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.

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