Food, Glorious Food

Sounds of Santiago from our neighborhood this late morning:

The low rumble of a wooden cart rolling slowly along the black tar. It pauses and a loud voice pierces the still, clean(er) air; the surrounding buildings bounce back a faint echo. His voice is nasally, sing-songy and high-pitched which helps it penetrate the secluded worlds of every apartment on the block. Naraaaanjas, Manzaaaanas, Alcachoooofas! This loud, articulated shriek ends abruptly. He pauses for a few seconds and then repeats it several times, wheeling his old cart further along the road.

Naraaaanjas, Manzaaaanas, Alcachoooofas! I wonder if anyone will come out and buy something. I think about stepping out myself. Did he really say “Alcachofas”? Artichokes are back in season?! 

But then I remember that we still have a huge stash of fruits, vegetables and more, from David’s weekly trip to La Vega a few days ago.

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cashews, walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and lots of plastic.

 

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from Peru. It’s delicious on potatoes

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lúcumas are back! I have no idea what to do with them…

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But they smell like maple syrup and dreams. yummmm

Ah, La Vega. It is one of our favorite things about Santiago. I haven’t actually been in months; the last time I went, I was about 7 or 8 months pregnant and was completely exhausted by the time we left, but I do enjoy waiting for David to come back every Sunday morning with a cart filled with fresh, local, seasonal fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seafood, cheese and ham.

La Vega is a very large central market with probably hundreds of vendors selling mainly produce for far cheaper (and tastier) than what you find in the supermarkets. It was actually featured in the NYTimes recently. The author describes it as, “one of those raucous food markets of unfathomable scope that can keep a budget traveler entertained for a morning, fed for a day and depressed about American supermarkets for life”, which is very accurate. 

Besides having an incredible range of cheap and fresh food, it also has quite a few mini-restaurants/eateries which offer traditional Chilean food, Dominican food and now–Mexican food (and more). There are little cake and pastry shops and Peruvian women that sell freshly squeezed juices right outside the market. The juices are my favorite part. The sellers have metal shopping carts filled with grapefruits and oranges and on top, a simple, manual juicer. We usually ask for a pomelo-naranja (grapefruit and orange) juice and they are insanely cheap and absurdly good. 

If there weren’t so many people every weekend, I would go all the time. But I´m a weirdo and get very antisocial, claustrophobic, and grumpy in big crowds nowadays. 

 

Earthquake Country

The first time I felt an earthquake was in Philadelphia, in August 2011. It was the “once-in-a-century” East Coast earthquake that freaked out all of us who are used to the predictable nature of hurricanes and blizzards; the exaggerated visibility of tornadoes and hail storms. But we couldn’t stock our kitchens with canned goods in preparation for this natural disaster. And there was nothing to see, it was a perfectly sunny day–clear blue skies, barely a cloud in sight. After it ended, I heard people yelling in the street, “earthquake?!” “Earthquake!” My Facebook feed quickly filled up with exclamations from excited and nervous friends. And for weeks after, since we were fortunate enough to not experience widespread damage, memes like this one: 

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In Chile, anything under an 8.0 on the Richter scale isn’t even considered an earthquake. They call them “temblores” or “tremors”, “shakes”. It isn’t a “terremoto” until the earth is permanently rearranged, I guess. They barely even comment on them. It might come up in conversation like: “Oh, did you feel the tremor this morning?” “There was a tremor?” “Yeah, it was pretty strong” “Mhm. No, I didn’t notice”. “Ah, ok. Some tea?” 

Since we arrived here, I’ve lost count of how many earthquakes…sorry, TREMORS, we’ve experienced. They happen all the time. Since we live on the first floor of a very solid, old building, we barely feel them. But this weekend we did have a pretty strong one at 6.6. It lasted about 20 seconds and kept increasing intensity every 3 seconds or so. It. was. FRIGHTENING! 

Mia was dancing, David was playing the piano and I was singing with Sara on my lap. We were trying to figure out the words to Stevie Wonder’s “Golden Lady”. Mia kept yelling, “Papá, mirame!” about her frenetic dance moves. And then all of a sudden, I saw the lamp moving. David stopped playing the piano. A shelf started shaking, softly at first and then violently. And there was a low rumbling sound. David suggested we get up and stand under one of the stronger structures in the apartment. I started imagining what we should do if we got trapped in the building. I couldn’t come up with a real solution, since there are no emergency escapes out of our apartment! But I remembered that this building has remained intact, with barely a crack, through the largest earthquakes in Chile’s history. 

Before coming here, I actually looked forward to experiencing earthquakes. But there’s nothing fun about them. My mother-in-law actually enjoys them, but I can’t. They come without warning, and you are completely out of control. You can’t put up storm windows or evacuate the city (unless you’re fleeing the tsunamis that come after earthquakes. eek!). There’s absolutely nothing you can do. 

And there are many Chileans who still panic over these tremors. I can only imagine what it’s like to go through a devastating earthquake like the one in 2010, and then have to suffer through hundreds of “mini” tremors forever after. When we visited Concepción last year, a city that was hit especially hard by the 8.8 earthquake of 2010, people there were still talking about it. The physical and emotional damage were still present, in every day conversations. Thankfully, Chile is very earthquake resistant because of investments in appropriate architecture. 

It makes you respect the earth a little more. It feels powerful, like something you need to pay reverence to. That, and the presence of the Andes mountains forces me to really pay attention, to remember that the earth is a living thing. 

Gaza, Ferguson and the Pains of Motherhood

 

“El Derecho de Vivir in Paz” or The Right to Live in Peace. I’ve shared this video on here before, but it’s even more relevant now. I have a serious problem with this song.  I have a problem because I can’t hear this song without crying. As soon as I hear the first notes of the song I start crying. I can’t even THINK about this song without my eyes welling up with tears! Help me! I am not exaggerating! There is a lump in my throat as I write about this song write now! I was pregnant with Sara when this first happened, so it must be related. I think becoming a mother has made me more receptive to the pain of others and it has cultivated a kind of empathy I’ve never had before…

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I didn’t know this until recently, but Latin America holds a significant portion of the Palestinian Diaspora. Or more specifically, Chile has the largest Palestinian community outside of the Middle East, with close to 500,000 Palestinian-descended people. The first immigrants here were fleeing from the Crimean War; they took a boat to Argentina and then traveled by MULE across the ANDES MOUNTAINS into Chile. When I get nervous about traveling with two kids by plane, I think about this. Early immigrant from Europe/Asia to Chile fascinates me. Like, why? Why didn’t they just stay in Argentina? Or why didn’t they go to neighboring countries Paraguay, Uruguay, Bolivia?? Nobody just stumbles into Chile. It takes planning and commitment, particularly in days before flying. I guess that was what was appealing about it too.

These days I find myself wishing Chile was as distant and isolated as it was back then. Where the only news that you knew about and cared about was local news. A time where you could run away from the rest of the world. But we are all connected now.

Last night I went to sleep with a headache and a heavy heart. I had been on Twitter, trying to piece together what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri. A few days ago, Mike Brown, an 18 year old Black boy, was shot by police. He was unarmed. He pleaded, “don’t shoot”. He got down on his knees with his hands in the air to demonstrate that he wasn’t armed. The cop shot and killed him anyway. The response of the Ferguson police department to a largely peaceful demonstration, has been to act like a military force, complete with snipers, tanks, tear gas and violence. They have been arresting journalists and breaking cameras and have not released any details about their response to the officer who killed Mike Brown.

It’s not just Mike Brown. It’s Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant…and many more. Their only common denominator amongst the victims is that they are Black and accused of looking “threatening”. In other words, Black = threatening.

On the other side of the world children are being killed in Gaza, and President Obama’s response has been, “Israel has the right to defend itself”. Since when does defending yourself include killing innocent people? Innocent children??? Hamas is slapped with the terrorist label, yet they are not the ones producing terror in the lives of little children. I read that a 10 year girl died of a heart attack in Gaza, startled by the sounds of bombs. 

I want to run away from it all and hide. I want to go to sleep and tell everyone to just wake me up when all the nonsense is over. I don’t want to confront or release the rage I have from all of this because I’m afraid of being buried by it. I don’t even know how to release it. All I have been able to do is share information through Facebook and Twitter, and sign petitions. It’s not enough. It’s never enough. Times like these, I realize how much I miss Philadelphia, especially West Philadelphia. I know people are meeting and organizing and directing their anger into something meaningful. I would be right there with them.

 

And it’s also times like these that I am reminded of how much of an outsider I am here, and how much of a “gringa” I really am. Because of course people are organizing and protesting in Santiago too. A few weeks ago over 5000 people in Santiago gathered to protest Israel’s occupation of Gaza. With such a large and influential Palestinian community here, it’s also not surprising that there would be a lot of political action. Chile’s official response, like those of many Latin American leaders, has been the most critical of Israel, pulling out ambassadors and showing support for the people of Palestine. In fact my husband’s aunt wrote a great piece condemning Israel, which was published in the country’s biggest newspaper, El Mercurio. Here and here. Even more interesting is that my husband’s family is Jewish, so they have some emotional ties to Israel.

There seems to be so much happening in the world this year and it can feel incredibly overwhelming at times. I think about my fellow mothers in Gaza, in Syria…the mothers of Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride and I can feel their pain and horror. I look at my daughters and want to apologize for leaving them such a ridiculous world to live in. But then I remind myself that the world has never been better. We are more connected. Human rights is a legal, recognized thing, even if those rights are being violated every day, the concept exists.

We get email updates about our children’s development via Babycenter and it’s amazing to see how spot-on they are with the milestones. As unique and interesting our children are, they are also very much like the majority of children their age, not just physically but psychologically and emotionally. It reminds us that all humans are basically the same in the beginning. And we all want the same thing: happiness, freedom and the right to live in peace. 

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