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Monthly Archives: August 2012

When I started teaching Chileans English, I was extremely disappointed by my inability to teach them. So much so that I even questioned whether I should be a teacher and even asked my CELTA teacher for advice. Well all that has changed. Each day, I wake up looking forward to teaching and being with my students. Sure, I still have bad days, but I think that comes with the territory so you just have to go with  it, whether it’s good or bad. Also by relying more on worksheets and games, the students seem to be more interested and participate more actively. Now, not all the levels like the same things, some like games, some like worksheets and some like a mix of both. It removes a bit of creativity on my part, but hey, that’s a small price to pay to get the students excited to learn.

I know what you are thinking, I’m crazy to start an online Spanish class. That may be so, but the more stuff I can involve myself in the less I’ll remember the sad fact that I’m on an island, at the end of the world. This will also be a good way for me to improve my Spanish, talking with people is helping but not cutting it, and also learn about Chilean culture. My first assignment is due Monday, wish me luck.

Next week is a religious week. Despite this or maybe because of this, I will have the opportunity to participate in a ping-pong tournament. The tournament will take place on August 31st, I’m bringing it home to Canada baby! Lets hope that my skills are up to the task.

Tonight I am going to be dancing Cueca. At first the dance scared me mainly because of my inability to coordinate my feet, there’s a lot of footwork involved, and also trying to break the habit of approaching the dance like a martial art (I move, stop, next move…) Not anymore, I really like the dance, I know the moves so all that’s left is to work on the footwork and making it look pretty. Some of the other dancers there are even impressed with my Cueca dancing, going so far as saying I need to bring this dance to Canada. What do you guys think? You imitate the nuptial ritual of the rooster and the hen, look it up, it’s well worth it. Another thing I realized, hopefully I’m wrong here, but Canada doesn’t have an official dance, that is unless you consider bump and grind an actual dance (please don’t). I don’t know how this didn’t shock me before. Dance is extremely important when it comes to cultural identity and therefore having a national dance is almost essential. Without it, it’s almost like the culture is incomplete.

I’ve started coaching public speaking and so far things are going very well. My student’s pronunciation is near-native-like except for a few problematic words like ‘astonishing’ mainly because of the lax a sound. Now the challenge will be for her to learn it by heart and also add tonal variation and body language as well as be able to answer the judges questions on her topic. There’s still a lot of work to do, but I like the progress we are making. If anything else, I’ll be able to travel to Punta Arenas for the tournament and I also get to stay in a hotel. How far can my student go? Who knows. But to me the sky’s the limit and I can’t wait to see the final result of all her hard work.

What to do when it’s raining outside and there’s nothing to do? Make bread of course. That’s right I made bread, but not just any bread, a caramelized onion loaf. One word: Yum! The other volunteer was being given a Chilean saint name that means ‘snow’ and therefore she also did some cooking. She made an amazing chicken, with rosemary, oregano, white wine, green onion, cilantro, olives and plums (you heard me). It was absolutely scrumptious, I will definitely be asking for the recipe. Thanksgiving is slowly approaching and since the date is different in the States and in Canada, I’m going all out and planning a Thanksgiving dinner. I want to cook a turkey (for the first time), make stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and for dessert, this may be ambitious but hey when in Rome, an eggnog pumpkin pie. If anyone has good recipes for stuffing and tips on how to cook the turkey I would really appreciate it.

I have finally realized why my family stays in their little bubble. It may be a bit of culture shock but it’s mostly a language barrier. Apparently my Spanish is horrible. (Thanks a bunch eight Spanish courses including for in university. I think it would be a lot better just starting from scratch. Sure there would a language barrier but it would be reciprocal. There are so many words that I don’t know and there’s also the fact I’m getting many instances of sound prononciation confusion such as with bs and vs. I think English Opens Doors should tell you that it’s preferable to either know a lot of Spanish or none at all, and warn you that middle ground is a death trap.  

Well I’m off to my Cueca class to improve paso a paso, step by step (literally).

 

 

 

I’m back, and while this vacation did me a lot of good, I also lost a dear friend. That’s right, my camera, basically one of the only tools available to me to document my Chilean adventure. ( the other is this blog if you are wondering) The death of my camera could either be described as a freak accident or the workings of Murphy’s Law. So I took the ferry last Wednesday, arrived in Punta Arenas, checked in to the hostel, which was owned by the sister of my billet mom. Her name was Chaela and along with the receptionist Jessica, they made my stay in the hostel absolutely incredible. They helped me plan my trip to Torres Del Paine and everything. I even wrote an extremely positive review on tripadvisor, check it out, the hostel is called Hostal Terrasur. I’m getting a little off topic here. Anyways, on Thursday, when I was suppose to go pay for the Torres del Paine tour, at the same agency, I was informed that there was another tour leaving that day in 10 minutes to visit a fort called Fuerte Bulnes. I ask how much it was and because it was pretty much nothing, I thought to myself, hey why not. The fort was a really nice place, it overlooks the sea making it feel like the Canadian East Coast. Also, my dream of seeing the marriage between the sea and winter finally came true. There I was walking on the beach, there were rock faces with snow and the sand had some as well, not to mention the powerful presence of the sea. However, just like Murphy Law states, ‘If something is too good to be true, it probably is, something bad had to ruin this magical moment. It happened in the form of me losing my camera. While walking on the poorly marked trail close to the edge, I tripped on a branch or something and as I fell, I watched  my camera live its last moments as it plunged to it’s death. I’m being a little dramatic here, but I did lose my camera. At first I thought, it’s still good, it only fell from a few feet onto the beach and even if a little bit of sand gets in the camera, that’s fine. As I said this, I watched as the waves claimed my camera, and knew that it was the end. If there’s something positive that can be taken from this unfortunate situation it’s that now you have to either follow my blog or just trust me when I say I went here or there since I will not have any photographic proof to back-up my claims. WIthout a camera, I will also be able to fully take in the sights and sounds of the places I visit without having to be a paparazzi. Therefore, from this point  on, my experiences will be more authentic. Another positive would be that I got to taste raw sea urchin. It was pretty good actually. Murphy’s Law works in weird ways, making me trade in my camera for a chance to eat raw sea urchin.

Let me talk a bit more about my short trip. While it was only for three days, those three days were incredible. I met some volunteers working in Punta Arenas, including one from Toronto (Canada represent) and no I did not ask if she was a Leaf fan. The other two were a couple, their names were Estyn and Jessica, both from Michigan. They were nice enough to give me tour of the city and also invited me to see the new Batman movie on the opening day. (Christopher Nolan sure knows how to not disappoint) The ultimate highlight of the trip was Torres del Paine, despite the fact that I had to leave at 5:30 am and also had to endure a hail storm during all but ten minutes of the trip including during a forty minute walk. It was well worth it, Torres is just incredible,there’s no other way to describe it! It looks like the Rockies but better. The landscape is just breath-taking. While we only visited a few lakes and a glacier the scenery was just magical.

On a sidenote, moments of good semeritanism and meeting people are why I like to travel. On the Torres del Paine day tour, such a moment occurred. While on the bus, I was lamenting myself for having lost my camera just before going to Torres del Paine. However, my frown soon turned upside down when I met a married couple also participating in the tour to Torres. Their names were Astrid and Tim. Astrid was from Santiago and Tim was from Seattle. They were in Chile while waiting for Astrid to complete the immigration process to become a US citizen. I talked to them a bit about why I was in Chile and when I told them my camera broke they offered to take pictures of me. I returned the favor by taking pictures of them. They could have just said too bad and left me with no pictures of Torres, but they didn’t and I thought that was just awesome. Tim also had taken linguistic courses so I finally had someone in Chile I could talk linguistics with. While Torres is awesome at this time, I know I have to go back and do some hiking and camping in this amazing National Park in order to complete my experience. The other reason why the Torres trip was so amazing was because of our guide. His name was Jorge and you could tell that he had a passion for what he was doing. Not only was he a beacon of knowledge, he also told some great jokes, not really but I’m sure to Chileans they are just hilarious. For example, why does the uanaco, sort of like a llama, move its tail? Because the tail can’t move the uanaco. Speaking of which, I saw so many of them, too many to count in fact and also rheas which sort of look like ostriches. Jorge even offered to go camping with me when the park opens. We shall see.   

Ok, so back to my reality aka it’s back to teaching. I feel more confortable teaching now that the school supplies have finally arrived and also because I feel refreshed after recharging my batteries during the winter break. I’m ready to give it my all. On top of that, Courtney, the other volunteer here, gave me a great piece of advice which was to remember that if you can make teaching fun for you and the students then that’s all that matters. Everything else is just extra. With that in mind, in the famous words of George Bush Jr., to the teaching and students I say ‘ Bring it on’. 

Knowing that the Chilean day of independence is only a month away, I have started to take Kweka lessons, Chile’s national dance. Look it up, it’s pretty interesting. That’s right, every Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m bringing my boogie woogie dancing shoes. Hopefully I’ll be ready come September. The teacher is amazing and I thinks it’s a just a matter of getting confortable dancing Kweka. I know how to do the moves, it’s just a matter of coordinating myself so that it looks nice. Like they say here in Chile: ‘No es suficiente apprender bailar Kweka. Hay que sentir la Kweka tambien’. Roughly translated it means that knowing how to dance Kweka is not enough, you also need to feel the dance, whatever that means. Wish me luck.

My host family has finally tasted maple syrup only to be slightly disappointed that it tastes like a type of sugar that’s here in Chile called chancaca. Who would’ve thunk it!

I also received a package (Thanks mom and dad) with some goodies+ mitts, tuques and a scarf among other things.

I’ve heard that the second semester is shorter because of all the activities that are planned. While that may be true, I have a feeling a lot more work awaits me this semester especially since I will be adding extracurriculars to my teaching schedule. I will be coaching the daughter of my billet family as she prepares for the public speaking tournament that will be held in Punta Arenas on August 20th. This despite the fact that I was not very good at public speaking. Where’s my brother when I need him? I will also be coaching a debate team as well as starting an English club in which the kids learn English while playing games such as duck duck goose.

That’s all for now, there’s more to come, I promise.