Friday, September 23, 2011

How to label international airports

I've just arrived back in San Diego after 3 long flights from Santiago.  Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru, to San Jose, Costa Rica and then finally to Los Angeles where we had left the car with some friends.  I got started thinking in my after-18th stage of tired mixed with jetlag about airports.  I had no idea what time it was, both of my phones were on different times than my watch and I had forgotten whether it was the US or Chile that had already changed for the season.  (It was Chile =)

So, I've been in airports in close to 20 countries, in some really small towns around the world and the biggest in the world.  Kosice, Slovakia, another small one outside of Milan that took me to another small one outside of Berlin, on the only SMOKING flight I've ever been on.  I've been to all 3 London airports, I've waiting in line in Seville cursing my brains out with Jefe, and I've gotten a salivary gland infection that caused me to receive a steroid shot in the butt while waiting in Detroit for 10 hours after our 3 flights back to Chicago were delayed, AFTER we had flown (with my mom and sister) from Corpus Christi, to Houston, to Detroit in order to get back to Chicago.  My brother got back from Corpus Christi driving before we made it!

So, my point is, just looking at two things will give you a big idea of what kind of airport/city/country you're in.  This I discovered when walking into the San Jose giftstore recently and was shocked.

#1:  Do they sell wooden structures of native people or metal structures representing buildings? 

#2:  Condition of the bathroom.  Is there a line?  Are the people waiting patiently?  Does the door lock?  Is there toilet paper?  Is it on the ground?  Does it flush properly?  Is there hot water in the sink?  Soap?  Towels or hand dryers?  Finally, is there a DRINKING FOUNTAIN outside. 

All of these factors and more need to be taken into account when evaluating an airport.  I'm going to work on a formula to figure out scores.  I'm sure there is some kind of international evaluation through the UN but mine will be better. 

San Jose was an interesting airport.  In talking with a woman on my flight whose husband has a business there, the people have very low living standards much like the rest of Central America.  However, the airport shows you just how many tourists they get.  In Santiago, Lima, Bogota, Quito, etc, I've never been spoken to in English.  Here, I was greeted in English.  I felt that sense of being attacked you feel in malls when walking into stores in the US.  They sell all the regular drinks, magazines, snacks, etc, as any airport in the US, the bathroom was beautiful, and there was a working drinking fountain.  Now, in order to bring up their scores, they will need a Starbucks in every terminal, wifi throughout the airport, a pet relieving station, a chapel and a prayer room.

I'm back in the boat now and just wanted to share my thoughts during my last trip.  I wish everyone a great weekend.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

En Chile again


After spending 3 months in San Diego, living on a boat, we have returned to Chile.  I have to admit, it was hard. At first, I figured I had to change my mindset and try to be more reserved and not drink, and do dishes, etc.  Now, I am going to try a different approach.  If someone complains about my behavior, I still have the gringa excuse.  That´s all.

I saw a Chilean movie on the plane coming here.  It´s called Machuca and takes place during the 1973 revolution.  The idea of communism I had here was, according to the movie, very different than the Polish and Soviet communism I had studied.  Allende actually lost the Socialist support, probably one of the reasons the coup was able to happen.  And, there were fully-functioning catholic schools during that time.  I had wondered how, if Pinochet believed in the "Chicago Boys" and his neoliberalism; using the open markets to control the government and the country´s economy, why were his representatives and his techniques defying human rights?  Aside from being a dictator, of course, I couldn´t get it around my head why in theory it should function, but he represented and represents still the deaths and disappearances of so many Chileans.

I am beginning to understand.  To make something happen in Chile, unfortunately, force is needed.  It was quoted to me today in describing a Chilean, "my way or the highway".  The idea of trying to understand and attempt to use someone else´s idea is foreign to the common Chilean.  Unless that idea comes from Europe or the US.

Also, in the movie, they showed both sides of the political spectrum.  Which, unfortunately, corresponds with the socio-economic groups as well.  From what they showed, there was no one from the upper-class that supported Allende or any leftist group, the leftists groups being more extreme.  To my surprise, the English Catholic school where the two kids from different social statuses meet was allowed to function and actually shut down after the coup.  BECAUSE, the head priest, an English man, was attempting to integrate students from another neighborhood and social status.    Something that the parents couldn´t even understand why.  Simple diversity and integration was unknown.  Not only after the US´s Civil Rights movement subsided, but, 10 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream speech".

The biggest thing I realized after watching the movie and something that didn´t really shock me but actually put a lot into perspective for me was that the Chilean mentality hasn´t really changed.  Chileans from the upper and even the middle class, (which I should mention has developed since then), are not able to, or, ´shouldn´t´ spend time with or be friend´s with people from lower classes.  I´ve heard them being called, "THOSE people" and within the same lower-class level, when another tries to move up and do well for themselves, someone from their status will inevitably try to pull them down.

Even some of the chants in the street I heard once when I went to check out a protest back in May or April were the same.  And, I read that families went to the streets in July with pots and pans as well.  And, from what I´ve heard, people are still rounding up stray dogs in the middle of the night.  At this point, I can´t say whether they´re doing it for the meat or just to get them off the streets.  Of course, the movie came out in 2004 but it seemed to be a good representation of the 1973 Chile.

This movie should be shown in every school around Chile.  I would say at least by Freshmen year of HS, primer medio.

Welcome back to Chile.