The Monkey Factory â€“ Corporate purgatory and expat adventures. These are the fortunes and misfortunes of a girl in her early thirties who left behind a nice creative career in an English speaking country for the corporate rat race in South America.
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I don’t often have the chance to go down to Santiago centro but when I do I like to take my camera with me. I frequently forget to look up and during this stroll in the downtown areaI had to force myself to do it. I took many rubbish shots but these are the few... Read...
I don’t often have the chance to go down to Santiago centro but when I do I like to take my camera with me. I frequently forget to look up and during this stroll in the downtown areaI had to force myself to do it. I took many rubbish shots but these are the few that were salvageable. Those wooden shutters on the second picture are commonly found on buildings facing west, the sun is extremely strong, especially from October to April, and older building get too hot in summer and too cold in winter.
I’m not a fan of going shopping at the best of times, to me buying groceries is a necessary chore. I don’t have a car, and this means going to the supermarket several times a week to buy just what I can carry. I have found that, at least in my neighbourhood, very few supermarkets... Read...
I’m not a fan of going shopping at the best of times, to me buying groceries is a necessary chore. I don’t have a car, and this means going to the supermarket several times a week to buy just what I can carry. I have found that, at least in my neighbourhood, very few supermarkets have baskets and rely on trolleys. This doesn’t make one bit of difference to people who have their own transport and buy enough food to feed a family, but for us single people who only need a few items is a bit annoying. No big deal, I’ll just grab things quickly, carry everything in my hands, pay and be out of there in 15 minutes, right? Wrong.
People have an astonishing tendency to leave unattended trolleys rights in the middle of the aisles. Not to the side, letting people through, but right in the middle. Often you find trolleys double parked, effectively blocking the whole aisle and magically transforming your quick supermarket outing into an obstacle course. This, coupled with many people’s inability to walk on a straight line makes something simple into, quite frankly, a pain in the butt.
When I have everything I need and I’m ready to pay I generally join the fast lane since I don’t have a lot of stuff. There are two or three tills on the fast lane at my local supermarket, and for a reason I can’t quite fathom the first person in line always waits until the person in front has finished paying and is on his merry way bags in hand before laying down his stuff on the belt, thus holding up the whole queue and making people who are carrying their groceries on their hands extremely uncomfortable. Never mind the fact that we could simplify the process and get out of there faster if we’d all lay down our groceries on the tills as the person in front is finishing up. That’s what the grocery dividers are for.
Ah, grocery dividers. They exist. Supermarkets have them. People don’t seem to be able to use them. In Europe placing the divider down behind you is common courtesy, and here I’ve managed to freak out many people in front of me by reaching out to grab it since they couldn’t be bothered to put it down themselves. But wait, there is more. As you are queuing, often the person in front will realise that they forgot something. Sure, it happens. Do they apologise and rush across the shop to minimise the impact on others? Certainly not. They voice a forceful and contemptuous “permiso” and take their really sweet time to return while everyone else in line huffs and puffs in passive aggressive silence without raising any actual objections. Truly, I find it fascinating.
And then, after holding an armful of groceries eventually you’ll get to the finish line and be ready to pay. You are almost done, right? Wrong again.
You see, reusable bags are a beautiful thing. You can keep them in your handbag, they don’t take much space, and you won’t need to use unnecessary plastic. If you, like me, aren’t a fan of plastic bags going to the supermarket over here will drive you insane. Most supermarkets have baggers, generally college students who work for tips. They appear to be under the impression that the more plastic bags they use, the bigger the tip. I can see how this service would be useful for the elderly or for families who do their monthly shop, but for me it’s completely pointless. Besides, an average of five weekly trips to the supermarket really adds up in tips so I always politely decline the service but they don’t seem to care. As the cashier scans my first item I have my reusable canvas bags ready and I’ll try to grab my bundle of asparagus before the bagger can pounce on it. “No thank you, I’m ok for bags,” doesn’t seem to do the trick. Once, a very determined bagger decided to ignore my protests and before I knew what was what, all of my nine small items had been packed in six plastic bags. He wasn’t impressed when I repacked them in reusable bags and gave him back all his plastic.
To close on a positive note, slowly but surely reusable canvas bags seem to be taking off over here. You can now purchase nice and inexpensive foldaway bags at one of the main department stores that are brilliant for groceries, so I do hope to see more people with them soon.
“Hola! Senorita, una foto!” I encountered these two lovely chaps as I was leaving the main food market in Santiago de Chile, camera in hand. “Hey miss, take our picture,” they yelled cheerfully. After getting suspicious looks from so many people in the market I was happy to oblige. Sadly I can’t remember their names... Read...
“Hola! Senorita, una foto!” I encountered these two lovely chaps as I was leaving the main food market in Santiago de Chile, camera in hand. “Hey miss, take our picture,” they yelled cheerfully. After getting suspicious looks from so many people in the market I was happy to oblige. Sadly I can’t remember their names but, wherever you are gentlemen, you made my day.
“Here, let me show you how to make popcorn!” And without further ado, Ricardo forcefully grabbed my packet of microwave popcorn out of my hands. Ricardo is one of my colleagues. He’s 28, makes a decent salary as a university educated young professional and has always lived at home with his parents. Every day he... Read...
“Here, let me show you how to make popcorn!” And without further ado, Ricardo forcefully grabbed my packet of microwave popcorn out of my hands.
Ricardo is one of my colleagues. He’s 28, makes a decent salary as a university educated young professional and has always lived at home with his parents. Every day he brings a homemade, three course meal, lovingly packed by his mother to eat during his lunch hour. A few months ago his mother was away on holiday and he complained that he was running out of clean clothes. “Ricardo, you do have a washing machine, don’t you?” we asked. “Oh yes but I’m not sure how it works and I’m scared that I might flood the house,” he answered without a trace of sarcasm in his voice.
For better or worse I moved out and started living on my own when Ricardo was still in middle school. I mastered microwave popcorn during my first week at university. The secret is to time just two minutes and 50 seconds using a microwave at room temperature. Three whole minutes and you’ll burn them. If the microwave has just been used you’ll burn them.
And so, as we were standing in the middle of the office kitchen, Ricardo snatched the packet of popcorn out of my hands, placed it in a hot microwave that someone had just finished using and set the timer to three whole minutes as per the packet’s instructions. “No,” I told him, “mate, I’ve been making microwave popcorn before you were allowed to walk to school on your own. I know exactly how I like my popcorn.” He wasn’t having any of my protests. “NO! Really, I can show you how to make them!” he insisted in a weirdly determined manner. I sighed. It would be interesting to see where our popcorn stand off might lead us.
“When it’s ready you have to be careful when you take it out or you might get burned with the steam,” Ricardo mansplained helpfully. “Fascinating, you mean the bag traps the steam in and it helps pop the kernels?” I retorted. Sadly the sarcasm was lost in him.
I know that mansplaining is a thing wherever you go in the world, but I was not expecting mummy-boy to mansplain anything about adulting to someone who has been washing her own laundry for 15 years, especially not microwave popcorn. I mean, what is the polite answer to that in an office setting? Under normal circumstances I’d tell him to sod off and ask him if he was sure that he could use a microwave unattended, but I’m already known as the weird foreigner in the office and I’m learning to choose my battles.
I have already mentioned that a lot of the locals live at home until they are in their late twenties and it really blows my mind how so many young adults are unable to function as grown ups in many settings. He can’t do his own laundry, he can’t cook his own lunch and clearly he can’t make microwave popcorn.
I could have made an issue out of it. I could have adultsplained to him why he was being a muppet. I could have womansplained to him why mansplaining idiotic stuff to women is not ok, but sometimes one gets tired of fighting sexist microaggressions every day.
So in the end I did the only thing I could. “Great,” I said walking away from the office kitchen, “you stay here and watch them, remember that when the microwave goes ‘beep!’ it means that it’s finished. When they are done just bring them to my desk please, can find the bowls on your own?”
“Tres por luca, solo mil pesos!” the vendor yelled, beckoning us to her stall where we could purchase some tempting fresh fruit on a hot summer day. Three views of La Vega, Santiago de Chile’s main food market. This place is usually packed during the day, with sellers loudly offering their produce and shoppers keenly... Read...
“Tres por luca, solo mil pesos!” the vendor yelled, beckoning us to her stall where we could purchase some tempting fresh fruit on a hot summer day.
Three views of La Vega, Santiago de Chile’s main food market. This place is usually packed during the day, with sellers loudly offering their produce and shoppers keenly haggling for bargains. The dry summer heat in Santiago is harshly unforgiving and I only managed to go towards the end of the day, when the temperature was bearable and sellers were busy packing up for the day.
It’s definitely worth another visit to the many cafes and restaurants that I didn’t have the chance to photograph on this occasion but for now you can enjoy three of my favourite stalls.
Back home I never took taxis. I come from a culture of public transport and the subway covers the whole city. The buses are clean(ish), generally punctual, and they always stop at traffic lights. This means that I’m a terrible driver and I have never owned a car, but it is ok because I never... Read...
Back home I never took taxis. I come from a culture of public transport and the subway covers the whole city. The buses are clean(ish), generally punctual, and they always stop at traffic lights. This means that I’m a terrible driver and I have never owned a car, but it is ok because I never needed one.
In Latin America a lot of people are surprised that I refuse to purchase a car and still insist to take the subway everywhere. Basically if it’s within the city limits and I can’t get there on public transport without having to walk more than 10 minutes from the station then I’m not interested. “But you are rich!” they say, “why don’t you buy a car?” Probably because I am not rich. I suppose that, compared to a lot of the locals who are on minimum wage then yes, I’m doing ok, but I’m certainly not rich. But I digress. Besides the pollution, I find that cars are an unnecessary expense. My subway commute costs less than £1 each way and I don’t have to worry about finding a parking space.
However, the one thing that worries me the most about driving in Latin America are other drivers. I’ve been told that, for this part of the world, the locals are excellent drivers. I’ve visited other places in the region and I’m inclined to believe it but, as a very unconfident driver myself I can do without the aggravation of people refusing to use their indicators and driving at 120 mph on the slow lane on the motorway. Whenever a kind soul gives me a lift I swear that we can’t move for more than 100 metres without my driver rolling down the window and yelling a bunch of colourful expletives or honking like a madman. I’ve even seen people reversing on the motorway without a care in the world, for goodness sake. It’s been years since I was last behind the wheel, but I’m pretty sure that reversing on the motorway is frowned upon by faithful followers of the Highway Code.
The other day I was quietly strolling in my neighbourhood, along a one way, fairly quiet street. I always carefully stick to walking on the pavement and I triple check before I cross the road. You’d think that getting run over on the pavement under those circumstances would be almost impossible, but then you’d be wrong. I noticed a big SUV approaching and indicating left, then quickly accelerating, gaining traction and turning right towards an apartment building’s garage door not 10 metres away from me, a maneuver that required him to briefly drive over the pavement. “What a twerp,” I thought. Once I figured that said twerp would no longer be a danger to myself or other passers-by I kept walking. Boy, oh boy, was I wrong. Apparently the twerp had driven into the wrong garage and was now fiercely reversing back onto the pavement to reach the road, revving up his engine. I heard the engine. I jumped out of the way. He braked sharply.
I happen to be completely fluent in Spanish. Let’s be honest, having a smaller language barrier in comparison to other foreigners is a blessing (I’m saying smaller because the regional variety of Spanish is really not what I’m used to, but I still get by quite well). It can also be a curse if you are having a bad day and almost get run over. If you tell someone to go fuck himself in Spanish he’ll understand you. Yes, I told him to go fuck himself. This led to a very heated exchange with him calling me the local equivalent of a “bloody foreigner” and me telling him to go back to driving bumper cars at the funfair before overcompensating with a big boy car.
Eventually I think we both realised that we had better things to do with our time and walked/drove away in a huff. I will say this, while that guy was a danger behind the wheel he’s definitely not the only example of atrocious driving I’ve seen over here. A pedestrian crossing is always an adventure.
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