Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Not having second thoughts about being vegetarian....

Cholesterol Death served in a dish with a little Chilean flag on top!

Chorrillanas, which consist of fried eggs, beef and onion served over a pile of french fries, are heaven for anybody with the munchies.
Although the chorrillana at J. Cruz is the original and most famous, this nicely presented one came from Mastodonte on Esmeralda.   I personally never eat the dish, not even the fries which are usually so soggy from sitting in a pool of grease and drippy onion and egg water. However this was one of the best presented one's I've seen, so I took a picture.

Having returned to J.Cruz twice this year, both of the groups I have been with have been disappointed with their chorrillanas, considering them overpriced and not particularly good. Not to mention this is about the only thing they offer, and they don't provide ketchup or mayonnaise.   I usually order a side of french fries, which also tends to be overpriced and not particularly good.  Go anyway if you're one of those people who likes to try things just to say you did, though I would recommend you stop in to check out the atmosphere regardless.  

(Edit: I get reasonable blog traffic for google searches for "chorrillana" so I added a snapshot of the locations and addresses of these two restaurants in case somebody's trying to get there.  
J. Cruz, which feels like a little hole in the wall resaurant, is located in an alley off Condell street.  Mastodonte has a large entrance and almost appears to be a themed restaurant. It is only a few blocks away on the same street, though the name changes from Condell to Esmeralda.) 

Friday, June 25, 2010


People are still celebrating in the streets 4 hours after Chile... lost! Its not the outcome of the game, of course, that provoked the celebration, but rather the outcome of the first round... as, despite today's loss, Chile has qualified to move on to the quarter finals!

But lets back up to this morning, long before riot police stationed at the Plaza Viña to control this afternoons crowd....

Today a boy yelled that it wasn't fair that I was making him study English today because he wanted to watch the Chile vs. Spain game. The game still wasn't going to start for a few hours so he'd get to see it anyway, so I told him to stop complaining.

He yelled: "Its not fair! And its all because the United States sucks at soccer and you're never going to make it further. None of you care about soccer. Plus, all girls hate soccer and they don't understand it!"

Is that so? From what I hear, people in Chile seem to think so. Its true professional soccer isn't to the U.S. what football is to the rest of the world. But, its not true that nobody cares about it. And its less true that people in the U.S. aren't into soccer at all. Soccer is a HUGE sport in the US as far as playing it. From what I've observed, it almost seems like more youth in Minnesota play soccer (and play it more) than here in Valparaiso. More people seem to be involved in organized school and private teams, and practice and compete more intensively than they do here. Also because of the city layout and protective parents, I see kids playing in the streets much less here.

But soccer culture IS much different in the U.S. Abby posted a really interesting NYT article about soccer culture in other countries vs. the U.S. It explained The U.S. follows a "pay to play" system, where most players financially backing and managing their own way through teams during early years, with the most talented ones continuing on to play for the University while they get higher education. In the rest of the world a professional player might see no need to get a higher education; in many places, there exist various systems of early recruitment, training, and sponsorship, or those without those options might train on the streets and escape into football stardom.

Its true there are many differences. Regardless, there are many people that do love soccer, and more that will support the team in the World Cup purely for reasons of patriotism. Most of the U.S. doesn't expect to win, and many couldn't be bothered to do more than read the headlines announcing the outcomes, but as a video passed along through Marmo and Kyle shows... there were also quite a few people that were just as into the games as everyone in Chile. (Without the gear! Nobody sells stuff on the street in the majority of the U.S., so you'll notice most sports fans aren't decked out in mass produced silly-hats and other soccer paraphernalia.)

So back to the kid... I told him that 1) it wasn't unfair at all. Being asked to do something that doesn't interfere with his chance to see the game makes his argument irrelevant, and 2) he was being rude and making unfair judgments himself because 3) not all people from the US are indifferent to soccer and 4) that goes for girls too.

Young kids will rarely take back their words in a tense moment but some little recognition of the possibility my words were true seemed to come over him. He looked at me and asked, "do you like football?" I smirked and said "I've been playing longer that you've been alive."

He smiled at my comment, said sorry, waited the obligatory awkward few seconds after an apology where a kid stubbornly avoids eye contact and pouts about having given in.... and then asked to get out early anyway.

"It's still a 'no'." I said.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Stuff Gringos Look For

It happened to all of us. We got to Chile, decided to try and cook something special, and couldn't find any of the ingredients. The other day I got to thinking about some of the little gringo treasures that can be found around town, and some of the products that most commonly drive a new gringo in Chile nuts searching for them. I haven't found everything I've looked for, and my search gets easier as Jumbo and Lider expand their imported sections, but hopefully sooner or later everything will reach us here near the bottom of the earth! That means you, cream soda, I'm waiiiiiting for you!

Look no further!!! You can find it in Chile:

Cranberry Juice - Jumbo sells cranberry juice in a box in the juice section. When its in stock, they have light and regular. Certain pharmacies will also sell concentrate for about $6,000 for 1/2 liter.

Cranberries - Whole berries are hard to find, most Chileans have probably never tried cranberries, and call them arándanos (same word for blueberries). Dried cranberries can be found at Jumbo. I've been told you can order them from frutconcept or lavandacasadete, though I've never tried it.

Soy Milk - Its in a box with the juices, Ades brand.

Root Beer - Jumbo sporadically sells A&W Root Beer or Stars and Stripes brand. Most Chileans have never tried root beer floats so grabbing a few cans of root beer can mean a fun introduction.

Buttermilk - put a tablespoon of vinegar in with a cup of room temperature milk and let it sit a few minutes.

Maple Syrup - There is a somewhat cheaper alternative called miel de palma (similar process to maple syrup but from a palm tree, I consider it fairly tasty, though different. You can buy it in a jar or can in the same aisle as honey.) Its hardly a match for the real stuff though, real maple syrup is TASTY! But its expensive in Chile. The large Jumbos and Liders do have imported maple syrups in nice glass bottles for a hefty price. I remember seeing a bottle once for $6,000, which seemed like a lot, but in perspective, maple syrup isn't cheap in the U.S. either. Understandably, my family made it for a while and it was a pain of a process!

If you want to have a waffle party without going broke and can manage not to be too much of a snob about it, I recommend using a jug of the fake stuff (made in Colombia!) that can be purchased at a small nuts and canned goods shop in the center of Viña del Mar on Ecuador street, between calle Valparaiso and Arlegui. It reasonably imitates the flavor without making me as nauseous as Aunt Jemima. Its got a green label, costs around $2,000 pesos, and you´re going to have to invent 15 ways of pronouncing maple before the staff figures out what you want (hint: try MOP-lay)
Jumbo also typically sells "SYRUP" in the winter, which is a very cheap imitation maple syrup similar to the one described above.

Bagels - In Viña I would recommend BagelMania, above the Santa Isabel between 9 and 10 Norte with 1 Poniente.   The bagels aren't overpriced, and they even have homemade cream cheese and other favorites like lox bagel sandwiches.   You might also try ordering from the owner of Barlovento Artesana Cafe (3 Norte 980, between calle Quillota and 2 Oriente). 

Peanut Butter - Can be found at most major grocery stores for a fairly expensive price considering the itty bitty jar. Or, hold out until Lider stocks up on the Safeway brand, which is considerably cheaper. In Valparaiso near the corner of Avenida Argentina and Errazuriz there is a little shop which makes its own peanut butter. It's not cheap, but its decent and fresh.

Corn Starch - Try Jumbo

Cheesecake - Yeah, every cafe sells cheesecake here but I'm gonna go out on a limb (er... solid plank, there is no convincing me otherwise) and say most of them are pretty terrible and pricy imitations that taste like fluffy air with the slight smell of cheese. They LOOK tasty, especially with those blueberry or manjar sauces they always cover them in, but mark my words, whatever they give you will not live up to the name "cheesecake."

A few places I´ve heard that have hit the mark are Barlovento Artesana Cafe (3 Norte 980, between calle Quillota and 2 Oriente. I can vouch for this cheesecake), a place in the little mall in Reñaca, TPuro, Tartas y Tortas, and Galletaria Laura and Emporio la Rosa in Santiago. Also, some people like the Gatsby´s cheesecake though I´ve never had the guts to try it.

Lider now sells frozen cheesecakes, which are good but not to-die-for.  Sometimes Lider will carry a cheesecake mix in a box where you need to just add milk... and honestly it's damn tasty and cheap. Stock up.  

Molasses - Melt a block of chancaca over low heat with a bit of water.

Dr. Pepper - Jumbo, occasionally

Brown sugar - sometimes Jumbo, Lider or an independent tostaduria will have a variety of azucar moreno or azucar rubia that looks like what you need for your recipe. If not, in Valparaiso on calle Chacabuco behind the bus terminal, you´ll find what you need in one of various stores you will initially think are just bulk dog food.

Tofu - can be found in Santiago in some of the Patronato Asian markets . In Valparaiso, last I heard there is someone who makes it and does a drop off at Govinda´s Hare Krishna restaurant on Wednesdays.

Baking Powder - often incorporated in flour, otherwise it can be purchased separate and is usually one of various brands with English packaging, therefore called... "baking powder!" One jar I see often is red and yellow and says ROYAL.

Baking soda - bicarbonato, found everywhere but with the spices. Or, you could try it my way, have your mom ship you a box of Arm and Hammer with the funky multi-use picture labeling, and scare your suegros into think you're putting cleaning supplies into the mix.

Celery Salt - Im not from the South and have no idea what this is about, but a friend was excited to find this at Jumbo.

Tahini - Jumbo has it. Its with the curry sauces, and frequently sold out. Sesame paste (which is sweet) is NOT usually an acceptable alternative. However, peanut butter could be, if you're trying to make hummus.

Hot cocoa mix - Good Value brand at Lider is a bargain at around $2,000 for a 20 ounce jar WITH mini marshmallows.

Pecans - Lider and Unimarc

Chocolate chips - Jumbo and Lider. You're probably better off buying chocolate at a baking goods/decoration store and chopping it up into small pieces. In Valparaiso there are some of these stores around the bus terminal on Guillermo Rawson.

Candy - Twix, M&Ms, Milky Way and Snickers are making their way slowly to cash registers. Other than that, if Jumbo doesn't have it in the candy aisle, there's a store called Price Shopper close to Portal La Dehesa in Santiago which is famed to be full of gringo candies and cereals.  Good Value peanut butter cups can be found sometimes at the Lider near the Vina mall. Benzi the pet supplies stores also carry lots of American candy bars.  

BBQ Sauce - Santa Isabel, Lider, and Jumbo sometimes import a decent one.

Marshmallows - Most major grocery stores, in the candy isle. Beware of really cheap brands and marshmallow-looking treats that taste like black licorice.

Pumpkin - around Halloween you´ll have to make runs to various Liders, Jumbos, and local markets to see if you can find anything orange or just have to settle for a squash. I've never seen canned pumpkin, but you can buy a slice at a mini market and pop it into the microwave or oven until it caramelizes and approximates what you´ll need for your recipe, or boil chunks of pumpkin until they are soft enough to mash with a fork and drain.  

Baking tools, appliances, and things you might just want to bring along from Gringolandia:

Tampons - line your suitcases with them. They cost an arm and a leg here! (On the contrary, buy birth control over the counter here to save some cash.)

Pepto Bismol - I haven't found the brand name, but I've received alternative recommendations for Gaviscon, Antiax from Lab Saval, or Phillips...none of which I'm convinced are quite comparable.

Advil and Tylenol - my personal advice is... stash up before you come! You can find alternative pills here in Chile, however, even with the same active ingredients, not all the compounds are the same and (psychosomatic or not) I don´t feel they work as well for my body. Chileans I know who travel often stock up on their trips so there must be something that draws certain people to the American brands. Paracetamol is the Chilean version of Tylenol, by the way, with acetaminophen as the active ingredient.

Waffle Irons - In Chile you'll often see panqueques (what I'd call crepes, as they're super thin), but most people have never tried thick pancakes or waffles. You can sometimes find a waffle iron in the baking section of stores like Jumbo.

Oven thermometer - Your Chilean gas oven is bound to require modifications to your baking directions. An oven thermometer will save you a lot of time, guessing, and burnt cookies. You can probably find the thermometers somewhere in a baking store or the baking section of a large store.

Measuring cups, spoons, or any obscure baking supply - specialty stores usually have what you´re looking for, and Casa & Ideas probably has much of what you seek too, but some things might be cheaper and easier to just drag along from Target back home. At times I've come across United States style measuring cups at random spots in Chile, but bringing a set along might be an easy fix. Many people in Chile tend to use normal spoons, small stirring spoons, and cups to estimate ingredients. Then again, I wouldn't guess that most Chilean baking recipes are as complex or adventurous as the one you may be intending to use, so try that at your own risk.

Food Substitutes for when you can't find exactly what you're looking for:
Cook's Thesaurus - absolutely amazing

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ninja Turtles would like this post

(haha, ...realized I should probably apologize to any tourists who get to this page googling "Viña del Mar beach"... this is the wrong spot)

I saw this really interesting video about men who work to clear out objects and other tasks inside the Mexico City Sewage system. It looks absolutely disgusting, but its National Geographic so its still manageable to watch.

Unfortunately, this video actually reminded me of a (only slightly less revolting) personal experience. A few years ago I was a volunteer for a project cleaning up the Potomac river in Washington D.C. The Potomac river isn't exactly the Mexican sewage system, but it was close enough... that river was revolting!

One small fraction of the junk we pulled out.

The entire bank of the river was full of needles and random trash, though as a volunteer I opted for the team that actually got in the water, mostly digging up and hauling out household objects and other things that shouldn't be there. I remember working on pulling out not only numerous old tires and plastic objects, but shopping carts, motorcycles, newspaper stands, and dead animals. I've seen people all over the world trying to slyly toss their litter on the ground, but I couldn't imagine the massive effort people must have gone through to get these major appliances into the river!

Getting ready to dive in! (Kidding, I, far right, only got in as deep as the tall waders. The thought of accidentally falling in or letting the "water" get inside the waders had me quite nervous though. It felt really diseased.)

When I first got to Chile a number of people warned me not to swim in the water, though it wasn't because of their warnings, as much as the cold, that I never went in until this fall. I often went (and still go) to the beach in Viña del Mar, which looks pretty nice and actually does not appear too dirty besides the crowds of men who use Muelle Vergara as a bathroom. What I did not piece together for quite a while was that all of the people who had warned me about the beach were quite a bit older and were probably remembering the beach in its condition from earlier days. Not so long ago (I forgot to write down when but well within the lifetime of my middle adged students... maybe within a decade or two ago?), before the new system in Viña and Valparaiso, apparently sometimes the coast would be literally strewn with raw sewage. Some of my older English students would tell me about going to the coast only to find themselves wading around, or sitting on a beach, strewn with it.

While raw sewage on the beach did not particularly interest me, learning about the sewage and storm-water system began to. I later had, among my adult students, someone who's job was to inspect the underground tunnels (stories about giant cats and guarens and encounters with people who make made these tunnels home in the summer, such as under Avenida Argentina- last summer you could easily see into uncovered sections during repairs), someone who worked at the outlet of the tunnels where they reach the ocean (stories about the crazy stuff people dare to toss into the tunnels like entire couches, and the unfortunate cases where dead bodies would show up at the tunnel exit), and an engineer who works with the tunneling to the offshore location (now about 3 miles off the coast of Laguna Verde, efficient enough and far enough away that there aren't any surprises on the beach). Makes for interesting classes, at least!

(Reusing wood from a bed frame someone tossed ... among other junk polluting the shore.)

I still don't have a perfect picture of how the sewage and storm-water system works here but I have gathered that the garbage contributed by people causes major problems at times. Even during heavy rains it is obvious that the water collection system in the streets struggles to function because of the large quantity of objects people have tossed there because they were too lazy to find a dumpster.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Not that again!

In theory, I know buying those pirated DVDs being sold on the street is wrong. I don't do it myself. Half the time it's a scam and when its not, the quality is so terrible you're left confused or giggling at multiple points in the movie where suddenly the color scheme changes and the audio switches into French. But I will admit, the increasing availability of these illegal DVDs is starting to revolutionize my long distance bus riding experience! Cheap versions of the newest releases can now be enjoyed when traveling from city to city, as long as you don't mind some terrible dubbing or the occasional silhouette as the man in front of the the guy recording the video in back of the theater gets up to buy popcorn. In my opinion, its a small price to pay if it means I wont be suffering through Fast and the Furious, and the dozens of cloned sequels that'll spawn from it, for the rest of my life.

Until recently, movie options were limited. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you either have a car or never travel. Just try and tell me you haven't had to sit through each of the following movies at least twice:
  • Transporter
  • Fast and the Furious
  • Cellular
  • Gladiator
  • Ironman
  • Transformers
  • Enemy of the State
  • White Chicks
  • Little Man

Am I right or am I right? Riding a South American bus can really suck. Between this, gross "no solids" bathrooms lacking toilet paper, constant beeping as the gas-pedal-happy driver repeatedly exceeds 100 km, and (as my boyfriend dubbed it) "the human experiment" they do on you all night while vacillating extreme cold and heat from those darn heaters, bus riding can be such a dreaded experience. Where are all those busses I hear about where you get to play organized bingo?

Basically, if your job is to pick out a movie for a South American bus ride, I've deducted this simple recipe:
  1. Genre: Action, especially races against time, or the occasional outlier comedy involving black midgets and/or cross dressers.
  2. Actors: Your options are pretty much limited to Vin Diesel, Russel Crowe, Jason Stathem, Will Smith, or Jodie Foster.
  3. Plot: (if applicable) Your movie needs to involve bad guys, and your plot revolves around nothing more than escaping our outthinking them. Car racing, gory fights, outdated gadgets and crushing things are essential.
  4. Language, sound, music, etc... irrelevant. Its unlikely the bus sound system will work well enough for anybody to really follow the dialogue anyway.
  5. If all else fails, pick up yet another version of Classic Projects

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'd never thought twice about it...

Thinking back on earlier discussions this year about how in Chile it is essential you cover your mouth when you yawn (something many people from the US don't do, or see a need to do as long as you don't have a ton of food in your mouth or something), and the fact that in Chile nobody bothers, or consciously decides, to say "salud" (functions as does "bless you") when someone sneezes... I realized that I'd never written down my thoughts on one related cultural difference: blowing your nose.

Is it just me, or is it actually pretty universal that the way people blow their nose in Chile is different than in the United States? I remember being surprised by it when I first got here, which makes me think that there must be something to it, but perhaps its another one of those things where I never really took notice until I started observing with confirmation bias.

Trying to put to words the way someone blows their nose was actually much harder than I thought. I even tried to see if someone had a youtube video of nose-blowing but quickly decided that wasn't my route...

In the end I came up with two very strange analogies. From what I remember, most poeple in the US will blow their nose in one huge expulse of air, almost like the "huuuuge push" motion doctors ask for on reality TV when someone has a baby.

However in Chile, people seem to prefer to blow their nose in series of really short bursts of air, where they cut the airflow off in short intervals. The best I can do to relate this is to make you think about the noise we stereotype native americans as making:

(Though thankfully, noseblowing is less of a high schrill than Peter squeeked out there... but you get the idea about the on-off airflow, right?)

Anyway, I'm not sure if its something cultural or something I only notice when I'm looking for it, as turned out with the yawn thing when my mom said we're supposed to be covering our mouths when we yawn in the US also, and most people are just lazy or oblivious to that piece of etiquette.

Vamos CHILE!

Being in a soccer-obsessed country during the World cup is really something interesting.

Everyone is obsessed. For months people have been concerned with whether they will get time off work, or at least a chance to watch the games at work. People are selling thematic wigs, hats, flags, and jerseys on the streets. Even many commercials have revolved around soccer and winning a trip to South Africa. In the upcomming days and weeks TV programs of every type have been covering preparation for the games. My favorite was a cheesy Jay-walking ripoff where Chileans were asked to point out South Africa on a map, or tell the camera who was Nelson Mandela. My boyfriend has been telling everyone we see about this show two days ago where some black South African women commented on how cute they thought the Chileans were, and then the camera focused on the group of Chileans nearby and they were apparently a mixture of old, really pudgy, and hairy. One proceeded to practically make out with one of the women, then turn to the camera and send greetings home to his wife and family. Then the program put on some pop music and got the women to dance with the men, and apparently the clash of dance styles was pretty funny as the Chileans were marching around as if it were cumbia.

I was kind of giggling thinking back on the US. I know many people are really excited about the games, though I think there is probably a large quantity of people who root for a favorite team other than the US. However, as a friend mentioned yesterday, a large percentage of people are probably completely oblivious that a tournament is going on at all. The US is not, as a whole, soccer-obsessed. I doubt there are too many people wearing thematic clothing or jerseys around town, and when its game time, I can only imagine society in general proceeds as normal.

Here, at 7:30 am kickoff this morning, people were outside in the rain chanting and blowing foghorns. When Chile scored the first goal just after 8, my house started literally vibrating from neighbors jumping up and down, and out my window I heard not only cheers, honking, and my neighbor screaming bloody murder out the window, but fireworks. Fireworks?!? At 8am in the rain?

This is not exactly ideal for sleeping in on my sick day... but in the end it doesn't matter. I wouldn't dare sleep through the game myself. ;-) Less than half the game remaining and we're ahead... Vamosss Chile!

There's a monster in my chest

Unfortunately, halfway through my vacation I got pretty sick, fever then cough, etc. It didn't keep me entirely from enjoying my time, but it did put a huge damper on energy levels, bedtimes, and how much everybody else hated being around me. A persistent cough does that when you are sharing a room.

Anyway, many reasons adding up, I didnt bother trying to get to a doctor until I tried to go back to work and realized I wasn't getting any better. Figuring out how to work my healthcare, and the medical system at clinics in general was a pain in itself, aside from the fever and mini-migraine I suffered from as I ended up lightly tiptoing a few dozen blocks in vain attempts to find a lung specialist that would see me that same day.

I finally got in at 7pm, and, of course after the obligatory chit-chat about the location, weather, and industries of Minnesota and how much I liked being in Chile, the doctor got about to listening to my breathing. It was terrifying... he'd say "breath in" and from my lungs would come this deep vibrating snore-like noise that sent me into a coughing fit.

Some sort of severe bronchitis, he said, dry your hair and don't go barefoot. Now it hurts to cough, and feels creepy on the inside. The antibiotics give me some weird nostalgic feeling from my childhood, I must've taken something similar at some point.

Anyway, my computer part finally came in, just in time to enjoy it on my sick leave. Finally some good timing so I can catch up on everything I've missed in the past month.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Yet again...

I walked into Lider to see that all of the small carts were taken up. I even checked under all the registers, twice, but in the end decided to just go without, as a full sized cart would seem too much for my few purchases. But, as always, other things caught my eye and eventually I was walking through the produce section with my arms stacked with cheese, tortillas, granola, coffee mix, a costa milk bar (especially appealing because, unlike many other Chilean chocolates, this one tastes nothing like wax), jello mix, soy milk, and a Brazilian themed soccer mug, when I started to feel everything slip. First the cheese flew off the top and hit the ground with a big smacking noise. Then, probably in an attemp to reach out and grab it, I triggered a full avalanche of my groceries and everything started to fall off the top.

Thankfully, only half my groceries fell, and the glass mug was still in my hand. However, as I awkwardly tried to squat down to pick up my things without losing the remaining stuff in my arms, I suddenly became especially aware of the embarrasing moment that had just happened, and the fact that there were a whole bunch of people just watching me and waiting for me to get out of the way. This fact, combined with the one that I was really attempting to carry too many oddly shaped things in my arms, seemed to slow down the process even more, and I couldnt seem to get everything back up without losing an item in the process.

As it always seems to go, of course, nobody would step up and offer a helping hand. What makes it worse, is that if I were to go ahead and let out my natural reaction of a humble laugh or comment on my misfortune, everybody else would reply with a scowl or complete indifference. If nobody´s going to help, I almost wish they would react in at least some way!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Still alive

My computer officially died while I was updating blogger about 10 days ago.

The good news is... in the end it wasn´t the computer, but rather just the power cord. The bad news is... my power cord is freaking expensive in Chile!!!! The power cables at the mall cost $70,000 pesos! I´m sure if I looked around I could probably find one at least a little bit cheaper, (really I was just looking for an excuse to window shop for boots) or maybe there even exists an imitation cord that will work, but in the end my computer is still under a protection plan and I sent away for a free replacement. That makes me happy, but for the meantime I have been quite computerless.

In other news... I´m also on vacation now, though I´ve hardly noticed because I´ve had to work 75% of my vacation days so far! This should be the last one though, from now on I entend to fully enjoy my (ugly rainy winter) vacation, possibly even by doing something fun with my Chilean tax refund, which I am quite excited about because, despite not earning much last year, the sudden deposit in my bank account still made my mind scream "free money!"