Sunday, November 25, 2012

Vña, Lady Gaga, Social Gatherings, and Thanksgiving

The two weeks since my last update seem to be a big blur of teaching and social events.

Last weekend I took a day trip with a few friends to Viña del Mar.  The forecast said it was only going to be 70 and overcast, but it turned out to be almost 80 and sunny.  We tried to go to the Italian restaurant that I went to on my last visit, but they said that the entire restaurant was reserved from 12:30 til 2 with tour groups and to come back after then.  It was about 12:15 then and we were hungry, so we decided to find another place.  As we walked along the coast the restaurants cost more than what we wanted to pay, but we took some pictures along the way.  Back in town we settled on a place with a good menú.  The food was halfway decent but due to the slow service it took us over an hour and a half to eat despite the place being almost empty.  Afterwards we explored some more and sat in a park and just talked before grabbing a bus home.  It was a nice getaway from Santiago for the day.

A big event here in Chile was the Lady Gaga concert on November 20th.  People apparently waited in line for hours to get tickets, and it was a sold out concert.  Seeing that my apartment is so close to Estadio Nacional and I can open my windows to hear the concerts there I decided to have a party.  I got snacks and a cake, and then people brought their own drinks.  We ordered Papa Johns and anxiously awaited the concert.  It was supposed to start at 8, but the opening acts only started at 8:45 or so.  Lady Gaga only started well after 10, but we were able to hear her loud and clear.  Unfortunately most of us had to work early the next morning, so almost everyone left by 11:30.

Classes are winding down for the year here.  Kids are getting spring fever and are ready for their summer vacation, and adults are also looking forward to the summer weather.  I´ve had a few classes decide to end their classes for the year earlier than I was expecting, and the result has been less lukas coming in but more free time.  I´ve never seen myself as a very socially adept person, so I´ve been making the effort to get out and meet people.  This has included showing a new friend around to some of the restaurants I like to eat at as well as making some new friends that I met at the English Day event earlier this month.  Just yesterday I was at a farewell barbecue for two English teachers that I met a little over a year and a half ago, and I was also invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner.  I usually find myself preferring to be by myself rather than being social, but I am glad that I´ve gotten out and spent time with people.

And then of course there was Thanksgiving.  It isn´t a holiday here, but Chileans know about it.  I had work until 9 at night and it seems like people didn´t do anything to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day for the same reason, but I decided to go out to get some dinner with a friend.  I introduced him to Golfo di Napoli, the Italian restaurant near my apartment.  It was a nice meal and a good way to end the day.  

Even though it was celebrated a few days late, I was invited to a Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday.  There was good food (turkey, stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, pumpkin pie, and more), good company, and it was a good time.  Although I didn´t know the majority of the people there very well, it was nice spending time with people and sharing a meal together.  The host took pictures but I haven´t gotten a copy of them yet.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I realize that I have a lot to be thankful for: good health, family, friends, steady work, students that value my time and want to learn, a modern and comfortable apartment, and a comfortable lifestyle are among them.  I could keep on writing but I think you get the idea.  It´s so easy to get caught up in what´s wrong with our lives or things that are honestly so trivial in the grand scheme of things, but I´ve found that I´ve become much happier expressing gratitude for what I have and what is going right not only on Thanksgiving but every day.  I´ve found that I get less stressed out and can handle situations more calmly than before, and I can let go of the things that aren´t worth my time or energy and can focus on what does matter to me.

I hope that everyone reading this also had a Happy Thanksgiving and also has just as much if not more to be thankful for.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Day Papa Johns Closed, Oktoberfest, the Presidential Election, and Success

I started writing this blog post almost a week ago at my favorite coffee shop near my apartment, but I´m finishing it up on a Friday night while relaxing at home.

Time continues to fly by here in Santiago, but at least now the weather has warmed up.  Most days now it is sunny and between 75 and 85 degrees, and I can walk to and from some of my classes to get exercise and save money on the bus fare.  The pool has also opened, and so far I´ve gotten to enjoy tanning poolside once so far.

The municipal elections here were on October 28th, and it was a day when most of the city shut down.  Grocery stores were closed, as were most restaurants and places of business.  It´s against the law to sell alcohol on election days here, which is an interesting cultural difference.

Some friends of mine were planning on going to Viña del Mar that day, but once they heard that almost everything was going to be closed they decided to stay put in Santiago.  Some of them came over and we were looking forward to ordering Papa Johns, but alas they were closed due to the elections.  For some reason Domino´s Pizza was open, so we ended up ordering from there instead.

I don´t really follow politics, but I think that it´s inevitable to know what´s going on ton an extent.  Here in Chile there were municipal elections for mayors and town council members, and the elections seemed to include the usual conflict that occurs back in the States.  In one area they discovered about 20% of the votes were uncounted and thrown into the trash, and in another area the election came down to tenths of a percentage point.  They also discovered that one of the voting machines wasn´t working correctly, and the new mayor of Ñuñoa that was elected later lost the election upon the discovery of the aforementioned.

The next notable event here was Oktoberfest.  Anyone who knows about the celebration in Germany will tell you that it is actually celebrated in late September, which goes against what the name suggests.  One of my friends protested that they weren´t celebrating it at the correct time, but then I reminded her that in Chile everything always starts later than you expect it to.

I was supposed to go with the German speaking group on the day after Halloween (it´s a holiday here),  but the trip was canceled the day before.  Luckily I was able to make plans and go on Saturday.  I got tickets on Friday night, and we got to the bus station at 11 on Saturday morning.  The doors were only scheduled to open at 12:30, and we were there by 11:45.  In true Chilean fashion, we ignored the line that was being formed and made our way to the doors and started our own line behind some other people between some trees.  People were cheering and counting down the opening of the doors, and it was a mad rush inside.  I´ve gotten used to the stampedes here, but that doesn´t mean I like them.

Since we had our tickets already we just needed to get our wristbands and then go through security, and then we were inside.  It was about 80 and sunny, and we walked around to find some beer to cool off while we decided what to do for lunch.  We settled on buying a glass of Leyenda, which is an artesenal beer.  The food was all pretty expensive, so we got some chorripan (sausage with bread) for 2.000 pesos.

The afternoon after that was spent enjoying some more beer, cheese on a stick, churros with chocolate filling, and exploring the different tents.  We headed back to Santiago around 5:00 and luckily didn´t have much traffic.

It was nice to get out of Santiago for a bit, and the planning ahead made it that much more enjoyable compared to last year.  Last year I went with some friends, but we didn´t buy the tickets until the day we went.  We spent almost an hour waiting in line, then about 2 hours from the time we got in line for the bus til we arrived.  People in Chile are big on spontaneity, but sometimes planning a bit ahead can be a good thing too.  (I´m still working on being more spontaneous).

The Presidential Election is over in the States, and I´m glad.  There always seems to be an atmosphere of opposition, anger, and general conflict surrounding any election in the States anymore.  There are countless TV ads, phone calls, and news stations reporting about the election.  The country seems completely polarized between liberal and conservatives, and if you don´t have the same political beliefs as someone else you are wrong or a bad person.  I feel that a lot of this is rooted in the politicization of issues such as civil rights and health insurance.

All of the negativity, name calling, and distortion of the truth led me to the decision to stop actively following politics.  I´ve decided that I´d much rather focus my time and energy on things that will make me happy: time with family and friends, free time activities, improving my teaching skills, etc.

On a more positive note, there have been several successes in this past month.  Some of my former students took the TOEIC, which is a test measuring their English ability in work situations   They all showed gains of between 115 and 175 points, with the highest possible score appearing to be 955 points.  The goal of the institute was for students to improve by 100 points by the end of the course, so seeing that they´ve surpassed that goal was a very satisfying feeling as a teacher.  One of the students from this course also had a job interview in English and has received a job with a consulate here, and it´s such a great feeling seeing her be successful.

I´ve also presented another workshop at Grants.  I was a bit nervous about this one, as it was going to be recorded for the teachers that weren´t able to attend and for future teachers.  There was a great turnout with about 16 of the 20 teachers there.  The majority of them participated, asked good questions, and really enjoyed it.  Before I knew it, the workshop was over, but everyone had come up with ways that they could use the activities and strategies I presented to use in their classes.

Looking at the calendar, I have about 4 weeks until I´m home for a visit.  My weekends are winding down, and I find myself deciding between social engagements in Santiago and taking off to travel.  In any case, I know that I´ll have a great time whatever I decide to do.

Thanksgiving is coming up, and if I don´t get to update before then I want to  wish everyone that follows my blog a very Happy Thanksgiving.