Important Aromas: Touring Cousiño Macul Winery

 

Wine has always fallen into one of two categories for me: ways that college kids embarrass themselves, and ways useless cultural capital makes some people better than others (See chart below). That being said, I’m twenty-five and began to drink alcohol a year and a half ago, so I never had much to work with.

Cousiño Macul Patio

I’m pleased to say that after touring the vineyard and winery Cousiño Macul and watching the documentary Somm, I now have enough knowledge to appreciate wine.  Theoretically.

After five years, three winery tours, and finally tasting wine, my wine knowledge has grown substantially and can be summed up by the informative video below:

Touring Cousiño Macul

Cousiño Macul Entrance

Since its founding in 1856, Cousiño Macul has remained under the complete ownership of the Cousiño family, which sets it apart from other vineyards established in the 19th century. Six generations later, the cultivation and production is split between the Macul site and another site in Buin.  However, the Macul site gets all the action, in part because of its beautiful and historic French construction.  (Side note, Macul is mapudungun for “right hand.”)

Our BFF, Matías Cousiño; notice Charles is "Macul," mapudungun for "right hand."

Our BFF, Matías Cousiño; Charles is Macul

Why here?  One of the great things about Chilean wines is that the weather and soil conditions are ideal for producing wine grapes:

  • vineyards receive a lot of sunlight;
  • the proximity to the Andes means a huge variation in daytime and nighttime temperatures, which helps maintain the grapes’ acidity;
  • it basically only rains in the winter, which keeps the grapes safe from many fungi and other threats;
  • there are plenty of sloped landscapes…

…the list goes on.

 

Wine barrels Cousiño Macul

Traditional barrels

And so, Chilean wine is increasingly popular worldwide: around 65 percent of Cousiño Macul’s wine production is exported around the world.

It is also because they keep their gender bias in tact.  You will be pleased to know that the grapes are hand-picked by women.  Because we are more delicate.  Which is also why there are more female surgeons than male surgeons… right?

For information on hours, directions, and booking a tour, check out the vineyard’s website here.  A tour costs $9.000, which includes wine tasting and a special Cousiño Macul wine glass.

 Drinking vs. Tasting: Story Time!

Wine barrels in Cousiño Macul

Edwin, Charles, and I chose the perfect time for a winery tour.  The weather was gorgeous, but apparently not too many people are interested in drinking wine at eleven o’clock on a Wednesday morning.

Consequently, we had Álvaro—chef, sommelier, and tour guide extraordinaire—all to ourselves.  And we were prepared to shamelessly ask more questions than he’d probably heard all year… I warned him that we knew nothing about wine.

We passed the time asking questions, “tasting” wine, and joking about wine culture (read: I was probably mocking more than simply joking).  At some point, Charles offered that a certain wine “smelled strong.”

Álvaro replied, “Yes, it has an important aroma.”

I couldn’t help but comment: the difference between a sommelier and your everyday wine drinker is that the former knows that wine has “an important aroma”—NOT a strong smell.

Our ignorance must have become painful to Álvaro, because he finally responded to one of our questions with, “Ustedes están tomando el vino, no lo están degustando.”  (“You guys are drinking the wine; you’re not tasting it.”)

He disappeared for a moment, returning with a wine glass, which he waved around until the cardboard smell was gone from inside it.  And then he did exactly what the wine snob in the video above had told me to do.

What I’ve learned:

This is science, I promise you.

This is science, I promise you.

Extra!  I recently published “The Sommelier,” a poem inspired in part by this experience, in RiverLit No.14.

Advertisements

Arañas de Rincón: Trophies of 2013

Today I’d like to commemorate the several Chilean recluse spiders who have died at the hands of Edwin or myself over the past couple of months.  After the one I blogged about in September, I’ve decided to document their tragic deaths, basically so that I can have the pictures as trophies.

Now, I must first say that I love spiders.  I had never been afraid of spiders up until this point—between living in Vermont and adoring Charlotte’s Web, I’ve never had a compelling reason to dislike them.  I’d never met a spider that could kill me before.

And then I saw my first araña de rincón, the Chilean recluse spider.  She was perched carefully above the doorframe.  She was quite large, maybe a little under two inches including the legs.  Edwin yelled, killed her, and then I became afraid of these Chilean recluses.

Meet the Chilean Recluse

Araña de rincón en el rincón!Why are they so scary?  First of all, they’re in your house.  Second, I’m not a huge fan of necrosis or possible death.

The spider’s names tell us quite a bit about its behavior: it is often found in corners (rincón) and is reclusive, meaning it usually won’t attack you.  In fact, a Chilean recluse probably won’t bite you unless it’s pressed against your skin.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that, since they’re reclusive, they hide in dark, damp places, such as your bathroom cabinets, your closet, or that pile of clothes that you left at the foot of the bed last night.  And you don’t know they’re there.

The other bad thing is that if they bite you, your skin turns into a gaping, infected wound that either does not heal or else heals very slowly.  If you don’t believe me, just search “Chilean recluse spider bites.”  Not for the weak of heart.

Ways to identify the araña de rincón

Male Chilean recluse spider

  • Brown body and legs; the thorax is slightly lighter than the abdomen and often has a mark on it that resembles a violin (hence the nickname “fiddleback spider” in English)
  • About one to four centimeters in length, including the legs
  • Moves incredibly fast in comparison with other spiders and Spiderman
  • Has six eyes instead of eight

I love you, tiger spider!

Please note that this is quite different from the araña tigre, which cannibalizes the araña de rincón.  This spider has long, spindly legs that can be three times the length of its body.

Two things that come to mind when you see la tigre: 1.) O, blessèd spider!  Depart not from my bedside! 2.) SH***********OT WHERE ARE THE ARAÑAS DE RINCÓN???

Prevention and treatment of bites

The summertime is the busy season for Chilean recluse spider.  They reproduce and hunt more in the summer than any other time of the year, and so you should be especially wary if you’re here to enjoy the heat.

  • When getting clothing, shoes, or other items from a closet or dresser, make sure to shake them out before putting them on.
  • Check the bed sheets before going to sleep.
  • Don’t play in closets or under the bed… or anyplace you might go if you were a spider looking for a dark, quiet place to KILL.
  • Clean regularly!  Move your furniture and other things around to scare those suckers away.
  • DON’T KILL THE TIGER SPIDERS (see pic above): they eat the Chilean recluse and do you no harm!  Seriously, check it out.

If you are bitten:

  • If possible, catch or kill the spider so that you can bring it with you for identification
  • Usually there won’t be pain at first, but the bite will gradually start to redden
  • Apply ice to the bite to slow the process
  • Wash the area with soap and water
  • Get to a hospital for immediate medical attention.  This is very time sensitive!

And with that…

Happy New Year!

Stay cool!  Stay safe!  I, personally, will be heading back to the beautiful snow and ice of the Green Mountain State in another two weeks, so I will be recluse free!

Chilenismos and Holiday Decorations

It might surprise you to know that even though it’s summer here in Chile, they are going to go ahead and celebrate Christmas anyway.  It certainly surprised me.  That’s the true Christmas spirit: overcome all obstacles for a little holiday cheer.  It’s heroic, really.

I love the fake snow.

I love the fake snow.

They don’t even try to cushion the blow.  In fact, Santas are still dressed in ridiculous North Pole suits, and “White Christmas” is still heard jovially in the streets.  In Spanish.  (It’s not like they don’t know what “blanca navidad” is about.)  My mother-in-law even told me it didn’t seem strange to her!  Poor soul.

The Christmas trees are up in offices, houses, malls, and the streets.  Poinsettias and wreaths hang from the lampposts.  Some people have even put out inflatable snowmen and reindeer in their front yards.

I just can’t get over it.

Halloween aND Christmas??This has all been more ridiculous considering Chileans have been milking it since October.  OCTOBER.  They don’t have Thanksgiving to break it up, so… why not set the Christmas stuff next to the Halloween stuff?

More interesting, however, is the amount of gringo culture reflected in these celebrations and decorations.  But I’ll talk about cultural transfer another day.  Let’s get to the chilenismos.

Pascua

This word is how Chileans say navidad or Christmas.  Kind of.  Because it’s also the word for Easter and Passover (you know, from the Hebrew pesach/פסח).  And Easter Island, which is part of Chile, is called Isla de Pascua.  Anyhow, here are some other things that contain pascua.

El Viejito Pascuero

Surfing SantaSanta Claus is known by many names all over the world, but Chile is the only place to affectionately call him “the little old Christmas man.”  The men who dress up as el viejo pascuero here really have hearts of gold—I mean, apart from systematically lying to children—it’s way too hot to be wearing that suit!

Pan de Pascua

image from kaminokultural.blogspot

A traditional bread that resembles fruitcake… but it’s generally more revered in Chile than fruitcakes are in the US.  Also, if someone has a ton of acne, you might mention that their face looks like pan de pascua.  If you were a jerk.

Cola de Mono

Monkey’s tail!  This is like a Chilean version of eggnog… Except it has milk, coffee, sugar, spices, and aguardiente (firewater! or “alcohol prepared with local ingredients”).  No, it doesn’t include monkeys, but there are some interesting theories about how the drink got its name.

Cola de mono is a very traditional Christmas drink, and if you’re interested in making a glass or two to go along with your pan de pascua, check out the cooking show below on how to make both.

Engañito

Knowing that this word comes from engañar, which means “to decieve,” you might not think you would like to receive an engañito.  But it’s actually the Chilean word for a little gift that may not be worth too much money, but it’s an expression of love and caring for the other person nevertheless.

It’s like saying, “Here, I got you a little something for your birthday.  It’s nothing big…”

It could be something that didn’t cost the other person much.  For example, we have some wonderful tíos who came to our Vermont wedding and bought us little souvenirs from the locale.  They told Edwin to give them to me for our first anniversary.  That’s an engañito—it probably only cost them a couple bucks, but it was really special.

Happy holidays to all!

What’s your favorite holiday phrase?  Any chilenismos that I missed?

Trámites: Elusive Carrots on Strings (Part 2)

Carrot on string

I have finally procured residency.

As you’ll remember from Part 1, we went in circles for quite some time before we figured out what was required for me to get residency as the spouse of a Chilean.

This post is about the second round of blunders, which eventually results in obtaining residency.

First stop…

Departamento de Legalizaciones del Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores

After a couple of phone calls, we were told that these folks could do all the paperwork to get our marriage certified for us.  So we headed to Agustinas 1320.

The woman we talked to first told us that it wasn’t possible to do what we were trying to do.  But we had already confirmed that this department could do all the paperwork to legalize our marriage in Chile.

She then told us, “Well, yes, you can; but it is a complicated process and will take between two and four months.”

We opted to do it on our own and called up…

Uncle Paul and Phil at the Chilean Consulate in Boston

Paul and Phil Garber are honorary consuls that operate out of their house’s basement in Brighton, Massachusetts.

I called and explained my situation.

“Let me get this straight,” came the snarky Bostonian voice, “you just showed up in Chile without a visa and hoped for the best?”

I paused and muttered some sheepish affirmation.

“That was a good idea.”

He went on to explain that I needed to get the certificate signed by my state and then brought in—in person—for them to sign the certificate.

Vermont’s Secretary of State Continue reading

La Sebastiana: Neruda’s Whimsical Valparaíso House

Looks shipshape to me! (Image from travellersplaces.wordpress)

Neruda’s houses are some of the most whimsical national monuments you’ll see in most countries.  It is very fitting that amidst collections of shells, coins, bottles, whosits and whatsits galore, La Sebastiana’s living room boasts the poem “Oda a las cosas,” or “Ode to Things.”

Amo las cosas localocamente,” says Neruda.  Some roughly translate this to, “I have a crazy, crazy love of things.” …But I prefer, “I’m cookoo for Cocoa Puffs!

Pink and Azure Walls that Dance for Neruda

When Neruda began looking for a house in Valpo, he said he was looking for something that was not too high up, but not too low down; private, but not completely isolated; and obviously, it needed to have a view of his beloved ocean.

Something about the view says “Write a Nobel Prize-winning collection” … (Image from fundacionneruda.org )

When his friends found him the perfect house, an abandoned, four-story tower of sorts, he set about to remodel it immediately.  After three years, it had adopted the ship-like qualities of a Neruda house, along with his collections of things, a writing desk with a phenomenal view, and a huge picture of Walt Whitman.  (Neruda was a great admirer of Whitman, who he claimed was the most influential poet in his life.  For a little more information on this, check out this article.)

But the best addition to the house, in my opinion, is the crow’s nest that served as Neruda’s office, pictured above.

“Entonces la pintura llegó también lamiendo las paredes, las vistió de celeste y de rosado para que se pusieran a bailar.”

He later wrote a poem about the house, in which he describes the house as a growing, dancing, and generally living entity, with pink and blue walls that fit perfectly in the context of Valparaíso’s vibrant hills and views.

It is evident that Neruda wanted the house to be filled with life.  Whenever he threw a party, the view that La Sebastiana offered couldn’t be beat.  Moreover, the house features a small bar meant only for Pablo so that the poet could serve drinks to his guests.

And the La Sebastiana museum continues to be the most exciting and stimulating Neruda house to visit.  It’s the only house that you can explore at your one pace.  In La Sebastiana, you can wander from room to room and linger as long as you want, guided by an audio tour that you can pick up when you enter.  In Isla Negra and La Chascona, on the other hand, you must follow the guided tours in order to see the house at all.

Getting There

As with most trips in Valparaíso, visiting La Sebastiana is best done on foot.  The website shows a map of one route you could take.  You can also arrive via public transportation, either on the ‘O’ bus or on a colectivo (it’s a shared, cheap taxi) from the Plazuela Ecuador.

We, of course, walked, taking a long route to enjoy the beauty of Valparaíso.  Along the way, we experienced all the best that Valparaíso has to offer: phenomenal views, statues of famous poets, eclectic architecture, and stunning graffiti.  (And, of course, parks of outdoor exercise machines.)

We were fortunate enough to go on Neruda’s birthday, July 12, which meant free admission!  Wooohooo!  Otherwise it’s 4,000 Chilean pesos; 1,500 for students with IDs.

Just do it…

Valparaíso is the perfect city for the poet’s quirky side—the side that loved to host costume parties and collect bizarre bits of the world wherever he could.  La Sebastiana is a must see if you are anywhere near Valparaíso, as far as I’m concerned.  (Just remember that museums are closed on Mondays!)

If you’re interested in more about Neruda, check out some of my other posts on him and his houses: La Chascona: Neruda’s Santiago House and Rumors around Neruda’s Death.

For more posts about Valparaíso check out Valparaíso: A Canvas of Hills and Walls and Palacio Baburizza: Valparaíso’s Museum of Fine Arts.

And the Winner is…

image from diarioelnortino.cl

Many Chileans exercised their right to vote for the first time in Sunday’s presidential election thanks to a revamped voting system that came into effect last year.

Hold your horses, though.  That doesn’t mean we have a new president yet.  This is Chile we’re talking about… these things take time.  Anyhow…

Here are some of the changes implemented in this year’s election:

  • Voting is no longer mandatory: Before 2012, if you chose to sign up to vote, you were obligated to vote for the rest of your life.  If you didn’t vote, you were fined between 18,500 and 120,000 Chilean pesos (37.00 – 240.00 USD).
  • Inscription is automatic: If you are a Chilean citizen, you can vote as soon as you turn 18.  Just enter your identification number at the Servicio Electoral page, and they’ll tell you where you’re registered to vote.  For those of us who are foreigners, five years of residence is sufficient to have your vote counted in these direct elections.
  • Men and women can now vote in the same place: Elections take place in schools and other public buildings, and each voter has a designated place to vote.  But previously, women and men had different designated voting centers.
  • Presidential elections now happen on the third Sunday of November, whereas before they occurred on the Sunday closest to December 11.  This allows a little more time for the second round of voting before the new president is sworn in to office.  And since Chile requires an absolute majority, meaning that the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a second round is usually pretty likely.

The Results

Pie Chart Chilean Presidential Elections 2013

With about 46 percent of the vote, Michelle Bachelet pulled ahead of the other candidates.  Bachelet is running for her second term and representing the Nueva Mayoría (check out point number 5 in this post).  Presidents cannot serve consecutive terms, which is why Bachelet is running for her second term now, four years after her first term ended.

Behind her was Evelyn Matthei, economist and experienced politician.  Matthei is representing the Alianza, a rightist coalition that incorporates the Independent Democratic Union and the National Renewal party, with 25 percent of the vote.

Chile has a multiparty state, but it is mostly split between two huge coalitions: the left versus the right, represented by the candidates above.  There were seven other candidates running for the presidency, as you can see in the charts, but the coalitions, as usual, took the bulk of the votes.

Chilean Presidential Election 2013 Results

We’ll see what happens after the next round on December 15.  In the meantime, I’m interested in what y’all think about this type of multiparty system?  What are its benefits?  What are its shortcomings?

Piropos: ‘Tis the Season to Cat Call

As one of my students put it, it’s spring and the women have started peeling off their clothes as the weather has increased.  There are certain things that draw more male attention here in Chile, and one of them, unsurprisingly, is skin.

That settles it then—let the season for piropos begin!

Piropos; piropear: cat calls or pick up lines; to cat call.

Typical Piropos:

Piropos wordle

Guapa, hermosa, preciosa, maravillosa, linda, bonita: These are all words that are used to say beautiful or pretty.  They can be used in many variations to modify the meaning.  For example, adding superlative with –ísima.  Here are some other uses:

  • ¡Guapísima!
  • Ay, !qué hermosa! (How beautiful!)
  • Qué lindos ojos tiene.  (What  pretty eyes you have.)
  • ¡Super preciosa! ¡La cosa más maravillosa que he visto en mi vida! (Super beautiful!  The most marvelous thing I’ve seen in my life!

Rica: This stands alone to me… probably because it means “sexy,” but it also means that something is delicious.  You might notice people comparing you with cakes or other tasty things to eat:

  • Rica la torta.  (The cake’s delicious.  They say this about you, just to be clear.)
  • ¡Qué bombón!

Another typical piropo is the “Hello” adorned with compliments and dripping with suggestiveness:

    • Buenos días, señorita.  (Good morning, miss.  But trust me, there’s a big difference between how a polite concierge may say this and… well, not so polite people.)
    • Hola, mi amorcito.  (Hello, my love.)
    • Hola, mi reina.  (Hello, my queen.)

Sound effects are an essential part of piropos.  This can range anywhere from:

  • Whistling to
  • Incredibly loud kiss noises to
  • Honking (sometimes with excitable car horns) to
  • Making words sound longer.  You can do this by simply yelling “ooooh” at the end of a word (for example: ¡Ricaooooo!) or by adding “eh” (“Super linda, eh.”)

Finally, remember that piropos can also be pick up lines.

  • Tantas curvas y yo sin frenos (“So many curves, and I’m without breaks.”)

If you’re interested in hearing more Chilean pick up lines… that are totally inappropriate… check out the video Mejores Piropos Chilenos.

Oppression or Appreciation?

There are many reasons piropos might make you uncomfortable or unsafe.  Something about someone older than my father breathing “riiica” into my ear as he passes me on the street simply gives me the heebie jeebies.

Still, many people argue that there is no harm in piropos, that it is a form of showing appreciation for women.

Well, it depends on your definition of women.  If you define a woman as a body and not as an individual, I suppose this is a way to show appreciation.  More specifically, you’re expressing a sexually charged judgment of her body.

I recently went to our church for a father-daughter dinner, which I knew would give me more perspective on gender here in Chile.  Sure enough, during a competition of several father-daughter pairs to see who knew each other the best, I heard the message that women are valued for their bodies and beauty while men are seen more as individuals.

The first question was for the fathers:

What part of her body does your daughter think is most beautiful?

The second question was for the daughters:

What does your father think is his greatest virtue?

I know this doesn’t sound like such a big deal, but it is in these subtleties that we learn how to understand ourselves as gendered beings.  For example, I learned that Chilean men are all expected to be hardworking and easily angered (trabajador y enojón).

And taking it back to piropos, I’ve noticed that the second attention-grabber to get the piropos going is exactly what two out of the three daughters said was their most beautiful part: HAIR.

If I wear my hair down I get many more piropos than if my hair is up and I walk down the same road at the same time of the day in the same outfit.

Chime in!

What do you think of cat calls?  I would love to hear others’ stories and opinions.