A Week In Puerto Montt

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Flag of Chile  , CL.09,
Monday, July 27, 2009

Wednesday July 22, started out very cloudy, with drizzling rain; no hope of a clearing in sight. This day's lesson subject was Nature and Photography, and we had a field trip, to a local farm planned.  If you have been reading my blog you will know that I am no stranger to farm living.  I believe the rustic life suits me or, at least the part of me that longs for simplicity.  To wake early in the morning with rays of sun creeping through my window; looking out at a grove of almond trees, a field of wildflowers spread out like multihued carpeting.  Seeing the farm with students will be somewhat of a treat, and will prove to be most entertaining.

Unlike the students in Parral, the students in the region of Chile are a little more reserved.  It is not uncommon to be greeted with a hug or a kiss when first meeting someone.  Our first day at Winter Camp only a handful of the students greeted us in the customary way.  After a full day of activities, food, games and a lot of talking; at the end of the day we were showered with hugs and kisses.  I guess that is the difference in affections of big city and small town folk.

Lisa, Karen, Francisco and I arrive at the school around 9 am and are greeted by happy and energetic smiles.  The great thing about teaching in Chile is the students are always happy to see you and they seem to appreciate your being there.  I thought at first it was because I was black or maybe because I was American.  I have come to realize that these children generally respect and enjoy the company of their teachers, or at least the teachers they like.  Chilean teachers, for the most part, are amusing and are very passionate about teaching and it is reflected in the attitude of the students.

We ride to the farm, in a convoy of 3 travel vans.  The journey was swift and the coastline was breathing; melting into a lengthy line of trees and through the mist a patch of hills unfolds a volcano capped with snow; a landscape of countless contradictions.  The doors of the van opened and the sun comes out.  I think the sun prefers country living too, and decides to hide out here, in the country with us, for the day.  The farmer comes out of the house and welcomes our group to his farm.  Behind him is a HUGE Saint Bernard female that is more interested in getting scratched behind her ear from anyone that is willing.  Dogs seem to the weakness of most Chilenos, and a big loveable San Bernardo (as they call them) was a welcomed introduction to the rest of the animals we were about to see.  The farmer tells us this in not a farm that does not produces anything; rather it is used to educate people about agriculture and livestock.  We walk around looking at the various animals and we even have a chance to pet some of them. We talk to the students about the different things we see on the farm and continue to encourage them to speak only in English.

The tour started with a display of various eggs in several glass containers (more like small aquariums) there were Emu eggs, and robins eggs and even and turtle eggs.  Next the guide showed us a honey comb from one of the bee hives. Our tour took us around the entire farm, and we saw chickens, and cows, a horse, rabbits, baby bunnies, pigs, and two different breads of sheep. The one thing that caught me off guard was the eyes of the sheep.  I have never seen a sheep up close, only in gloves, socks, sweaters or served marinated with herbs accompanied by seared garlic potatoes and green beans (sorry I am a little hungry).  I was shocked to find that the pupils of their eyes are horizontal.   The kids are so funny, when we saw the pig pin one of the students, Patricio (nickname Pato – means duck in Spanish) said, "Oh my God Porcina."  That is their word for Swine Flu

We walk into a wooded area and Rocio, out coordinator, asked me, “What do you call this thing?” She was pointing at a scrap of pale green moss that was hanging from one of the branches.   “We call it moss.”  I tell her, she is always asking the name on this thing or that.  “We call it barba de madera (pronounced Bar-bah-day-ma-dar-ah: it means the beard of a branch).  I had never thought that the moss actually looked like a beard.  It is funny how the world changes when you see things through the eyes of someone else.  Rocio learned English through TV and talking to tourists, she is 26 years old but has a thirst to learn about English and America just like my other students.  One part of her is very focused and driven to provide the best service for the students and the other part is filled with childlike inquisitiveness.  

Sometimes I don’t know who the teacher is, me or them.  They tell me about the different types of trees that we see and one tree was similar to bamboo.  Benjamin told me that the tree bark looks like bamboo but it is not nearly as strong.  The trees are used in typical Mapucha (the indigenous people of Chile) ceremonies.  They know so much about their country it is ridiculous.  If you would ask the average American teen about a Native American ceremony they would not have a clue.  They are so connected to the Chilean world that they live in, yet still connected to the rest of the world. 

I take pictures of as much as I can and as luck would have it the forest opens in skirted by a lake.  The kids walk along the shore looking for flat rocks to skip along the water.  I watch as they playfully and most unsuccessfully SKIP rocks.  I am sure a thousand miles away on the other side of the Pacific there are teens doing the same thing.  Benjamin tells me that they call skipping rocks Patito (which means little duck) because the rocks glide across the surface of the water like ducks.

We end the tour with a snack and gift shop.  The name for souvenirs is Recuerditos (pronounced Re-quair-dee-toes: small memories) and that is exactly what souvenirs are little memories of a vacation or adventure.  The final treat was the arrival of Simon, a husky 5 month old Saint Bernard puppy. The children once tired from hours of walking find new vigor in the arrival of this walking ball of fur.  With ocean blue eyes and his coat felt like newly spun fleece.  With so many people to rub and cuddle, Simone waddled for group to group in search of more affection; the students were sure not to disappoint.  All things must come to an end and it was time to board the bus and go back to the school because it was time to lunch.

The afternoon went quickly and it was time to go home.  Usually there is a small group of kids that wait for us and walk us halfway home.  Today one of the kids mentioned that they wanted to see Harry Potter but did not have anyone to go with.  I am a real fan of the Harry Potter series and was upset to see all the commercials on TV announcing that the movie will start July 15th.  Parral does not have a movie theater so there was no way that I was going to see it.  I said I wanted to see it too but I don’t understand enough Spanish to see it in Spanish.  Memo (his real name is Guillermo) said that sometimes they play American movies with Spanish subtitles.  Karen, Francisco and I got really excited because we had wanted to see it really bad.  The movie was playing in the mall and I needed to go to the mall to get batteries and see the infamous Pokémon.  In most of the world Pokémon is a both the video game and the trading cards; these Japanese brand Pocket Monsters have taken the world by storm.  Here in Chile Pokémon are a group of teens that where their hair in a style that resembles the characters on the cartoon, and is a mix of PUNK and GRUNDGE.

We go to the movie and it is good to have the students teach us about what they like to do in their free time.  All over the world I guess teenagers love the mall.  I see a lady walk by with a strange snack and I ask what it is.  Gabriel tells me it is grapes covered in hard syrup.  Because we have a little time on our hands we venture downstairs to go to the shop that sold this strange concoction.  At the stand we see up close the unusual sweet treat.  Gabriel buys one so that we could taste.  Karen and I are reluctant but we try it anyway.  The candied grapes are served on a stick.  I break a grape off the stick and pop it into my mouth.  The shell was hard and sweet like a candied apple, but the inside was a warm grape.  The mixture of hard candy and the warm juice was a shock to my pallet.  I had never experience those flavors or textures before; it was both ODD and TASTEY.  With little time to spare, Karen, Gabriel, Memo, Francisco and I, go back upstairs to watch the movie.  At the end it was unanimous the movie was a success, but too short.

On Thursday July, 23rd the lesson subject was Health and Nutrition.  We spent the morning planning games and doing activities focused on Health and wellness.  After the snack I decided we needed to do something to warm up (the school is like an icebox and worst of all there is no toilet paper in any of the restrooms, you have to bring it from home).   I decide to teach the kids the Cha-Cha Slide.  It is a line dance the gives direction during the entire song.  The students must pay close attention to want is being said to do it correctly.  I figured it was a good was to get their blood pumping and it was also a practice in listening.  I did not think they would like it that much; we ended up doing the dance at least 3 times.

The activity after lunch was to watch a movie called, “SUPERSIZE ME.”   It is about a man that eats McDonald’s 3 times a day for month.  Is was sad to see that the United States is the FATTEST country in the world, and according to the movie out of the 18 McDonald’s in South America, 15 of them are in Chile.  The students thought that was so funny.  After watching the movie I don’t think I will look at McDonald’s in the same way ever again.

The other activity was getting ready for the talent show.  The students would get acts together and sing, dance or act out their talent on Saturday, the last day of the camp.  We would spend the next day and a half practicing and preparing for the Talent Show.

When Saturday arrives there is a sadness that plagues the 4 English teachers.  It has suddenly occurred to us that this would be the last time we would make the long walk up the hill to school, the last time we would see their smiling faces at the beginning of our day; the last day we would be their teachers.  When we get to the school it was business as usually we played games and had activities.  One of the games was a snowball fight.  Each student would write down something they learned this week, on 5 different pieces of paper, and wad the paper into 5 balls.  We would have a snowball fight with the wadded paper and the leader would call freeze, everyone would stop, the leader would touch a student to unfreeze them and that student would pick up a ball and read it.  If you can conjure the memory of your last snowball fight as a child, your heart pounding from running and dodging, the smile on your face after you bashed someone in the head with the icy sphere.  We could not resist joining in on the fun; I became a giddy children throwing, running, dodging, and laughing. The students did an excellent job in their performances.  Some students performed alone but most performed in groups. We were so happy to see that everyone participated. 

The talent show took longer than we expected so after lunch we only had time for the certificate ceremony and a presentation.  The presentation was a 10 minute movie that I spent the previous night preparing.  It consisted of photos of the students and a summary of all the activities we participated in during the entire week of camp.  There was laughter and sighs, the sound of watching a memory; the acknowledgement of all the previous events and the realization that it was all coming to an end. The presentation ended with a slide that said “You will be in our hearts forever” written in Spanish, followed by a photo of the 4 instructors.  As the lights came back on there was a thunderous roar of applause and cheers.  In the back of the room some students were huddled together consoling one another.  A week of their lives had been spent getting to know 4 strangers that became their teachers and friends.  All the photos and Facebook messaging could not replace the flesh and blood souls that had changed their lives forever.  Cony comes to hug me and her small frame trembles as she stands crying and holding on to me as if her very life depended on it.  Filled with maternal tenderness I held her tight and rocked her and SHUSHED her into composure. Barely above a whisper I hear her almost mouse like voice say, “But Nakia, I will never see you again.”  I could feel my own sorrow swelling up in my throat.  The best thing about traveling is meeting new people.  The worst thing about traveling is letting them go. I would miss them more than words could express and at this moment I was not prepared for the realization that I would be missed as well.  In a husky voice filled with compaction and sadness I manage to say, “The world in a very small place I am sure we will see each other again.  I am only an email away.”  To that she replied, “It’s not the same.” Then held me tighter; I fought back tears to be the rock she needed me to be.  As write these words remember it all I can no longer hold back sorrow’s tears.  One by one they all come to hug me, eyes filled with unwanted goodbyes.  I think the boys took it the worst.  It took about an hour to say our goodbyes (they wanted us to sing their notebooks with messages to remember us by.  I almost got carpel tunnel). Before I leave Cony pulls out her MP3 and ask to record me saying “GOOD JOB!”  I say it all the time and most of the kids have started to say it.  I speak into the device and say “Cony, good job!!”  Everyone starts to laugh.  The air gets a little lighter; laughter has a way of chasing the sadness away.

Well until next time my friends, remember that we come into each other’s lives for a reason, and sometimes for just a season. If you are the light in the life of a child you never know how long that like will shine. Live to make a difference, and be the change you want to see in the world.

Have a wonderful day,

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nakiaford on

Re: Part #1
It was really nice to teach and learn from these kids they are amazing. I hope you read the rest of the blog and I hope to hear from you soon.

nakiaford on

Re: Winter Camp Blast
Hey I am truly blessed and I thank God for the opportunity to be here. Everyday is truly a blessing. I am glad you still like the blog and I will have more for you to read soon. I am a few days behind on posting my updates. Love you much and talk to you soon.

nakiaford on

Re: part#2, finally
Man it takes you forever to read. I am glad you got through it. I have another blog about going to the water falls I think you will like for video attached. I am working on a new one now so look for it tomorrow. I got the box so thank you for everything.


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