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Before you send out that mass email, I urge you to stop.

So every now and then, dear reader, you come across one blog, or a group of them, and you write the blogger an email. I love your blog, you say! Now I have a question, you say. This is nice. It puffs up the old ego. In my case, it means yay, people think I’m an expert on Santiago (I mean, aside from the companies/publications that pay me to write about Santiago). Then I try (sometimes, kind of depends) to answer your question. It helps if you actually read the blog, such that questions like “where should I go to check out the local heavy metal bands” or some such are not good questions to ask me (this really happened). It would also help if you were specific in your questions. It is not enough to ask “who makes good sandwiches,” without me knowing what fillings you like, and whether or not you like to eat them with a fork and knife. “Where should I live” is another common question that I cannot answer because I do not know you. So help me out a little.

Speaking of help, it also might help maybe just a little bit, if every time you wrote a question, you did not do a mail merge asking me and five other bloggers the same question. The reason for this is that a) Santiago is a hanky (getting back to that in a minute) and b) I have a “from the mailbag” series on a public forum that is not this one, and when you ask something ridiculous, I sometimes repost it (without your name, of course). And then I get all these “ha! me, toos” from other folks. Now I don’t think you think I’m an expert, I think you are a crowdsourcer. You don’t want my info, you just want info in general. And maybe it’s not even because you’re traveling. Maybe you’re writing something (this has happened, too). Why else would you actually call one of my people on the phone to ask questions? Smells suspicious, I say. You should “come correct,” as the bros say, telling me what you’re working on, not asking questions about relocating when really, you’re up to something else.

And then there’s the hanky

Santiago es un pañuelo is how we say “Santiago is the size of a postage stamp.” It does not actually mean that in terms of area it is small (in fact, Greater Santiago covers 250 sq miles), but that alot of people know alot of other people. And similarly-positioned people know each other. Neighborhood, age, socio economic similarity, English-speaking bloggers, people who work in and around tourism, etc.

Which means when you write me an email, and you also write Emily and Peter and Rob, and Sara, and Colin, and Sally and some other people that I’m surely forgetting, with the same exact question, WE KNOW. I say I will answer questions on my about me page, and I do. But you know those FAQs? they are there for a reason. And they’re snarky. I think they’re funny. But you know what I don’t think is funny? treating me like I’m interchangeable with another gringo. Grrrrr.

Re: Pañuelo

It is not just English speaking gringos who may or may not work in something related to tourism that know people in common. I shall set the stage for you:

Parking area at Cerro Manquehue one Saturday morning. Several hikers at the ready, including S and LM. I have never met LM before, but she is a friend of S, who I know from since I moved to Chile and started biking around from a gigantic group of cyclists. On my first ever bike ride with her, she dragged me on a 140 km ride that extended into way after twilight, into pitch black. Good times.

We start walking up the hill (do this in a group please, there have been assaults on Manquehue) and we get to talking. Turns out LM’s sister’s birthday is that day, and she mentions her name. I say, hey! I think I know her (somewhat unusual name in Chile, not in Spanish). I belong to a Flickr group and I went to a photography conference that she also attended and we rode home together on the bus, I say. And LM said, yep, we talked about that, because I said you were going on the hike, and were a cyclist, and said your name and my sister said, “oh, I know her.”

Because it’s small. 7 million people and still small. Chances are not small that someone you know will know someone else you know. I don’t know why it is, it just is. So remember, no pretend personal emails that you send to everyone. You will get found out. Also, I would love it if you would flatter me by putting the word handkerchief, bandana or tissue in your next email to me. Then I’ll believe you’ve actually read the blog. I may have stolen this from a friend who, in his couch surfing profile instructs people to say “gefilte fish.” You can also say gefilte fish, but please don’t bring me any. Bleck.

Oh, and if you do write a note, and people do answer you, then you should say thank you. Your momma would like that. And so would the group of English speaking bloggers in Chile to whom you sent the mass email.

If it seems like this might just be a periodic rant of people not handling my information dispensing ego with kid gloves, you’re right.