Last week I asked Isabel what she was doing for Willie for Valentine’s Day. Her answer? "When is Valentine's Day?"
Uh oh. That was supposed to be the subject of this week’s blog entry. Realizing I was dealing with a foreigner with no clue about the holiday, I quickly came up with a few alternate questions:
Q. Do you know many other Chilean Americans here in the U.S.? Do they automatically assume you should meet them since, you know, you come from the same place and all?
A. I have a few Chilean American friends. Sometimes Chilean tourists come to the Bay Area with the idea of dropping by my house and simply knocking at the door. Before, I would try to be gracious and offer them a cup of tea, but when I had the stupid idea of writing in The Sum of Our Days that our door is always open, and people started coming as if it was a restaurant, we had to put a stop to the invasion.
Q. When Americans go to live in, say, Paris, they’re called "expats.” What do you call Chileans who live abroad?
A. Chileans abroad don't have a term to define themselves. We are always Chilean. We are good travelers and reluctant immigrants, and in the seventies and eighties many of us became sad exiles, but our roots are so strong that we never quite adapt in another land; we carry Chile in the bones.
Q. Do you hold dual citizenship? If so, was the citizenship test hard to pass? Being a stupid American, I can barely spell citizenship, let alone tell you how many states there are in the U.S....I am not kidding about that, sometimes I think it is 50; other times I say 52. Alaska and Hawaii always confuse me...
A. I have two passports, a foot in Chile and one in the United States. I prepared for the citizenship test in l992, the year my daughter Paula was slowly dying in our home. I would sit next to her bed, holding her hand, and memorize the book I had bought for the test. I had nothing else to distract myself at that time, so I did my homework and passed with honors. Five years before, when I had applied for my green card, they didn't ask me about the USA, they just wanted to know if I was one of those illegal immigrants who get married for the residency. Willie and I were interrogated in separate rooms. They asked him what toothpaste I used and they asked me which one he used. To this day neither of us has any idea which toothpaste is in the bathroom because it changes all the time: whatever is on sale in Costco, that's what we get.
Q. In your mind, who is the hottest/sexiest man in each of the following categories:
Movie star: Antonio Banderas, still, and I have always secretly liked Bruce Willis. These two tough males are loaded with testosterone but they are soft inside, and they have an irresistible self-deprecating humor. They knock me off my knickers. (Is this a proper American expression?)
Politician: Barack Obama. Just look at him!!
Musician: My grandson singing in the shower.
General contractor: I prefer firemen.
Writer: William C. Gordon, writer of detective stories.
Humanitarian: Humanitarians are definitely not sexy. Who wants to be in bed with a guy who saves the tuna?
Philanthropist: It used to be Paul Newman. I will have to check around to see who has replaced him.
Cowboy: Jackie Chan.
Artist: A friend of mine called Ward Schumaker.
Chef: Definitely Willie.
At the end of our Q&A session, Isabel told me to order a tall blonde for Willie for this holiday we call Valentine's. Needless to say I did no such thing. Who would want a tall blonde when you can have an Isabel?