English Winter Camps

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.

Our group at Escuela Espana

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:

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Lakes, theaters, and torta Alemana

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.

We could almost see the entire volcano! The most sun we’ve had all week.

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.)

From the veranda.

Veranda ceiling. Amazing

Elise wanted to know where the best German cake in town was. So we went and asked the local municipality…

Asking city hall…

This is it! The best place for dessert in Frutillar, where the locals come and go.

Ridiculous cake creations in this place.

Nestle is the top

Just when this town couldn’t get any more cute, a rainbow appears…

The end.

“When you know the land, you know the country”

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.

Valdivia

Petrohue. Take a 40 minute bus ride from the town of Puerto Varas and here you are!

Volcano Osorno at Petrohue. Standing here, you’re surrounded by roaring rapids and moving water. It’s powerful.

Villarica is known for its artisan markets.

Colorful wool and knit-wear is the signature of the south.

Sophie, Fred & Maribel. Our Villarica getaway.

Sophie, directing our 1-million point turn. One day, we decided to rent a car and drive to Parque Conguillio, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and one of Chile’s most famous national parks. However, the rain and snow was no match for our tiny car.

“It’s not always rainbows and butterflies…”

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.

With my I Medio class (freshmen)

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Independence Day from Valdivia, Chile! This morning, Alejandra, one of my 8th graders gave me this card. Adorable. 

Card from Alejandra :)

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…”)

My 8th grade class brought in completos today. A “completo” is a typical Chilean snack, kind of like our hot dog. Theirs comes with avocado, ketchup, mustard, tomatos, onions and mayonaise. Happy 4th!

Karaoke competitions

Last week, I joined Andrea and Ellie at Fred’s school in Lanco. We were asked to judge their school’s annual karaoke competition. It was a very Katy Perry, David Guetta, and Sum 41-music-filled day. 

The first place winners

With Fred, Ellie, Andrea, a student, and the principal of Liceo Camilo Henríquez.

It was such a warm welcome from the Liceo Camilo Henríquez school. The teachers greeted us and thanked us for making the trip over to Lanco. They expressed such thanks for our work with the English Opens Doors Program.

Beautiful murals line the school’s hallways.

Getting out of Valdivia and seeing a more rural school was a great experience, as they really are two different worlds.

I definitely owe a post about the education world here. I have so many thoughts and observations from these past few months. I’ve been frustrated but also inspired after many conversations and experiences with students and other teachers. It’s helped me see the importance of making education development a priority.

That’s up next.

Chilenismos and Culture Shock

Culture shock.

The name sounds like it happens suddenly, like a strike of lightening. But not here. In Chile, it sneaks up on you. It’s a slow realization, that after many weeks, something feels off.

Sopaipilla stands are everywhere. There’s no spicy food in Chile, so just add a lot of aji sauce to give it some kick.

Living with a host family and working with Chilean colleagues has thrown me head first into total immersion, and it’s been an eye-opening experience.

Chileans are some of the most considerate and warm people I’ve met. I’m constantly amazed by the generosity of strangers and their quiet, reserved nature.

Here are some thoughts and observations from the past several months…

Spicy Food. There isn’t any. (Save for their great aji sauce.) I truly, truly miss this. I’d kill for some Indian or Mexican food right now. The south of Chile loves fish, stews, meats and potatos, thanks to the strong German influence down here. And while we’re on food, never eat with your hands.  Always use utensils. (Even with french fries.)

Making ’empanadas de mariscos’, a typical Chilean dish

“Once”. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day here. If you’re waiting around for another meal after 2pm, you’re  going to have to cross the border to Argentina. Most Chileans don’t eat dinner. Instead, you have “once” around 6-7pm. It’s a snack of bread, palta (avocado), cheese, jam, and coffee or tea.  I’ve been trying to figure out why they call it “once”, the word for “eleven”, but nobody seems to know. Hmmm…

Coffee. Getting your hands on a real cup of joe here is rare.  Instant Nescafe is pretty much the common drink.

Water. I’ve never seen a Chilean drink water. I remember people asking me, “Tienes caña?”, when I was sipping from my water bottle. (“Caña” means hangover.) I told them I was just thirsty, and got puzzled looks. Whenever I see people with water bottles on buses, it’s a dead giveaway that they’re not from this country.

Superstision. If you pass the salt to someone, it means you’ll fight with them. Don’t pass the salt directly to someone, but put it on the table when passing.

Toilet paper. Never flush it down the toilet. The pipes are very narrow, so people always throw it in a wastepaper basket next to the toilet.

Central Heating. Doesn’t exist. If you’re visiting Southern Chile in the winter, get ready for real cold.  I’ve spent a winter in Denmark, and even though Denmark is colder, their houses have insulation. In Southern Chile, it’s harder to get a break from the outside temperatures because buildings and houses aren’t really insulated.  Bring your fleece and under-armor!

Greetings. Chile is a country “de la piel”, or, “of the skin.” They hug, they kiss on the cheek, and they touch arms in conversation. In the US, we merely shake hands when meeting someone, and sometimes hug.

In Chile, you always give one kiss on the right cheek when saying hello and goodbye, or when being introduced to someone (Men always shake hands.) Even in the classroom, many of my students will line up to do this when they’re coming and going.

Family comes first. I’m the first exchange student my family has hosted. It’s been an incredible experience for both of us, because I’m the first North American they’ve experienced. This also means big cultural divides. In Chile, it’s common for guys and girls to live at home long into their late 20s. The family may not be used to your independence. I once told them I was traveling alone on a bus to Argentina and they were shocked. Communicate your plans, tell them when you’re missing lunch, and just be considerate to their way of life.

It’s also rude to close your door to your room. At home in the states, I would debrief in my room with music, but in Chile, I try not to do that as much.  Chileans spend a lot of time together, and it’s not normal to isolate yourself.

Elsa, my awesome host grandmother, and host brother Rudy.

Fernando checks out what the gringos are making for breakfast.

You won’t speak Spanish. You will speak Chilean.

There’s even a book called “How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle.

Chileans speak extremely fast. To make decoding more difficult, they drop the “s” and “d” from their words. So “Mas o menos” sounds like, “Mao Meno”.   “Pescado” (fish) sounds like “Pekao.”

And once you think you’ve mastered the sounds, you’ll then realize there’s a whole new set of vocabulary to learn. They’re called “Chilenismos.” Here are some of the most common…

Cachai? ” You put it at the end of sentences as a way of saying, “Do you get it? You know?” If you spend 10 minutes in Chile, you’re bound to hear this.

• “Po”. This is the quintessential Chilean word. It doesn’t mean anything, but they add it to every sentence. “Si po!”, “no po!”, and “Ya po!” are common. Use it emphasize what you’re saying or to contradict what someone else said. Or just use it whenever you feel like it and you’re instantly Chilean.

Al tiro (Right now/ Right away.)

Pololo/Polola (Boyfriend or girlfriend)

• Never ever say “adios” in Chile. It’s always “ciao” when you say goodbye. When you get out of a taxi or leave a store you’ll hear, “Gracias, chaao, chaaao!”

Weon. It’s an insulting and rude word, except when you use it with friends. “#PreguntasWeonas”was trending on Twitter recently. It means “stupid-ass questions”. It can be a noun or adjective, and it’s uniquely Chilean.

• “Te echo de menos”  I miss you

Cuico. Use it to describe something rich or of the upper social classes. Vina del Mar es muy cuico.

Fome. If something is boring or lame. Eso-es super fome!

Ok, now I’m off to catch a bus to Púcon. Hasta luego!