So it has only been a few days of school, but I still feel like there's a lot I can write about. This week all of the English classes have their oral and written tests, so it is an easy week for me. I was wondering why Claudia wasn't at school when I got there, as she always shows up early on Mondays. She ended up showing up at the last minute and was facing major printing problems at home for some of the tests for the week. We then rushed up to the first class (which was going to do their oral tests), but we found out that they scheduled a mass during that time. So we had to go down with them instead of taking their tests.
The next surprise was that my paycheck wasn't ready. It was supposed to be ready last week Thursday, but I forgot to ask about it. I was asked about it at school on Monday, and the payroll guy told me that he hadn't received anything from our program yet. I spoke with the woman who heads up the English programs, and she told me that they weren't ready but she was going to be sure that they got there the next day. I told my program director as well as the payroll guy about this before heading home.
So on Tuesday I checked in first thing in the morning (I was running out of money pretty badly at this point), and he said he would try and call at 9 when the EDUCA office would be open. I checked back later that morning, and he didn't get through to anyone. He told me to check back at 1 since the banks close at 2. I stopped back, and he didn't have any news, but a few minutes later he told me that our paychecks were being delivered and would be there in the next 45 minutes or so. I decided to hold tight and hope to make it to the bank on time.
Our paychecks arrived at about 1:45, and the payroll guy directed me and Erin to the specific bank we had to go to. We got there at 1:57, and as long as you get in the door by 2:00 you are fine. After waiting in line for about 25 minutes we were able to get our paychecks.
It is such a relief to not have to make more ATM withdrawals or charge more groceries and other things to my credit card. I've already set up a budget for myself and am going to do my best to stick to it.
Through this experience and seeing what I have seen at school so far, I have come to the following conclusions about Chilean culture in relation to schools:
1. Time is much more lax here. Teachers will show up after the bell has rung for classes to start, and it is not uncommon for them to show up to class 5 minutes after the bell has rung.
2. Teachers will continue teaching even if half the class is not listening, and the responsibility simply lies on the students to be able to complete the work. Unless if it is something major, students are not typically given consequences or thrown out of class.
3. One of the teachers told me that things in Chile are done "a la chilena". This means that sometimes things go wrong or don't work, so they try to find a solution. If that solution works 90% of the time, that's great. If it works 50% of the time, that's great too. If it doesn't work, try something else and repeat.
So in addition to getting used to this cultural shift, I got a pleasant surprise yesterday. I was out running some errands, and a couple that was obviously Latino stopped me and asked me for directions. I have gotten some tan since I have been here, but it's still pretty obvious that I am a gringo. I happened to know exactly where they had to go (for those of you reading this that know Santiago they were on Matta con San Francisco and wanted to know how to get to Santa Rosa), and it was such a satisfying feeling feeling like a local here.
Another culture that I have grown very accustomed to is the hostel life. I can't put my finger on what it is about it, but the adventure of traveling and meeting other people that are also traveling is such a satisfying feeling. There's just something about sharing the meals and drinks with strangers, talking about where you've been and where you're going, and deciding to venture out to explore together that is so relaxed and spontaneous.
One thing that intrigues me about hostel life is the way that people talk. Here are the typical questions that guide a conversation (in the order they happen) between people meeting for the first time in a hostel situation:
1. Hey, how's it goin?
2. When did you get here?
3. How long are you staying?
4. Where were you before here?
5. How did you like it there?
6. Where are you going after this?
7. Want to go out and get something to eat/explore/go on a tour together?
You will notice one interesting thing about this: You don't really get to know people's names or much about their careers. The way that we identify ourselves in other contexts don't really apply since everyone is traveling. I have made good travel friends and only learned their names after hanging out for an entire day together, and in other cases we spent the day together and one of us traveled elsewhere before we got to exchange names. Even if we don't get to do that, we still hold the memory of the conversation we had, the meal we shared, or the tidbit of travel advice we passed along to each other.
This afternoon I got to do some more exploring. I have been putting off trying to get my camera fixed since I have been dreading finding out how much it would cost, but I decided to face the music today. After getting my hair cut at a colorful hair salon, I headed towards Huerfanos con Ahumada where I was told I could get it fixed. I realized that Huerfanos is a pedestrian walkway that I had seen passing by on the bus plenty of times before but never bothered to explore before this.
The store I needed was about 4 blocks away, and so I got to see a lot of shops along the way. There were a lot of bookstores and a fair amount of restuarants as well as a movie theater. I made my way to the store, but it turns out they don't repair Canons. They directed me to another store a block away from there, and they told me it would most more to repair than a new camera.
So I took a deep breath as I asked the cost of a new camera. They had the same exact camera as my broken one, and it cost 129.000 pesos, which is about $235. I got mine for $150 from Amazon, so I decided to do some research online. It turns out that they can't ship cameras to Chile, so I will have to get my camera here. I will probably shop around or maybe get another Canon but a cheaper model. But I will definitely invest in a good case to keep it safe this time.
It's hard to believe that the week is almost over. Saturday will be the 2 month mark of traveling.