Finished up the fall term at Instituto Inmaculada Concepcíon. One of my freshman students made me this on the last day. My heart melted.
I’m writing from Arica, Chile, a surf town 12 miles from the Peruvian border. I’ve embarked on a 3 week solo trip to the north of Chile and Peru. I’ll meet up with a friend in Cusco, but until then, I’m traveling solo.
Buses in Chile are safe and very comfortable, but I just got off a creepy one. The 12-hour overnight trip from San Pedro was eerie.
We left at 8:30 pm, driving into the Atacama desert with nothing but sand dunes under a full moon. We were on the Panamerican Highway, which goes up the coast of South America. And this seemed to be it’s most desolate part.
Sometime during the night, I looked out the window and that saw that the bus was hugging a cliff with no gaurd rail. I was on the second story, and below me was a canyon, hundreds of feet below. I’ve never been afraid of heights, but something about being on a top-heavy bus didn’t sit well. The bus began taking the turns, as we drove past white crosses scattered across the cliffside in memory of others who’d gone over the edge. It was hard to sleep that night.
Apart from the bus ride, the San Pedro de Atacama part of the trip was great. San Pedro is a touristy town in the middle of nowhere in Chile’s Atacama desert. It’s a popular jumping off point for exploring the surrounding area, where the borders of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina intersect.
Here is a bit of life in the driest desert in the world…
The first day I arrived in San Pedro I joined some people from the organization StartUp Chile. We all went to swim in Laguna Cejar. The only person who stayed in the water for more than 15 seconds was the Finnish guy we were with. The water was freezing, but floating is easy since it’s so salty.
Chile’s El Tatio geyers are one of the region’s main draws. Along with New Zealand, Iceland, and the USA, Chile has one of the world’s biggest geyser fields.
Since they’re most active at dawn, it meant waking up at 3:30 am to go see them. After the van picked us up at 4 am we began the two hour trip into the Andes mountains.
We’d been warned about how cold it would be up there, so Karin and I joked that we would just wear every piece of clothing we had. (We came pretty close.) My three pairs of socks and seven layers still didn’t keep out the freezing morning.
Once at the geyers, our local guide warned everyone to stay clear from the geyser named “The Killer”, which got its name after several people got too close and fell into the boiling water. (We steered clear.)
But we were tempted to jump into the hot springs with the loads of other tourists. It was such a relief from the cold, and it was funny watching everybody scramble for their clothes after getting out into the cold air. (It wasn’t funny when we had to do it.)
Tomorrow I’m crossing the border into Tacna, Peru. Next up: Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
I just finished working the winter English camp in Valdivia. The English Opens Doors Program sponsores these annual camps every year for students in dozens of towns throughout Chile. They’re free for the students who sign up, and are meant to be a way for students to experience a week of English language immersion.
During the week, me and the other teachers lead activities, while trying to keep warm in Escuela Espana’s freezing hallways. (Thankfully every classroom has its own woodburning stove.)
It was such a different experience working with students in a non-classroom setting. For all I knew, the students at the camp actually wanted to be there and had an interest in English, making our jobs that much easier.
One of this year’s projects was creating a lipdub music video to the song “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5. It was a national project that every camp across the country had to do.
So in one afternoon we filmed and uploaded this epic masterpiece. Get ready:
I had to remind my self that I was actually in South America. For all I knew, I could have been near the Black Forest, the flag’s black, red, and gold colors flying high against a backdrop of wooden, Alpine houses. Frutillar is one German-influenced town in Southern Chile.
It’s mid-winter break, so most of us teachers have some time off to travel. Frutillar-bound we were. It’s only a 2 hour bus ride south of Valdivia, right on Lake Llanquihue. Everyone raves about this town with its lakeside theater, that attracts everything from ballet performances to jazz concerts. It’s definitely one of my favorite towns in Chile so far.
TRIVIA TIME! How many Nestle logos can you find in the rest of my photos? Nescafe is omnipresent in Chile. Brian joked that he was almost expecting to see a Nestle mosiac floor when we walked into the theater. (Sadly, there wasn’t one.)
Elise wanted to know where the best German cake in town was. So we went and asked the local municipality…
It’s not a winter weekend in Southern Chile without 3 things: lakes, active volcanos, and rain.
The last few weekends I ventured into the Araucania and Los Lagos regions. Along with Los Rios, they make up Chile’s famous “Lakes District”, the gateway to Patagonia and one of Chile’s most beautiful areas.
This is a tribute to the beauty of Southern Chile. From Villarica street art to the rivers of Petrohue. It’s indescribable.
The alarm goes off at 6 am.
Hail is rattling the tin roof, and the Northern Patagonian winds are howling. Getting up is difficult, because I know I will be shivering in my classroom all day. I arrive to school and it’s still dark out.
There are mornings it’s so hard to gather energy to lead 12-year-olds at 8 am. There are the days you’re sick with some kind of stomach flu that came from who knows where. There are days your brain is literally numb from translating and trying to speak Spanish all day.
There are days your body is in so much need of sleep. Realizing your patience is tested every day. But then realizing you have so much more patience than you thought, and that humor dissolves anything. Realizing you don’t always have to smile. But then smiling anyway when your students say, “Hi meeees!” when entering your classroom.
Teaching abroad is an amazing experience.
Happy Independence Day from Valdivia, Chile! This morning, Alejandra, one of my 8th graders gave me this card. Adorable.
Being abroad for your country’s main holiday is always interesting. I notice I always have more pride, but at the same time I keep my mood toned down a bit. (I mentioned that it was 4th of July to one of my other classes, and a few kids just went “bluggghh…”)