Thursday, September 23, 2010


My host family is pretty modern, by which I mean both parents work and nobody does anything together. That may be in part because it's a blended family that isn't very blended: Ximena's son Alvaro and Oscar's son Ignacio do hang out and play together, but however they work, the family relationships are decidedly not North American.

So we could theorize that people are just too busy to buy things like clothespins.

Or light bulbs.

Or laundry detergent.

It's not like anyone's saving money at the gringos' expense. We use, or would if they were stocked, the same household supplies the family does. Their clothes also fall off the line. They spent two weeks of evenings in the extremely dark living room lit by one dim bulb. They can't do laundry either (though of course they have more clothes here than we do).

Finally on Tuesday I decided to buy a pack of clothespins on the street. (The guy gringo'd me: I asked how much and he said "Two--three hundred pesos." I snorted and walked away, but I bought them at two-fifty, even though they were probably CLP$200, because really, it's a dime.) I told Ximena I bought clothespins, because I wanted to ask her about the lack of household supplies.
"How much were they? They're really cheap."
"250 pesos."
"Yeah! Really cheap."
"How come you guys don't buy them?"
"They get lost and broken, so I got sick of it."
"It's really confusing, the house things that you guys don't buy, like clothespins and lightbulbs."
[laughs] "I know! And I'm the mistress of the household!"
There's something extremely Chilean about that entire conversation. I think she just lets stuff not get done, the same way I do; with me, it's a couple years of tax returns (relax, I filed extensions and paid the tax, the government owes me money), and with her, it's clothespins.

Who am I to judge?


  1. That sort of thing is starting to happen here, but I'm not sure if it's because everyone's lazy after the fiestas patrias or if the Ministry's failure to pay our stipends has made my family a little more reticent to be generous.*

    *I am not complaining. They still feed me well, and I'm not in the situation that other volunteers are in where their families won't even stock the fridge for fear that the gringo will eat something.

  2. Yeah, I don't have the feeling things changed all that much when we got's a modern and somewhat disjointed family (i.e. we never see each other or do anything together). We found it like this. =)