Monday, September 24, 2007

More celebration!

Well, I know I'm a little late on this post, but better late than never, right?
Last Tuesday, Dieciocho, we had a church picnic at a house a little outside of the city. They made their house for this kind of thing: hacienda style. There's a large open space for soccer, a pool, a large patio with plenty of table space, a huge grill, a sprawling house with plenty of bathrooms, and lots more space to spread out. It was a perfect day--warm and sunny. It started off with people just mingling, playing soccer, and eating empanadas. This was a great time for me to talk with different people and practice my Spanish. God really helped me out, and I felt like I understood a good deal. Eventually we sat down for our big meal, which basically consisted of all the different salads the families brought and steak on the grill. It was goooooood. Here's where I quieted down a little, since it's harder for me to understand in large groups, and there were 60 people around one table. Afterwards I drank some coffee and talked with some of the girls I'm getting to know.
Then we all gathered around the pool where a sound system was set up. Some people performed some traditional Chilean songs, and then they read funny poems, another tradition.
After this, they split many of us up into two teams, and I was among those chosen. It was game time. Now, the thing to note is, all the Americans and Chileans who speak English were on the other team. Oh, the irony. So I had several options to try to understand what was going on, and I implemented all of them. I listened hard, feverishly trying to understand, I stayed in the back and watched what the people in front of me were doing, and I ran over to the other team and asked people in English. It was interesting. :o)
The games were relatively familiar, like potato sack races, three-legged races, and balloon popping games. There is a picture of me trying to pop a balloon by hugging another girl, but she was half my height, so it made life interesting. It looks like she's killing me. Haha. You'll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.
After the games was some more milling around and socializing, accompanied with sweets and tea or coffee. Then we sat down to watch the cueca, the Chilean national dance. When I was watching, very few people would do it, maybe one or two couples at a time. Apparently a few more jumped in later, but I was off getting my own lesson, so I missed it. It's a relatively easy dance, but it just takes some practice. It's very interesting to learn something completely in Spanish. But my teacher was very patient with me! :o)
Then there was more socializing and general merriment, and eventually we went home. It was an awesome day, and I so wished that I could understand more (although I did fairly well).
The next day Melissa and I went into town to see the military parade. The park was PACKED, and it was very difficult to get around. We squeezed our way up to the parade area and realized the parade was too far away to see. It was basically only performed in front of a set of bleachers with all the important people (like the President) and the TV cameras. Oh well! So we left and walked around the fonda (fair-type thing), getting some food (which Melissa made me get to practice my Spanish) and watching the various performances. There were several people doing the cueca, one performer from Easter Island, so his performance was similar to something Hawaiian, and several Native American performers. The funny thing is, they were mostly performing North American songs and dances, and were dressed in the North American style, as opposed to this area!
Melissa and I left well before dark, because this particular fonda is known for it's drunkenness, especially towards the end of the holiday week. It was sad to see people already drunk at 4 in the afternoon.
The next day was a school day, back to the grind! No one wanted to be there, including myself, but we managed ok! ;o)
It was a good week, an incredible week, filled with the most Spanish I've had in one week so far. It did a lot to help me learn, but I still have a long way to go!
I'm including a link that will send you to some pictures from the day of the picnic, including a very short video of the cueca. I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Viva Chile!

It's celebration time in Chile! Tomorrow is their Independence Day, September 18th, or Dieciocho, as it's said in Spanish. And there are festivities left and right! They take their celebration very seriously (I was told that you can be heavily fined for not flying a Chilean flag during this holiday!!).
On Friday we had the program at school, and it involved a salute to Chile, the US, and all the other countries represented at our school (Cuba, Bolivia, Canada, Mexico, Korea, China, and Indonesia). Then all the grades performed traditional folk songs from all over the country, including some traditional folk dances, which are much like line dances. Then we had a lunch of traditional Chilean food--empanadas (cheese or meat in a pocket of dough, fried), anticuchos (shishkabobs, basically), and mote con huesillos (a dessert drink that consists of a dried peach resoaked in water to make a juice with barley in the bottom...interesting, huh?). Then there were games, like relay races and tug-of-war, along with the ever so popular kite flying. They really love kites down here. I'm going to include some pictures from Friday.

Here's the Pre-K and Kindergarten class with their teacher, all in traditional clothes.

Here are two girls in traditional clothes on the "stage" where the program was held.

Cute, aren't they? They were so nervous!

Part of the Chilean dance that the little kids did. Involves a lot of running in place and running in general, all in time with the music.

Here's some churangos, an instrument used in all of the high school songs.

I do have a video from that day, but it will take me awhile to edit it and post it. But keep an eye out for it!

Yesterday I went to a fonda, which is much like a fair. There were rides, and games, and stands with food all over the place, much like you'd find at an American fair. Only the rides had different names (most of them) and the food was all Chilean. It was delicious! There was a mini-zoo, and a rodeo. We didn't stay for the rodeo though, so I'm hoping to be able to go see that on Wednesday. I've heard it's very different than an American rodeo. I'm sure I'll have more pictures to show!!
It was a fun day yesterday, filled with Chilean culture, Chilean friends, and was almost entirely in Spanish! None of the Americans went with me, so I was on my own, and honestly, that's when I learn the most. One of my Chilean friends knows a little English so she helps me out a little, but mostly it's in Spanish. I'm making progress (I was even able to crack a few jokes yesterday!), it's just very slow. But everyone is very encouraging and understanding, so I don't mind sounding like an idiot! :o)

Today was a mellow day, consisting of sleeping in, doing some grading, and going grocery shopping. Here's the thing about grocery shopping in Chile in September...especially the day before their holiday. There are people who walk around the store in traditional Chilean clothes, with instruments, singing folk songs. And then every once in awhile they'll start the national Chilean dance (the cueca) in the aisles! And people gather around and watch, clapping along, and eventually a few even join in with the dancers! The culture is amazing! I love it here!
Tomorrow is the fair at our church, so I'm sure I'll have more to tell in the not to distant future!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Another Chilean first

Well, yesterday I got my first Chilean haircut. It was getting so long it was driving me crazy. If only I'd known! It's true what they say: "You don't know what you've got until you lose it."
Ok, so maybe I'm being a little dramatic. It's not THAT bad. But it is very short. Much shorter than I anticipated. She cut off what I asked for, and then kept going back in to make it even, to fix it, to give it more layers, to make it thinner. And kept going and going and going. I was thinking that I should say something, but I figured she was about done each time! The good news is that it'll look normal in 2 weeks. This is really just a test of patience for me....and a test at my creativity in hairstyling. I went to school today and got a lot of compliments, so I guess I did something right this morning! :o)

On a happier note.... The Chilean Independence Day is coming up...A week from today actually, Sept 18. It's a big deal here; way bigger than the 4th of July. The school is having a big program on Friday that the kids have been working on since the beginning of the school year, and there won't be any classes that day. There's no school on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (yay!) so there's a lot of time to go to the festivities around the city. Let's see....Sunday after church some of my Chilean friends are taking me to see the "fairs" in the city. Fair is not really an accurate word, but there's nothing quite like it in the States. There's typical Chilean food, dance, music...and I think maybe games? Oh, and Chilean rodeo. Haha. Tuesday the church is having a big event at the new property where the new church will eventually be built (continue to pray for that. The only think holding us up is getting all the approvals from the municipality. We're hoping to break ground Oct 1.). There will be games, food, music, and general merriment. Should be fun!! Wednesday we're going to the lake as a family to go sailing. I love being on boats, and I've never been sailing before, so I'm really excited about it. I'm sure I'll have lots to post about as I go to all these activities. And I'm sure I'll have plenty of pictures to show...maybe some video if I can manage it!

Before I go...a few other firsts. Today I had my first Spanish "class." It's really just me and a Chilean girl talking (she brought a friend with her). But I'm so excited because I learn more when I'm forced to talk. And one of my friends from church is going to help me once all the festivities are done next week.
I also went grocery shopping with Ruthann this afternoon. I've been to the store several times, but she kept sending me to go get certain things for her. So I got to talk to the guy at the bakery and the guy at the deli, as well as walk around reading the signs to make sure I knew what I was looking at! It was fun, educational, and a lot of help for her since she's recently suffered some minor injuries that make every day stuff difficult (a sore left shoulder and two sprained fingers on her right hand).

Ok, I really should go now. I'm supposed to be doing school work right now. We're studying Macbeth right now. Next week they will be performing some scenes for me. The class is full of hams and I picked some really good scenes, so it should be pretty entertaining. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Honeymoon is over!

We were warned in our pre-field training that we would experience several stages in our adjustment to a new country. The first was the honeymoon. Everything is great and new and exciting. An adventure awaits around every corner. That would last, so they said, about a month. Well, I've been here for 6 weeks now, and it's wearing off. I guess they know what they're talking about!
The next stage is culture shock, which has several parts--thinking the differences are odd, thinking the differences are annoying, thinking the differences are awful. Something like that. (After this phase is when you start to embrace the differences and know you've begun assimilating into the culture.) I wouldn't say that the differences are odd, annoying or awful...just different.
I've been here long enough that the newness of everything isn't quite so bright, and I'm able to feel the difference of my lifestyle a little. I still LOVE it here, no doubt about it. But I'm starting to notice that I don't have a lot of friends to go out with here, to go catch a movie with or talk over a cup of coffee. I don't have impromptu game nights at my place anymore. I'm not lonely, but I feel a little like I'm in limbo.
Why do I say all this? I'm not sure, except to put words to my emotions helps me to understand myself a little more. I'm progressing through the steps of adjustment, and if I realize this is what's happening, I can better interpret myself. ...Now I'm getting too psychological! :o)
God knows my personality's need for friendship and social-ness. He will provide for me what I need when I need it. My job is to remain content and joyful, looking to the Friend who knows no language barrier, who doesn't need a passport, and who isn't dependent on emails and blogs to be involved in my life! Because as the song goes...
All of You is more than enough for all of me,
For every thirst and every need.
You satisfy me with Your love.
And all I have in You is more than enough!!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

More pictures from the mountains...

See the haze in between the mountains in the top picture? Santiago is under there. It's mostly smog. I'm going to come home next year with black lung. I hope I can get a good insurance policy! :o)

Saturday, September 1, 2007

"Skiing" in the Andes...

Let me tell you a little story. It's the story of a girl who's never skied before, making her first attempt in the Andes mountains. For argument's sake, let's just say that girl was me. (Note: All the details of this story are true, but the mood may be exaggerated for dramatic effect.)
Once upon an August, I was coming down with a cold. Not a bad cold, but a cold nonetheless. I fought the cold hard, because I knew that I had a ski trip coming up. But germs don't really care if you go skiing, and I caught the cold anyway (why do you say you catch a cold? As if it's something you actively try to do? But I digress...). So already I'm not quite myself.
The day before the ski trip was a long afternoon of parent/teacher conferences, so I stayed overnight with another teacher who lives in one of the apartments above the school offices. She's a very nice and hospitable girl, but she snores. A lot. And I'm not used to snoring, so I heard every labored breath. My one course of action was to cough really hard repeatedly to try to awaken her enough to roll over. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't. Needless to say, I snoozed a few times.
I was getting ready in the morning, and she left to go make some copies. She left her hairdryer with me, saying she wasn't sure if it works. I had not packed mine, mostly because I didn't have the space, but also because in the 5 apartments, I figured someone had to have a hairdryer. I plugged hers in. Nothing. I tried another outlet. Nothing. Being completely ready besides my wet hair, I walk to the apartment next door. Nothing. I walk to the next one. Nothing. The next apartment houses another teacher who I knew had already gone down to the school grounds. So traipsed back and forth across the campus, wet hair flopping in the breeze, passing rowdy students who were excited for their upcoming ski adventure. I finally found who I was looking for, and she informed me she does not have a hairdryer. Apparently everyone's hair is more cooperative than mine.
So, I had one option left. The fifth, and last, apartment. I had not met the people who lived there yet, since they just moved in a week ago. So I knocked on their door, introduced myself, and asked if they had a hairdryer I could borrow. Jackpot! They did! So as they went to get it I had a charming conversation with their daughter about her first day of school. She was very excited. And she giggled at my shiverings about my wet hair. (Really though, it was a pretty warm day...but in the mountains, who knows.)
Crisis averted. Time to go down with the students. One of the guys came over, anxious to get going, and asked if my hair was dry enough, or did they have to wait some more? So cheeky!
It was just under a 2 hour ride up to the ski lodge, and it was not a fun one. Because part way up the mountain I started to be carsick. I haven't had this problem in quite awhile. And just as I started to really have to fight the gag reflex, the guy in front of me (the same guy who made the hair comment, actually) turned around and said, "Now we come to the really fun part! The countdown! The 41 switchbacks to get to the top!" Forty-one? you say. Yes, forty-one hairpin turns on a bus filled with teenagers. Fun. I came dangerously, and I mean dangerously close to really embarrassing myself. But the two boys near me noticed me in my distress and did all they could to help me....offering to get me a bag...turning to tell me we were halfway through the switchbacks....keeping a window open even when one guy obnoxiously complained about a draft. Who said chivalry is dead? It just looks a little different. :o)
I made it to the top with my breakfast in tact, and we began our loooong wait to get our gear. This was good for my stomach. The kids were all excited about the fact that I was actually going to ski. I was the only teacher doing this. I'm so cool. :o) We finally got in to get our gear, and of course I was in the last group. The guy comes and asks my shoe size, I tell him, and he comes back. He can't close the boot, so he goes and gets another one. It closes after some coaxing from him. And after about 30 seconds I realize that it's cutting off the circulation to my foot. I think it was pinching my tibia, actually. But he couldn't loosen it. I got the rest of my gear, and the guy preparing my skis said the first time is the best time. I think I laughed in response. Then a few guys watched me struggle to figure out how to put on my other boot, until one finally came to help me.
I stood up, got almost to the door, and almost fell over. My ski poles saved me. This was not starting well.
I go out, and all the kids who knew what they were doing, who offered to teach me, were long gone. So it was me, 2 10th graders who didn't know what they were doing, 3 7th graders who didn't know what they were doing, and one dad who did. He taught us all. We went down a teeny tiny hill to get to the bunny slope. I got half way down, stopped, and thought, "This isn't too bad!" I looked like an idiot, but I was doing it. Then I started to go the rest of the way down, spun out of control, and fell. It took me about an hour to get back up. Ok, not really. But it felt like it. I started down a slightly bigger hill we had to go down to get to the bunny hill. And I fell about 3 more times. And once again, it was nearly impossible to get back up.
At this point my left foot is starting to fall asleep.
I get to the top of the bunny hill and hear the dad worrying about if we'll be able to handle the t-bar to get back up the bunny hill. Uh oh.
After much debate and worry in my head (which I masked by "taking in the view" which was stunning) I decided to try the bunny hill. Which, by the way, was no bunny hill. It had to be a triple black diamond. Seriously. It was ridiculous. I start down and fall in the most uncomfortable and awkward looking way. And it was even harder to get up. Meanwhile pretty much everyone has started down the bunny hill. I did not want to ski alone. I get up, and decide that I will do it at least once. I mean, I spent the money and everything.
At this point my left foot is completely numb, my right foot is starting to tingle, and my pants are soaked. I get up, push off, and fall about 4.8 seconds later. It's about then that I decided I wasn't really having any fun.
I reclined on this bunny slope for awhile, gazing at the gorgeous mountains, and tried to muster up enough mental fortitude to get back up. As I was gazing and mustering, 2 skiers stopped and asked if I was ok. I replied in the affirmative.
I got up, loosened my boots, and hobbled off the slope as all the blood rushed back to my feet. Then a very kind man informed me that I had dropped a glove back in the middle of the slope. So I turned around and hobbled back.
Then I trudged back to the lodge (with the 3 7th graders who had been down the bunny hill and back by this point) and got lunch. I had been on the mountain for one hour. That's it.
Everyone asked me how I was doing. I told them frankly. They asked if was going back out. I just laughed. They all said I had to try again. And I just had to say no. Honestly, that was a heartbreaking moment for me. Most of them really tried to encourage me to try one more time. And maybe next time I go skiing I'll last a little longer. But that was all I could handle. I was a little under the weather, remember. (They did not accept this excuse.) :o)
I waited until about 3pm and turned in my skis (about 2 hours after I came off the mountain). And of course, the guy said "So early? Didn't you like it?" If only he'd known exactly what I'd been doing, or not doing, for the past 2 hours. Ha!
Ok, so we're nearing the end of the story. But first, another example of odd male chivalry. I had to use the restroom to change into dry clothes. You have to pay to go into the bathroom unless you've paid to go skiing. Since I no longer had on any gear, they didn't know, and asked if I had a ticket. As I was trying to pull my lift ticket out of my pocked (since I never used a lift, it hadn't gotten attached to my zipper yet), there was a guy there who I had noticed a couple time noticing me, and he held up his lift ticket and said I could use it to go into the restroom. Now isn't that romantic? I've never had a man offer to pay for my entrance into a bathroom. The Latin's don't have a reputation for nothing, you know!
Ok, enough joking around! :o)
A day later, and no muscles in my legs hurt, which isn't common after a ski trip. My shins are bruised from my ski boots, though. The only muscles that hurt are in my shoulders and upper back. I'm assuming this is from using my ski poles to start, try to stop, try to take off the skis, and also from struggling to get up so many times. Unique, I know....
Well, that's the end of my story. I actually had fun, all things considering. And the kids had fun. And maybe next time I ski I'll make it for an hour and a half! :o)
Congratulations for reading the whole thing! As a reward, enjoy some of the pictures I took while I was not skiing. :o) (I'm pretty sure there don't exist any of me actually attempting to ski...I'm not sad about this.) :o)

Here I am at the beginning of the day. I look so blissfully unaware, don't I?
I don't remember what we were talking about, but by the look on my face, I'd have to say it has something to do with my boots.
This is actually only about half of us who went. The rest of them were still on the mountain. They never got the memo, I guess.
When I was returning the skis. I was actually really happy when I took this picture because I had just taken my boots off. Couldn't tell, could you? I'm a really good actress. :o)
Me in front of some of the mountains...Looks photoshopped, but it's not! It was beautiful! Definitely the best part of the day for me. Can't beat it!