I have finally arrived at 49 degrees south of the equator. I can say with certainty that it is the most beautiful and wildest land I have ever seen. The flight from Santiago to Coyhaique along the spine of the Andes was spectacular. The Lakes Region is dotted with massive volcanoes and beautiful blue lakes. South of Puerto Montt, the mountains rise directly out of the ocean, and glaciers pour down their crevasses and ravines like Elmer´s Glue frozen in time. Here in Coyhaique, I truly feel at the mercy of mother nature. Everything is heated by wood stove - even the ovens in which they cook. My family works in the country, harvesting grain and chopping firewood. In the winter they hunt and export the meat to make money. The town is surrounded by mountains, rivers, waterfalls.... complete wilderness in every direction. At night the wind howls and sometimes the ground literally shakes... there is a volcano about 80km away that has been causing tremors since January.
I am humbled by the power of nature and the way of life down here. Everybody works so hard to survive. The school where I will be teaching is called Escuela Victor Domingo Silva. Most of the students there come from very poor families and will start working full time after the eighth grade. I wonder how I will motivate them to learn English. I also wonder how pertinent it is to their lifestyles. They look up at me with curious eyes and big smiles and say, "Tia, tia! Como se llama?" Some of the more intrepid ones say "Good morning!" As the reality of the working conditions and resources available at the school sets in, I realize that this will be the biggest challenge of my life.