Friday, December 31, 2010

The Ghost of New Years Past....

It's the usual time for reflection I suppose. But instead of focusing on the events of the past year, I'd rather look back on how I celebrated the New Year over time (if I can actually remember).

2010: In Guatemala City in Zona Viva with my then-fiance. The weather was delightfully warm (compared to Gringolandia) and we sat at some small rickety tables outside a bar. We bought buckets of bottled beers and smoked hookah while waiting for midnight. Midnight struck and fireworks went off all around us and throughout the city. Despite the noise of the New Year, I had a moment of clarity: I would not marry the Chapin sitting next to me and I would not be staying in Guate very much longer. (4 days later, I flew back to the US)

2008: Celebrating New Years and one of my last nights out before leaving for Chile. Despite frigid weather, my Chapin and I met up with some friends downtown and bar-hopped til midnight. I was determined to enjoy the company of my friends while I could, not knowing how long I would be staying in South America. My boyfriend had other ideas. Even though we discussed how we were going to stay together even after I left, he was getting pouty and accused me of ignoring him that night. Maybe "You're not the only one I'm going to miss" wasn't the right thing to say to him. I almost threw in the towel that night --- how different my life would've been if I had....


2007: My boyfriend at-the-time (foreign but not latino) and I threw a super short-notice New Years celebration. We bought booze and noise-makers and confetti. A handful of people showed up and we danced in the kitchen. All I remember about this New Years was all the confetti stuck in the carpet for the next few months.

2004: My best friend in college (and future dorm-mate for the next semester) invited me to a New Years party with some of her high school friends. It was a typical college party in a college house with crazy drunkards everywhere. I developed a crush on one of her HS friends and our DD for the night. We chatted about all topics as I downed cocktails and he sipped on soda. At midnight, we kissed (I guess I wasn't TOO drunk). This was my first true New Years kiss and the beginning of a short-lived college relationship. (My best friend warned me it would never work. I even remember her crying out "No!" when she saw us kiss that night).


Sometime in the '90s: I have no clue the exact year of these memories and actually retelling them is going to show-off what I NERD I was as a child, but whatever. My older brother and I had set up camp in front of the TV for New Years. My mom brought out the usual New Years snacks and sparkling cider. As she pestered us to keep the TV on the count-down to the ball drop, we had other ideas. We had found a Star Trek The Next Generation marathon on one network and since we were really that dorky, all we wanted for the New Year was non-stop Star Trek. And so my mom gave up and we watched countless episodes and missed the countdown and the stroke of midnight.


And looping back around....

2011: Since I have to work this evening for a bit and I have no firm plans whatsoever, my New Years eve will be a surprise.... Either insanely out of control funny or super tame, we shall see!


(It is kind of funny that the New Years I remember usually revolve around a guy and some crazy romance. This year will be no different. Whether crazy or tame, I already know who I will be kissing at midnight. :o) )

Happy New Years! Cheers!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Club: Service Included, By Phoebe Damrosch

It's worth repeating: I love food. So obviously, the majority of my reading lately has been about food and the restaurant industry.

Also, I currently work in a restaurant as a bartender. So I love accounts of the industry. The ins and outs of serving guests. The little facts that only people in this business truly know and understand. No matter if you serve in fine dining or at the corner diner, there are common truths about the food business.

"Service Included: Four-Star Secrets of an Eavesdropping Waiter" by Phoebe Damrosch is a re-telling of her life and experiences while working a Per Se in New York City. My personal serving experiences in restaurants is nowhere near the level of this author. Her descriptions of her job make me salivate with jealous at the level of food quality and sweat with anxiety at the thought of the caliber of service required for such clientele. I day-dream of working for a restaurant like hers where I truly respect the food and chefs. This statement is not meant to bash the establishment which currently employees me. I work for a super corporate chain restaurant ---and, for what it is, the food is above par. But, needless to say, there is no caviar, truffles, or bone marrow. My knowledge of such things in limited to drooling over shows in the Food Network and Travel Channel. In short, my job has not provided the food education that I crave.

Damrosch's telling of the attention to detail in the service at Per Se is overwhelming. It makes me realize how easy I have it at my restaurant .... and yet also to understand the type of service I wish that every guest could receive (even at my casual dining chain restaurant). Eating out at a restaurant is an all around experience of the food, atmosphere, and service -- which should be (positively) memorable and deeply enjoyable whether it's bone marrow or diner pancakes.

Despite the obvious differences between Damrosch's life in "Service Included" and my current life at Nameless- corporate-chain, there are also amazing similarities. The odd pace of life, the comments from friends and family about your job not being "real," the restaurant romance, the eccentric customers, the camaraderie with coworkers, etc.

I could go on forever about how many ways this book touched me but I won't for fear of revealing too much about my employer and for boring non-restaurant-industry folks. Whether or not you work in a restaurant, this book still tells a lovely and fun story. But if you DO work in a restaurant, you will definitely find a kindred spirit in Damrosch.

Cheers

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jumping Back into It

So once upon a time, long long ago this crazy girl was a serious athlete. Yes my friends, I was a competitive swimmer. I did the insanely early morning swim practices. I practiced for hours and hours a day. I lifted weights, did push-ups, crunches, lunges, pilates etc etc etc. I found the smell of chlorine comforting. I hung goggles from my car mirror and had an insanely large collection of swim suits in my closet.

Looking back on it. I can honestly say, I was INSANE. Most swimmers are pretty looney though. You have to be to put yourself through all of that.

My insanity was focused though. There was a time when I truly wanted to swim in college. I didn't even care about what I would major in, I just wanted to swim. As luck (or fate) would have it, this was not my future. I went through knee surgery my senior year of high school and had a forced (but much needed) break from swimming. This is when I finally made normal friends in high school because I actually had time to just "hang out." The friends I made are still amongst my closest to this day (thank you, knee surgery).

I went to college and joined the casual club swimming team. Most of us were formally nut-so training swimmers who didn't really know what else to do and were comforted by vaguely continuing our swim routines. Needless to say, we partied a lot.

When I graduated and no longer had "free" access to a swimming pool, I put a pause on swimming. Then I moved out of the country and probably got into a backyard pool ONCE in over two years.

Lately I've been have swimming dreams, so I started researching indoor pools close to my apartment. But frankly, I'm terrified. Terrified to start the insanity again. Wondering if I'm even capable anymore.

So I'll blog about it. And I hope some of you reading can keep me on track (in other words, I need cheerleaders).

Step one: buy a training suit and a sweet new pair of swedish goggles. Oh and a cap since I have too much hair.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's Raining Cans

A couple of weeks ago I heard a whimsical story on news radio and I can't get it out of my head.

So, a recycle truck driving on the highway had some sort of trouble (the details were a little sketchy here) with keeping their precious cargo inside the truck. As a result, a TON of aluminum cans flew out over the highway. Of course they were then smashed by the angry commuters speeding along the road.

But wait, it gets better.

This day happened to be VERY windy. So windy, in fact, that I had to drive with my windows up (I suffer from chronic windows-down-at-all-times-despite-the-weather). So, as soon as the cans were squashed flat by the cars, they were then picked up by the wind and tossed around the road like some crazy tin can rain storm.


I thought it sounded magical. Although I'm sure not all that safe for drivers. The End.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Food Made Me Appreciate World History

So I have a degree in Anthropology. But I generally find history rather boring and confusing. Too many dates and names to remember and sort through. I realize history is important when talking about Anthropology and culture since we must look to the past to understand why we are what we are today. This doesn't change the fact that I always wanted to fall asleep in history classes.

Well, I finally found a way to make history interesting and engaging for me. FOOD. (Let's face it, my entire life revolves around food. I day dream about it, I love grocery shopping and new restaurants, I work IN a restaurant, I love new recipes and cooking... ).

I have Linda Civitello to thank for my new love of history. She is the author of the book "Cuisine and Culture: A History of Food and People." It's the history of the world but based around FOOD (totally genius, I tell ya). The book explains how food influenced important historical events, how different foods migrated across oceans, how and why cuisine changed over the years .... awesomely delicious to read.

I had to pause numerous times when reading this book and run to the grocery store to cook up something amazing. Reading about food is dangerous (kind of like watching the Food Network or Travel Channel).

I now understand why I love potatoes so much. I also learned why the US is such a coffee addicted culture -- so I don't have to feel bad about my java addiction, it's really not my fault. And I have a renewed sense of wonder about how diverse the US is and how that diversity if reflected in our cuisine and restaurants. I love being able to choose from American burgers and fries, Vietnamese Pho, Japanese Sushi, El Salvadoran pupusas, Chilean OR Argentine empanadas, Spanish tapas, Italian pastas, Indian curry, Irish corned beef and cabbage, etc etc etc. (It's no wonder Americans are obese! Too many things to eat! (and yet most people here just go to McDonald's and never explore the fabulous options available. Sad face.))

Damnit, now I'm hungry. Time for lunch.

In conclusion: Read this book.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Says ME


"I think his work ethic is sexy."


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

VIVA CHILE

Definitely waking up early tomorrow for the Chile versus Honduras World Cup game.

(And yes, I am more excited about the Chile game than I was about the USA game... deal with it)

CHi CHI CHI LE LE LE VIVA CHILE!

That is all.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bartender Tales: whoa there racism

Working as a bartender allows me to observe the strange behaviors of people and as an anthropologist I find this fascinating and amusing. I have the usually drunk people insanity stories, but sometimes behavior truly shocks me.

First some background. The restaurant where I work is located in a highly diverse neighborhood. The neighborhood is largely hispanic, but also includes plenty of other minority groups. If you're into ethnic food, it's like heaven. There are El Salvadoran, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, etc etc restaurants all over the place. I love diversity and so I naturally thrive on the mixture of cultures that surround me.

About a week ago, a middle-aged white man came to my bar and order a beer. As I brought his oh-so-delicious Miller Lite draft to him (seriously? you want to drink water beer?), he made a comment: "So you're American, right?"

(In my head: um... what? we ARE in the US!)

Kelly: um, yeah I'm from here.

Guy: I haven't seen an American in a while!

(In my head: WHAT?!?! Do you think we're in France or something? Surprise! there are Americans everywhere IN THE USA)

Kelly: um...ok?

Guy: Well, you know because you ARE a minority around here....

(WHAT THE F-BOMB!!!! Sooooo because I'm white that means I'm American ... and since the majority of people in this neighborhood are not white that must mean they AREN'T American?!?! Holy shit ! On top of that... if I'm a random white girl working in a place full of minorities why would you even think that I would agree with or appreciate your statement?!)

Kelly: ..... *and walks away before I punch him in the face*


Immediately following this I told my Latino manager the story. He was furious and about to kick the guy out of the restaurant. Fortunately the guy was gone and there was no angry scene.

But seriously? How are people soooo stupid and insensitive?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Driving a Man Magnet

After being a car-less wonder for two-some years, I finally have some wheels again. Since my current plans are to stay-put in gringolandia for the sake of my education, I figured having a car would make life much easier (I live in the 'burbs ... we have public transportation but it takes me an eternity to get anywhere worthwhile).

At first I researched basic used cars that wouldn't cost me an arm and leg in car payments. Just when I was about to give into taking on a sizeable amount of debt in order to buy a car, a great deal landed in my lap.

So what landed in my lap? A late-90s Acura Integra. The catch? It's stick. Kelly doesn't drive stick. Kelly is a girl about cars. I know nothing. If it gets me from point A to point B then I'm happy (a functioning radio is nice). But considering the price (or lack of) tag, I took on the challenge.

And now, Kelly drives stick! (Look out world!)

Since getting my car I've discovered that guys LOVE this car. When I tell them what I drive I get immediate respect. Then they point out that it's a stick and I'm a girl AND I can drive it! Whoa, impressive-ness!

Stopped at a red light, I frequently get a glance from the driver stopped next to me. The guy checks out the car ... then the driver ... BAM, look of shock. Tiny redhead driving a sweet car, whaaaa???

So I officially can drive a manual. AND I officially drive a MAN MAGNET.


(Obviously this is what I have ALWAYS wanted in life. SUCCESS!!)

Friday, March 26, 2010

Rules of margarita-making

So I have split personalities somewhat. I'm an ESL/EFL teacher by day and a drink slinging bartender by night (I need a superhero name, quick!). Strangely enough though, teaching and bartending have an awful lot of similarities which is probably why I enjoy both so much. But that is a story for another day. Today the topic is MARGARITAS.

So I have worked in two types of restaurant bars: Anonymous American fare and Anonymous Tex-Mex fare. Each one had a different recipe. As you can probably guess, the Anonymous Tex-Mex fare restaurant made them better. This fact and numerous experience drinking margaritas at other location has led me to the conclusion that one should only drink margaritas at a Mexican, Tex-Mex, or Latino style restaurants.

The Anonymous American Fare restaurant I work at now makes HORRID margaritas. Besides the typical 3 to 1 tequila to triple sec ratio, we have to mix in some weird combination of Orange juice, splash of lime, and sour mix. I guess this doesn't sound so bad, but trust me it is. First off, there is too much juice mixer added in general. Second, a REAL margarita doesn't use SOUR MIX!!! YUCK. (on top of everything, we use an extremely cheap sour mix which tastes extremely watered down.



Kelly's Rules about Margarita Making:

- Never use sour mix
- only use lemon and lime (OK, throw some sugar or simple syrup in there if it's too tart for your taste) (Orange juice is OK only if it's a Gold margarita - gold tequila and Grand Marnier)
- always drink margaritas on the rocks, never frozen. Frozen margaritas are for wussies. But leaving the name calling out, putting a margarita through the blender melts the ice excessively then waters down and destroys the taste of the tequila. If you want a frozen margarita please don't waste your expensive bottle of tequila, grab that plastic one that smells like hangovers and spring break parties.
-salt the rim. It's not a margarita without the salt. Sorry.


OK now close your eyes and imagine you're on a warm beach with beautiful blue water. Margarita Mission: successful.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Beer O' The Week

And the Beer O' The Week is............ Tyskie! I discovered this beer thanks to my mother. She ran across it in the supermarket and naturally had to buy it due to our Polish heritage and our shared love of brewskis (yes my mom is cool).

It's excellent. Buy it. Drink it. Love it.


So cheers to Poland and a shout out to Karina, my Polish "sister."


(Despite the name of the post... I am in no way promising a new awesome beer every week. But if I find another delish beer, I will post another beer o' the week.... although that could be 2 months from now. :) )

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

I'm NOT Irish

News flash people (for about the 587th time). I'm not Irish. Yes, I know I have red hair. And I know that the 1 Kelly is an Irish name. My name is some cruel joke thanks to my parents. The hair is (as far as I can tell from family tree information) from my Norwegian heritage. (Go vikings! Go!)

St. Patrick's Day is always a frustration for me when I'm in the US. People are always thinking I'm some insanely Irish leprechaun or something. And I know that a lot of people say "well everyone is Irish on St Patrick's Day!" But I just want to make it clear that I. Am. Not. Irish.

I probably add more to the confusion because I love corned beef and cabbage. And I have a strange addiction to potatoes (but seriously, other countries besides Ireland eat lots of potatoes - that is to say the people in the countries... not actually the countries themselves... err, ok sidetracked there for a sec). And my favorite color is green.

Point being, despite the signs - the hair, the name, the color, the food - the Kelly of this blog is not Irish.

But Happy St. Patrick's Day to you all anyway. Drink your green beer and whatnot. I'll be bartending all night and grimacing every time someone shouts, "hey red! You must LOVE this holiday, right? Cause you're sooooo Irish!!"

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mi querida Chile

No, I'm not in Chile right now. I'm in the US.

OK, now that that's over with....

As of this morning I've heard some type of news from everyone I know in Chile. Including one friend in ConcepciĆ³n (which was one of the harder hit areas).

My friends and family here in the States have all expressed relief that I am not in Chile right now. For me though, Chile is the only place in the world I want to be right now. You don't run away from those you love in times of tragedy and need. And I definitely love Chile. I have an unexplainable strong connection to that country. I know that I cannot be in my second-home at this very moment, but my heart is there supporting the strength of the people and the country.

For anyone in the DC area interested, the Chilean embassy is having a mass in remembrance of the victims of the earthquake this coming Sunday at a church in NoVa. Check out the details here. I have to work Sunday afternoon so I'll be unable to attend, but I hope others will show their support.



Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowtography

The DC area has gone insane with the new "snowcabulary." By far my favorite thing so far has been the Snowtorious B.I.G. stuff. I've seen people on twitter saying, what about 2Pacalypse Snow? As well as, "I love it when you call me big doppler." Insane amounts of snow makes DC awesomely amusing.

Last I checked, we are up to 20 inches of snow and it's still coming down....

So here's some of my snowtography...

In the beginning... some light melty snow on the car.


Last night's light snow on the trees


Light snow foot print.


My boots in snow.


Heavy snow makes tree branches snap...


Through the snowy bushes...


Telephone line down???
(Our phone works and the power is good...
so apparently that wire isn't so important).



If you're snowed in like me, stay warm, watch movies, and relax. If you're not snowed-in... you're lucky. that's all. haha.

Friday, February 5, 2010

snowtoriousBIG/snowpocalypse/snowmageddon or how DCians are winter wimps

The snow has started. Yes, it will probably be a lot (the experts say 30 inches). But seriously, DC ... it's not the end of the world!!! I guess since we can barely survive the 3-ish inches we got a few days ago, 2.5 feet might feel like the end of the world.

All I have to say is that WE ARE RIDICULOUS.


Prepare yourselves for the SNOW-IN FREAK OUT!

That's all for now. Snow photos to follow... chau!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Foodie Label

What is a foodie?

I can't seem to get a straight answer on this at all. And like pretty much every trendy/newly-invented-word*, everyone has their own definition.

When I first started to hear/read the word foodie I was like, "ok, these are people who really like food..." But seriously folks, who doesn't like food? So is there a higher degree of like-age here or something???

Then I started to hear that it's basically the same thing as a "gourmet" - but that people think that gourmet = snobby, so they made up foodie to imply something more down-to-earth.

Digging further I found that a lot of people HATE the term foodie AND think that it implies plenty of snobby-ness (I came to this conclusion after reading far too many message boards discussing the definition of "foodie" - made my head hurt honestly). It seems that these "foodies" get obsessed with reading up on every new restaurant, going there and critiquing their dishes based on whatever article/book/blog they just read (these readings generally telling them what the new trends are for ingredient pairings and which newly discovered wines go best with them). Some of the foodies actually get into actually cooking things themselves in order to substantiate their expert knowledge of food.

This description of foodies kind of reminds me of those "sports fans" who get all their information from Sports Center and PTI and proceed to repeat the opinions of these television personalities instead of actually watching the games and coming up with their own opinions.

I'm definitely not pretending to be better than these types of people AT ALL. With my constant moving around for the past two years, I've done a piss-poor job at keeping up with my favorite sports teams. Sometimes I like to pretend I'm still a dedicated fan, but I will quickly admit that I know nothing these days about the players, stats or what-have-you. And since I'm just getting into this whole cooking/culinary thing, I know I have plenty to learn - and I will read articles and books about food in order to do that.

I guess my conclusion here is that I still don't know what a foodie is and so I will never call myself one. I'm not an expert on food or cooking and even as I learn more I will take everything with a grain of salt (BAM! food idiom!) and try my very best to stay true to my personal taste.



* according to my research, the term "foodie" was coined in 1981. So maybe no-so-new. Depends - like always - on your perspective.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Help save Kelly's bacon (and other food idioms)

As I have hinted at before, this blog is going to take a turn in the foodie direction. Fun! I'm still working out the specifics along with a blog name change... which is where you come in! I'd like some input on new blog names. I don't want to try to force this blog into being something that I'm not. So I'm embracing all aspects of my interests in order to incorporate them into something entirely and uniquely me. So I want the title to include an English food idiom.

So think up your favorite or pick one from what I have found and leave a comment. Explaining why you like it would be helpful as well!

cool as a cucumber
with a pinch of salt
in a nutshell
easy as pie
a piece of cake
spill the beans
nutty as a fruitcake
in a pickle

(etc etc .... yes I'm a language nerd - and I'm hoping all my fellow language nerds will add to the selection)





And so I'll leave you with the sandwich I had for lunch yesterday...laugh all you want, it was delicious.
And I have to say, buying the right bacon totally makes a huge difference. Being poor and so, in turn, rather frugal with my food purchases, I always opt for the cheaper alternatives. Obviously this will change the taste quality but I got used to it. Now with the help of my financial backer (thanks mom!) I can get my hands on slightly better quality and slightly more expensive food items. In conclusion, this bacon was awesome. (in case you're wondering, it is Oscar Meyer bacon. no joke)

(turkey lunch meat, bacon, spinach, colby jack cheese, pickles, banana peppers, mayo, and spicy mustard on whole wheat bread. Accompanied with Utz Maryland Crab chips - the best potato chip ever created! - and a pickle)

Monday, January 11, 2010

La Peliroja en Guachinton


That's right, my friends...I am back in the US of A. Which means the title of this blog has got to change... but that will come in time...

For now, I'll procrastinate the next step in my life by posting a photo wrap up.


The unwanted boy puppy. We named him Otto. He likes to bite everything at the moment.




Me drinking the national beer, Gallo. And of course, that's the Guate flag on the side.


Otto again. Very young and tiny. He is much bigger now...almost as big as his wimpy father.



The man looking somber. I just like this photo.


Maybe I will visit Guatemala again someday and have a more positive experience all around. But for now I'm content to have a happy stomach and calm nerves (although both have been a processes to change).

Monday, January 4, 2010

both sides of the coin or my love/hate relationship with travel

Like always when I leave a country to return to the US, I have a list of things I cannot wait to have when I get "home."

- a shower with hot water AND water pressure
- a fully equipped kitchen with lots of awesome kitchen tools (thanks mom!)
- a diet with far less pork
- a washer and a dryer
- drinkable tap-water


But there are also things I will miss....

- amazing coffee.
- freshly made corn tortillas
- chocobananos
- the man
- the academy (aka my place of work)
- spring-like weather always



I love/hate this feeling. It always starts when I begin to pack. It's this sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach (that has nothing to do with food poisoning). It's feeling like you're losing something important but at the same time it's excitement to move on. I think this feeling is exactly why I like flying. It's a rush of emotion and energy. It's intense.

I just wonder when after this I will have this feeling again..... we shall see.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

my "guata" is "mala" or how my life is shifting...again

So I'm completely done with "stomachache"-landia. (in case you didn't catch that from the previous post)

(Side story... when I first got food poisoning here, a Chilean friend of mine said to me, "well obviously! I mean you're living in Guatemala! Get it? Guata - mala?!? jajajajaja!" In case the Chilean Spanish humor goes over your head, let me explain. In Chilean Spanish "guata" means "stomach" and "mala" means (everybody all together now...) "bad" --- so to a Chilean "Guatemala" is basically the equivalent of "stomachache." Awesome huh?)

My life has been pretty insane the past few years. Last year I lived in three different countries (and never stayed longer than 4 months in any of them). It's been an emotional roller coaster to say the least. And career development-wise, I feel like I've been lost at sea. With my birthday this month I feel as though I'm getting too old to mess around like this and I need to focus on something specific for work and settle down a bit. The problem is, I don't really know what that means....

I have a project in mind at the moment. I'm excited about it, but it's still in the early stages. I'm hoping it works out and I can make into my life. I'll explain that a little further later when I start making changes to this blog to go along with said project.

oh and PS I'm flying into the US late on Tuesday night. Surprise!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

There's no place like....????

News flash! News flash! Guatemala is NOT Chile. *SURPRISE!*

OK OK... Obviously I knew that Guatemala isn't Chile before I came here. I understand that Latin America is not one big country. In fact I've had to explain numerous times to other people that I in fact did NOT drink lots of tequila and eat burritos everyday while living in Chile. But after having a successful "living abroad" experience in Santiago, I naively assumed that living in Guatemala would be a snap.

I feel bad constantly complaining about this country so I want to say that everything I'm about to write is totally based on my personal and limited experience living in Guatemala City for four months. So take from this what you will and judge me as a wimpy gringa if you so wish.

Never ever ever in my entire life have I had so many stomach illness than I have had in the past four months. I have had four CRUCIAL (what up DC slang?) cases of food poisoning. And by crucial I mean curl up in the fetal position, feel like I'm going die, and getting to know the porcelain god waaay better than I ever wanted kind of super duper crucial food poisoning. Don't worry, I won't elaborate further. I think you got the point.

I never had these issues in Chile. I got mild food poisoning ONCE from a sandwich with bad mayo. My stomach was a little queasy while adjusting to the tap water, but nothing that painful. I ate street food constantly and never had an issue. Dear Chile, Despite your rather bland and not so interesting food, I love and absolutely miss all of it at this very moment.

I severely miss my independence. Due largely to the safety issues here, I cannot go anywhere alone. And since I don't know a ton of people here, I rely heavily on the man to escort me everywhere. So if the man is working, I am a prisoner of my house. I miss walking around outside!! (and feeling relaxed while doing so). I miss being able to do normal errands, shopping, taking the bus, etc etc ALONE! I want to be able to hail a taxi on the street and not worry if the driver will try to mug me (not try to rip me off - THAT I can handle. I'm talking about gun totting cabbies). I seriously dream about wandering the streets of Santiago by myself.

I feel as though people here walk out the door in the morning and think "I wonder if I'm going to get mugged today?" Whenever I talk to a Guatemalan they are talking about the shooting that happened down the block yesterday, how their friend/aunt/cousin was mugged recently, their past robbing experiences, and warning me not to go ANYWHERE without someone (preferably male and Guatemala ... muscles wouldn't hurt either).

Although nothing (knock on wood) has happened to me, I've heard so much about crime and violence in this country that I am legitimately terrified to walk ONE block by myself. When I started to work at the Academy I was happy to learn that there is a mall one block away. Malls are the safest place to walk around and I thought oh good! I can go window shop if I have a break in classes during the day. Nope. Wrong wrong wrong. One of my co-workers told me a story of being robbed at gunpoint as he walked to the mall to grab some lunch (male, guatemalan... not muscle-y, but not wimpy looking either. So how would a gringa do? I don't even want to know). Needless to say, I've never walked the one block from my work to the mall ... I was sufficiently scared by the story.

Maybe I am a wimp. Maybe I am taking all of these stories too seriously. Who knows? All I know is that I live everyday scared of doing anything and everything. This is not mentally healthy.

I know that going back to the US is an option. And it's one that I'm considering. But oddly enough I find myself day-dreaming about that skinny little country at the end of the world: Chile. I know it's nowhere near perfect... but I've realized that I feel safe there and that is a very big deal, believe you me.

I still have a lot of soul-searching to do before I decide where to plant myself for a good long while (i'm starting to feel the urge to settle down... am I getting old?). But this is just a small glimpse of where my head is at right now.