Thursday, May 6, 2010

days off are for food

For my day-off excursion, I went into Viña del Mar again today; I meant to go into Limache, but that got rescheduled for tomorrow evening. In Viña I figured I'd go to McDonald's and successfully get a burger this time, and maybe hit up Starbucks and see if they might relieve the inevitable disappointment of Chilean espresso.

(Chilean establishments tend to let the espresso machine run a good 45-60 seconds, instead of 28-30. I think the theory might be "more is better," but what you get is espresso that is both watery and very bitter. The technique is bad enough that I can't tell anything about the quality of the beans. It's very sad.)

Instead, I tried out the allegedly Mexican restaurant across the street from Starbucks (which is, in turn, a few doors across the corner from McDonald's). It was tasty enough in its way, but it was bland, not Mexican in any way except for the presence of an okay guacamole. I don't know if this is Mexican food the way Chileans like it, similar to how much American Chinese food is severely altered for the American palate, or if someone just decided to open a Mexican restaurant without bothering to buy a cookbook or even ask Wikipedia what spices and ingredients might be involved.

I have to say, I will resume my ranting about Starbucks when I get home, but two months in Chile gives me a new perspective of where they stand on the quality scale. And here, they're not killing local businesses; they're remote, lonely outposts of American culinary imperialism, which is nowhere near as successful as our other imperialisms. In Latin America, a coffee shop that does not serve Nescafe is going against a pretty powerful stream, living in a principled state of rebellion, or at least in a built-up tourist town.

I looked at dress shirts in the department store. They're comparably priced to home, maybe a bit more expensive. However, they're all Chilean-sized, which means the sleeves are all 33/34, and basically no 34/35. A 33/34 sort of fits me, mostly, kinda, though it feels a little tight; 34/35 doesn't look tailored or anything, but it's more comfortable. But honestly, 4 little retail islands with hundreds of dress shirts, all with sleeves 32/33 or 33/34. I'm not that tall.

Oscar, head of the household and sub-director at my school, finally understood my (extremely sparse) teaching schedule tonight. He said, "Ésto, no me queda", which comes out as "I'm really not okay with this." I told him I've told several people the school can give me 26 classroom hours instead of the 8 I've got, but no one was understanding or listening and I finally gave up and figured I'd come back to it later. I'm not sure he understood that I told people, or that it matters particularly. I'm not sure they understand how opaque the operation of the school is for me: how little I understand in rapid conversations, or how little information anyone on the staff ever thinks to try to communicate to me.

Anna is coming to visit! At the end of the month. It's a big adventure for her, getting herself across continents and then from the airport to the bus station and then to Valparaíso. And then I get to kiss her, which I'm pretty sure will be awesome, and then I can show her some of the Land of Sugar, Salt, and Mayonnaise, all things she doesn't like.

As an added bonus, coming off Wednesday's good teaching day, I'm not dreading class tomorrow at all! It's the little things that make such a difference.

1 comment:

  1. When I visited Japan in 1991, I remember feeling like a freak of nature, some sort of Amazonian woman, towering over the local populace. And I'm only 5'10".

    I'm excited to see Valparaiso vicariously, through Anna's eyes. Yay for adventures...