Where have I been?

I am ashamed.  I am a business management major with a strong interest in social media marketing… And I broke one of the ten commandments pf digital marketing… “Thou shall not become lazy with your content creation.”  Whoops.

It’s been over a month since my last post.  Where have I been?  Between working 45 hours a week and traveling on the weekends, I simply have not had time to sit down at my computer and write!

So, I will dedicate this post to catching everyone up with what’s happening in Chile.

My life in the past month:

  • I went skiing in the Andes!  A few friends and I went to El Colorado for the day.  We were originally hoping to take classes, but they were sold out by the time we arrived. So, with all of my skiing experience (that’s one time, for those of you keeping score at home) I taught two Brazilians to ski.  They were professionals in no time.  As for myself, I only fell once and avoided any shoulder injuries.  That’s a pretty big deal for me.  I developed a strong liking for the winter sport.
    As an additional note… I find it amazing that many Brazilians come to Chile just to see the snow.  For many, it’s their first time ever seeing it.  Do we take snow for granted in the United States?  To Brazilians, it’s an incredible, new, thing.  I saw one lady take a snowball and put it into her backpack to take home.  I’m sure she now understands that snow melts.
  • I have now ridden every Metro line in Santiago.  What an accomplishment!  I prefer line 4, it has TV’s in the trains.
  • Although some people think it’s a myth, Fantasilandia does exist!  I believe it’s Chile’s largest amusement part.  Everyone says that it’s Chile’s version of Disney.  It may be, but that doesn’t mean you should make a special trip to Chile just for this park.  Let’s just say that its an appropriate amount of entertainment for only a $16 entrance fee.  The park does have one similarity with Disney: Pirates of the Caribbean.  Imagine the Disney version, but replace all of the entertaining, animated figures with plastic, immobile statues.  Oh, and switch to the Spanish lyrics of “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me.”  That’s Piratas del Caribe: Chilean Style.
  • Option TI had a pretty successful showing at ExpoEventos 2012.  It was an event geared towards entertainment and tourism companies.  There were stands from casinos, ski resorts, and even companies that set up A/V for events.  Option was there to offer our email marketing and online sales management to these companies.  I am proud to say that I made some very big contacts for the company through talking to people at the event.
  • When we go to sales meetings, my coworker refers to me as a “social media specialist” from the United States.  I do like the sound of that!  Option is adding a social media management component to their list of services.  I have been speaking with clients about social media, and brainstorming ideas to help them get started with content creation.  I was also asked to speak at a conference in Chile about social media practices in the United States.  It’s an incredible opportunity.
  • I am still picking up laundry for “Ryan Beane.”  Bankert is way too gringo for many Chileans to understand.  There aren’t any problems with picking up my laundry under this name, but I have developed an irrational fear that I will use my credit card to pay and the attendant will see my true name.  Then, there will be a long conversation explaining why I never corrected her.  Awkward.  Is there some type of phobia where you’re scared to pay with a card at a laundromat?
  • My lovely family came to visit me for 12 days!  It was great to celebrate my 21st birthday with my true family, my host family, and my friends from Chile.
    While my family was in the country, we traveled to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, two cities on the coast.  Both cities were beautiful in their own way, and we had a great tour.  Later, we took a plane up north to San Pedro de Atacama.  The Atacama desert is the driest desert in the world.  There are places where rain has never been recorded.  The landscape is incredible.  You’re surrounded by dry, dusty plains, mountains, and valleys.  But, in the distance, you can see the snow-capped Andes mountains.  Along the Andes range, there are a lot of volcanoes (Chile has 2,500 in total).  While not many are active, you can still see a few.  It was definitely interesting seeing smoke pour from the top of a mountain.

Well, that’s been my life in a nutshell since the last post.  I am hoping to start writing more frequently as the summer winds down.  I cannot believe I only have 21 days left in Chile… Time sure flies.  I love seeing the contrast from my first day until now.  The first day, I was ready to come home.  Chile wasn’t for me.  Now, I am already thinking about when I’ll return to Latin America.

Que Dios le bendiga…

The Art of the Carrete

No, I did not spell karate wrong.  I’m talking about  el carrete, the party.  El carrete, and the verb form carretear, are Chilean colloquialisms describing nightlife.  And yes, there is an art to the carrete.

My few experiences with carretes involved travling to Bellavista, one of the most happening places for jovenes looking to experience the Santiago nightlife.  From my house, I can take the metro two stops and walk 10 minutes to the heart of this neighborhood.  During the day, many walk through the neighborhood to get to Cerro San Cristobal and the zoo.  At night, the businesses come alive.  The streets are lined with restaurants, bars, dance clubs, and karaokee joints.  Although there are endless amount of bars open on a friday night, they are always packed.

What amused me even more where the street vendors.  Into the early morning hours, vendors set up shop along the streets.  They sell every food imaginable.

The “completo,” a hotdog smothered with mayonnaise, tomatoes, and guacamole

From grilled chicken to shishkabobs to sweets to my new fascination, the completo, every stand has something to fill the late-night hunger urges of students.

When I talk about the “art” of the carrete, I am referring to the cultural differences between a night out for estadounidenses and chilenos.  From my experience in college, the Friday night action can start around 8PM.  By 2AM, everyone is asleep.

In Chile, things don’t work that way.  Once dinner is finished, at 8:30, you still have a few hours to relax before heading out.  Most carretes only begin at 11:00PM.  Here, they like to amanecer.  The verb is normally used to describe the sun rising.  Conveniently, that’s also when Chileans are ready for bed.

Last Saturday, my boss and I were planning on checking out a party put on by one of our clients, Nikkita.  He invited me to a barbecue with his friends.  The barbecue started at 8:00PM.  At 1:30AM, as I was falling asleep in my chair, he asked me if I was ready to go.  Normally, at this point, everyone starts laughing at the tired gringo.  There is one advantage to being ready to head home at this time…  All of the taxis are open.  Everyone is coming to Bellavista, but no one is ready to leave (except me).

I haven’t written in a while because… well… There aren’t many new, exciting, life-changing updates.  I love my job, love where I am staying, and love Santiago.  This weekend, I am hoping to take a tour to see the Andes.  Earlier this week, at a meeting with a client, I could see the snow-capped mountains.  I need to get there soon and just sit above the world.

Mountains from the Meeting

Que Dios le bendiga…

The Value of a Gringo

I arrived at eCommerce Day in Santiago about 30 minutes early.  I had given myself plenty of extra time in the morning, as I often do when I am trying to find a new place.

I arrived at the luxurious Hotel W in Las Condes, a neighborhood with many tall, beautiful corporate buildings, great restaurants, and a mall that puts Park City in Lancaster, PA to shame.  If I had ever thought of Santiago as a less-developed city than those we have in the states, that opinion was completely changed after visiting Las Condes.

As I was waiting for my coworkers at the Option TI stand, the unexpected happened.  On both sides of my stand, tall, beautiful brunettes wearing short, tight dresses began arriving.  I took a quick look around to make sure all the businesses were related to eCommerce – and that Option had not accidentally signed up for the Santiago escort convention.  After a few moments of panic, relief set in as my coworker Luis arrived.  Phew! I was in the right place after all, and I was not going to be solicited for any after-hours services.

More relief set in as the conference room began filling with slightly more professional attire.  The managers of the stands next to Option arrived and I noticed that they would explain their company to the brunettes.  I get it!  Those girls don’t know anything about the stand they are working at, they are just magnets to draw in potential clients.  Quite a strategy.

The brunettes shed their jackets, as to display the assets they were bringing to their respective companies.  At this moment, I realized I had a new purpose at this event.  Whether Option liked it or not, their model to attract new business was a 6’2″ (that’s 188cm for the rest of the world) blonde from Pennsylvania.

I don’t want to float my own boat, but my stunning looks worked!  Two hours before the event was over, we had given out all of our brochures and collected a heaping pile of business cards.  The event was a great learning experience.  I spoke Spanish with a lot of Chilean businesses.  One businessman said, “Su español sale con fluidez.” Rough translation: Man, this gringo is good at Spanish!

One thing I was able to take home from a industry fair like this… Know your products.  I mean really know them.  I was very thankful to have my coworkers by my side to answer the difficult questions.  Without them there, the sales pitch would have surely failed.  You also need to analyze the potential client to find what they want.  I thought getting into a rhythm and rattling off all of our products to each person was great.  Instead, a better sales strategy is to find which product clicks with the consumer, and expand on it.  After you have their attention, you can throw in tidbits about everything else.

I’m happy to say that I’ve already been to two different meetings with potential clients from eCommerce Day.

I am really enjoying my job and having a blast in the office.  Attending meetings and conversing in Spanish has been a great experience.  My English comes in handy, too.  For example, the CEO was headed to a meeting and forgot to bring an English copy of a handout.  He emailed me the Spanish version and I had it translated within 30 minutes, saving the meeting.  Yes, there is value to having a gringo in the office.

I’ll leave you with a few pictures from my trip this weekend to the Zoológico Nacional, situated on Cerro San Cristobal.  The zoo cost $3 to get in.  Yes, only three dollars.  The quality was no different than the Philadelphia Zoo.  At the top of San Cristobal, you have a breathtaking view of the city and mountains accompanied by a sanctuary.  I would love to have a church service at the top of this hill.  Wow.

Que Dios le bendiga…


Two Tongues are Better than One

Get your mind out of the gutter.  I’m talking about being bilingual.  Almost halfway through my second week in Chile, I am learning that having the ability to speak two languages is crucial to being successful in today’s world.  Not only is it an invaluable tool in the business world, but I think it can improve your quality of life (you’ll ready why in a minute).  Pick up a Rosetta Stone, start taking classes, do something to help yourself grasp another peoples’ language and culture!

I’m reading (or should I say procrastinating) for my senior thesis.  I’ve got about twelve books about marketing to a Hispanic population that are sitting on a bookshelf and waiting for my brain to absorb the information.  Yes, although it’s a struggle, I have started to read the first.  (A side note:  As I write this, it dawns upon me that my thesis proposal is due on June 15th… I need to get on that…)  The book makes a comical, but very strong point.  The author, of Hispanic orgin, says: “We want to be sold things using the same language we make love with.”  I think the author is touching on the sense of comfort that comes from your mother tongue.  You may not understand what I mean unless you’ve been in a country where no one speaks your language.

Looking back to my arrival in Santiago, I remember the first time I felt a sense of comfort.  The taxi driver’s friend was from Los Angeles and spoke broken English.  In a stressful time, being able to ask a few questions and have them answered in English played a key role in preventing a nervous breakdown.  In the office, my coworkers come up to me saying “How are you doing, Ryan?”  They try to make me feel more comfortable by placing together a few English phrases.  (Think of how you could use this to your advantage with international customers)  However, I will say that there is one drawback.  Hearing English sets of a trigger, and I usually give them a long response about my commute to work and the night before.  The conversation ends with my coworkers staring blankly at me, having not understood much of what I just said.

Besides making others feel comfortable, how can bilingualism increase your quality of life?  Imagine this… You’re in a van with three Brazilians, a Frenchman, a few Spanish-speakers, and someone from Denmark.  If everyone stuck to their own language – it’d be a pretty quiet ride.  I was in this situation on Sunday.  People from all over the world in one van, and we could all communicate.  Thanks to being bilingual – and being stuck in a van with others who are – I am happy to say I have a new group of international friends.

On our trip, we were headed to Cajón del Maipo for a walk through the mountains.  Instead, we were met with a lot of rain.  So much, in fact, that we had to turn around.  On the winding drive through the mountains, water coming down from the hills had flooded the road.

After turning around, we headed to a small town on the other side of Santiago called Pomaire.  It is a small artisan village that with a lot of craft shops and a few restaurants featuring true Chilean cuisine.  Some of the shops were interesting and had neat crafts, but this was not my favorite stop on our tour.  It was obvious that the town survives because of tourism.  Shop and restaurant owners stood in the streets begging you to enter their store.  It was difficult to “just look” as shop attendants were right behind you explaining the details behind each craft.

As we left Pomaire, the rain stopped and the sun came out from hiding behind the clouds. The beautiful evening left us all with a great view of snow-capped mountains and a less-polluted sky.

Everything is still going well here in Santiago!  Work is long, but I am having a great time and learning a lot.  Also, it has been decided by all of the students here that my Homestay is the best one in Santiago.  I’m very lucky to have such kind and caring Chilean “parents.”

Que Dios le bendiga…

Homesickness out, Exhaustion In

One thing is for sure, I’ve already got a little Chilean blood running through my veins.  I found myself the other day saying, “¿Hay un baño por acá?” (To answer my question from the first post, acá is interchangeable with aquí when you want to say “here.”)  Before too long I’ll be adding “¿Cachai?” to the end of sentences (this is the Chilean version of Understand? whereas the rest of the Spanish-speaking world would ask, ¿Entiendes?  or ¿Comprendes?).

So, how did I get more comfortable in Santiago?  It was a pretty simple fix.  One of the other students living in my homestay took me on a tour of the city.  She’s 33 years old, a flight attendant for the Brazilian TAM Airlines, and learning Spanish so she can work international flights.  She had already been here for 3 weeks.  It felt great to get out of the house.  To an extent, I felt like I was suffocating myself inside of the four walls.  For anyone traveling abroad in the future: Go explore!  Sitting around and sulking only made my troubles worse.  Experiencing my first Latin American city took my mind off the homesickness and helped me focus on the summer ahead.  Here are a few pictures from my first tour of Santiago:

I would love to write and tell you all every little detail about how I am really starting to enjoy my time here… But I need to go to bed soon.  Yes, at 8:30.  You see, I started my internship this week.  I am working 8:30-5:30 Monday-Friday.  For a college kid who hasn’t had anything earlier than a 9:30 AM class for the last year, this is rough.  I can definitely feel the early hours starting to take a toll on me.  But, I do really like the job.  It is going to take me a few weeks to understand everything, they should be ticketed for how fast they talk.  If you didn’t know already, I’m working for Option TI, a digital marketing company.  Check them out, here: www.optionti.com

I’ll have more details about my job and life coming up… But it’s bed time now!  Until next time…

Que Dios le bendiga…

Por favor, no se abroche su cinturón de seguridad

Pues, estoy aquí.  Or should I say, “estoy acá.”  I’m not too sure, I haven’t learned the difference between the two yet.  But, many Chileans and Argentinians I have met use the latter.

After an eight-hour plane ride from Miami to Santiago, I wish I could say the trip got off to a great start.  Rather, my first few moments in Chile set the tone for a stressful first day.  My transportation from the airport to my homestay never showed up.  Well, I at least couldn’t find a sign with my name as I struggled through the aggressive sea of taxistas.  After an hour of waiting (and sweating, I should add) I found the taxista who helped me connect to WiFi in the airport and asked for a ride.

His friend, from Los Angeles, joined us.  Someone who spoke broken English was a welcome addition to my ride.  I needed something comforting to de-stress.  I was very young for my last taxi ride in the US, so I cannot make many comparisons.  But, as the compact sedan rapidly weaved through traffic I couldn’t help but think so myself, ¿Es loco este taxista?  My left hand naturally found its way to the cross hanging from my neck while my right hand was gripping (white-knuckle style) the broken seat-belts in the back seat.  What calmed me down a little was knowing no one else had their seat-belts on.  It must be a cultural thing.

Finally, we turned onto la Avenida Salvador and slowed down as we approached house number 1495.  I handed the taxista 40,000 chilean pesos after he asked for 35,000.  I thought a “small” tip was appropriate after all the help he had offered me.  I gathered my bags from the trunk and did a few exchange rate calculations in my head.  Yes, I had just handed the driver about $80 for a ride that costs maybe $20 in the United States.  And yes, if you’re doing the basic math, my tip was equivalent to $10.  The ride lasted, maybe, 15 minutes.  Now I understand why the taxistas were wide-eyed as I walked through the salida at the airport.  Es que los gringos son crédulos.  They were far gone, probably grinning, before I could turn around.

I stood outside Salvador 1495 hoping there would be a friendly face to greet me.  Pedro opened the door with a joyful, “¡Ryan!  ¡Buenos días!  ¿Cómo estás?”  My Chilean homestay is great.  The husband and wife have housed many students.  Without a doubt, I will be learning a lot about the culture and language through our conversations over the next few months.

That was yesterday.  Today, after 15-hours of sleep, I plan on relaxing and getting to know the Providencia neighborhood.  One of the other students who lives here plans on showing me how to get to the COINED, the company coordinating my internship, headquarters.  Tomorrow, I will make my way to the headquarters again for an orientation to the Santiago area.

I am anxiously waiting for the start of my internship.  Having something to do each day will help combat my homesickness.  Keep in mind, this is my first trip outside of the country alone.

The adventure continues…

Que Dios le bendiga