Have you ever heard that making a decision is just the beginning? Deciding to embark on a WorldTeach adventure is just the beginning and moreover just the tip of the iceberg. As you settle in and begin to peel back the layers on what you have decided to do, the adventure becomes as much about self-discovery as it does about teaching. The country will embrace you. The kids will admire you. The parents will appreciate you. But more than anything you’ll have to embrace, admire, and appreciate yourself to finish a WorldTeach adventure. Allow David Hanna to share with you his honest take on settling into the world of teaching in Chile.
I feel like I am connected to the world again! I have a permanent internet solution. Who knew that trying to figure out cell phones and internet would be such a task? But I have a phone again and internet on my laptop, which is a pay as you go plan. I have to go to the local mini-market or liquor store to put more money on my phone or internet stick. While getting my internet fixed, one of the first things I noticed is all the snow back home. I can tell you I don’t miss it! Here in the valley, it really depends on the day but it is usually in the 80s during the day and I would guess the low 70s at night. Some days it feels so hot that all you want to do is lie around. There is usually a good breeze in the afternoons. I have been trying to get out a lot in the afternoons and just walk around.
Last weekend we moved from the volunteer house where we were staying during orientation to live with our host families. On the Thursday before we moved we had an asado, which is a barbecue. We grilled chorizo and chicken. One of our friends made pebre which is basically the same as the Mexican salsa, pico de gallo. I could eat that all the time. I have now tried mate, which is like strong herbal tea. One of our Chilean friends brought it over. I thought it was good, even though you have to share the straw. It is a good social aspect of the culture. We sat around and talked and drank a lot of the Mate for a few hours.
I live in the town of Pisco Elqui, which is a hippie and touristy town, although I imagine once summer is over, a lot of the activity will disappear. There are a good number of restaurants, but they can be pricey. There is a central plaza, where I tend to go in the afternoons to sit and people watch. I live with Kiah, another volunteer, and my host family, Don Anselmo and Maria. He is a gas delivery man. He delivers the propane for water heaters and the stoves. He has a cage in the back where he loads and unloads the propane tanks. Maria is a cook at a local restaurant, and we get the benefits of her good cooking although she makes a lot. There is plenty of bread at every meal. She also makes empanadas at the restaurant which she brings home occasionally. They are awesome!
Parts of the the Elqui Valley are associated with mysticism – perhaps that is why the hippies come here. There a rural town called Alchoguaz, about 20 miles past Pisco, where supposedly there had been a colony of aliens. There are also a lot of supposed UFO sightings. All I have seen are airplanes, shooting stars, and the occasional satellite; nothing out of the ordinary. Last week, we went to the Mamalluca Observatory, which is near the town of Vicuna, the biggest town in the valley. Vicuna is where we go for grocery shopping or other things that are not readily available in Piahauno or Pisco. Although Vicuna is close to the observatory, there is no light pollution. Chile has a law that all the lights must direct downward! We were able to see the stripes of Jupiter and three of its moons. We saw the nebula in Orion and amazing star cluster in a small portion of the Milky Way. It was a great night and I hope to go back. There are a lot of observatories here in Chile as it has some of the clearest skies in the world. I can look up and see the Milky Way every night and in in the mornings I can see Venus from my window.
School started on Monday. The first day was rough. I teach with our head teacher Amy for part of the week in an English workshop focused on speaking and writing. The first class we walked into was a class full of about 15 2nd graders. They were out of control from the start. My main duty was to try and patrol the classroom and make sure the kids didn’t kill each other. They were doing things like trying to cut other people’s hair, standing on desks, and other “fun” things. What an introduction to the world of teaching. We had third grade as well; they were more under control, but there were a couple of students who just wanted to be the center of attention. I will be traveling to 7 schools every week. In the afternoon we went to a small school in the puebla of Horcon. The class was about 8 students who happily, were not loco. I sure will have a lot of students’ names to learn, but I will learn them! I was super tired at the end of Monday and was hoping for better on Tuesday, which is what I got. We traveled to three schools, or as they call them micro-centros. Our first stop was Cochiquaz where the entire school has 12 students. The principal is the teacher as well. I like the system in the smaller schools. The students are all together, 1st through 6th grade, and they have the same teacher throughout so they grow up with them. My schedule will be changing next week, as there are two schools that are part of the Vicuna school district which I will be teaching two days a week. On Friday I went to meet the directors of the schools. It will be an adventure getting to them. There may be a car that will take me from the bus stop, however more than likely I will be hitchhiking to the first school in Varillar. It is a small rural school with 10 students in total. My plan for the first day is “get to know you” games and assessing their English level by reviewing colors and numbers.
So I survived the first week of school but I was drained by the end of the week. We went to one of the English teacher’s houses, had Mojitos and started watching the first season of Game of Thrones. I have now been in Chile for a month. My Spanish is improving slowly, and I am adjusting to life here. Thanks everyone for reading about my adventures and for your support. It means a lot to me!!! Ciao!!