My Cheating Heart?

My and other peoples’ experiences with our various Jew connections in Santiago lead me to that question.  Am I using my common culture with one sector of the Chilean community as a crutch?  Will I end up not learning as much about the rest of Chileans?  Can I, in good conscience, use Friday night services and Rosh Hashanah as a jumping off point to meet people my age?  Is doing all that cheating the system?


After all, I’m studying abroad.  It’s supposed to be hard right?  It’s supposed to be uncomfortable, and culturally shocking, and I’m not supposed to know the norms.  So by putting myself out into the Jewish community am I not really putting myself out there?


I doing have an answer.  I do have a few rationalizations.  First, I hate calling strangers on the phone much less inviting myself into their lives.  Just because I called a Jewish one, doesn’t mean I wasn’t stepping out of my comfort zone. Second, my attempts to jump into the young Jewish Santiago social scene haven’t been much more successful or particularly less uncomfortable than forays into the general Chilean one (see Salud Salud L’Chaim below).  Third, my friend Christina and I just today made a Chilean (seemingly non-Jewish, but to be fair I didn’t ask) friend named Sylvia who helped us with a homework assignment and gave us her phone number.  So maybe it’s just a matter of trying harder on both fronts.


Serena (the friend with whom I have most discussed this question) also put it well.  It might be cheating, but it also might be that we are learning what it means to function in a foreign culture (that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, right) and one tool we have found for ourselves is connecting over whatever we can.  For some people, that might be Catholicism, for others soccer.  We happen to be using Judaism as one type of connection.  Christina and I used our Spanish homework as another.


For now, since I still have no real Chilean friends of any religion, I think I’ll just try to put myself out there in many types of situations, Jewish and gentile alike.  After all, I don’t think people tend to get in much trouble for cheating when they’re losing. 


One Comment Add yours

  1. Andrea Zintz says:

    Hi Erin,
    Your mom and I were talking today on her drive to Canyon Ranch – a very “needed” break from her crazy work schedule. She mentioned you had started this blog so I am now reading your wonderful entries.

    It causes me to feel very close to you to read about your experiences and your reflections and musings about it all. I have a reaction to this one, so I’m reaching out with my response…

    I have been thinking a lot lately about connecting with others and how we do that “well.” It seems that we need to reach out from a base of safety and comfort in order to feel and behave most authentically. This requires us to go for what we have in common – and to seek out others from that place. Being Jewish gives us an automatic basis for this and there is no cop out in that. If we “hide out” in that comfort zone; not using it as a foundation for further exploration with others who are different and more in the culture we want to learn, it creates limitations. I think you have a lot of courage and wisdom in how you are moving into your Chilean experience – you are obviously reaching out more and more each day and using your Jewish connections and friends is very smart.

    With love, Andrea

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