Trying something new

For starters and after giving it a lot of thought I’ve decided to make my blog more clear and concise by adding titles to each section of the blog post instead of having one big and confusing title.

Shenanigans in Argentina:

Despite not having a camera, my trip to Argentina was awesome! In all, we were ten. I went with Selia, a teacher at Colegio Mariaauxiliadora, and her husband Ricardo who was a bodyguard for Pinochet (fun fact). There was also Courtney and her billet family as well as Moncho and Flor who are friends of Courtney’s family. I think what made the trip especially great was the fact that just like in good South American fashion, nothing was planned. Ok, so reservations were made at a hostel, that probably was about it. Maps?, forget it. Making sure everyone’s on the same page with regards to where we are stopping before ultimately getting to Ushuaia, optional. Thinking about where we are going to eat and what we are going to do? Let’s let chance decide. Stopping at a visitor’s centre to figure out where our hostel is? Nah, we’ll just ask the locals. Getting back to the trip, it was amazing to see the change in scenery going from farmland and a little vegetation to forests and mountains. Basically it was as if we went from Alberta, though less flat, to British Columbia. However, it wasn’t exactly like BC, there definitely lingered some Argentinian panoramic twist that made  it distinctive. We also had to stop while heading to the Chilean border to let a huge flock of sheep pass by. I mean the size of the flock made me think I was in some sort of British Comedy which uses the crossing of a flock of sheep as a comedic tool because you know that’s British humor. I also had a scare as we crossed the Chilean border into Argentina thinking that this possibly might be the last time I see Chile despite the lawyer reassuring me that my visa request would allow me to cross into Argentina even though my visitor’s visa was expired. It didn’t end up being, thank god, or else I probably would not be here telling you how great the trip was. Our first stop in Argentina was Rio Grande, it looks a lot like Punta Arenas. Then we stopped in Tolhuin, a town full of cabins and really yummy chocolate, which was an hour from our final destination. Ushuaia itself is a port city, I would have to say it looks a lot like Edmunston, New Brunswick. There’s a harbor and the city is down by the sea. The city may be a bit smaller but it does have a casino, so that’s something and the houses and shops also have a very rustic look to them making it look a bit like Old Quebec. We stayed a hostel called Hostel Antarctica and for the price we paid which was something like 15 dollars a night it was well worth it. The receptionist was from Belgium but on the Flemish side so I thought that was pretty interesting. Despite speaking with an accent, her Spanish was impeccable. It was your typical hostel, five beds per room and a communal kitchen that could be used by all the guests. At this point you guys are probably wondering why is it  called ‘Shenanigans in Argentina’, so I’ll take a break from talking about scenery and move on to the shenanigans. If there’s one thing that Ushuaia lacks, it’s bars, Along with Jorge, Courtney and Daniel, Jorge’s younger brother, I went in search of good bar. All I came back with was disappointment. In the city, there are only two bars and they were both horrible for completely different reasons. The first bar we went to was called ‘Viejo Bar’. Now in French whenever anything has the word ‘vieux’ which means viejo in it, it’s bad. So maybe we should have taken that as being a clue foreshadowing just how bad the bar was. First of all, we were almost the only people there. Second of all, there were 2010 top forties music videos playing non-stop. Thirdly, they only had small cans of beer, no glasses and no pitchers. And that my friends is our cue to exit. The second bar was more interesting what with the whole Argentinian and Irish mix theme going on, but it was also more crowded as in I thought I was at a sold-out concert. Safe to say, we did most of our drinking at the hostel. I tried fernet which basically tastes like shoe polish, I like it though. In fact, I think it should replace Screech as the newfie initiation drink. I also tried Gancia which tastes like orange liquor as well as a local beer called Cape Horn which was pretty good, it was really smooth. I guess the second part of the night-time shenanigans would be me and the gang rediscovering our childhood by going to a park and swinging on swings, bouncing up and down on teeter-totters which resulted in me almost getting sacked and other childhood fun. Now to talk a bit about the sites around the city. Jorge, his mom, Courtney and I took a ferry ride and got to see the lighthouse called ‘El faro des éclaireurs’ apparently there was a French presence in the history of Argentina. On a side note, I would just like to say that Argentinian Spanish surprised me despite the fact that I had been told about some of the sound changes. To be honest, it sounds like drunken Spanish with slurring being a predominant feature. Now, since I’m a linguist, I kept my cool and told myself this is just the way they speak, no need to make a mountain out of a mole hill. Two interesting utterances that are used a lot in Argentinian Spanish are ‘ no por favor’ which is said in response to someone saying ‘thank you’ sort of like the ‘no, thank you’ I guess. They also say ‘bueno’ a lot every time someone makes a decision. Well that’s enough of the Argentinian Spanish lesson, getting back to the ferry excursion, we also saw cormorants, seals and sea lions. To distinguish sea lions, we learnt that you look at the flippers. We also visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park and more specifically Bahia Lapataia. That’s where the last part of the shenanigans took place. We actually took a dip in the freezing cold water of bay which was basically like doing a polar bear dip… In the famous words of Homer Simpson ‘So cold’. That’s concludes the trip to Argentina.

Shenanigans during the Deciocho:

Chileans celebrate their day of independence on September 18th. I say celebrate since in fact the real date is February 12th, September 18th is the date of the forming of the first government. Basically the celebrations consist of eating lots of empanadas, having barbecues and dancing till 5 o’clock in the morning the next day. With six piscokes in my system I danced the night away to a mix of cueca, by the end of the night they were chanting my name because of my cueca dancing, I even danced with the potential future mayor as well as got invited for tea by a couple, cumbia, ranchera, wachiturro and meringue. The last four I still have trouble with. If you are wondering what is wachiturro, look it up, I seriously can’t explain it. Safe to say Chileans know how to throw a party.

A Visit from a Past Volunteer:

When I got back from Argentina, I found out that Elena, a past volunteer who stayed with my host family for a month before eventually living with another host family who I had the pleasure of meeting at a parade, was in town visiting.  I met her billet parents after I finished marching in a parade, that’s right I marched in a parade, no big deal really. Despite saying the contrary, I believe Elena would make a good English teacher. She knows how to teach and it shows. She managed to do something I’ve been an unable to do since I got here and that’s get the family to speak English. Mind you, it was through the use of games but I mean that is still something. She also made me discover a better chaser for pisco which is ginger ale, it’s amazing. I wonder if it would be any good with ginger beer. Only one way to find out I guess. I think one the greatest moments with Elena was playing games including Scrabble, Apples to Apples and this other game called In a Pickle which I had never heard of, with her, Courtney and Jorge as well as  students from the high school who are good at English. Overall, I am really happy we got to meet since she gave me some good tips for teaching as well as left me some games to use in my English workshops.D

Conclusion of the Public Speaking and Spelling Bee Regional Competitions in Punta Arenas:

My student did not win the regional Public Speaking Competition, but she did come in second. While many people believe she should have won, including her mother, I’m of the objective opinion that the girl from Punta Arenas who did her speech on Shakespeare rightfully won. It all came down to pronunciation and naturalness. While the winner did slip-up once and my girl didn’t, we lost a lot of points in the pronunciation department and maybe a few in naturalness as the body language while present was repetitive and not always complementing the actual speech. I also know that the girl from Punta Arenas gives our region the best chance at nationals so props to the judges for making the right but tough decision. That being said, next year Porvenir will win regionals for many reasons. The first being that Amanda, my student, will definitely be picked to represent the town next year seeing as the students coming up from sixth grade and the other students in her class are miles away from being at her level when it comes to English. She will also benefit from having gone through the process and also knowing what she needs to improve on. Last but not least, she will be taking an English course during the summer break and therefore this will make her leaps and bounds better next year. The spelling bee was also interesting with one team managing to correctly spell 14 out of the 15 words to win the regional competition. You could tell by the way the kids were spelling the words that some of them really like English. Whether it be the little girl from Punta Arenas who would smile every time before spelling a word or this other girl from Puerto Natales, I believe, who spelt the words super fast, like nobody’s business. As always, for me one of the best parts other than seeing students show-off their skills in English, is getting to meet-up with the other volunteers from Punta Arenas and Natales. I also met this other volunteer, also in Punta Arenas who is from Scotland. Apparently, at least in her opinion, her experience hasn’t been that great so far. She also doesn’t like the food. I also learnt that Anthony, the volunteer from Natales, is going to be doing his LSATS next week in Santiago. Good luck bro, I don’t know if I could do it.

A Place to Jog:

I’ve been having trouble doing exercise on a regular basis. That was until I accompanied Courtney and Jorge for a light jog last Saturday. We took this path that is behind the cemetery and leads to this dirt road which goes on for miles, making it easy to do a 40 minute jog. Sorry guys, but this definitely means I will not be gaining weight while here.

Torres del Paine shall be conquered in December:

It’s official, I am going to go to Torres del Paine with my cousin and some of her friends and do the W trail, a four-day epic hike, from December 21st to the 25th. Not a bad way to celebrate Christmas Chile style if I do say so myself. With all the picture I’ve seen from other volunteers’ adventure at Torres, I can’t wait. It’s going to be legen(I hope you are not lactose intolerant) dary. (Reference from the sitcom ‘How I met your Mother’ for those of you scratching your heads.

Move aside Poker, Truco is where it’s at:

So, with the NHL lockout looking inevitable and with sports channels like TSN searching for content to replace hockey, I have a suggestion for them. So last time when the hockey lockout happened, people turned to poker, right. Well in Chile, while they don’t have poker, they have this awesome card game called Truco which is sort of like Uker. You are basically trying to score 30 points first. You score points by calling tricks such as truco (worth 1 point for calling and 2  points if successful) and envio (worth 1 point if called and 2 points if successful). I won’t get into all the rules but if you are interested by all means look it up. What makes it as exciting as poker is the bluffing element which can make or break a game. I know it doesn’t sound exciting, I mean it is a card game after all, but trust me guys Truco is Chile’s answer to poker.

Teaching is still Hit or Miss:

As for teaching, it is still hit or miss. Once in a while though, the students buy-in to the system and it just makes you feel great. Like when I taught them the English version of la estrellita also known as Twinkle Twinkle LIttle Star. They were just so happy to learn the song that they sang it all during class. These moments are why I love what I do.

The return of the King :

I know the title is a little cryptic. It has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings nor with Elvis or Michael Jackson. No, because this is my blog and well this is sort of how I roll, I decided that in this case the King refers to me (I’m such a humble person) and the return, well my return to Canada which will be at the end of December, the 30th to be exact, so prepare the welcome mat because I’m coming home, I’m coming home…

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1 comment
  1. mwong684 said:

    Wow, quite the blog…..I am exhausted just going through it. How many people did you meet?

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