Monday, April 30, 2012

Pablo, the Vengador of the Mapuche.

So I have this friend, Pablo.

Well, he's dead actually. But he wrote a lot of poems back in the day. Pablo Neruda is one of Chile's most famous people. He served as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party, but most notably he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. He also only ever wrote in tinta verde (green ink).
Oh yeah, he collected trains too....
This is just a taste of what we learned about his life when we visited one of his three homes, Isla Negra. This was Neruda's favorite home and it is quite impressive. (Unfortunately, I wasn't allowed to take pictures inside the house.) The man was a collector of STUFF! There's hardly any space to walk through the house as each nook, cranny, and wall is covered with everything from figureheads (the things at the fronts of ships) to pipes, to maps, to bells, and seashells. Everything imaginable that has to do with (but not limited to) the sea can probably be found inside or in the yard. The house has been kept pretty much as he left it, so we really got a first hand look at how he lived his life. For more on the life and times of Pablo Neruda click here. ;)

A vast assortment of decorative bottles. 

AND he's buried here with his third wife. Told ya it was his favorite.

We had a really great time there, especially the amazing view of the sea. The clouds that day were doing some amazing things to the color of the waves! 

A traditional Ruca or hut of the Mapuche people 
Orietta: kinda obnoxiously proud of the mapuche,
but totally informative.
Another trip we went on with the other exchange students was to a Ruca Mapuche. Mapuche is the name of the indigenous people who lived in most of Chile and Argentina until modern times. The mapuche are much like any indigenous race nowadays, fiercely proud of their heritage and slowly decreasing in number every year. There are some who choose to ignore their ancestry as it is often a source of discrimination. 

Our guide for the tour, Orietta, spoke a lot about Mapuche customs and beliefs (and at one point berated us for making the world celebrate the new year in January, rather than their winter in June) while wearing traditional indigenous garb. Mapuche people speak mapudungun, and their words sometimes sneak into the chilenismos we learn every day. (For example, girlfriend/boyfriend is polola(o) instead of the textbook novia(o) we learned in Spanish class.) 

The mapuche people are also very independent and have a tradition of reverence toward the elderly in their culture. Very similar to our own Native Americans, this tribe is having land redistribution issues with the Chilean government. 
After a stint about history and beliefs, Orietta told us about festivals, and then we all got to eat traditional food! All in all, it was an insightful visit and I'm glad we learned a little more about Chilean people. 

This guy guards the spirits of the ancestors.
And takes pictures with American girls.
The fried dough in front was delicious. Everything else tasted like grass or dirt. What does this say about our culture?

Afterwards, we made our way to the mall where we bought tickets to Los Vengadores (The Avengers)! As I mentioned before, movies come out earlier here (sometimes a WEEK in advance). For all of you who are superhero fanatics and all of you who aren't, this is a must-see film!

I don't have a superpower.... yet.

Who needs Starbucks? 
A shout-out to our friend Kellie Mogg who told us about an excellent café/bar/hangout/etc: THANK YOU! El Baúl Café is easily one of the coolest places here in Viña. (Just think hipster meets indie meets chilean and you've got it!) It's quiet, somewhat off the main road, and definitely comfortable. As the days start to get cooler, they burn real fire, in a real fireplace! The tea is amazing, and it is often accompanied by a sandwich planchado (ironed sandwich). Basically it's a toasted ham and cheese sandwich, but it does come with a side of mayonaise-yogurt-garlic dipping sauce which is tasty to say the least. We've been four times in two weeks and will definitely go back. 

Viva Chile, y vive tú.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Teacher Colin, Miss Rachel

As a part of our Cultures in Contact class, the international students have the opportunity to volunteer regularly in one of several programs offered by the school. There is a Jardin botánica nearby that several students go to on a weekly basis to help out with things like pulling weeds and replanting. Some other students work with children at what amounts to a group foster home. Colin and I chose to volunteer in an elementary school helping out with English classes. 

Every Thursday we show up at Colegio Paul Harris at 10:20am and meet Rodrigo, the English teacher, in the teachers' lounge. Then at 10:30 we head down a few buildings to the classroom where Sexto A (one half of the sixth grade) meets.

The first week we were there, Rodrigo asked us to prepare a powerpoint to introduce ourselves. We went over those ten slides three or four times in each classroom as the children listened and then told their teacher what they'd understood, which seemed like a reasonable amount for even- and twelve-year-olds. Then the kids introduced themselves to us. They seemed to have “my name is…” mostly down, although they said their names so fast I couldn’t understand more than three or four of them. What astounded me, though, was that these kids couldn’t even remember how to say their own age. Maybe I’m expecting too much, but I’m pretty sure that if nothing else, I knew how to say how old I was in Spanish one. On top of that, I would bet money that they think “I am” is one word, pronounced “eye-yahm.” 

Rodrigo is about to greet Séptimo A.
After Sexto A, we head around the corner to Séptimo B (one half of the seventh grade). Two kids from Sexto A help us carry the projector, laptop, and boom box from one class to the next.  When we arrive, Rodrigo greets them with a good morning, which gets a class-wide "Good morning, Teacher." He asks them how they are and the class responds "Fine, thanks. And you?" And when he tells them to take a seat, they say "Thank you, Teacher." I think the theory was: if nothing else, at least these kids will be able to say fine thanks, and you. 

The second week we were there we worked on speaking drills with the kids. Colin and I read a dialogue from their book aloud several times, and then they repeated after us. We then spent several minutes working with pairs of students and helping them practice the dialogue with their partner. That was my favorite part, because I actually got to talk to the individual students and ask them things like "What are your favorite activities?" Even though it's an English class, most of the directions have to be at least repeated in Spanish before the kids really know what to do, so when I talk to them individually, I speak Spanish instead of English. I think once they figured out I really do speak Spanish, they were much less afraid of me. 

When our time with Séptimo B is up, Colin and Rodrigo and I head back to the teachers' lounge while the kids have another recess. Walking through recess is always an adventure, and it makes us feel like real life celebrities. Nearly every kid we pass says "Hello, Teacher Colin" (not only is he blond, but his name is easier to pronounce) as we walk by, and little girls literally squeal with delight when Colin says hi to them. Boys almost literally stand in line to shake his hand and kiss my cheek as they leave the classroom. If you ever need a self-esteem boost, I recommend hanging out with Chilean children. They seem to have a knack for making you feel like the most important person in the world. 

This is a small portion of Colin's fan club

Séptimo B waiting for the music to start
The third week we were there Thursday just happened to be El día del estudiante (Day of the Student, because who doesn't want a day dedicated to having fun at school?). There is a large community park right next to the school, so we took fourth through eighth grade outside for the day. We spent an hour or so in a concrete amphitheater waiting while reggeton and Brazilian music played and the kids danced to their favorite songs. Then the MC yelled something about Justin Beiber and pointed to the top of the amphitheater. 
Even in Chile seventh graders
are too cool to have fun at
school activities!
Even as we looked up over our shoulders, Colin and I knew exactly who he was pointing too... So Justin Beiber was called to the stage at the bottom and they handed him the mic and said "Dance!" And just to be fair, they called me down too. Never in a million years would I choose to dance on stage in front of at least a hundred latino children, but when you don't get a choice, you just have to have fun with it! When we returned to our seats, the kids around us congratulated us and sympathized with the awkwardness of having to dance on stage. 

After the dancing fiasco, we went to the sport fields in the park and watched a team from each class play a Mapuche (indigenous Chilean) version of field hockey, and quemadas (dodgeball). We were surrounded the whole time by children who wanted to ask us everything from what games we play in the US to what the translation of their name would be to what kind of jewelry do I like to what are the tongue-twisters in English, and some children who just wanted to be near us.


Séptimo A preparing for their dialogue presentations
After our break in the teachers' lounge with Rodrigo, we all head back down to the classrooms and join Séptimo A (the other half of the seventh grade). We run through the greeting drill again and then get down to business, which usually involves working on speaking drills until our time is up.

This last week was our fourth week at Paul Harris. We spent the day... practicing dialogue! Again. The same one, in fact. And what's more, Colin and I got to grade the children on their partner presentation of it. If I hadn't already decided teaching wasn't for me, this would have done it. I want nothing to do with having to watch children struggling but trying their very hardest at something and having to say that it just wasn't good enough. How can I grade a child's pronunciation when their teacher doesn't even pronounce things perfectly?

When we're finished with Séptimo A, we head to Quinto A (half the fifth grade), our shortest and youngest class of the day. Even though we only have about 15 minutes a week with Quinto A, they have managed to work their way into our hearts. (It doesn't hurt that ten- and eleven-year-olds are impossibly cute.) Most of our fan club is in Quinto A, and they never fail to kiss me on the way out. So far I have a collection of five paper flowers, and most of them were made by the girls in Quinto A

It sure makes a person feel special when the kids are more concerned with
being close enough to touch you than with being in the picture

As with all the rest of life, there are bound to be some rough patches. We've had some cultural awkwardness: on our first day, Rodrigo pointed to his left and said "This is Teacher Colin," and then to his right and said, "and this is Miss Rachel." We've had some uncomfortable awkwardness: when it's your turn to help the kids learn about occupations and you ask a girl at random, "What does your father do?" and she looks at you and whispers "no tengo" (I don't have a father). We've had some goofy awkwardness: it's impossible for dancing onstage to not be awkward. And we've had some precious awkwardness: what do you say to a big-eyed ten-year-old trying to offer you his bag of candy as you walk out the door?

But all in all, awkwardness included, it's been a fulfilling experience, and I look forward to going back every Thursday just as much as those precious children look forward to seeing us. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Earthquakes and wine, but not together

Let’s talk about the danger first.

One hour by car, ____ seconds by earthquake.
EARLY Tuesday morning, at about 1am our time, we experienced a 6.7 earthquake! It was crazy! Here I was lying down on the seventh floor of our apartment building when suddenly Pachamama (Mother Earth) decided to shake things up for over a full minute. I will say I have amazing host parents, because not 5 seconds after it had started my host mom showed up at my door to make sure I was fine. She was scared. She grabbed my hand, and we walked to the kitchen for some reason (yes the earth was still shaking) and then we saw the rest of my host family down the hallway. When everything settled down, my host dad looked at me and said: “this was a stronger temblor,” and then promptly went back to bed. (I don’t think he was very impressed with it.)
Now, there is a difference between earthquake and earthquake here. The two words are terremoto, which literally means “earth-move/shake” and then there’s temblor. Temblor is the word they use for smaller earthquakes and probably is related to “tremble.” Rachel’s family has told her that from 1.0 – 6.9 on the Richter scale is a temblor and everything bigger than that is a terremoto. (Also, when experiencing an earthquake, you must be cognizant of the almighty maremoto, or tsunami, which can accompany these disasters.)
We (Rachel, I, and all the other Chileans and gringos) are perfectly fine. The office at our university got a bit remodeled, and we got a day off of classes while they worked on it, but otherwise we’re all safe and sound.

Now, some things that have happened in the last few weeks…

April 1, 2012 – April 8, 2012 was quite a week for Rachel and me. We decided that we had been speaking way too much English (to the point that we thought it was inhibiting our Spanish) so we had a “Spanish Only” week. For the better part of seven days we only spoke to each other and everyone else in Spanish. It was hard for me. (Probably not as hard for Rachel.) But was it worth it? Definitely. We noticed that our Spanish has improved and we were thankful that our gringo friends helped us by only speaking in Spanish to us, as well.

Mama Patty- She's the best.
April 1, 2012 – April 8, 2012 was Semana Santa down here also. The dominant religion here in Chile is Catholicism so most people got Good Friday off from work/school. Thursday night, I went with my family to the beautiful beach of Maitencillo. It’s about an hour and a half north of here. We stayed in basically a beach condo for three days, soaking up the sun, playing in the COLD Pacific Ocean, and eating oh-so-many empanadas. I was very thankful for the time I spent with my family, especially with my host mom Patty. They taught me how to play some card games, hence we stayed up super late most nights. When we got back on Easter in the afternoon, Rachel came over and we had once and watched “La familia del futuro” or “Meet the Robinsons” in Spanish.
The view from our terrace at the beach condo. We were kinda close.

The following Tuesday, Rachel and I had our first test in our hard class with the other Chileans. It’s funny because our Professor was 20 minutes late to class, in typical Chilean style. He wrote nine questions on the board, and we only had to answer six of them. I have to brag on us. Prof. JJ Harting told us that we were allowed to answer in English if we wanted. We didn’t. There is a German guy who got into the class late and decided to answer in German (since, of course, our professor also speaks German) and he did better than most people in the class. We, however, did the whole thing in Spanish and we did GREAT! We only need a 4.0 out of 7.0 to pass and I was able to scrounge up a 5.2! Rachel got a 4.9. (I did have to answer one question in English, so this would account for me beating her, probably.) I will say that a lot of the Chileans we not happy with their scores. Our professor made the mistake of passing the test back at the beginning of the class. The ensuing hour was used for students to basically try to convince our teacher they deserved better grades, since opinion-based questions can’t be graded. It was interesting. Especially since we were totally fine with our grades.
All in all, we like the class a little bit more now.

William Cole. Keep the proletariat out. 
Friday, April 13, 2012, we went on the Ruta del Vino. (Wine Tour/Tasting) We had the chance to take a bus to Casablanca, a very well known valley where many different types of wine are made. We visited two vineyards: Indomita and William Cole. Indomita was huge and luxurious and had impressive wine cellars. I prefer William Cole, which was smaller but a lot more beautiful, and they pick their grapes by hand. At both vineyards we got a personal tour and the chance to taste both white and red wines! I can honestly say I don’t like wine. At one point I think I said “UGH! I just drank a forest!” which translates into “It has a nice, woody flavor,” for all you wine connoisseurs. After we returned we went out for sushi and of course, some tea.
Indomita. Very elegant. 

"UGH! I just drank a forest!"
Some of us like wine more than others.

not my photo, but this is the church
This past Sunday, Rachel and I went with our friends Hilary and Katie to misa, or Mass. There’s this wonderfully huge, beautiful, old, etc. Catholic church right next to our school, which we’ve wanted to visit for a while. Hilary and Katie also wanted to visit it, and were happy to help us poor protestants understand the Catholic rituals. We didn’t understand a lot of what went on, but it was beautiful on the inside, and worship with other believers is always great.

I think that about catches everyone up to speed on our lives (or at least mine.) We have heard about the recent outbreak of tornados in Oklahoma and the rest of the Midwest. Our prayers go out to those affected.


Saturday, April 14, 2012

For Heath and Lindsey

Today is officially April 14, 2012.
Today some wonderful people get married.

Heath, Lindsey, you two were engaged by the time I met you. I know we all planned on being together to share this special day (me sitting, you two standing) but life has a funny way of changing our plans.

I'll never forget how kind you were the first time I met you. I'll never forget how kind you've always been.
And so on this day, April 14, 2012, as you two begin the rest of your lives as husband and wife I wish you all the luck, love, and happiness God can provide.

Love from Chile.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peace and Blessings, Ya'll

I’d like to tell you about the precious church we found.

Quick recap: We spent a few weeks looking for this Church of Christ church we’d heard about, but I’m still not convinced it exists. Suffice it to say, that was not a successful adventure. We ended up at an Assembly of God church one week, which was nice, but still not the right fit. Then Colin’s host mom recommended that we go check out a church one of her previous host students attended. Even though we were still on the hunt for the Church of Christ, we decided to go check it out. Unfortunately, Mama Patty gave us the wrong directions, so we couldn’t find it either the first time.  We decided to give it one more shot the following week, and that day when we walked into Seis Oriente 24, we discovered a precious piece of the Kingdom.

Cemipre (whose official name I think is Grace and Peace Church) is a church plant of the Presbyterian Church in America. Pastor John and his wife Cathy are missionaries sent by Mission to the World, and their express goal is to reduce the effects of disabilities in the name of Christ. 

 But you wouldn’t know all that from walking in the door on Sunday. When we walked in at 11:00am (when the service “starts”) the only people there were Pastor John, Cathy, Tito (the guy who operates the sound equipment) and Juani, the girl who works the powerpoint for the songs. Cathy immediately greeted us and asked us about ourselves, where we’re from, etc. Then she introduced us to John, Tito, and Juani, and invited us to make ourselves comfortable while they finished setting up. Over the next half hour or so about fifteen more people filtered in, and nearly everyone came over to us and welcomed us to their church with a besito and a hug. Someone passed us a program and the service began. Since Pastor John is American, his Spanish is rather slower than typical Chilean Spanish, and much easier to understand. This was a relief to both Colin and I as it is rather exhausting to listen to Chilean Spanish for extended periods of time.

Oh and did I mention that over half of the people there are blind or severely nearsighted? So they print the program in size 28 font and also in Braille, which is super awesome. They even have copies of their songbooks in Braille. Even more notable than that is the fact that this small group of people is a family.

This is Sebastián, who goes by
This weekend, I got to participate in Cemipre’s Good Friday service, after which they had a potluck once and shared sandwiches, tea and desserts together for a few hours. That day I finally got five-year-old Rebeca, three-year-old Sofia, and five-year-old Sebastián to talk to me. And man, when five-year-olds start talking, they don’t stop! We played around outside for over an hour and they taught me all of their favorite games. We played escondidas (hide-and-seek), lobos, (which is when the wolf [me] chases the little children around and tries to eat them), and just about every variation of every running around/chasing game there is. The imagination of children astounds me.

This is Rebeca after she was eaten by a lobo

Nachito is blowing magic (crushed up
leaves) on me so that I turn from a
monster back into a human. :)

On Easter morning, the place was packed because over thirty people showed up, including a family of Americans who spoke English! They looked a little lost, so I talked to them after the service. We chatted about life in Chile, since they’ve been here four and a half years off and on with a research job the father has. They were all very nice, but they don’t speak a lot of Spanish. On my way out the door, one of the Chilean men thanked me for speaking to the family and making them feel welcome. I already feel like a part of the church family.