentinian as well and didn't understand a word
- A Danish dancer who practiced her moves wherever she could - preferably in the kitchen while cooking
- A Mexican who had all the connections to anything and everything illegal in Buenos Aires
- A Romanian who was actually Hungarian and every time I saw him he was giving somebody a tour of the house (we got the tour as well, so I know it used to be a hostel until the hippies took over)
- An Austrian who under no circumstances would speak German but I got a feeling she was the one organizing the house (who made coffee, who owed money for the shared food, who had to do the dishes etc. etc.)
- A Slovakian violinist with her Argentinian boyfriend (bass and guitar player) who played Balkan music together (divine!!!)
and and and

Needless to say that under the Austrian regime, it was the most organized, the cleanest, one of the friendliest and definitely one of the liveliest places I have ever stayed at!

It will be hard to say goodbye to Buenos Aires. It's not only a big city, it is a great city: from full moon festivals, over constant music and dancing on the streets to the best pizza I have had in YEARS- ché!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Chau Chile Part II

After 2.5 years in Chile it's time for me to conquer new territories and discover new amazing places in this world! Where am I going? Probably Brazil. What will I be doing there? Hopefully working and enjoying life (or the other way around???). As exciting these plans are, at the same time, they mean that it's time to say goodbye to a country that was my home for a really long time. Chile will always have a special place in my heart. I have met so many wonderful people here and I will miss every single one of them! Talking to a friend who is also about to leave Chile, it occurred to me that apart from that it's also the many little details, the little things, that made you feel at home - that you will miss.
Therefore, this blog goes out to the little Chilean things that I will miss:

- The Chilean accent (obvio-po)

- The WONDERFUL café and its cheesecakes

- Bandera street and all its second-hand stores


- Chilean wine

- Playing some random song by Americo and have 20 people on the street sing and dance along

- Sopaipillas

- My conserje, Don René, whose toothless smile greeted me every morning

- The mountains after a rainy day

- Valparaíso, mi amor

and many many more ...

Gracias chile y gracias a todos los Chilenos como a toda la gente maravillosa que conocí acá! Gracias por los tiempos lindos que he pasado con ustedes. Los voy a extrañar MUCHO, pero nunca los voy a olvidar!

Chau Chile Part 1

It's been a loooong time since my last blog entry and nooo, that doesn't have anything to do with my laziness (or just very little)! Mostly, I realized that there was only one month left for me in Chile (yes, after 2.5 years in Chile, I decided to pack my bags and hit the road again) and from then on everything has been pretty much a roller coaster ride. At first you think you have all the time in the world, it's still 3 more months before you leave and then, next thing you now, you have only 2 weeks left and don't even know where to begin. Plus, leaving in the month of September, I hadn't considered Chile's Independence Day (18th) - which means: for an entire month the whole country is paralyzed. Great for everybody else, for the two people in all of Santiago who need to take care of shots, visa regulations, get doctors appointments, sign finiquitos (if you have no idea what I am talking about, I am right with you there) ...
Anybody else might go crazy, pull out her hair, cry every time she hangs out with her friends 'cause it might be the last time, fight every day with the boyfriend but NOT ME (okay, me too- but don't tell anybody!)! Being the efficient German that I am, I have managed to put together a very useful to-do-list to help myself get organized before the trip:

I am really proud of my organizational skills! The rest of my "tasks" - writing articles, change money, sell my clothes, buy a backpack - should be a piece of cake after this!

Friday, July 27, 2012

MARCHAS or what's up with all these Chileans on the streets?

As an innocent citizen, life has become significantly more complicated in Santiago in the last year. All of a sudden, the Alameda (Santiago's main street) is blocked, the Metro might not stop at certain stations any more (tear gas alarm) and every once in a while a random stone might fly RIGHT past you. Welcome to Chile's wonderful world of the marchas (= protests, demonstrations). I have been to many many marchas, because I had to write about them, because I was curious, because I somehow got sucked in by the crowd or simply because I felt the need to let my anger out at some cop (P.S. I do NOT recommend the latter!). At these protests I have met hippies, grandparents and their grandchildren, rockers, teenagers, couples, teachers, communists, environmentalists, housewives, bankers, dancers, homeless people and even Nazis. I have had great conversations, I have danced, sung (only way you can get me to sing in public is if I can join a chorus of 15.000), got hit by rocks and water cannons, I saw how cops beat down old people and young children and how hooded protesters beat up the cops – so I have had my fair share of marchas. Since there might be one or two persons out there who do not enjoy the thrill of the protests as much as I do, I decided to put together a little encyclopedia so next time it smells like tear gas, you know what's up.

Region in Patagonia. All Patagonia is controlled by president Piñera's (→ below) government. All? Only one small region of indomitable Patagonians still holds out against the invaders. Until Piñera gets so pissed that he sends a whole battalion of pacos (→ below) down south. Not the best idea he had. By February 2012 all of Chile is out on the street forcing president Piñera finally has to backpedal.

Camila Vallejo
Pretty chick you might have seen on TV once or 10.000 times. Not a singer, nor the new IN-actrice but a student leader who became the voice and face of the student protests 2011, fighting for a better and affordable education at Chilean Universities. Now she's not around so much any more but hey, would you if Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez were your two new BFF?

Camilo Ballesteros
Say who? Exactly!1

Literal translation: The hooded. Some punks that show up at almost every marcha competing over who throws the first stone at the cops. Conspiracy theorists say, they are payed by the government to villainize the protesters. Note: going to a marcha, you might consider leaving your hoodie at home, it might get you arrested.

Get together to dis somebody or something.

Giorgio Jackson
Camila Vallejo's side kick.

If you get an unexpected shower, it probably came from a guanaco, Chilean for water cannon (and no, I have no idea how you say that in Spanish!)

Hidroaysén (Patagonia sin represas)
Hydroelectric project in Patagonia (the veeeeery south of Chile). Started the marchas in May 2011. It was the environmentalists who went out on the street first, protesting against the Hidroaysén project. The government says about HA: Chile needs more electricity; protesters say about HA: it destroys the most beautiful landscape in the country.

Ley Hinzpeter
Chile's secretary of interior, kinda the boss of the cops – so you can imagine how much the protesters just LOVE him. For his part, he wasn't quite cool with all these protests so he came up with a bill (Ley Hinzpeter) trying to put anybody in prison who “disturbs the public order” (whatever that means...). Result: Now even more people are out on the streets protesting against the Hinzpeter Law.

If you hear somebody shout that, RUN! Yeah, the cops in Chile are pretty chilled in general but not around 100.000 protesters who have declared them their Nº 1 enemy.

Sebastián Piñera
The president, or Chile's George W. Bush.

Good education in Chile is expensive, only the very rich can afford it. Scholarships are scarce, student loans put families in debt for decades and the teachers just suck. (Just quoting there). The PC version: education sucks.

With the begin of the marchas, Chile entered a new phase of social mobilizations. After many years of duck and run – internalized from the time of the military regime of Augusto Pionchet, 1973-1990 – 2011 became the starting point for various social protests, for example environmentalists, workers, women's rights activists and LGBT groups.

1Though objectively not true, so I'll give him a footnote. Along with Camila Vallejo member of the Communist Party, ran for mayor in Santiago's Estación Central hood.   

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Chilean Shamelessness or Why Using Public Transportation in Santiago Is Never Boring

As a German, there are two topics you NEVER EVER discuss in public:
1. your salary and
2. your private problems.
 At least with the latter, Chileans on the other hand, don't seem to have any issues at all. It is amazing what they discuss on the metro, on the street or in a café - mostly over the cell phone. Not only do they openly lay out even the samllest detail of their private lives, they do so on full blast. Now, I am not quite sure if I am particularly shameless and indiscreet and maybe no other Chilean eavesdrops on these conversations but even if I WANTED to be polite and give them some privacy, it is just impossible to NOT listen what is yelled into a cell phone two steps away from you. I have gathered quite some insight into the Chilean private soul by now. Chileans discuss how and when they cheated on their partner, how they got fired and what their doctor had to say about their hemorrhoids (this is not even an exaggeration, I have heard it all!!). There is one particular incident however that stood out for me.

One morning riding the metro to work, I was squeezed right between a couple, probably in their 40s. Of course, me tangled in between their legs and arms did not stop them from heavily making out. Until her cell phone rang. She ignored it. It rings again. She ignores it again. It rings a third time. She finally picks up. Only to tell - "that aweonado son of a bitch to fucking leave her alone!!!!" This little intermezzo interrupted the love scene and for ignorant bystanders like myself the whole situation was explained. Turns out, the mystery caller was the woman's ex-husband who could not accept the divorce and kept calling her multiple times a day. She divorced him because he was abusive and she could not take it any longer so she finally took her children and ran away, to live with her new boyfriend. However, the boyfriend seemed to get more and more annoyed at this situation. "This has to stop! What does that weon want from you? Why are you even answering him? Why does he have your phone number? Are you still sleeping with him??? Gimme that phone!!!!" With this he grabs her phone (to this day I am not quite sure how in a sardine-can-like metro car they managed to even move an inch !), throws it on the floor and smashes it with his foot. "There you go. Now he's not gonna call you any more!" The scene ends with heavy kissing.
Well, what can I say - who needs soap operas if you can watch it all live?!

Attention, Chilenos Walking

I have really tried NOT to write this blog, I really have. But after more than two years on Chilean sidewalks I had to face the facts: It has nothing to do with adaptation, not even with tolerance, acceptance or patience. I simply will never learn it nor get used to it. So as first-world-arrogant-cultural-snobbish this might sound, I just HAVE to say it: Chileans do not know how to walk. And I know I am not the only gringa/o out there who has problems to survive in the Chilean pedestrian jungle. Realizing that neither I am going to get used to it, nor Chileans are going to change for me, I decided to just let it out. Maybe my parents taught me or maybe we had some general walking training classes in kindergarten, I don’t remember specifically, but somewhere along the way, I feel most Europeans and North Americans have learned the same basic rules of how to move on a public street. Before I came to Chile, I thought these rules were universal but as I kept bumping into pedestrians, I started paying more attention the the very unique Chilean way of walking. By now I have made out these five main types of walkers: The slow-walker Perhaps I grew up in a mad and fast running world but as hard as I try to be patient and considering and enjoy this less hectic life style, the Chilean way of slow walking just DRIVES ME CRAZY! Admittedly, it is nice to enjoy life, pay attention to details and not to always be in a rush – but seriously – at 8 am I just want to get GOING and not slouchingly “enjoy” the mass movement on Plaza Italia. No thanks! Why not just walk past them slow-walkers? Please move on to Chilean walker type Nº 2. The slalom-walker If our slow-walker happens to be also a slalom-walker (90% chance this applies) there is no chance you can pass them. You make a step to the left, they slalom-slide to the left. You run back to the right, they slalom-slide back to the right. I get a feeling the slow-slalom walker is actually not malicious but acts out of instinct (I don’t even want to THINK about what kind of instinct that might imply) … either way, it’s obnoxious (yes, obnoxious!). The group-walkers These come either as love birds or best amiguis and seem to be glued inseparably to each other. Every move they take, they take it together. Of course, love is wonderful and friendships need to be cherished but there is a time and place for everything and the main street during rush hour is neither the place nor the time! The stopper A common phenomenon on the streets of Santiago, you walk calmly, minding your own business and before you know it: boom – you just ran into a stopper. The stopper seems to live in his or her own world, never noticing that they are actually not in their living room but on a busy street. So they stop. Suddenly. Always. Without. Warning. They stop because their cell phone rang. They stop because they have to write a text message. They stop because they have to check out the shop windows. They stop because they have to make a u-turn. They stop because they have to tie their shoes. They stop because they … pleeeeeassse stoppers, just stop it!!! The ingleses This specific species of pedestrian has either worked&traveled in Australia or spent too much time watching the royal weddings of the Windsors (though I have never met anybody from Australia, New Zealand, Britain etc. who had a similar walking restriction). Whatever the motivation, the ingleses are obsessed with walking on the left side. If it is a street, an escalator or a hallway, they just never seem to have understood that you walk on the right side and pass on the left side. Or, if you want it the British way, at least get your sides straight! I am sure, there are a lot more “types” out there so feel free to complete my list. Overall though, I have to say, despite my little “issues” on Chilean side walks, I have gotten into only one serious fist fight over walking rules and I hope this *¡’0¡’¿?ç* is still in pain!!