Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Son Turistas, my friend

Today I went to the doctor. I called the cell phone number of a boy that lives on my street to have him ask his mom for a recommendation to the nearest good doctor, as I wasn't gonna be able to make it anywhere further and don't hardly know anybody with a car. As I waited in this cramped little waiting room I was really nervous I was gonna get called in only to have to introduce myself, tell the doctor why I came to Chile and why I decided to come back to stay, I'd probably have to make some small talk about Chilean culture and language, etc.. I started getting a little anxious that after all my trouble the doctor would blame me being sick on something like a "traveler's bug" because in general everybody treats foreigners like they are passing through, even if thats not the case. I was imagining the usual situation of someone not being able to get past that and possibly having to ask some ridiculous questions like "But if I were Chilean what do you think my problem might be?" Yeah it sounds ridiculous, but experience is gnawing away at my ability to give people here the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this matter.

So I was pleased to eat my words (thoughts) when I walked in and the doctor said "Hello. So why do you feel sick?" right off the bat. And despite the fact he spoke to me slow enough that my I could've transcribed our conversation by hand, the fact that he was all about my health and didn't bother with chitchat about completos and "cachai" while I sat there uncomfortably and impatient put him a few notches up in my book. Heck, he didn't even ask me where I'm from!

My stereotypes of how Chileans treat foreigners reminded me of a scene in a movie I saw recently, "Turistas." The main characters are in a nature center of sorts at a National Park, and the park ranger is speaking in Spanish to the main character, Carla, a Chilean lady. As soon as the other guy, a Norwegian, opens his mouth, the ranger's brain goes into I'm-talking-to-a-foreigner mode and addresses the guy "my friend." He then asks if he should speak to the two of them in English or Spanish, to which they reply "Spanish." And the ranger immediately switches all communication to English, having not paid attention nor hecho caso whatsoever to their preference. (1:05 in the trailer) I laughed so freaking hard at this scene, especially embarrassing because I had gone to the movie alone, which is pretty much a social taboo/GASP! in Chile.



It was just that this single scene happens to represent a nearly daily interaction of mine that, while experiencing it triggers an eye role or a sigh on my part, upon seeing executed it so accurately portrayed in a Chilean movie made me crack up.

I'm not much into using my blog as a venue for reviews, but I will say that I recommend the movie to anybody who's spent time in Chile. The movie is actually good regardless, but I think having been here and personally observed and analyzed Chilean society really made it a lot more interesting on another level. I ended up adapting my opinion on a number of my comments and my major complaint as the movie progressed to the point I felt the exact opposite or was left completely confused on how I felt. I would love to elaborate but its only fair to give everyone a chance to see it first. What I can say, however, is I was please with the complexities shown in the way Chileans tend to communicate, for example avoiding saying "no" or making up answers just to be able to give one, which made me repeatedly think "that is so typically Chilean" over and over. I didn't, however, connect with the main character as much as I would've liked because she represented a type of Chilean woman that I don't see much in Valparaiso, both physically and in personality quirks.

I'm not sure how many revealing moments of the movie, if any, I missed when I got distracted by an absurdly drunk man and his friends, but I did walk away from the movie with a number of doubts and questions in my head. For the first time I personally felt bummed by the fact I had gone alone because I lacked someone to bounce thoughts off. But regardless if it were because I missed a couple moments, I think a large part of the intentions of the movie was to spark those reflections. In the end it was in just that where they succeeded.


11 COMMENTS:

Marmo said...
Ojalá te sientas mejor, al menos ahora para enfrentar tu malestar tendrás la opinión del médico y algunos medicamentos, en lugar de 10 kilos de ruda, xD. He descubierto que al menos yo, lo paso chancho escribiendo sobre las películas que veo. Antes no me había llamado mucho la atención la película de los turistas, creo que ahora la veré cuando pueda.
Kyle said...
Lydia! So did the doctor tell you what was wrong? And I am so glad you blogged about the annoying fact of going to the doctor and having them just want to practice their English or chit chat about what you like about Chile and how long you've been here. So freaking annoying. And I feel like people think I exaggerate when I tell them that. So I'm glad to have someone else to corroborate. Anyway, I LOVE Chiloe so thanks again for the words of advice! Heading out to go camping tomorrow and it's raining like a mo fo... Hope you're feeling better now.
lydia said...
It looks like there might have been another one by the same name, and the movie wasnt at all what I expected (from nothing more than the title...). I'm feeling somewhat better but still pretty drained, and with various things bothering me... but i'm not clenched up in the fetal position or anything haha (sure, i can laugh now...) kyle the doc wasnt sure at all. i dont think i've ever been poked as much, i think he was trying to eliminate some internal organ problems... he didn't know for sure what happened but from what i gathered it sounded like some sort of bacteria type problem that might have manifested in the heat, possibly from some well water that i drank or from fruit, were his top two guesses. The chit chat is so true. i mean, for one thing its the same convo over and over on my end, and aside from that with a doc it feels such a forced formality. A little is fine but when youre paying someone for a service too much feels like wasted time! Last specialist I went to in Vina kept changing the subject back to Halloween and gringas everytime I tried mentioning my health problem then suddenly without any discussion handed me a labtest paper and shoved me out the door!!! Chiloe is beautiful. I like the rain, sometimes its kinda like showers and might be bright and sunny again soon after... or, youknow, leave you shivering for days. Haha. I cant wait to see the photos.
Sara said...
Your post made me laugh. I needed that. I love how you have a really serious problem like "Officer! That man just ran off with my purse" and the dude in question turns and says "WHAT? A gringa speaking Spanish? What other tricks can you do little gringa?"
Sara said...
And I hope you are feeling better. It sucks to be sick :(
Tara said...
Hi Lydia, I hope you don't think this is weird/creepy/cyber-stalkerish, but I stumbled upon your blog while I was doing a little Chile research. I'm moving to Valparaiso in less than a month to teach English at DuocUC for (at least) a year. I read some of your posts and it was fun to see a little of what to expect when I get down there. And...random...I am also from MN. I grew up in Plymouth and went to the U. Anyway, just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your blog. Tara
lydia said...
tara- awesome. did you just graduate? i wouldnt be surprised if we've crossed paths before or at least know people in common. the world always turns out much (MUCH) smaller than i think. let me know if you need anything (packing questions, getting settled with something or other etc) or want to meet up or something. sara- thanks, i am feeling better almost.... haha. i feel like i just had one of those moments you describe too!
Sara said...
Tara, So now you both are going to think I'm creepy, but I'm from Plymouth too and I'm currently here until March then I'm heading back to Chile. You can let me know if you have any questions too!
Tara said...
I graduated in 2006, been moving around a bit since then but I'm in DC right now. Sara, that's so random you're from Plymouth. I went to high school at Wayzata, what about you? My family actually lives near Alexandria now. Lydia, where are you from in MN? I would love any advice you could give. A couple people told me to bring a lot of clothes because they're expensive down there...? Would you agree with this? And what kind of clothes won't make me look like a total gringa? Any suggestions on things I should bring? I will be in Valparaiso starting the first week of March. I would love to meet up, I really don't know anyone down there. Thanks!
lydia said...
not looking like a gringa is pretty much a lost cause. actually if you have dark hair you can somewhat blend in pretty well but the clothes still make it obvious, and i dont know if you'd really want to go to extreme extents to blend in if it means sacrificing clothes and style completely. i'd suggest bringing a good mix of the same stuff you'd wear in minnesota, but not much stuff thats super revealing. its not taboo but it draws a ton of attention and is only useful in summer so it doesnt get quite as much use. i agree- bring your clothes with you for the most part. anything worth it is really expensive and most stuff thats decently priced isn't exactly what im looking for and isnt as good of quality. and... i'll send you an email, lets definitely meet up when you get in town . hahah my last comment about a small world was a huge understatement, i even know your brother.
Eileen said...
Hope you heal up, quickly. That movie sounds hilarious, and yes, doctors can forget their professionalism and get star struck in the presence of gringas. I personally like how you are expected to disrobe while the doctor is sitting there. No music, I felt like saying? (see your other post about being called a puta).

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