Where do I begin?
I’ve been so busy with all sorts of exciting Chilean adventures that I don’t know where to start. Okay, so I’ve finally begun teaching solo. The first week went very well, although I didn’t have a number of classes throughout the week for different reasons (I missed an afternoon class on Wednesday because all of the volunteers in Calama had to meet with some higher-ups in Education — we were even featured in the evening news). The good news to report is that things went relatively smoothly, and the students like me. It looks like I’ll have from 20-25 students for 45 minutes at a time. However, during my second class EVER on Tuesday, my teacher tells me that she has a meeting, and “Can you take the whole class for the 90 minutes? I’ll be there for the first 10 minutes, but then I have to go.” Wowzers. I mean, we were actually told that we are in no way responsible to tackle such a situation…during training we were told that taking on 40+ students was actually a potentially dangerous and stupid thing to do. But, ever-ready to face the music and stick my head in the crossfire, I readily agreed. It turned out to be a well-gauged risk. I was able to get on the students’ side with humor (with the help of facial gestures, hand signals, tone of voice), and it wasn’t 5 minutes before the students were shoooshing each other so they could hear what this crazy American boy had to say. It was one of the most successful classes I had that first week.
Hmm, what else is new? I have a wonderful group of student friends. This group of 8 or so belong to the school’s English Debate Team. They have excellent English, and we have spent much of the last couple weeks together preparing for the Debates which occurred the previous two Friday afternoons. Last Friday, the topic was “Is Technology destroying our work ethic?” The students had to prepare 2-3 minute speeches both in favor and against. We prepared, we suffered, we endured, we battled, but in the end we came up short. The students were somewhat relieved, however, that their English Debating season came to a halting conclusion, as it was quite the stressful extracurricular activity if you can imagine.
Last night I was finally able to fulfill my insatiable craving for Mexican food. It was with my Debate Team friends (and a fellow volunteer!), no less. We prepared an elegant meal at one of their homes. We had both chicken and minced beef, warm tortillas, fresh corn, tomatoes, guacamole, and a little Tabasco sauce courtesy of yours truly. It was delectable. We even drank some tequila, danced, and sang Spanish karaoke. Very fun!
So Calama is one of the bigger cities of northern Chile, although the population does not exceed 200,000. The primary mode of transportation here is by cab, which are called Collectivos. Collectivos are different from typical cabs because they have different numbers, and this distinguishes their specific route. So the Collectivos are in essence glorified buses. During the week it costs a set 500 pesos to ride, which is the equivalent of $1. This is my daily commute. Takes 15 minutes to get to my school. Not too shabby.
Oh, and there’s a park near my house. It’s called Parque el Loa. The Loa River is the longest river in Chile, and it cuts through Calama. However, it’s not particularly mighty or inspiring. But it does offer some life to this vast desert. See pictures below.
Oh, and yesterday I visited the tiny little village of Chiu-Chiu with my family. They are famous for having a lagoon and a super old church. We stopped at a little restaurant place and ate fish. My hostbrothers devoured these fishes, tail and all. I thought the tail wasn’t proper for eating, but I was clearly mistaken.