Archive

Uncategorized

This will be my last post for this blog. It’s been fun and I’m happy I decided to do it. It’s great having a way to remember my adventure in Chile other than through photos. Now, I’ve been back from Chile for over a week now so what follows is a list of events that happened while I was in Chile. My promise to deliver daily blog posts sort of fell through the roof due to a lack of wifi and an incident at the airport in Temuco which left me without my laptop when I got to Punta Arenas. So let’s get started because we have a lot of ground to cover.

Adventuring in Temuco:

After leaving Santiago, I made my way to Temuco in order to meet up with Courtney and Jorge who was nice enough to let me stay at his place. Temuco itself is a very ordinary town, but despite this, I still managed to have a good time. I played soccer with Jorge and put on a pretty impressive goaltending clinic that had all the Chilean players talking at the end of the game.  We did end up losing the game 14-12 however. In all fairness, I impressed myself with how well I played. There are a few reasons for this. One, when I started playing soccer, the first position I tried was goalkeeper. My first game was a disaster, we lost 25-1. After that, I decided to play defense and I’ve never looked back since. Two, I’m short and therefore stopping the ball is difficult. I challenge you to name a short goalkeeper who either won a Euro or World Cup or was successful playing at a professional level such as in the Premier League. I also got a chance to rediscover my childhood staying up late playing Mario Kart 64 with Courtney and Jorge all the while drinking wine. Jorge has mad skills and Courtney is extremely competitive. It made for fun nights. The thing I will retain the most though, mainly because it was something I never expected to do was participate in a Man vs Food challenge, Chile edition. At this restaurant called Otto Sandwich, they have this sandwich called the Highlander that if you manage to finish in under 18 minutes, it’s free. I seriously don’t know why I did it. Maybe because I thought I could win. This sandwich tastes amazing, it has tomatoes, cheese, beef, bacon, lettuce, chorizo, avocado, mayonnaise and sautéed onions. In the end I managed to eat half in nine minutes and then I couldn’t continue so I had to give up. I don’t I ever want to do something like that again, it’s a waste of food, you feel like you never want to eat again and experiencing being food drunk is not fun. I don’t know how people do it.

Being outdoorsy in Pucon:

In between my adventure in Temuco, I went to Pucon with the goal of climbing a volcano. Yup, you heard me, a volcano. There’s this volcano called Villarica about 30 minutes from the town which you can either climb weather permitting or go skiing. You do need to go with a guide though and this for obvious reasons that apparently not everyone understands. About a two months ago, three tourists decided to climb the volcano despite the guides telling them it was suicide, and they haven’t been heard from since. It’s called common sense, people, common sense. Anyways, in my group we were seven. There was a couple from Australia, a couple from Brazil, a girl from France, the guide and me. I talked a lot with the Aussies. Turns out the wife is actually originally from France, from Avignon in fact, thank god, finally not some egocentric and self-entitled Parisian. Not to say that this is how I perceive all Parisian but lets just say that I haven’t met a nice Parisian person yet. They always make the point that my French sounds funny but are happy that I’m trying. Thanks, I feel so much better knowing that (insert sarcasm). The interesting thing with the wife was that she’s been living in Australia for six years and because of it, she’s acquired the Australian accent. I guess that makes sense, I also met French girls who had been studying in Argentina for six months and because of this their Spanish sounded very Argentinian minus the perceived drunken slurring and I also have a friend who is Canadian who moved to Georgia who now speaks like a southerner. Getting back to the climbing of the volcano, I kid you not, this was probably the most physically exhausting thing I have ever done. I dare someone to tell me that hiking in the Gatineau Mountains is tough. Climb a volcano and then we’ll talk. It was so tough in fact that after the first thirty minutes of the five-hour hike, my legs already felt like cement and I was questioning whether or not I should continue. Luckily for me, Mother Nature decided for us and when we got to about the halfway point, the weather was so bad, wind was gusting at like a 100km an hour, there was hail and it was also starting to rain, that we had to stop our ascent. As we began our descent, the guide told us that going down the way we came was not as much fun as sliding down the volcano, you heard me. So we got on our flying saucers and we literally flew down the mountain, I wish I could have taken a picture, it was really awesome. This is also how I lost my glasses. You see the first part of our descent was apparently too icy to slide down on the saucer so we just winged it and went on our backs. As I was sliding down, using my pickax to control my speed, I suddenly realized that this thrill ride was higher and scarier than Splash Mountain, and at that moment out of panic, I threw away my pickax and started sliding down the volcano free style (smart, I know). During the entire descent, because I really thought I was going to die, I kept saying the F-word hoping this would save me. Eventually, friction and snow did and I stopped. In fact, I had been panicking for nothing, there was no way I was going to slide off the volcano. Apparently though, I might have escaped death, since as I was sliding down and I was going pretty fast mind you, I hit a frozen boulder but luckily the helmet I was wearing and my glasses absorbed all the impact and therefore I didn’t get injured. Afterwards, we slid down the volcano on the saucer and that was one of the most fun things I have ever done. The next day, I went white water rafting. That’s right, after having a life and death experience I was ready to throw myself back into the frying pan. This was also a lot of fun. We were nine in total, I ended being paired with a couple from New York. The guy was Irish and his name was Neil and the girl was from New York and her name was Lizzie. They had been teaching in Santiago and finally had a break so they decided to come to Pucon to climb Villarica and do some white water rafting. Unlike me though, they had already climbed some volcanoes in Indonesia so they were experienced volcano climbers.. Anyways, in one boat you had all the Spanish tourist from Argentina and Brazil and in our boat, the gringos. Since we were only four if you include the guide, we had to work a lot harder and I tell you paddling when you are going into a rapid is fun as hell but man is it tough to paddle consistently. I’d do that again any day. Afterwards, to complete my adventure in Pucon, I met up with the couple and did a bit of lazy touring which including going to hot springs. Overall my experience in Pucon was amazing and I’m super happy I spent an extra day instead of leaving a day earlier like I originally planned.

Reunited in Punta Arenas and it feels so good:

After an amazing dare I say epic stay in Pucon, it was off to Punta Arenas to meet up with my cousin Nicole who I hadn’t seen since high school and her friend Marisa from Peace Corps. One thing I have discovered is that nothing is ever easy in Chile. When I got to the airport on the day I was leaving for Punta Arenas, I discovered that apparently I had never paid for my flight reservation and therefore I would need to pay it now. To make matters worse, the airport didn’t have a credit card machine so I had to pay cash, Only problem was I did not have enough money on me so I was forced to go back into town, take money out and then go back and pay for the flight. The only good thing that came out of this ordeal was that the flight was cheaper than the one I had reserved online. After that whole mess, I told myself that things couldn’t possibly get any worse, but they did. When I was about to give my boarding pass to the lady before getting on the flight, she noticed that my backpack was a little big. So big in fact that it would have to be stowed as luggage. At this point I wanted to give her an earful in Spanish and make the point that she was the first person to make this observation despite the fact that this was not my first time flying Sky and also sarcastically congratulate her on her keen sense of observation. Instead though, I just let it go and had an uneventful flight to Santiago. When I arrived in Santiago, because that bitch, I’m sorry but she was really mean, didn’t tell me that I had to pick up my backpack in Santiago, it got left behind when I went to Punta Arenas. Only good thing that came out of this was that I was able to start a no technology challenge which I managed to keep going for a pretty long time. Once I arrived in Punta Arenas, I started to freak out a bit because, in good Chilean fashion (no planning whatsoever), I hadn’t told my cousin what my flight number was and she hadn’t either so I kept thinking that maybe she had already arrived and took a cab to the hostel we were staying at. Luckily for me, she arrived on the flight right after mine, 15 minutes later. My cousin was surprised at how cold it was, but like I told her, this was nothing compared to the winter, in fact this was pleasant. Anyways, we got to the hostel where I had reserved us a room and my cousin felt like she was in heaven. I guess I have to go to Paraguay to see where she’s coming from, it was nothing fancy, just two beds and a bathroom.. We had a  late supper at seafood restaurant called la Luna (go there if you want to eat good seafood) and then it was off to bed. The next day we met up with Marisa, Nicole’s friend and headed to Puerto Natales to meet up with Nicole’s other friends.

We are off to see las Torres:

After a 3 hour bus ride, we finally arrived at Puerto Natales, the last big town before you make it to the park. We got to the hostel, met up with Carly and Jeff, who are really awesome, they are marathon runners and all around good people. Jeff’s humor though which relies a lot on sarcasm does take a while to get used to. We met up with them, got our supplies and prepared for the start of our adventure the next day. When we arrived at the park, you could already see las Torres and already it was a sight to behold. And so began our adventure which was absolutely epic. During 4 days we did the W circuit, averaging 11km of hiking a day. We were blessed with perfect weather and amazing landscapes, especially las Torres which seeing them from the lookout point was worth the price of admission on its own. We got to see many lakes that were different shades of blue and green, towering mountains, the damage caused by the Israeli forest fire, water falls and a whole lot more. The only thing that was missing was wildlife. We were constantly being mocked by ibises but other than that, nothing. I couldn’t have done it with a better group of people. We were definitely the definition of Team Awesome.

Saying goodbye is tough:

After a few more days in Punta Arenas, it was time to say goodbye to my cousin and to Chile. I’m definitely going to miss it and I hope to one day go back to this amazing country that has so much to offer culture wise, food wise and landscape wise. Chao Chile, nos vemos pronto!

Finals  thoughts and impressions on the travel blog:

I would like to start by thanking everyone who took the time to read my blog, knowing you guys were supporting me made this experience even more special. It’s been quite a ride and though I wasn’t able to consistently update the blog each week and the blog ended up being very sporadic, I’m extremely happy I did it. It allowed me to reconnect with the creative writing side of me and also acted as a way to vent when things weren’t going so well. Overall, it’s just great to have a souvenir of my amazing adventure written in my prose which while it may not be perfect tells my adventure the way I want it to be told.

I finally visited the city of my dreams and while I liked my experience in Valparaiso what with the hills, the multicolored houses of all shapes and sizes and the narrow streets, I must say I was a little disappointed. It might have something to do with the fact that I had originally planned on visiting the city with a friend and when those plans fell through, I started to randomly wander up hills. I also realized that after months of constantly feeling the presence of the cold, I’m not a big fan of the intense heat. That being said, Valpo is what I thought it would be and I definitely think I will need to go back. I still need to visit Pablo Neruda’s house and also some more hills and churches and Vina of course to see the striking contrast that apparently exist between both cities. While Valpo has a haphazard and chaotic appearance, Vina is supposed to be well-organized and orderly. I now have a place to stay so that might make things easier. I met an Irish man named Kevin who works for a Christian organization who told me that if I’m ever in Valpo, I can stay at his place. It’s moments like this that make me remember that good people still exist in this world and also forget how bad my experience has been with people from Santiago. The main thing that scares me about Valpo other than the laissez-faire attitude of the people which encourages the robbing of tourist is how much damage will be caused when erosion has its way with the houses on edge of the hills.  Oh well, that’s a problem that will be dealt when the time comes and not before.

The disadvantages of taking a free flight back to Santiago:

Yes, it’s true, there are disadvantages of not having to pay for your own flight. English Opens Doors is a volunteer program and therefore given the option,the program will most likely choose the cheapest flight possible. This means that instead of having a flight that goes from Punta Arenas straight to Santiago, you get a flight that makes stops in Balmacena, Puerto Montt, Temuco, Concepcion before finally arriving in Santiago. This also means that you get to see the safety demo not once, not twice but six times. I was almost tempted to tell the hostess to take a break and let me do the demo having memorized it by heart. Then there is always the possibility that the connecting flight will be delayed as was my case. We arrived in Puerto Montt at 6:15pm which was when we were suppose to take the second flight. Instead we left at 9 pm. This resulted in us not arriving at 10pm as planned but 12pm instead.

Reunion with the volunteers, celebrating and saying last goodbyes to the other EOD volunteers:

Despite the fact that I made it at the hostal at 12:30, I was still in the mood to celebrate a bit and catch-up with the volunteers. Everyone there seemed to have had a really great experience. I ended up talking with them until almost 4am. Almost everyone is planning to travel. The next day, it was time to say goodbye  to some volunteers, which was really tough, and to really celebrate. I really wish I had had the opportunity to meet up with them during the program, I think that’s the only thing that was missing to my experience.

Meeting up with Elena, the volunteer who was in Porvenir in 2010:

I briefly met up with Elena to give her back her games and her Christmas present from her Chilean family. I’m going to try to meet her once more so we can catch-up some more.

The game plan for the next few weeks:

Tomorrow I’m going to Valparaiso for the day. On Monday, I’m meeting my friend Astrid who I met along with her husband when I went to Torres del Paine. They were nice enough to take pictures for me since the day before, my camera broke. She is going to be moving to the US at the end of the month. Then, I’m going to spend a few more days in Santiago to go to Santa Lucia and other places as well as visit a fellow Canadian who lives in Santiago. On the 7th, I’m taking a bus to Temuco and possibly meeting-up with Courtney and Jorge, her billet brother. On the 8th and the 9th, I will take the opportunity to visit Temuco. On the 10th I will take a bus to Pucon and possibly stay there till the 11th. Then, it’s back to Temuco to hang-out with Courtney and Jorge till the 16th or the 17th. Then, it’s off to Punta Arenas to meet up with my cousin on the 19th.

Lack of Spanish speaking:

Since I’ve been in Santiago, I haven’t had the opportunity to speak very much Spanish since most of the volunteers have reverted to speaking English. It’s starting to bug me a bit since for six months it was Spanish all the time. I’m happy I’m meeting Astrid because I will get the opportunity to speak Spanish once again.

Already missing Porvenir and the people:

While walking the streets of Santiago, I realized I am not in Porvenir anymore. No one says hi to you and some people even mock you in Spanish.  I guess I’m only now realizing how good I had it when I was in Porvenir. I miss having random conversations with complete strangers and feeling welcome. I’m not getting that vibe from Santiago. I can’t wait to leave this place.

Meca (oh my god in Chilean) boys and girls it’s been a while. That’s right I’m back to blogging and hopefully now that the program is over and I have more free time I will be able to blog weekly if not daily. So let’s get started because we have a lot of catching up to do and this by no means will be complete or in order seeing as so much happened in the time that my blog was mia. Here goes:

Fiesta Saludable:

While for the most part my partying has been done with a beer in hand or at least some type of alcohol, it was nice to have a party without my friend liquid courage. There was dancing, virgin punch,fruit skewers, tomato sandwiches, palta (avocado) sandwiches, egg sandwiches, chicken pâté sandwiches as well as candies and singing. Overall, it made me think about highschool dances except it was free, there was food and the kids actually can dance, even the guys. No bump and grind or fist pumps here folks, it’s all about bachata,cumbia and reggaeton. While I do admit it was a bit awkward dancing with highschool kids especially when I was dancing with the girls, it made me live a part of highschool that I missed out on mainly because, lets face it folks I was born with two left feet and Canadian highschool kids can be so mean, not so much in Chile. You dance, you enjoy yourself y fin. There might also be the fact my highschool dances ended up being canceled due to one too many ‘incidents’ involving knives.

Two Trips to Punta Arenas:

The reason I am mentioning these two trips is that they are related. The first one was during Halloween, I went to meet up with the peeps from Punta Arenas to go to a Halloween party. Now, I’ve never been one for original Halloween costumes,  for three years straight I was scarecrow like really Jeff, but this time not having much time and not wanting to buy a costume I decided to make one inspiring myself from infoman, a french show that shows the world from a satirical point of view. In one episode, suggestions for Halloween costumes were given which included the BP oil spill. Therefore, being that making the costume required very little, a garbage bag and paper to make dead fish to stick onto the bag I decided to go as an oil spoil or as it is known in Spanish, derame de petroleo. The party was awesome, I had a great time, until I had one too many vodka infused gummy worms. I’m using the word infused here mainly because I don’t remember much after eating that last worm. I blacked out or as they say in Chile, apague la tele, literally turned off the tv. Long story short,I forgot my house key at the party and had to get it back, that’s why I had to make another trip to PA. I tried telling my Chilean parents that they could just make another copy of the key and I would gladly pay whatever it would cost them, but they insisted I get it back. The lesson here ladies and gentlemen is, just like how you should never drop the soap in prison, never forget your house key at a party because your Chilean family will make you go get it.

Patagonian Fishing Expedition:

If you told me I would get a chance to go fishing at the end of earth, I would have told you, you’re crazy. The thing is I did go fishing, and while I only caught one fish, wow what an experience it was. When they say go fishing, it means going to a ranch, finding a river, dropping the line and fishing. Don’t forget to drink lots of whisky to stay warm while it’s pouring buckets and the wind is gusting at 60 kms. 

My Birthday+ my best attempt at channeling my inner Martha Stewart, not quite at the Julia Childs level yet:

As you may or may not know, this is not the first time I’ve celebrated my birthday away from my family. However, it probably was a lot more memorable and vacan (awesome in chileno) than the last time. To sum up my last birthday away from my family, I was participating in the Katimavik program and I was living in Nova Scotia at the time. On that memorable day, it was raining, there was a power failure and a tree fell down. Thanks Mother Nature for being such a Debbie Downer. This time around, not so much. For one, I celebrated not one day, not two but five. During this time, I took the opportunity to cook a turkey for the first time with nothing but spices. Despite that, it did not end up like Chevy Chase’s turkey in National Lampoons. Man, was that turkey good, next time, I’m looking at trying possibly a beer turkey, deep-fried turkey or a mango turkey, take your pick. I also made ratatouille  for the first time and as well, it ended up being a hit. Finally, I made an apple crisp but with a twist, I bathe the apples in maple syrup. Que rico! Food aside, it definitely was one of my best birthdays ever which included lots of drinking as is the standard in Chile, playing truco, the most addictive card game I have ever played, poker eat your heart out, Spanish karaoke, yup it’s still as tough as saying a Spanish tongue twister and lots of laughs. I also got a chance to taste a very sweet fruit that I doubt we have in Canada but which is amazing. It’s called chirimoya and sort of tastes like a mix between an orange and a pineapple. One of the more hilarious moments was when my family tried wasabi peas. For me, they are absolutely delicious and awesome, but for Chileans they are deadly. My family all  ended up having to go to the washroom and washing their mouths with water to stop the burning. Yup, spicy is definitely not one of Chile’s strong points except for aji (banana pepper) of course. What made me laugh the most though was the fact that the kids asked me if they could take some wasabi peas to school to trick their friends into tasting them by telling them they are Canadian candies.

Patagonian Backcountry Adventure:

While overall my experience up to this point had been much more than I could have hoped for, the one thing that was missing was seeing trees and getting reacquainted with nature. That’s what happens when you live at the end of the world folks. So when, a teacher from the highschool asked me if I was interested in going on a short nature walk, I jumped on the opportunity and we were off. Just like everything here in Patagonia, I’ve discovered that when someone says we are going on a short nature walk, prepare yourself in fact for an adventure of semi-epic proportions. This short nature walk ended up being walking through sheep grazing grounds, climbing sand dunes while winds are gusting at 60 kms, rescuing a lamb from the river and discovering the panoramic side of the region. Absolutely stunning. I mean trees at last, trees at last! As well as vegetation and something resembling a forest. I’m only sad I didn’t discover this sooner. It absolutely contrasts with the  farmland surrounding the town making it that much more amazing. You are and walking and suddenly this magical landscape appears before your very eyes.

Slender and the Flag Game:

On a lighter note, this is in no way related to my experience here in Chile but I though it would still be fun to share. One thing I’ve discovered is that Chileans love to be scared, they watch scary movies like I watch sports and they are also addicted to this scary game called Slender that was created by Windows but which I’d never heard of before coming to Chile. It is in no way as scary as say Phantasmagoria for example, for those of you who are retro gamers, and from my point of view the premise doesn’t seemed to be that scary. However this might just be due to fact that I am a lot older than the kids playing it. You need to collect 9 messages before the ‘Slender Man’ catches you. The Slender Man is a faceless man in a suit. The scare factor apparently has to do with the music and the special effects related to when you lose. Having never played it I can’t tell you whether or not it is scary. One of 12th grade students is also addicted to this game that asks you to identify the flags of 204 countries. It took us a while, but on our final attempt we did it. I can now identify the flags of a lot more countries than before such as Swaziland and Burma. Next challenge, capitals.

Bushite Style Karate:

After I stopped giving karate workshops, I ended up actually taking karate classes in a style similar to  shotokan called bushite. Again though as with everything here in Chile, this was karate taken to the extreme. First class, self-defense and being shown all the pressure points on the human body. I hurt everywhere after that. Second class, more self-defense, how to defend yourself if someone is trying to rob you at knifepoint or gunpoint. Third class, katas. While the katas are almost identical, there are a few differences. Overall, it was a great experience and just like back at Douvris, I’d come home every day feeling sore but in a good way like when you push yourself to the limit and beyond. There are a few significant differences though. One being that the classes were given at the sensei’s home and the maximum class size was four. The second being that he was not teaching karate to make a living, he had a second job, which I think in some way changes the approach to teaching. When you teach karate to make a living, you also have to focus on the business side of the equation. When it’s not lucrative to teach karate, you can focus all your attention and passion on teaching. The other significant difference that I had trouble getting use to was the fact that everything was taught in Japanese. The most significant difference though was the fact that my Chilean sensei had been taught by a Japanese sensei and therefore his perspective when it came to some the techniques I had been taught was different. I’m grateful to have had that experience and he told me I am welcome to train with him anytime so that is something I will definitely consider if I ever go back to Porvenir.

Last goodbyes:

It was really tough saying goodbye especially to the kids, even though they valen callampa (not good) at learning English I’m still going to miss them. Last Friday, I was given a picture with all the students from the college, I almost burst in tears at that moment. I also discovered how important English-speaking volunteers are for the Chilean students. While at times it may seem easier trying to find a needle in the haystack than teach them English, at the end of the day, you are with them for six months and therefore a bond between you and them does grow despite the fact that the amount of English they learn might not. This was best exemplified with the third graders. Despite the fact that I had never had a class with them, they wrote me letters, gave me lots of hugs and seriously made me feel special, that somehow me  just being in the school had had a powerful effect on them. On Sunday, I attended Courtney’s going away supper which she cooked all by herself and which included two turkeys, green bean casserole, palenta stuffing, scalloped potatoes, a pear tart, a pumpkin pie with squash and nuts and banana bread. Now that’s what I call channeling your inner Julia Child. On Monday, it was my turn to have my last supper (without the apostles) but with friends and family. It was a great way to end my stay in Porvenir, a town that has touched my heart and that I will definitely go back to if I have the chance.

 Final thoughts on my experience in Porvenir and the English Opens Doors Program:

When I first arrived in Porvenir, I thought to myself, really, out of all the places in Chile, I picked  this place. This sentiment was further reinforced by the eternal presence of the cold and feeling isolated because you are living on an island with no vegetation or trees, only farmland as far as the eye can see. Furthermore, the first semester seemed to go in slow-motion and I seriously thought it would never end. The second semester, on the other hand flew right by mainly because I finally managed to create a schedule that kept me busy all through the week and also because of all the events that happened. After living in Tierra del Fuego for six months my opinion on the place has drastically changed. I feel at home here and this right as I leave. I think what makes Porvenir especially special is that despite the fact that it’s a small town with a population of about 5500 people, that on some days feels like a ghost town, and that this is in no way a tourist haven unless you really like cows and sheep and Selknam, the aboriginals who lived in the area, artifacts, I managed to have one of the greatest experiences of my life. This is mostly due to the people who live there who make the town shine as brightly as Las Vegas with their friendliness and hospitality. I’ve never been anywhere where you show up at a barbecue not knowing anyone and the first guy you meet offers you a drink telling you that from this point on he considers you his brother even if you are not Chilean and the next people you meet are the same. Therefore, this proves that as stated in a New York times article titled ‘Reclaiming Travel’: Travel is a search for meaning, not only in our own lives, but also in the lives of others. The humility required for genuine travel is exactly what is missing from its opposite extreme, tourism. I mean that’s amazing. In North America, in general we are plagued by this individual bubble syndrome coupled with the perception that time is money and I think that’s unfortunate.  We are missing opportunities to connect with total strangers and possibly becoming friends or ‘brothers’.

As for my experience in the program, despite the fact that it is difficult to measure the overall effectiveness of the program due to the fact that results may vary, I think the program has lots of potential. If nothing else, it will make you rethink teaching and also help you grow as a teacher and as a person. One of the problems that makes teaching English to Chileans difficult is the approach currently being used. Chileans are being taught English as if it were Spanish which in my opinion is a recipe for disaster. Second language learning is not the same as learning a first language. Therefore what works for learning one language does not necessarily work for learning another. The other problem is motivation. Chilean students get bored really easily and therefore you really need to shake things to keep them interested. If not, be prepared for lots of classroom management. I would not say it’s their fault though. To them all their classes seem the same which has a lot to do with the fact that teachers rely a lot on worksheets. But enough on the problems plaguing the Chilean school system and back to my experience. I think while I might not have succeeded as much as a teacher as I would have liked, I know for a fact that my desire to teach has been strengthened and this despite the fact that at times my Chilean students made me question my ability to teach. I also know that after experiencing how chaotic a classroom can be with Chilean students, I’m ready for any student that gets thrown at me, figuratively of course. Finally, I think this program also helps the students grow, maybe not linguistically in relation to the amount of English they learn, but perhaps culturally, I shared with then bits and pieces about Canada and they returned the favor by talking about Chile, and also as a person. All I know for certain, is that out of all the people I met in Porvenir, I will miss my students the most. Therefore, if I had the opportunity to go back it would be to once again see all their smiling faces. Hasta Luego Porvenir, te echaré de menos (I’ll miss you).

New Camera:

The biggest announcement of the week: I have a new camera. It’s another Nikon Coolpix but a more recent model. That’s right, I caved in. While living these awesome experiences in Chile is great, having photographic proof is even better.  Never mind the fact that this apparently shows a superficial need to have proof that you went somewhere. I can’t wait to give this baby a test drive.

Amanda’s Birthday:

So the daughter of the family I’m living with had her birthday last weekend. One word to sum up the birthday. Cake. That’s right, there was not one, not two but three birthday cakes. Other than that, it was pretty much your typical birthday, friends come over, including one girl who’s from Santiago, watching movies (I finally saw the Hunger Games and I must say I definitely want to read the books now. Add that to my long reading list.) and presents.

Funeral Crashers:

Probably the weirdest event of the week was when I attended a funeral for someone I did not know. Let me explain. It was on Tuesday in the afternoon when I usually have class with the grade 9 students. That day, we were informed that the students had the right to attend the funeral instead of going to class. Since everyone was going to the funeral I had to go too. It was really awkward. I mean come on, who goes to the funeral of someone you don’t know? My Chilean students apparently. Look, I know some of them knew the person who died but I can guarantee you it was not all of them. That’s right, some students took advantage  of the fact that there was a funeral to avoid going to class. That’s ludicrous. Forget Wedding Crashers, this was the sequel ‘ Funeral Crashers’.

Karate Workshop:

I had my first karate workshop and while there were only four students, they were really interested in what I had to teach them. In the famous words of Don Cherry’ and here’s the kicker’ : I taught the entire class in Spanish. We managed to work on kicks, blocks and a bit of self-defense. Not bad for a first class. I think I’ll make this a weekly thing. Every Wednesday from 6pm to 7pm. While it will add to my already busy schedule, I think the students will really get a lot out of it and so will I. This will be a perfect opportunity to see how much I actually remember.

Teaching Evaluation:

I was really nervous about this evaluation. I looked at the rubric beforehand and I thought to myself ‘Oh no’. At the end though it went better than I expected. I thought I was going to get  a grade of Standard for everything when in fact I got Distinguished and Proficient all across the board as well as the coordinator telling me that I will make a pretty good teacher. Now, I’m super happy about how the evaluation went but in all fairness, if this had been a CELTA evaluation I would not have scored higher than standard. I still have a lot of work to do to be a teacher and I’m ready for the challenge. During the evaluation what was interesting was the way the students behaved. Usually, they’re doing their best to imitate Animal House and it takes time to get the class under control. Not this time though, they were attentive and seemed genuinely interested in what I was teaching them. Might have something to do with the evaluation. Note to self pretend they are being evaluated every class.

Curanto and Chilean football and more: 

Yesterday I got invited to eat curanto , a chilean surf and turf, at the highschool. While I had an idea of  what to expect, I did not think it would look the way it did. The only seafood that was actually in the curanto were these giant mussels called cholgas. There was also cabbage, chapalele which is made with chorizo, chicken and potatoes. We also watched the Chile vs Ecuador game in which Chile sadly lost 3-1 . After everyone had eaten and drank their share, it was time to dance. I can only dance cueca and most of the music was in fact cumbia so at the beginning I was like, um I think I’ll wait a bit. I didn’t have to wait for long since I got invited by some of the teachers to dance. I also ask for a cueca song and danced that. Overall, it was a great night.

My view on the  presidential debates:

Not really related to my Chilean adventure but I still think it is worth talking about the presidential debates. After the first debate, so-called experts were saying that Romney won the debate. After watching the debate, I have to disagree. In my opinion neither actually won. Romney, while the aggressor, was basically blowing hot air. Someone should tell him that facts matter. As for Obama, despite his passive style of debating, he at least relied on facts. Furthermore, with Romney spewing malarkey, Obama probably didn’t feel the need to defend himself too much and therefore looked like he was being overly cautious. For those reasons, I don’t think either of them won. As for the second debate, I would say that Biden won basically because Paul Ryan was debating like a robot. Watching Ryan debate I was trying to look for anything that would make me say ‘that’s what Ryan’s all about’ but it never occurred. He just had that slightly smug look on his face all the time. I mean come on, did you leave your personality at home? While Biden might have been overly aggressive and silly with his smile and smirking, rather than perceive it as rudeness, I believe it’s a  part of who he is. Overall, I guess we could say that nothing has been decided and the decisive debate might be the one on Tuesday.

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…

Well, it’s been a while guys and no it’s not because I was kidnapped or too depressed to write a blog post. The simple truth is that despite being at the end of the world, I’ve been really busy.  This will be a doozy of a blog post so I hope you guys are ready.

Science Fair:

A few weeks ago, at the high school where I’m teaching English, there was a science fair. I don’t know about you guys, but it’s been ages since I last went to a science fair let alone participated. What was my topic again…Oh right, Additives, a necessary poison? Yeah, I think I liked the topics here much more despite the fact that well, it was all in Spanish so at times I had trouble understanding such as when a girl was trying to explain to me her experiment on cell creation involving coffee and onions, and also that there was no baking soda volcano.  There were lots of animal topics including the flamingo, river rat, cormorant, dolphin and king crab just to name a few. I think the most interesting and surprising topic was moss while the worst was a comparison between a can and biodiversity. Still trying to figure that one out. What did surprise me was the amount of people who showed up for the science fair, seriously like hundreds. Now I’m starting to believe Porvenir is not a ghost town

Basketball Tournament:

While the two topics I’m about to talk about might not seem related, in one way they are. Last week there was a high school girls basketball tournament which Porvenir was hosting.  Seeing as this was a chance to watch a basketball game and the fact that Porvenir’s team is decent unlike the Raptors, sorry Toronto, couldn’t help it, I decided to go watch some basketball. Once I was inside the gym where the games were being played, it made me think of FROSH week all over again. Like I said in most ways these two things aren’t alike except for the fact that just like during the first week of university, I knew the moment I walked in that I was going to lose my voice. Yup, it definitely smelled like team spirit! Unlike, my high school basketball team, I think we were called the Tornadoes, Porvenir really really really cares about their basketball team. Supporters showed up in throngs with some bringing vuvuzelas, drums and a megaphone to cheer on the team. Once the game started, so did the cheers both for Porvenir and against the other team. I can guarantee you this was not a Sens game with some people cheering hardcore while others just sitting down and watching the game as if they were at home. If think if you did that here, the supporters would literally throw you out of the gym, either you’re with us or against us. Despite the fact that the girls came in fourth, props to them, I mean four out of fifteen is not bad. I wish I understood the cheers more, again that whole Spanish thing, because in the game against the team from Araucania, I wanted to let their supporters have it. I sort of wish I could have resorted to simplistic FROSH cheering which uses the F-word multiple times to get its point across. Overall, despite losing my voice night in and night out, I absolutely had a blast. I think if the support for the team had been like this when I was in high school, maybe more people would have showed up to the games.

Penguins!, por fin (finally):

So despite not having a camera, I still went to see some king penguins. I must say that once you leave Porvenir and head towards Argentina, the route becomes slightly scenic, almost like Cape Breton, Chile style so with less trees. I also discovered that there are ibises here called bandurrias, we saw three of them. When we got to the penguin park, I immediately noticed how cold it was and how much it looked like the Canadian north or the Arctic, very little vegetation, mostly moss and lichen and the like. The only thing that made it slightly surreal was the arctic background contrasting with the gigantic waves crashing along the beach, it was like Arisaig but with no jellyfish. I doubt that I would have been able to swim without suffering from Hypothermia or worse though. Yeah, the water was that cold. Did I forget to mention that the wind was so strong I thought I was going to get wind burn. I almost forgot the penguins. There were seventeen of them and while they are part of the second largest specie of penguins, we could not get very close to them and therefore were not able to truly see how tall they actually were. During my next penguin excursion, I would like to see the magallanic penguin, this time  with a camera of course.

Bingo:

Lets get one thing straight, out of all the activities I thought I might do here, bingo was definitely not one of them. In my time here, I have had the opportunity to play three times and win three times. Wow Jeff, you’re really good at bingo! The thing is, I won three times in the same game. Let me explain something first. To me bingo is a game of chance or in some instances say at a fancy dinner party called Pan y Vino which I decided to go to, it can be a drinking game, you drink every time a number you don’t have is called. For the most part though it’s based on chance so while people may think that buying more than one card increases your chances of winning, I’m of the mentality that you buy a bingo ticket and see what happens. But Jeff that still doesn’t explain how you won three times with only one bingo ticket. Well you see,  I ended up playing the two bingo cards of the person calling the numbers. I ended up winning a little girl’s dress and 10 000 pesos which is the equivalent of 20 dollars Canadian. I won a marriage, not a literal marriage of course, it’s what they call a bottle of wine paired with this rum based drink called a Primavera. It’s called a marriage for no other reason then there are two of them.

English Workshops:

I’ve done two English workshops so far and all I can say is that it’s been a blast. Imagine that, Chilean students wanting to learn English. I know, I know, sounds pretty farfetched. It’s also got me thinking, why is it that I can motivate a few students to learn English through the use of games while for others they wouldn’t even blink if I brought a circus into class? During the two English workshops, we’ve played What Time is it Mr. Wolf, a fun way to learn how to tell time, Duck, Duck,Goose, a class favorite, Red Light, Green Light, Yellow Light, a great way to learn colors and the function of the traffic lights, and Simon Says also a class favorite. While I may not be a hit with all the students, there will always be those few students who had the opportunity to participate in my workshops and had fun learning English. Now to think about what to do for the next one.

Ping Pong Tournament: Canada vs Chile:

It finally happened! I entered a ping-pong tournament, and while I didn’t win, I definitely showed Chile that Canada’s got game, fourth out of nine isn’t half bad. I must say I’m still slightly disappointed considering my brother probably could have wiped the floor with the competition. There were no loopers and the smashes people did lacked any real power or spin. Despite that, I think the fact that I managed to get fourth place is still an accomplishment since it allowed me to show the Chilean players that power and aggression aren’t everything as I sent back their smashes over and over and used my lull strategy effectively. If I’ve learned anything by participating in this tournament, it is that my positioning and my movement is horrible and so is my technique and that despite all this, I still gave the Chilean challengers a run for their money. You win this round Chile but Canada will be back.

Running 10 k against the wind, good idea or bad idea:

I’m still not sure if it was a good idea, I mean the longest I have ever ran was 5k and this was with little or no wind. Despite that, I decided to do it. At first, it looked like the worst decision of my life, I was barely out the gate and already I found myself in last place and gassing. I told myself that the only thing that matters is finishing strong. With that in mind I kept going. It got worse once I got near the seaside, the wind was so strong that I felt like I wasn’t advancing and that in fact the wind was pushing me back. To make matters worse, my eyes were watering and I had trouble swallowing. Despite all that, I managed to complete the race and while in everyone else’s eyes I cam ein last, I in fact came in third last since there were two other people ahead of me that turned around before completing the course. However, that’s not important, my goal was to test the limits of my endurance and my asthma and think I showed by completing this race that my only limitations are the ones I set myself. It was also great to see the crowd cheering me on as I crossed the finish line. I was even given props by a Chilean army guy. Mind you this in no way means that I’m going to do a half marathon or a marathon next. Maybe in the near future, but I will definitely need to train for that.

Upcoming Karate Workshop:

Despite the fact that my Spanish isn’t the greatest, I’ve decided based on all the interest this workshop is generating to go forward with it. I still need to think about what I want to teach them, I don’t want to teach them only white belt stuff, I want to mix in self-defense, break-falls, maybe a kata and of course blocks and kicks.

Dancing Cueca, Chile’s National Dance, and becoming an instant dancing star in Porvenir:

I would definitely have to say that I was born with two left feet and therefore I tend to struggle with any formal or organized dance. Take swing dancing for example. Despite this, I decided I was going to learn how to dance Cueca and also that was I was going to dance for an hour straight last night. I’ve been taking Cueca lessons for a month and a half now and while I’ve gotten the routine mostly down pat except for some technical elements, I still feel I’m lacking the most important element which is to be able to mimic the nuptial dance of the rooster and the chicken. Just like with swing dancing, my dancing comes out very mechanical and definitely does not reflect the spirit of the dance. However, for one night, last night in fact, that all changed. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was able to borrow a poncho and sort of find my inner huaso, the Chilean cowboy, but I felt really comfortable dancing Cueca. When the dancing which was taking place in the same gym they had the basketball tournament was over, I got a standing ovation from the crowd and also had an extensive photo taking session. If people of Porvenir didn’t know about me before, they do now. I felt like I was on Dancing with the Stars Chile edition. There’s one thing that has been bothering me and while it’s not a big thing, I would still like to share it. Last night, a lot of people  told me I did Chile proud with my dancing. However, whenever I receive a complement like that especially since I’m not Chilean, I always have to ask myself if a statement like that actually means something like ‘ Your dancing was good, for a foreigner’. If so, so be it, I guess it’s better than being told you’ve disgraced Chile with your dancing.

Heading to Argentina:

On a final note, I’m heading to Argentina for three days so don’t expect any blog posts at least until I get back.

Thanks guys for sticking with me, I know my consistency has been a bit lacking lately.