Saturday, June 30, 2007

Pharisee, Part 1

Pharisee - Phar·i·see /ˈfærəˌsi/ –noun 1. a member of a Jewish sect that flourished during the 1st century b.c. and 1st century a.d. and that differed from the Sadducees chiefly in its strict observance of religious ceremonies and practices, adherence to oral laws and traditions, and belief in an afterlife and the coming of a Messiah.
2. (lowercase) a sanctimonious, self-righteous, or hypocritical person.

I found this on a website that is some kind of posting forum; it's weird so I can't really give credit where it's due. But, I loved it.


…you get upset when people leave your church because, after all, yours is the only one in town that is truly "doing it right".

…you think any Christian music written in the last 50 years is from the devil.

…you pay exactly 10% of your income to your church each year; no more, no less.

…you ask questions like, "if I get a birthday gift from a friend, am I supposed to pay a tithe on that?"

…you make sure everyone notices all the underlines and highlights in your Bible.

…you wonder if someone is really a Christian when they casually mention they had a glass of wine with their dinner last night

…you always quote the chapter and verse reference when speaking of scripture.

…you ever gave your pastor a doctor’s excuse for missing a Sunday evening service

…you ever worried about whether or not you should read the italicized words in you King James Bible because they weren’t in the original text

…you refuse to read any other Bible except the King James version.

…you display your Sunday School perfect attendance award prominently in your office or home.

…you rub down the ends of the pages in your Bible that relate to the Old Testament, just like the ends of the pages in your New Testament section, so it will look like you spend much time all over the Bible.

…you casually mention your giving habits in conversations with your pastor.

…when asked to consider being an elder in your church, you get excited because your name badge will now have an important title on it.

…you always let people know, "I’m praying for you", even if you haven’t been.

…some sins are okay to admit you struggle with, but others are not.

…you are seen with a calculator right before the contribution basket comes around.

…you boycotted The End of the Spear because the part of Nate Saint was played by a homosexual.

…you think someone else’s baptism "didn’t work".

…you ask questions like, "isn’t the church staff breaking the sabbath by working on Sunday?"

…you immediately conclude someone is not a Christian when you hear them use a cuss word.

…you love to wrestle with questions about the Christian life that start with the word, "should".

Finally, you might be a Pharisee if after reading all the above you say to yourself, "I thank God that I am not a sinner like those guys…"

More on the Pharisee mentality to come.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Deep Shift

I was looking for something interesting to read on the web and decided to check out Brian McLaren's website. On it, he is promoting the Everything Must Change Tour '08. The organization behind it is called Deep Shift. This is what they're about:

A time of transition
and re-envisioning

A time for asking new questions
and seeking answers
that are both new and old
fresh and seasoned
surprising and familiar

What does it mean, in today’s world, to be a follower of God in the way of Jesus?
What does it mean to be a faith community engaged in the holistic, integral mission of God in our world today?
How do we, as individuals and faith communities, respond faithfully to the crises facing our world?
What is our duty to God, ourselves, our families, our neighbors, our enemies, and our planet in light of Jesus’ radical message of the kingdom of God?
How can we engage in personal formation and theological reformulation for global transformation?

Living in deep shift can be exhilarating and energizing, but it can also be disorienting and frightening.

Sounds great. Then, I checked out who is sponsoring the tour:

Emergent Village

Sojourners: Faith and Justice Churches

Sierra Club

Please check out the websites I've linked above. I really would like to hear opinions from all sides on this movement. Presently, I am forming an opinion which I hope will be centered on the Gospel. In fact, my hope is that at the center of this movement, started by Mr. McLaren, we will find the heart of the Gospel. Will we? I'm not sure; maybe.

One question that comes up is, at what point does activism, to the Right or the Left, become counterproductive to sharing the Gospel? Check out Sojourners and Sierra Club (both with activist leanings, the latter not a Christian organization). We've seen the damage the Right can do; are we swinging the other way now in response? In a world where relativism is king and absolutes are questioned (or dare I say, reversed), where does this movement fall?

If anyone is interested, let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chile Day 12 - Evening at Mao's

My favorite pub in Santiago is Off The Record. This is one of those neigborhood pubs that has a defined characteristic; left-wing and neo-socialist. So why do I, a right-of-center registered Republican call this "communism is neat" pub my favorite pub? It's just the right pub, in the right neighborhood, and it's got the kind of bohemian feel I like.
The menu is great too. We had 2 plates which we shared among 4 people. One was a picada type of plate with salmon ceviche, sliced smoked salmon, quaill eggs, and assorted veggies and cheeses. The other was a plate with grilled beef tenderloin, lamb chops, pork tenderloin and chicken.
I also had a mojito made with Havana Club Rum.
Speaking of communist hypocrisy, the pub, which is a cash-cow from all appearances, features pictures on the walls of great communist thinkers like Pablo Neruda (who owned about 5 houses throughout Chile and lived in France while he supported communist ideals of equality for the people), Che Guevara ( know), Isabel Allende (socialist critic of capitalist ideals living well in New York city off the well-deserved earnings from the sales of her books), and various other silly idealists, some of whom actually had some interesting things to say. The centerpiece of the pub is a piano with a pink portrait of Chairman Mao over it.
As Gotan Project played in the background (my favorite song of theirs is the one that chants "El Capitalismo es un arma!", which was also a cash-cow for Gotan Project thanks to capitalism), Off The Record was introducing the first issue of their new magazine, which includes literary pieces and article by Santiago writers and thinkers. It just so happens some of these very writers were there for the release of the new mag. As conversations carried and I heard terms like, "the people won't stand for that" and "censura facista", I enjoyed my mojito and we laughed and had a great time with Felipe and Carolina.
To top off the evening at Off, I inquired as to where I could get a copy of the new Off The Record magazine. The writers were gathered in an intellectual huddle, but they managed to turn around and offer me a moment of their time. I was going to say something deep like, "I'm looking to expand my horizons and open my mind to socialist thinking, since I have now been exposed to the oppression of the poor and down-trodden people of Chile. I would like to learn more about your views on the caste system which is so evident in Chile; the poetic symbolism that exists as the rich and the privelaged live in the upper part of the valley looking down on the poor, uneducated workers below. Please, show this fat American the brilliance and genius of your socialist ways."
Instead I just asked for a copy. A lady among the group told me "Sure. I'll get you a copy. That will be $1,000 pesos.
I gave her 1,000 pesos, we paid the hefty bill for the food and drinks and left this bastion of socialist equality and capitalist criticism.
But really, Off The Record is a stylish place and I enjoyed it very much. I finished off the evening with a good Cuban Cohiba. As I puffed on my cigar, I thought of the great country I live in. I love Chile, but I'm looking forward to getting back home.
See you soon.

Chile Day 12 - Morning and Afternoon

Today we managed to find the cemetary where Ceci's grandfather is buried. It was nice to be able to visit the grave site after all these years. Ceci's grandfather had basically filled the role of father when Ceci was very young. He died in 1992 one year prior to our wedding. Ceci was not able to go to the funeral or see her grandfather before he passed. Now, going to the grave site, she was able to at least see his final resting place.

We then had tea-time at the neighbor's house, where we had tea and bread.

Chile Day 11

Uneventful. Went out looking for the cemetary where Ceci's grandfather is buried and we got lost. So, Ceci did some shopping in Bellavista, one of my favorite areas un Santiago. Bellavista is like Coconut Grove in Miami; it's very bohemian. We went to a small store called "Emporio Nacional" where they sell "comida artesanal", which is basically specialty wines, sauces, spices, etc...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Chile Day 10

Today we started out the day on the dunes in Renaca, just north of Vina del Mar. We then loaded the family up in the truck and went to Valparaiso and stopped at an antiques fair. We then ate at a restaurant called O'Higgins, where we ordered and consumed large amounts of meat (a parillada). Chileans aren't known for their beef, but wow the pork was good. I also had some morcilla (blood sausage). This was the best morcilla I ever had, considering I don't really care for it and usually eat it because it makes people go "ewww!". But really, it was delicious.

We then took a drive through Valparaiso and Vina. I really love this area of Chile the best, mostly because it is very cosmopolitan and maritime. I had visited here before, but since this is the first time I actually get to drive through it myself (as opposed to riding a bus and seeing it from a window) I got a chance to really see it. Vina is a beautiful city. Valparaiso is cool and very bohemian. The views are spectacular and there is a lot to do. I'm thinking that if I ever do by land in Chile, it might involve a nice condo inside Vina.

We got back to Santiago around 10:30 pm. It's been a great weekend.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Chile Day 9

Today we left Santiago. We stopped in the small town of Pomaires to have lunch. Pomaires is a rural community with a tradition of a type of pottery making with the local soil, called greda. We came here in 2002. I wanted to come back because I remembered they have make these HUGE empanadas. I had one and it was delicious. We then drove through a lot of farm land I had not seen before. Chile looks like a narrow spit of land, but there is a lot of open area here. The closer you get to the coast, the greener and more lush the landscape gets.

We arrived at Viña Del Mar around sunset and I am now at Ernesto´s house in Reñaca. Ernesto is Ceci´s godfather. We´re going to spend the day with his family tomorrow, and visit the sand dunes, downtown Viña, and Valparaiso.

By the way; I was just watching local news. Some nut cases in some hick town in the south of Chile said they found the chupacabra (!). I can´t believe they´re still talking about this. They showed the alleged chupacabra. It was some kind of ferret. Pretty funny.

Good night!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Chile Day 8

Today was very uneventful. Spent most of the day lounging around because it was too cold. I watched the movie "Holes" with Racky. I was tired from our trip to Chillan; I just didn't feel like doing much of anything. Tomorrow we drive to Vina del Mar.

I bought a really good pie today called "quesillo de manzana". It's like an apple pie, but it has a sweet cheesy mixture inside; very good. We just ended the evening looking at photographs of Ceci's family, some dating back 100 years. Ceci's grandfather is a war veteran and sailor, so there were photos he took back in 1940 in Havana when his ship went to port there. Very interesting.

That's it. Going to bed.

Clarification on Tea Time rant

To anyone who may have read my blog raging about tea-time in Chile and said, "Well Marcos, don't you know tea-time is something celebrated daily in many different countries".... yes. I get it.

To clarify, my rant was specifically directed towards those Chileans I personally know who like tea-time, and with a very high-brow attitude say, "we don't eat dinner because tea-time is enough", which translated means, "we don't scarf down big meals like you fat Americans do."

I like tea-time. I like it at 5:00pm, with a little "bready" snack, in the knowledge that dinner will follow at some point. That makes sense. Unfortunately, the CHILEANS PERSONALLY KNOWN TO ME have breakfast (bread, tea and cheese), lunch (a well-balanced meal) and tea-time (bread, tea and cheese). When I mention dinner they say, "we are not accustomed to eating dinner here", hands folded, eye-brows on top of their heads. But if you decide to cook up some steak, stand back! They'll scarf it down quicker then a hungry Texan cowboy named George.

Having said that, I love the CHILEANS PERSONALLY KNOWN TO ME. I've eaten very well and have no complaints I wouldn't tell them of face-to-face. They know my tea-time poutty face, pondering the possibility of no dinner(!), and will gladly offer me a steak.

Just killing time today. Miss you all!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Chile Day 7 - The Farm

Today we said b-b-b-b-bye cabin and sought refuge in the warmth of the artificially heated Nissan (kick-ass by the way). On the way back to el centro de Chillan, Ceci's aunt wanted to pass by the farm of some dear friends.

We dropped by to visit Don Juan and Dona Raquel, an elderly couple who live on a family farm, owned and run by the family for about 2-3 generations. The farm is located on a river. Their house (shown above) is very humble. The kitchen has a dirt floor with a stone wood burning hearth as the center-piece. Don Juan and Dona Raquel are your typical farmer family. Meeting Don Juan, you might as well be meeting a Cuban Guajiro or a Puerto-Rican Jibarito. These people will give you the shirts off their backs. Don Juan? He gave me a sack of potatos.
I'm serious. A HUGE 100lb. sack of potatos! I almost cried; not because I love potatos, but because he just met me and was giving me something as a gift. He didn't talk much, either. He just smiled and very proudly showed us his land.
I also got to see the river that Ceci swam in when she was a small girl. El Rio Chillan runs behind Don Juans property. You can fish for Salmon there!
Racky asked me what was so special about the river. I told her that her mother used to bathe in the river as a child while Guille, her brother played the pan flute and walked his Llama to the river bank to get a drink. Ceci didn't think that was funny. I thought it was.
We then said goodbye to the Don's and took the 5 hour drive back to Santiago. All-in-all it was a nice trip.
Oh I forgot to mention; the Don's also gave us 6 eggs, 1 large green pumpkin, some decorative gords, and freshly made bread. I think I can bring the gords back to Miami. The sack of potatos I'm not so sure.

Chile Day 6 - Snow in June

On Wednesday we explored the forest surrounding the cabin. The weather during the day is perfect for hiking here. There's usually a steady breeze and it's sunny.

It doesn't snow around the cabin. But, when you drive about 45 minutes up the road you're surrounded by snow. This is "would you like a slice of arm with your earlobe" country (get it? The guys who crashed in the Andes? They made a movie about it... you know!).
It's cold up there. And it is also the most beautiful place I have ever seen. When you're driving up, the word majesty comes to mind. There are trees up there that must be thousands of years old.
At the top of the drivable road (by the way, Nissan Pathfinder 4 x 4 Diesel kicks-butt!) is one of Chile's premiere ski resorts, Las Termas De Chillan. They have a 5 star restaurant, and it appears to be a 5 star resort. There are also thermal pools, hence the name.
Racky and I had a snowball fight! That was the best part of being up there.
Unfortunately, since we slept in the refrigerator the night before and spent the day in the cold, I was feeling crappy so we had to cut the snowball fight. But it was very cool to be that close to the top of the Andes mountains! We had a great time.

Chile Day 5 - CHILLAN is Chilling!

Hey Everyone! I'm writing here to keep mostly my family up to speed on what's going on south of the equator. I'm also journaling, so if this gets ponderous go to youtube or something.

For the past few days, we were in Chillan and I was not able to post to the internet. We just got back. It's about 10:30 pm.

First impressions. La Ruta Pan-Americana, which is the highway you take to go south is awesome. A lot of tolls, however, and it's not cheap. Speaking of not being cheap, the peso is at $524, but everything is more expensive than it was 2 years ago. But the economy seems to be strong.

Chillan is not in the lake region as I thought. It's further north. It's a small city. We went to Chillan to stay at a cabin in the mountains belonging to one of Ceci's aunts. We were welcomed by a family friend, Patricio, who along with his wife, Jeniffer welcomed us into their home with a steak, longaniza and pork lunch (!). I thought I was going to explode. But I was mostly impressed with the way these people welcomed us into their home and provided a meal for us ( a HUGE meal), without really knowing us. I'm not going to go into one of these "Oh, these Chileans are such wonderful, giving people" speeches, but this kind of welcome I have RARELY seen state-side. You might get offered a cup of coffee and a drive to the nearest McDonalds, but I've never been received by anyone in this manner.

We then went to the cabin. It's really a beautiful place. The cabin is set atop a mountain and overlooks a small town. The cabin is nestled in a protected forest area. 30 km further up the road your about as close to the top of the Andes mountains as you can get and playing in the snow!

Speaking of cold, there was only one down side. The beautiful cabin we were staying in HAS. NO. HEAT! There was 1 small "estufa" for the whole cabin, which measures about 3,000 sf and has 2 floors. Ceci, Racky and I kept warm with body heat only. That's one of the reasons we left early. We were living in a cabin with electricity and all the comforts of home, but with an ambient temperature of 40 degrees. You should have seen this Cuban trying to start a fire. It was pathetic.
That's kind of a synopsis of the first day.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Chile Days 3 & 4

Well Sunday and Monday were mostly uneventful. No photos to post here, but the family will get to see the same shots (of the living room, dining room, and everybody at the house in Chile eating and hanging out) you usually see when we get back.

Last night was probably one of the most miserable nights of my life. I woke up at 2:30 am with stomach acids literally shooting out of my stomach (ala Linda Blair in The Excorcist, sans Father Karras). See, I suffer from acid indegestion issues, and bread usually kills me so I try to stay away from it. Unfortunately, Chileans still practice Tea Time at 5:00pm, and are proud of the fact that they refrain from gorging themselves on a large meal (although around 9:00pm, the local pizzerias are jam packed with take-out orders... because tea time isn't FOOD!). So, tea time usually involves sandwiches (bread), crackers (bread), pastries (bread), baguettes (bread) and other bread by-products. So naturally, around 2:30am, the demon expelled a squirt of acid that scared the living daylights out of me. Then, it was cold. I mean REALLY cold. After cleaning up and getting back in bed, I was shaking (escalo-frio I believe my mom calls it). After warming up a bit I couldn't get back to sleep, started coughing, and got a massive headache. I got out of bed around 4:30 am and started working on some files (my job).

This morning everyone woke up coughing. Ceci, my wife's aunt, went to the hospital and was diagnosed with Influenza. Ximena, my wife's other aunt is going to the hospital tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I'm getting the hell out of Santiago; away from the smog and pestilence. If all goes well we're going south to the lake region, assuming nobody is hospitalized for coughing up a lung.

Mom, don't worry. Ceci has Influenza type A, which I was told is not contagious. She also brought some extra drugs for everyone in the house.

Good night.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Chile Days 1 and 2

We arrived in Santiago at 7:30 am on Friday. I love coming to Chile, but that 8 hour flight is a killer. Once we landed we made our way through Chile Customs, picked up our bags and waited for our transportation.

Santiago was immersed in a dense fog. The famous smog (or as they say in Chile, el e-smog) was non-existent due to a strong rain shower that cleared the air the day before. But don't worry; the e-smog is back now. We're under a clear blue sky, the weather is about 50 degrees, and there's a thin brown haze visible in the distance everywhere you look.

On Friday we went to the supermarket (Jumbo), where I bought some Longaniza Chilena (unlike the Spanish Longaniza, this one is more palatable. It tastes delicious) and a bottle of Havana Club, Ron Anejo Reserve. The bottle cost me $12.00! This is amazing consider comparable rums in the US cost about $25-$35 a bottle, plus the fact that you can't get Havana Club in the States. I also bought one of my favorite fruits, called Pepino, shown above. This is an indigenous fruit. It's probably available in California, but I've never seen it in Miami.

Yesterday (Saturday) I rented a 2007 Pathfinder (sweet!), with a diesel engine, loaded up the truck and headed for the country. We went to visit Hacienda Los Maitenes, which is in the middle of the Casablanca Valley in "La Ruta Del Vino", a nationally designated wine district. The land is beautiful, but it's a little bit out of the way for our purposes. It's a good buy though, and I may still end up buying at least one lot. The land is covered with citrus trees, Eucalyptus, and other local flowering and fruit plants. These photos show the views from one of the lots.

We also took one of Ceci's uncles to drop off something for one of his clients. His client runs rodeos in Chile, and has a stable full of horses.

Today, we're celebrating a birthday for Racky. Her birthday won't be until August, but her grandmother wanted to throw her a party in Chile. I miss my suegra though; she couldn't make it on account of her terrorist ties giving her issues with her passport (JUST KIDDING!). Racky has no idea and there are about 30 people invited (!).

Tomorrow (Monday) will be a work day for me. I finally got internet access. Now I just have to see if my Outlook will behave.

Tuesday we're heading south to Chillan, in the lake region of Chile. We are staying in a house inside a forest. It should be amazing. I'm not sure I'll be able to post, but I'll keep a journal regardless and post it when I get back to Santiago on Friday.