Saturday, August 6, 2011

Tours, Train Tracks, & the Time of Transition

July was an intense month. A good month, but exhausting. I moved into my new family´s home at the end of July. They live just 10 minutes from my school in a nice house and there are 7 of them. The breakdown:

Dad- Francisco
Mom- Rosamaría
Cristian-23- does not live here
Constanza- 12
Vicente- 9
Pía- 7 
Tomás- 4
Tammy- the dog

I am sad I will not get to know the other family, but I think I will be happy here. I was anxious and excited before I moved out. Now, I feel mainly comfortable. But my first night I kept feeling little vibrations in my bed and I thought they were earthquake temblors. They weren´t... just the train in the distance. I have already gotten used to them.
My new room

Tour Time
The family took me on a tour of the city. Sort of. It was a tour of the rich part and the poor part. Antofagasta is divided into three zones: south, central, and the north. The entire thing is only 16-17 miles long and 1.5 miles wide at any given point. Because there are hills to the east and the ocean to the west there is not much space to construct buildings...and as a general rule of thumb, the higher up the hills you travel the poorer it gets. Humanity is crammed in every inch of the city. The south is where the wealthiest people live. I don´t have pictures, but their homes are beautiful, there are less dogs, and pretty much everybody works for Minera Escondida. In the center there is poverty but its more middle class society, and the north has middle and upper class but also the largest concentration of poverty.  I was told to never walk past the train tracks that cross the city. Ever. They are the division between the poor parts and the rest of Antofagasta.

I had never visited the poor part before, and it was like something from a movie... many people lived in shacks. It was such a stark contrast to the wealthy area just 20 minutes away! The craziest part was my family didn´t even drive to the worst part of the city. They told me they had never been there, and they have lived in Antofagasta their entire lives. The city isn´t even that big- around 350,000. I have seen more of Antofagasta than I have of the Cleveland area! This city is so bizarre with its poverty and wealthiness.

¨Colombians are not good people.¨ (Wait, did you really just say that???)
Chilean culture is openly classist and racist. Of course not everyone is like that, but many people express strong racial and classist opinions with less reservation than what would be acceptable in US culture. The ¨ghetto people¨ (or people who dress like it for fashion) are called flaites, and I will remind you the rich (snobby rich) people are ¨cuico/a.¨ My students informed me to never approach a flaite for help if I am lost, flaites are dangerous, there are too many of them, flaites eat small children for breakfast, etc. Not really on that last one, but you get the idea.

I have heard more than one educated person say ¨I hate black people.¨ I start laughing because I am shocked that someone would just lay it out on the table like that, but these people are serious. The black people here come from Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. They are poor and looking for better opportunities in Chile, but since they don´t have money they take low-paying jobs that no one wants. A lot of times they are associated with drugs, prostitution, and crime. As Chile´s quality of life increased, there became immigration issues. Sound familiar? But many people have no problem telling you they do not want those people here.

Los voluntarios se fueron
All of the VS1 and VS2 volunteers- except for me- left last week. I am sad about this, but three more have arrived: Caleb, Nicky, and Rebecca (she follows my blog, yay). I got buena onda from them and I am happy they are here. I have also been getting to know my Chilean friends more.

The school
All is going well here, except my celebrity status has pretty much worn off. Now I am almost like a regular teacher, que fome. Pretty soon we are going to have our school anniversary- I am very excited for this! Update on the tomas: some public schools have stopped them, but in Santiago it´s completely out of control. My volunteer friends had their closing ceremony in Santiago last week and accidentally got to close to the strikes... and experienced tear gas. The students even stormed a local TV station by the hundreds (or thousands?)! I cannot believe how strong these strikes are. The students want free education, even at the university level. It´s free in Argentina but I don´t see that happening here. This toma has been going on for months; it´s the longest the country has ever experienced. If they go past next week they will lose an entire semester!

Gun at School
Last week a gun was found at our school. A teacher found it and nobody was hurt; no one tried to fire shots. Still, it remains a mystery as to who owns the gun. A local newspaper- La Estrella- got wind of this story and blew it totally out of proportion, not to mention actually falsified part of it. Anyway as the reporter was taking a picture of our school my teacher Yasna and I happened to be talking in front of it. He did not ask our permission, and here we are (I am in green). The cover says ¨Loaded gun found at school!¨ Yasna was not amused, but I thought it was hilarious our pictures were on the front page.


Peru
Peru was fantastic. I went with Juli and Tom (who have now left Chile) for a week to Peru. We met up with Staci, Tyler, and Jen (also all gone) along the way. We took an overnight bus to the border, and one of the wheels fell into a sinkhole at 3am. Smooth way to start the trip. Anyway we went to Arequipa, Cuzco, Machu Pichu, and the festival of La Tirana. In Arequipa we saw Juanita- a frozen ice princess sacrified to the Incan gods! Later we visited a huge monastery. In Cuzco there were a bunch of museums and we saw some ruins. I visited the incredible cathedral in Cuzco that is a mixture of Incan and Spanish culture. When the Spanish colonized the area, they had to convert the Incans and there are many references to Andean culture in the cathedral. It was fascinating... for example, in European culture, mirrors represented vanity. But in Incan culture, they are a reflection of your soul- so, they are in the cathedral.

A dehydrated llama for sale! Haven´t you always wanted one? No joke.

Llama ladies! These ladies dress in their best Andean clothing and solicit you for pictures. I did this about 3 times.

Traditional dances.

Andes mountain range.

Machu Pichu was obviously a highlight of the trip. Tom and I climbed the stairs to get there for an hour and a half. Given the altitude it was probably the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life! Machu Pichu is awesome, but there are many ruins in Cuzco and Machu Pichu is the epitome of tourism. To get there you must go to Aguas Calientes (unless you trek for days) and you must pay a train ticket, and basically it ends up being super expensive, but worth it.

An artist´s renditon of money-maker Machu Pichu. Those are dollars flying away.

Ta-da! It´s Machu Pichu!

Beautiful and mystical

Chinchilla

Peru exceeded my expectations. The food was super cheap, the Spanish was perfect, and there was so much to see! The toilets were pretty disgusting though. I am very aware I was in the touristy areas, and that is not the ¨real Peru.¨ For goodness´ sake there were set ¨tourist menus.¨ That is really what they were called. Yet Peru felt very cultural, and somewhat mystical. It absolutely matched the vision in my head of what South America looks like. Backpacking through Peru and seeing Andean clothing, traditional dances, beautiful churches and cathedrals, sooo South America. Eating giant hotdogs in the barren desert? Not so much. I did not want to leave! But of course we did, and on the way back I met with Jen in La Tirana.

Yep, I am the ultimate tourist. It doesn´t get cheesier than posing with an ¨Incan King.¨ And just to let you know, my fanny pack later ripped. (Everybody wears them in South America!)
Tourist menu with diet chicken!

La Tirana: ¨God will provide for all that you need¨... even if you have to beg for it
La Tirana is a Catholic festival in the middle of the Chilean desert that celebrates the Virgin Mary. The village it´s in only has maybe 800 inhabitants, but during this 10 day festival something like 200,000 people come. There is dancing in elaborate masks all day and all night. It was quite a spectacle, but did not go as planned...
Unfortunately there was not an ATM around and they did not accept credit cards anywhere. My friend did not have enough money for a bus ride back, so I had to help her, and afterwards we had no money except for a taxi once we returned. For the first time in my life I begged for food! And it worked... I got an empanada and completo out of it. Makes for a banging ending to my vacation.




Note: to see all the pictures from Peru, click: Peru 1 and Peru 2 and La Tirana. (And of course I have some great videos of Machu Pichu and all the dancing, but as usual they won´t load on Blogger.)

Winter Camps
After we got back we had a week of English Winter Camps with EOD. The kids who came to Winter Camp were probably the best kids I have ever worked with in my life. Seriously. Its because they all wanted to be there. This is not school; nobody forced them to come. Every single one of these kids wants to learn or improve their English. Some of them were completely fluent and had never been abroad- I was very impressed. We played games, spent a day in Mejilliones, and had a talent show. At one point when the kids were practicing they went into the auditorium and would not let us in. I was freaking out that they were having, ahem, inappropriate relations, but no... they were planning a surprise party for us the last day (I think that is all they did)! My group in particular loved me and I loved them back. The last day they gave me and a few other counselors gifts. I wish all kids were like this!

Our kids named our group ¨The Hoods: u´ know what im saying?¨ (I told them this wasn´t grammatically correct lol)

Here is our group <3

Some teens at the beautiful beach in Mejilliones

The theme was ¨No Bullying¨ and these were all the posters and windmills the kids made.

Our surprise party! These are the best teens in the universe.

We were surprised!

My group <3

Transitions
July was my month of transition. Transition from the first to second semester with winter break, transition to a new family, transition with new volunteers. I cannot believe 4 months has flown by so quickly since March! I am going to be here until the end of November, but I feel as though in 25 seconds it will be the end. I want time to slow down so badly. I do not want to readjust to Ohio! Especially in the winter when it is just turning into summer here, bleh.

There are these annoying things I have to take care of- like my loans- and when I think about all the adjusting I had and have to do it feels like there isn´t time left to just BE. Well, there is but I´ll admit I sometimes waste time. Either way its just overwhelming to me and as of now I don´t want to leave until I feel I have properly experienced everything. I keep meeting great people and I think of boring Ohio... I am picturing flying back and dealing with the real world. Super fome, right? At the same time I could not live in Chile forever, but maybe longer than I originally thought.

You could say this whole thing is a transition. Almost everybody who does EOD is a young twenty-something figuring life out, but hardly any of us are going to stay in Chile forever. Why is everything so temporary? I am clutching and holding onto this experience like a life jacket.

There is a song I used once in a lesson plan (teaching future tense!) called Que Será, Será (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). My life has turned into that song!

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