Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Loneliest Bus Stop

This is a bus stop close to my house. It was built in February with the exciting prospect of the new public transportation, called Transantiago. Unfortunately, some planner in their infinite genius neglected to realize that not a single bus runs by this stop. And so, amidst over crowded bus stops, I present to you, the Loneliest Bus Stop in All of Santiago. Or, for a more realistic portal into the day to day life of someone without a car, you might wish to see Ryan´s photo of just a normal day at the metro.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Am Addicted and Going Through Withdrawl

I’m addicted. There is no other way to explain it. I never fully realized it, but now, being here in Chile, I am reminded of it. You see, I am going crazy, and it isn’t for booze or drugs or sex. No, for me it’s baseball, a pure and simple love for baseball.

At first I thought, it’s gonna be OK. Life can still go on as normal. I was wrong. I am slowly going crazy. When I talk to my dad, I suck all the baseball info out of him I can. Whenever anyone else calls, I ask for info too. I have given up with my mother, a wonderful woman but one that couldn’t tell me the difference between short stop and middle relief.

And really, it seems the stars are aligned against me. Baseball is the sign of all signs that spring is upon us. It blossoms in the summer and closes shop in the winter. Here in Chile winter is upon us and I feel tricked. “But my God, my God” I cry out huddled in my sleeping bag, hugging a hot water bottle trying to stay warm in our un-insolated and unheated house “don’t you understand... it’s baseball season?

Sadly, God rotates around soccer season here, which, as far as I can tell, is a 365 day year a sport without what we call an off-season. And as for soccer, the last stab I took at playing I scored a total of -1 goals. Work on that for a minute. I have not returned to the pitch since.

And last of all, I am a Cubs fan. My father has never seen them win a world series. My grandfather died never knowing what it would be like. Anyone born after 1908 for that matter has never seen it happen. And OK, OK, I know, in true Cubbie fan fashion (even in spite of their pitiful bullpen) I am buying into the “this year is a different year stuff” that has tortured Cubs fans for generations. But can you imagine the horrible irony if they were to go to the World Series and win it, the first time in 99 years, and they did it for one of the two years I would be away from baseball?

And so for now, we get by how we can. I am reading a great book called Carrying Jackie’s Torch: The Player´s Who Integrated Baseball and America by Steve Jacobson. It is a story about the guys after Robinson, many whom we seldom here of but who were great ballplayers and even more so, incredibly noble men. Larry Doby, Curt Flood, Dusty Baker, etc... these are the names that will mark my experience with baseball in South America. And you know, the more I read about these men, their sacrifices, and their gifts, the more I realize, there ain’t a better way to miss baseball.

So from a hapless baseball fan, I wish you all a very happy baseball season... unless you are a White Sox or Cardinals fan. Sox fans, como se dice SWEEP in Español? (=

“It's designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything is new again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains comes, it stops, and leaves you to face the fall alone.” A. Bartlett Giametti

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Dirty Hippie

It’s not that we are dirty hippies, it’s just that it hurts to shower.

I know, it sounds crazy, but consider our living situation.

It’s cold, and when I say it’s cold, yes, I am talking about life in 30 to 40 degree weather. Big deal, right? That’s what I once thought too. But consider this. We live in a house void of insulation, built like a dungeon so the minimum amount of sunlight possible enters, and without heat. And so, when it is 40 degrees outside, it is 40 degrees inside.

Central heating has been redefined as follows:
1. A tiny heating mechanism that sits in the corner of our living room called an estufita. If you stand directly in front of it, you are warm. Otherwise, it serves little purpose.

2. Guatero. Think of a hot water bottle wrapped in a cloth. Put steaming water in it, hug it like you’d hug your girlfriend, and pray you fall asleep before the warmth fades away. Unfortunately, these things apparently have been known to explode on people… I am praying to return with a body free of scalding, because I think the story that I fell asleep hugging a water bottle and that´s why I have these burns might not be too cool.

3. Sleeping bag. Sittin on the couch, or going to bed at night, also sleep in your sleeping bag, with another blanket or two on top as well as sweatpants, a hoodie (with the hood up covering your head of course).

4. Yelling obscenities while doing rapid movement. I’m convinced this one works the best.

5. Tea. Drinking it could be consolation enough, but some of the best moments of my day come from standing in front of the stove with my hands over the kettle, taking in the excess heat.

6. Laying on the couch with Jack. He might be dirty, but man is he warm!

7. Showers. And this my friends, is wear the pain comes in. First, we don’t even turn the cold water handle. Purely hot. And it feels like needles hitting your skin, especially your toes, as the steaming water makes contact with your body. And just as the pain wears away, and it starts to feel good, your shower is done. You turn the water off and step onto the cold tile, and instantly re-enter a cold world.

And so that brings me back to my opening. It’s not that we are dirty hippies. True, I change my clothes only every three or four days now (you trying getting naked in this weather) and true, I shower at about the same interval (ok, actually a little less). It’s not that we are earth children, it really is, that it is too friggin cold!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I know you understand me

Chile, like the United States, can be a racist country. Last week, my Catholic Chilean co-workers couldn’t shut up about how horrible Peruvians are. If you were to listen to many Chileans, Peruvians are the scum of the earth. Having a good friend who grew up in Peru, the constant barrage of racial slurs towards Peruvians has, over time, worn me down.

In March, a man came up to me in the downtown area and asked me, in broken English, if I was from the United States. After I replied yes, he handed me a flier and spat at me, “go home Yankee. You not wanted here.” The flier said the same thing (but with better English).

Weeks later I placed a simple food order when I was out with my friend Emily. I spoke clearly and correctly, and the woman turned to her co-worker and as if I were not there, and said “I can’t understand him. You talk to him.”

And if it is not that, it’s a postal worker pretending I can’t understand Spanish, a store owner pretending they can’t understand my simple questions. It’s being called gringo and hearing choppy English phrases shouted at you when you are out and about. Right now, a popular one in my neighborhood is “what up nigger.” Bienvenido a Chile, disfrute su tiempo.

You think you can escape some of the things you shunned in your life in the United States, and sometimes it takes traveling half way across the world to realize the more things change; the more they stay the same. I have received but a tiny taste of what so many of my own friends have experienced in their own lives in the United States. From the United States to Chile to Europe, there will also be racist people. I guess then, the real challenge is learning to address it, and try to change it. There are racist Chileans and non racist ones, just like racist U.S. citizens and non. I guess I just wanted to write this, to dispel that idea so popular in my own liberal circles in the United States, that racism and bigotry is somehow unique to the United States.

“If you don’t have the courage to speak up for human beings, you don’t have the right to speak up for God.” Luis Espinal, S.J.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Multiplication of the Loaves

Catholics are not really known for being Biblical scholars but I am gonna go out on a ledge here and say most of you can follow me if I ask you to recall the story about Jesus going to a town called Bethsaida where a crowd of 5,000 follows him. He speaks with them, heals them, and at the end of the day, the Apostles come, asking Jesus to send them away so they might find food, as they are growing hungry. “Feed them” Jesus instructs. To which the Apostles reply, “but we have only 5 loaves of bread and two fish.” Remember it? Here’s a hint, it was the Gospel reading on Sunday, Luke chapter 9, verses 11-17.

The multiplication of the loaves, it is often referred to as. And like the falsehood that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, this important story of the Bible is so often misread, and misinterpreted.

If you read the passage yourself, you will come to see, like I was taught a couple years ago, that no where in the Gospel does it mention a multiplication of anything. It only says they sat and they shared what they had and left full. The Peasants of Solentiname note that “The miracle was to persuade the owners of the bread to share it, that it was absurd for them to keep it all while the people were going hungry.”

I was blessed to hear a wonderful homily yesterday to remind me about the powerful truth behind this Gospel message. I often wonder why I grew up, never having this truth revealed to me. Perhaps it was too much a temptation towards liberation theology for the mainstream Church, to emphasize not only charity, but solidarity. To share a penny if a penny is all you have.

The priest in my poor parish yesterday tried to imagine the story in our own context. Perhaps, he said, the people came together and pulled out their empanadas or what other little food they had, and together experienced the blessed and broken bread of Christ in ways we might struggle to imagine. It was a powerful idea to fill the Church hall with that day.

I just finished a book called Blood Brothers the other day. It deals with Iraqi veterans, amputated in the war, who come back to rebuild their lives. And it mentioned how everyday, one of the men had a tradition on his way to work to buy a coffee and sandwich for a homeless man he would see day after day. The symbolism is so powerful. It’s the idea that each of us has an obligation when our car stops under that underpass or we walk by the man in the shaggy clothes shaking a cup of change, to help. I came across this quote below while reading about Dorothy Day, an ordinary woman whose ordinary vision has created inspiration for millions of Catholics like myself. It gets to the true multiplication of the bread: us.

“Bread and truth, truth and bread, making the rounds. Today’s food would yield short of death (the death of the soul), to tomorrow’s hunger; the task would never end. But let tomorrow take care of itself; it was today’s hunger that must be met. Let us meet it. Let us multiply ourselves, in the youth, the workers, the poor, the street people, the excluded. All have the truth to offer; all can multiply bread, bake it, break it, pass it on.” Daniel Berrigan, S.J.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jack Vs. The Cats

An epic battle has been trudging on for sometime now in 1309 Ictinos. At first, Roy and I felt it best to take a position of neutrality. If history is a lesson to any American, it’s that a position of neutrality only lasts us so long. And well, really, our ally needed help. Our ally was growing helpless, and quite literally hungry. At some point, who were we not to align ourselves with our three legged dog in the battle against the stray cats?

It started out innocent enough. First it was cats on a tin roof, driving the dog nuts. So be it. Then, they started sleeping in his bed right outside our backdoor. This seemed to be pushing it, but again, not enough to cross us over. In March, we discovered traitors in our ranks. Unbeknownst to Roy and me, Natalie and Michelle, had, for lack of better terms, been coddling these young kittens, almost inviting the enemy directly into our house, most likely in the hopes of adopting one someday. Soon thereafter they began multiplying, and then the real battle began, the battle for food.

It wasn’t until April we realized just how dangerous these cute little kittens were. They began eating so much of Jack’s food we nearly doubled the monthly order. Jack appeared to be going beside himself. He was prone to random fits of spinning and yelping, hobbling and falling off the couch in a sprint like attempt to protect his domain. Roy and I watched this, and soon found ourselves, allies in this war.

We created squirt guns out of old water bottles and began charging out the back door, screaming with the force of ban gees while spraying water on anything that moved. Sorry Jack. Again and again the cats would approach the front lines, and every time they were met with a fierce repellant: screaming gringos with malfunctioning water bottles. Oh, and a three legged FIERCE dog.

Unfortunately the battle has been complicated as late. The other day I looked out my bedroom window and noticed two cats in Jack’s bed. Jack, a mere inches away, laying on the cold floor, merely looked up at them with a tranquility in his eyes no dog should ever have when faced with a cat. Roy relayed a story of Jack cornering one of the cats, and getting frightened when the cat hissed.

The battle wages on, but really it feels like a lost cause. The cats seem to be in it for the long haul. Just the other day they left us a warning: on the sunroof above our living room, the shadow of a dead bird sits as a subtle reminder of just what kind of vicious animals we are fighting against. The cats have come to play hardball, and my loveable but helpless three legged dog is losing the battle, and unfortunately, so are we. Roy wants to put a laxative in a decoy food bowl, I will let you know what happens.