Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Immigration

Even though I'm so far away from the border of Arizona and Mexico, the debate over this stretch of land and the people that pass through it is still on my mind. With the new law implemented in my home state, I can't help but return to contemplate this issue. I understand that this "issue" is so politically infused, one cannot even mention the words "illegal immigration" without stiring up trouble. And I do not want to do that here. To preface, I am speaking in generalities, I do not wish to accuse or praise any political party, and I realize that this debate goes much deeper than policies. 

What I do find most interesting are the parallels in the US and my new adoptive country. Did you know that Chile also deals with consequences of having thousands of illegal immigrants? Although here, they are mostly from the neighboring countries of Peru and Bolivia. And they have the exact same double-sided debate as the US does concerning the actions that should be taken (or not be taken) against the non-Chileans. They also share the same prejudices and skepticism against the "outsiders;" just as it is becoming difficult to distinguish between racism and patriotism in the US, it is difficult to live as a legal Peruvian immigrant in Chile without people assuming he/she is an undocumented immigrant. For me this notion of dislike towards Peruvians and Bolivians seems silly, because why in the world would I personally have prior bias against these people? But to a Chilean, the same is true for North American sentiments against Mexicans (Note: I'm not saying all United States citizens hate all Mexican citizens, but because of the struggles with illegal immigration from Mexico, as a whole I believe the US' opinions about Mexicans as a whole are tainted).

What it really comes down to, is that it is sad that anyone should feel the only option for a better life for themselves and their family is to risk their life and break the law to work difficult jobs far away from their home. Chile is the wealthiest, most developed country in South America while Peru and Bolivia have much higher poverty rates. So, just as someone from Mexico can work a minumum wage job in the US and still earn more money than working another job in Mexico, someone from Bolivia can work a minimum wage job in Chile and often earn more than working in Bolivia. The core issue is the countries from which the people are moving are so desperate that their own people must flee to survive. And this breaks my heart, this is the real tragedy.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Donde Pertenezco

So, there's this place by the sea called Paradise, and it's where I belong. Valparaíso is home to multi-colored buildings nestled in the hills above the Pacific Ocean, graffiti art on every wall, one of Pablo Neruda's incredible abodes, and heaps and heaps of musicians-artists-bohemians that I want to befriend. This is where I heard Pascuala singing eyes-closed with her acordian, this is where I stayed out until 4am dancing to live Cuban son, and this is where I have to calm my heart rate walking through the streets because of all the surrouding, unavoidable, powerful artwork. Pertenezco aquí, I belong here. 

See for yourself:

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Rise of the Ironic Class

Linked is an interesting article on the development of my generation, which I find thoroughly curious: 
The Rise of the Ironic Class

The young people of today operate (generally) with an ironic view of the world, not taking anything too seriously but rather poking fun at everything to maintain distance and superiority. Classic values, emotions, sayings, ideas, are all critisized to the fullest extent, because we know that underlying the façade of goodness is farce. Our parents have divorced, Lance Bass has come out of the closet, we figured out Power Rangers was racist, and Beanie Babies were just a hoax for our allowance money. So instead of actually embracing the cheesiness, we embrace it with pessimistic humor. 

The same attitude has transfered to Christianity, to the young people in (and out) of the Church. My favorite example of the ironic stance towards all things stereotypical to the church and all things Christian, is the blog Stuff Christians Like. Bellow are some of my favorites:

Stuff Christians Like:
#2. Saying “bless her heart” 
#11. Thomas Kinkade
#24. Church names that sound like clothing stores
#43. Metrosexual worship leaders 
#141. Getting freaky deeky with the Song of Solomon 
176. Giving open flames to kids on Christmas Eve 
#213. Not knowing how to baptize tall people 

The article ends with saying that while this ironic outlook on life is not entirely bad, it can be damaging when it causes us to be too prideful and elitist and thus too cool for change. I agree with one of the authors cited when he says that perhaps instead of just being critical we need to strive to change the past mistakes and make the future a place where irony for protection's sake isn't necessary. 

So I will keep reading StuffChristiansLike.net while singing along with my metrosexual worship leader at my church, Reality LA. However, I will also pursue God's truth above the façade of Thomas Kinkade perfection and saying, "Bless her heart" before gossiping about her. Oh the irony.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Earth's Beginnings...

Upon returning from Patagonia-- the southern most zone of Chile where country and continent fade into Antarctic ocean-- I decided this is not where the earth ends as they say, but instead where it begins; growing from frozen water and rock onwards and upwards into the green. The mountains and glaciers were breathtaking, or rather breath giving, as the air down there is so crisp and clean that my poor lil' urbanized lungs could finally inhale deeply. 

We flew into Punta Arenas, toured the small fishing town and its sites for the day, and then took a 3 hour bus trip up to Puerto Natales to stay for 2 nights. One day included a tour by van of the Torres del Paine National Park, and the other day consisted of spontaneous exploration. 

To describe this place is to pond-wade, here are some photographs: 

Listen to this

A chilling, profoundly beautiful rendition of the Chilean folk singer Violeta Parra's song, Puerto Montt Esta Temblando, about the earthquake in Chile in 1960. Sung by Pascuala Ilabaca, whom I had the overwhelming joy of seeing perform live on a patio by the ocean at sunset overlooking the colorful town of Valparaíso. I cried during this song.

The first/my favorite stanza:
Puerto Montt está temblando
Con un encono profundo. 
Es un acabo de mundo,
Lo que yo estoy presenciando.
A Dios le voy preguntando
Con voz que es como un bramido,
Por qué mandó este castigo?
Respondió con elocuencia,
"Se me acabó la paciencia
Y hay que limpiar este trigo."

My (very) rough translation:
Puerto Montt is shaking with a deep rancor.
It is an end to the world, what I am now witnessing.
I ask God with a voice like a trumpet,
"Why did you command this punishment?"
He responded with eloquence, 
"My patience ran dry, I needed to clean the mess."

Women with accordions rock my world.  

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I think one of the worst things here is when people talk to me in English.
I never understood why that man with the truck with the Mexican flag sticker yelled at me when I kindly asked him, 
"Puede mover su camión por favor?" 
Me too. And Spanish, what's your point?
Now I understand the point.
I understand how demeaning it came across.
Beneath it all it screams, 
"You are not one of us, and I can tell, and I will show this by using your language, since clearly you cannot use mine."
You are not one of us.
I was impaced by that event in the Olvera St. parking lot my freshman year of college, and now I know why it stuck with me. You are not one of us.
I will never be one of you.
But where will I be one of me?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Feliz Pascua!

To enjoy, a letter from my awesome little cousin to the Easter Bunny from a couple years ago, so adorable (thanks Kirklands!). He is risen indeed!

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Following up my last post about embarassment, here's what I've accidentally done in the past couple weeks.


  • I walked about 10 miles total in the past 3 days on account of being lost.
  • I gave myself a tour of my new campus, every random pathway included.
  • I ordered a piece of chicken on bread-- no sauce, no toppings, just a slab of meat on wheat.
  • I bought 1 kilo of peaches when I only wanted 1 peach.
  • I attended a church service.
  • I ate chicken liver.
  • I ordered whipped cream (instead of half and half cream) on my black coffee.
There are certain situtions in life where embarassment is unavoidable:
1. Learning to drive in the "student driver" car. No they are not honking at you because you look hot.
2. Attending a pool party in junior high. Or just junior high in general. Or pool parties in general...
3. Physicals (you know, those invasive doctor's appointments you have to pass to play school sports?)
4. Being a foreign exchange student. 

I have learned to cope with the face that it is quite impossible to go through the week here without taking a hit to the ol' pride. Language confusion, directional confusion, scholastic confusion, cultural confusion... yeah, you're pretty much bound to embarassment. I do feel very comfortable in my life here, but I have learned most lessons through first getting it wrong. But hey, I am learning a lot! And still have so much to go.