Friday, July 23, 2010

maybe you could've been somethin' I'd be good at

I've been here for five weeks and two days, and I've got six weeks minus one day left. El tiempo va volando.

This summer has been an accelerated representative of a feeling that sometimes threatens to overwhelm me, this sense that life is running out from under my feet and I haven't done enough with it to merit the time that's already passed. Perhaps it's not that I haven't done enough, but I haven't done enough of the right thing. I've got three months left of college, and then I have to figure out some kind of plan; that came up so fast. Why didn't I backpack through Central America for a summer? Why didn't I pick up everything and move to Brazil for a quarter? Why haven't I spent the past five weeks learning to dance to reggaeton and meeting Chileans and drinking pisco sours until 5 in the morning?

Not that I can't do all these things now, or in the future, but it's different, you know. Now at the back of everything, there has to be some kind of end goal, or stability, or promise of something to come. I need a permanent job, I need to not rely on my parents forever, I need to grow up and be responsible and financially independent and... sedentary? To some degree, that's what it feels like.

I'm not good at not having a plan; not long-term, anyway. I can go out of town for a weekend without booking a place to stay and know that I'll find something - wow, true risk-taker here. But when I think about what I'd like to do most after graduating--grab a backpack and move back to Chile, work as a page designer for a local newspaper for six months then take the next three to explore the country from top to bottom--all I can hear is all the reasons why that wouldn't work. Where would I stay? Would I meet people or would it be three months of loneliness? What if I got sick? What if I were robbed and had no way of getting home? What if, what if, what if...until the dream just dies a quiet death in the back of my mind.

I've talked to so many people who have done just that - picked up and left, moved to a city they loved, no prospects, not even the whisper of a prospect. It sounds so novel-worthy and romantically adventurous, so bold and youthful and impetuous. And talking to the editor from Rtrs--she stressed over and over again that this is the time of my life to do it. What attachments do I have right now? No spouse, no kids, no house, no settled job; I'm young, malleable, adaptable, and ready to be out on my own. This is the time for adventures. But I feel like all the big, beautiful, daring dreams that are tumbling about in my head become absolutely terrifying when I start thinking about making them a reality.

It could be that I'm just a tame person best suited for a tame life.

I'm not really okay with that.

Love always,

Friday, July 9, 2010

the first is love without end

I read my city like a story book today, and wrote pictures in my mind.

Love always,

Thursday, July 8, 2010

learning, discerning

So here's my problem.

I think Rtrs is probably one of the best, if not the best, companies I could work for as a journalist. In an economy where the newspaper industry is losing customers and firing writers and getting skinnier broadsheets, where the unemployment rate among journalists is 25 percent, Reuters is expanding. They care about their employees; they have unparalleled access to important figures in the world; they have bureaus EVERYWHERE, and if I worked for them, the list of "Top 10 Countries I Want to Live in" written at the back of my reporter's notebook could easily become a reality instead of just wishful thinking.

So yes, Rtrs is amazing and I would be so lucky as to work for them someday.

But at the same time...I like people more than numbers. I like writing more than injecting data. I care more about what happens to the inhabitants of a country than I do about what happens to its economy.

And I know that really, you can't separate the economy from the news. The markets, the banks, the corporations are the driving force behind basically all major news except for natural disasters. So caring about people means I should care about the global economy that affects them.

I'm learning to care about it, poco a poco, but the more I read, the more I'm fearing that this isn't for me. Facts are important, numbers must be given out up at the top, but in the Rtrs model, there seems to be no time for good writing. Well, that's not fair. All Rtrs journalists are good writers. There's no time for beautiful writing, I should say. No time for creativity. We're not telling a story; we're explaining the numbers.

As always, I'm generalizing. With stories that are not completely finance-focused, Rtrs does an amazing job of weaving a dozen different concepts into one comprehensive idea. Check out some of their coverage on the BP crisis - so many angles, economy-focused and not, and they somehow manage to pull it all together. They did the same for the earthquake here in Chile, and for every other story that has important pieces that fall outside of that purely financial realm.

But that's not the norm, it seems. BP's oil spill, Chile's earthquake, redshirt riots in Bangkok; disasters of this magnitude don't happen every day. What happens every day in this company is people having heart attacks about putting out the latest "snap" that says, for example, that the consumer price index in Chile changed 0.0 percent. That's what I got to work at 7:30 for this morning (who's got two thumbs and is not a morning person? This girl) - a 0.0 percent change. I can't get excited over that. I get an adrenaline rush because I want us to beat Bloomburg and I don't want to screw anything up, but 0.0 percent? Even a 0.5 percent change doesn't get me going.

Now, a lot of this I can chalk up to my own ignorance. If I knew what a 0.5 percent change does to the market, if I really understood it, I'm sure I could get a little more fired up. But still...I don't care about rich corporations making more money or losing some of their obscene amounts of wealth. Jobless data? That's more interesting, but to Rtrs, it's just a number. What about the jobless people? I'd rather talk to them than count them.

Anyway. Tomorrow I get to do a story that's more fun, although it was given to me out of pity, I feel. It's for Rtrs "Life!" which is all features. Rtrs does these "Travel Postcards" for big cities, explaining what to do in "48 hours" when you're there. So instead of going into the office and sitting for 10 straight hours, as I did today, I get to explore Santiago. Cable car up Cerro San Cristobal, I've got my eye on you.

Love always,

Monday, July 5, 2010

muevete lo que tu madre te dio

I can't believe I've already been here almost three weeks. I feel like I still know so little. I suppose three weeks isn't that much time, and I shouldn't put such high expectations on myself to walk & talk like a native already, but when I consider the fact that about 30 percent of my time here has already passed, it just puts the pressure on.

This weekend I finally went out at night, gracias a Dios. I really don't think I could have handled another weekend spent watching Disney movies on YouTube. (You laugh because you think I'm joking. I'm not.) ((That said, I did spend a good chunk of this weekend in front of the TV. But it was the Argentina game, Avatar and 24, so I feel a little better about it.))

So yes, luckily for me, the two young people at work agreed to show me around the town. On Friday night, Brad (American), Alexandra (Portuguese) and I went to barrio Bellavista, a neighborhood across the river where the nightlife ranges from sanitized Patio Bellavista to a sketchy Ave-like street called Pio Nono ("Usually a no-no," Brad explained.) Also has one of Pablo Neruda's houses - La Chascona. Apparently he built it there for a mistress of his because he wanted it to be out of the way. We stood outside it at night; there are 5 stone slabs set in the ground near the street, with one of his poems engraved on them.

He olvidado tu voz, tu voz alegre
He olvidado tus ojos

(I have forgotten your voice, your happy voice
I have forgotten your eyes)

We only stood there for a moment, but it was a beautiful moment indeed. Picture the little house, tucked away at the foot of a hill, dark sky overhead, the poem barely visible in the dim light of the street. I don't know why that moment has stuck with me so heavily, but it felt like a defining instant in my time here in Chile. I felt young in a good way, an alive way, as if the whole world was about to unfold before me. And perhaps it is.

/end aside.

After that, we went to three different spots - first, a very classy restaurant where we sat outside on little cushions, ate bite-size empanadas and talked about the market. Second, a big, modern-looking bar with way too many couples making out and really bad 80s music (where I was made to dance), and third, the upper floor of a patio restaurant where I forced myself to drink wine. (Which is never going to happen again. Blech.)

All in all, a highly satisfactory night. And I probably couldn't have asked for two better companions to show me around.

Then Saturday night, I met up with a girl I met at church (English-speaking foreigner church! Woot.) and went with her roommates and her to the California Cantina, which is a total gringo bar, for its 4th of July party. We talked about the hot Spanish football players and made inappropriate jokes (I have yet to find the Spanish equivalent of "that's what she said!") and felt like old friends after only one pisco sour.

After the gringas, I took a cab back to Bellavista to meet Alex at a Brasilian bar, and that was probably my favorite experience thus far in Santiago. She had been invited there by her trainer, a Chilean guy named Cristian who had a constant smile and couldn't sit still. Cristian wouldn't let my insecurities hold me back, and pulled me onto the dance floor amid my protestations that I was a white girl and therefore had no dancing capacity, and showed me how to move like a chilena. It was the first time I've ever enjoyed dancing, really and truly. Even though he kept pulling my chin up so I couldn't watch my feet.

So yes. I'm finally getting out, meeting people, having fun...all the stuff I'm supposed to do. It's starting to look like maybe I won't leave Chile with no friends. Whew.

Anyway, tomorrow's another day of feeling inadequate and hopelessly ignorant, and that takes a lot of energy. So I best be heading off to dormir.

Love always,