so my little girl got attacked by the school’s guard dog

It happened Wednesday, but I haven’t felt comfortable enough to write about it until today.  She is fine now. She is a remarkable child. She is blessed and cursed with having a game face. She is the one who did not shed a tear or cry or moan or groan when she broke her arm las year.  I have to study her to determine her actual level of suffering. She is the strong and silent type when I least want her to be.

The school nurse called, I flew over, got her in a wheel chair and hit the gas all the way to the emergency room.  I pulled up to the entrance and carried her past at least six men within feet of me who watched. I started to stumble as I entered the emergency room and everyone just stared at me carrying my little girl. I had major back surgery so I was starting to crumble and still they stared. I yelled for someone to help me, to take her, I shoved her into a man’s arms.

Soon afterwards the school’s administrator joined me “For legal reasons” she explained. I was too overwhelmed at the time to contemplate the legality of the situation. I wanted my daughter taken care of. While on the hospital bed the doctor asked me about the dog, I directed him to the school administrator. For what felt like an eternity they talked while my daughter suffered in pain without any treatment.  I went out to the main counter and asked the staff if they could at least give her some Paracetamol (Tylenol in the US). Again more stares. Damn you robots and your stares!  Back in the room I saw my girls legs start to tremble from the pain so I distracted her with items I brought with me: a drink, a blanket and an electronic game. I was so pissed that I forgot my little pharmacy. I usually carry my own stash of Benadryl, Tylenol etc. which came in handy when she broke her arm last year. I was able to shove one down her throat back then until help came. I was able to do something.

A lady came in with more paperwork to fill out. There were no introductions. Everyone just wanted my national identity number, phone number and address. “Can someone please help my daughter?” I went out a second time to the counter to beg for any pain killer: nothing.  I went back in and took a photo.

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Eventually her wounds were cleaned and she was patched up with some giant cloth like bandaids that kept the wounds closed.  Anything to avoid stitches. I learned that when I came to the same ER (on a previous occasion) with my son’s head cracked open: they glued it shut.  Stitches were the most popular measure of severity of her injuries when asked about the attack.  So if she doesn’t get stitches then she is fine right?

For the next 48 hours our phone rang off the hook.  I checked her for infections. Rabies was not a concern since after all it was the school’s guard dog. O thank goodness. I should be grateful. Yeah, that is some twisted shit right there isn’t it?

Friends and family were outraged by the concept. Yes folks, the school keeps an entire pen of guard dogs, on campus. Yes folks, one of the guard dogs tunneled out during recess and attacked my little 7 year old. Yes folks, my other child knew which of the dogs it was because he had seen it run around on the school’s field before, during school hours.

I am not angry at the dog and neither is my daughter. We have 3 rescued animals. We pet every dog on the street and in Chile, you can’t walk for 5 minutes without encountering a stray.  I have taken my kids for walks around our town and taught them how to behave when approached by packs of wild dogs and even worse, guard dogs. We have been surrounded by over a dozen at a time all barking fiercely and my kids and I knew how to move without provoking them.   The strays usually want some food and  affection. We happily pet and even give belly rubs to all interested.

You see rarely will you find the kind of dog we would define as a “pet”in the USA. There are two kinds here, the ones who are trained to injure you, these are the ones who are fed and sheltered and then there are the tame ones, starving to death in the public eye.

My daughter is healing at a wonderful pace both mentally and physically.  She does cover her ears at the mention of the incident.  When she hears dogs bark she freezes, hugs herself and shakes. I hold her and make her move on. What of the dog who attacked her?  My daughter told the school director she should train the dog. I am proud of her. While others want the dog shot or removed, my daughter sees a good creature who in her eyes did a bad thing. In my eyes though, the dog did what it was trained  and hired by the school to do.

I understand that the dog escaped. I also understand that having guard dogs near children is like having loaded guns near children. Accidents happen.

 

PS

Please take the time to comment on my blog as opposed to Twitter, Facebook, e-mail or in person for that matter. You can do so anonymously here, just grab a generic avatar and a creative pseudonym.  I won’t respond elsewhere: as I noted in the blog entry, too much “craziness”.  Gracias

Of course there is crime in Chile.

Is it safe?  Well, that depends on many factors, much like in most places.  Even within one country or one city for that matter some areas are more dangerous than others.  Your country of origin also weighs heavily on the perceived level of crime or danger here as well.  For a general outlook click on the link for the US Department of State’s report on crime in Chile and you will see that compared to most countries and specifically within the Latin American region Chile is about as safe a bet as you can take.osac

Now for a more detailed look you can go by region.   Follow the link provided by the police department and search under the different regions.  Mind you, I noticed that the map of my region was cut off right in the area where the middle and upper class live. Coincidence?  Conspiracy?  On the one hand I can easily see the person who chopped our section off assuming it wasn’t needed, since hey, that area can afford private security so why bother publishing it. I can also very easily see that area being strategically edited because there is a massive real estate boom in that area and a published record of crime in the area is bad for business. Keep this in mind when you look up the information on different locations.

Click to find regional crime stats.

I mentioned the relationship between private security and social class because social class is a big part of life down here.  No, it is not like India’s caste system, but it does affect day-to-day life here much more than in most places.  For now I have learned that the police department feels obligated to secure those in the lower income areas while in some cases, completely abandoning the middle and upper classes to their own devices.  The devices usually entail walled-in communities, gated entries, private security vehicles on patrol, private alarm systems, a host of loud guard dogs, barbed wire and even electric fences.  This is in the NICE areas, not the hood.

Ale

Click for her blog.

As of late a locally declared crime wave has hit our town involving smash and grab robberies of vehicles and businesses.  We have even had a few carjackings.  This of course was a fine opportunity to see the local citizens take action, beginning with one of my Twitter cohorts, Ale. She blogged about her concerns and then tweeted away. Our Twitter group supported her efforts and helped spread the word.   The campaign got the attention of the local police department as well as the mayor who has met with the concerned citizens at a coffee shop and later a restaurant to discuss their concerns. You gotta love that in lieu of the usual visual of a crowded room of angry citizens hissing at the mayor  whilst sweating at the podium here the mayor wines and dines with everyone….until they are conciliatory.

   

 

To date the community efforts have resulted in an increased police presence and the promise of someday, hopefully the construction of a local precinct. Currently the nearest one is 17 kilometers away.  Below you will see two aerial images of two of the most coveted real estate areas in the metropolitan area of Santiago: La Dehesa/ Lo Barnechea and Chicureo/Piedra Roja.  Both are links to recent newspaper articles regarding the same dilemma: They are demanding the protection of the public police force because they are tired of digging into their own pockets for private security measures that are not necessarily effective.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The police force in Chile is more about bureaucracy than corruption so bribes are not in order.  If you do ever get pulled over just remember to speak English, smile and cooperate.  Based on my not-so-scientific research those of us who “Hablar poquito Spañol” were sent on our way a lot faster than those who attempted to negotiate the matter.  They are busy enough as it is with the student marches.  Imagine being instructed by your superior  to pry off cute little protesters from buildings for the world media to see.  Curious? Go ahead, it’s a link.

The Expat Child

The Expat Child

Apparently I am an ” Expat “. That identity crisis only took some thirty some odd years to figure out.
It sure explains a lot.
As a child I remember designing different flags with my best friend. A flag to represent our own country where we both fit in. Her parents were from Argentina, mine from Switzerland and the US. When we entered our homes our language and customs instantly changed.
I was raised under the “melting pot ” theory. Which meant our home was a bubble of the USA. We were all going to speak English, watch TV from the USA and eat ‘ American ‘ food. As a result I have little beyond a passport to show for my Swiss heritage. It also meant that any language or customs that I acquired locally were frowned upon.
To confuse matters even more I attended a school where the students transferred in and out every three years from other countries. This was before the internet era and long distance phone calls were expensive. I tried desperately to stay in touch as a pen pall, but none lasted.
I remember exploding in anger one day after hours of crying. I was mourning the loss of another friendship transferred to some other country. “That’s it! No more!” I was not going bother bonding with anyone anymore at school. I was going local.
My act of rebellion was to recognize and embrace the local culture I had absorbed all along. I had already grown up speaking the local language, listening and dancing to its music and watching local television programs. Over time I looked at my family as the foreigners.
I remember begging to study at the local university. No, I had to study in the USA. So I went thinking, ” I have cable TV , a dad from the US and studied at an American school” I am ready. No, I was not. It was incredibly difficult.
Imagine a Zulu speaking Japanese. That was how I felt. My looks did not match my identity and it angered everyone. They could not pigeon hole me. People yelled at me saying I was lying about who I was, where I came from.
College was temporary, so were those relationships. I knew about that already. All I did was look forward to going home. When I did my parents were surprised. They thought I would fall in love with the “Motherland”. Whose mother? Not mine.
My mother sent me off to Switzerland hoping to kindle that bond that was forbidden in our home. It was too late. I was a tourist and will always be. My roots had not found any sustenance. I responded by mutating. I found a way to grow my own roots.
Since then the “salad bowl” theory replaced that of the “melting pot”. It is how my husband (local of course) and I have chosen to raise our children. You see our family has also packed and unpacked, started over and over. Always the new kid in school… Always the new employee…
Except we do not live in our bubble. We do not melt all of the separate cultural ingredients into one stew. Like a salad, every component of our culture retains its shape, color and texture, its integrity and best of all, we can always add more with every new experience.
“Citizens of the world” is how my children have been described by fellow expats. I tell my kids not to worry about losing their friends because like mommy and daddy, they can stay in touch with social media, e-mail and Skype. I am more open now to new friendships, but sadly still a bit icy on the edges. I am still haunted by the thought of “Why bother, I will be leaving soon anyway…”

Quasimodo (Cuasimodo) Sunday in Chile

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..one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre- Dame,”

Victor Hugo

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     Quasimodo geniti infantes, alleluia: rationabiles, sine dolo lac concupiscite, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.

Translation- Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia.

1 Peter 2:2 

     If you are unable to attend Easter mass in Colina, Chile the Low Sunday mass comes to you, by the thousands, on horseback.  The church  celebrates the breaking of bread, the Eucharist, with those who are not able to attend Easter mass by way of a procession unlike any other in the world.

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     With the participation of over 3,000 Chilean cowboys or huasos Colina’s celebration is considered the largest in the country and since this custom is unique to Chile, the world.  In fact it continues for the following two Sundays in neighboring villages.  According to oral history this tradition dates back to colonial days when Dominican priests in an effort to offer holy communion to the disabled, elderly and ill required the escort of huasos not only as guides but as guards against thieves.

The name of the celebration Cuasimodo hails from the Catholic tradition of naming a mass after the first words of its introit. An introit being the first portion of the processional psalm chanted  at the beginning of mass.

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On this occasion the huasos do not wear their traditional wide brimmed hats out of respect for the holy sacrament. Instead they wear scarves on their heads and capes mimicking the priest’s attire. Once varied in color they now dress in predominantly white and yellow to reflect the papal colors.  These colors are also visible in the decorations welcoming the procession to each parish.

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When they do arrive you hear them before you see them. Thousands of hooves pounding the earth  accompanied by the repeated cry  of “Viva Cristo Rey” – Christ the king lives.

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There is no photograph that one can take to capture the magnitude of this event.  Any one image will only represent a moment’s worth of people passing by.  It is truly a “Holy Marathon” in that it begins at sunrise and ends at sunset.  The huasos hold the flag of Chile with one hand and a bottle of water in the other, deftly hidden under their capes so they may have a sip  while the priest gives his blessing at one of the many stops.

And then there are the children.

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All whom dress up to honor their loved one who is riding on this sacred day.  Families wait eagerly on the sidelines to wave at, take photos of and then send the children off to ride with their huaso.

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During his visit to Chile in 1997, Pope John Paul II called this holiday “…a treasure of the people of God.”  It is and one that they generously share.

Long Day

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     Amongst the 3,500 Chilean cowboys known as “Huasos” riding through town on Cuasimodo day there was a singular pink dot.
A girl who rode with her proud and stern faced father. A girl who started riding at sunrise and was now hot and tired after 7 hours of going from parish to parish. A girl who still had several more hours to go on this holy marathon.
A pink rose whose thorns the father gave room to grow instead of clipping them.

What it means to be ABC1 in Chile

Chileno – “You cook?”

GringaDchicureo – “Yes, but not well.  God bless my family for eating whatever I put on the table.”

Chileno – “, but YOU cook”

GringaDchicureo – “Well yeah, no gourmet here, but I try.”

Chileno – ” Nobody cooks for you?”

GringaDchicureo – “Well the husband is too busy, but I am teaching the kids some basics so they can help out.”

Chileno – “Doesn’t your nana cook for you?’

[ Sound of vinyl record getting scratched as GringaDchicureo’s thought process comes to a screeching halt.]

GringaDchicureo – I don’t have a nana.

[Sound of a vinyl record getting scratched as the Chileno’s thought process comes to a screeching halt.]

It has taken me a while to adjust to people’s expectations of me here in Chile.  My Europoean features and proficient English have branded me an ABC1. Our actual financial status is weird to be frank.  On the exterior we lead quite a comfortable life. We do have all of our needs met and yet are drowning in debt. Yep, definitely a member of the middle class.

Regarding our official status as ABC1

Wikipedia on ABC1 http://bit.ly/XfH4K1

What do you call a person who graduated at the bottom of their class in medical school?” Answer – Doctor.

It isn’t enough that I look the part, but we live the part too.  We live in the infamous suburb of Chicureo. What do I mean by “infamous”? Last year the international media had a field day with the residents of  Chicureo’s   treatment of the service industry aka “The Help”.

Huffington Post http://huff.to/WNT7n4

I  have a friend who resides in the condo at the center of the controversy mentioned in the article. She, her nana and I  had an open and honest discussion about their relationship and  compared it to that of other employer/employee relationships they were familiar with. As expats new to the country we wanted to know if what we were seeing in the media was the standard or the exception.  There was no consensus other than we , the ABC1 ladies of Chicureo, were perceived as “cuicas”.  In Chile “Cuica”  is a derogatory term which loosely translates to “snooty b****”, in Puerto Rico where I grew up it means  “jump rope”.  Yep, that was quite a leap.

Well brace yourselves Chile, this “cuica” cooks, cleans, raises children and as of late has held her own with some new found plumbing skills.  Do I want a nana? No! I want a team of them and a chauffer and a tutor.  Someone to cook for me, clean for me, drive for me, do homework with the kids for me so I can…. I don’t know… whatever it is that those giant billboards claim my fellow ABC1 ladies do all day.