in Chile

Ten Things I’ve Learned Lately

1) You can lend Kindle eBooks to friends and family. This is a lovely way to save money while building a virtual book club. Here is Amazon’s guide to how this works.

2) When a certain Chilean company sends you a six-pack of huge bottles of juice to thank you for “testing” and promoting the brand on Twitter, don’t drink them. Your stomach will punish you for days. Your partner will later read the expiration dates on the bottles. (5 of the 6 bottles expired last year or the year before!?!? How dare they!?!?) Your efforts to notify the company and the Twitterverse and every juice drinker you know will only worsen your psychological and gastric distress. You will never ever buy that brand again.

3) Your students bring you great joy, especially when you encourage them to draw storyboards of their biggest ideas to build a better ecosystem for social entrepreneurship. (More on this in another post.)

4) Chilean bureaucracy is not easier to navigate than Chinese bureaucracy. Just because you can speak the language, do not assume that the people at Extranjería will give you accurate or actionable information. Do yourself a huge favor and call Paz Fuenzalida at Foreigner in Chile before your visa expires and before following the erroneous information you got from the otherwise wonderful government program that brought you back to Chile.

5) Acupuncture eases the tension clogging your creaky shoulder and the rest of your life. You are grateful to Jenn for the recommendation.

This photo is from the first time I got acupuncture in Beijing in 2010, with my Chinese class. I think my shoulder still looks the same, and I still wear the same shirt, necklace and hairstyle. But the acupuncturist here in Chile has me lie down rather than sit (This upright picture is slanted on its side to show this … and because WordPress seems to prefer it that way … whatever). The acupuncturist here in Chile also treats me in a much more private space, and in Spanish, not Chinese.

6) There is precise vocabulary from the school of Chilean-interaction-design-through-the-invention-of-new-musical-instruments to describe the gap between what people say and what they do. What someone says, especially when interviewed in the company of trusted peers whose pressure will keep them honest, can be called mismidad. Apparently the English word for this is “sameness” but that translation makes little sense (even for someone who often finds new meanings in translation.) Its counterpart, what people do, especially when strategically provoked in an informance (a performance created to generate information), is called ipseidad, which supposedly translates to “selfhood.” (This comes from the subsequent module in this class.)

7) You get CNN! In English! Oh, the things you learn when you control the remote and give yourself the time to explore! Watching the tail end of Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention – live! – will remind you how proud you are to be an American.

8) Cooking Chinese food is a tangible reminder of your power to turn ordinary ingredients into spicy, nostalgic comfort. You are grateful to the authors that showed you how easy it is to cook a Chinese revolution in unapologetically contrasting and kitschy style.

9) Quality comes from quality interactions. Favorite restaurants here in Santiago, Tiramisu and the Peluquería Francesa, consistently provide quality interactions through thoughtful service and good food at fair prices. So do the Peruvian spice vendors at La Vega and the acupuncturist. Interactions with Extranjería are overwhelming negative and do not provide any sensation of quality. Now that you have a new vocabulary of design terminology, you connect these words with almost every move. (How would I describe my interaction with this mug of tea? With this computer? With my pen and paper?)

10) When you are feeling overwhelmed, the world can tell, and people magically cancel some of those meetings filling your multi-device-synched schedule. When your university diploma needs to be legalized in San Francisco, your lovely cuñada happens to mention that a close friend is carrying her duffel bag on a plane to San Francisco that very night, and that duffel bag indeed has space for that cardstock validation of your academic career, and your wonderful mother (and superstar accountant and errand-runner) will be arriving just in time to obtain the stamps that piece of paper needs to be worth something in this country. You are such a lucky woman to have so many opportunities and so many people looking out for you. Just avoid that juice, get more acupuncture, and go to sleep. Your body will thank you.

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  1. Why do we love top 10 lists? Great post! Here are some random comments:

    I’ve given up on things like acupuncture and chiropractic therapy. I’ve come to believe that these pseudoscience interventions have no benefit other than a possible placebo effect. There is NO science behind these procedures. But everyone has to follow their own experiences and investigations.

    Bureaucracy is still alive and well in Chile. This country has come a long way since when I arrived back in ’96. But there always seems to be some remnants of yesteryear lying around. (Maybe more than I imagine? You get used to things after a while.)

    It’s great to eat home-cooked meals most of the time. I try to invoke Pareto’s Law (80/20) in my food ingestion: 80% meals cooked at home with the best ingredients I can find, 20% away from home while closing your eyes to how it’s being prepared.

    Great story on the AFE screw-up. Talk about a good intention that has the opposite effect. You’d like to think that the line of reasoning WASN’T “Hey, we’ve got these expired products. Why don’t we send them to recent collaborators to show our appreciation? After all, it’s not like it’s REAL juice!”… You just have to roll your eyes at this one and smile.

  2. Thanks Gonzalo for reading! Some comments on your comments.

    I find that acupuncture provides immediate relief for back pain and anxiety. Today I read an Emotional Equation: Anxiety = Uncertainty x Powerlessness (link here: and that sounds like the exact description of…

    Waiting for your visa to be processed! I think the bureaucracy is tolerable in most places. Usually people seem to know how to do their jobs (even if their jobs seem to include an unnecessarily detailed process)and that level of professionalism makes it much easier to deal with. That is so not the case at Extranjería. I choose not to elaborate because it worsens my anxiety. I can imagine that you understand this feeling.

    I should shoot for 80/20 homecooked meals. That would mean cooking a lot more than I do now. I really do love to cook. It calms me and helps me focus.

    AFE – don’t get me started! I can smile about it now, and perhaps I will nominate it for worst PR fail I’ve ever experienced, but I was definitely not smiling while sick. *Cue eye roll now.*


  3. Thanks Clare! I’ll put it together and post it soon. It makes me smile just to think about it.


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