Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Visa fun

Well, if ever you're traveling in a foreign country for extended periods of time, I suggest you figure out when your visa expires right when you get there. Don't wait. You may count wrong. Now, I'm not saying I know from experience, but....
Ok, so really there's a plethora of reasons why I was dealing with renewing my visa the day it expired. I counted wrong, we were busy, I didn't realize all the steps involved, I couldn't understand the application, and I procrastinate. Wonderful? I thought so.
Last week, I began filling out the application, but didn't get far without a translator. I knew my visa was up this week, but was thinking it was Wednesday or so. Well, on Sunday I sat down with Dave and he helped me figure it out. We were going to get stuff settled the next day, but he got sick. When I counted 90 days from my arrival in Chile, I realized my visa expired on Monday! Oops! Dave also told me that I needed a certificate of something, a letter from him stamped with a seal, copies from my passport, and an official photo! Yikes!
So Monday I ran around school, asking the accountant to do the certificate, as I made copies, and kept calling Duane Cross (another missionary) to take me to get my picture taken. Then I was going to meet Dave so he could stamp the letter and we'd run to the post office. As long as it was stamped for today, I'd be set. I left the school around 2:45 to meet Duane, then we headed to a store to get pictures taken. Two other people came with us for the ride. Well, by the time we get there it's 3:15, no problem except they don't do that kind of photo. We had to drive farther! So we rushed over there in the hopes of getting it done in time. At some point they were frustrated that this was happening on the last day, I almost cried, and many many jokes were made. The jokes kept me from crying, although it was still very stressful! I hate being a burden to others, and that happened to many people yesterday, unfortunately. We got to the mall at 3:40, went to the store, had my picture taken, and was back in the car by 3:50!! Amazing!! I went back to the school where I met Dave, and we walked into the post office around 4:45! Whew!
So, technically I'm still legal! It will take 30 days for me to hear about my new visa. There is one problem though. The pictures weren't entirely correct. So, if they decide they need to be redone, I'll hear in 30 days, have to retake them, and then it'll be another 30 days!! Please pray that this does not happen! The sooner I get my visa the better.
So, it was a bit stressful, but God allowed me to get everything done in time! Just in time! It was definitely an interesting experience, and I wanted to share it with you! I'm not sure if I conveyed the emotion of it fully, but I hope you enjoyed it!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It's no wonder...

A poor gringa doesn't stand a chance in learning this language. It's crazy! I think I'm improving and doing better, and then I hit a wall. And it's not just any wall. It's a brick wall reinforced with steel bars and surrounded with asbestos-laced concrete. Once I get over the wall (or around or under or through...I'm not quite sure what happens), my Spanish settles down at a higher level and I start the process all over again.
Why do I say this semi-overdramatized analogy? Well, it's because I learned something new today, and it makes absolutely no sense. In fact, it means exactly the opposite of what it sounds like. Let me explain. Melissa and I were walking down the street and these two men were carrying a large table across the sidewalk. We slowed down when we saw them coming so they could pass, since they were carrying something large and heavy. However, being the gentlemen they were, they said "Pase no mas," and we continued on as they waited for us. Now, if I were to translate literally what they said (which is what I do with my limited vocabulary and understanding of idioms), it means "pass no more." How would you interpret that?
Well, apparently it means something to the effect of, "Just go on by/through, no rush." So, pass no more = you can pass. HOW DOES THIS MAKE ANY SENSE??? Do you see what I'm up against? :o)
Needless to say I spend much of my time befuddled.
In fact, tonight I said something incorrectly and they had a good laugh over it. I was trying to say "hurry up" which is spelled apurate (and pronounced ah-PUH-dah-teh). Their r's are made by a quick flick of the tongue and sound like d's. Their d's are really more like very quiet hard th's (like in "then"). In fact, they're so quiet that often they skip them altogether. So, although I had seen apurate somewhere and new it was written with an r, I had forgotten. And since I hear it a lot, and it sounds like a d, I said it with the Chilean accented "d". So it came out like ah-PUH-ah-te. They asked me to repeat it, giggled, and then corrected me. Sigh. One thing's for sure: I won't make that mistake again! That's what happens when I make an idiot out of myself with some word or phrase--I always remember the right way after that!
In other news...It's been an interesting week. Monday was a holiday, Columbus Day, so we had off school. I had a jam packed weekend. I watched a soccer game with a bunch of Chileans (Chile lost, it was sad and entertaining at the same time), then went out bowling with some Americans and some Chileans. Two of the three Chileans had never bowled before and I tied with one of them!! She did really well and I was pretty rusty. Then on Sunday after church I met some new people who I got in contact with through my coworker. They're looking for more people to hang out with, and they speak English, so that's a plus! They're here through Campus Crusade, and they're really nice and seem to like to do things. They invited me on their missions trip in January to the Chilean Indians, the Mapuche, farther south in Chile. So I'm hoping to go! After that they might travel around the southern part of the continent, which I would hope to do with them. We'll see what happens! On Monday we went to a lake about an hour outside of town to go sailing. I had never been sailing before so I was very excited about it. It was a PERFECT day! It was sunny and warm, but not hot, with a nice breeze so we didn't have to paddle the boat around. :o) The lake is surrounded by mountains and was just gorgeous. There's a nice picnic area by the lake with grills, picnic tables, trees for shade, and large grassy areas for games. It was so fun!! It was very relaxing and tiring at the same time! We got home around 10 and it took me most of the week to recover! :o)
Here's a link to some of the pictures from that day (it may not work as a link, but if you copy and paste it into your browser's address bar, it should work). It was the Rogers family, me, and Mike, a newcomer to Chile who's working as the ABWE treasurer for Chile.

The week in school was a good one. I'm starting to learn how to deal with the rowdiness of the kids. I've been far too lenient, and I'm finding ways to fix that problem. I still have a ways to go, but at least it's a start. Yesterday was probably the best example of it. When giving a test to one class who can't keep their mouths shut before, during, or after a test, I gave a speech about respecting their classmates while waving a demerit pad around. They took me seriously and I didn't hear a peep!
Then later, I had a little heart-to-heart with them about something that had been bothering me. It was brought on the day before by a girl complaining about the school, and what she was saying was a serious offense (and really off the wall). When I asked her why she felt that way, she really couldn't come up with much of an answer. So basically she was complaining to people who couldn't do anything about a problem that she is interpreting that doesn't even exist!! So I read a verse in Gal 5 (I think around verse 19 or so) about not tearing each other down, encouraged them to learn to see the good in things, and gave examples from my life. I assured them I wasn't talking about ignoring problems or faults, but that there are times where we are stuck in places we don't like, or with people we don't like, or doing things we don't like, and we need to learn to find the good in it or we'll be miserable. And we'll make the people around us either miserable also or annoyed at our complaining. And I said that if they saw a genuine weakness (because nothing's perfect), to do something constructive about it instead of just complaining to people who have no power to change it. Then, to reinforce this idea in their heads I had them all write 10 positive things about SCA. It was a stretch for some of them! But they seemed to take it well, and the next day I asked Melissa how people reacted. She said everyone was fine, and if anyone complained throughout the day, someone would say, "Hey, remember what Miss Kelly said this morning?" I'm not sure how long it'll stick, but at least they were listening. I don't think they're used to seeing me so serious so they really paid attention.
A few other things I did yesterday to try and control the hoodlums was hand out homework demerits ("Yes, you DO have to do your homework. It's actually not just a suggestion!") and hand out a little extra assignment. This was my favorite. I was actually cracking up to myself because it was so great. You see, I have the 11/12th grade class for 2 periods in a row for some days, and they seem to feel that when the bell rings between classes, they get a nice long break. So they saunter in after the second bell has rung and take their time getting back to their desks. I've talked to them about this before and even threatened demerits (although I really don't have the heart to do that sometimes). Well, yesterday only 4 of my 15 students were in the classroom when the bell rung. That is a TERRIBLE percentage! The idea of writing 11 demerits seemed very cumbersome to me, so I opted for another method. I said that all 11 of them would, on Monday, turn in a 150 word "essay" on why punctuality is important. Haha. Oh, I could barely contain my glee. It's really not much of an essay, 2 paragraphs, but I had them for study hall later in the day when many of them were working on it. And to hear their comments and frustrations made me laugh so hard I couldn't hide it from them.
So I guess I have a bit of a mean streak to be laughing at their hardship. :o)
It will be interesting to see what this next week brings. I think I'm going to inconspicuously become more strict. They'll never know what hit them! :o)
Ok, it's getting late and I should get ready for bed. Sleep is goooooood! :o)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Awkward Photos, Salt Showers, and a Dance with a Dog

This past weekend I had another Chilean first--a wedding. There were many similarities with American weddings, but also some very interesting differences!
The wedding was at a beautiful old building, made of stone with a pretty courtyard outside with stone pathways leading around. It was a warm and sunny day. The setting was absolutely perfect. When I got dressed in the morning, I looked for a light, colorful outfit that would be befitting for a spring afternoon wedding. However, a large number of the guests wore all black! Had it been an evening wedding (which apparently most of them are here) there would have been even more black dresses. Very interesting.
The wedding was supposed to start at 12, and the ceremony area was still getting finishing touches at 12:30. The wedding didn't start until 12:45 because the bride wasn't there yet. No one was concerned that she wasn't coming or that she had cold feet, but rather, it was accepted as perfectly natural. We're in Chile, and punctuality is really more of a suggestion here than an expectation.
The ceremony was pretty typical. Although two large differences stick out in my mind. One was a part of the ceremony and one wasn't. There were two cords on a table up front. The bride held one end of a cord, and her parents held the other. The groom came and cut the cord in half. Then they did it again with the bride cutting the cord the groom was holding. Then the two halves that the couple had in their hands were tied together by the pastor. So, really, they did tie the knot. :o)
The other difference during the ceremony really made me laugh. There was a photographer and a friend taking video roaming around the front throughout the ceremony. As were about 4 other people trying to get pictures of their own. They walked to one side, they walked to another. They walked behind the canopy, they stood in front of the audience (although mostly off to the side). They weren't embarrassed or awkward one bit. There are less social restrictions on things like that here. But it was quite entertaining for me! :o)
At the end of the ceremony, we threw rice as they walked down the aisle (yes, actual rice), and they got in a car and drove off. They took some pictures at a pretty spot downtown and then went to a restaurant where they had one of their first dates. Awwww! While they did this, we cleared the chairs away and roamed around the courtyard, eating appetizers and talking. At this point I managed to get powdered sugar all over my black pants. Nice.
Finally they returned and we went inside for the reception. We all sat down to eat, and the food was really good, but for some reason it was all I could do to eat even half of it. During the meal, though, I think I laughed the hardest I've laughed since I got here. I almost choked on my food. One of my friends, Cristian, had dropped a little bit of dressing on his sleeve. So what did he do? He got the salt shaker and dumped salt all over it. I have seen this a few times since coming to Chile. Apparently if something is oily, they pour salt on it to absorb the oil. It seemed to work, because about 10 minutes later he showed me his sleeve, and there was a small pile of salt stuck to the stain, drawing out the oil. A few minutes later, I look over at him because he's staring intently down the front of this shirt. He had a huge splatter of dressing all over his shirt and tie. When he realized we all noticed, he got a little embarrassed; however, since he is a hilarious guy, he made the best out of it and turned it into a very funny moment. He took the salt shaker and started dousing himself in salt. Then he pretended he was taking a shower in salt. Then he took his fork and knife and acted as if he was going to eat his tie, now that it was well seasoned. And of course, the salt that had collected in his shirt pocket provided many more joke opportunities throughout the reception. I was laughing so much. I really think he had more salt on his clothes than on his food!
When the bouquet tossing time came, they made me join in. I was trying hard to avoid it, since I'm not a fan of the tradition, but it was unavoidable. After making several jokes about catching it from my seat (since the toss was happening right next to my table), I stood up. It was then that I realized that I'm tall. Ok, well, I've known that for quite some time, but it was impressed upon me again when I saw the tops of EVERY girl's head. I was about a head taller than all of them. Did this give me an advantage? Not really, because I was near the back and didn't try to fight for it. Oh, well! Later, when it came time to toss the garter, I was walking back to my seat just as he threw it. I was thinking it may be dangerous to be so close to the crowd of men, but figured I could survive. Well, just as I approached my chair, the garter hit my arm and fell at my feet. I almost was trampled by the mob of guys! (Ok, well, that may be a slight exaggeration, but I did have to back up quickly!)
Another interesting moment in the reception was a little auction they held. I don't know if this is typical at a Chilean wedding, but it was an interesting idea. They auctioned off all the centerpieces and gave the money to the couple. It was fun and a nice gift for the bride and groom!
The last thing that stood out to me was the most awkward moment of the day for me. During the reception, it's customary for different groups of people to take pictures with the bride and groom. This is all directed by the MC. It started with family, then friends, and so on. I was sitting WAY back in the corner, and glad to be since I didn't know the couple very well (in fact, I had just met the groom that morning!). The MC (who is a pastor at our church, Yentzen, and a ham if I ever saw one) called the people I was sitting with to go up. Then he called me too. I tried to pretend I didn't understand, but they made me go up. Then I thought I was going to be in the picture with my friends, but no. He directed me to wait. I kept trying to sneak away, and the people around me kept pushing me to the front. It was impossible for me to hide. I don't really blend in here. :o) So finally it's my turn to get in the picture, and guess what? It was just me! No big groups like the others....just me. I tried to go over to bride's side, since at least I know her a little, but I wasn't allowed. The groom held out his arm and trapped my hand to his side in a vise-like grip. I really couldn't have escaped if I wanted to. Ok, so really, it wasn't that embarrassing, but it was a little awkward. But once I was informed that it's not unusual for the couple to take pictures with people they don't really know, I felt just fine about the whole thing. :o)
After I left the wedding, I was walking to the car and a stray dog (well, I think he was stray...there are a lot of them here) jumped up and put is front paws on my stomach. Seriously, he came out of no where! I kept trying to throw him off, and he kept jumping back. I grabbed his front legs and tried to drop them back to the ground. I did this several times. One time, he stayed on his hind legs and stumbled toward me with his paws still in the air! It was quite comical! Luckily he wasn't really dirty or rabid or anything. He didn't try to lick or bite. Guess he just wanted to dance! :o)
Well, this post has turned out longer than I expected. But hopefully it gave an entertaining description of my Chilean wedding experience...and not a boring one! :o)
It was a great day, and I was able to practice a lot of Spanish. I'm still painfully deficient, but I can see a huge improvement in the last few weeks. I even translated a few sentences for a visiting American! Please continue to pray for me in that, since it's my biggest hindrance right now.
School is going well. I just finished the first quarter, and when I wasn't at the wedding, spent the rest of the weekend doing grades. I'm glad to be done that! No one is failing my class (thank goodness!) and for the most part the kids seem to enjoy it (or at least tolerate it). :o) Please pray that I will find a relatively kind way to keep them quiet, as they've become more talkative in the last few weeks.
Oh, and one last thing. Please pray that God will give me restful nights, because I have not slept well the last week or so.
And, as usual, pray that I will be used for His glory in the lives of the kids that I have the pleasure of seeing every day! I really do love them all!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Chicken head

This is the Chilean phrase I learned today. It's so interesting to learn idioms in other languages. We're so used to the ones we say that we don't stop to think how weird they actually are. But when it's a struggle to understand a new language, than the oddity of the idioms are plainly obvious! I may understand the words, but I have no idea what they're saying! Today one of the maintenance men at school asked me my name (he had asked be about 6 weeks ago but obviously he'd forgotten. He's been calling me senorita ever since). When I reminded him, he remembered that I had told him once already. Then when I gave him a little hint on how to remember, he said he would be able to now. He then proceeded to say, "What a chicken head!" (to which I thought, hmmmm, interesting. I know this guy is infamous for his idioms, so what is he trying to say?) Luckily he followed it up by saying, "I always forget things." And through my amazing abilities to put two and two together, (thanks to my 1st grade math teacher, of course) I figured it out. Chileans use a TON of idioms, which makes life to interesting! (Just a few other examples: "What a can!" means "What a shame!" and "What a bad wave!" means "That was totally uncool!"...there are so many more. I now have a book entitled "How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle: and Learn the Catchphrases in English." It's very helpful!)

Well, that is not the real reason I'm posting tonight, but I thought it would be interesting for you! It's been awhile since I've written, and for good reason. It's been a busy couple of weeks, and a whirlwind of emotions! Everything from the fear of having to leave my cozy home here and move somewhere else, to the frustrations of having both of my Spanish tutors cancel in the same week, to the disappointment of having to back out of a weekend excursion to Argentina because it'll mess up my visa situation, to the headache of hearing a lot of complaining from the students since there's a large amount of end-of-the-quarter work to do. Whew! It makes me tired just writing about it! Lest you think that I've been in a constant state of turmoil the last 2 weeks, I have had several great moments, and innumerable average ones. :o) Some of the great moments include my first visit to a Chilean home on my own. I've had dinner with Chilean families before, but always with other Americans where I could just sit back and listen and answer a few questions. Or I've been the only English speaker among Chileans, but it's been in a big group where I can sit back and listen. But this visit, I was the guest, and for the most part the conversation centered on me. It went pretty well, and I really enjoyed myself. I was able to understand the majority of what they were saying and come up with a rough approximation of what I wanted to say. Although, my friends brother does not understand the concept of talking with a foreigner. He's so nice, but almost impossible to understand! I only caught about 50% of it. If I didn't understand, he would reword it. Of course, I still wouldn't understand because he talks a mile a minute. So I'd ask him to slow down, which he would, but he still spoke very inarticulately. Several times his sister had to translate for him (and by that I mean translate his Spanish into her Spanish, and then I understood). It was a good time overall! And great practice for me. The people are so nice and patient here. It's allowed me to be very bold in trying to speak!

There have been other great moments as well. I met an American my age that I think I can be friends with (the first person who fills all three categories of being my age, speaking English, and having enough in common to make friendship likely). Also, I went to a dinner with all the other ABWE missionaries in Santiago. Good food, fun conversation, great people. What more can you ask for? I also went out with a group of Chileans on Saturday after our Bible study. Although I didn't understand everything, it was still nice to be out in a social setting with a group of nice, fun, godly people. It felt like I was with my friends at home (except in Spanish, of course), and I laughed a lot. I look forward to the day I can truly get to know these people and vice versa. They really are incredible. I've been blessed to have found a church filled with people who are so accepting and genuine.

Wow, it's getting late. I need my beauty rest since I have a busy weekend ahead of me. I still have one more day of classes, of course, and then I'll be spending most of my weekend figuring out the quarter grades for 42 students. And on Saturday I'll be going to a Chilean wedding. Yay! I look forward to the weekend, but I have the feeling that I'm going to start my week exhausted! Please pray that I will have the focus and diligence to get everything done and still have time to rest! I thank you all for your prayers and your notes of encouragement! Just to know people care enough to pray for me and are interested in reading this is such a blessing to me! Thank you so much!