English Debates

I’m so proud of my students!!!

Our team just ranked second in the first round of Chile’s high school debate tournament! If they pass the next round, we’ll go to the nationals in Viña del Mar.

One of our duties as teachers in this program is to form and guide a team of 6 students. We helped coach them after class, preparing both sides of the argument, “Organ donation should be compulsory.” All teams had to research both sides, because nobody knew which side they’d be arguing, or what school they’d be going against, until the day of the tournament.

I saw my students’ faces drop this morning when they found out they were debating with last year’s champions: Instituto Salesiano. (It was like we were the Oakland A’s about to go up against the NY Yankees.)  My students were already nervous as it was: the ominous microphone, a debate in their second language, and now this.

Right before they went on, I told them: do not worry about making language mistakes…just speak with passion. And they did it!!!

With their participation certificates before we found out they ranked 2nd. (Matius was so nervous before going on, but he nailed the closing speech!!)

About to go up against last year’s winning school. Our team is on the right.

First speaker…rocked it!

The team

Woot!! Inmaculada Concepción


Arte de la calle

Chile is a land of wilderness. Living here has brought me closer to the elements, the weather, and to the calmness of nature. I’m constantly amazed by the beauty of its quiet cities and mountains, but I also want to turn the spotlight  to its human-made streets. The art in the alleyways. Santiago and Valparaíso are known for their elaborate murals, but I’ve found a lot of beauty in the streets of Southern Chile as well.

Here’s a look at Valdivia and Puerto Varas…


This one was created during last year’s student protests. “The anger of the city”- Valdivia



Puerto Varas

Dali-inspired? Valdivia.



Poster announcing the a student march for May 16. -Valdivia.


30 days later…

I’m one month into teaching.

All I have to say is hats off to middle school teachers. Teaching adolescents has been a demanding, but rewarding experience.

Every morning at 8am, I need to gather the energy to lead a class of teenagers. Not just teach them English…(that’s the easy part)…but make them engaged. Unlike teaching ESL to kids, teenagers are a tough crowd. Getting them to speak in a second language feels impossible on some days. Shyness, insecurity in front of their peers, drama, 17-year-old boys who couldn’t be bothered- all kinds of issues, personalities, and family backgrounds come into my classroom every day. My mind is constantly adapting to these various attention spans, attitudes, and English skills.

In Chile, I go through plan A, B, C, D, E, ( and F ) every day. It’s almost guaranteed that the first two plans are not going to go how they’re played out in my mind. Nope. Actually, when stuff does go exactly as planned,  I start to feel skeptical- like the fates are messing with me. (This is Chile, isn’t it!?)

IV medios (seniors)

Classes have overall been going well. My students are pretty behaved compared to other schools. (My friend ended up kicking out his entire class a few weeks ago because they wouldn’t listen to him.)

As the weeks go on, I’ve learned that altering my lessons slightly for each group is the key to a smooth class. One particular class of 4 medios loves learning about world news, so I always try and bring in a video or current event  to start the day. Last week I showed them the video of Obama’s speech saying gay couples should be allowed to marry. For the rest of the class, they worked on their dialogues for a video we’re making about Chile.  The Red Hot Chili Peppers played in the background. (There are two boys in this class who rarely speak, but they knew every word to “Californication”, and sang along perfectly.)

After the bell rang, I was erasing the whiteboard and amidst the shuffle of students leaving, I heard one girl call me. “Meees….” I turned around and she smiled, “Your classes are fun.” You have no idea how much that sentence made my day. After a long week, it felt all worth it just to hear that.

And another sweet surprise: Last week,  in my III medio class, one of my student’s asked me out of nowhere, “Meees….Do you know Berkeley?” Berkeley!? It was the last city I was expecting my students to ask me about. Apparently, she read a book by Isabelle Allende, and the characters were in Berkeley. Now she wants to go visit. That’s where I was living and working before moving to Chile. Some of my family still lives there, and it will always be my home. Hearing my student ask me about it made me smile.

I have so many stories to tell from my classes, but that post will be for another day. Right now it’s Friday, and I’m heading to Northern Patagonia in a few hours. Next up: volcanos and lakeside towns.

My III medios. Host sister’s in the middle!

My II medio student wrote a biography of himself. Dreams include: marrying Megan Fox and having many kids.

Niebla Sunset

Except for when I’m teaching,  I only speak English on the weekends. All of us foreign teachers live in different towns, so when Friday rolls around, there’s always a massive migration to Valdivia to meet up.  (Speaking our native language over a beer has become one of life’s little pleasures.) 

Even though winter’s approaching, Saturday was gorgeous, and Fred, Sophie and I spent the afternoon in Niebla, a small coastal town 20 minutes from Valdivia. The drive there reminds me of Northern California’s winding, coastal highways. The road passes by local breweries, lush forests, and fishing boats and bays. We bought empanadas from the market and just chilled out the entire afternoon. Dusk set, and people began showing up with blankets and ice chests to watch the sunset. It reminded me of a lazy sunday evening at Ocean Beach in San Francisco.

I can be anywhere in the world and feel at home with the ocean.

That’s right.

Niebla totally reminds me of Baker Beach. (Sans GG Bridge)

Pacific Ocean, te amo.

It’s fall down here in the southern hemisphere, and the sun sets at 6 pm.

The path to our Niebla Beach.

la música

These are the songs that will stay with me long after I’ve left Chile. From Chilean rock bands to latin club hits, these are the songs that have creeped into my life.

Los Bunkers.  This band’s very popular here.

Los Vasquez.  This song is everywhere! I can count on hearing those accordion notes at least six times a day, whether it’s coming from someone’s car as they’re waiting at a stoplight, to my host sister humming it around the house.

Los Prisioneros. I’ve just been getting into these guys…

“Gustavo Lima”.  Yes. Let the good times roll.