Texas versus Chile.
First off, I have been living here for almost an entire month… Like what? Living here definitely has its ups and downs but overall, I am loving this city and finding my way through it. I’ve had moments, like last night for instance, where I just wanted to be in my own room back in Texas but I had to remind myself, thanks to my dear friend, Andy, that I am here for the Lord’s Kingdom and that’s my purpose right now. It’s hard being away from family and friends, but I am learning to brace the diversity here and push forward.
Before I get into the differences and similiarities, I just have to say how lucky I am to have the Pizarro family. Julian is the one who asked me to come spend my summer down here and him and his family have truly become a second family to me. They encourage me, pick on me (that’s an understatement!) and have hard talks with me when I don’t want to face reality. I am so thankful that the Lord gave me such an amazing, Christ-like family to support me as I’m here. Plus, Jessica, Julian’s wife, is like an older sister I’ve never had and their seven year old triplets, Sarah, Julian and Jonathan, feel like my own kids, lol. I adore the Pizarros and thinking about saying bye to them in a month already makes me teary eyed.
Now the comparison of two places that have a special place in my heart; Texas and Chile.
1. The People
I am such a proud Texas, it’s kind of ridiculous. I will argue with anyone about why Texas is the best state and miss it more and more each day and I happen to be listening to Brad Paisley’s Southern Comfort Zone right now. Texas’ culture is so diverse. There are so many different ethnicities, just like Chile! Seriously. Don’t bother trying to assume if you think someone “looks like they speak English” because there’s seriously every ethnicity here. But back in the good ol’ Lonestar State, people are warm, friendly, helpful and generous. You really can’t beat southern hospitality! Here in Santiago, it’s a big city of 5 million, where Houston is 2 million and Texas has a whopping 27 million, so being in a big city, people aren’t as friendly, just like if you were to go to New York or Boston. Now, don’t get me wrong, the people I have met here at the church and school have been so welcoming and warm, but it’s not like that everywhere.
For example, Jessica and her three kids were in the grocery store the other day and Sarah, her daughter, was carrying Starbucks to bring to Julian. A woman with her shopping cart zoomed in between Jessica’s cart and another cart to get passed them as if she was on the freeway. This woman nearly ran over Sarah by bumping into her which made Sarah spill the coffee everywhere. The woman didn’t say, “Permiso“, aka “Excuse me”, and didn’t apologize to Sarah or Jessica. Jessica said something to the woman about how if she would’ve said excuse me, they would’ve moved, which would have prevented the whole incident. The woman told her she shouldn’t have allowed a little girl to carry coffee in the first place… That was her response! Back home, people would’ve immediately apologized and most likely offered to buy a new coffee! Eventually, this woman gave an ungenuine apology and left. Now, this type of incident hasn’t happened just once to Jessica, this type of thing has happened numerous times and honestly, that’s just how people are here. Like I said, people I have met have been super kind and friendly but that doesn’t describe everyone, unlike in Texas where I would say most people have southern manners.
Here in Santiago, and really any Latin American country, you greet everyone with a “kiss” on the cheek. Now when I mean kiss, it’s really your cheek touching their cheek and you make a kissing sound. At first, this greeting was incredibly personal to me and for the first week I was awkwardly putting my hand out for a handshake to then be met with a kiss on the cheek. Side note, sometimes they will actually kiss you on the cheek, which threw me off for sure. I initially thought this greeting was bizarre and super personal but now, I actually prefer it! In Texas, there are like a thousand ways to greet someone. There are handshakes, hugs, kisses, bro-hugs, high fives, awkward hellos and so much more. Sometimes it’s really awkward meeting someone new because one person might be a hugger (aka me) while the other might be into handshakes. Here everyone greets you with a “kiss”… I mean, everyone! If you enter church, you “kiss” everyone you make eye contact with. It’s super intimate but I really love it and apologize in advice if I accidently “kiss” you when I see you!
I really miss driving. I never thought I would but I miss being able to get to Target (good Lord, do I miss Target) or Chick-Fil-A (OMG WHAT I WOULD DO FOR NUGGETS) in like five minutes or anywhere in less than 30 minutes. In Santiago, there are cars but you know, I don’t have a Chilean license or anything so my transportation includes walking, the subway, bus or taxi. As much as I miss driving, I really enjoy my other means of transportation, except I haven’t used a taxi yet. Walking allows me to slow down and experience the city and walk off all that bread and empanadas I’ve been eating and I love the metro, or subway. It’s so convenient, easy to use and let’s be real, makes me feel like a cool city girl. The bus is well, interesting. Bus drivers here drive like maniacs and if you don’t hold onto something, you will fall and eat it. The bus system is a tad frightening just because there are so many routes that I get nervous I’ll be on the wrong bus or get off on the wrong stop. Future goal: to be confident in traveling on bus. Overall, I actually prefer the transportation here minus the crazy drivers and always feel accomplished whenever I take the subway somewhere by myself. Self five!
I love, love, love that I am missing Texas’ hot and humid, mosquito filled summer. Unfortunately, I’ll still experience some of it since I am coming back in August but I love the weather here in Santiago. Right now, it’s considered winter with the highs in the 60’s and lows in the 20/30’s. During the day, it feels incredible with the sun shining with a small breeze and at night, it can feel great if you are properly bundled up! The houses have no insulation so I sleep in a long sleeve tshirt, sweatpants, fuzzy socks and sometimes a jacket, with about five layers of covers on my bed. Once I am perfectly wrapped and have shut out all possibilties of the cold, I’m good but getting up in the morning can really be a downer since it’s between 28 to 35 degrees. A down side to Santiago’s weather is unfortunately the smog here.
You can see that there is literally a whole layer above the city of just brown, gray smog. It hasn’t rained once since I have been here and there’s hope for some rain next week. I really hope that the smog goes away before I leave. It hasn’t affected my breathing but if it gets worse, it might since I do have a small case asthma. Plus, if it rains, that means there will be snow on the Andes that surround the city. Gosh, I hope it rains!
Us Texans really need to appreciate our school systems. Schools here are interesting and whenever I am in a class, I am immediattely thankful for the education I had. First off, discipline here is partially applied in classrooms. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the teachers lose majority of their time for teaching because they are constantly telling kids to stop talking, sit down or raise their hands. It drives me crazy. The reason why teachers aren’t more firm with their students is because at this school, it’s a private school where most of the kids come from wealthy families. Unfortunately, teachers are looked at as workers for these families so due to that, they aren’t respected as authority figures. It’s sad and frustrating for me to see these children be so disrespectful. Second, when it comes to higher levels of education, like universities, teachers again can lose their authority. Students here at public universities can protest against their teachers, classes or the university as a whole. With that, protesting can lead to students not attending classes for a month or more! How crazy is that? Just because students might not like something, they can simply choose not to go to class and therefore mess up their academic schedule and can extend school into breaks. There is just little respect for teachers and professor and it’s unfortunate for educators.
Food here is delicious, fresh and pretty simple. There are not a lot of spices, which is ironic since I’m in Chile, but I am not complaining since I have a pallate of a gringa! There are so many different types of food here, which I absolutely love. I’ve had Chinese, which was great, and Mediterranean, along with Chilean food. Seriously, there is Thai, Japanese, Italian, Mexican, Peruvian, German and much more! Hot dogs, or completos, are a big deal here and a staple in Chilean food. They eat a lot of bread, avocado,mayonnaise (why???), french fries, beef, seafood, sandwiches and empanadas, which I could eat for every meal, no joke. My goal is to eat a gourmet hot dog, congrio, a white fish only found down here, Peruvian food and every empanada I can find. Also, they eat a lot of McDonald’s, like, I have eaten at McDonald’s more here than ever back home. Weirdly, I am pretty sure it tastes better here. It just doesn’t seem as processed but who knows, I could just be oblivious! Pretty much, if you want a certain type of food, except for real fried chicken, you’ll be able to find it here! But for real, I miss southern food. My first meal back home will consist of Chick-Fil-A and sweet tea and I have no shame about it!
Ha, I just realized that religion is number seven on my list, oh the irony! Anywho, religion here is interesting. Many people here consider themselves to be Catholic, but they aren’t really involved with an actual church. About 11% here is evangelical, which consists of Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist etc, which is different back home. Houston is ranked 9th on the list of the most religious cities in America, which isn’t surprising since there are many large churches like Lakewood, Second Baptist, First Baptist etc. Overall, people here are concerned about living their lives to their rules and Santiago is definitely a lost city. Thankfully, we have people like the Pizarro family who are planting churches and sharing the love of Christ!
I hope that you now have a little more insight into this city and my experiences here. I have a little over a month left and looking forward to spending July being a little more touristy and adventuring into Santiago! Ciao for now!