I promise this is the last story about Jews, but I had to put the humorous parts in too. And of course, recount the wonders of Jewish geography. Here is the order of events chronologically.
1) Emma, a girl on my program who also goes to Tufts, goes to Shabbat dinner at a family’s house the first Friday we’re in Santiago.
2) Saturday night some other girls and I accompany her to the same house to hang out with one of their sons and his friends. They are all Jewish, very welcoming and nice, and are smoking hookah. Things are looking up.
3) At 2:30 am the other girls and I leave, and Emma goes out with the guys. They run into Sharon, the oldest daughter in the family I had gotten in contact with. Emma meets her but I haven’t met her yet.
4) A few days later, on Wednesday night, I go to Sharon’s house for dinner. As I describe my program she asks me if I know Emma. I say, yes, she’s in my program and we also happen to go to the same university. Sharon explains how they met. I explain that I have met the other Jewish family. We all laugh. Then Yael, the middle sister says, oh so you go to Tufts. Yes, I say. My boyfriend goes to the Fletcher school, she says. Well, I respond, that’s on my campus. Oy.
5) Two days later, on Friday night I was walking through a neighborhood with lots of clubs with a bunch of my friends when out of the corner of my eye I saw someone leap out of a car and heard them yell. My immediate instinct was to back away. When I turned my head though, I realized it was not a creepy rapist, but one of the Jewish guys we’d met with Emma! He was so warm and excited to see us again. He kissed my cheek as is customary, asked how I was, and then got back in his car before the light turned because he was late for a birthday party. The rest of the night went okay, but I looked to that as a bastion of comfort. I can run into Chileans I know on the streets of Santiago. I rock.
6) The following Saturday Serena, Emma, and I go with Alex, another son in Emma’s Jewish Santiago family, to a fonda. This was a few days ago as it is now Monday. A fonda is kind of like a big barbeque/fiesta in a park that happens during the Fiestas Patrias, which occur this week. They’re Chile’s independence days and they’re a huge deal. Anyway, what we went to wasn’t really a fonda, but it was called one. What it really was, was an older kids’ version of a USY dance. It was put on by STTAM, a group for Santiagan Jews aged 18-29 that organizes everything from social events to dance classes (as far as I understand). Just like at a USY dance, I came in with high expectations about the possibility of meeting some new people. Just like at a USY dance I felt incredibly uncomfortable and out of place because everyone already knew each other. I understand. I am never the one who goes up to the pair of foreigners standing in the corner speaking a mixture of their language and mine. Afew people talked to us. We met a kid who claimed he wanted to learn English so he could study abroad in the US. Hmmm. We also met a guy whose family moved here from California two years ago. Both were named Daniel. Go figure.
There were two highlights of the fonda experience. The first was the Spanish translations of formerly English songs such as “I will Survive” and, my personal favorite, “To Life” from Fiddler on the roof. Just start playing the works “yo viveré” or “salud, salud, L’chaim” in your head to the appropriate tunes and try to take yourself seriously dancing. You can’t. The other was, out of absolutely nowhere, the DJ started playing the same cheesy Klezmer I’ve circle danced to a million and one times. With the horah blasting, girls backed away and guys danced around goofily in circles with their arms around each others’ shoulders. This was less a machismo thing than a girls being too cool to dance the horah thing. Alex grabbed me and Serena (his most host-like gesture of the night) in our own mini circle, and we dosy-doed a bit as well. Soon after that we left. And I left laughing.