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!


Ten More Reasons Not to Drive in Santiago

Judging by the insane amount of traffic and the continued irritations I’ve suffered in the last couple of months, my post Motivation to Stay Off the Roads in Chile has not been effective.

So I guess I’ll try again.  Here are some more reasons to avoid driving in Santiago.

11.  Tacos: No, I’m not just saying that the existence of tacos means that you should be eating them rather than driving, although I’m sure I could make an argument for that.  Tacos are traffic jams.  During rush hour, you might get home faster walking than driving.  And with Santiago’s sprawl, that’s saying something.

As a side note, rush hour seems to be about 12 hours apart… but maybe that’s why you shouldn’t work here.  Also, you’ll note that basically all cars have only one occupant.

12.  It’s EXPENSIVE.  This article from 2010 says that the average Santiaguino pays about 4,000 USD a year to maintain and use a car, which could be more than the US average.

Yes, gas is expensive.  Yes, parking can be quite expensive.  In fact, Esto No Tiene Nombre recently did an exposé on the “abusive charges” for parking here in the capital that cited the average daily spending at about six thousand Chilean pesos, or twelve U.S. dollars.  And then there are…

13.  The tolls.  The toll system here in Santiago is a little too complicated for me to get into in this post.  Maybe that’s one reason not to drive.  You have to either buy a TAG, which is a chip that records your monthly toll use and charges you at the end of the month, or pay for daily toll passes.

To the Chileans out there: what are the costs of buying and maintaining a TAG?

snuggling streetdogs14.  Dogs in the street: Sometimes they are chasing cars and biting at their tires, sometimes they are running around simply being dogs,  and sometimes they wait patiently at crosswalks for the light to turn green before crossing with the pedestrians.  How can you drive with that kind of distraction?

15.  Cyclists that don’t use their lane or helmets.  Oh wait… what lanes?

The funny part is that men pass me on the sidewalk in spandex.  Really?  You can’t go that fast.  You’re on a sidewalk.  The girl with the bike basket and the skirt is gaining on you.

16.  Running red lights.  Red Light/Green Light is a child’s game.  In the adult world, we have yellow lights.  And it’s so that the teacher can’t catch you when she says “Red light!”  Either that or something about keeping people from dying.

The video below is what happens every day without fail.  That’s why I only had to record one time to catch people in the act!

17.  Getting lost: road signs are optional.  Sometimes, the name of the street is painted on  the side of the street’s corner house… in the shape of a road sign.  Of course, after living in Boston, it’s not so bad.

18.  Stop signs after pedestrian crosswalks.  What?  Below is a tricky situation where there’s a yield, but not until after the crosswalk.  Message: yield to cars, not pedestrians.

Crosswalk where cars don't have to stop?

19. Protests and marches.  Chileans are all too eager to have protests, demonstrations, or strikes (Read more on these “traffic hazards” in my post Sea Lions on Strike?).  And this can cause some serious traffic problems for the entire day.  Below, you see Santiago’s main street closed as students push for free education.

20. Did I mention the potholes yet?  Oh, I guess I did.  Here’s a new one that showed up in front of our house a couple of weeks ago.  People began to desperately throw anything into the gaping hole that threatened to swallow their car.


But how will I get to work??

I’ve not only given you some reasons to stop driving, I’ve given you some reasons to start walking, cycling, taking public transportation, or to try a combination of walking, biking, and public transportation–whatever works for you.  You will be surprised at the time you’ll save and the stress you’ll avoid.

Of course, Santiago still lacks much of the infrastructure that would allow it to be a more efficient and navigable city.

What are some ways we can change our thinking about transportation in Santiago?  What do you do to have a more enjoyable and efficient transit to work etc.?

Reasons to Buy a Fanny Pack and Get On with Your Life

My fanny pack has received varied reactions from my gringo friends that range from disgust to mild amusement.  And then there are those who don’t even question it.  It’s just me being me.

If you are one of those who are highly resistant to the idea of donning a fanny pack, I hope to convince you that they’re worth it… especially as a gringo in Chile.

Handmade fanny packs from !!

1. Reduce your chances of being pick-pocketed.  It’s harder to steal a wallet, cash, credit cards, or condoms from a fanny pack.  (I don’t actually recommend carrying condoms in a fanny pack… or a wallet, for that matter.  Too much wear and tear for that to be safe.  MOVING ON.)  First of all, a fanny pack is situated in a place most people aren’t about to grope for.  Moreover, it’s more visible to you.  And there are fewer easy ways to access the cash—it’s zipped up, to name one.  But one factor in the lowered probability of pick-pocketing may just be…

2. Appear more Chilean than you really are.  Believe it or not, most gring@s aren’t about to hop on the fanny pack bandwagon.  So you will make people question whether or not you’re a gringo just by wearing one of these bad boys.  Don’t get me wrong, you still have to rock a fanny pack the right way.  Get one that suits your style—they come in all different colors, fabrics, and sizes.  And I feel cooler with mine when it hangs to the side just over my hip.

3. They’re convenient, comfortable, and can be cool.  If you’re used to a purse, you don’t have to carry it around anymore.  Who wants to always be thinking about that thing hanging from your shoulder?  It’s much more comfortable to wear a fanny pack.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who wear a wallet-shaped hole into their pockets from always carrying their wallet in the same exact place.  Not anymore.  It’s fanny pack time.

So, recap…

Rihanna rockin it.Reasons to strap on a banano and move on:

  1. Travel worry-free in the metro, la vega central, patronato, el persa biobío, and beyond.
  2. Blend in with Chileans
  3. BECAUSE COOLNESS: look at Rihanna wearing one to the left.

That’s it for today!  I am now headed off to celebrate Chile at some fondas!  I just stopped by my house to drop off my backpack and load up my fanny pack.  AWwww yeah.

Fanny pack users:  what do you love about your fanny pack?  Those of you who don’t yet don the banano: what is taking so long?

Motivation to Stay Off the Roads in Chile

I can drive.  I don’t really mind it.  But I am certain that if I were to take to the streets of Chile in a nice, eco-friendly car, or even my bike, my survival would be a flip of the coin.  Here are some of the factors that motivate me to stick to the metro when possible:

1.  The lines make NO SENSE.

'MURICA (Image taken from

Dear United States, How do you know if you are on a street with two-way traffic?  That’s right, double yellow lines.  How do you know in Chile?  Spidey sense.

Now, let’s head to Chile, where the line that tells you it’s ok to pass between lanes of one-way traffic is also the line that indicates passing zones in two-way traffic: a dotted white line.  That has made crossing streets complicated, forget about driving.Stop?  Something doesn't seem right....

2.  Ambulance lights. They’re on whether there’s an emergency or not.  People will usually either casually move out of the ambulance’s way, or try drafting the ambulance, taking the easy fast lane that opens up behind it.

3.  This are precursors to events.Eventos. It’s worse than a pothole; it’s an event.

4.  Lomos de Toro.  If the eventos don’t get you, the speed humps will.  They’re not smooth or gradual, like they might be in the States.  They are called “bulls’ backs” because they emulate the thrilling sport of bull riding.  Seems like something I want on the street.

5.  It never rains, but FLOODS.  Carlos Dittborn after some light showers.To translate my friend, Brent’s, adroit commentary: “Is there anyone that could lend me one of those machines to make holes in the street?  We seem to lack storm drains here, so I’m thinking about making them myself, thank you. There’s a DIY for storm drains, right?”

6.  Taxi drivers with death wishes.

7.  Motorcycles with death wishes.

8.  Drunk pedestrians abroad with death wishes. (See also: Soccer fans.)

9.  Micros wishing for the death of all the drunk thirteen-year-olds that just hopped aboard.  Keep in mind, they most likely didn’t pay and are probably banging makeshift instruments, yelling, and smoking.  On the bus.

10.  Soccer fans.  There are three kinds of soccer fans you’ll find hazardous to traffic.  One, the drunk and obnoxious pedestrians (with vuvuzelas, perhaps.)  Two, the reckless drivers that won’t stop honking their flipping horns.  And three, a combination of both (See: Johnny Herrera).

If my argument doesn’t seem convincing yet, don’t worry.  There’s more: “Ten More Reasons Not to Drive in Santiago.”

As always, stay safe.

Survival Checklist: Peruvian Bus Edition

Here we are, driving on the wrong side of the road...

Here we are, driving on the wrong side of the road…

  • Tickets—check. Good, they’re not for Bolivia.  Oh no, are these for the front seat? That’s going to be freezing, right next to the ever-foggy windows… good thing I brought my
  • Blanket—and other warm clothes.  This will prepare me for the 30- or 40-degree drop in weather.  And it will make those blankets that the indigenous women rent out much less appealing…
  • Extra jacket—so when I lend mine to Charles, I won’t have to try to fit my entire body underneath my scarf.
  • Sense of caution, appreciation for common rules of the road…wait, how did that get in there???  No, I definitely don’t want to bring that; the bus will be speeding the entire time and will probably disregard any semblance of a center line or “No passing” sign.
  • Bedtime stories—I’m not going to get any sleep, and at least these will distract my limbs long enough for me to put them to sleep before the really uncomfortable positions they’re forced into do.
  • H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds—After I put the legs to sleep, I might as well have a little reading material… besides, nothing short of an invasion of late Victorian England by Martians using tripod fighting machines will prepare me for the tricycle-motored, carriage-like, insect-alien-robot vehicles that swarm the bus at each random stop.
  • Crowbar—gonna need that to force open the bathroom door… solo orinar?  Traveling in South America is not for the faint of heart, but it may be for the faint of olfaction.
  • Rope, carabiners, harnesses and any other form of climbing gear that might be able to keep me upright while maintaining minimal contact with the bathroom walls
  • Children’s floaties—maybe I can improvise a toilet seat with these… there don’t seem to be many of them in Peru.
  • Hand sanitizer, windex, anointing oil, anything to get the ungodly bathroom filth off of me.  There probably won’t be any water, nor a square inch of space that isn’t teeming with life…
  • Passport.  Obv.  That’s just practical.  But I’d like to not have to use it so much so, I’ll bring
  • Wigs, sunglasses, and dark foundation—this way they won’t realize that there are Americans aboard, and maybe we won’t have so many late-night stops with police boarding and demanding my passport.
  • Earplugs—I wouldn’t want the yelling to wake me at every random stop… or maybe if I’m hungry I won’t wear them; I wouldn’t want to miss out on all that corn they’re yelling about!
  • Sardines—I mean, just for the irony. By 2 am I’ll wake up with someone’s head on my arm and discover that the bus is so packed that the aisles are full of sleeping Peruvians.  And maybe when I bust out this can of sardines, the smell will give me a personal bubble again.

Oh, I almost forgot my BFFs Charles and Emily.  They look a little upset about being bound hand and foot, but I think they’ll get over it once the tranquilizer pills kick in.