Friday, June 22, 2007

Love and Vomit

The snow continues to fall in Coyhaique, but life goes on as usual. I don´t think that "snow days" exist in Patagonia. The roads are never plowed or salted, the sidewalks are covered in ice, and people carry on with their routines in their snow boots and four wheel drive vehicles. Almost everyone in Coyhaique drives a truck or a jeep. Yesterday I was walking through the central plaza, admiring the snow on the trees, when I took my first official fall on a patch of ice. Guess I´ll have to walk more carefully from now on.

School vacation beckons a mere week and a half away! I am now fully settled into my new classroom which was promptly christened by a vomit incident the first day I taught class there. Perhaps vomit can be seen as an auspicious sign. In any event, my new room gets full sun during the day and is significantly warmer, and the kids seem to behave much better there. I am teaching them how to say "What´s up," and "Just chillin´," which is at the very least amusing for me. Some boys have discovered how to say "I love you," and now when I walk in the halls I am constantly greeted by declarations of love from eleven year olds. Life could be worse!

The best thing I can say about my job here is that everyday when I go to work the kids are genuinely happy to see me. The never tire of kissing me on the cheek or offering to carry my schoolbag. They may not stay in their seats or care about the verb "to be," but they seem to have adopted me into their lives. And they are desperate for any sort of affection! I can already tell that it will be tough to leave these scrappy little buggers behind...

Monday, June 11, 2007

When the snow falls down....

As I celebrate my 25th birthday down here at the end of the world, I can´t help but think that a chain of events over a quarter century has been leading up to this experience. Perhaps it is the snow falling in June, or perhaps it is the Chilean wine, but it seems that on this birthday I have finally got it all right.

In any event, I kicked off my big 25 with hugs and kisses from all the teachers and students, and rounds of "Happy Birthday" in every class. My family threw me a big party and I discovered the Chilean birthday tradition: you get your face shoved in a cake. They got me good...the poor unsuspecting gringa! And then the snow began to fall, illuminated by the streetlights and blanketing the sidewalks, and it hasn´t stopped since! Welcome to winter in Patagonia!

In other news, I was informed that I need to change classrooms, so in the middle of the year I have to rip all my decorations and lettering off the wall and move across the hallway. Chileans really know how to make you feel special on your birthday but have no idea how to run a school! Or something like that. But the best you can do is just shut up and do what needs to be done, a good lesson learned in the English Opens Doors Program. The important thing is that I am starting to break through to the students, and they can now respond in English to "How are you?" A small but exciting achievement.

And so as the snow continues to fall I can say that I am one year older but infinitely wiser and stronger after only a couple of months at 49 degrees south... six months and a very long winter await.