Monday, July 25, 2011

English Winter Camp Cunaquito 2011

Sunday, July 17, 2011
After a short bus ride to Cunaquito, I arrived to a beautiful huge pink house “Hogar Estudiantil Cunaquito”. One of my favorite and most memorable moments was when some of my kids from the first camp saw me and came running and screaming to meet me at the gate. Some of the boys picked up my bags to help me get to the house. What a glorious moment to see all those incredible kids again! We all gathered in the main room and watched the Chile vs Venezuela game. Sadly, we were defeated 2-1. To kick off camp, we had a “goodbye to Spanish ceremony” and played “all my friends”. We introduced the kids to Silent Llama...the expectation was that silent llama meant everyone would be quiet. Unfortunately, that only lasted for like one day but I'll write more about that later. I can't tell you just how excited I was for this week! The volunteers all seemed pretty cool which made me even more stoked to see how things would go!

Monday, July 18, 2011
We began the morning with the icebreaker, the human knot. All the kids make a circle and put their hands in the middle. They join all of their hands together and then have to speak in English to untangle themselves. Then we played another game called Atoms. They have to walk around until they are told a number and something they have to do. For example, 15 people holding hands and standing on their right foot. While this was all going on, kids were registering and turning in all of their paperwork. We began our enforcement of the NO SPANISH rule by putting marks on their faces when we caught them. Some of the kids began to look like they had a horrible yet colorful disease! We had them all spell out “Winter Camp Cunaquito 2011!!” with their bodies and took some great pictures. The volunteers all had a chance to introduce ourselves to the kids and tell them a little bit about ourselves. So great so see so many familiar faces.

Using a competition, we split the kids up into 3 teams. The kids all introduced themselves to each other by telling their name, school, favorite hobby, and favorite ice cream. Almost all of them said how much they love chocolate so when it came time to come up with a name for our team, they all agreed on Chocolate Monsters. We made a list of some songs to use for our chant and they chose “The One that I want” from Grease and came up with a great dance to go with it. I was blown away when I saw the posters they created with our name! These kids have just so much promise and I really hope I get to see what they become 10 years from now.

After all the kids presented their groups, we decided to get them competing by playing Giants, Wizards, and Elves. It's kind of like rock, paper scissors but with your entire body, and when your team loses, you all have to run from the other team.

We had originally planned to have a glamor karaoke night, but when we found out we weren't going to be able to take showers because there wasn't any hot water, we changed it to an Unglamorous karaoke night. With my black eyeliner, I turned myself into a grungy kitty cat and warmed up my vocalizer (“Little Rascals” quote). Some of the kids spent the majority of the night on the mic but every single one of them had a great time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Pam, Hilda, and I woke up early and headed to Pam's house in the city to take showers. We told the kids that they could have a PJ breakfast so when we got back they were having a PJ dance party while waiting for warm water for showers. Before lunch, we played freeze frame improv and it was a blast watching the kids get creative and come up with ideas for mini skits with nothing but the scene. We talked a bit about the theme of the camp “NO BULLYING” and how we as a camp were going to work on coming up with ideas of how to stop it and how to deal with it. They then had time to create bullying skits in their teams. I watched as the kids used their personal experiences to develop short shows to tell about the affects of bullying. Then they were asked to create a live frozen picture using themselves of bullying with a slogan. It all felt so real.

After dinner, Hilda proposed an onion eating contest and we all payed the price! Jajaja

The first night was planned by Team 1 and they did a Dating Game. It was all very well planned and set up. The kids were hysterical in the way they paired up the people. The first couple ended up being Hilda and Chase (the monitor and a volunteer) and then it was my turn. Since we only had one male volunteer, I knew I was choosing between 3 of my boys. It was so silly and so much fun to just be one of the kids for a little while. My “date” ended up being JP, but he “broke up” with me about 5 minutes later. So sad! JAJAJAJA What a fun night!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
We told the kids the night before that they were not allowed to come to breakfast in their Pjs again because we had a lot to do that day...yet, when we walked down in the morning, they were all down there in their Pjs. Silly kids with selective hearing! We sent them quickly to get ready so we could start with our first game “Fetch It”. This game is one in which we told them something to go get something specific like 20 pairs of jeans tied in a knot, for example. We had them building towers with chairs, tie their camp shirts in a knot, paint their faces, and lastly fetch us the forbidden cigarettes. It was against the rules to be smoking at camp. We knew that several of them were sneaking around to do it so we weren't sure how many packs we'd be able to get them to give us. Well, in the spirit of competitiveness, we had 2 boys sprinting out to the forest behind the house to get their hidden packages!!! They weren't so happy when they realized they weren't getting them back until the end of camp.

The next activity was “Trash Can”. This was another anti bullying activity. It was developed by psychologists in order for the kids to experience the 3 rolls of bullying-bully, victim, and bystander. In my opinion, with some tweaking, we made the activity successful mostly by the discussion. Afterward, we wrote 10 commandments against bullying.

After lunch, we hopped on a bus to go on our field trip to the museum (Museo de Colchagua-Fundacion Cardoen). I got to see Niko (one of the kids from summer camp that did winter camp in Rancagua)!!!!! It was so much fun walking around with the kids and having them translate for me. One of the boys, Raul walked around with me and told me all about the artifacts we saw. I was so impressed by the expanse of knowledge he had about so many different topics. He's one of those kids that I know will do amazing things in his future.

When we finished in the museum, we sent the kids on a photo scavenger hung in the center and we volunteers sat down to enjoy completos. The kids were very jealous that they spent their time freezing their tushes off running around to take pictures and we were warm and cozy eating our completos. We didn't stop hearing about it the entire rest of the week!!!

This was my teams night to plan the activity. They chose “Horror Night”!! They stationed kids around the forest in the back of the house and we led teams around to be scared out of their minds. It was so creative and so much fun! The kids decided to play a prank on me by having one of the boys stay in the forest and pretend he was lost/hurt. I almost lost my mind when I finally found him, but I was just so thankful that he was ok. While we were looking for him, some boys heard a noise on the other side of the forest, so that night after they were sent to their rooms, they decided to head into the forest to see what it was. Hilda ripped those boys a new one when the only explanation they could give was curiosity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011
We began the morning with the game “Sing it” where the kids received a word and a way to get from their team to the person holding the scarf. For example, the word might be “beautiful” and they had to run backwards and when they got there, sing a song with the word beautiful in it. They played boys against girls. The girls ended up winning, but next came dodgeball and the boys dominated. Some government officials came to talk to the students and us and see the camp. Two of them had come to Las Cabras during the summer so it was interesting to talk to them about the differences I had seen. Several of the kids were not very happy since these were the same people they were fighting against in their tomas/strikes. We told them to not mix the situations because we didn't want the camps to have a bad light on them. After taking some group pictures, we broke into groups to work on the “In the News” activity where the kids wrote and performed tv news casts for the camp. They all talked about camp news-cold showers, only 2 working showers, dating game, horror night, couples, etc. Then we had the kids make windmills and write anti-bullying slogans and pass them out in the center. It was cool to see them talk to people and explain what we were doing.

The night was planned by group 3 and it was themed as an awards night! They even had awards to hand out. I was nominated for most talkative, cutest couple, and actually won the funniest person award! What an honor! Some of the kids performed (dancing and playing piano) and I was blown away by their talent. We finished off the night with a dance party and limbo contest.

After the kids were all sent to their rooms, we heard girls screaming in the boys room and knew immediately what had happened...they had decided to attack but didn't have any plan. We weren't really angry and had actually planned to organize an attack on the boys later that night, but we went up and chastised the girls for going without us since it was against the rules. After turning off all of the lights and letting them sit in silence for a while, we came up with a plan and woke the girls up to attack yet again! It was so hysterical to hear the boys freak out!!! Even better was hearing about it the next morning!!!

Friday, July 22, 2011
We started out the day playing capture the flag. It was so funny seeing how competitive they all got. We had several stagnant moments, but it finally ended by Chase winning for the other team. I was just glad it was over! Then, we split up into our groups and went around the circle talking about our experiences in camp. Several of the kids were crying as they talked about how sad they were to have camp ending and how much they loved each other. Several of them talked about how this was a family and how much they never wanted to leave.

After we got the kids to calm down, we began the next game, the Amazing Race. We set up 7 stations with different activities for the kids to do at each. My station had them eating a piece of bread with spicy salsa on it and then reading the Peter Piper picked a pepper tongue twister. I laughed sooooooo hard!!! The last station was with Hilda and they had to write I <3 EWC and then tie their socks and shoes into chains.

Since the photo scavengar hunt was a tie, we did a tie breaker contest by having the kids gather sticks for the bonfire that night...since it was yet again a tie, we told them that their reward was the bonfire!!! I caught Pam and Virginia cheating for their team and it became a great joke for the rest of the time.

We then played scattegories which surprised me by being actually very fun and a successful activity. They all got really into it and did really well. When we sent them all to get ready for the bonfire, we caught a few girls in the boys room...again. It was very disappointing because this time they were in their lying on the beds which was very much against the rules. Hilda and I ended up spending some time with them and gave them a big life lesson about why rules matter and how their actions to just affect them but the people who care about them. They all were crying because they really are good kids and felt really bad. They said that they felt horrible about disappointing us and hurting us. It was a very big moment for them to realize that they can't just act on impulse.

After that, we finally all went out and got to enjoy the huge bonfire and smores. It was such a special time to spend with the kids and talk about great memories from camp. They had all gotten so close and become such a close family. I was so sad that my time was coming to a close yet so thankful that I got to end it like this.

The boys had planned to attack the girls (including us volunteers) in order to pay us back for the night before. We really didn't want to deal with that. After all the kids had gone to bed, we blew up balloons and got the main room ready for a party they would never forget. None of the kids actually were asleep and they were mostly in their clothes since the girls thought the boys were going to come to scare them. At 2 a.m., we turned the music up loud and pulled the kids out of bed for one last hoorah! We named the camp king and queen-JP/Cambodia & Sophia. The kids all danced their hearts out until about 4 am, and then we all finally went to bed.

Saturday, July 23, 2011
Time for goodbyes, never easy. As we all got ready for the talent show, I stole a few moments by myself to reflect on my time here. Over the last 7 months here in Chile, I have grown so much and really developed myself as a person. I feel so much more comfortable here in this culture than I ever expected, and have truly fell in love with the people here. It is so hard to say goodbye to my life here, but I know for a fact that this is not my last time in Chile. I pray that over the years, I am able to return and see these people that I truly consider family.

As I watched my kids perform for their friends and family, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride and joy. They are all so talented and so wonderful, and I am so blessed to have had them open their hearts to me and allow me to be part of their lives. I will never forget watching Andy, Rulol, Tawatawa, Cambodia, & Rulo dance to Hot & Cold by Katy Pery!! However, even more than that, I will never forget the love these kids showed me and all that they taught me. As we named our best campers-Vale & Rulo-I thought to myself about how special each and every one of these kids were to me and how in just one week, I came to love them all individually. I don't know if any of them will ever read this, but to all of my kids at Winter Camp Cunaquito 2011: Thank you and I will never ever forget you.

My heart will forever be divided with a large piece of it residing here in Chile.

San Pedro de Atacama-Yesterday, I saw an owl.

Saturday, July 9, 2011
After a long night in the bus, I was so happy to see a familiar face when my friend Otto came to pick me up and take me to my friend's place I'd be staying at while in Santiago. Unfortunately, I didn't have a computer and I couldn't figure out how to make the TV work to even watch movies. Don't think I'd enjoy living by myself much if I didn't at least have a dog to keep me company. On the other hand, having time to myself was great for thinking and spending time with God.

My friend from the program, Vanessa came over later in the day so we went over to the restaurant over at the W Hotel for lunch and ice cream. That night, Laura and Bri came over so we could leave in the morning for San Pedro de Atacama. It was so interesting hearing about their experiences in the program. Yet again, I felt so appreciative for how amazing my entire time was. I couldn't think of one thing to complain about. We quickly did some grocery shopping for our trip and then went to bed.

Sunday, July 10, 2011
The three of us girls got up early in the morning to be ready for our 6:45 pick up. Little did we know we'd be sitting and waiting for our delayed flight for over 2 hours. As we sat on the flight, I prayed thanks for how easy it was to get along with the girls.

We were all so happy go enter into the sun when we got off of the airplane. The drive was incredible as we watched the snowy mountains on one side and the never-ending desert on the other. Being so exhausted made the trip very entertaining as we were all quite slap happy.

Our hotel was named Hostal Don Raul, and I highly recommend it if you ever end up there! The entire city was made of adobe. First stop was to the tour place to fix all the dates that somehow got mixed up. Desert Adventures (the tour place) was such a great company to go through and they were so great ad getting us all organized. We took a nice long walk around the city to see the cemetery, plaza, and an adobe igloo. Then, we enjoyed dinner at a cute little pizza place with a nice cozy fire pit. Completely exhausted, we put ourselves to bed at 7:30pm.

Monday, July 11, 2011
After going to bed super early, we were up and ready to go pretty quickly in the morning. Breakfast was surprisingly delicious and then we were off to explore the city some more. We walked through one of the most gorgeous churches I've seen in all of Chile.

Then it was time for our first tour in San Pedro: Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley). The first stop on the trip was Valle de Dinosaurio (Dinosaur Valley). It was named for the beautiful rock formations that looked like dinosaurs walking away from the road (you have to use your imagination). Second, we headed to the Mirador (lookout). We were so fortunate to see the beautiful mountains with snow on them. This is very unusual, but due to the rare snow storm we were more blessed than you'd imagine! Third was Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley). It is told that between 25-300 indigenous people were killed in the battle there. They say that the burial is what gives away that killed by the Spaniards. Two mummies were found and are stored in the museum but not put on display due to the claim by the indigenous people saying how disrespectful it would be to dsplay them. Fourth on the list was the Tres Marias (3 Marias) which was a rock formation. Unfortunately, some stupid tourist thought that standing on the arms of one of the Marias for a picture would be a good idea and ended up breaking off her arms. The girls and I decided that it looked more like 2 Marias and a frog. This formation is in the middle of the Valley of the Moon. There was another formation next to it that looked like a dinosaur coming out of the earth. We talked about the fact that the Mars Rover was tested there before being sent up into space. Lastly, we headed to the mountains to watch the sunset and the snowy mountains change colors. I thought I was going to die walking up the path with the high altitude. Finally up on top and sitting with lots of new friends, we watched as the majestic mountains sparkled while the sun sank below the horizon.

Our next tour was the Astronomical Tour where we learned a lot about the stars, moon, and galaxies. The observatory was owned by a guy from France who married a Chilean woman. I was so excited when the whole thing was done in Spanish and I was able to understand it all. Through telescopes, we saw the rings around Saturn, the Moon up close, the “Jewelry Box” (a collection of very colorful and sparkly stars), the Southern Cross, and several other constellations. We all went inside for some delicious hot chocolate and more information from the French guy.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Our first stop of the day was the archeological museum in the city. We spent some time enjoying the artifacts and learning all about the history of Chile.Then, we took off for our next tour of the trip: Salar de Atacama. First we went to un pueblito (little town) with a realy cute church. The guide told us that the steeple was separate from the church because the steeple represented the man and fire, the church represents the woman/earth. We took a nice hike/trek along a river to get to the second stop, Valley de Jarez where there were houses carved out of the stone. Third, we went to the Salar where we got to explore the National Reserve of Flamingos (Laguna Chaxa en el gran Salar de Atacama). Again, we were blessed to watch the incredible sunset and the snowy mountains light up with colors. The pictures I took honestly look like paintings. On our bus was a very funny British woman who just made it that much more entertaining. Poor Bri had been chosen by one of our awkward tour companions as his interest. Some of the hysterical quotes that remained after that were “yesterday...I saw an owl” “what does your grandma do for a living?” “do you like the moon?” “did you learn to write novels in school?” And so many more!

When we got back, we made sure that everything was in order for the next day. Unfortunately, they canceled gieser trip we had expected due to the snow, but we planned to other trips for the day that we were pretty excited about. Then we headed into the doorway of a random very full bar to watch the end of the Chile vs. Peru game. It was such a pleasure to yell and scream and sing the anthem with all of the other Chileans in the bar! I can't tell you the excitement we all felt seeing Chile beat Peru 1-0 in the last 2 minutes!!!!

The girls and I headed to a locally recommended place for dinner for some over priced fettuccine alfredo and watched Mexico vs. Uruguay. Our water was from Ecuador and just beyond silly!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011
Our first tour of the day was Valle de Arcoiris (Rainbow Valley). We began with a walk in Hierbas Buenas (Good Herbs) looking at the petroglyphics made by the indigenous people that lived their thousands of years before. There were dogs (known by their skinny tails that pointed upwards), foxes (bushy tails pointing straight out), monkeys, and lots of llamas! It got me thinking about my reasoning for coming to Chile. One thing I think everyone wants is to leave an impression in the world that lasts for the generations to come. As I saw the literal impression left by people thousands of years ago, I prayed about the impact I've been able to have here in Chile and that I was able to leave something more than just better English behind. What a blessing to be part of something so much bigger than just myself. The next part of our tour was the actual Valle de Arcoiris where the mountains were green (copper), silver (white), and red (iron). We learned about the oxidation process and the different colors. We took a walk in a river bed and the surrounding landscape looked straight out of “Land Before Time”. Towards the end of the tour, I jumped off of a 4 foot ledge in order to get a jumping picture with the mountains behind me. I landed wrong and ended up breaking my toe. Talk about bad timing!! It quickly swelled up and turned colors..not fun!

We headed back to the hostel to change and pack up our things before the last tour of our trip. Everone in the streets that we had seen and talked with the past few days asked me what happened as I hobbled around. I felt like a famous person =D

Our last tour, Salt Lake Lagoons was made interesting with my broken toe as I had to be very careful with how I walked. We first went to the Ojos del Salar (Eyes of Salt) where we had to walk out across crystallized salt mounds to the middle in order to float in the icy water. After a short moment of floating/freezing, we headed in to dry off in the sun. Note to all, salt water (I believe it was 45%) in your eyes is very painful. Next, we headed to the freshwater lagoons. There was no way to climb out with only one foot after jumping in so I decided to just enjoy the view and relax outside. The last stop was Cejas Lagoon where we were going to watch the sunset for the last time of our trip. Again, my pictures looked as though they just couldn't be real.

After arriving back at the hotel, we were quickly picked up by our transfer to the airport. We were so beyond exhausted and slap happy that we just laughed the whole way. It's funny how in only 4 days you can become such great friends with people when you open yourself up.

Saying Goodbye Takes at Least 2 Weeks

Saturday, July 2, 2011
One of my favorite things to do in the whole world is go horseback riding, but not just walk on a trail behind a guide, to really ride. We woke up early Saturday morning to a beautiful sun shining on the frozen grass and puddles. After putting on several layers, Jenny (my little sister) and I hopped on the horses and did some laps around the cow corral. At first, I couldn´t get the feel for running on the horse, but after a few laps, it felt so right as the wind whipped through my hair. Then we headed for a paseo (trip) up in the hills to see the cows and the beautiful volcanoes covered in snow. It was a total dream come true.

Then I headed off for my co-teacher´s house to enjoy the rest of my day. We made tacos and ate more than we probably should have. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon talking and relaxing on the couches and listening to music.

Around 9pm, Carolina took a shower and began to get all dolled up. She excused this by just saying that she was bored. I, of course, bought it, hook-line-and-sinker. At 10pm, Alexis abruptly said, “alright, let’s go.” I didn’t think too much of it but looking back, it was odd. As soon as we got into the car, Alexis said, “take your scarf and put it around your eyes.” Confused and extremely intrigued, I obeyed and promptly had a blindfold. During the drive, I tried to figure out where we were going. My guess was that we were going to a restaurant for dessert or something as a goodbye. As I stepped out of the car and into a building of some sort, I began to hear whispered voices. The moment the blindfold was taken off, the tears began to well up. There stood almost all of my friends and colleagues from school yelling surprise! It was a surprise despedita (going away party)!!! I could barely take it all in. What a blessing to have so many wonderful people that I truly love come together and plan such a beautiful evening full of surprises. There was a ton of food and drinks (along with 3 cakes, 2 strudels, 1 lemon pie, and 1 kuchen). The night was truly priceless. I was taken on a tour of the place as secretly, the projector, computer, and screen were set up. As we walked back in, I was told to sit down in front but at an angle so they could all see my face. Then began one of the sweetest most tearjerking video slideshows I’ve ever seen. I watched my time in Chile displayed in front of me with so many incredible memories.

After the video, when I was already in tears, several people stood up to say a few words. I felt so completely loved and cherished and realized how little time it makes have your life completely changed by incredible people. My mom could only get through a few words before choking up. My dad couldn’t even begin. Ana struggled through as her eyes were as red and teary as my own. My plan had been to speak in English and use Alexis as my translator, but in the last moment, I decided to just speak from the heart and pray they understood the message I was trying to get across in my emotional & broken Spanish. It was probably a good idea because as I thought in Spanish (which takes more work), I didn’t concentrate too much on the emotions.

Next, I was told that it was only appropriate that I end my time here by singing since it’s what I’ve spent the majority of my time here doing and it was one of the first things I did here at school. So, I used the emotions I was already feeling and sang “Gravity” by Sara Bareilles. Karaoke isn’t as big back in the US as it is here, but I’m pretty sure that every party/get-together I have from here on out with definitely include it!!

With all the tears being choked back, it was time to start dancing. The tables were all pushed to the sides and dancing commenced. We danced the night away and by the time everyone headed home and I finally climbed into my bed, it was about 5am. Spent all of the next day in bed try to catch up on sleep.

Monday, July 4, 2011
This was by far one of the most unpatriotic Fourth of July´s ever. On the other hand, I definitely had a wonderful day. I had three parties scheduled for the day: 6th, 8th, 7th, and every single one was a blast. I am really going to miss spending time with these kids.
After school, I went with Alexis to his class at the institute. We talked about different things I could teach, but pretty quickly they began just asking questions. It was fun talking to them and hearing what they wanted to know. As always, someone asked if I´d ever met anyone famous. At 8:30, we headed to a little restaurant to eat some German food. I had something called crudos which is raw beef on white bread with onions, garlic, and mustard. Surprisingly, its absolutely delicious. Alexis was very happy that we could also watch the soccer game between Chile and  Mexico. I´ve never been big on watching soccer, but I cheered right along side with all the guys yelling and screaming in the place. It was even better when we won!! As we left and headed home, there were several people doing laps around the plaza with flags and honking. CHI-CHI-CHI-LE-LE-LE-VIVA CHILE!!!!

Tuesday, July 5th
The morning began with the end of the semester party with my 5th graders. They came early to set up the classroom with balloons, streamers, and tons of food. This was the most well organized party. It was so wonderful to just sit and chat with these amazing kids. After lots of food and hot cocoa, the kids took turns saying their little goodbye speeches. Some of them had me tearing up. I also took my turn telling them how much I love them and will never forget them. With me choking back tears, they took the moment to give me a present. I opened the beautiful wrap job to find a framed picture of all of them with Ana. I totally lost it. Then some of them gave me cards they had made and little trinket gifts. They are all so precious and thoughtful.

Then I had a party with the 8th graders and we had lots of fun talking and playing games. Again, way too much food!

The students have been using this semester to work on films for our English Short Film Festival. We watched the 5 movies in the casino and a few of us had to choose which three could be improved upon to be presented at the festival in November. The ideas behind the movies were very good and some of the English was wonderful, but they all needed work in the cinematography area.

After school, we had a teacher´s meeting to discuss the students who are passing and not passing different classes. It was a very long meeting but I was happy with the amount of information I understood. When it finished, I headed over to Jumbo to meet up with my friend Cesar to go to coffee for the last time. I´m so thankful for the amazing friends I´ve made here in Osorno and he is definitely one of them.

Wednesday, July 6th
Another party to start of the morning, this time with my freshmen. We listened to music, and one of my students, Mirko played his guitar while some of the girls sang. It was really a great time. Then I watched Little Rascals with my 8th graders. They didn´t like having only English subtitles. After that, I watched ¨Italian Job¨ with my juniors. Again, not happy about the English subtitles. I think I should start watching Spanish movies with Spanish subtitles; that would probably help with my vocabulary learning.

Thursday, July 7th
Party Schedule: Juniors and Seniors! We listened to music, talked about the school system in Chile and US, ate lots of good food, and just enjoyed our last day hanging out. It was so much fun rehashing memories from when I first arrived and their thoughts of my first days in their classes. I gave one of my seniors, Isabella, the one who I had gone to church with a few times, my English Bible. I was so thankful to have the opportunity to leave something so special behind with such an amazing girl.

Friday, July 8th
Last day...Hate goodbyes. I started out walking around and talking to some of my classes. Then I was told we were having an assembly before the class parties (yes, more food). Little did I know that the entire assembly was going to be dedicated to saying goodbye to me. My heart broke as I watched several of my students sing songs, perform dances, and do several other things to say goodbye to me. They kept saying that the next volunteer would have large shoes to fill. You know, I came here hoping that I had something, anything to offer these people that had applied to have me at their school. During my last week there, I found out just how much of an impact I was able to have there. I thank God daily for this wonderful experience and all of the incredible relationships I was blessed to make. For the rest of my life, my heart will be split in two different places.

After the assembly, my director/principal gave me a going away gift: a book filled with poems, writings, and pictures from the students, matching makeup bags, and 50,000 pesos (about $100) for my trip. I was an absolute mess as I gave my speech I had written in Spanish. I will never forget the love they shared with me or how they took me in as part of their family.

Then all of the kids headed to their classrooms to have their parties. I walked around to each of them to hug my kids and take part in the food (although I didnt eat much). Lots of tears and lots of goodbyes.

Lastly, we had a teachers meeting to discuss the important things (I played on my friends Iphone lol), and we ate empanadas and gave last hugs goodbye. I blubbered my way down the street after that on my way to the bus to go home and do the rest of my packing.

Back at home, I got everything together and ready to head to Santiago. I spent some time hanging out with Jenny (my little sister), watched the Chile vs. Uruguay game (1-1), and played a bit on my computer. Sadly, something happened and my hard drive crashed. That should make for an interesting last few weeks here.

We headed for the bus station with time to spare, and the first person to meet us there was Miguel. He confirmed that my computer needed repair when I get back to the US. Then Ana came and Isabella and Andres and Carolina. They each gave me special last minute gifts including candy for the ride, a beautiful inscribed pen (to write my poetry), and a Chilean flag! I let the tears flow freely as I said my last goodbyes to Osorno and left a part of my heart behind.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Talk About A Birthday Month!!

Tuesday June 7th, 2011
I went to bed the night before my birthday with a slightly heavy heart because I was afraid I´d feel really homesick being away from my family on my birthday. However, the fun began at midnight with 2 birthday calls (Nati-my cousin & Ana-my friend). I had received a card the day before from my mom so I finally let myself open it since it was technically my birthday. A great surprise was the note inside from my little cousin, Taylor. I felt so loved and so thankful for a little piece of home.

Tuesday morning, after I woke up and got ready for school, I went out to the table and found presents on my plate. I unwrapped them to find a beautiful and unique silver ring and a hand painted dish to hold jewelry. After big hugs and many thank you´s, we were off for school where I was met with lots of hugs and kisses from my students and all of them wishing me happy birthday. As I made my way towards my classroom, I was met by one of my colleagues and friends, Carolina, and she gave me a beautiful pair of earrings.

In my room, a group of my 6th grade girls came in and made birthday cards for me before class. My first class was my 5th graders (completely adorable!). They came in and as I began the lesson they said ¨Wait, stop!...1....2...3...Happy Birthday to you....¨ and sang for me. I just treasured it!
After that, I had recess or ¨recreo¨ and the director/principal of our school, Miss Angelica gave me a clay plate painted with a mural of the school with students. I almost cried. It was so incredibly thoughtful and genuine. Then, I walked into the teachers´ room and was surprised with ¨Feliz cumpleanos¨ and lots of hugs and kisses from teachers and not just one, but two cakes! Yum! 
Monica & Juan Carlos gave me another pair of beautiful earrings.

Since I have a 2 hour break after recess for planning, I headed down to my room. Miguel Angel came to my room and said ¨close your eyes¨ and gave me a bag with ferrero rocher and chocolate =D Guess he´s got me figured out!

The rest of the school day was tons of fun with all my kids singing and celebrating with me. After classes, I got a call from Patricio Bohn (I think he´s my long lost 4th uncle or something) and  Margarita (his wife) because he wanted to take me and my family to dinner. They took us to Prego Ristorante, a delicious italian restaurant. Dinner menu:appartivo-mango sour, fetuccini with steak, glass of wine, tirramissu, (second) tirramasu with candle (didn´t eat the whole thing), and surprise champagne from the restaurant. I felt like a queen! On the drive home, mom, jenny, and I laughed so hard we cried for almost the whole drive. My dad started yelling ¨shut-up¨ (to be silly) in his Chilean/German English accent so we laughed even harder. Such a great birthday and so many wonderful memories!

Friday June 10, 2011
In order to begin planning for my vacation time, I went to a travel agent to ask about trip to San Pedro. Can I just mention that I love when people tell me that i speak and understand Spanish very well and that they are very impressed they are that I’ve only been here 5 months =D. The lady that helped me was very nice and very helpful. She gave me lots of options and helped me figure out the prices of each.

The night began with snacks and balloons and music Elena’s apartment. All of my friends sang happy birthday in English! They surprised me with an absolutely amazing birthday cake with an American flag (including all 50 stars). Not wanting to break tradition, I took a bite from the corner and abruptly had pushed my face in. I felt so Chilean! =D

We all packed into cars and headed to Mitoss for some dancing and karaoke! Of course, the moment we sat down, I found myself being called up onto the stage. The whole club sang happy birthday and I awkwardly danced with my friend/host teacher because I wasn´t there with a boyfriend/husband like the other birthday girls. Jajaja It was great. I got to do some salsa dancing with one of my friends, sang karaoke-Alicia Keys-¨If I Ain’t Got You¨-listened to a phenomenal live singer, and a whole lot of dancing!

When I walked out to meet my parents (funny being picked up by your parents after celebrating your 23rd birthday) and I heard “Hey! California!!” I just died laughing. It’s fun living in a small town where you stand out. It’s a little overwhelming in Santiago because I just stand out. So, I get stared at and pointed at like a circus animal on the run. Here in Osorno, I feel like a rock star. At first I just felt like “I’ve done nothing to deserve this”, and I still feel that way, but now I’m using it to build relationships and also share what I believe. I’m not saying that I shove it down people’s throats, but the topic of religion often comes up when people ask what I did on Sunday. It's also been great to help motivate people to use the English they all learn in school!

Saturday June 11, 2011
Talk about luck! After a very rainy week, I awoke Saturday to the beautiful sun shining in my window. I say that this is good luck because I had been invited by my principal and her husband to go to Valdivia for the day. On the road, I got a history lesson about Rio Bueno and La Union which are both very small cities. We first went to their son, Ignacio’s apartment to drop of lots of food and drinks (funny how mom’s take care of their 23 year olds all around the world ;). Then the 4 of us headed out to see the city. First, we drove to Niebla and around the coast to see the beautiful scenery. Then, we went to the feria, and I wanted to buy a mate cup and straw but Miss Angelica bought it for me!!! We started feeling pretty hungry, so we went to lunch at the casino where they had a “tenedor libre” or buffet. I quickly filled a large plate with veggies and salad (don’t get to eat enough of that down here). The main meal options were all small so I tried a few different things and they were all great. Miss Angelica and her husband wanted to stay and play at the casino for a while so I went with Ignacio to see the University Austral where he studies. We walked around the Botanical Garden there and I just fell in love with the beauty there. They had different sections for the trees of different parts of Chile. I kinda felt like I was in a Twilight movie without the whole vampire and werewolf thing. We tried to go into a few museums there but they were all closed for renovation. It wasn’t quite time to meet up yet so we drove around to lots of different parts of the city just to see.

I slept on the way home, as the rain poured down.

When we got back, I had to quickly get ready for the birthday party that my parents were throwing for me. I had invited about 12 of my closest friends and my parents took care of everything else. We had the party in the brewery of my dad’s nephew which is just across a path from my house. My 2 gringo friends weren’t able to make it so it was a full on Chilean fiesta!

For the last few years, it hasn’t been very expected for friends to exchange gifts much (probably since most of us don’t really have the money), but everyone who attended brought a gift. Many of them were to help me remember Osorno when I return home, and a few almost brought me to tears. Dinner was barbecued by the men outside and the smells of the pork wafted around the room as we waited. Everything was absolutely delicious and conversation was great. For desert, we had a traditional cake, but even better, apple strudel made by my dad. I’m pretty sure I want to have that as my wedding dessert some day! ;) 

To top off an already incredible evening, I was able to skype with my parents so they could meet my friends and family. It was so special and such a wonderful memory. They got to enjoy the ceremonial/traditional cake in face (instigated by my mother of course).

At the end of the night, as we all sat around talking, the topic of me leaving came up and I began to realize how hard it would be to say goodbye to these people that I have come to love dearly. One of my friends and coworkers, Danilo got a bit teary when we were talking about how little time I have left. I almost lost it. I’m not at all looking forward to my goodbyes at school =(

Sunday June 12, 2011
One of my seniors, Isabella invited me to go with her to church. We had had several conversations about God, church, and the place each holds in our lives. God was so good to give me someone who I really connected with on a spiritual level. I was so excited to see her church where she is heavily involved and very much a leader. I had a great time meeting her friends and her church family. I felt like there was a time warp and I was back in Grace when I was little before the new building was built. It was a great service and I was just so thankful for the time I got to spend with her. After, Isa, her brother, and I went out for pizza and then strolled around the feria.

Monday, June 20, 2011
All I wanted to do on this particular Monday was sit outside in the sun and soak it up. After school, I sauntered into the office to say hello to my mom and found myself looking at Nati. I don’t know if you remember, but when I first arrived in Osorno, 4 months ago, she was staying with my family. We had an instant connection and it was so hard to see her leave. I just about lost it when I saw her and gave her a big hug. We spent the rest of the day and night catching up!

Tuesday June 21, 2011
With the end of the semester fast approaching, the students are all bombarded with exams in their classes. In order to continue the learning and English practice, I found some games online that reviewed some of the things I had taught throughout the semester. Hearing all my kids tell me how “bakan” it was put the biggest smile on my face.

Nati came to the school for lunch and then joined me for my last class, seniors. It was fun showing her a little bit of what I do at the school. After, we walked to jumbo to buy snacks to eat while we watched High School Musical (yes, we sang every single song!). That night, we met up with my Miguel and went to a concert. It was supposed to be jazz, or so we thought, but it ended up being something totally different because we went to the wrong place. Didn’t matter though because we had a wonderful light and there was a girl who played piano and sang one of my favorite Sara Barielles songs, ¨Gravity¨.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Much Needed Update!

I´m so sorry that it has taken me so long to update my blog. I realize that once I get behind, it is so hard to catch up!!

The perfect time came for me to go to one of the most highly spoken of places in the south of Chile...Valdivia!! Better yet, I was going to spend the weekend with two of my great friends from Santiago, Maria and Vanessa. We began by picking up some things for the weekend at the grocery store and dropping it off at the house. Then we went to the center to see what was available to keep us busy. We found a warehouse that houses a craft market as well as several restaurants with beautiful views of the river. After walking around and looking at the things for sale, we enjoyed a meal overlooking the fish market and the river where we watched little sea lions play and swim around. Next, we meandered around to see the town a little before heading to the house. Once at the house, we decided to put on some music and catch up...with no surprise, we ended up having our own little dance party in the living room!!
The next day, we headed out to see the fort where it seems no battle was actually fought, but it still holds a lot of history and interesting artifacts. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day, and we were able to enjoy about an hour walking around and taking pictures of the incredible scenery and views. Then, we headed off for lunch at the Kuntzman factory. All I can say was that the sandwich that came was so much bigger than any I´d ever seen before.

Easter was a very interesting time for me to be in another country. For the first time of my life, I had the opportunity to witness another culture celebrate one of the holidays that I hold as very important. Let me begin by explaining some of the traditions in my family when it comes to Easter. First of all, this holiday holds quite a bit of significance in my relationship with Christ. Without God allowing His Son to be sacrificed, I would have no hope at salvation, for that matter, I would have no hope at all. During this time of year, I reflect more than ever the significance of the cross and all that Christ has done in my life and through my life. Second, holidays are always used to justify getting the entire family together-aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, etc.-to spend time together for a day. Many of my favorite memories growing up are of dying Easter eggs with my cousins or sitting around on the couches and watching Grant & Brandon battle it out to see who was stronger or hanging out with everyone in my grandparents’ Jacuzzi and talking about life.

I’ve only missed two of these major Easter get-togethers and that was because I had midterms the next week and desperately needed to lose myself in my studies. This year, however, I’m serving as a volunteer English teacher in the south of Chile. So, as Easter rolled around, I had mixed emotions regarding the occasion. Part of me was thankful for the time to solely focus on my Lord and not have anything distracting me, but a very large part of me wanted to curl up in bed and sleep the day away and pretend I wasn’t missing anything back home. Thankfully, God used the people in my life down here to make it a wonderful weekend (and Skype helped too!)

On Thursday, I went with my head-teacher to his church. This was my first time going to a LDS church in any country so I was very curious to learn about it. I had a great time meeting the young adults there and answering all of their questions. Many of them are studying English at the University, so it was a great opportunity for them to practice speaking with a native speaker. They did a little lesson about what it means to judge people and showed a video of Nick Vujici (the man born with no arms or legs). It was cool because I´ve seen him speak a few times at the Rock church and he really is inspirational. Then we did a type of Easter egg hunt where we ended up with bags of chocolates and candy.

Friday, they had another get together where we played volleyball and basketball. I had so much fun running around and eating and just hanging out with everyone. They were all so nice and didn´t mind that I´m not Mormon. It was such a blessing to make these new friends and spend time with Alexis and his amazing family.

Sunday morning, we all packed in the car (Yenny, Mom, Dad, Aunt Norma, Me) and headed to Entre Lagos and Lago Puyehue. I don´t really have much to say except that my breath was taken away time after time by the things that I got to see that day. I can´t believe so much natural beauty exists in this world. I felt the name of God declared by the seas, waterfalls, mountains, and rocks. The hard part was standing there wishing I could turn to someone and say, ¨Do you see this? Isn´t it amazing?¨ but not having anyone there. So instead, I told God hat He did such a good job and I´m so thankful that I get to see His creation.

When we got home, I hopped on Skype and had an hour long talk with my mom´s whole side of the family at my grandparents´house and loved seeing everyone. It made it feel like I wasn´t quite so far from home. Although I expected an emotional breakdown after realizing how much I missed everyone, I found myself sleeping very soundly when I chose to dwell on all the great things God is doing in my life and the lives around me.

One day after school, my host dad walks in and tells me that we are going to Alondra’s birthday party. I can´t exactly explain how, but I´m pretty sure there is some type of family relationship with her. Anyways, she was turning 7 so we all got in the car and went over to the family´s new home. I can´t even tell you how gorgeous this home was. I felt like it belonged in a magazine or something. We enjoyed little sandwiches and coffee as the kids played up stairs until it was time for birthday cake. To my amusement, they carried out a tradition that has been in my family for years...someone shoved her face in the cake!!! It was classic. Then the family asked if it was possible to skype with someone from the US (this kind of confused me since I was sitting right there...I kinda wanted to say ¨hello? do you know I´m a gringa?¨jaja). So, after a bit of searching, I got online with Miss Lauren Felt (my roommate from college) and we all had a little skype party.
4.30.11 (Saturday)
Desperately needing to get my haircut, I asked Ana Jones (one of my co-teachers) if she would go with me to make sure I explained myself well to the hairdresser. We ended up making a full day of it and did some shopping after. Thankfully, I love my new haircut and I think it will grow out pretty nicely as well.That night, we were invited to go out dancing with some of the other teachers and volunteers. We devised our plan to make sure that we went home decently early since she had a lot to do the next day, and I had to get home early for a trip with my host dad in the morning. Well, it didn´t quite work out to get home early, but we had such a great time dancing the night away and hanging out with everyone.

Although this particular Sunday did not include church, it was one of the days that I felt closest to my Savior. I walked home from the bus stop very early in the morning and watched as the sun emerge from behind the mountains and the trees and create a heavenly effect on the sky above. I arrived with just enough time to take a quick shower and get ready for the trip around Lago Llanquihue.

With my camera in hand, I was prepared for the day driving around the lake with my host dad, aunt, and grandma. I wasn’t very sure what to expect, so I just buckled up and prepared myself for anything. First on the agenda was to explore a bit of Puerto Octay. Here we found beautiful old homes and hotels that were definitely picture worthy. Also, the views of the volcanoes were enough to have me singing in worship to their Creator. Next, we began the drive to the base of the volcano and then up the windy road to the top. I felt the temperature of the air drop as we neared the snowy cap of the volcano. When we reached the parking area, our picnic commenced and we ate sandwiches with turkey and avocado with a glass of fresh apple juice.

After our lunch, we hopped back in the car and continued on our “paseo” (trip). Next on the agenda was to travel to Saltos de Petrohue (Petrohue falls). Here I found myself in awe as I watched a huge amount of water cascade from several cavities in the earth into one large river. I could hardly believe that a place such as this was almost deserted. I truly believe that if I lived so close, I’d go to this wonderful place at least once a week to gaze upon such an inspiring sight.

We headed from there to continue driving around the lake. We briefly drove through Puerto Varas but decided that it was more profitable to continue on to Frutillar. We stopped on the way at a friend of the family’s home that is currently being built. His wife is from the Netherlands, so we talked about the many difficulties of learning the Spanish language especially through people who have heavy German accents.

Let me begin by saying that Cinco de Mayo is just not the same when you live thousands of miles from California. On the other hand, it ended up being a pretty fun night. I’ll back up and mention that due to teaching my students about the reason we celebrate Cinco de Mayo in the US, I now know more than I’ve ever known before about the holiday. After classes, I went home and got ready to be gone for the whole weekend since I was spending the night in the center and leaving the next morning for two days in Puerto Montt.
Luisa, Zach and I began our night by eating Chilean versions of tacos (not bad but not the same) and talking about how things were going with teaching. We each shared some of our horror stories and the funny things that have happened so far. It was great to talk to people who are going through many of the same things. Then we decided to look for a place to go dancing. Turned out that no one else was going out to dance on this particular Thursday night, so we had the entire disco to ourselves and just made a night of it.

Although I desired to spend my entire day in bed, I woke up in time to meet Zach at the bus stop to go to our meeting in Puerto Montt. We met the other volunteers and coordinators for lunch to catch up before the meeting. At the meeting, we spent two hours going over our experiences with our host families, teachers, schools, and students. I found myself very appreciative for my experience thus far with all of the aforementioned variables. I have a family that truly feels like family to me and treats me like their own daughter, a head teacher that invites me into his home and his family and who is always willing to help me with anything I need, a school that functions very well and includes some of the most incredible people, and students that I honestly adore and know that I will miss very much. Not that the other volunteers are having awful experiences, but many have at least one issue or another. After the meeting, we all went to a little restaurant to just hang out and of course, the waiter had lived in Canada and spoke perfect much for learning Spanish! hehe

A few of us had decided to stay the night in this part of the region, so we wandered into the mall to search out the Pizza Hut. We didn’t have high expectations since “American food” does not often measure up to the way it tastes back home. However, after a very long wait, we were served very accurate Pizza Hut pizza!! YUM!! Next, we all caught the 20 minute bus to Puerto Varas where we had decided to spend the rest of our evening and find a hostal. We began our evening at the restaurant next door where low and behold we end up meeting a group of people from Ventura County. After flying thousands of miles away and living in a small town in the south of Chile, I end up sitting and talking to people who are basically my neighbors back in California.
When we had all sat and talked long enough, we headed to the best place in Puerto Varas to get some exercise...the disco! Several hours passed with us dancing our hearts out to reggaeton, rap, reggae, pop, 80’s, 90’s, metal, salsa, mambo, and every other type of music known to man. I have to say that it has been fun being able to dance to songs that I grew up listening to when I sat in a carseat. Unfortunately, dancing not only pushed my leg muscles to the limits, but also my cowboy boots =(. I found that the bottom had a large crack and would no longer keep my feet warm or dry. After we had all exhausted all resources available for dancing, Elliot, one of the volunteers that lives in that city, took us over to was the name of a burger joint where I regrettably demolished a huge Paradise Burger at 4:30 in the morning.

I awoke Saturday to drizzling outside and promptly got on a bus to head back to Puerto Montt to buy some things at a cheaper price. After buying some shoes, a belt, a scarf, and some warm socks, I hopped on a bus to head home (yes, home). I arrived just in time for my lunch with my head teacher (and now good friend) and his family (Carolina and Tiki). This family has become some of my closest friends in South America. I am so blessed to have these people in my life. Knowing that I was missing Mexican food, Carolina made tacos and I swear she got the recipe from my mom. She even had spicy taco salsa!!! After forcing my 4th taco into my full stomach, I couldn’t imagine anything more delicious. However, after a round of mate (an herbal tea that is more about the feeling of family than the drink itself) and a quick trip to Jumbo, I found myself teaching Carolina about Root Beer Floats and soaking up the story of how she and Alexis fell in love. I’m advising her to write a book because the story is truly beautiful. She had also bought Dr. Pepper for her family to try and I’m pretty sure she doesn’t plan on drinking any other soda ever again. =D

I began Sunday/Mother’s Day by connecting with my dad very early in the morning on Skype. We planned it out so that I could wake my mom up like I have most Mother’s Days since I was little by singing to her. He took the computer into her dark room and I was able to continue a tradition for another year. It was so special to still be able to honor my incredible mom on this special day. I know that we should honor our parents all of the time, but it is so great to have a day dedicated to celebrating the selfless way that they live their lives once they have children. My gift to her was a poem that I wrote and after reading it, we had to quickly change the subject as we both began to get emotional. I have to confess that there have been a few rough days during my time here in Chile that I really missed my family. They have always meant so much to me, but I thought it wouldn’t be that difficult after living in San Diego for 4 years. Also, being so independent, I didn’t expect it to be so hard. However, I also see how fortunate I am to have the chance to really see the value of the relationships that I have with the people in my family.
After a nice chat and catching up with my parents, I proceeded to call my grandmas to tell them Happy Mother’s Day as well. Again, I realized how blessed I am to have such a close family. Then, I wandered into the kitchen where my host mom was preparing the hot water for coffee and gave her the frame I had bought her. I think she was very surprised that I would get her anything. It was a special moment. I also told her that I’d get the picture printed sometime this week.
I spent the next hour working on my bible study since I didn’t take it with me over the weekend and really enjoyed some time with God. I read about understanding what it means to have authority as Christians and that we can only exercise authority if we are living under the authority of Christ. It wasn’t something I had ever really thought deeply about before, but as I did, I realized how quickly and how easily, my life can become directionless and powerless. When I submit myself to the authority and plans of God, then I can see His power through my prayers and through my life. This was a great reminder of my purpose of being in Chile. Yes, I am here to help the students learn English, but so much more, I am here to be a light for Christ and to allow Him to use me in the lives of the people I meet. With so many distractions, it’s easy to lose focus.
At 1pm, it was time to head to Aunt Norma’s house for lunch with the family. I swear that I ate enough to last me the entire day and probably two more. We began with empanadas (which I intend to learn how to cook) and then a savory salad with tomatoes, avocado, lettuce, hardboiled egg, and tuna salad. During this time, we proceeded to converse about politics, religion, and my experience so far in Chile. I felt like such a part of the family and my host mom even said to them that she loved having two daughters. juan Carlos (my host dad’s brother) said that he was amazed by my Chilean accent and that I only had a little bit of an English accent...I almost cried with joy! Lastly came the desserts which included leche asada (a type of flan), kuchen (German apple pie), and a manjar layered cracker cake. You would think that this much sugar would have had us bouncing off the walls, but all I wanted to do after the glorious lunch was sleep. So, upon arriving home, I laid down and enjoyed a 2 hour siesta!
When I woke up, I quickly jumped on the computer to enjoy a Skype session with a large majority of my family that was at my parents’ home to celebrate the day. What a special and incredible time it was to talk to everyone and see how everyone was. I can’t tell you how much I miss everyone and how excited I am to be home and be a part of all of their lives again. On the other hand, it is so neat to see how God works from a distance.
I’ll end by saying Happy Mother’s Day one last time to the most incredible, loving, talented, selfless woman I’ve ever known. I love you so much mom and not only are you a great mother, but you are also one of my best friends. I can’t wait to spend a week with you in Peru where I don’t have to call you back every 20 minutes when my internet stops working. I look forward to many wonderful memories to be made when I get back. Lastly, I remember countless things that I am thankful for that you have done for me. I am so blessed to have you in my life and I love you more than I could ever express.

5.12.11=Student´s Day/Dia de Alumnos
This particular Thursday did not include classes. Instead, we were privileged to entertain our students for ¨their day¨. Fortunately, since arriving in Chile, I have refused to let embarrassment stop me from having a great time, and for this day, I did exactly that. My first performance was as Miley Cyrus singing ¨Party in the USA¨. With a wig, hat, and similar clothing style, I got up on stage and sang my heart out. The video later showed me that I really need to work on stage presence! My later debut was as Justin Bieber with Juan Carlos, the P.E. teacher, as Ludacris singing ¨Baby¨. I didn´t actually sing this time, I just danced around and pretended to be the little boy who is famous for who knows why. I laughed so hard when all of my young girls screamed at his name. Later, I was asked to play soccer on a team of teachers against students. I tried to warn them that I have no coordination with kicking a ball, but no one listened. After again making a fool out of myself trying to run back and forth in the gym to stay near the ball, I finally quit and swore to myself that I was going to start running a few times a week to get back in shape.

When it was time for lunch, all but the high school students left and we got to enjoy a delicious barbecue with them (breaking so many health codes in California that I was a bit nervous). I sat talking to a few of my seniors who have excellent commands of English and really soaked up the time that I had to get to know them better. It was in this moment that I began to realize how much I´m going to miss my students.

My morning began by receiving my first check from the program. After walking over to the bank and getting everything sorted out, I found myself in possession of way too much cash. Then I headed to the school to meet the rest of the teachers to head over to where we were having lunch. I think I´ve mentioned before that my school did very well on the SIMCE tests (similar to star testing in the US) and my principal wanted to celebrate by taking everyone out to lunch. So when we arrived at Club de Union, I was shocked at the effort put forth to celebrate the achievement of the school. The place that we had the lunch was at an old home that was converted into a restaurant type of place, but I think it is only used for special events and private functions. I thought about how incredible it would be to be an event coordinator for a place like this. It was so special to sit and talk to all of the staff and faculty that works at my school. During the meal, several people stood up and gave small speeches about how proud they were and how much they appreciated everyone. Although I protested, I was volunteered to also give a small speech. Since only 3 people in the room of over 50 understand English, I was forced to do my best to explain my many emotions and sentiments in Spanish. By the end, I realized that I need to write and translate a speech before I leave so that I can truly explain to these people just how much they mean to me and how much I will miss them. The people I work with have become like family to me when I came here with neither friends nor family. They have helped me have such a wonderful experience and shown me a very different part of the world in the best way. With only 7 weeks left of classes, I’m seeing more and more how much I truly appreciate them.

After lunch, several of us went over to Miguel’s house to continue the celebration. I’d like to take a moment to mention that if I could change one thing about Chile, it would be the amount of people that chain-smoke cigarettes. It is the most awful smell and doesn’t come out of your clothes no matter what you do. Anyways, we all hung out talked for a few hours and then I headed to Ana’s to celebrate Luisa’s birthday. We had such a fun night and all of the people I got to meet from the other school were very nice. Finally getting to sleep around 5am, I was very much looking forward to sleeping in the next day.

The day the world was supposed to end but didn’t....ya, the guy who claimed that the Apocalypse was set to be May 21st definitely stirred things up a bit. Thankfully it ended up being a great opportunity to tell people about the truth stated in the Bible about how no one knows when Christ will come back.

Well, to start the day off, I woke up about 2:30 and enjoyed a nice meal with Ana and her roommate. It’s funny how much of my life is currently conducted in Spanglish. Then I went over to Miguel’s to watch a movie that was long over due...The King’s Speech. I absolutely loved it and had a great time hanging out. That night, he had some friends over and I had a blast communicating once again in Spanglish. I find it interesting how many Chileans that I’ve met really do want to learn and speak English, yet have a very hard time getting over their fears of embarrassment. Pretty quickly though, I was having a half Spanish half English conversation as we helped each other along in using a foreign language.

I woke up this morning to a text from my friend Cesar that his wife had given birth to their new baby boy. I’m so excited for them since this is their first child. Hopefully I’ll get to see photos on Wednesday at our English teachers meeting. Today I am spending most of my day relaxing as it looks to be a busy week and next weekend will be spent celebrating my birthday in Santiago with some great friends. I promise I’ll try to be better about keeping my blog updated more often. Thanks for your patience!

7 weeks left of classes
2 weeks of camp
1 week celebrating with volunteers in Santiago
1 week in Peru with parents
8.6.11=Home in California!