Sunday, July 15, 2012

tell the girls

carlos is a poster-child for chilean hipsters: texas rangers t-shirt coupled with a colorful scarf, full beard, narrow build, hint of a beer belly. you can imagine how i felt when i met him after alberto - a slightly more reserved fellow who appears to know everyone interesting under the age of 35 - invited us to go to a concert with his friends on thursday. the venue and company were great, but the music left something to be desired. so carlos suggested we all go salsa dancing:

cc: i have to work tomorrow. another night?
c: that's not possible.
cc: why not?
c: tonight's the only night. let's go.
cc: i want to, but i can't. i have to work tomorrow at 8.
c: that's disappointing because i really wanted to go salsa dancing with you.

as he engaged sara, megan, and kristel in similar negotiations, i realized carlos was being facetious. he, in fact, could go salsa dancing any night, but was using a tried-and-true technique in fun-lover persuasion: the limited time offer. after several minutes, we prevailed and carlos consented to take us out another night. long after we'd traded in our dancing shoes for dreams, carlos sent alberto a text with a photo of himself and the needling caption: please tell the girls: i'm dancing salsa.

that's the sort of magic this week has been made of. 

on monday, i made a small presentation at our team meeting about ferpa and student privacy laws. in spanish. it was a group effort involving a lot of gesticulation and professional patience. but i did it. after work, i went to a little theater-cafe a la 1515 broadway in detroit to tweak my resume and unwind before dinner-ing at mike and marie's apartment. tuesday brought a fantastic (and cheap) almorzo with megan in a dive-ish bar near los héroes. i had my first spanish language lesson with paula, followed by sushi and euchre at the girls' apartment.

on wednesday, i was making dinner at the apartment when i heard a knock at the door. i paused to let roxana respond and, when she didn't, i opened it. there, at the threshold, stood a fine-looking fellow with a bicycle asking if he might come inside. i wish you would, i thought, as i heard movie soundtrack music playing in the background. in reality, the music was coming from roxana's room and only silence followed. finally, i stepped out of the way and muttered an of course...roxana's in her room. after a few minutes recovering in the kitchen, i offered dinner to roxana and her friend, santiago. we passed the eve talking about bikes and politics and los angeles and atacama and how roxana came to rent the spare room in her apartment to strange foreigners. it was everything i love about people and life. it was also my first hint that the week might be unusual.

thursday, i found myself with a few hours to kill between work and evening plans. i narrowly missed the 5:30 show at el biógrafo so i wandered over to the cineteca nacional where I watched a documentary on santiago's urban development between 1997-2000. interesting, if not difficult to follow. when i emerged from the theater, i immediately noticed an influx in carabineros on the street and a few small tanks. my eyes started to burn and i saw people covering their faces. so this is what tear gas feels like, i thought, as i ducked into the girls' apartment building. the labor protest near universidad católica had turned ugly so we cabbed through the aftermess to bellavista. a lovely poca viernes ensued with jonatan, wcl friends, and albert & co.

on friday, i met individually with my boss to discuss my research assignments. at his suggestion, we started in spanish and only switched to english when absolutely necessary. it is noteworthy that i've scored an exceptionally awesome boss who helps me muddle through verb tenses and reflects what he thinks i am saying rather than switching to english. i met megan and alberto for lunch during which we discovered that alberto is good friends with enrique, the lawyer-poet who won my heart at the national congress in valaparaíso. see above, "alberto knows everyone interesting in chile." but the real fun started when camila called: melissa and i will pick you up at 11:30 for karaoke at chiguagua. chiguagua looks like a standard u.s. karaoke bar - tables, a small stage, a dj - but instead of sitting and listening, everyone got on their feet to dance and sing along. camila took negative two seconds to start choreographing dance numbers, making friends with the people at adjacent tables, and orchestrating a full-fledged photo shoot. (chels, i'm convinced you and camila share a rare strain of the fun gene).  by the time saturday arrived, i was ready to take it easy. so i visited la chascona with megan and got pleasantly lost in cerro san cristóbal for a few hours

don't misunderstand me. i still eat lunch alone most days, go to the movies out of panic when i have unexpected free time, and tell people i love champagne instead of mushrooms. but, slowly, this santiago adventure is proving to be something for the memory books. so i'll keep doing what i do. and if they come asking, please tell the girls: i'm out dancing salsa.

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