Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Third Time is the Charm, Or Is It? (Video Pending!)

So today was the rescheduled day for my tandem jump skydiving.

In case you have missed my previous post, my jump was supposed to happen two weekends ago, but it was cancelled due to bad weather.  Last weekend there was a mechanical failure, and so I wasn't able to jump.

They say the third time is the charm.

I woke up around 7:30 and promptly hit the snooze button and rolled out of bed around 8.  (I don't know why I set my alarm for so early, especially on the weekend).  After breakfast and a shower I left my place at 9.  

I got to the Pajaritos bus station (I still have yet to figure out why a bus station would be called "little birdie"), and got a bus pretty quickly.  This bus was much smaller, and the bus driver assured me he would let me off at the right stop.  Just to be sure, I kept an eye on the road for most of the trip.

The bus actually stopped at the same place where we had taken the bus back last time, and so it was convenient that I knew exactly where to go.

When I arrived, there were only two people there: the receptionist and someone who was waiting to do a jump for his course.  It turns out that everyone else was doing a jump, and about 10 minutes later they landed.

In the meantime I made a quick stop to the restroom and was amused by this sign:

Skydiver, demonstrate your precision.  Aim for the bowl!
I have to admit that I packed an extra pair of underwear with me.  I didn't know what might happen, and I wanted to do whatever I could to prevent an uncomfortable bus ride back to Santiago.

Carlos reviewed the procedures with me, and he prepared the parachute while I got suited up. I wanted to wear my red Chile shirt, but Carlos warned me that it was about 2 degrees below zero in the air (about 28 degrees Fahrenheit), so he suggested keeping my jacket on too.   

The pilot came over and introduced himself as Juan Carlos, and we chatted for a bit.  He lives in Santiago and has an office job during the week and works as a pilot on the weekend.  Carlos helped me put my harness on, and a few minutes later we walked out the plane.

The plane was much smaller than I realized.  The pilot, cameraman, Carlos, and I could barely fit in it, and when I stretched out my feet it almost touched the back wall of the plane.

So I was mentally preparing myself, and then the pilot turned on the engine.

Well, he tried to.

And then he tried to again.  And again.

"MIERDA!" said the cameraman as he hopped out of the plane.  He then tried to manually turn the propeller of the plane, and Juan Carlos then tried again.  No luck.

I heard them talking about the battery, and eventually Carlos got out too.  He also tried to get the propeller going, but to no avail.

About 15 minutes went by, and then Marco drove up with his car.  He popped the hood, and they hooked up the cables to jump start the plane.  

They tried it again, and still no motor.  5 minutes of waiting and a few more attempts, and still nothing.  

By this point my nerves had calmed down with the long wait.  I began to think that maybe this was in fact a sign that it wasn't meant to be.  I imagined having wasted two weekends traveling out here and not getting to go and what I would do with the money if I asked for a refund.  

A few minutes later, they gave it another try, and the plane roared to life.  Juan Carlos cheered, and the wind whipped up around me.  The cameraman and Carlos hopped in, and then we were off.

We drove around for a bit while the plane got some momentum going, and then we took off.  I have to say that taking off on a plane of that size and with a window completely open directly to your side is a bit nerve racking.  

We went up and up and up, and the view was amazing.  It had rained pretty hard two days before this, so the sky was clear.  I had a view of the Andes that took my breath away.

What seemed like about an eternity later (but was probably only 10 minutes), Carlos started preparing me for the jump.  I had to turn around and face the pilot so that he could attach the harness.  He got that done, and then the cameraman walked out to the wing of the plane.  Now I had to put my legs in front of me and then put them out onto the pedestal.  

The wind was so strong and cold, and my legs were shaking.  Then I heard Carlos say the magic words:

LISTO,   AR    QUEO!!!!!!!!!!   (Ready Arch!!!!!)

At that point he thrust us forward and out of the plane.  I immediately arched my body as he instructed, sticking out my stomach and curving my legs back.  I kept my chin up and hands on the harness in front of me.

And it was AMAZING.

The wind was rushing past me, and I felt like a bird.  About 5 seconds later Carlos tapped my shoulders, which was a signal to spread my arms out.  I was looking around and trying to find the cameraman, but at the same time the wind was going into my mouth and taking my breath away.  I eventually found the cameraman and gave him the thumbs up.  

I think it was about 25 seconds later when Carlos deployed the parachute.  We were jerked up quickly, and it caught me off guard at first.

"Lo hiciste perfecto!" (You did it perfectly!) said Carlos.  He then showed me the grips for the parachute and encouraged me to take them with my hands, and he showed me how pulling down on one side or the other controlled the direction we went.  It was pretty cool, kind of like driving a car.

Now I was able to admire the beauty of the landscape and Andes, I only wish I had had my camera, but the pictures will always be in my memory.

As we got closer to the ground, Carlos reminded me of the last safety procedure: raising my legs up and holding my knees so that he could put his feet down first when we land.  I raised my legs up to my chest as high as I could, and I thought that we would land on our feet.  But we actually landed on our behind.  

The cameraman had landed before us, and so he recorded my landing.

And I could hardly believe it was all over.  

The other people there asked how it was and congratulated me as I walked back into the hangar, and I got unsuited.  The cameraman put the videos on the large screen TV for me to see, and then he got to work making a copy for me.  While it was processing I got to chat with a guy from Chile but who lived in New York for five years.  It was really interesting talking to him and hearing his thoughts about life in Chile and the States.

After getting my souvenir mug and a CD with the pictures and video, I thanked everyone and headed out.  The bus ride back to Santiago was uneventful, but I would think that almost anything happening after skydiving would probably be.

Was it an amazing experience? Yes.  It made me think of all the adventure sports I've done, and it reaffirmed my love for adrenaline and pushing my limits.  It all started back in 1996 when I did something like a Superman jump with two high school friends; we were in a harness with our stomachs to the ground and were taken up into the air.  When we were let go we flew in a large arch like Superman.  After that, I went on to do a bungee type jump but in a seat being propelled into the air at the World Expo in Germany in 2000, then zip lining, rock climbing, and bungee jumping over the years.

Well, I fly back to the States for a visit Wednesday night.  I think I'll wait until I'm back there before I embark on any more adventures.  

PS- I have video and photos, but they are not uploading at the moment.  Hopefully they will be up within a few days!

PPS- The photos are working, but no matter what I do I get an error message when trying to upload the video.  :-(

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Quasi Adventures in Skydiving

On Sunday morning I woke up and decided it would be a good day to go skydiving.

Well, I have to admit the decision to go skydiving wasn't that spontaneous.  I saw a post about it on Facebook, and after talking with Phoenix about it we decided we wanted to do it.  

We were set up to go last weekend, but bad weather prevented us from going.  My Father's Day gift was supposed to be calling my dad on Father's Day to tell him I survived my skydiving adventures, but it didn't work out that way.  (Sorry Dad!)

So we rescheduled my jump for Sunday morning at 11.  As I made my breakfast that morning my legs were shaking a bit, and I wasn't sure if it was because I had a bit too much wine at the birthday celebration the night before or if it was my nerves kicking in.  In any case, I finished breakfast and headed out around 9:15.

I told Phoenix that we'd be better off getting a bus from the bus station at Universidad de Santiago rather than the Pajaritos station, as many more buses depart from there and much more often.

(Cue the laugh track)

So I arrived to the bus station at 10, and we were supposed to arrive at 11.  Phoenix was running a bit late, so I decided to get our tickets while I waited for him to arrive.  The bus ride was supposed to take about 45 minutes, so I thought 15 minutes to get a ticket and hop a bus to Curacavi (the loction of the aerodome) would be plenty of time.

(Cue the laugh track again)

At each window that I went to, they told me that they don't go to Curacavi and then recommended that I talk to the bus company next to them.  This happened with five different companies until the last one told me that I should go to the San Borja station.  The skydiving company didn't tell me about that one at all, so I caught Phoenix on his way out of the metro and  told him we should high tail it to the Pajaritos bus station after all.

By this time it was already 10:15.  Anyone that knows me well knows that I get very anxious about being late to anything, and that started to set in.  Before leaving I check their website using the free wifi and tried to call their phone number on their website.  It said the number wasn't available to accept calls.  So we started to head to the other bus station, and I scanned my phone hoping I had saved the skydiving company's phone number.  I found Marco's number in my phone.  (He's one of the owners of the company and called me about the cancellation the week before.)  Sweet! I thought.  I'll give him a call to let him know what's happening so I don't have to worry about losing my deposit.

(Cue the laugh track for the third time)

Marco didn't answer his phone for either number I had saved for him.  I then wrote a frantic text message explaining the situation and telling him that we were on our way and sent it to both numbers I had saved in my phone.

After getting to the other bus station, we bought two tickets with Pullman to Curacavi. The only problem was that that bus didn't have a set schedule, so I then frantically walked up and down the platforms looking for our bus.  Eventually I saw it!  We went to board, and then a guy with a Pullman sweater on grabbed the tickets out of my hand.  At first I was thinking, OK, I guess he's taking our tickets for us.  But then he didn't get on the bus, and I got suspicious.  It turns out the bus we were getting on was with another company, and so he went over to the Pullman window and refunded us the cost of our tickets.  This company was charging the same amount, so it worked out perfectly.

(Cue the laugh track again)

We then grabbed some seats near the back and sat down to relax for the 45 minute ride.  I was finally able to breathe a sigh of relief.  Now I was at least on the bus, and there was nothing else I could do at this point to get there any faster.

At this point I do have to say that Phoenix remained very calm and very understanding with as anxious as I was getting.  On the bus ride I went through my camera deleting old photos to make room for more pictures, and I came across a few old videos I recorded of the protests in August of 2011.  

I then noticed that I had received a text message back from Marco.  It turns out that I wrote to the wrong Marco.  He was a guy that I met through the TeachingChile group way back in 2010, and I still had his number saved.  So I didn't have the skydiving Marco's number after all.

Luckily Phoenix had internet on his phone, and so he scanned his emails and was able to find Marco's real number.  I gave him a call and told him what happened, and I verified the bus stop where we had to get off at.  At this point it was already 11:30, and he told me not to worry.  Then I went up to the front of the bus and asked them to tell me when we arrived, and the driver and assistant told me "No problem!"

(Cue the laugh track again.  Later you'll see why.)

At that point about half an hour had gone by, so it should have only taken about 15 more minutes.  I sat back and relaxed.

I remember us passing a sign and seeing the word Aerodomo on it, so I said to Phoenix "I just saw a sign for where we need to go.  We must be getting close."  We both felt relieved.

So after a while, I looked at my watch and almost an hour had gone by.  The assistant started going around to check everyone's tickets, and I asked him how much longer it would take for us to get to the aerodome.  As he looked down at his paperwork he mumbled to me indifferently "Pasamos".  (We passed it.)

(Cue the laugh track yet again)

My eyes turned wide and I was flabbergasted.  I told him how I asked him to tell me, and I ran up to the front of the bus.  When I told the bus driver what happened he banged his hand on the wheel and muttered about too many people getting on the bus for him to remember "such a minute detail".

I got on the phone and called Marco, and the bus pulled over and left us at the next stop.  We were in the middle of nowhere.

Well, that's not exactly true.  The signs told us that we were in El Quillay, but since I had never heard of it before I qualify it as the middle of nowhere.  

You can see our bus in the distance.
This sign gives us the clue that we are at the Zapata Tunnel.
I still have no idea where that is.
Marco told us not to worry and that he would come and pick us up.  While we were waiting Phoenix walked around the area and snapped some pictures, but I was too paranoid to miss Marco driving by that I was ready to flag down any car that was driving by.

About 20 minutes later, Marco arrived.  We ran to the car and started thanking him and apoligizing, and I explained the events that had transpired on the bus.  It was a 20 minute drive back to the aerodome where we were supposed to get off the bus.  Well, I'm definitely not traveling with that bus company again!

We arrived at 12:30 and after having met the staff, I went over to pay the remaining balance.  After that, Marco gave me and two others a demonstration as to what we would be doing for each step of our jump.

At this point I should clarify that I signed up for a tandem jump.  That means that I would do my jump with a professional attached to me.  It turns out that he's also the one who gives the push that makes you jump out of the plane.  

After demonstrating and practicing, we then had to wait my turn.  (Phoneix came for moral support and to ask about the possibility of doing a skydiving course).  Since there was only one plane it seemed like the process went pretty slowly.  

While I was waiting I got to see a video of someone skydiving.  They stepped out of the plane onto the supports and then held their arms onto the side, and then they just jumped backwards. It was amazing yet so crazy to see.

I killed time walking around and talking with Phoenix, and then the instructor that I was going to jump with landed from his previous jump.  We started speaking in Spanish, but then we switched over to English.  His English was really good, and while he was preparing the parachute I chatted with him.  When I asked him how long he had been doing this, he said with a straight face "This is my second week."  I then laughed and realized he was joking and that I had set him up perfectly for that one.  He then went on to tell me that he was one of the owners of the company and had been doing it for years.  

The trusty airplane
Carlos preparing our parachute

Safety recommendations

The view inside the hangar
The other side of the hangar
"Is this going to take much longer? I'm getting a bit impatient!"
Eventually the person in front of me in line was suited up and ready to go, and then I noticed that Carlos and Marco had disappeared for a while.  It was now 1:30, and I was feeling pretty antsy. 

Then Marco and Carlos walked in and motioned everyone over to the reception area.  They then explained that the electronic box that they use to indicate their position in the air to other aircraft had malfunctioned, and after trying to replace it they were unable to get the new one working.  Carlos explained that the electronic box helps other aircraft see where they are located in the air to prevent midair collisions, and that the electronic box is required by law to fly above 5,000 feet.

Due to that, they had to cancel all jumps for the rest of the day.

(cue laugh track one more time)

After all the we had gone through to get there, I would be lying to say that I wasn't disappointed. At the same time, I knew that it was a situation out of their control and that the cancellation was in the interest of our safety.

We were given the option of a complete refund or to reschedule for another time, and so I rescheduled for the following Sunday.

So the first time didn't work out due to bad weather, and this time was because of the mechanical failure.  They say the third time is the charm right?

But the day's adventures didn't end there.

Carlos had mentioned a nice restaurant down the road, and since it was almost 2:00 we decided to grab lunch there.  

As we made our way down the street (ok, it was more like a highway), I realized that Carlos had never specified which side of the street the restaurant was on.  And of course it turned out to be on the other side of the street, with no type of pedestrian crossing in sight.

(you guessed it, time for that laugh track again)

Phoenix and I decided that there was enough space at the median for us to safely hop the divider and wait until the coast was clear to dash across the highway and stay in one piece, so we did just that.

We made it across in one piece.  Both of us.
The restaurant was part of a hosterĂ­a, which my best deduction tells me means that it´s a hotel with a restaurant attached to it.  It was pretty old and lunch wasn´t spectacular, but at this point we were just happy to sit down and eat.  While I was eating I noticed that I had received a text message.  It was from poor Marco.  He responded to my other text message expressing his confusion and wondering why I was writing him.

an overcooked ham and cheese omelette

It was about 2:45, and now we faced the challenge of getting back to Santiago.  Well, we knew two things:

1. We had to take a bus going in the opposite direction on the other side of the highway from where we came.
2. We weren´t going to take the same bus company back, for fear of going all the way to Mendoza or ending up in Peru.

We crossed a pedestrian bridge, and when we saw a bus stopping right where we would get on, we broke out into a run to try to catch it.  A man got off, but even though we were there and had flagged tbe bus down they left without us.  

This at least gives me an indication as to approximately where I
need to get off the bus for next time.

Phoenix was the cameraman for most of the day.
I asked the man if many buses passed by that stop, and he advises us that the buses that stop there charge over 5,000 pesos (about $10) to go to Santiago.  (We had paid 1.200 pesos to get there, or about $2.50).  He then told us that if we go further up the road and cross the street we could get buses for 1.200 pesos.  

We decided to go that route but seemed puzzled that we would have to cross the street and be on the same side as traffic going away from Santiago, but we decided to trust him.

Sure enough, we got to a bus stop where buses stopped and looped around to go back to Santiago.  Some buses also came up the side street and stopped there to pick up and drop off passengers.

Around 3:15 we got on a bus.  We eventually made it back to the bus station and hopped the metro.  At the Baquedano station an expat couple I had met back in February got on, and so I chatted with them until my stop.

By the end of the day, I arrived home at about 4:45.  It was a long day.  I didn´t get to go skydiving, but I still had an adventure.  Skydiving can wait a week.

Some lessons learned:

1. Always have all information that you need written down, including addresses and telephone numbers.  Don´t depend on technology or phone numbers on websites to be accurate!
2. Just as you shouldn´t trust advice when receiving customer service, don´t trust bus drivers to let you off at the right stop.
3. I enjoy being adventurous more so than I give myself credit for.  Adventures are one of the spices of life and a nice way of breaking out of your usual routine.

Thanks for reading and barring any major problems I should have an update about my real skydiving adventures next week!

I saw this on the metro on my way home.
Chorillana flavored potato chips?  

Saturday, June 22, 2013

TESOL 2013: Accepted paper

Dear Daniel Guim,

Thank you for your interest in presenting at our upcoming conference, “Heading North with TEFL in Chile” in Iquique on August 30th and 31st. We are pleased to inform you that your presentation entitled Getting Your Students Engaged in the English Classroom has been accepted in case you have not yet received notification. In the next weeks, we will be working out the schedule to hopefully have a final version as early as late July. Thank you for your patience as we finalize details.

Kind regards,
TESOL Chile 2013
Conference Planning Committee

Needless to say, I´m pretty excited about this email.  I´ve never been to Iquique before, and this will be my second year in a row presenting at TESOL Chile.  I´m also looking forward to meeting other teachers and learning about more ways I can develop my teaching skills.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Expats Blog, Some Not So Exciting Events, and the Winter Doldrums

So winter has set in here in Santiago.

But before I get to that, I should share some news.  I have completed an online interview about my experience as an expat living in Santiago.  If you are interested in reading it or connecting with other expats in other parts of the world, I recommend checking out the site.  (For those that are not technologically inclined, click on the underlined text to go directly to my interview or the expats blog website.)

Beyond, that, not much is happening.  Luckily there haven´t been any epic rainstorms since the last one I posted about, and there hasn´t been anything particularly interesting happening here lately.  I figure not every post can be filled with adventure, but I also figure it´s important to document and consider the daily occurrences too.

So here are some of the things that have happened:

Eclass had a celebration for reaching a goal of 150,000 students.  It was a lunch celebration complete with churrasco sandwiches, mini desserts, and six cakes.  The line to get food was long, but it was worth the wait.  Unfortunately I had to go to class before they started cutting the cake, but it was still a nice event seeing that they included everyone in the celebration.

The churrasco chef
Some of the pastries that were my dessert
My unexpected second lunch

Another thing that happened was meeting up for a friend for a drink.  I usually am content to go home right after work (even if I finish early), but things worked out for us to meet up.  We went to a bar near metro Colon, and it had a really interesting ambiance:

My friend was one of the others that came here with TeachingChile, and her and I were both thrown into really difficult situations that we worked through together.  Even though we don´t get to see each other often, it´s always nice catching up with her and sharing what´s happening in our lives.

The last thing that happened was yesterday morning.  When I looked out my window in the morning this is what I saw:

To give you an idea, this is what I can usually see from my window:

I was worried that there was some huge smog event, and I had to go out that morning.  So I did my best to prepare myself:

Luckily when I asked the doorman about it, he told me that it was only fog due to 99% humidity.  Sure enough, the air was fine to breathe.

With nothing exciting happening I find myself getting bored.  So I typically spend my weekends lesson planning and blogging, and they look something like this:

Sorry for the glare.  If you can´t tell, that´s a cup of tea and
a slice of chocolate mousse cake in front of my teaching stuff.
Condi is a great coffee shop near my apartment, and I can sit for 2, 3, or even 4 hours and do work, blog, write, or catch up on emails.

But the boredom isn´t all that bad.  I do have something to look forward to.  I will be home in Jersey for a visit from the 4th of July to the 19th (I didn´t write about this before, didn´t I?), and I find myself looking forward to the visit and counting down the days.  This will be my first summer in the States since I came to Chile, so that´s going back to July of 2009.  I´m looking forward to catching up with family and friends, going to the beach, eating the food I miss, shopping, and the general feeling of familiarity and security that comes with home.

At the same time, I know that I will have my students here in Chile on my mind, as another teacher will be teaching their classes in my absence.  There´s also the tradeoff of losing money whenever you don´t teach as a freelance teacher, but I´m trying not to think about that too much.  (You typically don´t have paid vacation or time off as a freelance teacher in Chile).

That´s all for now.  Happy Father´s Day to all the dads out there and I hope you´re enjoying your weekend!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Adventures in Valdivia: A Boat Ride, Some Rain, and a Teaching Conference

My trip to Valdivia was great.

For those of you that aren´t familiar with Valdivia, it´s a small city in southern Chile.  It is probably best known as being the epicenter of the 1960 earthquake that registered a whopping 9.5 on the Richter scale.  As many other places in southern Chile, Valdivia is also known for having fish markets, lots of seafood, and German chocolate.

On Thursday night I caught an overnight bus from Santiago leaving at 9:25 at night.  While it wasn´t the most comfortable nights sleep I´ve had, it got me to Valdivia in eleven hours for 13 luka (about 26 bucks).  Given the price of airfare that can´t be beat.

We arrive at about 8:30 in the morning, and it was overcast and drizzly.  I didn´t know what my breakfast options were going to be in town, so I decided to scope them out at the bus station.  There was a donut shop and a kiosk selling sandwiches and juice.  I settled on an egg and ham sandwich and some juice, and I asked the woman there how much a taxi to my hotel cost.  She told me that I should pay between 2.000 and 2.500 pesos, but then she told me that there are colectivos and buses that I could take.

The bus station was really clean and modern.
I considered this for breakfast but decided against it.

Sure enough, I was able to get a bus for 400 pesos that left me right in front of my hotel.  It was a bit different paying my fare in coins instead of tapping my BIP card like in Santiago, and I felt a bit out of place with my bags on the bus and the buses seem more run down than in Santiago, but that´s part of the travel experience.

At the hotel I was able to relax a bit, change clothes, and drop my bags before going out to explore. By that time it was about 9:30, and as I wandered one of the main streets I came across what seemed like a nice little coffee shop.  I say seemed because when I went to go inside the door was locked despite the lights being on and the hanging sign saying abierto (open).

Moving on, I came across another coffee shop with that looked inviting.  Inside it was bustling, and I noticed it was all natives.  This is a good sign, as it gives me the hopeful indication of good food and service.  I decided to check up on some emails and Facebook over some hot chocolate and a slice of chocolate cake.

Afterwards, I wandered down the main streets and came across a fish market.  They were also selling fruits and vegetables, but the fish stood out a bit more in the sense of smell department.  At the end of it there was a tourist information booth, so I decided to check it out.

Careful: Sea Wolves.  Keep doors closed.  (I guess that´s what
they mean for seals!)
So it turns out there are tours to islands that have some pretty impressive forts, but they aren´t running now due to it being low season.  I could catch a bus to the Kunstmann brewery, but that would take half an hour each way.  I also didn´t know that I´d want to do something like that alone, so what else is there?  I could walk around and get to see the Universidad Austral and the botanical garden there, and there are also some museums on the other side of the bridge.  There´s also an interesting 3 hour boat tour that shows some of the important rivers in the area that will happen after lunchtime, so that sounded good.

So crossing over the bridge I headed south to the museums.  It seems like they were all closed, so to Universidad Austral and the botanical gardens it is.  The campus at Universidad Austral was pretty big, and I found myself stopping multiple times to make sure I was on the right path to get to the gardens.

View from the bridge

Don´t get me wrong.  I like gardens, and I like green.  One of my students had told me that the botanical gardens are preciosos in her words.  Well, they were green.  There were lots of trees and plants.  It was also very wet, raining, and full of puddles.  I can picture the garden being the perfect place to sit on a bench a read a book or catch up with friends, but visiting during the rainy season doesn´t really let that happen.

Notice the puddle of water along the path that I had to bypass.

After that I decided to make my way back to book the boat tour and then to the hotel.  Surprisingly the boat tour was only 6.000 pesos, and after getting my ticket I started to go back to the hotel.  What´s that? A mom and pop bakery with fresh bread?  Now I have to check that out!    The smell inside was very tempting, and I picked up a snack of some apple Kuchen for the walk back to the hotel.

I also came across an artisan market.  This was perfect, as I´ve been meaning to find some presents to bring back with me for my next visit to the States.

After a short wait my room was ready, and I laid down for a nap.  An hour later, I felt recharged and headed out for some lunch before the boat tour.  I came across the cafe that was closed this morning, but every table was full.  Going next door, I found a mom and pop restaurant.  After asking for their explanation of carbonara (I didn´t know if it was spaghetti or something else), the waitress disappeared.  I thought it was strange that she would get the actual dish to show me, but then she came back with someone from the kitchen.  The woman said to me, "I explain in English?"  I was surprised and told her that I speak Spanish fine, but that I just wanted to know what carbonara was.  She seemed relieved and made her way back to the kitchen, and I found out that it was a type of soup with potatoes, vegetables, and some meat in it.  Given the cold weather it sounded like a good idea.

I paid the bill (2.000 pesos or 4 bucks isn´t bad for a homemade lunch), and then made my way to the dock for the boat tour.  After getting on I saw two girls speaking English, so we started talking.  It turns out that they are volunteers teaching English through English Opens Doors, and one of them is from New Jersey!

We had a good time talking about our experiences here in Chile as well as our lives back in the States.  The tour took us through some of the major rivers of the area, and we got to visit a remote area that has some of the best beer in Chile.  Rather than bore you with the details, here are some pictures:

A trip to Southern Chile is never complete without
visiting at least one church.
Kissing the trunk of this tree while holding hands with
a group of people is supposed to bring good luck.

Some empanadas during a break
Later on in the tour I got to speak with a nice Chilean family.  It turns out that they live in Santiago and are vacationing in Valdivia, and they lived in the States for a few years due to the father´s job.  We talked about meeting up for coffee so he could keep practicing his English at the end of the tour.

Even though it was only 6:30, it was already completely dark outside.

Is it me or does this look like a scene out of a scary movie?

I made my way to check out a chocolate shop.  I wasn´t really hungry for dinner and the rain was starting to come down hard, so I went back to the hotel for an early night.

On Saturday morning I woke up bright and early at 7 to get ready for the IATEFL Chile conference.  I looked over my presentation over breakfast before heading out.

Breakfast and reviewing my presentation
In case you haven't heard of it before, IATEFL stands for the International Association of Teaching English as a Foreign Language.  They have organizations in most countries where English is taught, including Chile.  One of their ways of promoting English teaching in Chile is by having a conference each year.  Attended my first one in July 2010 in Santiago, but I missed the 2011 one.  Last year was in Santiago, but this year it was down in Valdivia.

When I arrived at the check-in area of Universidad Austral, the place was packed.  Luckily there was a separate table for presenters, and so I didn't have to wait at all to check in.  I decided to give one of my friends a call that was supposed to be there, and after turning around I saw her!  I kept her company while she waited in a rather long line to check in.  I then made my way inside to get a seat.

Waiting for the opening remarks
After the opening remarks, there was an interesting presentation about teaching vocabulary by Penny Ur.  She came all the way from Israel to share her expertise, and her research is really interesting.

Later in the morning I got to visit a fellow teacher's workshop about orally evaluating students.  It was really interesting, and she also teaches at Eclass.  After a few more sessions, she, her boyfriend and I got some lunch together.

There´s roast beef under all of that.
Lunch with Britt and Pepe

In the afternoon I attended two interesting sessions: one about how technology is changing education and another which was about teaching methods.  Some university students have been doing research about different teaching methods, and I found that my teaching philosophy is very similar to theirs.  We got to chat a bit after their session, but then I had to get ready and set up for my presentation!

I went to the room right after that and skipped the half hour coffee break.  I could feel myself getting nervous, but luckily the student volunteers were really helpful getting everything set up.  Someone even offered to let me use their wireless clicker and laser pointer since the computer was in the back of the room but the presentation was getting projected to the front.  It turned out to work out really well, so I'll pick one up when I'm back home on vacation.

About 35 people came to the session, and overall I think it went really well.  The audience was very positive and participated in the activities, and they were very understanding when I cut them short with talking with partners so that we could get through everything.  I was surprised at the end when some of the participants asked to get a picture with me!  (Does that make me a celebrity?)

It only took us both taking a 12 hour overnight bus to actually
meet and catch up, despite both of us living in Santiago!
One plenary session later and thanking the people involved in the planning, and it was almost 7 PM.  I had to make my way back into town to get my bags at the hotel and head to the bus station.  My bus was scheduled to leave at 9:15, and I had enough time to plug in my cell phone and Ipod touch to charge and change clothes.

My dinner wasn't the most spectacular (A roast beef sandwich heated up and a soda at the bus station), but unfortunately time didn't really allow me to get a proper dinner in town.  I did get to catch up with Nancy a bit before her bus took off (she got one fifteen minutes earlier than me!).  I had some trouble sleeping on the bus ride back after such a long day, as it gave me a lot to think about in regards to my professional goals and the contacts I had made there.

After doing some writing, playing some Angry Birds, and listening to some music, I finally managed to fall asleep.  I was back in Santiago by 8:00 in the morning, and I spent the rest of Sunday relaxing at home.

If anyone from IATEFL Chile is reading this, thank you for the wonderful opportunity to present and thank you for bringing together English teachers to share and perfect our practice.  I´m looking forward to the next conference in 2014.