Friday, March 21, 2008

Chi-chi-chi! Le-le-le! Colo Colo de Chile!

The previous post actually came from an email that I wrote about a week ago, right when those events were happening. It's been interesting to see the highs and lows that can occur within the span of just a week. I was so elated and proud of my students at the end of last week. And then this week, on Tuesday, I was faced with the hardest day I've had at the school since I've been here. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, because really it was a combination of many small problems that normally would hold little significance. What made it so difficult was that they all came at once. It's as if Satan didn't want me to be too encouraged about my ministry here and wanted to bring me down a peg or two. Or maybe God wanted to be sure I remained humble and relying on Him, so He sent me an awful day to remind me. Either way, it was a very difficult day coming right on the heels of an excellent week. The next day everything was back to normal though, and I was not upset about that! :o)

Last night I was able to do something that I've wanted to do since I arrived in Chile 8 months ago. I was very close to doing it last spring (spring for Chile, fall for the States), but it never happened. Have you guessed it yet? I went to a professional soccer game!! It was incredible!! One of the two main Chilean teams was playing against one of the main Argentine teams, so it promised to be very exciting. And we were not disappointed. I went with a large group, since the fans of the Chilean teams can be a bit....enthusiastic, shall I say? At some points walking down the streets we made sure to only speak in Spanish, or at least keep the English very quiet (Mom, I didn't tell you any of this beforehand....for a reason!). :o) But really, it wasn't as bad or as dangerous as people warned us of or as it could have been. God protected us, as He always does! We were a group of ten: 2 Chilenos, 2 gringas, and 6 gringos (ranging in age from 16 to.....uh, I'll just say adult.....some who have been in Chile for only a few weeks, and some who have been here for a couple of decades). So we had quite the span of experience in our midst. With the combination of all these factors, I knew we'd be safe. And praise God, we were!

Ok, enough of that. Let me tell you about the actual game experience. We parked about 7 blocks away from the stadium, mostly because at that point traffic was already gridlocked and it was faster to just walk. We were all dressed in the team's colors (white and black) to try to blend in, and to appease the two or three actual fans in our group. :o) Even while we were waiting in line to get in, people were yelling the many chants, getting pumped up. I could already smell beer and smoke. We were at the wrong entrance, so we had to go around the block. As we did, we encountered many police on horses, prepared to keep the crowd under control. We arrived at the correct entrance, had one end of our ticket ripped off, and then were squeezed into rows between metal fences. It reminded me of the tight lanes cattle are walked through at the rodeo or on a dairy farm. I think I even mooed once or twice to make my point. At the end of these lanes were police stationed to pat down everyone, looking for contraband. Being a gringa, I was not frisked. What a nice privilege! We walked a little more, then had to go through another checkpoint, get the other end of out ticket ripped off, and be frisked one more time. Once again, I wasn't subjected to that.
We found some seats all together, and then just had to wait and watch the craziness around us until the game started at 9:45. People were still cheering, chanting, singing, and just being boisterous. It was so exciting! When the game finally started, it was amazing. The players came onto the field, and the fans went CRAZY! Everyone was on their feet, jumping, twirling shirts in the air, chanting, swearing, insulting the other team and fans, and watching the contraband flares and fireworks exploding all around. I guess it's basically expected that some will get through security. Then HUGE flags were passed over us that covered our entire section practically. Then the game started. And we scored in the first 3 minutes! We scored again the first half, and that was the end of scoring for the rest of the game. We won, 2-0!! We got out of the stadium and back to our car around 12:15. I was too wound up afterwards and didn't go to bed until 2. Good thing there's no school today!
There are several things that are very interesting about a Chilean soccer game. For instance, some fans seem more concerned with insulting the other fans than on watching the game. Throwing toilet paper or tickertape onto the field is highly normal, and there is someone on staff simply to remove it. When you buy a drink, they give you a bottle of soda, and then you have to pour it into a cup, because if people took bottles into the stadium they would throw them at the players. The sections behind the goals are for the extreme fans and don't even have seats, because apparently they would always rip them up and throw them. In the places where there are seats, people remain seated almost the whole time unless the ball gets close to the goal, or if there's a penalty kick or something. And as soon as that's over, people start shouting "Asiento!" which basically means "sit down." There are cops decked out in full protective gear all over the stadium, especially near the extreme fan sections. And there are some cops whose main job only happens when there's a corner kick. They'll turn towards the crowd holding up their plexiglass shields so the player isn't hit by the things thrown at him.
Like I said, it's a very different experience! We took lots of pictures and a few videos, so I'm going to include the links to those now.

Here's a selection of the pictures we took. It was an AWESOME experience!

Here's a video from before the game started...the flares in the crowd, the general excitement...and a quick shot of those of us who went.

Here's the video when the Chilean team, Colo Colo, entered the field at the beginning and general craziness ensued...

Here's a video from when the huge flag was passed over us.

Teachable moments

I know it's been awhile since I've posted, and that's probably because I've been readjusting to the school schedule. However, I wanted to tell you all about some interesting things that happened to me "professionally" last week. They were very encouraging to me.

Ok, to the task at hand. First is about grammar. You may remember that I've mentioned that my hardest subject to teach has been upper level grammar, because it's VERY detailed and difficult, and of course, very boring. So this semester I decided to switch it up, because they weren't learning or enjoying the class (and honestly, I wasn't enjoying it either). So, instead of having double periods of grammar, I'm having a period of grammar and a period of literature. Split it up so it's much easier to handle. Also, I pretty much chucked the book (well, I used it but they didn't). I taught them what I thought was important to know, what I thought they could handle, and ignored all the nitty-gritty stuff. And I taught it to them in 3 stages--lecture which involved me teaching and getting them to make up examples....a game that they played individually to see that they each had to think of it on their own and I could see how each of them was progressing....and lastly a group game that was either a race or funny to hammer in the information even more. They had so much fun with the games that one day they asked if they could skip the literature and keep playing the game the whole time (I had inadvertently made literature boring in comparison)!! One day several of them left the room at the end saying, "Good class, Miss Kelly." Highly novel! One guy, a smart kid, said "I finally get it after all these years!" They all seemed pretty confident during the review. Then came the test. I have to preface this by saying I almost always had one or two people fail grammar tests last semester, and had several D's and C's along with the usual A's and B's. I almost always curved a little. Well, this test, the lowest score was a C+!!! 10 of the 14 scored in the 90s!! I was so proud of them!

My other story is a little different. One day, in my writing class (which is new for me and the kids) I was showing a video. We're doing a new program and there's a set of videos where the guy teaches it much better than I could at this point. So I've been using the videos a lot. Well, for the 11/12th class, the guy moves at a perfect pace for the slower to average kids, and the smarter kids are a little bored. Well that's fine, because usually I have the problem of losing the slower kids. Well, one or two of the faster ones (good kids, in general) were making very subtle comments throughout about it being too boring or too easy or him harping on things way too much. "We get it already!" That type of thing. I knew several others felt that way as well, but these two were a bit negative about it. So as the class was dismissing, I asked them to stay for a minute (these aren't kids used to being in trouble...not that they were, technically). God worked with me here, and the slowest kid in the class took longer to pack up than usual, and while he was doing so he told me that the kids in the video (who range from grades 8-12 I think) were very intimidating because they seemed so smart...I think he used the word genius at one point. So this was about to perfectly illustrate my point. Once he left, I spoke to the other two and said something like this: "I know you guys are smart and I could teach this to you in 5 minutes and you'd be fine, but I can't go that fast because I'd completely lose part of the class. They'd be lost. So I know it's frustrating for you, but I have to move this slowly for them. So please try to understand." And they looked at me like I had two heads and said things that gave the impression that they had no idea what I was talking about. So I explained that I hear comments and sometimes the attitude comes through. They apologized saying they "didn't mean it that way," and I explained whether they do or not, with that tone, that's how I take it. They sheepishly apologized again and left the room. I was gentle in this reprimand, as I'm sure you can imagine. Well, the next morning when I walked into my room, sitting on my desk was a tiny gift bag with a beanie baby type thing sticking out of it. In it was a small note on scrap paper from my desk, I think, that said, "Miss Kelly, I'm sorry for being such a pain in the butt. You're a really good teacher. I hope we're cool." And then he signed it. (The words "good" and "cool" were actually stickers that he put in the appropriate places....haha). I was incredibly touched by that.

Anyway, I know this may not have been as dramatic or action packed as some of my posts are, but I was very excited by it and wanted to share with you. It's very encouraging to see my teaching abilities growing. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I've started with a good foundation that God has blessed me with. Just further confirmation that I'm exactly where He wants me to be!

Monday, March 3, 2008

So long summer!

Ok, so summer isn't really over quite yet. It's still roasting hot in the afternoons, although the mornings and late evenings have certainly cooled down some. But summer vacation is over, school has begun, and life has entered into a routine again. It's kinda nice!
Since my last post, I had several weeks of lazing around, trying to stay cool, and practicing my Spanish by hanging out with friends. Basically a typical summer. Then I went on vacation with Melissa Rogers, the 15 yr old daughter of the family I'm living with. It was an awesome week. We went to a town about 10 hours south of the city called Pucon. It's this cute little town right on the edge of a lake, nestled in between mountains, with a breathtaking view of a nearby volcano. Basically, it's a tourist town to the tee, but I didn't care. It was great! I'll just give you a quick rundown of our week.
After an all night bus ride (much more comfy than a plane!) we arrived and had several hours to walk around before we could check in to our hostel. We walked all morning, got some coffee, and pretty much knew our way around the touristy parts by lunch time. I told you it was a small town! In the afternoon we decided to hire a taxi to take us up the volcano. You can only go up so far by car, then you have to hike, but we just wanted to take it easy. After fishtailing all the way up a gravel road, we got out at a ski lodge (very empty since it's the middle of summer), and enjoyed the view. After awhile we got back in the taxi and headed to town. On the way, once we had reached the paved road again, our taxi driver suddenly ran right off the road! The road curved left and he didn't! We jumped over a little curb and almost ran into a tree. He stopped just in time. Somewhere during this time (we don't know when. I didn't even realize it had happened at first) the passenger mirror hit a woman who was walking down the street in the elbow! Some other pedestrians gathered around, and a van full of hikers stopped to check on us and the woman. They ended up taking her to the hospital. Eventually we got back into our taxi, without a word from the driver, and went home. I still paid him full price since I couldn't barter in Spanish yet. Oh well. I still have no idea what he was doing or how or why it happened!
Our evenings all week were pretty calm. Sometimes we ate out, sometimes we stayed in and watched a movie on TV, and most nights we walked around town, watching street artists, performers, and going to the little artisan kiosks. There was a stage in a small park, and there was something going on almost every night there--musical performances, traditional Chilean music and dance, karaoke, etc. It was all so entertaining!
The next day we went horseback riding to a beautiful waterfall. This was one of my favorite things we did. We galloped the horses for awhile, which was such a rush. Then a short hike to a waterfall where we got drenched enjoying the view. :o) Then when I hopped back on my horse to head home the knee of my jeans ripped! Oops! Then we rode back. The whole thing took about 3 hours. Our tour guide was an Israeli who had just finished her time in the army. She was touring South America for 10 months when she decided to stop in Chile for 3 months to work with the horses. Melissa and I, not being as experienced with horses, spent the next several days very sore! And of course, the room in our hostel was on the third floor! (Although we had a beautiful view of the volcano from our room, so we didn't complain!)
The next day we took an all around tour, visiting a river with raging rapids, a gorgeous blue lagoon with two small waterfalls, a Mapuche settlement, and then finished off with 2 hours at one of the many thermal hot springs in the area. Somewhere along the way Melissa's cell phone was stolen. Oops! The first thing we did at the thermal was to go to the mud bath. You stand in dirty water, scoop mud off the bottom, and smear it all over yourself. It did NOT smell nice! Then you let it dry (which is an odd sensation), then go to a man made waterfall to wash off. Or should I say a FREEZING man made waterfall. All the ladies were making quite a racket as they stood under the water, and Melissa and I were no exception. We just got a little more attention being gringas (we get a little more attention where ever we go). Once we were clean and cold and our skin was incredibly soft (I loved it), we headed over to the hot springs to warm up. We spent the rest of the time there, enjoying the relaxing water, and avoiding the yellow jackets. Melissa failed in this and ended up being stung right under her eye!
The next day we TRIED to go to another thermal, but the shuttle transfer left without us, so we had to switch our Thursday and Friday plans. So we took a nap, went to the beach, and went mini golfing. Mini golf is not very popular in Chile, and this place was a little outside the town, so we were the only ones there. I will admit right now--I won. :o) Interestingly enough, the woman running it was a Chilean who had lived in New Jersey since she was a kid! She had just moved back to Chile 2 years ago! Small world! It was n ice to be able to chat in English, and she ended up giving us a ride back to our hostel so we didn't have to pay for a cab.
The next day we went to another thermal (which was much warmer and we couldn't sit in for more than 10 minutes at a time) where we divided our time between the pool and the hot spring. I got a little sun burnt that day, but not too bad. I was being very careful all week and I ended up pretty tan! Well, tan for me, anyway. :o) We also got facials there--a mixture of sediment and honey. Very interesting!
Then we went home! It was a great week, and just what I needed to cap off the summer. We got home early Saturday morning, and teacher inservice began on Monday, so I jumped right into things again!
The first week of school went very well. It's so nice to be back. I really do love it.

Here's some things you can pray for.
1. The school is instituting a new writing program for 1-12th grade. It's really great, but I still don't know it all yet. I'm in charge of introducing it to the high school (obviously, being the English teacher) and I have a whole other class dedicated to it, two days a week for each grade level. So that's 6 more periods a week. Here's the request. I'm very frustrated and overwhelmed at how to structure the semester and how to teach it. There are no books or manuals, and the teacher's help that I have is in conjunction with some DVDs, so it's very difficult to understand and organize without watching 20 hours of video first. I just don't have time for that yet! I've watched some, but there's a lot more. Please pray that I'll be able to figure things out pretty quickly!

2. There's a girl in the 7 th grade who has come to learn English. She doesn't speak much, so it's a little overwhelming for her. I've taken it upon myself to help her at least one period a week because I don't think anyone else can. One on one work is the best thing for her. I'm looking forward to it, but it's more prep work and time taken away from preparing for other classes. Please pray that I will have to time and energy to do both things well!

3. My Spanish has improved this summer, but I'm still lacking, and I'm still very hard on myself. I'm my own worst critic! So there's two requests in one!

4. I need to start preparing for my second year here. There are several phases to this: 1- being voted on and approved on several levels of ABWE, here in Chile and at the home office. Really this is a formality, but it will still take time. 2- raising funds. 3- deciding where to live. I think I have several options (although none of them are official offers yet), and they're all very different. I'm praying about which one to follow up on to see if it's even a possibility.

Ok, that's it for now. It's been another long post, as they tend to be. Boy, I sure do like to write! We've been reading Robinson Crusoe in one of my classes, and I mentioned how he wrote down his thoughts during his time on a deserted isle to process and express his own thoughts. One student asked if that's what I would do if I was stranded on an island. I said yes, and then in my head added that I already kind of do....sometimes I feel like that and writing is my way to express myself and keep a tie to home!
I hope you get an idea of what my ministry and life is like here through reading this. That's certainly my goal. And along the way, I get to be creative and work through my own thoughts as well! Thanks for putting up with it. :o)