Thursday, March 11, 2010

One Month Already: The beach, furniture hunting, hiking, adventures in cooking, and school

It's hard to believe that I have been traveling for a month.  A month ago today I was sitting in the New York JFK airport staring sadly at the snow and wondering if my plane was going to take off, while today I am walking the streets and navigating the busses of Santiago in sunny 80 degree weather.

This past Saturday I went to Viña del Mar, but because of the cold and overcast weather (which was a direct contrast to the warm and sunny weather in Santiago that day) it was a bit of a washout.  Luckily Viña is close enough that I can go back another time.

Sunday I finally got to do furniture shopping with Fabiola and Gustavo.  But first I had to get cash to be able to buy said furniture.  After walking to 7 (yes, seven) different ATMs, I was finally able to get cash.  We took the bus there, and Fabiola insisted on taking pictures of me and Gustavo on the bus. 

The Bio Bio market was huge, and I can understand why people say that you can easily get lost in it.  It is laid out in a huge grid, and there are rows after rows of people selling furniture and all types of housewares.  Then when you get to the end of it, you realize that you can cross the street to find another huge grid of the market. 

Fabiola negotiated prices on my behalf and got me a nice armoire and a rollable table/TV table, and I got both purchased and delivered for a sweet 66,000 pesos (about $135).  I think the best part of the delivery was sitting in the back of the truck and watching the back door fly open as I stared out the back of the truck.

That afternoon I went hiking with some friends up the San Cristobal Mountains.  At the top there is a huge statue of the Virgin Mary as well as some delicious empanadas.  The hike up was a bit strenuous and reminded me that I need to get back into shape, but the hike was worth it.  It turns out that there is a quasi open air church set up outside, and it looks like they do church services there on Sunday mornings.  It would be interesting to attend something like that, and I think I will do so before I leave Santiago. 

My first few days at school have gone pretty well.  I have mostly been observing the classes to get a feel of what the students know and their levels so far as well as how the teachers teach.  The young students are adorable, and singing songs with them is a lot of fun and reminds me of how I miss teaching kindergarten. I have already gotten to teach them the Days of the Week song I used in my kindergarten class.  The older kids are interesting in seeing what they know and how far along their English is.  They seem more reserved about talking with me and speaking English, but I figure with time they will come out of their shells.

I can already see that teaching here is very radically different in a variety of ways.  For example, a class size of 35 is completely normal and they are allowed to have class sizes of 45.  There are no overhead projectors, and the rooms are almost completely bare with the exception of the desks, chairs, and a white board.  Teachers bring their own white board marker and even their own eraser.  Students stay in the same room, while teachers move from room to room.  Becuase of this, it is impossible for them to have anything written on the board and prepared for students in advance.  The students also seem to have more liberty to chat amongst themselves throughout the class period.  I am not viewing this things as a negative, but rather as a cultural difference that influences the education students get and the school environment here.

I finally decided to brave the kitchen and cook something for myself after all this time.  So I decided on some pasta with chicken and tomato sauce, figuring that that couldn't really get too complicated.  Well, I had a surprise.  It turns out when you buy chicken breast at the supermarkets in Chile, they not only give you the chicken breast, but they also give you the bone and ribs of said chicken attached to the chicken breast.  Luckily one of my roommates helped me carve it.  After that, I was able to cook everything without too much of a problem.  This is what it looked like when I finished:

It looks pretty appetizing, but the mixture of chicken flavored with oregano, salt, and pepper did not mix well with the whole grain pasta and tomato sauce.  Despite that, I am proud that I did not burn the house down or end up in the hospital becuase of my eating.

Wednesday I met up with another teacher in the program at the Estacion Central to catch up on everything from the past few weeks since we both moved out of the hostel.  We came across a huge shopping mall attached to the bus station, and we walked around and did some shopping for our apartments.  I now have a few rugs and a few other small things for my place.  Afterwards we got a bite to eat at a small restaurant:

This weekend I am hoping to get to the beach and/or do some mountain hiking.  We shall see what the future holds.

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