Oh, how time flies… it’s seriously a bit frightening how fast a week (or 2 or 3) goes by. I’ve now been in Chile for 3 weeks and couldn’t be more stoked to be here. I fall more in love with this country every day! The people in my town and the surrounding towns are super warm and friendly and although I probably don’t, I feel as if I blend in fairly well (at least until I open my mouth and start trying to speak Spanish).
I’ve already been at the school, (a public school, where I teach 5th through 8th grade students) for 2 weeks now. The first week I spent observing the classes of my main co-teacher and another co-teacher that I have one class with. Then, this past week, I dove in and started helping to teach the English classes, which usually involves separating the class and teaching half of the students(in another classroom), while the co-teacher teaches the other half(as Chilean classes have anywhere from 25-40 students in any class).
I work mostly on the students listening and speaking abilities and have to think of fun and creative ways to teach them English. Most of my students are pretty well-behaved and adorable, with English levels varying from not understanding “how are you” to other students that can speak in full sentences about various topics (don’t have too many of these students). This is going to be a challenging but fun and rewarding experience. I don’t know if I ever would have guessed that I would be teaching 5th through 8th graders (let alone in Chile), but am nonetheless stoked to give it a go!
My host family continues to be awesome and patient with my developing Spanish and I can’t wait until the day that I can converse with them openly about every topic under the sun. They’re very interested in politics and love baked goods, so we’ve been trying to communicate as much as possible on both topics (and a few others, of course). Both the son and the daughter actually speak English pretty well, although they usually don’t speak it to me (which is a good thing, as I want to better my Spanish), so they help when I get stuck on an idea or word in Spanish. I still feel like I have a really long way to go with my Spanish, but am starting to understand them pretty well and I feel like I’m learning at least a few new words/mistakes I’m making in the language every day! I seriously couldn’t have asked for a more perfect fit with a host family – they let me go out when I want, always have fresh fruits and vegetables and are more kind to me than I can put into words.
Last Saturday, we had a party for the daughter, Ayun, who turned 14. My contribution was 2 cakes – one that I made from scratch (a white vanilla cake) and the other that was store bought, because the other one wasn’t big enough. But to both cakes I added layers of blueberries, raspberries, dulce de leche and creamy frosting – they were sooo good! I try to spend time with the family every day, mostly during the meal we all eat together(as we’re all gone during the day at work or school during the week) once (pronounced own-say). We eat once between about 8:00 to 11:00 pm at night and it consists of bread, tomatoes, cheese, tea and sometimes eggs or avocadoes. This meal is in place of dinner, as Chileans eat giant lunches… still hard for me to get used to as I eat small meals all day long.
There are 2 other volunteers from my program also stationed in my same city – and they are both fantastic! Last Sunday, I went to Valparaiso with Julian, one of the volunteers and we walked around the city all day, taking pictures of the beautiful buildings, the street murals, some gorgeous views of the city, etc. Valparaiso is seriously one of the prettiest cities I’ve ever visited – it has beaches, beautiful old buildings, adorable restaurants and cafes and a plethora of musicians and artsy folks to go along with it! I may have to move there someday… The other volunteers and I also made it to Viña del Mar for a regional meeting the first week of school and for fun randomly one day after school this week to walk around and hang out by the beach. I also was able to go after school on Wednesday to soak up some rays on a beach in Valpo, as it is still about 80+ Fahrenheit here during the day(although winter will be here in a few weeks).
There is also some great music to be found in the region of Valparaiso. Last Sunday, I went with my host brother and a few others to see a jazz fusion (I think it’s called) trio play in the Botanical Gardens. Then, last night, I went with a few friends to see a traditional Chilean band(complete with flutes, guitars and some instruments I can’t yet name) combined with a German orchestra and opera singers – very random but amazing! After that, we went to Café del Libro(a bar here in Quilpue) and saw a Celtic Chilean band, playing Irish diddies in honor of St. Patrick’s Day(which is not actually celebrated in Chile.
Today, I went with the other gringos(as we volunteers call ourselves) to the towns of Limache and Olmue and to the La Campana National Park. At the park, we hiked up part of a mountain, admiring the beautiful scenery and the great views of Olmue below. After the hike, we walked into town and ate some delicious Chilean empanadas, then headed to a local brewery where we sipped delicious cervezas!
I can’t wait to get to know all that is Chile and to get a firm grasp on my Spanish! I may have to stay longer than 5 months…