Posts Tagged ‘Chile’

Día del niño

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Sunday was día del niño or children’s day here in Chile. While spending 20 minutes waiting for an ice cream along with what seemed like every child in Santiago - hey, I was killing time waiting for someone, and it’s a really good ice cream place - I started thinking more about what the day means.

Let me say off the bat that the whole idea is crazy to me - isn’t every day children’s day? I mean, it seems like if you’re doing the whole parenting thing right, then for the most part your chidren are wandering around in self-centered bliss, happily enjoying their childhoods with the occasional after school ice cream and unexpected new toy. The idea behind mothers and fathers each having a day is that kids learn to take time out and appreciate all the good things their parents are doing for them.

If this were a day highlighting the plight of children who don’t have such exemplar families or the rights of children, then I could get behind it. According to Wikipedia, that oh-so-scientific of sources, children’s day was originally related with the World Conference for the Well-Being of Children held in Geneva in 1925. Universal Children’s Day, proclaimed by the UN in 1954, is celebrated on November 20 and aims to promote understanding among children as well as children’s welfare. The UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and later the Convention on the Rights of the Child were both adopted on November 20.

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Source: / CC BY 2.0

Now, have you ever heard of anything being celebrated on November 20? If you live in the US probably not - I certainly haven’t. Although there is a history of national children’s day dating back to the 1800s, and Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr. both declared specific children’s days, the US hasn’t ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The only other country not to have ratified it is Somalia. No comment.

I doubt many Chileans have ever done anything on November 20 either. Here, día del niño is celebrated the second Sunday in August, and it mostly seems to promote consumerism. Between the fast food lunch, day out at the park, afternoon ice cream and the crash that  comes after the sugar rush accompanied by a tantrum thrown because it’s time to go home, I don’t see a whole lot of welfare promotion. I did, however, see a child no more than two years old being gifted cotton candy literally half her height. Happy children’s day, your parents got you the gift that keeps on giving - diabetes!

Source: D Sharon Pruitt

Source: D Sharon Pruitt, / CC BY 2.0

I remain a bit mystified by the whole thing, honestly. Christmas and birthdays sound like enough time to spoil any future kids; I’m not sure that another day where every child in the country descends upon all open spaces and sweet things is strictly necessary. But hey, I’m not a parent yet, so you never know.

Is children’s day celebrated where you live? I’d be interested to hear about more traditions around the world!

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Getting sick in a foreign country

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Alright, so I’ve got a bit of a cold. I’m not going to complain, and I’m not writing some treatise comparing healthcare in the US with the health system in Chile. I’m talking about why we get sick, the explanations that each culture gives for that cough, sneeze or headache.

Of course the answer seems pretty obvious: we get sick because there are viruses and bacteria, and sometimes they win in their fight against our immune systems. Sure, back home in California I’ve heard people say “you’ll catch your death of cold” or warn someone to come in out of the rain in order to avoid falling ill, but for the most part we write off the idea that people could get sick from a chill or some water as an old wives’ tale. It may be true that being cold and wet can lower your defenses, but only germs can actually cause an illness.

In Chile, however, I cannot count the number of times I’ve been told that a change in temperature is will cause a cold. Walking out of the steamy, warm bathroom after taking a shower and into the cooler bedroom could have me laid out with pneumonia if I don’t get completely dressed and dry my hair first. Wet hair in and of itself is a killer, as is walking around in bare feet. I’m pretty sure that Chilean host mothers around the country pray every night that their gringo host children will buy themselves some slippers before they have to make that awkward phone call to the child’s biological parents informing them that unfortunately, Johnny has died of a case of cold toes.

I don’t mean to say that the whole virus/bacteria concept hasn’t reached Chile. It has - in fact healthcare here is on par with what I’ve seen in the US - but it hasn’t eradicated the belief that not staying warm enough plays a huge part in any illness.

The truth is, after a while the argument starts to make sense. Staying warm probably does help keep my defenses up. Case in point: that cold I have? I’m convinced it started Monday night, when I was at a barbecue outside without enough warm clothes on. These Chileans might be on to something.

Emily Williams is a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile. She writes about expat life at and on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Secrets my doorman knows

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Here in Santiago, Chile it’s not unusual for an apartment building to have a doorman or conserje. Conserjes not only add to a building’s security by making sure nobody gets in who shouldn’t, good ones like the men in my building also perform all sorts of helpful tasks like grabbing that bag of groceries just as it’s slipping from my fingers, receiving packages and holding onto my boyfriend’s keys when he’s gone and I’ve accidentally left mine at home.

There’s a clear relationship between resident and conserje, which means we use the formal verb conjugation usted and don’t get into details of our private lives. But despite all that, my conserjes know plenty of things about me that most people don’t.

They know my friends and in one case my friend’s dog. They know my in-laws and my own dad from his visit here. They know what time I go to bed every night because it’s right after I take the dog out, how often I go to happy hour (and come home perhaps a bit more smiley than usual) and, perhaps most embarrassingly, just how often we order pizza.

And yet they don’t know big things, like the fact that I’m not married but did recently get engaged! They’ve assumed we were married since day one, and correcting them seemed pointless, so now to cheerfully exclaim “We’re getting hitched!” would require a lengthy explanation. I can’t wait to see their faces the day I come out of an elevator in a white dress. They have no idea where I work or what I do.

I don’t plan on sitting down for a heart-to-heart with my conserjes any time soon. When in Rome, as they say, and in this Chilean version of Rome I’d probably only succeed in making some very nice men feel very uncomfortable that the chatty gringa wanted to share her life story. But I do laugh a little to myself every time I look at my engagement ring or answer the door to the sushi delivery guy - my conserjes get a very different view of me than anyone else does. I wonder what they think about it.

Emily Williams wrote this article for where she talks about expat life.  She shares more about life as a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

Size matters

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

I had to both laugh and nod in agreement when I read Julie’s post. At 5′9″ there is no reason for me to have bought some size extra small shirts during my latest trip to the US. Sure, I have a slim build, but what about the slim 5′2″ people? Where do they find clothes? Have I just missed out on the new US fashion - perhaps inspired by the recession - of using your t-shirts as both dresses and sleeping bags? Either way, it’s a far cry from what I’m used to in Chile, where my 1.75 meters pretty much make me a giant. Let’s just say shopping is tricky in Santiago.

That said, I don’t know if I agreed with Julie’s point about the portions in the US being bigger. Yes, I know that we have an obesity epidemic, and I know that both our dinner plates and our restaurant meals are far larger than any person needs to survive. But if you think that the average dinner in the US is bigger than the average Chilean almuerzo, you clearly do not have an abuelita, a grandmother.

As an expat, you of course won’t have your own Chilean grandmother, but you can latch on to a significant other or close friend - abuelitas are usually happy to welcome another hungry mouth to the table. My boyfriend’s usually tells me that I’m too skinny before loading my bowl with cazuela, a Chilean soup that’s a meal in itself, what with the large chunks of chicken, vegetables and potatoes. But it’s not a meal, just your appetizer. My plate then comes piled high with more chicken, steak, more potatoes and a variety of salads.

Because abuelitas tend to be good cooks, and my surrogate abuelita is no exception, I finish my portion through sheer will - I’m never actually hungry enough for all of that food, but it’s too good to stop before my plate is clean. And then she asks if I want seconds. And remarks that I eat so little when I explain that really, I might explode if I take another bite!

I’ve seen the statistics on US portion sizes. But I think that when it comes to the biggest portions out there, Chilean abuelitas could give US restaurants a run for their money, and at least the restaurant doesn’t guilt trip you into eating more. And who knows, if I stay in Chile for the long term, maybe some day I’ll work my way up to a US size medium!

Emily Williams wrote this article for where she talks about expat life.  She shares more about life as a US gringa living in Santiago, Chile on her personal blog, Don’t Call Me Gringa, and loves hearing from readers!

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