Zarchy: First Month Part II

This basically describes my first month perfectly

This basically describes my first month perfectly

For those few intrepid souls who made it to the end of the last post, I question your sanity as much as I value your readership, so thank you.

The last few days have been really interesting working for the Santiago Times, because they serve a really interesting niche. Their readership is mainly made up of government and business-people, and a lot of what we do is actually more of a news filter than an actual news-generating service. We do the odd interview, gather research and such, but a lot of the task before us simply lies in finding the news that would matter to English-speakers and re-presenting it to them.

This in general means a lot of reading the Spanish-language dailies, supplementing it with new research and facts, and a lot of translating to English. While I didn’t really have any idea what to expect, coming in, I’ve been able to tap into the news of the area, which is actually what I really wanted more than anything.

My first day, Monday, I went in for the staff meeting, which is pretty reminiscent of CHP’s meetings in Santa Cruz, though this is made up of the writers rather than editors, so it’s just us. We went over the main stories of the day that we deemed worth writing about, and each writer claimed one or two stories for their own for the day. I ended up with a blurb about promising trends in swine flu and, finishing that, I worked on a piece about the dollar’s downward slide with relation to the peso. Both of these were pretty interesting, in my econ/politics nerd sort of way, so it was quite fun.

The structure of the Santiago Times is pretty interesting, and their intense reliance on consistent intern-power comes through pretty strongly. They make a big point that people should write about stories that interest them, and added that my arrival comes as a period where a few people will be leaving, so I can basically have my pick of the beats to follow. I made the choice (mistake) of mentioning that I don’t hate economics, so they pounced on that as my new beat, which is actually pretty cool for me: politics and economics, my two favorites.

Today I worked on a story about Andrés Velasco, the Chilean finance minister, who’s actually quite an interesting character. His family was exiled by Pinochet at the beginning of the dictatorship, so he was raised in the U.S. He has degrees from Yale and a Ph.D from Columbia, and he was a professor at Harvard until he left to take the Chilean job when Bachelet was elected. One of his first acts in the job was refusing to spend windfall copper profits from a huge boom in copper prices (Chile is one of the largest copper exporters in the world), and instead kept the money in the state’s treasury, posting the biggest budget surpluses in the country’s history. The people were not pleased, and hated him, burning him in effigy and calling for at his resignation, at best, if not his head.

But that’s where the big “but” comes in.

When the economy crashed, and the price of copper plummeted, suddenly the government found themselves incredibly well placed to offer stimulus because of the $40+ billion that Velasco had saved. Suddenly he became a hero, and to this day remains incredibly popular (and one of the only ministers to have kept their job through the whole Bachelet presidency). I found this story fascinating, and worked on writing about a Q&A he did with El Mercurio. Hopefully I can do the same type of stuff for a while, and maybe get good enough with my Spanish to start interviewing. I interviewed one guy, but missed what he said completely, so I’m thinking I need to rethink my approach.

I like the other people at the paper, though I’m just getting to know them, and a few of them will be leaving really soon. They’ve been a great source for local tidbits, especially where (and what) to eat. Chief among them is the “colación” at a local restaurant, which can loosely be translated to the “meal of the day.” This can be anything from beef stew (day 1) to lentils (day 2) to grilled pork and vegetables with mashed potatoes (day 3). My coworkers have warned against ordering it blindly though, saying it’s not always as good as it’s been, but it seems like a great deal for the <$3 we’re paying for it.

I hope to keep working with the Santiago Times, though I’m not sure how much time I’ll really have to devote to it, especially because I really want to do other things while I’m here, like class, teaching English, traveling, becoming a professional soccer player, growing four more inches, riding two horses a week and things of that ilk. Steve and Ben, the de-facto editor, both mentioned the possibility of getting more involved with the Valparaíso Times, even as the “editor,” because the VT is pretty much defunct at this point and needs somebody to devote a good amount of time to it.

I’ve never been to Valparaíso, but I’ve heard some amazing things, and I’d very much like to spend a good amount of time there. One of the interns for the ST lived in Valpo for a year and still loves it, so I could see myself doing some journalism there, though I’m not sure when that would fit in, though there’s a hostel I can stay at for free while I’m there as per some ad agreement with the ST, so there’s that…  file that under future possibilities.

Tonight was pretty crazy, and sorry if I seem a bit bitter, but I was desperate.

I was rushed out of the office to reach the Mac Store before it closed, and I was really short on time. I grabbed a cab back home to grab my computer and the same cab to the store, as the taxista “generously” offered to wait for me (though of course charging me for the time he waited). He got lost a few times, but he found it, and I got in there with 20 minutes to spare. I ran up to the seventh floor and, seeing somebody already at the window, I sat and waited. When the guy finally finished, I talked to the guy, explaining as well as I could that the cord had just stopped working one day, and I didn’t know if the problem was with the cord or the computer.

He seemed to understand, and went into the back to try to find an iBook G4 cord to test the computer. He plugged it in and, magically, it worked (this is me breathing a sigh of relief). Finally communicating that this was, in fact, the part I needed, I then asked, probably a bit desperately: can I buy this? now? please?

Disappearing for a few more minutes in the back, he comes back with… half of the power cord; the part that plugs into the computer, but missing the part that sticks into the wall. “Sorry,” he says, “this is all we have, and without this part (gesturing to the exposed and empty plug) it won’t work.”

Well, I know that. I have a Mac. Even if I didn’t I think, I’d be able to figure out that without a wall cord, it wouldn’t work. Computers don’t plug into air.

“Will you have the part soon?” I ask.

“Sure, no problem. 15 days at the most,” he says. “Or, you can order it online.”

15 days? I mean, doable I guess, but I’d be starting classes and it would be a definite stretch. At this point I keep looking over at my computer, still plugged into the test cord, hoping that maybe it’ll get a bit of a charge just sitting there, so I can use it for even a few minutes later. I also start comparing the plugs, thinking maybe I can solder some part of my old plug into the new one to get it working.

“Can I buy this cord?” I ask, motioning to the test cord plugged into my computer.

He chuckles. “No.”

“Are there other places to buy this anywhere?”

At this point, he seemed to reconsider something, and picked up the phone to call… somewhere. After about 5 minutes on the phone he goes back into the back room and comes back with… the part I need!

At this point I’m really confused. Did he not realize they had it? Did he just not think to ask the mystery voice on the phone? Either way, there it was, and at my request he tested it to make sure it works, taking a black power converter out of a closet to plug into the wall. Success!

“Now,” he says, leaning across the counter. “Do you want to buy it?”


I’m heading to Pucon over the weekend with some friends before classes start, which should be a blast. I’ve heard great things about Pucon, and I’m feeling a lot better health-wise, so I’m feeling good about this trip. It’s a looong drive away, and we’ll be going by bus, so I’m sure to have plenty of time to read on the trip and catch up a bit from all the reading I should have been doing this whole time. I’ll get back online when I get back and try to update, though we may be getting back early Monday morning before work, so I may be pretty beat. We’ll see, but I’ll catch you on the flip side.

Ciao for now.

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